Wheels

I can’t remember the last time I was interviewed, I think it must have been when Phill and I were at 6 Music, someone came in to ask us why we were both Apple devotees or when we did an outside broadcast at a student radio station somewhere. It’s fuzzy and I imagine we did our usual thing; made seventeen different in-jokes until the interviewer got glassy eyed and sort of gave up on us. Quite rightly too. We’ll never be half as funny as we think we are when we’re showing off and we used to show off a lot. Anyway, the Booktrust gave the novel a very nice review (http://www.booktrust.org.uk/show/book/search/Cross-Country-Murder-Song) and then they asked if they could interview me. I said yes. Very nice it was too and they bought me a Marmite (I haven’t eaten Marmite since my cat died, long story) bagel and numerous coffees and asked me some pretty engaging questions, including what music I listened to when I wrote. I wasn’t even sure myself, but it’s Bill Evans in the main, some Herbie Hancock too, I can’t listen to lyrics when I write fiction, though I can when I’m working on my journalism, weirdly. I can’t read fiction when I’m writing fiction either (I’m inbred, what can I tell you?) so I’m currently reading The Journals Of John Cheever. His home life can best be described as complex. Like a Gordian Knot is complex. Its good though, what a brilliant voice he was.

Post-interview I had a date with Random House and booksellers from all over the country who were sizing up the autumn release schedules like a stag party appraising a stripper. I’m not on the schedule, the Vintage edition of CCMS will be with you in February 2011 – like you care. It was good to see everyone though, I scared Tom the editorial assistant by telling him that I’d had a dream about him, I think he actually took a step backwards at the news and all the authors present sized each other up with sideways glances and barely concealed contempt. I took solace in the fact that the wine was free and that if we all ended up in prison I would almost certainly be the Daddy in a roomful of men who looked like substitute teachers. Hell, some of them might even be substitute teachers. It’s such a solitary existence writing that you think we’d make more of a night out on Random House’s coin, but I left early and I certainly wasn’t the first out of the door. It was good to see Dan, Vicki and Clara though (Team Wilding as I call them in my head, if I said it out loud they’d lynch me), the last time we were in a room together was at my launch party and the less said about that the better.

Otherwise, it’s been the usual mix of interviews (me doing the interviews not the other way around), a birthday and a very boozy weekend in Brighton where we took on the whiskey list at the Great Eastern pub and lost quite convincingly. Musically, I’ve rediscovered Chris Cornell’s excellent Euphoria Morning album  – I’ve been writing about him – and tipping my hat to Big Star after the sad news of Alex Chilton’s untimely death. Hell, when is death ever timely? The new Jesse Malins album has a lot of heart (and some very good songs too) as does the Coheed album. And we’re thinking about buying a dog, I’ll need the company when Book 2 breaks my heart like a cheap vase. I want to call him Thursday, Nuala’s less keen… More on that sooner than I’d probably like.

Snow globes, one for every time he’d killed

After three missed calls, about eighteen e-mails and any number of exasperated sighs I finally tied up the interviews with two parts of ELP this week. Greg Lake on Tuesday and Keith Emerson last night. For the teenagers among you this won’t mean much, but for men of a certain age ELP once strode the earth like a classically-trained behemoth. The keyboard player used to stab his organ (Hammond, this was before public self-harming was popular) and they once took an orchestra on tour, it cost them £6 million all told. This was in 1977 and caused what you might refer to as a rift in the band, they broke up two years later and said mean things about each other publicly. They’re now as close to being firm friends as they’ll ever be and due to play a one-off show (which might evolve into a few dates) at the High Voltage Festival at Victoria Park in London this summer. I’m actually excited. I know some of you look at me and think, Wilding, misanthrope, never dances alone at home or tells knock-knock jokes to inanimate objects or gets excited at the prospect of anything, but I do. Rarely, but it happens. Roxy Music and ELP both playing the same grassy knoll a week apart, I’m almost punching the air right here at my desk. You should come, we’ll drink pear cider and forget where we parked the car and then remember that we don’t have a car and that I can’t drive. That’s a good Sunday by any standards. Anyway, the interviews were great, Greg fell over in rehearsal and Keith’s condo flooded (not while we were chatting, that would mean I was bad luck), but they were still both relatively chipper. Roll on July.

