Wednesday, 24 September 2014

SMILING AT STRANGERS ON TRAINS

Last Tuesday I travelled up from Hastings to Cambridge to see Frank Turner and it was pretty much the best gig I've ever been to, ever. 

I have been very lucky this year in that it was my third time seeing him live in 2014. Three times in three wildly different scenarios; the first, in February, was at the O2 Arena in London - Frank's biggest headline show to date. I was in a seated area, which was a new experience for me, however seeing 20,000 people all singing along at the same time was quite incredible and something special to be a part of. The second show, in July, was at Sonisphere Festival - Folk punk at a prominently metal festival. I don't really know how it went down because I was too busy being drunk and singing along. Which brings us to last week in Cambridge...

It is 112 miles from Hastings to Cambridge but that was literally the closest gig he was playing on the current tour. Well, I thought it was, but having just Googled it, St Albans is actually only 95 miles. Shit. Anyway, I had never been to Cambridge before so I was keen to check out the city. My best friend and fellow Frank Turner enthusiast whom normally comes with me to his gigs couldn't get the time off work so I would be flying solo for this one. I bought my ticket as soon as they went on sale however Silly Old Martin did not think to book a hotel at the same time. No, Silly Old martin left it until the night before the gig to book his hotel, which meant that Silly Old Martin got well and truly bent over and had to pay through the nose for a shitty, whatever they had left, hotel room. Oh well, it's only money, right?

I got the train up in the morning so that I would get to Cambridge with plenty of time to spare in order to do some exploring. When I got to London I had to get a tube from London Bridge to King's Cross for the Cambridge train and with fifteen minutes before departure I picked up some lunch at the station and found a nice window seat on the train. As I was settling in to eat my over priced sandwich a familiar face walked passed on the platform... ONLY FRANK FUCKING TURNER! Yep, I was getting the same train to Cambridge as the man I was going there to see. I text my girlfriend the news and she was less than impressed "It's probably just someone who looks like him" she replied. To which I was all "I think I'd know Frank Turner when I see him!". I then text the best friend and she was all "GET ME HIS AUTOGRAPH" which was funny, because until that point it hadn't actually crossed my mind to approach him.

There is a famous quote by Gustave Flaubert that goes "Never touch your idols: the guilding will stick to your fingers". I heard it a long, long time ago and it has always stuck with me. I don't want to meet my heroes, I don't need that. He was probably hungover and tired and did not need me hounding and pestering him for an autograph just to make myself feel better. Chances are he would have been perfectly happy to sign something for me, have a little chat and whatever, but that isn't the point. The celebrity culture that we live in makes people believe that just because someone makes music or is on TV that they're somehow public property and obligated to satisfy the demands of Joe Public. Fuck that. He is a human being, just like me, and as the man himself said "There's no such thing as rock stars, there's just people who play music". I don't need to find out that he's a dick just like everybody else.

When I got off the train in Cambridge, I was about 10 feet behind Frank walking to the exit and I realised, for the first time... Dude's pretty fucking tall!

Later that day, as I was doing a tour of Cambridge's finest watering holes I got chatting to some fella, he was around my age and looked like someone who might dig Frank Turner's music. I asked if he was going to the gig that night but he scoffed at the idea. He told me that five or six years ago he was in a band that played the same circuit that Frank played at the time, he'd met him a few times and didn't like him. I asked why that was and as the question was coming out of my mouth, in my mind I was praying "Please don't say it's because he's a total dick, please don't say it's because he's a total dick"... "He's too nice" was the dude's reply, "everyone else loved him and he was super nice to everyone, but I didn't like that. He was too nice. There must have been something he wasn't showing people." ... In my head I'm thinking "PHEW!", It turned out that this guy I'm talking to was just a miserable bastard who dislikes people for being friendly.

Even if Frank Turner IS the nicest dude in the world, I don't care, I'm glad I didn't pester him on the train that day.

