2016: A Year in Books

When I’m not writing, raging in public or watching live music while supping beer, I like to read. For those who care, and also those who don’t, and for my own posterity, here’s a list of the books I’ve rad or re-read in the last 12 months.

 

Derek Raymond – The Devil’s Home on Leave

Chuck Palahniuk – Beautiful You

William S. Burroughs – The Electronic Revolution

Nicholson Baker – The Anthologist

Mickey Spillane – The Long Wait

William Gibson – Neuromancer

Ed McBain – Axe

Joseph O’Neill – The Dog

Paul Scott-Bates – Hitting the Black Wall

Edward Bunker – Stark

Douglas Coupland – Girlfriend in a Coma

Richard Stark – Parker

Peter York Dictators’ Homes

JG Ballard – Kingdom Come

Derek Raymond – How the Dead Live

Chuck Palahniuk – Make Something Up

John Niven – The Sunshine Cruise Company

AD Hitchin – Consensual

Colin Wilson – The Mind Parasites

Charles Bukwoski – Ham on Rye

J S Gordon – Life Pervert

HP Lovecraft – Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre

Dennis Lewis – The Fevered Hive

Ellis Johnson – Peep Book

David Peace – Nineteen Seventy Seven

Michel Houellebecq – Submission

Derek Raymond – A State of Denmark

David Peace – Nineteen Eighty

Dashiel Hammett – The Maltese Falcon

Ed McBain – Give the Boys a Great Big Hand

Laura A Munteanu – Street Dog Music

Harry Harrison – Wheelworld

Brett Easton Ellis – The Informers

Ed McBain – Cut Me In

Glen Taylor (ed.) – More Exhibitionism

David Peace – Nineteen Eighty Three

2016: A Year of Nights Off with Beer and Live Music

I’ve spent a fair few nights watching live music in the last 12 months. Many have been outstanding. I’ve seen acts I had spent half my life waiting to see, I’ve seen some of my favourite acts in unexpectedly small venues, I’ve seen over a hundred acts for the first time, and found new favourites. I haven’t attended quite a gig a week, but it’s not been far off. It’s been fun, and it’s involved the consumption of a lot of beer, and a of time in particular in The Brudenell Social Club and The Fulford Arms. However bad things have been in 2016 socially and politically, there has, at least, always been great live music in abundance.

There is a heap of people – PR, bands, venue personages – I’d like to thank, and I’ve chatted to some ace folks while out and about. Mosly I’d like to thank all the acts I’ve seen for making it a fun year. Those acts are listed, alphabetically, below. I’ve had a blast, and suffice it to say I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2017.

 

…And the Hangnails x 3

99 Watts

999

Asylums

Avalanche Party

Bearfoot Beware

Baroness

Beige Palace

Big Love

The Black Lagoons

Brix & the Extricated

Broken Skull

Buen Chico x 2

Bull x 3

By Any Means

Cannibal Animal

Charlie Padfield

Chris Catalyst

Circuit Breaker

Climbing Alice

Colour of Spring

Consumer Electronics

The Contortionist

Corinth

Cowtown

Deathmace

Death Valley High

DVNE

Dragged Into Sunlight

The Duke Spirit

Eagulls

Elsa Hewitt

Eugene Gorgeous x 2

Face

The Fall

False Flags

Famine

Fat Spatula

Fawn Spots x 2

FEWS

Fighting Caravans x3

Fizzy Blood x2

Flora Greysteel x 2

The Franceens

Future of the Left x 2

Game Program

Gang of Four

Ghold

Gnaw Their Tongues

Gloomweaver

Groak

Hands Off Gretel

Heads.

Helen Money

Hinges

Holy Esque

Hoogerland

The Homesteads

Hora Douse

Horsebastard

The Howl & The Hum

Human Certainty

Irk x 2

Jaded Eyes

Jakoby

Joanne

Kagoule

Kid Canaveral

Killing Joke

Kleine Schweine

Knifedoutofexistence

Legion of Swine

Living Body

Low Key Catastrophe

The Lucid Dream

Mannequin Death Squad

Man of Moon x 2

Max Raptor

Maybeshewill

Mayshe-Mayshe x 2

Meabh McDonnell

The Membranes x 2

Milk Crimes

Mishkin Fitzgerald

Mouses

Mums

NARCS

Near Meth Experience

Nick Hall

Moloch

Mountains Crave

Naked Six

Neuschlaufen

Nordic Giants

No Spill Blood

Ona Snap

One Way Street

Oozing Wound

Orlando Ferguson

Palehorse

Party Hardly x 2

Percy x 2

Pijn

Post War Glamour Girls

Protomartyr

Push

Raging Speedhorn

RM Hubbert

RSJ

Sand Creature

Sarah Carey

Seep Away

Shellac

Shield Patterns x 2

Shrykull

Silver Apples

Simon Bolley

Soma Crew x 5

Stereoscope x 3

Stoneghost

Suburban Toys

Super Luxury

Sweet Deals on Surgery

TesseracT

Thank

Tooth x 2

They Might Be Giants

Three Trapped Tigers

Treeboy & Arc

Unwave

Vesper Walk

Washing Machine Repair Man

Wharf Street Galaxy Band

Wolf Solent

Worriedaboutsatan

Yard Wars

You Slut!

