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Barry Andrews talks about the new Shriekback album Cormorant

READERSVOICE.COM aims to give people a few good reading tips. For this issue of readersvoice.com I catch up on what Barry Andrews from Shriekback has been reading lately, plus I ask him about the new Shriekback album Cormorant, on the Malicious Damage label.Cormorant features Barry Andrews’ trademark taste, intensity, and sense of beauty. He said the death of his father Bill Andrews in 2004 had a massive influence on the album, indicated by the image on the cover of the Cormorant CD.“The idea of the lone sea bird in a waste of water seemed like a good image to describe the feeling.”But there’s light and humor in the album, too.And some songs, like Ronny, Sea Theory and Waterbaby, get stuck in your mind.

READERSVOICE.COM: Could you list some of the things you’ve been reading of late, in particular any out of the way stuff people might not have heard of?

BARRY ANDREWS: Books wot I have read: Had a bit of a Vonnegut jag recently starting with a re-reading of ‘Galapagos‘ which is hugely entertaining and made me very excited about Natural Selection (the human race, a million years in the future, have evolved into furry seal-like creatures with minimal intelligence because our big brains just got us into trouble ie: were inimical to our survival – having invented nuclear war, pollution etc)

-which led me onto trying out the real thing as it were (tentatively, cos I’ve feared science since school):

Richard Dawkins and his ‘Ancestor’s Tale‘ – interesting certainly but not as much as I wanted it to be.

A Field Guide to Sprawl by Dolores Hayden – a great little book to read after a U.S. tour when you see all these new -mostly upsetting- landscape features first hand (though even we space-impaired Brits seem to be getting the hang of Sprawl now).

Wonderful new locutions: ‘Boomburb’ ;Alligator’ ‘TOAD (Temporary, Obsolete, Abandoned or Derelict) Snout House, Pork Chop Lot.

And the description of how these things come to be is delivered with a stone-cold, economic logic.

The Monumental Impulse by George Hersey.

About how the impulse to build may be hardwired into humans in the same way as birds build nests or termites hills.

And never get tired of London Fields by Martin Amis.

So very horrible and great.

Smoke -a magazine full of things about London (Matt Haynes and Jude Rogers) -hilarious (they have a website).

RV: I was wondering how you go about writing the lyrics for your songs. Do you sit down and let each song come out in one hit; or do you also use a diary full of interesting phrases you’ve heard or thought up, which you somehow add to the songs?

BA: It’s a process akin to apple bobbing: you have to will the things into your mouth but not forcefully or they get away.

It’s a bit of a bastard mostly: sometimes -rarely- they do just appear, then it’s a very sexy feeing.

I remember Arthur Sullivan (yes, him) writing that a coal miner doesn’t sit at the top of the mine waiting for the coal, he goes down and digs the motherfucker out (I paraphrase freely) and so I find it (except without the physical effort and the silicosis, obviously).

RV: You played keyboards on Brian Eno’s album Another Day on Earth (2004).

What do you like about his approach to making music?

BA: I think he pushes you away from your usual tricks and that can be unnerving, but it can lead you to unprecedented places. Also, it may not.

Last time I saw him he was playing an effects unit with his face. That’s what it’s all about.

RV:You also worked with Iggy Pop in 1979 on Soldier.

How did that come about and what did you pick up from the way he went about writing and making music?

BA: He was in London looking to draft in a few of the ‘punk’ brigade, his people talked to my people etc.

I guess the main feeling that album left me with was how clever and hard working XTC were in comparison for it was a very slack and rudderless project.

Iggy’s great but not quite firing on all cylinders at the time I would say.

RV: Where was the improvisation you performed recently with Andy Partridge and how did that go? Will that be released as a cd?

BA: Dont want to say too much about that yet. It was very creative though and may very well surface.

RV: Had you been in touch with Andy Partridge since your days in XTC, or was there some kind of reunion, with the Cormorant album, on which he played guitar?

BA: Only to occasionally eat curry and drink beer. And write sleeve notes for their retro compilation.

It was all part of a slow recalibration of our relationship after the turbulence of youth.

RV: Cormorant is dedicated to your father Bill Andrews who died in 2004.

I was wondering what influences he had on your character.

BA: Wow, there’s a big question. He was extremely down to earth; never listened to music and rarely read anything except the paper.

He liked objects though -buildings, structures, solid things.

I guess I absorbed that side of him and reacted against the other side.

He did have a great way with words though and a very dry wit which I admired and tried to copy.
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