The gig itself was fucking rad. A much smaller show than 20,000 at the O2, it was around 300 people in an old theatre. You can't beat the atmosphere of shows like this, it really is the perfect size for a Frank Turner show. He played all of my favourite songs, well most of them, and also a few new ones from a currently untitled album due out next year. I sang along as loud as I could, sweated out all of the alcohol that I had consumed during the day and came out looking like I'd been for a walk in the rain. Fucking perfect.



EDIT: I e-mailed this post to Frank (because apparently harassing him on a train is out of the question but via e-mail is fine) and he replied(!!!). He said that I should have gone over and said hi and that he wasn't sure who the guy was that I spoke to in the pub but that he was a miserable old fucker!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

I READ ZINES [#4]


Hand Job Issue #6 'No Reward'

I love Hand Job Zine. It's a proper zine, made the way zines were meant to be made; cut and pasted and photocopied. Or at least aesthetically that's how it feels (Due to sheer volume I think they were professionally printed for this issue). On show inside the pages of this issue, as in every issue, are an array of talented British writers (including one Joseph Ridgwell whom I interviewed recently). I highly recommend this zine to any one that enjoys good, no nonsense literature and especially to fans of old school fanzines. Issue #6 is on the way (and features a short story by yours truly!)

EDIT: I have been reliably informed that thus far no professional printers have tainted the pages of Hand Job. I stand corrected.


PUSH #12 August/September 2014

PUSH is another British literary zine that actually came out in the same month (March 2013) as the first issue of my zine, Paper and Ink. One of us just released our third Issue and one of us is just about to released its thirteenth. The incredible work ethic of editor Joe England aside, PUSH is somewhat of a phenomenon. It is sold on the street outside football matches (that's soccer for you Americans reading this) and has shifted a whopping 1500 copies since it came out. The content is definitely geared towards its target clientèle, with poems about prostitutes and stories about football and armed robbery, but it works. This particular issue also features a great, in-depth interview with writer John King (Human Punk, The Football Factory), which is worth the meagre cost of the magazine alone. PUSH #13 is out very soon! 


W/R/T/1 With Regard To Modernity

This is a brand new lit zine, edited by John Morrison. It contains eight short stories, from eight different writers, all on the theme of modern life. I like the very simple, no thrills, design of this zine and as for the stories, they're all well written pieces. My favourite was a compelling tale of drug induced psychosis by Terence Corless. The rest of the stories range from a lonely woman becoming obsessed with her doctor to a cyberpunk tale of a dystopian future where people are addicted to information. This zine is definitely worth checking out and I look forward to future issues.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

LIT FIEND INTERVIEW [#1]


One of the awesome things about doing Paper and Ink has been the plethora of weird, wonderful and interesting people that I have met because of it. So, aside from sharing their creative outpurings in the zine itself I have decided to interview some of the writers that have/will feature in its pages. First up is the original lit fiend himself and a writer whom Mark SaFranko describes as one of his favourites in the whole world (and if you don't know who Mark SaFranko is, stop reading this right now and go buy some of his books from Murder Slim Press. Then come back and read this interview, obviously).

Boring bits first... What's your name, where do you come from and what do you do?

My name is Joseph Ridgwell. I'm originally from east London and I'm an International Man of Leisure currently residing in Edinburgh.

How did you come to end up in Edinburgh? 

Having been priced out of the housing market in my traditional homelands by rich people - I was forced to relocate to a city where a working man could still afford to live in a decent manner or in the style I was accustomed to - carousing in bars several times a week - womanising and fine dining. Also the mother of my child - Miss Urchin Belle - is originally from Auld Reekie and she told me all these tales of Edina and how wonderful a city it is - and being gullible of nature - I fell for her lines hook line and sinker.

What was the first piece of writing that you ever had published?