ZoZo

Everything that was wrong about 2016 on a plate… or not

There’s a broad consensus, that 2016 has not been a great year. Perhaps it’s not been so bad for those who consider themselves ‘winners’ having voted for the UK to leave the EU or for Donald Trump to be Barack Obama’s successor, but the seemingly endless roll-call of celebrity deaths – many far short of average life expectancy – has put a bit of a dampener on things.

While social media has been awash with outpourings of public grief, many have been calling for some perspective, and for more consideration to be given to the refuges of Syria. It’ hard to argue that such a bewilderingly vast humanitarian crisis warrants more compassion than a few dead pop stars and whatnot, but I also understand the way losing a childhood hero or figure one deeply admires and whose work has had a significant cultural impact and has touched the lives of many has a sad resonance. It’s easier to feel something for someone with whom you’ve connected in some way through their music or moves than for large numbers of people of whom you know nothing. I’m not defending it. But by the same token, mourning the loss of an icon does not necessarily mean one feels nothing for the plight of those whose lives have been devastated by war. It’s not a binary question.

But while everyone has their own perspective on what’s made 2016 stand out as one of the (supposedly) worst years in living memory, what the equations of dead celebrities vs the suffering of millions of real people, leave vs remain, Trump vs Clinton (all of which tipped to the wrong side) reveal is a social division which is binary in the absolute.

Things have been heading this way for a fair while now: a vast mainstream culture is countered by an equally vast buy infinitely fragmented array of non-mainstream cultures. Big business is now the dominant force in politics: the role of ‘the people’ and the value placed on them by government has diminished to the point of being negligible. The idea that Brexit was in some way a ‘people-powered’ two-fingered salute to the establishment elite was a myth perpetuated by a bunch of establishment elite looking to con the malcontent in order to achieve their own ends. And while the numbers dependent on food banks continues to soar, so ‘the other half’ are comfortable with iPads for all the family and trips to Disneyland at half term.

Amidst all the shit, daily life goes on, and it’s also shit on a microcosmic scale. My experience today seemed to somehow encapsulate all that was wrong about 2016. Having been to Durham to visit the in-laws, we decided to treat ourselves with a detour toward Whitby to catch the sunset by the coast. The smoke rising from a fire on the moors partially obscured the setting sun, and so we stopped at a pub for food. It was 3:45pm. The doors were open, the lights on but in fact they were closed: the barman, sitting by the bar, was simply waiting for some of the residents to arrive. That’s rural pubs on a bank holiday in 2016, though. They simply can’t sustain opening all hours in the face of rising costs and big-business competition in more ‘key’ locations.

And so we found ourselves at Cross Butts Stables Restaurant. It looked homely enough, boasting locally-sourced produce and ‘proper’ food, cooked to order. It is, as I would later learn from their website, the place ‘Where town really does meet country’. Agh, shit.

We took our seats – well, a seat and a bench with an array of well-stuffed cushions, with squirrels, pheasants, a larger-than-life fox and various other wildlife carved into the towering uprights at the back – at the table hewn from an entire oak tree, not far from the roaring wood-burner and watched twilight’s last gleamings through the windows of the barn-sized conservatory building. Being vegetarian, I wasn’t too concerned by the lack of steak pies, but it might have helped if they’d mentioned that they’d run out before Mrs N ordered one rather than five minutes later.

The Great Yorkshire Brewing Company Lager I ordered had to be substituted too, as it ‘wasn’t pouring properly’. I went for a GYBC Cider instead: on arrival, it was the most lagery cider I’ve ever tasted, to the extent I was suspicious the contents of my glass corresponded with the Coors Light glass it arrived in. To be fair, my brie wellington was great, but the fact the meals were served on chopping boards was not. But 2016 in a single sentence: a portion of chips served in a plant-pot on top of a chopping board.

The game is over. The wheel has been reinvented. And a burger andchips on a rough-hewn chopping board with 3” terracotta pot on top costs £14.

Why does this infuriate me so? Because it’s pointless. It’s beyond frivolous. It’s hyping and pimping stuff and charging over the odds in the name of – what, exactly? It says ‘we’re doing this because we’re so cool’. It’s like Pulp’s ‘Common People’ has been put in the blender and rendered a compote by hipsters who think that charging double for the experience of being poor is the apogee of entrepreneurialism. It’s the celebration of the idea of quality produce, the dignity of labour, saving the planet by cutting air-miles, recreating the spirit of a golden age of simpler times in the cuntiest way imaginable.

2017 will see Trump step into his new role and, in all likelihood, the Tories will invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and lead the UK out of the EU. 2016 was not Armageddon, but merely the beginning of the end. Might as well enjoy the artisanal, thrice-cooked chips now before things get really bad….

 

cross-butts-hotel-and

Image from TripAdvisor

Underground / Overground (Again): Taking the Rage Off the Road

I’ve spent most of the last three years purpsefully avoiding publication. It may seem perverse, but there you have it: the idea behind the Rage Monologues was to work on an open-ended project which was about immediacy.

