Music And Writing by Aidan Thorn

Music and writing, for me have always gone hand in hand. I can’t write without something on in the background (right now? Rival Sons, if you have to know). I guess it could be because I’m a failed musician that’s turned his hand to writing for that creative outlet. I actually find I enjoy the writing more – and it seems so does the audience, which is nice. But, I still think it’s a shame that my funk metal rap outfit, Acid Fungi, never took off when I was 14 – I think we had something in that one awkward jam session where the only person that could play his instrument was a young Daniel Pugsley, who’s actually a bona fide rock star these days as the bass player in reggae-metal band, Skindred.
It’s little wonder that when I first started writing, naively diving straight in with a novel, one of my main characters was a failed rock musician from a ‘90’s band that had found grunge a couple of years too late. I filled it with references of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. I remember re-visiting all of those classic albums during the writing of that book and getting lost for hours in tunes I hadn’t heard in years.
And, the novella I’m working on, that is probably a couple of weeks off finished, focuses on the accidental kidnapping of a rock star by a group of clueless twenty-somethings. I guess a psychiatrist would have a field day with me for putting my rock star characters in challenging situations.
With my short stories I feel they’re even more linked to my relationship with music. Because, every short story I’ve ever written gets a soundtrack in my head, it’s based on what I was listening to at the time of writing. And, I can pretty much remember every one of them. During much of the writing of my latest collection, Urban Decay, I was listening to a lot of British music – Xfm’s become a bit of a fixture in my life.
And so, the soundtrack to which I wrote my collection of stories set in the dark corners of urban Britain has a distinctly British flavor to it. Bloc Party, Jamie T, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, Stone Roses, Pulp, Oasis, Blur, The Stones all feature heavily in my mind’s ear as I read back stories from this latest collection.
As a character walks a city street in my story, ‘Lucky’, in my head they do it with a swagger to the beat of Jamie T’s ‘Don’t You Find’. Morning breaks in my tale ‘Sign of the Times’ and for me Ben Howard provides the tunes. As the protagonists in ‘The Replacement’ drive through deserted urban streets at night, my ear hears Bloc Party’s ‘Banquet’ from their car stereo. And, as violence breaks out, as it inevitably does in many of the stories in a collection called Urban Decay, my head is filled with tracks by Royal Blood, Arctic Monkeys and The Prodigy.
There’s a distinctly British voice to Urban Decay. I’d suggest you grab a copy, dust off your Jam, Clash or Stone Roses LP’s and settle down for some tales from the underbelly of the city.

Aidan Thorn is a 33-year-old writer from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic sailed from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than sinking ships and terrible R’N’B music. His latest short story collection ‘Urban Decay’ is available now and more about his writing can be found here

Andi Ware On: Why everyone should know about Jack Monroe.

Jack Monroe cooking

I want to begin by apologising to those that are aware of Jack Monroe and the difference that she has made. As January draws to a close it perhaps a little late to consider New Year’s resolutions but if like me you are a little heavier than you were before the festive period it may be worth taking the advice of this lady.

I first became aware of the Girl Called Jack in 2012 when I heard a feature on her on Radio 4’s The Woman’s Hour. I remember this vividly because everything she said seemed to strike a chord with me due some of my own recent experiences. For those that don’t know who Jack Monroe is she is a writer, journalist and poverty campaigner. She first gained a profile within the British press for her ultra-affordable recipes. After leaving her job at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service she felt the strain of being a single parent. The difficulty that she experienced in trying to feed her son coupled with remarks made by a local (Southend on Sea) Councillor that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street.’ caused Jack to respond with a blog called ‘A Girl Called Jack’ in which she wrote about issues facing those that were reliant on benefits and suggest ideas for good quality, low cost meals. The main stream press soon became interested Jack’s blog and Monroe soon featured in the Independent. She has since described Xanthe Clay’s article; ‘My 49p Lunch With A Girl Called Jack’, as the moment that changed her life.

The reason why I was so taken with Monroe’s story in 2013 was because I had at the time recently been through a time of financial difficulty. In 2011 I was made redundant. I was luckier than some in that I managed to secure some part time work immediately. However, I still found that my income was now a third of what it had been. Working only 2 and a half days a week meant that I on Thursday mornings I could shop but shop in my own way. This involved arming myself with what I dubbed the Skintsack; this was an old canvas rucksack that I had bought for a camping holiday a few years previous. Climbing on my bike I would head out to the outskirts of Hull where I would visit several farm shops where I was able to fill the Skintsack with fresh eggs, a back-breaking amount of fresh vegetables and fruit all for a less than a tenner. I would then hit the budget supermarkets where I would stock up on meat and fish. I would find that for little more than the cost of a large Domino’s pizza I was able to prepare quality meals for a week or so. It was during this period that I feel that I truly learned to cook. What I learned about cooking during this period was that it can be a hugely socially emancipating experience. Preparing a meal for four and knowing that it cost less than a fiver gives you a great sense of satisfaction.

At this point I feel that I must clear something up. I am not preaching, in that I am not suggesting that everyone on a low income should trawl their local rural areas for farm shops and cycle 15 miles just to gather the ingredients for an affordable meal. You see this is the beauty of Jack Monroe, all of the ingredients for her recipes can be found in Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Monroe is an advocate of value range foods and all of her recipes consist of these. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Monroe’s recipes is that they work, are very good and whilst following them you learn that good food can actually be very affordable whilst bad food tends to be incredibly expensive. I don’t wish to stereotype but I can only speak of my experience. In 2011 it just so happened that my wife and I had to move in to social rented housing on one of Hull’s most deprived estates. Both of us were struck by the number of take away deliveries we saw. Every night the estate was buzzing with hatch backs with Domino’s (other providers of pizza are available) signs on the roof or many of the local fast food establishments. I remember thinking about the amount of money that had been spent in the area on poor quality, high fat foods, in area that was not noted for material affluence. This probably sounds incredibly patronising and condescending. But I feel that it is food for thought. If these families had been aware of Jack Monroe would their eating habits have changed? Perhaps not, but the financial and health benefits may have been enormous had they had the same outlook as Jack.

