Friday, 31 July 2009

People Who Died

I remember when I was 21 and had just moved into a squat in Kennington, I got into the writing of Jim Carroll. The Basketball Diaries was great and Forced Entries even better. His poems were pretty good too. I was drinking a lot, out all the time at shows and parties and meeting all sorts of freaks, dealers and the rest, yet at the same time really just wanted to shut out the world, close the blinds and "be a writer", so there were a few parallels between my life then and that which Carroll's describes in his writing.

When I went to New York a few times over the next year or two I couldn't help but see the city through his (and Johnny Thunders') eyes. The Leonardo DiCaprio version of The Basketball Diaries was a little too stylized for me liking - decent, but still too Hollywood. Tainted by format and the fame of its leads.

I haven't read Jim Carroll for a while - like Burroughs or Brautigan or whoever he possibly grabs your attention at a certain time in your life; that moment when you're testing the boundaries of morality, hedonism and maybe your own body's endurance - so I had forgotten what a great rock star he also made - better than Patti Smith, better than Richard Hell, better than everyone else who came out of that 70s downtown scene.

Here he is doing 'People Who Died', a song subsequently murdered by Marilyn Manson and various others. How many poets looks this cool?

(Answer: none that I can think of.)

Thursday, 30 July 2009

3AM Press

3AM Magazine have launched a new book publishing imprint, 3AM Press.

Which is good.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

America's Greatest Exports

Sterile shopping malls.
Distressed stonewashed denim.
Uniform haircuts.
That weird, white 80s dancing
Mid-song keyboard breakdown.

All perfectly combined, I'm sure you'll agree, in flame-haired mallrat Tiffany's epoch-making 'I Think We're Alone Now' aka The Greatest Song Ever Written.

God bless America.

Monday, 27 July 2009

A Massive Metaphor

I have just spent the best part of a week moving a tonne of coal that I found dumped in some undergrowth one hundred yards up a hill, bucket by bucket. It's not as easy as it sounds. I'm sure this is a metaphor for...something.

In other news I wrote this for The Guardian.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Half Man Half Biscuit

Half Man Half Biscuit passed me by at the time - I was probably too young and too busy listening to Huey Lewis & The News or someone to pay much attention to them back in the late 80s. Then, quite recently I decided to 'get into' them. Which I did. Then I wrote this.

More Things To See And Hear


Venus As A Boy
by Luke Sutherland

The Ballad Of Britain
by Will Hodgkinson

The Giro Playboy
by Michael Smith

The Bachelor Uncle
& Other Stories by Sid Chaplin


Wild Beasts
- Two Dancers

- John Barleycorn Reborn

The Saints
- Wild About You: The Saints 1976 - 1978

Mogwai - Mr. Beast

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Gordon Burn Remembered

I remember the first time I read Gordon Burn. It was the summer of 2004 and I was spending a week in my sister’s attic in Newcastle, hurriedly writing one of my music biographies. There was a copy of Happy Like Murderers, Burn’s book on Fred and Rose West, there. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for true crime books, or especially books which delve beneath the surface of Britain to unearth the most dark-hearted tales. I picked it up and abandoned my own book for a few days as I read this instead. Cover to cover, as they say.

It was a brilliantly written and constructed work that had quite an effect on me. Not much disturbs me, but Burn’s telling of this story was without respite - or indeed judgement - and stuck with me to this day. I think it was his use of the many back stories and narratives that made it such a strong book, and also the fact that he avoided resorting to the type of hysteria that the British tabloids instantly revert to when faced with the incomprehensible. There were many victims in Burn's story, and not all of them had died. He also presented another side to England, once which we all know is there – dark, insidious, corrupted - but don’t care to visit if we can help it.

It turned out Burn was close by, somewhere down the road in Newcastle. Like me he was from the north-east and, like me, he paid his bills through journalism. It was hard not to be inspired by this successful but still greatly under-rated writer. I went on to read more by him.

Sadly Gordon Burn died last week at the relatively young age of 61. Having written a piece about his final book Born Yesterday for The Guardian in 2008, I have done a new article to mark his passing which is online today. You can read it here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


My friend's Nash's group The Noughts And Crosses Band have made a video for their song 'God Bless The BBC'. I like it for the following specific reasons:

i) It's an animation.

ii) If you're of a certain age, it might remind you of the animation from a certain era. Maybe, maybe not. It could almost be one of those strange Eastern European cartoons that you watch when you are seven, and which turns out to be an allegorical account of the cruelties of communist regimes or something and maybe freaks you out a bit.

iii) It is not about the cruelties of communist regimes. It won't freak you out a bit.

iv) It's twee and gentle and quite C86-ish. As I type it is 8.16am - I simply cannot take anything heavier than this at such an obscene hour.

v) It's only a minute long.

The Noughts & Crosses Band - God Bless The BBC from Adam Butcher on Vimeo.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Little Anonymous People Climbing A Massive Pile Of Shit.

WARNING: the following features an unexplainable font change.

It's probably a tad ironic* that in the week that I wrote a couple of pieces about how blogging is over-rated and that the rise of the weblog has given many people license to call themselves writers when in fact they are (to paraphrase Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac) but mere typists that this here blog has had what my American counterparts call 'mad hits'. I don't know why this, but it's pleasing.

Yes, I'm a hypocrite.

I suppose my main beef with blogs is that people feel compelled to fill them, even if they have nothing to say. I'm as guilty of this as anyone. Page after page of nonsense. Clips. Pictures. Half-baked, badly-thought out opinions. Reams and reams of it.

Imagine what the internet would be like it if it were a physical entity!