The first piece of writing I had published was a short piece of fiction that was published online in 2002 and for which I was paid £25. That of course was in the early days of the internet when nobody knew what they were doing. Now nobody gets paid anything. The first piece of fiction where I was just beginning to find my feet as a writer was a short story called Candice - and which was published on the now defunct Laura Hird Showcase in 2005. Looking back an amazing amount of established writers first had their work appear on Laura’s showcase.

Do you keep count of all the pieces you've had published?

No - way too many. Of course I do know how many books I've had published. 12 -with a short story collection (pictured, right) due out on Bottle of Smoke Press some time later this year - which will feature some wonderful artwork by the multi-talented Jose Arroyo

And then there’s the long awaited and overdue novel Burrito Deluxe also slated for publication by Purpose Books in Spring 2015. Only had to wait eight years for that mother to see the light of day!

What has been your proudest moment as a writer thus far?

I’m proud of all my books of course - especially A Child of the Jago - but have a soft spot for the very first - Where are the Rebels - a chapbook of poetry published by Blackheath Books in 2008. However - my proudest moment as a writer was when I told the literary editor of the Guardian Newspaper to fuck off. I lost a paid hack journo gig - but I preserved some self-respect. Anyway, let’s face it hack work is bad for the lit fiend rep. It was also at that point - an epiphany really - that I knew I’d never compromise my artistic vision for monetary gain. Of course this may mean I end up starving to death in the gutter - but what the hell - it’s gonna be a fun ride getting there.

What advice would you give to your 15 year old self?  

Stop shoplifting.

What would your 15 year old self say if he saw the person you have become? 

Some burnt out boozer who writes books that nobody reads. Tosser!

What was the last book you read that blew your mind?  

I did so much reading in my formative years that it is now seldom that a book has the capacity to blow my mind - but every now and then one comes along that gets my mojo working and renews the faith. The latest lit fiend gold dust were - James Curtis - The Gilt Kid, Gerard Kersch - Night and the City and the collected writings of Cookie Mueller (pictured, left). Actually all the books currently issued by London Books are worth investigating.

Who is your favourite literary character of all time?

Oh shit that’s a hard one as there are so, so many - but if push came to shove I’d have to say Arturo Bandini - no no Henry Chinaski - shit Jack Mitchell - Long John Silver - Sal Paradise - Harry Fabian - Ferdinand Bardamu - Dan Yack - Martin Eden - Anna Morgan - Candy -oh shit I can’t stop. Put it this way there are quite a few.

What is your favourite movie? 


Has anyone ever approached you about adapting any of your work for film? (if not, what would you say if they did?)  

Nobody has approached me with a view to adapting my work for film - but if they did they would receive a polite but firm get to fuck. As long as I live I will never let any of my work be turned into film as I consider the medium of movies to be fundamentally flawed. As a lit fiend - I prefer to use my imagination. And although Terry Southern’s wonderful literary creation Guy Grand informs us that everyone has their price - in this instance he would be sadly mistaken. 

What is your favourite album?  

Ooh - again I have plenty - hundreds - but at the moment I’ve recently discovered the work of US folk singer Kate Wolf which I really dig.

What is your drink of choice?  

Beer and wine - sometimes gin

Which three famous people, dead or alive, would you like to get drunk with?  

Mary Millington, Carol White & Diana Dors (pictured, right) - and hopefully once they were suitably inebriated and I’d charmed them with my lit fiend ways and intimate knowledge of all their films - I’d somehow have my wicked way with each of them, ha!

There is that famous Hemingway quote that goes "write drunk, edit sober", would you concur with that? 

Yeah - more or less - I do some of my best work either hungover or boozy. I can’t write drunk - I’ve tried but after seven beers the writing begins to fall apart - along with the ability to type. Also with beer you have to keep getting up to take a piss every fifteen minutes which disrupts the creative flow. Wine is better.

There seems to be a bit of a lit zine resurgence in the UK in the last year or so, with the likes of Hand Job and PUSH, as well as my own, Paper and Ink, why do you think that is?