Last year Jack Monroe excelled herself when she proposed that everyone that bought Starbuck’s coffee in the mornings on the way to work should for one day only have a filter coffee at home and spend the money that they would usually spend on their Starbuck’s on tins of value range food that they should then donate to a local food bank. A beautifully simplistic idea, perhaps if the British public did this for a week it may go some way to addressing the balance of Starbuck’s tax avoidance.

Whether you need austerity cuisine in your life or not Jack Monroe certainly deserves a degree of respect for what she has achieved in such a short period of time. He column including recipes are a weekly feature in The Guardian and her cook book is available in book shops now.

Xavier DwyerAndi Ware is 33 years-old, married and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that. Find him tweeting at @AWareA5


Ten Songs by Grant Nicol

A big thank you to Allen Miles for this opportunity and experience. I, like him, tried to do this without the plethora of British rock bands that I always seem to spout at people when they ask me what sort of music I listen to. Doing this list without The Cure, The Cult, The Smiths or Joy Division forced me to look at the bands and songs that influenced my tastes in somewhat more formative years and the moments of live magic that have stayed with me ever since rather than simply repeating the names of my favourite songs from my record collection. It has been a memorable experience recreating the moments that shaped my musical past and present.




  1. Add It Up – Violent Femmes

There was a time in my life, about a year in fact, when you couldn’t go to a party anywhere in Auckland without hearing the Violent Femmes first album in its entirety at least ten times over the course of any given evening. It became an anthem for every misconstrued, ill-thought of and awkward teenager there ever was. ‘Add It Up’ is a song about the difficulties of getting laid as a teenager aimed squarely at a demographic who think about nothing else. In New Zealand Gordon Gano, Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo quickly became part of musical folklore and their concert in Auckland touring the mighty follow up album, ‘Hallowed Ground’ was extraordinary. Their eponymous first album went gold on our tiny islands faster than anywhere else in the world. Gordon’s haunting and yet menacing vocals still resonate today and it’s hard to imagine how bands such as the awesome Placebo could have ever existed without this one coming first.


  1. This Must Be The Place – Talking Heads

‘Speaking In Tongues’ was another album that was a revelation to my teenage ears. As was all of Talking Head’s early albums. ‘Fear Of Music’ and ‘Remain In Light’ have to be mentioned here as well. They opened my eyes and ears to the way that music could be looked upon as a performance art-form as opposed to simply a recorded medium. This culminated in their 1984 movie, ‘Stop Making Sense’ which was more like going to see a concert than a movie at the cinema with people dancing in the aisles and singing along to all the songs. Talking Heads become the uber-hip benchmark for all other cool bands of the late 70’s and early 80s. David Byrne and his collaborations with Brian Eno were also heavily influential especially their ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ album which I had the dubious honour of listening to just as a dose of psilocybin was kicking in one night. ‘The Jezebel Spirit’ was indeed an interesting choice to start that night off with.


  1. A New England – Billy Bragg

This was the first real love affair I had with a musician’s work. I saw Billy Bragg five times over the course of a year and a half in Auckland. His brutal honesty and heart-broken lyrics hit a chord like no other performer at that time. Such simple and yet beautiful songs performed with just a guitar slung around his neck and his heart worn on both sleeves were a breath of fresh air in a time of synth-pop and New Romantic over-indulgences. His plaintiff love songs sung in his unmistakeable accent were unlike anything else we had heard in NZ before. His live concerts were raw and real with his cover of The Clash’s ‘Garageland’ in particular bringing back the best days of British punk. His songs rang out from the stage like poetry put to music. Sonnets with an electric guitar commenting on everyday life through the eyes of a realist trying so very hard not to become a cynic.


  1. Jennifer’s Veil – The Birthday Party

This song was the beginning of the end for me. Or the beginning of the beginning, or the end of the beginning of the end. Something like that. I’ll never know for sure. What it definitely was, was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the music, novels and screenplays of Nick Cave. My friends and I conspired to get this song to the top of Auckland student radio station BFM’s Alternative Top Ten chart and keep it there. And we did. For almost two whole months. The Mutiny EP was the first thing I listened to that scared me. It affected me in the same way that Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ did and the way the ‘The Exorcist’ did as well. It was proof that scary could be fun. It’s beautiful (albeit in a pretty weird fucking way) and it’s horrible too. It’s the musical equivalent of disease-ridden wounds and trench warfare nightmares that you could never fully recover from even if you did survive. Nick has gone on to write some of the most beautiful love songs ever written and some of the most disturbing images ever transmitted from one human being to another. And I love him for them both. For beauty and disgust go hand in hand in this world. That is an inescapable truth.


  1. Celebrated Summer – Husker Du

These guys were the greatest band in the world. The first sensitive and emotionally relevant punk band. The Clash had certainly been emotive but these guys wrote love songs. And meant them. It heralded the beginning of something completely new in punk and ‘New Day Rising’, ‘Flip Your Wig’, ‘Candy Apple Grey’ and ‘Warehouse: Songs And Stories’ were all staggering albums. If you were to look at the American rocks bands of the last thirty years there wouldn’t be too many of any quality who wouldn’t cite these guys as a significant influence. They were the first punk band to be signed to a major label and considering that they probably never allowed themselves to hit their potential the indent they left on music was truly unforgettable. Nirvana and The Foo Fighters in particular owe enormous debts to the trailblazing exploits of Husker Du. Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton gave their all so that others could follow in their footsteps.