I think it would be a bit like this - little anonymous people climbing up a massive pile of shit.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, 17 July 2009

A Day In The Life Of A Caffeinated Typist

I have written (another) piece for DrownedInSound's week-long 'Music Journalism RIP' series of articles, this one entitled 'A Day In The Life Of A Music Journalist'.

So, er, if you want to know what it is I do, then click here.


Now seems like a good a time as any to remind irregular visitors to this murky corner of the internet that my other blog I, Axl: An American Dream is still available to read online.

It is an epic collection of myth-making poetry telling the rise, downfall, rise, downfall, madness and cornrows of the Guns N' Roses frontman.

It is, I think, more interesting that his last album.

And all these emerging Michael Jackson conspiracies, come to think of it.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Message From The Country #3

Is here....

'There Is Something Dead In The Hedge'

There is something dead in the hedge.
I can smell it. So sweet it is sickening.

A halo of flies marks the rotten spot -
just down the lane, across the bridge.

I pass it every day. It is getting no better.
Someone should do something about it.

This poem won't help. It is still there.
There is something dead in the hedge.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Please Watch Once A Day, Before Breakfast

Klaus Kinski skateboard

Hello. This is great.

'How To Survive In Writing...'

I was asked by journalist Everett True - a man to whom I effectively owe an entire career - to write a few words on how to survive as a music journalism for DrownedInSound's 'Music Journalism RIP' week. Here it is...

From a financial perspective, freelance music journalism is a terrible profession. Rates are no higher than when I first got paid for a review back in 1996 (though I was writing for fanzines before that). And that's if you get paid at all.

If you work full (or even more) time you can hope to make a minimum wage at best. There's no pension, no paid holiday leave here, baby...

Read on here.

Monday, 13 July 2009

July's Culture List


Aleister X
- songs on MySpace (pictured above)
Chain And The Gang - songs on MySpace
Marmaduke Duke - Duke Pandemonium
Julian Cope - Fried (pictured below)
Diplo - Decent Work for Decent Pay
RL Burnside - Mr. Worry
Gary Higgins - Red Hash (pictured below)
Nebula - Heavy Psych


The Boat In The Evening by Tarjei Vesaas (below, in a boat)
Memoirs Of A Bastard Angel by Harold Norse
The Bachelor Uncle & Other Stories by Sid Chaplin


the weather
no telly.

Friday, 10 July 2009

In Defence Of Yoko Ono

I had a feeling this piece I wrote for The Guardian might divide opinion....

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

'I Don't Miss TV'

It seems that whenever I write an article for The Guardian it incurs the wrath of certain, more pedantic readers.

It is usually the more innocuous, less devisive - and least expected - subjects that seem to raise hackles. For example, if I point out that the sky is nice shade of blue, there are invariably responses pointing out that the sky is green and I'm poncey, posh, smug London twat.

(I'm none of these, except for maybe the twat bit).

So now I've given up trying to appease readers and just write whatever comes to mind
Here is a piece about why television is total shit.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Fishing With John

I currently have no TV reception so have only been watching films and shows on DVD for the past few weeks and Fishing With John from 1991 is my new favourite old TV programme.

Jazz musician and actor John Lurie perfectlycaptures the type of fishing I'm into - untrained, ignorant, urbane, badly equipped, disjointed, but full of a certain joie de vivre for the great outdoors and talking nonsense with which ever friends he has roped into accompanying him.

It's a surreal programme and it's always a pleasure to watch the likes of Tom Waits, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe, Dennis Hopper and Jim Jarmusch fishing as badly as I do.

Few fish get caught, so it's a pretty accurate account of this mad angling folly.

Friday, 3 July 2009

The Hickey Underworld

The Hickey Underworld
are a great new guitar band from Belgium. I interviewed them recently and wrote this piece for Crossfire. Nice chaps...

"Any band who are named after a song by Nation Of Ulysses are guaranteed to be men of taste. So when The Hickey Underworld’s debut album landed in Crossfire’s lap a couple of months back it went straight to the top of the towering pile of crap that constitutes rock music in 2009. This is no mean feat. Usually it takes huge bribes to jump the queue...."

Read on...

Currently Reading...

Memoirs Of A Bastard Angel by Harold Norse. This is an amazing memoir by a very recently deceased and highly under-rated writer who bridged the vast gap between Genet and Byron, and should be of special interest to anyone with an interest in 2oth century poetry / modern American culture - not to mention WH Auden, William Carlos Williams, Paul Bowles, Tennesse Williams, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowski, amongst others.

Thursday, 2 July 2009


My friend Heidi James' novel Carbon is coming out in English very soon on Travis Jeppesen's BLATT Books.

Watch Heidi talking about the book on Spanish - and some stuff on The Off Beat Generation - here.

You might need to wade through Gael Garcia Bernal's purty face to get there, about ten minutes in.


(Oh, wait, it's in Spanish....)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Down With Liberty...

America's greatest anti-rock star Ian Svenonius (below) has a new band. Chain And The Gang. Have a listen!

Exploration of Place

I've had quite a number of short stories published in anthologies over the past ten years, but the recent Caught By The River one seems to be getting by far and away the most coverage. Here is a great review of it by Lee Rourke in today's Independent.

"Childhood friendships are galvanised by an unsuccessful fishing trip for chub by the Wear in Ben Myers' exploration of place, "The Dirt Waterfall". But it's not all about the architecture of memory. Jarvis Cocker's "South Yorkshire re-creation of Apocalypse Now" is genuinely amusing, even when his River Porter voyage, "Acrylic Afternoons", becomes a metaphor for life...."