Martin, the handsome and illustrious leader of the Paper and Ink empire, interviewed me for his site.
You can read the full interview here.
Martin, the handsome and illustrious leader of the Paper and Ink empire, interviewed me for his site.
You can read the full interview here.
It’s Friday night. You’re walking down a busy street. People bump into you. No apology. The bars are all awful cocktails and terrible music. A hand reaches out and grabs you. You’re led down an alley you’ve never seen before. Then another. Then another. Then another. The streets are getting darker, the floor more and more uneven. You come to a stop. You look up and see a pub, as old as it is grand. You read the sign. THE LITERARY UNDERGROUND. The door opens. A shadowy figure emerges from a cloud of smoke…his name is Joseph Ridgwell.
I’ve had to pick up my Ridgwell publications as and when I’ve been able to track them down. Do you think there’s a perfect order to read them in? Is there an overall Ridgwell legend being told across the work?
It’s funny you should mention this as not many people have picked up on it. Or if they have they haven’t let on. US poet Hosho McCreesh was the first to realise that many of my books are interlinked. Hosh identified – Burrito Deluxe – as the start of the Ridgwell Legend, which was correct at the time, but is no longer so as I recently completed the prequel. Actually what I set out many years ago to do was fictionalise my entire life, inspired by Kerouc’s Legend of Duluoz and John Fante’s Bandini Quartet. I’m a great fan of autobiographical writing, such as Bukowski, Burroughs, Henry Miller, Knut Hamsun, Cookie Muller, Jack London etc. I don’t limit myself to just this kind of writing, but if I think most of the events portrayed in the books actually happened in real life then it adds another dimension. If I start reading a book and immediately sense that the author is making it all up then the book is dead for me. And this is not my failure as a reader it is the writer’s failure as an author. The truly great writers make the reader believe in their work, that it’s actually happening even if the reader knows this is impossible. Once a reader invests a certain amount of emotion into the work of a writer then the writer has them for life. This is my theory behind – Cosmic Realism – the literally genre that I invented on a desolate Mexican beach in the last years of the 20th Century. CR is the ability to tell a story that is so far-fetched and obviously not based in any sort of reality, but which the reader accepts as the TRUTH.
Anyway, there is no perfect order to read my books, but there is a chronological order – especially with the novels, which are examples of True Story novels. The events in the narratives actually happened in real life. The fictional parts are less then 10% of the MS, but it is those parts that make the novels interesting and readable, or so I’ve been told.
Civil Service takes things right up until 2014. All six of my poetry collections mirror events in the novels, but there’s not enough space here to state what order they should be read in. Any intrepid reader will be able to make up their own minds. There is a trilogy of short stories published by Pig Ear Press – Cuba – Jamaica & Mexico, which fit in just after Burrito Deluxe.
Also there are a couple of published short stories flying around that really should be chapters of the Buddha Bar. The Famous Ice-Cream Run and Tsunami.
The only examples of 100% fiction in my work are to be found in my two short story collections. Ridgwell Stories (Bottle of Smoke Press 2015) and Oswald’s Apartment. (Blackheath Books 2010)
At this point you’ve got a huge number of publications behind you. How disciplined are you as a writer? Do you go through spells with it or is it something you’re always doing?
I was completely undisciplined as writer and would often do anything other than write like stare at a table leg or something. And I started late – not taking the craft seriously until I was 30 or so. This poss explains why I was or am a relatively late developer. A crucial factor to my development was landing a cushy office job where I was more or less paid to write each and every day for years and years. It was like being in prison. I was trapped inside the buildings for eight to nine hours a day with nothing to do. So instead of pissing my life away surfing the web or staring at one sentence emails or a paperclip, I started writing. Ironically the job forced me to be disciplined and the bulk of my work was done during this period. Then, like a miracle, I quit that life. I’d worked my entire life so this was like a revelation. With all the free time I made several breakthroughs as a writer, most centring on the craft of writing. I don’t think I would’ve achieved these breakthroughs whilst continuing to work full time. Not that I’m recommending aspiring writers quit their day jobs or anything. Allayed to the time needed to refine your craft you also need talent. Without talent the writer can have all the free time in the world and come up with nothing.