  1. The Mission Soundtrack – Ennio Morricone

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a song but I couldn’t pick one track off this soundtrack that would have told the whole story. One night in the late 80s a group of friends and I headed to a disused WW2 bunker under an old gun emplacement dressed as outcasts from a Zodiac Mindwarp video. We spent the evening in there covered head to toe in leather, bandannas and the glowing liquid contents of a dozen Cyalume sticks sprayed liberally over every surface in the place, including ourselves. We were of course all completely off our heads on acid at the time. There could be no other explanation for such behaviour. The space we created looked like the universe seen inside out and upside down from the brain of a giant insect supernova and all the time we were listening to Ennio Morricone’s masterpiece. It was the most religious and spiritual experience of my life and if God does actually exist he was definitely checking us out that night. For we were on a par with him. Morricone’s music transports you to another time and place of your choosing. It is what cathedrals would sound like if they could make their own music without our help. It is a recording from above delivered to us through the ears, fingers and imagination of an Italian master. God bless him.


  1. Man of Golden Words – Mother Love Bone

The song I want to be buried to. Andy Wood’s painful soul-aching lyrics on this track from one of the greatest rock albums ever made can break your heart into a thousand pieces. And if you spend too much time thinking about how he was to die shortly after recording it they probably will. The sorrow within the songs on this album as it swells towards its end is immeasurable. Listening to it one night (with the aid of LSD admittedly) I realised that what on the outside appears to be a great American psychedelic rock album is actually the journal of a truly beautiful man sliding away from us into the arms of heroin. It starts off as a celebration of life and spirituality with the joyous ‘This Is Shangrila’ but slowly becomes darker and darker still until you find yourself at ‘Man Of Golden Words’ and ‘Crown Of Thorns’.

“Wanna show you something like the joy inside my heart, seems I’ve been living in the temple of the dog.”

‘Temple Of The Dog’ would become the tribute album made in his memory shortly after his death by his flatmate Chris Cornell and the guys who would go on to become Pearl Jam. Along with the death of Jeffrey Lee Pierce this was one of the greatest untimely losses ever to American rock.

  1. The Ship Song – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Now I know that technically I shouldn’t be using the same artist here twice but this seems so far removed from his earlier days with The Birthday Party that I thought I might get away with it. ‘The Ship Song’ was the song I wanted to get married to back in the days when I thought I might actually wind up getting married. They’re long gone but this is still one of the most sweepingly beautiful love songs ever written (along with ‘Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For’ and ‘Straight To You’) by a man who understands poetry as a way to woo any woman’s soul like no one else on this planet. No one still alive anyway. If this doesn’t make you want to fall in love your heart has long ceased to work properly. I have been fortunate enough to have seen Nick live twice. Once with The Bad Seeds and once solo with nothing more than a piano to aid him and frankly that’s all he needs. All his songs begin on a keyboard and songs such as ‘The Ship Song’ don’t need anything else.

news nick cave rc


  1. My Iron Lung – Radiohead

One of the greatest live experiences of my life. I saw Radiohead play in Sydney when they were at the peak of their powers touring ‘OK Computer’. At that point in their career they only had three albums to pick their set-list from which is what made the show so good. Because those albums were three of the finest rocks albums ever. ‘Pablo Honey’, ‘The Bends’ and ‘OK Computer’ are all completely different and that has always been part of what makes Radiohead so unique. Never wanting to stand still they have continually pushed the boundaries of what they have done. Thom Yorke’s towering vocals and Jonny Greenwood’s awesome prowess as a guitar player and multi-instrumentalist made them a true force to be reckoned with. These guys were quite simply magical in their heyday.


  1. Popplagið – Sigur Rós

The moment when the wave broke for me (to steal a phrase from the late great Hunter S. Thompson). A massive turning point in my life. Reduced to a gibbering speechless idiot after first seeing these guys live in Reykjavík I was forced to admit to myself that there was no other place on earth I wanted to live apart from Iceland. A move that has proved to be the best thing I’ve ever done with myself. They are still the most incredible live act I have ever seen and with six years in my twenties as a guitar technician for a number of rock bands I have seen hundreds of live shows. I have now seen Sigur Rós three times. I travelled to Denmark to see them at the Roskilde Festival and have also seen them in Dublin. They are beyond any doubt one of the ‘must see before you die’ bands in the world. The sensory overload that they inflict upon you at their concerts has reduced a number of people to tears. I had a girl standing in front of me at Roskilde who wept for about three songs. Not because there was anything wrong with her but because she was simply overwhelmed by what was going on in front of her. Their songs are from another planet. They don’t sing about anything. They open you up and let whatever is in there come out. Most of the time it is joy. In the shape of tears. Popplagið is the last song they play at all there shows because after it has finished there is simply nowhere left to go. They have taken you as far as you can go and it is simply time for them to let you go and get back to reality. You will probably find that your reality has changed a little bit after seeing them in the flesh. I did.


Grant is 45 and lives in Reykjavík where he is an author. He has two books published both of which are set in Iceland, ‘On A Small Island’ and ‘The Mistake’ are available on Amazon as eBooks or paperbacks at:



Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 2


Number 2 – Scott Walker – Tilt

I am well aware that very few of the people who read this article will have heard this album, and even fewer will like it. It is infamously one of, if not the, most difficult album ever released by a major artist, but before I tell you how good it is, a bit of context.

