So this blog’s been up a month now, and I’m getting a bit of an idea about what I want to do with it. Primarily it’s just stream-of-consciousness ramblings about whatever I’m into in a particular moment. People normally Tweet links to cool things – songs, articles, artwork – but you only have 140 characters to say why you think said item is so awesome that everybody you know just has to click on that link right now. Given that there’s such a sea of information out there and few reliable filters, we’re more-or-less dependent on each other to recommend to each other things we think we’ll like. I’d never have discovered Battles without Yvette or got back into Foetus without inmostlight on Twitter.
There’s another facet to that, too, though, and that is of taking a few steps backward to rediscover who I am as a person, by seeing how I’m connected to the people around me. I think a lot of it got buried because after I left London, I was too anxious about fitting in to reveal too much about myself. If you’re working in an office and your job is music and all your friends are musical, then you can say what you like and nobody thinks you’re a dick because you’re just talking shop. Talk about that stuff with anyone else, and I sound like a jerk. The irony is that I didn’t even do anything particularly important. Sure, I interviewed a few bands and I will shoot myself in the face if I ever use the phrase “industrial legend” again, but that stuff impresses maybe three or four people and everyone else thinks you’re bragging about something they’ve never heard of and have no interest in.
What could be interesting is in seeing how all those little anecdotes fit together. A lot of time has passed between then and now, so I guess it’s OK to mention these things I haven’t really talked about in a very long time, for the sheer reason that whenever I do, I suddenly find out a lot more information and how it relates to apparently unconnected people in my life. For example …
After losing interest in music, I got really into video games, and started chatting to some of the people connected with my favourite games. One of them, it turns out, used to be vaguely friends with a guy I used to go clubbing with. I didn’t know him well, but it was pretty funny to think that this person on the other side of the planet knew someone with whom I’d sip rank coffee in McDonalds post-clubbing every Sunday morning.
Another person I was chatting with online turned out to be the brother of someone I’d briefly hung out with before and after their gig, 14 years ago. It’s not like we kept in touch or anything, but it was a pretty magical evening for me (including a pretty spectacular concert), and fairly amusing to me that now it was the kid brother – again, a stranger on the other side of the world – was making something else that I was inspired by.
A few times in this blog, I’ve mentioned Everett True’s blog, which I keep an eye on as part of my own efforts to seek out recommendations. I first met him at a Silverfish concert when I was maybe 14. I said, “Has anyone ever told you you’re an overpaid pretentious wanker?” to which he looked affronted and replied, “I am not overpaid!” I thought that was deeply witty, paid greater attention to his writings, and began to copy them as I later started my own fanzine. A mutual friend also contributed to my ‘zine, and I was also particularly influenced by how she was writing. I might have started off copying Jerry and Edie but now the words just land as they fall. If you’re too conscious of how you’re writing, then it’s pretty likely to overshadow the content of what you write, and my favourite writers are generally unobtrustive. A few other contributors came and went over the years, and some ended up at national magazines. I even did a spit-take after seeing myself obliquely referenced in a Guardian feature a few years back.
Silverfish popped up a few times in my life; it was actually Fuzz behind the mixing desk at the gig where I decided that I was sick of this old music lark, though I didn’t announce my decision for a while. (No spectacular Terry Bickers-style departure for me.)
In fact, all the proper interviews (i.e. not the Verve one) are interconnected as all of these lives became entangled at one point or other. That’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as that’s concerned; I’d say 99.9% of everything I’ve ever written does not exist any more. I’m not overly bothered about most of it – writing for me was just documenting my own journey rather than being specifically written with anyone else in mind. It’s just the important ones that I’ve forgotten that I’m sad about, and one thing I’m noticing with the internet is that my own memories aren’t quite 100% accurate. They’re not way off, but as time goes by the chronology gets jumbled up or a few details get lost by the wayside, so a lot of what I’m doing now is trying to put things down before they disappear altogether. The memories I hold are like faded photographs threatened with being bleached out of existence. There’s really only three missing pieces in my mental jigsaw – questions I never even asked, let alone have forgotten the answers to – and I’ve written to all three people to ask them if they’ll talk to me just to fill in the blanks. Maybe they will; I’ll understand if they won’t.
One little undocumented moment, I think, sums it up:
On 29th November 1999, Nine Inch Nails played one of two shows at the Brixton Academy. Tickets had gone on sale at 8.00 am a few weeks before; I got through on the phone about eight minutes later. They’d sold out before the half-hour was up.
Arriving a good hour before the show, I decided to wait for my friends in the pub opposite. I noticed by the crowded bar a guy with distinctive red hair, and wandered over without thinking. “Hey,” I said, “You’re John Van Eaton!”
He looked surprised, bought me a beer, and we sat down at a table near the back and began to talk about music. I told him I’d recognised him from KMFDM‘s Beat By Beat video, and also as the guy who passes Trent his microphone in the March of the Pigs video. He explained that he was a stage technician on the tour, and I laughed and told him, “You know you’ve arrived when you have your own curtain engineer!” After a brief but really interesting discussion, he told me he had to leave to make sure everything was ready for the gig.
I ran into Raymond Watts a short time later, and told him, “I met your roadie!”
“Oh, that was you?” he laughed. “Yeah, he came up to me right afterwards, and said, ‘You’ll never guess what! I’ve just been recognised!'”
It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it. That was the answer to an interview question once, but I’m buggered if I can remember who with.