As for all the publications – I mean why would anyone be interested? One of my publishers was once asked why he continued to publish my stuff as they didn’t think much of it. The publisher – a very wise man – replied that it was because there was nothing else like it out there. There are all these writers who can’t get published bemoaning the state of the publishing industry or their lack of a success as a writer. And yet they are writing the same shit that the mainstream produces. The fact they can’t get published is down to bad luck or bad timing or both.
London or Edinburgh?
If I were in my twenties then it would be London all day long. As I’m in my forties, Edinburgh has a nice laid back vibe that I appreciate. Less people, less traffic, less ambitious fruits with too much energy and ambition, but no real talent to speak of, running around. And If I get to missing Old Smokey, then I can always jump on a big bird and be there in under an hour.
What can you tell me about Cosmic Gigantic Flywheel? The showbiz murmurings have it potentially appearing some time this year?
CGF is my sixth and latest collection of poetry. In terms of Chronology, it mirrors the events in Civil Service and as such should be seen as a companion piece, a little like Bukowski’s Women and Love is a Dog from Hell. CGF is my most ambitious book of posey and it’s big with nearly a 100 pomes. People who know me from this recent period might just recognise themselves, which I hope is a good thing. Either that or they will curse my name. Both books are complete and ready to hit the streets. I just need to find a publisher or publishers crazy and brave enough to publish them.
Finally, what was the last thing (book, place, record etc) that you totally fell in love with?
Yesterday, January 10th, I appeared on BBC Radio Sheffield with Rony Robinson to chat about a variety of things.
You can listen to the show in full at this link. I come on at about the 1hr36 mark.
Waves has been included on The Last Word Review list of favourite books of 2016.
In spite of everything, there were still an endless number of great things that came out in 2016.
This is a list of one hundred things I enjoyed this year. I am very grateful to everyone who was involved in making them. I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten a whole bunch of stuff. And I’m absolutely certain there is an endless amount of brilliant things I’ve not come across yet.
1) Saba – Bucket List Project
2) Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
3) Young Thug – Jeffery
4) Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
5) Chris Farren Can’t Die
6) Julie Ruin – Hit Reset
7) Saul Williams – Martyr Loser King
8) Brian Fallon – Painkillers
9) The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab
10) Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
11) Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
12) Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
13) Savages – Adore Life
14) PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
15) Beyonce – Lemonade
16) Skepta – Konnichiwa
17) Kano – Made in the Manor
18) Axl Rose fronting AC/DC
19) Topaz Jones – Arcade
20) Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
21) A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
22) Pinegrove – Cardinal
23) PUP – The Dream Is Over
24) Anderson Paak – Malibu
25) Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
26) Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not
27) NxWorries – Yes Lord
28) Jamie T – Trick
29) Frank Ocean – Blond
30) Regina Spektor – Remember Us To Life
31) Rolling Stones – Blue and Lonesome
Listening – Podcasts
32) Comedy Bang Bang
33) Celebration Rock
34) Comedian’s Comedian
35) This Feels Terrible
36) Book Shambles
37) Down in the Hole
38) Adam Buxton Podcast
39) Distraction Pieces
41) You Made It Weird
42) Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast
43) Bret Easton Ellis Podcast
44) Reversal of the Muse
45) Hollywood Handbook
47) Don’t Think Twice
48) Black Mirror Season 3
49) Atlanta Season 1
50) Carmichael Show Season 2
52) Lady Dynamite
54) Everybody Wants Some
55) Hail, Caesar
56)The Nice Guys
57) Sing Street
58) Orange is the New Black Season 4
59) Girls Season 5
60) Broad City Season 3
61) Silicon Valley Season 3
62) Bo Burnham – Make Happy
63) People vs OJ Simpson
64) And Still I Rise documentary
65) Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle Series 4
66) Louis Theroux – Savile
68) Stranger Things
69) BoJack Horseman Season 3
70) Undiscovered Peter Cook