The Walker Brothers, in 1964, were the biggest band in the world. Bigger than The Beatles. Belting out magnificently rich and melancholy ballads, they were rabidly pursued by teenage girls who were confused by their hormones, wherever they went. As one story went, they were once surrounded by a legion of screaming harpees in their getaway car after a show, and they were so tenacious in their desire to gain contact with these impossibly handsome stars, that these sex-craved harridans actually managed to tip the car onto its roof, where underneath Messrs Engel, Maus and Leeds (none of them were actually called Walker) all sustained serious injuries. Noel Engle, who had been the bass player, and had played the part of Scott Walker, had been forced to the front of the band when a song called Love Her had called for a deeper voice. He was the best-looking member of the band, and after providing lead vocals on mega-hits The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make It Easy On Yourself, retreated into himself, desperate to maintain his artistic integrity, terrified by the trappings of fame and fortune. In one interview, which is possibly the single coolest moment in the history of humanity, while his bandmates yapped away about on camera about how great it was to be making money and pulling endless broads, Scott lounged in the corner of the dressing room, his face masked by enormous shades and his shoulders wrapped in a shawl, a bottle of beer dangling from his fingers, and drawled, “I’m in it for different things…” you can see it at 13:49 in this clip.

Scott became increasing arty and obscure, crafting intricate, gloomy operettas and covering songs by sweaty Belgian cabaret singer Jacques Brel. In particular he performed an incredibly morose ballad entitled My Death on his Saturday tea-time TV show. It is often said that George Michael was the first pop star to eschew commercial success for artistic credibility; nah, Scott Walker got there first. His solo albums continued to top the hit parade, due to the sky-scraping beauty of his own compositions, his impossible good-looks and bravado, and the manner, similar to The Smiths and early Suede, in which the listener could live in his songs. He was a star on his own terms. Then, something strange happened. After the top three success of Scott 1, Scott 2, and Scott 3, Scott 4, his most accomplished album to that point and one which would take the number 31 spot on this list, was released in the midst of the hippy revolution in 1969. And it bombed. Not as in, it failed to crack the top ten; it failed to chart at all.

Nobody quite knows why this happened, and the album was deleted soon after. Walker was deeply scarred by the snub, and after releasing a couple of lacklustre albums comprised mainly of MOR cover versions, he disappeared for a few years and descended into drink. A comeback with the Walker Brothers came in 1975, by way of the hugely popular break-up song No Regrets, and with one album left on the deal, Nite Flights was released in 1978, a twelve-track album on which each member composed four songs. The compositions of Gary and John were perfectly serviceable, but Scott’s tracks were so far ahead it was almost embarrassing. The Shutout, Fat Mama Kick and Nite Flights were pounding, visionary pieces, reminisecent of Station To Station-era Bowie and later Joy Division, but his final track on the album, The Electrician, was astonishing; cold, suspenseful and spiralling; as if they’d put a torch song on the Eraserhead soundtrack. It was almost note for note ripped off by Ultravox for Vienna, and the aforementioned David Bowie calls it the best song ever written. This was the direction he would pursue on his next album, Climate Of Hunter (1984), and in the age of Bon Jovi and Dire Straits, this brittle and fascinating album would shift less than a thousand copies and is said to be Virgin’s worst-selling record ever.

And then… silence.

Eleven year’s worth of silence, to be precise. Tilt would be released in 1995, apparently having taken six years to record. It sounds like the work of a man who had not spoken to another human being in a decade. From the cover art to the bizarre lyrics, it is the most starkly self-possessed record ever made.
When I was about nineteen, I bought this album, with the view to completing my Scott catalogue. I’d snapped up the first four, and everything else was unavailable on CD. Nothing could have prepared me for the stylistic chasm between Scott 4 and Tilt. The first track, Farmer In The City, is something that has no parallel in this far reaching medium of popular music. There is a road about six miles away from where I live, which acts as a bypass between the local villages of Dunswell and Beverley. There are no streetlights down this road, no houses for miles and if you travel down there after dark, only the headlamps of traffic will cast any sort of illumination. About halfway down, on the left, is a derelict barn about five hundred yards from the road, which will be lit fleetingly when a lone car drives past. In my imagination, Farmer In The City was recorded there.

This song must be listened to in the dark, alone, preferably on headphones. It is simply the heaviest piece of music ever written. I don’t mean in the way that silly bands like Metallica and Slipknot are heavy; I mean in the sense that when you listen to it, it weighs on your shoulders, it drags your senses down. It starts with a faraway tinkle of a triangle, then the deepest, most gravity-laden pull of double bass you’ll ever hear. A few plucked acoustic guitar notes and then Walker starts singing. And it’s different. That soaring baritone of thirty years earlier is now smothered in chloroform, hopeless, abandoned, like the voice of an oncologist who finds himself singing on his way home from work. Strings lurch to and fro behind him and the relentless procession of ugly-beautiful noise illuminates the intensely surreal lyrics that this loneliest of all men wails. Seemingly obscure literary references and snapshots of half-remembered dreams, the words to Farmer In The City are apparently about Italian film director Pier Paolo Passolini, who was murdered at the premiere of his hugely controversial and quite frankly revolting movie Salo, which was considered blasphemous by a bunch of hardline Catholic nutcases. The repeated “Do I hear 21?” refrain is possibly about the age of military conscription in Mussolini’s regime, and the passage from 4:42 to 5:46, where he howls of how he “Used to be a citizen” as the string section carry this twenty ton weight to the heavens on a other-worldy crescendo is absolutely incomparable, the most dramatic moment in the history of recorded music. The last line, almost an afterthought: “Paolo, take me with you.”

Anyhow, that’s the first track. Six and a half minutes long, and offering a wider scope than most artists manage in entire careers. The second track, The Cockfighter, begins with a bizarre, near-silent montage of wails, distant gusts of wind and odd scratching noises that you have to strain to hear until a terrifying moment after about a minute and a half when an industrial cacophony slams through the speakers at full volume as Walker howls “It’s a beautiful night, yeah.” After a while the track settles into a Joy Division-esque pounding rhythm and multi-layered voices intone lyrics that again, make absolutely no sense. It also features an instrumental break that sounds like someone beating a cow to death with a guitar. In Bouncer See Bouncer, we start with the sound (honestly) of scuttling and chirping locusts, which is laid over a relentless thump of a bass drum, whilst the mantra “Spared, I’ve been spared” is repeated, along with other deeply esoteric lines. It is staggeringly bleak, bringing to mind scenes of men in death camps marching to their end. After four minutes of this nightmare, the black clouds break and a ray of the most exquisite sunshine shines through in the form of harp and pipe organ as he sings beautifully of how much he loves this season, before the death march starts again.

