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Barry Andrews from Shriekback on Glory Bumps

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips.Shriekback's new album Glory Bumps features their trademark thoughtful lyrics and intelligent instrumentation. In this interview, Shriekback's Barry Andrews gives an insight into his modus operandi when it comes to writing lyrics. He said the sources of his lyrics included “the unfiltered prima materia of the culture", such as "documentaries, news, adverts, phrases overheard in the pub or the street”. I asked him for some reading tips, too.

READERSVOICE.COM: Can you recommend a few books you’ve read since the last interview and say what you liked about them?

BARRY ANDREWS: The Edgier Waters (a compilation of writing from 3AM magazine: some great stuff about the US power cuts, from Sonic Youth – encouraging the view that not all us musos are illiterate dullards), and a brilliantly crazed pseudo hardboiled cop story from a bloke called Steve Aylett: fantastically inventive language.)

Will Self’s Book of Dave -a dystopic vision of a future London whose religion and culture are based around the poisonous journal of a present day cab driver called Dave. I like Self’s work but always thought it tended to, well, sprawl a bit. Here he keeps it focused and creates a bit of a classic, I think.

Dolores Hayden’s A Field Guide to Sprawl: fantastic little book of aerial photos of modern sprawl features, described in a dispassionate, pragmatic way. Examples: TOAD (temporary, obsolete, abandoned, derelict); LULU (locally unwanted land use -say a slaughter house or sewage farm); ALLIGATOR (an investment producing a negative cash flow) and many more. A scary little beacon of the future.

RV: What sorts of specialist magazines or periodicals do you read, and which papers and magazines?

BA: The Guardian on Saturday -a four cups of tea in bed ritual now.

The scurrilous Viz magazine (source of ‘Clown’s Pie’ on ‘Devils’ Onions’) and sometimes Sound on Sound (the chief of hi-tech wank mags), but only when I have money to spend on all the new equipment without which I am all too readily persuaded to believe that my life is worthless.

RV: I was wondering what sorts of poets or poetry you liked. I know you’ve sampled T.S. Eliot in the past, and form-wise you’ve mentioned the influence of Bob Dylan’s multi-verse big songs on Devils’ Onions on your new album, Glory Bumps.

BA: Just discovered the difficult poems of Wallace Stevens (I had only read ’16 ways of looking at a Blackbird’ before; turned onto that by Robert Harbison’s book: ’13 ways..’ in which he looks at architecture, poetically and in -er- 13 ways. I then parodied both of these in my -deeply low-grade- ’50 ways of Looking at a Cormorant’ series of cards which accompanied the promotional eggs from the last album). Phew.

Anyway, Wallace Stevens is a trip even when he isn’t counting the ways he looks at things. Something glacial and jewel-like about his work which doesn’t give itself up easily.

James Fenton‘s stuff is great (check out the ‘Ballad of the Shrieking Man’ [yes, I know – but not just ‘cos of that].)

RV: Do you collect colorful phrases that you hear or read, and keep them in a notebook eg. for a flat fee; a pair of very fucked-up bunnies? What are some of the sources for these and other lyrics?

BA: Very much so. I love the beachcombing part of the job. Especially when words are being newly minted to describe a new experience (qv ‘Sprawl’).

A few such items from ‘Glory Bumps’ might include:

‘going on the pavement’ -a description of good old fashioned armed robbery (‘wiv shooters’) by good old fashioned London villains nostalgic for an age before computer crime (‘Ross Kemp on Gangs’ tv doco); ‘Prole Dazzle’: term descriptive of, say, Saturday night tv shows where, amongst glitzy sets and coarsely attractive women, large amounts of money are given away (Guardian TV Guide);

‘renting some exhilaration’ from ‘you can’t buy happiness but you can rent exhilaration’ -an American chum cracking wise; ‘we ride hard, fear the Lord and live for ever’: motto embroidered on to the leathers of a Christian motorbike gang (from a colour supplement -can’t remember which);

‘we unloaded our loads on the rocks in the roads’ paraphrasing: ‘Je jouis dans les pavés.’ (‘I come (ejaculate) into the paving stones”) exuberant graffiti from the Paris riots of ’68 expressing the ecstasy of violent revolution (I think).

RV: If you keep a diary or journal, how long have you been keeping it, and what sorts of things do you note in it?

BA: Since always. I get through a lot of notebooks, but then I’m a bit pervy about stationery so it’s no hardship. I use them to beachcomb, as I said, and to plot ideas and words and, though less often now for some reason, to try and clarify my inner landscape (perhaps it’s now got beyond clarification).

-continued next page.