Elsewhere, CCMS came out in Canada this week or it was meant to. My Canuck friends (Moose, Mountie and Geddy as I call them) couldn’t find it for love nor money. It doesn’t come out in Australia next week either. I’m hoping you’ll prove me wrong, Australia! On a book tip, I actually drafted the first chapter of the new novel earlier this week, all 5300 words of it. I think it’s good. The agent thinks it’s great, I thought he’d had a stroke or been given three months to live when I got that email (and if he has that won’t be a quarter as funny). I’ve decided that I’ve got to get it done before the Vintage paperback of CCMS comes out in February 2011. Imagine beards, tears and a lot of shouting – a bit like touring with ZZ Top in the Seventies I’d imagine – until then, poor Nuala, she has to listen to me tell jokes to the fridge as it is. I feel good about it though, I feel like it can be done. I wasn’t sure the magic hadn’t run out of me after book 1 (as it’s now known) was done. It’s the Laugharne Festival with Nicky Wire next month and then the Litro stage as part of the Camden Crawl (whenever that is) and then, delightfully, I’m doing Green Man as are the Flaming Lips and Billy Bragg! I sort of know Billy (he once wrote a song for me and Phill) so I’m going to stand by him and ask him to dedicate Levi Stubbs’ Tears to me when he plays and then drink pear cider with him and ask him if he wants to arm wrestle. It’s good to have a plan in place before you set out on these things. One more book thing; a friend of mine saw a girl reading Cross Country Murder Song on the Northern Line, I hope she’s alright.

ELP aside, I’m also writing my second Soundgarden article in a matter of months (it’s handy having toured with all these bands who are now making a comeback – I’m looking at my Faith No More gold disc as I write) and interviewing Train at some point. Their new album’s rather pretty. As is The Pineapple Thief CD, I’d tell you what it’s called if I could remember, but it’s out in May and could make them rich enough that they’ll all have racehorses by the end of the year. Oh and my pen came back, my righteous, ludicrously expensive fountain pen is fixed. Thankfully, I have some books to sign. Apropos of nothing, I’m forty-four next week, I really should get a haircut. Have a weekend.

Old friends, bookends, etc.

A wet Thursday night on the Archway Road acted as the backdrop to what would turn out to be a fairly difficult (breach) birth to my first novel, Cross Country Murder Song. There were around a hundred people there in all at the very fetching Boogaloo, which put me in mind of some of the old rock and roll bars I used to frequent/haunt on tour. Great jukebox, nice bar, two cats pretty much running the room. They’d set up a small stage for us on which Dan Franklin (greatest editor ever, Napalm Death fan and one of the few people with the balls to take a punt on my book) stood and told the gathering that there was something wrong with me, which he liked very much indeed. Some days I feel exactly the same way.

I got up and wore the crowd down and over the next hour or so (interspersed with some excellent tunes by Mules and Ewing – my favourite law firm), I read three parts from the book, Porn, Fallen and Holiday, though not in that order. I was accompanied by Grant Moon (made infamous by The Perfect Ten, sorry Moon) who belied first night nerves with a brilliant telling of one of the book’s many Choruses and brought the passage where the driver’s paranoia keeps him locked in his car pissing in a variety of containers to vivid life. He got the biggest laugh of the night too and reminded that the book was funny and that was something that the critics had missed.

Willie Dowling (Jackdaw 4, check out their site especially the song Rosebud which was partly inspired by CCMS) was up next, he chose Box (Reprise), but had come more to tell the world what was wrong with popular culture and why a book like mine might be important. I’m not sure it’s important at all (it’s not), but I couldn’t have written it at all without Willie helping along the way. He was fired and a little angry and he caught the damage and danger of CCMS in the breaking ire of his words. Jupitus had picked Plastic, he reckoned that months of playing a woman on stage in Hairspray had given him some sort of affinity with the female lead in that chapter. He was tremendous, a comic he may be, but he can act, really act. I first realised that when we recorded an ad for the Beeb years ago, but that’s another lifetime. Anyway, he brought his performing game to bear and made the character addicted to plastic surgery really come to life. I felt sorry for her all over again, I still wanted her to win, but she didn’t.

Al three were kind/good enough to credit my words, but they gave them colour on the night. It was good to feel them come off the page. They were vivid and lively, funny and cruel, it sounded like a book I might have wanted to write. There was a little disarray later on when someone who should have known better got as drunk as a character in a Tom Waits’ song and decided to tell me what exactly was wrong with my book and me as a human being. I couldn’t have cared less, but it upset some people I care about very much. That aside, the book’s out now, I went and stared at it in Waterstones and Foyles and it made me feel as warm as I might have hoped. It appears to be selling pretty well for a debut too. We’ll see.

On a different tip, people keep asking me if BBC 6 Music is closing down, I really don’t know. Phill wrote a very good piece about it for the Guardian website on Friday, accompanied by a very old picture of us. I saw the editor at my launch and I’m not sure he knew either. The Kaki King album is great as is the Kick-Ass movie. This week I’m interviewing Killing Joke, reviewing Dan Reed at the Union Chapel, going to see the Rush documentary and then  John Waite at the Underworld in Camden. Like Jethro Tull, I’m currently living in the past.