How fortunes shift and chance. Twelve months ago I was close to giving up journalism, yet here I sit today having miraculously contributed more pieces for more publications than in any similar period since I started doing this professionally in 1996. Against all odds 2013 has been something of a bumper year on that front.
Don't ask me how this has happened: I just know I'm very lucky. I love the fast pace of journalism, the commitment to work counts and deadlines. I've even grown to accept the inevitable abuse one receives when articles are published on websites with comments sections. It also buys me some time to work on novels, stories and poems.
The downside - the only real downside - is that I've probably still not made minimum wage. Last year it was way below this. Given that I often work nights, weekends and received no sick pay, holiday pay or pension you might see why a love of journalism (and in my case music / the arts) is necessary in this business. I say this not to gain sympathy but only as a warning of sorts for anyone entering into the profession. Anyway: I have more free apples and fire wood than I can use and no-one becomes a writer to get rich. You do it because you literally can't do anything else. I'm still enamoured.
So: a vintage year for scribbling down thoughts and opinions, and talking to interesting people with funny hair and wildly differing opinions, and avoiding getting an actual, real life job. Victory.
And, yes, I like making lists.
Publications / companies written for BBC The New Statesman The Guardian Mojo Metal Hammer Classic Rock Classic Rock presents Prog The Yorkshire Post Hebden Bridge Times The Big Issue T In The Park Festival programme V Festival programme Download Festival programme Hard Rock Calling Festival Wireless Festival Ilkley Literature Festival Leaf Records Rise Above Records Division Promotions
Bullet for My Valentine
Order Of Voices
Melt Yourself Down
Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats
Falling Off Maps
Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
Age Of Taurus
Two Door Cinema Club
Seb Rochford (Polar Bear)
New Model Army
The Omega Experiment
At The Drive-In
The Phoenix Foundation
Noah And The Whale
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats
The Ralfe Band
Master Musicians Of Bukkake
The Orange Man Theory
System 7 And Rovo
Earls Of Mars
We Are Knuckle Dragger
Billie-Joe Armstrong And Norah Jones
Firebrand Super Rock
Full Of Hell / Calm The Fire
(Plus various other commissioned features, blogs and/or contributions to pieces about pop music, the North of England, 'being a writer', favourite books etc.)
It’s called Snorri &
Frosti and it is available as a limited edition paperback
via 3AM Press.
Is it a
short novel? A mid-sized novella? A long short story? A play? A poem? Yes. All
of these. One other thing is certain: it is about two elderly brothers in a
snowbound cabin somewhere in Northern Europe. Dare I say it might make a good
Durham-born Ben Myers tells Steve Pratt how he was inspired by the late Tyneside author Gordon Burn. Now, Myers has become the first winner of the Gordon Burn Award
THE writing of Gordon Burn first came to the attention of Ben Myers when he was growing up in Durham. “I became aware of him after my sister said there’s this writer from the North-East and you should read him,” he recalls. So he read Burn’s book Happy Like Murderers about Fred and Rose West. Not only did he find it “immensely disturbing” but considered it one of the best British books of the past ten years.
As Myers became a journalist – with Melody Maker and The Guardian among the publications for which he’s written – the links to Burn continued.
The lovely man and great writer Nikesh Shukla interviewed me for his Sub Altern podcast series.
We talked about music journalism, visceral writing, Oasis being boring live but Supergrass' first album still sounding good, writers you like when you're a teenager versus writers you look in your thirties, Bret Easton Ellis, James Salter, JD Sallinger's bunker, landscape, my forthcoming novel and much more besides.
Comedian Julian Barratt (pictured below) and artist Sarah Lucas will be among the judges of the 2014 Gordon Burn Prize.
Novelist Benjamin Myers, who won the inaugural award this year, and poet John Burnside make up the remaining judges on the prize, which rewards books which use fiction to explore history, or non-fiction works which use the techniques of fiction.
The prize was set up by Faber and New Writing North in association with the Gordon Burn Trust, and pays tribute to author Gordon Burn who wrote across a range of subjects.
Sometimes I am asked by record labels or bands to write their promotional material. I've done work for people ranging from Biffy Clyro to Serj Tankian, Enter Shikari to Pete Molinari, Guillemots to The King Blues. Earlier in the year I did some work Melt Yourself down, whose debut album is possibly my favourite of 2013.
(You can watch them playing on Jools Holland here.)
They wanted something a little unconventional. Here's what I came up with it....
Melt Yourself Down
Animal skins and human bones. Cairo,
Marrakesh, Lagos, Cologne. North and south and east and west. The sea and city.
Desert and jungle. Six souls shaking, six hearts beating. Horns blowing, drums
vibrating. And so it begins...
Beyond the horizon there’s an
uprising. Can you hear it? Across the ocean of sweat, a golden obelisk. In its
airless catacombs, there sits a man shaking a skull above a bucket of tongues.
His rhythm drum is a blood red flash flood crawling across the desert floor to
rise round the ankles of the house band from hell. MYD. Making music you can
see, sounds you can smell. Vibrations you can taste. Touch. Strange
to rearrange you DNA.
Someone presses record on a
sun-faded C60. To get it down before it’s gone, this beautiful violence. These
strange incantations. This dance music. This people music. These full-frontal
fireworks. Hoodoo voodoo? They do, you do. They call it a debut. But this is
This is: a
map, a passport, a trip, a banquet, a broadcast, a protest, a party, a shamanic
ritual. A broadcastpolitical. This is: the music of
many a millennia distilled. Mined and hewn. Blastedand blown. Ripped and torn. A tribal
war cry. This is: a call awaiting a response. A reading of the runes, a series of
sonic spells carved into stone. A jungle dance, a red dirt dust stomp. This is:
five senses being stimulated by six souls across seven continents on eight
songs. The message: Melt
Yourself Down and turn yourself up. Get out of it and into it. And on it. And go.
The tape clicks off. Sounds of
moaning. Breathing. Chests heaving. In the space between: a lone cicada. Twelve
white eyes, blinking. Liberation. Communication. It’s just the beginning.
Yourself Down:Pete Wareham (Acoustic Ladyland, Polar
Bear), Shabaka Hutchings (Sons Of Kemet, Heliocentrics), Tom Skinner (Hello
Skinny, Sons Of Kemet, Mulatu Astatke), Ruth Goller (Acoustic Ladyland),
Kushal Gaya (Zun Zun Egui), Satin Singh (Fela!, Transglobal Underground).
I am author of the novels
PIG IRON (2012), RICHARD (2010) and THE BOOK OF FUCK (2004). I've also published biographies, short stories and poems. My journalism has appeared in The Guardian, Mojo, New Statesman, NME, Time Out, Bizarre, 3:AM and others. My literary agent is Jamie Coleman at Greene Heaton. Contacts: email@example.com / www.benmyers.com / www.twitter.com/benmyers1.