A little while ago I decided it would be great fun to make my living as a music journalist. So, I reduced my hours at work, got my friend to make me a website, and then sat on my arse for a bit, occasionally throwing some hyperbole in the direction of friends’ bands when they needed a press release and I needed fifty quid.
My bank manager told me that this probably wasn’t a fantastic way to go about my career, which kinda rang true when this one time I couldn’t afford to eat, plus I felt like my creativity was being stifled by THE MAN when I was advised to edit my musings on Gomez’s fourth album down from 8000 words to a meagre 250. I couldn’t work in those chains, dude.
As I type this, I’m installing Freekly on my PC. It’s currently talking to my iTunes about the influence of Pink Floyd on Radiohead and wondering why I have so much Sufjan Stevens that I never listen to. Then, in a minute, it’ll head on down to the Rock’s Backpages archives and email me some cool shit to read. And then next week it’ll send me some more cool shit to read. And the week after that too. And if I decide I’m going to suddenly get really into freeform jazz from the 1930s, it will keep in touch with my iTunes and send me articles that smell of smoke and Brasso.
Not really. I made that Brasso bit up. But whatever the cool shit smells like, it will remain free, because it has already been written and printed and enjoyed and archived. Just not by me. Rock and roll in its many forms and derivatives has been around for umm… *counts on fingers* 54 years (at least) and I’m guessing I haven’t read everything about it yet. So who cares if there aren’t so many music journalists around anymore? There’s plenty to catch up on before I panic.
There are people looking at things from another angle though, and while I hate to be cynical about the publication of Loops, it’s hard to look at any music publication that’s partly funded by a record label, albeit an indie (in this case, Domino) and take declarations about “disregarding release schedules and PR copy” without a massive great big rock of salt. Still, this bi-annual publication of “tour diaries” and “think pieces” is set to include stuff by Kitty Empire, Simon Armitage, Hanif Kureishi and Colin Greenwood so, in embracing another cliché, I may yet eat my beanie. Can’t wait for the 8000 word re-evaluation of In Our Gun by Gomez. I tell you, it’s overdue.
(Ha! My first Freekly has arrived! First article on offer? Terry Staunton talks to Gomez for Uncut in 1998. :D)
Yesterday’s booksigning was quite the highbrow affair. I had a glass of wine and ate mini pitta breads with hummus. Simon Armitage read for about half an hour, hopefully not spoiling all the best bits from Gig, and then answered a few questions. When I asked him if one needed to have rhythm to write a poem, he skirted around the issue for a wee while, talking about song lyrics and working with musicians, and then ultimately said that yes, you do need to have rhythm “because a poem must be both the lyrics and the music.” I think I may just turn Regina-Spektor-in-a-box into a short story.
On a separate issue, I have finished Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and its accompanying short stories (possibly tagged onto the end to warrant the publishers charging £7.99, although the one about the woman killing her mother-in-law was pretty good) and I’m now onto Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. Admittedly, I was all too ignorant of the man until he died not so long ago, but I intend to make up for lost time, appreciating him to the power of at least 8 or 9 hereon in. I read Slapstick a few weeks ago, and his matter of fact prose is just incredible, especially when you consider the themes he covers. It’s the way I want my book to come across; unbelievable concepts relayed as if there is nothing unusual going on at all.
I also like the way he introduces his fiction as if his own personal reality. Perhaps this doesn’t happen in all his novels, but Slapstick is described in the early pages as being (if I remember correctly) “as close to an autobiography as I will ever write”, before he talks about harmonious brains and a killer fever and the introduction of artificial extended families. Oh, and going to Mars. In Slaughterhouse 5, which I have only just begun, the first chapter is given over to a reunion with an old war buddy, as Vonnegut wanted to talk about their experiences in Dresden in order to write the book as faithfully as possible. Perhaps it will turn into an entirely realistic portrayal of the Second World War, but I doubt that.
Sometimes I think that if my second year poetry module at university had included Simon Armitage, I may not have buggered off to start ‘real life’ before the end of the semester. In reality, even if JK Rowling had been a guest lecturer I’d probably have been far too headstrong to stick around, but I don’t half love Simon Armitage.
It was during GCSE English that I first came across him. Aside from the token Cooper Clarke entry in our anthologies (which our class never bloodied studied), his were the only poems that even came close to reflecting the interests and experiences of a sixteen year-old. About His Person was a valuable lesson in subtlety. I Am Very Bothered When I Think… was laugh-out-loud funny without ever relying on the premise of an actual joke. Cataract Operation proved he could paint a genuinely vivid picture with words. After my GCSE was over, I bought a couple of collections of his work, and then never looked at them nearly enough.
Now, Armitage has a new book out, and from what I gather from the broadsheet reviews, it’s less poetry-more memoir. Charting a lifelong love of music and its parallels with performing poetry, it looks bloody excellent. I’m going to buy it today, when I go to Waterstones to see Armitage speak. I’m going to get it signed and everything. Surprisingly, I’ve never been to a book signing before, probably because I’ve spent the last few years running from gig to gig with my notebook, which is almost ironic, since Gig is the name of this new book.
What I am most looking forward to about this evening is the possibility for questions. You may have seen my earlier post about my problems with poetry, and my Regina-Spektor-in-a-box idea. The first two stanzas are written, but they are utter balls, and as a result, I have been mentally addressing my many hurdles with the poetic form. Firstly, I am two explicit. As a (I hope) competant writer of fiction, I find myself establishing a scene and plausible characterisation in poetry, which is not at all what it is about. I work so hard on clever word-play that the whole flow suffers; like damming a river with alliteration. Ultimately though (and partly due to my housemate’s recent acquisition of Guitar Hero for the Wii) I have realised that I have no rhythm. None. I can’t even clap along to a Queen song without becoming a big syncopated mess of flailing. This surely must transfer to my ability to phrase a poetic concept, and later today, I’m going to ask Simon Armitage what he thinks.
Perhaps he’ll suggest joining a salsa band as a form of therapy.