Elsewhere, Manhattan features an enormous, slashing chorus of organ and ravaged guitar, along with lyrics such as “Scalper in the lampglow/scalper on a chair/stick wiped shirt?/and his arm somewhere” No, I don’t know either. Rosary is a simple piece for voice and reverbed electric guitar, and was performed live on Jools Holland in 1995 on condition that he would only take the stage after the studio audience had all left. The title track is arguably the most accessible track on the album, and the only piece here that could be played by a conventional rock band, even though it does feature guitars that seem simple yet are somehow disorientating, in the same way that you can inexplicably lose your balance in a hall of mirrors.

The two tracks at the heart of the record, Bolivia ’95 and Patriot (A Single) are vast, deeply layered compositions, cinematic in their scope, both featuring operatic structure and amazingly intense vocals. It is a testament to how far this man retreated into himself that a line as seemingly innocuous as “I brought nylons from New York/Some had butterflies, some had flecks.” can sound as like an incantation of death for the whole world. The chorus line to Bolivia ’95 is “Lemon bloody cola.” and he sings it has if he’s just heard that his mother has died. It is dense to the point of being impenetrable.

Tilt is the bravest record ever made by a major artist. It is far beyond the realms of pop music, and far beyond the realms of rock. It is heavier than anything by Nine Inch Nails or Einstürzende Neubauten and it’s more intricate in its make-up than the works of the electric Miles Davis or even Rite Of Spring-era Igor Stravinsky. The only album in mainstream rock’s cannon it would compare to would be Bowie’s Low, but only then in terms of the soundscaping and introspection. It is not a record for the MP3 generation, as it is to be consumed as a whole, and the artwork and the format of the lyric sheet are very much part of the package. It is not a record to be enjoyed, rather it is to be appreciated, and I’m well aware that the majority of people who will check it out on the strength of this review will absolutely loathe it. It is a record completely without precedent, it has influenced precisely no-one and will never appear on Top 100 Albums Ever lists. It is, however, a staggering artistic achievement, and it will haunt you for a long time after you hear it, much in the same way that you can’t shake the image of Brad Pitt’s face in the last scene of Seven. If you are interested in any way in what can be achieved in the medium of recorded sound, how one man can interpret the sounds in the darkest corridors of his mind in the most extreme way possible, then you should listen to Tilt. It is a terrifying, punishing, but deeply rewarding experience, and in my opinion there has only been one album ever made that is better than this one.

The lyrics don’t make any sense.

Best Tracks: Farmer In The City, Bolivia ’95, Patriot (A Single)

Best Moment: The afore mentioned passage from 4:42 in Farmer In The City. Listen to it on headphones, loud, in the dark, with your eyes shut. Your body will start to vibrate.

Like this? Try: It’s a tough one, but I’ll go with Up by Peter Gabriel (2002)

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here.

Johnson Vs Miles


Would you give us a little info about yourself?
I’m thirty three years old, I have a wife and daughter and mortgage. I look like Ellen Degeneres and dress like a cross between Niles from Frasier and Johnny Marr. I speak English quite well and I work for the NHS. I have a book out, it is called This Is How You Disappear.
And a bit about your writing process?
My previous novella, 18 Days, was written in five days whilst I was delirious from lack of sleep due to the night-time antics of my new-born daughter. I got an idea in my head and loaded up on coffee and wine and just typed and typed and typed. It was a very dark story and rather draining to write. This one was much easier to write. I took the best part of a year to scribble ten stories and although many of them are still on the bleak side, I actually enjoyed the process. The writing is pretty languid and evocative but with a hard-hitting core. 18 Days was like passing a kidney stone, This Is How You Disappear is like finding a razor blade in a chocolate cake.
Following on from the success of your last book, how has this helped you and has there been any negatives to tackling your new book of short stories?
I wouldn’t say my last book was successful. It got loads of five-star reviews, but I didn’t make any money from it. Having said that, I wasn’t expecting to, and I didn’t really care if I did. I learnt a lot from the first one; for example it is idiotic to attempt to write 30000 words in five days while working a fifty hour week and attending to a six month-old baby. Writing this one, I attempted to work on my weaknesses, such as dialogue, and I definitely created many more characters. The negatives were keeping the stories short, a few of them run to 10000 words or more, which strictly speaking aren’t short stories.
Why short stories and not a novel?
I have neither the discipline nor the level of concentration to write a novel. I have one on the back burner, but I’ll write big chunks of it then leave it for ages and forget my train of narrative thought. I will finish it, but it will be when I’ve got less hair and more spare time. It’s said that Martin Scorsese had been waiting twenty years for the right time to do Gangs Of New York, because it was such a monstrous undertaking. It will be the same with my novel.
Could you tell us a little about your new book?
It is a collection of ten short stories and the afore-mentioned novella. It is my first paperback. It is mostly based on themes of isolation and escapism, and I’ve taken a lot of influence from the writings of Charles Bukowski, John Fante and Cormac McCarthy. The lyrics of Elvis Costello also had a huge influence, as did the life and times of Howard Hughes. I’m immensely proud of it, and the story, Paradise, is the best thing I have ever written. As I say above, I enjoyed writing it, which is really rare for me. My favourite part of the book is called Blue and Yellow Stripes, which is an autobiographical prose about my childhood. All the characters in it are actual people, including my mate’s amazingly cool older brother, my then-best mate’s grandmother who couldn’t speak English, and the whole football team from my primary school.
Getting published – what have you done?
Long story. I was approached by my friend and mentor Darren Sant who’d read one of my stories, which was tentatively-titled A Night Out, which was a sort-of throwaway comedy story I’d written based on real events. He offered to put it out as an e-book through his fledgling publishing company, but suggested I write another short story as a bonus, to make it worth the price. Sadly, Darren’s would-be partner moved abroad so they decided not to continue with their plans. I was gutted at this because I thought the bonus short that I’d written, which I’d titled This Is How You Disappear, was one of my best pieces. I decided to write a collection of short stories with a view to self-publishing it as an e-book. During this time I’d started my own website, and one of the contributors, a magnificent author called Ryan Bracha, got in touch and asked if I’d like to contribute to an anthology he was curating and publishing called Twelve Mad Men, which I did. A while after, I decided to chance my arm and see if he fancied putting my collection out himself, because frankly I didn’t have the first idea how to do it. To my absolute joy, he said he would, and due to the fact he’s an all-round splendid chap, I’m now sitting here with a paperback volume of my own work in my hands.