I’m glad you asked this question as something very interesting is taking place on the UK underground lit scene as we speak. I think people - especially younger people - are suffering from internet and technology fatigue. You know all those mostly useless electronic gadgets we’re supposed to own. I think there is a primal urge to fuck all that shit off and get back to the nitty gritty -like the aptly named title of your mag PAPER & INK. Books man - real books written by real people - not a fucking lump of grey plastic. There’s also the obvious fact that bookshops rarely serve up the shit the fiend is searching for. This means that the genuine lit fiend is forced to venture off the beaten literary path to satisfy their peculiarly esoteric reading tastes. And another important facet to these zines is that the work contained within is mostly representative of their generation - culture and community, which at the moment is repressed by the mainstream as they just don’t get it. It’s the voice or voices of the people - the ordinary man and woman on the street and not some useless prick at the British Council. In fact what these zines represent is the antithesis to the puke that the British Council serves up as culture. In some ways it’s pretty revolutionary. The powers that be want zombie consumers - people thinking for themselves is dangerous - they might just start to question shit - you know - might start getting a little political.

PUSH of course is a literary phenomenon all by itself. Imagine a literary zine that is sold to football fans or to anyone on the street and which sells out faster than a best-selling novel. This fact alone is what is twisting everyone’s melons. Joe England has a lot to be proud of. Hand Job is the same - emanating from the same source. How long these zines will last is anyone’s guess, but I for one will gladly be taken along for the ride!

What advice would you give to any budding young lit fiends out there?  

The usuals - read widely - on any subject - style - genre - just read like a mother fucker and then lock yourself up in a room and get the word down. On average it takes around ten years to get anywhere near decent. Good luck - they’ll need it, but then don’t we all!

What does the future hold for Mr Joseph Ridgwell? 

I’m not sure - I get the feeling that I’m an unlucky lucky writer. I’m lucky in that I have all these wonderful artisan publications to my name - I’ve been very fortunate with publishers so far - and yet I’m unlucky in that there has been very little financial renumeration for all my hard work. I think that possibly I will be discovered by the mainstream after I’m dead or when I’m a very old man. Of course, by then, it will be too late. But I’m not bitter - I’m bitter sweet. I’ve had a good life - travelled all over the world - drank in bars from Bali to Bombay - and had a roller-coaster ride of a lifetime. Also I’ve seen those successful writers pushed and barged to the top by the industry - and it seems much better going underground all by myself. And for those lit fiends who get my work - they really get it- and they also have the books all to themselves. You know it’s a like a secret club - a crazy cool screwball one. Man - you’re either in the know or in the dark like a mushroom. And let’s face it - who wants to be a mushroom!

Thanks for your time and for answering these questions, Joe. Keep fighting the good fight! 

Joe's writing will feature in Paper and Ink Issue #4 which comes out at the end of the year (or the beginning of next year, or whenever I get around to finishing it). Until then you keep up to date with his comings and goings by feasting your beady little eyes on his website and/or following him on Twitter.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

MY TATTOO VIRGINITY

For my birthday, back in April, my girlfriend bought me a tattoo voucher. I have been saying for years that I want to get a tattoo, but I'm so fucking lazy I have never got around to it. She bought me the voucher so that I would no longer have any excuses. Four months later, on the afternoon of Friday 22nd August, I finally lost my tattoo virginity. To a lovely bearded fellow by the name of Luke. This is what he did...

 
photo by Coma Diary

As many of you will know I am a huge fan of punk band Against Me! and this is a line from their song 'The Ocean', which is on their fourth studio album 'New Wave' (2007). It isn't so much that I particularly love that song. Don't get me wrong, it's a great song and I dig it, but I just love that line. I love the imagery that it conjurers up. Laura Jane Grace is a fantastic song writer and I can't wait to see Against Me! live, for the first time, in November!

I really hope they play 'The Ocean'.