“Sabotage by the Beastie Boys: there’s a carpark, an empty carpark, and the slanting sun of a late Tuesday afternoon in September. We were supposed to be in college but we’d all cleared out after lunch and bought a six pack of the cheapest, nastiest lager the corner shop had. James had a tape deck, tinny and distorted as all hell, and we sat on the concrete steps behind the trade doors of a bookies and pretended we were skater types.”
In case you hadn’t guessed, (Slight Return) is all about the music. I tried to weave the stuff I was listening to into the stories, I tried the make the stories reflect the moods the music put me through. The 7″ fiction components used music as a gimmick. The Spotify playlist to accompany it was an afterthought, but came about when I started thinking of the collection as a kind of multimedia experiment. A fairly basic one, granted, but I thought it might be interesting to listen to the songs and see what I wrote about them.
I then started thinking about how I was going to promote this. Initially, I thought maybe I could get a small publisher interested. I tried, it didn’t work out. So I went the indie publishing route again instead. And in some ways that’s better I think because I can whack extracts of the book up wherever I want, stick videos alongside them, it’s pretty much up to me what I do with it. The promotion stuff, meh, it won’t reach many people. But you know, I’ve decided I don’t really care. My only real ambition for years has been to be writing and be read by someone, somewhere. Yeah, of course, it would be nice to be able to make a living from it. The reality is that not many people do. Ok, so why should that stop me? Using a music analogy because, hey, it seems pretty apt, there are a ton of bands and artists I love who have very limited or no commercial success. They still go out and play, they still record and release music. They do it because they love it, they do it because that’s what they do. I can’t stand those capitalist definitions of success that our celebrity consumer culture throws up: people on X Factor who say “I don’t want to be singing to a pub with four people in it, I want to be on stage at Wembley in front of hundreds of thousands”. Why? What difference does it make? You’re singing aren’t you? People are listening?
So yeah, I’m writing, the odd person is reading what I’ve done. What difference does it make? I’m going to keep doing it because when I’m not doing it I don’t feel like me. I get the odd nice comment, the odd bit of constructive criticism, the odd snide remark. All good, all cool. It’s nothing I haven’t already told myself. As a bloke approaching middle age I could be spending my time out there on a golf course and banging on about my handicap. That’s not my thing. Sticking sentences together is my thing. Some people may want to read those sentences about as much as I want to hear about the birdie they got on the sixth hole, or about as much as the distance they ran around the park this morning (again). And that’s fair enough. You don’t have to pay any attention, I don’t mind.
I do wish I had kept this blog a bit more current, I do wish I had kept in the indie game a bit more over the last five years. What can I say? Life got in the way and it took me much longer to get this collection done than I thought or planned. I dropped off the face of the earth a little bit. My bad. Hopefully that won’t happen as drastically again. In the meantime I’ll just keep talking to myself here and working on the next thing. Hey, it’s what I do…
“Night time music. It’s pretty much all you have: nothing in your collection would be suitable to start the day with. Which probably says something about your personality too. But on it goes, a trip hop playlist, and it’s perfect. This is the sound of travelling through a city at night. It has that same urging rhythm that matches the traction of the tyres on the tarmac, with ambient light from the flourescent strips lining the traffic tunnels and the sharp angles of empty glass office blocks on the horizon. It’s safety and danger wrapped up into one. Edgy and euphoric in equal measure. It calms you, and at the same time still leaves you jumpy at the puddles of shadow between the street lights. There’s a clinical elegance to it, cold and electronic with processed strings, whispering voices and sometimes a soaring female lead which still sounds like a ghost trapped deep in the machine. It’s the music of detachment. The music you listen to when you’re looking out at humanity from some sunken observation point.”
“I haven’t changed the CD in weeks. It doesn’t matter. I just need the noise. And noise it is, but there’s a tune in there somewhere. It occasionally tries to surface from the feedback but is quickly dragged back under, like debris circling a drain.
Sonic Youth were our band of choice. 1993. Music to get stoned to, music to shout at each other over, music to get girls with. Well, maybe not that last one. We were obsessed with the fuzz and static and those random pinpricks of pure, piercing melody.”
“I like American music: it’s familiar and alien in roughly equal measure. Tim Buckley with Lee Underwood. John Frusciante. The mournful wailing from the underbelly of the free world. The first time I heard a Frusciante guitar part I was in a takeaway pizza place at two am and I leaned drunkenly against the huge storefront window to cool my head down and it didn’t work, the glass didn’t hold me. I passed immediately through it and out, up into the night air. And I was gliding along a desert highway just before dawn, the top down or the windows open, a weak pink light on the skyline, and shadows, lots of shadows littering the ground, disturbed and scattered by the headlights of the car I was driving. I was there, I was somebody else, and nothing mattered, nothing but the sinking moon and the smell of a storm across the horizon. The blacktop, the cacti, the expanse of time, nothing else.”
“And then something catches his eye, something stuck in there between White Light/White Heat and Transformer. It makes him laugh triumphantly and he snatches it out.
‘Why do you have this? Nobody has this. It’s shite.’
He’s holding up Metal Machine Music. Matt just shrugs. The truth of it is he has everything by Lou Reed.
‘You can’t tell me you listen to this.’
‘Bollocks.’ He turns it over in his hands and reads the back. ‘It’s the re-mastered one as well. You’re such a dick. They saw you coming.’
‘I like it.’
‘There’s a bit that sounds like circus music, and another bit that sounds like bagpipes.’
‘It’s shit. Everyone knows that.’
‘I like it.’
‘You do not.’ He pauses. ‘You just think you’re so fucking cool.’ And that’s how easy it is. Just like that, he’s said it, and it’s out, and now they both know what’s really going on.”
“I love this song. At about the minute mark a cello kicks in. Here it is. This bit, this bit here. It’s fucking gorgeous. I don’t care what you say, there’s nothing quite like that sound. The deep, resonant vibration; the haunting clarity of each gliding note. There’s something earthy about it, something fundamental that reaches into the core of you and leafs through your past as though it’s laid out across the pages of a book. It’s a race memory: the wind in the trees beneath an October moon; the still waters of a black, fathomless lake.”