Follow Fiona on Twitter @McDroll. Shes very good.

Follow Fiona on Twitter @McDroll. Shes very good. I know she looks pretty bored with my waffling, but that’s my fault.

Have you built on the dark themes from your last book or have you headed in different directions?
Lots of people told me that 18 Days was incredibly dark. My bezzy-mate at work told me she burst into tears at the end, but she does drink a lot of gin so that could’ve been a factor (love you Mel!) I’ve not read it since I finished it so with hindsight I can’t really say, but when I wrote that book I’d completely zoned out and was following a trail, so I didn’t really pick up on it at the time. The stories on this one are quite dark in places, The Holy Dusk Tricolore is particularly upsetting, but there’s certainly a level of black humour in a few of the stories, which I learnt from writing my contribution to the afore-mentioned Twelve Mad Men. The First Aider is particularly malevolent, and it will raise a grin or two. Ditto Nebraska, East Yorkshire, which is the re-write of A Night Out, as mentioned above.
What improvements do you see in your writing ?
I’ve made a conscious effort to write dialogue, because there was hardly any in 18 Days. I’ve also varied from first person to third person in a few of the stories, and as I’ve said, I’ve tried to inject a bit of humour into it. In many ways, I’ve tried to get away from my own style, if that makes sense.
What’s next?
I’m going to do lots of promo in order to try and sell copies of my book, have a rest for a while, then carry on with my novel. Hopefully it will be finished before Putin blows the world up.

Allen Miles, author


This Is How You Disappear is published through Abrachadabra Books and is available on Amazon here:

Breathless (2008), A Review….By Martyn Taylor


I don’t write too many articles these days, but the other night I watched a film and felt inspired to write a short review about it. The film in question is a Korean film (with subtitles) called Breathless. It was shown on Film 4 a few weekends ago as part of their foreign film season. It was shown at the ungodly time of about 2 o’clock in the morning so I recorded it.

I had managed to watch most of the foreign film season, most were good , but others were utter shite….but Breathless really caught my eye. initially because of the warning in the synopsis ‘…VERY STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENCE …’ This sounded like my cup of tea.

The lead protagonist (played by Yang Ik Joon (who also wrote, directed and produced the film)) is called Sang-Hoon, a truly despicable, volatile, debt collector with a particular passion for violence and intimidation. he beats up his debtors with vigour, but his anger often over spilled onto his work colleagues without warning in random acts of violence.

A chance meeting with a high-school girl called Yeon-Hue, that he met on his way home is the main plot of the film. Despite initially spitting at her and punching her, she shows no fear of him, this seems to draw her to him. We learn through flashbacks that both main characters suffered from domestic violence while growing up and throughout their lives. Yeon-Hue sees the best in Sang-Hoon and an awkward relationship ensues. This friendship seems to help Sang-Hoon develop greater relationships with his sister, nephew, work colleagues and father.

You can see a twist coming from a mile off, and you know it can only go in two directions. Although I kind of knew what was coming, I never expected it to happen in the desperately shocking and heart-breaking way that it does.

Anyone who is easily offended by bad language and gratuitous violence should give this film a wide birth, but I implore you to overlook the initial violence and profanity and give the relationship a chance. I decided to write this review because I happened upon this film by chance, and I didn’t want anybody else to miss out on this little-known gem. Please catch this film if you can and let me know what you think. Cheers.

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 32 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

Tawdry Tinsel Town by Dr Dave Salmond

Like many people my age, I was born in the 80’s. Whilst this was a bad time for fashion and music , it was, in my opinion a golden age for the silver screen. I was lucky enough to be born and have a few formative years before technology gave us the wonderful invention of home cinema. I have been hooked to film from a very early age, one of my earliest memories was watching Star Wars for the first time one Christmas when I was five and I have been hooked ever since. But to my young mind it was tragically unfair to have to wait another full year to watch it again (for some reason I only ever remember Star Wars being on at Christmas). Then along came VCR and Betamax. Now I no longer was a slave to the programming directors of the BBC and ITV, although I had to wait until after the format wars were over before my dad would part with any money on a video player (media savvy or tight fisted I’m not sure).

Until this point I would get my fix from trips to the cinema or whatever was shown on TV; child friendly films or more often cartoons. The 80’s was awash with family/ child orientated viewing, Disney films were going strong, Jim Henson’s puppets were popping up in film’s like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, not to mention the ubiquitous Muppet movies. We also had out-and-out kids classics in the form of The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, Monster Squad and the Karate Kid which, after watching, every kid thought they could do kung fu. For the older kids, John Hughes was pumping out teenage angst ridden cinematography like Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles before moving onto the more family orientated National Lampoon series and eventually Home Alone.