The pieces were penned to be performed in public, and not really to be read in private. The nature of the material and the performance fed into one another synergetically: I wanted to create visceral, raw material to be performed in the most uncompromising, uncomfortable style: each performance was different, with edits being made before each show, meaning the monologues were not fixed, but in constant development, and performed in a fashion which would have an impact. I wasn’t concerned about that impact being positive, and over time, I’ve lost any anxiety about being poorly received: I would rather people walk out in disgust than be impartial or disinterested,  or simply find myself amongst the infinite spoken worders whom audiences would likely consider adequate but forgettable.

Not publishing and keeping the monologues as something which existed only in the moment and in the ether was a deliberate act of rebellion: going offline and making the work available to only a limited audience was  intended to be subversive, a middle finger to globalisation, and ‘the process’: write, publish, tour, or similar. The fact the pieces weren’t published meant the only means by which they were aailable was at performances. A sense of exclusivity so often builds anticipation and can the the key to a cult reputation, and I took the monologues to some substantial audiences at respected – and packed – spoken word nights, wth some major highlights being in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester.

The rock concert analogy is a fitting one: band shift more merchandise after a strong show: the punters have usually consumed booze and are ‘in the moment’. But ending a set and shuffling off with nothing to sell proved problematic, especially given that as an individual (and , as a writer, a relative unknown) with a full-time job and a young family, my touring actities were – and remain – limited to spoken word night slots in places I could reach, and return from, by train on an evening – and a sale or two afte a performance can go some way to mitigating travel costs, not being a writer who commands ‘guest speaker’ or ‘headline’ slots (and I like it that way, and find ‘guerilla’ appearancs to unsupectin crowds are generally more effective than spouting to a crowd already familiar with my work, which is no way for an author to grow a readership).

And so, while the primary objective of the project remains unchanged, I’m aware that making my work unvailable to practically the entire world is self-defeating. While I would love to perform at evety spkoen word night in every city around the globe, it’s not going to happen. And while going underground as an artistic statement is fine, and keeping things clandestine is cool, rendering one’s work inaccssible and unavilabe can be, to an extent, self-defeating. So this happened: a proper book and e-book, published by Clinicality Press – available at spoken word performances and globally for those who can’t attend live events in the north of England (click on the image to purchase).

Rage Book Cover copy

And if you’d like me to bring the rage to a spoken word night near you, then of course do get in touch…

Rage on the Road – September / October 2016

Following a clutch of well-received, high-octane readings in York and Manchester in June, July, and early August, in which I premiered some new material and collaborated for the first time with master noisemonger Legion of Swine for the first time , offers of slots for reading have been rather thin on the ground. Which means it’s time to revert to guerilla appearances at open mic nights, which is actually something I quite enjoy.

Hijacks planned so far are as follows:

26th September 2016: Fictions of Every Kind @ Wharf Chambers, Leeds. 19:30, £3 entry.

1st October 2016: Open Mic Night @ The Basement, York. 19:30.

More to be announced. Or maybe they’ll just happen…

Meanwhile, there are just five copies of the limited-edition Rage Monologues pamphles left. I must be doing something right. These are priced at £3 and are available only at readings.

 

Rage Cover 2

Meanwhile, back in the real world…

A large propotion of the dialogue in my fiction writing is appropriated from real-life: conversations I’ve had, snippets I’ve overheard. I constanty have an ear flapping for lines I can use. Sometimes, I’ll overhear pieces I can’t necessarily use, but which are probably worth sharing simply as material, fragmens of life which in many respects provide their own commentary. THe last two day have yielded the following, one of which is timely the other of which… well. I’m just going to put it out there. This is life in the 21st century, as it happens.

 

Colleague 1: I think I’m going to vote to leave. It’s just.. all these immigrants.

Colleague 2: But there’s so much more to it than immigration. A lot’s been made of immigration, but there are other issues. Take the economy…

Colleague 1: I don’t really understand the economy, so I’m going to base my vote on the things I do understand, that matter to me, and I’m rabout the immigrants, taking our jobs and sending child benefit back to their home countries…

 

 

Trendy U-40 mum to her two primary-school age children (approx 6-8): We need to get some food. So, what where should we go, Pret a Manger or Marks & Spencer?

 

 

 

Rage on the Road, Summer 2016

After a few weeks of watching bands, writing, getting ground down by the day-job and wound up by the shit flying every which-way in the run-up to the  referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, it seems like a good time to let off some steam. I’ve had the good fortune to find a few well-timed events amenable to giving me a slot to air some rage monologues, meanig I’ll be letting it all out on the following dates:

June 26th: York Anti-Fracking Open Mic at the Fulford Arms, York, 13:00-16:00. Facebook event page.

June 29th: Bad Language at the Castle Hotel, Manchester, 19:30. Event page at the Bad Languge website.

July 16th: Irk, Super Luxury, Legion of Swine at the Fulford Arms, York, 19:00. Yes, this is actually happening. Facebook event page.

I still have a handful of the limited, numbered ‘tour edition’ pamphlets of The Rage Monologues in hand. Copies will be available for purchase exclusively at these events. Because literature is the original rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Rage Cover 2