71) No You Shut Up Season 4
74) Gimme Danger
75) Doug Stanhope – No Place Like Home
77) Lou Sanders – What’s That Lady Doing
78) Last Week Tonight
79) Raised by Wolves Season 2
80) Chris Gethard Show Season 2
81) Sharon Olds – Odes
82) Amy Schumer – Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
83) Gwil vs Machine – Gwil James Thomas
84) Martin Appleby – Worse Things Happen At Sea
85) Ben Myers – Turning Blue
86) James Giddings – Everything is Scripted
87) Emily Harrison – I Can’t Sleep ‘Cause My Bed’s On Fire
88) Gregory Corso – Sarpedon
89) Bridget Christie – A Book For Her
90) Sara Pascoe – Animal
91) Bob Mehr – Trouble Boys
92) Emma Gannon – Ctrl Alt Delete
93) Dean Lilleyman – The Gospel According to Johnny Bender
94) Nikesh Shukla – The Good Immigrant
95) Zeina Hashem Beck – 3arabi song
96) Paper and Ink Zine
97) Razur Cuts
98) Charles Bukowski – Essential Bukowski
99) Brit Bennett – The Mothers
100) Jon Ronson – Elephant in the Room
Let’s be honest, Howlin’ Wolf had probably the greatest voice to ever come out of a human being. It’s astonishing. I feel like a lot of America’s problems could be solved if they would just unite under the fact that that they live in the land of Howlin’ Wolf.
Gina Berrett is the director and producer of the upcoming Howlin’ Wolf Smokestack Lightning: The Legendary Howlin’ Wolf – something I’ve been excited to see for quite some time now.
You can see a teaser for the film here.
Do you remember the first time you heard Howlin’ Wolf?
I remember more hearing Charley Patton, who was Howlin’ Wolf’s mentor, for the first time. It was stunning because Patton sounded like no one else I’d ever heard. There’s no context for it from the music of that time and place. It’s like he was dropped to earth in the Mississippi Delta by aliens or something. Where did that sounds and voice come from? From there I really got into Wolf’s music, and over the years no matter how many times I might hear the same song or parts of a song over and over while I’m editing the film, I never get tired of it. I really love it. There are a lot of layers of meaning and emotion in his music. As the late Jim Dickinson says in the film, “It’s still here because it’s art. Pop music fades. Art lasts.”
Through your research for the film, do you feel like you’ve gotten a good sense of Howlin’ Wolf the person, not just the musician?
The more I learned about Wolf along the way, the more Wolf as a person emerged from behind his stage character – he was more than the funny clowning performer, or the stealth Taildragger. He was complex – intelligent, competitive, hardworking, and an incredibly charismatic man. I’ve put a lot of thought into who he was as a man and performer, and this is the basis of the film. He is an American hero.
In terms of making a documentary focusing on a figure who was born so long ago, have there been challenges in terms of gathering the material you need to tell the story you want to tell in the way you want to tell it?
There was a lot of driving through Mississippi and Chicago, digging through old boxes finding Wolf’s living friends and relatives, a lot of adventure in that. It has been especially challenging finding material to tell the story of his earlier years of 1910-1950 in Mississippi, but I have figured out a creative way to tell the story. There were a few amazing discoveries of archival materials that I can’t wait to share in the film. The most important photo we found is one we had been unknowingly walking by in a hallway for a decade. It was 2 inches square and it was stapled to a cork board. That was a very good day.
There’s been some publicity regarding certain difficulties you’ve faced along the way with the making of the documentary. Where do things currently stand with regards to a release? When do you imagine people might be able to see the final product?
The recent news story actually happened two years ago and the case is in process of being settled. A year ago I decided to just rewrite and do the rough cut edit myself. It’s now ready for the final stages of postproduction. The film is looking great and it should be released in 2017. We’re launching an Indiegogo campaign February 7 2017 to raise the rest of the finishing funds. I learned a hard lesson to be careful who you work with, especially on creative projects.
Finally, what was the last thing (album, song, place, film etc) that you totally fell in love with?
I have been really loving the Amazon series Mr. Robot! Stunningly good story, sound design and music.