With the advent of the video player, all these movies and many more could be watched at home whenever the mood took you. Trips to the video store became a weekly highlight for me; being allowed a choice of one movie at the weekend was an all consuming task, do you take a chance and get something new, hire out Adventures in Babysitting for the tenth time or get that film that everyone was talking about at school? Too many options is sometimes a bad thing. This often led to what seemed like hours deliberating which film to choose in the video store, wondering around with one film in hand but still not entirely sure if that is the one you want. Part of this consideration for me wasn’t always about which title you where allowed to take home that week, it was about the one’s you weren’t.

The introduction of the video player had inadvertently provided a loop-hole to certain film makers in the early 80’s. Low budget, mainly slasher horror movies, could now bypass the film certification board by releasing their films straight to video. These video nasties caused public outcry and eventually stricter regulation of the video market. Although this had been addressed by the time I was at an age where I was watching films, it had left a bit of a cultural legacy. Hollywood had obviously spotted that there was a market to be filled at this end of the spectrum and by the mid to later part of the decade was pumping out 18 rated films at quite a rate. Although 18 rated movies were nothing new, they had become something to aspire towards, pushing the new boundaries and seeing what film makers could get away with under the new guidelines.

So this left me in the video store, clutching my copy of some childish film wondering what those very stylised film boxes were on the top shelves. Knowing that this forbidden fruit was out of my grasp, legally and physically, gave them all the more appeal, even though I knew they were put out of my reach for a reason, be it because they were too violent or had bad language, having to wait until I was eighteen seamed unfair.

This started a new craze for me, to see as many age-restricted films as I could. I no longer cared if they were good films or not, it became more about the age badge on the front of the cover. U rated films that I’d loved became babyish in my eyes, now it became a race between me and my friends down the street and at school to tick off as many 15 and 18 rated films as we could. Being the first kid in class to see the much talked about, over hyped film we weren’t meant to see became a badge of honour. We didn’t care that watching some of these films would scare the shit out of us or maybe warp our outlook on the world (I like to think I’ve turned out ok despite some of the films I watched at too young an age) it was all about the bragging rights of been the first person to say ” I watched The Terminator over the weekend.”

We used many and what we thought were devious and clever tactics to watch these films, taking advantage of lax parenting where possible, sucking up to the older kids down the street, blackmailing older brothers and sisters who’d been caught smoking into letting us watch them whilst babysitting at someone’s house. Sometimes just flat out lying about seeing a film would get you through if you’d overheard enough people talking about the key scenes, all so you could brag about it at school even though you’d never seen it. I would lie, cheat and on a couple of occasions steal to watch as many films as possible. This was my obsession with movies.

I tell you all this because the rant I am about to go on may sound a bit negative and despite all my current misgivings about the state of the film industry today I do still have a love of cinema. It was a big part of my childhood as I’ve explained and even into my late twenties I was still buying DVD’s on a weekly basis, purchasing new titles and replacing my old video collection. I’m not sure exactly when it started to happen, but slowly the number of films that I would watch started to decline and when I did watch a new movie they just weren’t captivating me anymore. I’d laugh less at comedies, be drawn less into thrillers and action films just flat out bored me. For a time I just assumed that this was natural, that becoming jaded towards things was part of getting older. I’d talk less to my friends about new films either because I had no interest in seeing that particular years big blockbuster or more often than not they got sick of me bitching how shit cinema had become. This posed a bit of a problem to me, I was still enthusiastic towards other things from my childhood, so why was my love of film dwindling? I was still finding new music that I enjoyed, I still spend hours in book shops looking for and discovering excellent literature. So why did my passion for film disappear?

I’ve pondered this question for a few years now and while you may disagree with my conclusions, just remember that this is how I justify that it’s not me that’s gotten old it’s Hollywood that’s gotten shit.

The first point I want to raise is the current trend of the PG-13 rated movie, whilst this certification had been around since 1984, it seems to be the dominant force at the moment. I understand that a film maker wants his or her film to reach as wide of an audience as possible but aiming all films at a more juvenile target base in my opinion is the wrong way to go about this. I also realise that this isn’t solely the decision of the film makers themselves but more so the studio’s that produce them. Why make a film that only mum and dad can enjoy, get them to bring the kids as well, more bums on seats, more money. With this attitude of aiming at a younger target audience holding so much sway, whilst good for the money machine, can be very detrimental to a good story. Don’t get me wrong, some children’s films, Pixar especially, write very strong and engaging stories. This is because from the very outset these films were designed and primarily aimed at children, but they incorporate subtle adult themes aimed at the parents, who they know will be taking their children to see these movies, so that everyone can enjoy them. The money men in Hollywood see this and think that the same rule applies coming the other way. If you take a dark, hard hitting storyline that was never intended for a younger audience, the only way to achieve this mass appeal is to take away the darker, more unsavoury elements until it is suitable for a younger audience. This leaves you very far away from the original concept and so the story suffers, the language that the characters use seems wrong, certain motivations and decisions they make, now that they are trapped in a more child friendly world, feel wrong and sometimes don’t fit with the story anymore because certain scenes had to be cut to achieve this must-have rating of PG-13. The argument I’m trying to make with this point is essentially that starting from the bottom and adding more adult elements as you go works, starting at the top and then subtracting them doesn’t.

My next big gripe with Hollywood is the constant rehashing/reworking/reimagining and to making it look modern and to fool you that there not just pulling the same old shit, rebooting (I hate this phrase) of movies you’ve already seen. I could quite easily name you 20 films from the last five years that have been “Reworked for a new generation” because Hollywood is churning them out at a ridiculous pace. Again this is nothing new but the trend accelerated to an absurd speed around the time of the 2007/8 writers strike.

The strike lasted around eight months, but although it is referred to as the writers’ strike, a lot of other professionals in the entertainment industry joined them on the picket lines , including many A list actors. Whether this was a true show of solidarity with the guys at the bottom of the pyramid or a PR stunt is a different matter entirely, either way it succeeded in shutting down the behemoth that is Tinsel Town.

