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Singer, song-writer Barry Andrews interviewed

The April issue of readersvoice.com has interviews and reading tips from an artist who says the human body is obsolete, and a biographer of someone who probably lived in Middle Earth more than his home town of Oxford.First up, though, an interview with a musician whose lyrics have a great vitality.Barry Andrews is probably best known for his music, both solo and fronting the group Shriekback, but he's dabbled at things like metal design. His music ranges from intense rock songs, rich in symbolism, to beautifullullabies. As is our wont, readersvoice.com asked him about his reading.

READERSVOICE.COM: Your lyrics and conversation seem enriched by a life of reading. Ideally I’d like to get a list of everything you’ve read since your teenage years. (bloody hell) But could you give me a list of some important titles of books for you over the years, and any comments about why you liked them?

BARRY ANDREWS: Daddy of em all: Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, (the beautiful words, the generous, kind vision, the megalomaniac ambition, the bloody-minded creativity).

Flann O’Brien: At Swim Two Birds (the incredibly eccentric but luscious use of language.

Italo Calvino: ‘Invisible Cities’ (limpid, poised, considered, exotic and incredibly inventive).

Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker, (again vastly ambitious – a new world with a new language and unlike anything else but completely coherent and natural. And great rhythms and energy and inventiveness in the speech).

Robert Harbison: ‘The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable‘, ‘Eccentric Spaces‘, (the vision of a crazy poet filtered through the rigours of a thoroughgoing academic Art Historian – which is what you need if you want to see what the built environment really and truly is..).

Paul Shepherd: ‘What is Architecture?‘, ‘The Cultivated Wilderness‘ (some great new ways of being with the World, unapologetically subjective, very funny and filled with excited affection for humans and what we do).

Tony Spanbauer: ‘The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon‘ – passionate, unflinching committed story of sexually adaptable Cowboys and Indians (‘Gunsmoke as written by Jean Genet’ in the words of one reviewer).

Shakespeare, obvious but unavoidable. Huge, human, amazing – how did he do that?

Poetry: Eliot, Plath, Rumi, Louis MacNeice.

RV: Religion and exotic cultures seem to be big themes in your songs. Are these major interests of yours?

BA: I suppose I always had a religious impulse but it never bloomed into anything of a commitment. I think one’s spirituality is a difficult subject in these secular times and I’m suspicious of a lot of New Age wishful thinking. It is my experience that the Invisible World is a reality, however. I guess looking at other ways reality can be perceived has always been a fascination. The first time I heard Eskimo music (where there are very few low frequencies because it’s mainly voices and hard percussion (hard to find anything to stretch a drumskin around I suppose) and Ethiopian nomads music (which is almost entirely vocal because you haven’t got room on your camel for anything non-essential like instruments) I was delighted by how various and ingenious people are. Alien anything has got to be at least interesting, right?

RV: A lot of your songs are very gentle, like lullabies and fairytales, and I read you were interested in nursery rhymes. What reading have you done along these lines?

BA: Not really reading so much as having a kid and looking after another one – you get to be like who you hang out with so I started liking their shit. And, if you write weird songs (as I obviously do) you can’t get a better role-model than nursery rhymes.

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-copyright Simon Sandall.