The fallout from all this, is that after the strike was over, the easiest way to get the movie machine moving again was to pluck some readymade scripts off the shelf, blow the metaphorical dust off them and get filming. I’m probably over simplifying this a lot, but to me it’s the only logical way to justify how to the public hardly noticed a total eight month shut down in an industry that can take on average two years to produce a finished product. Plus it gave the big guys at the top a way of punishing the writers by effectively cutting them out of the film making process, admittedly not fully, but you’re not going to engender the best results from someone if you just hand them an old finished script and then only ask them to rework it; most people would just phone it in. Or more perversely the execs at the top might find a writer that loved the original script, but because of this love they then become unable or unwilling to tamper with the work. Either way by skipping or half arsing the first building block of a story driven entertainment medium it is the finished product that eventually suffers. The story.

The last point I want to raise in what I see as the decline of the film industry is without a doubt the strongest part of my argument, and that is the rise of television.

Television has always been perceived as the ugly sister to cinema, lower budgets, a lower calibre of actor and a smaller screen. It has always worked under the “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” philosophy. Whilst this approach has always paid the bills, certain networks have come to the realisation that the only way to compete in a very over saturated market is to up the quality of programming that they are showing. Ok we did have to endure a near full decade of reality TV and countless clones of judge-based shows full of arrogant and talentless nobodies passing harsh judgment on members of Joe Public, but over the last few years that has started to change and we are now in what many people regard is a golden age of television.

I don’t think there is a single defining moment that you could point to and say this is the thing that changed the entertainment landscape, it was a combination of small changes, but to me the biggest of these small changes is the progression of technology. DVD box sets and streaming services have changed the way we watch our favourite shows, now we can watch an entire series in a day if the wish grabs us. The fact that technology has managed to change the way in which we watch television has forced TV networks to up there game. Gone are the days where a TV schedule matters. With the advent of the likes of Sky plus boxes, or their equivalent, people can now record their favourite shows with a lot less hassle then my beloved VCR. Online services like BBC iPlayer and 4oD let people watch at their own convenience. Without this rigid scheduling in place, people now have more freedom and have almost instant access to any show that is shown on a network regardless of where in the world it was first broadcast.

This change in the way we consume TV has shown the television broadcasters that what has always been perceived as one of their biggest weaknesses was all along their greatest strength, and that is run time.

For the most part television followed a tried and tested formula for a very long time. Be it a sitcom, drama or detective thriller with a run time of either thirty minutes or an hour, it didn’t really matter because the formula worked on them all. That is to say that every episode was almost self-contained. Once you where introduced to the main characters of the show there was very little development on an episode to episode basis. The show would start, the story would pan out and everything would be back to the beginning all wrapped up in a nice little bow as if nothing had happened by the end. On occasion some shows would have a two part episode, they would end the first episode on a cliff hanger, leaving the viewer in suspense and having to wait a full week to find out how the story concluded, and to me these where always the better stories because they were more fleshed out. Given the extra time, the characters felt more believable with their choices and motivations. They could take more time to solve the big riddle that would lead them to the bad guys or have the time to ponder a moral dilemma and because of this the stories flowed more naturally, it never felt there was a rush to cram everything in or that bits had been chopped out to fit into the regular time frame. They were essentially mini movies with our favourite TV characters.

So that was how TV worked for a long time, lots of individual episodes with a thin narrative running through them and a double episode to finish the season. And then a show called Twin Peaks came along.

Twin Peaks was an oddity to say the least, the camera work and lighting was a little experimental for TV, designed to put the viewer on edge. But it was the way that the story was told that gave Twin peaks it’s unique style, there was never an easy solution to the mysteries, one would always lead to a bigger one and this drew the audience in week after week. It was a show that wasn’t afraid to take its time telling a story. In fact it wasn’t until pressure from the network when they started to get cold feet in the second series that the original murder was revealed.

Twin peaks was a show well ahead of its time, a reason why it only had two seasons before being cancelled, networks and audiences were still not truly ready for a storyline that had no clear end point in view, but it did leave behind a legacy that is striving today. It wasn’t until HBO commissioned the Soprano’s, almost a decade later, that this format of serial drama was revived and flourished. Thanks to Twin peaks and its pioneering storytelling, we have had shows such as The Wire, Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, shows that have a story arc that lasts an entire season and beyond. These shows amongst others have proven that given the writers enough time to properly develop the characters and their motivations, they can build truly engaging and fantastic storylines that draw an audience in more than a film could ever hope to achieve given the limit of how long a film can realistically run for.

These are what I see as the main problems and challenges facing Hollywood. There are many more that I would like to cover but I feel like I’m rambling a bit by this point. I haven’t touched on the terrible camera work that is the trend at the minute. The stupid shaky cam type films seem to have fallen by the way side thankfully, but we still have the likes of J.J Abrams throwing lens flare into almost every shot and Michael Bay shooting films with so many jump cuts that it can give you motion sickness. Nor have I touched on the over reliance of CGI, the fad of 3D or the constant stream of superhero films.

In conclusion what I want to get across is that I miss good story driven cinema. Hollywood just isn’t providing that for me anymore and I find myself looking towards television more and more for entertainment. If you disagree with the points I’ve made, fair enough, but if you take a look at IMDB’s list of top 250 films, only 4 of the top twenty were made since the year 2000, which to me suggests a slide in quality. Like I said at the start of this rant I do have a love of cinema, but until there is a change in Hollywood, you’ll find me with my feet up in front of the TV.

doctor daveDr David Salmond is 33 and lives in Hull. He has a keen interest in former Eastern-Bloc Europe in that he eats lots of sausages and drinks beers that have unpronounceable names and are served in vases. He gamely joins in with mine and Mr Taylor’s discussions about football despite the fact he much prefers rugby league. On my wedding day he was legless by 11am. He has read more books than anyone in the entire world.