It took a year to write would you take a look…
We’ll kick off an occasional feature on Drone Publishing with an interview with Dave Redford. We’re very excited to announce that Dave is the author of what will be DRONE 005 with his book Pop 365. Pop 365 promises to be a look at the importance of the album, a medium that is still hugely important today, even if it is becoming increasingly overlooked in some quarters.
Dave runs through some of the finest albums from the 1950s to the present day, dipping into some of the most popular releases of all time and some albums that may have passed you by. Whether you still believe in the power of the album and you are looking for reminders of how your world can be changed in less than an hour (or longer in some cases) or you want to find out why the album matters, Pop 365 is going to be an excellent place to start.
We’ll have a lot more news about Pop 365 in the coming weeks…but for now, we’d like to introduce Dave.
For people who don’t know you, how would you describe yourself?
South Londoner adrift in Norfolk, music lover who’s a terrible guitarist and singer, Editor by trade and very amateur sportsmen at the weekend, languages graduate, real ale and Charlton enthusiast.
How would someone else describe you?
My daughters think I’m funny, not sure many would agree. A decent all-rounder hopefully.
We focus on music at Drone Publishing – are there are any artists/musicians that have inspired or influenced your writing?
Bob Dylan is the musician whose songs have most fired my imagination. Other lyricists I admire are Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Q-Tip, Nick Drake and Joanna Newsom.
Who are you listening to right now?
My favourite LPs of 2015 so far are Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, Wolf Alice’s My Love Is Cool, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Wire’s self-titled record. Today I gave Sleaford Mod’s new album Key Markets a spin; definitely an assault on the ears!
Are you a writer who can have music on in the background when you write? If so, who or what style of music/genre?
Any music that’s heavily lyrics-based I prefer to listen to actively, so I find electronic, ambient, jazz (and even classical!) best when I’m working. While writing Pop 365, though, I made sure I listened to each album at least twice again, once with headphones and the second time making notes.
Frank Zappa was famously disparaging in his opinions about people who wrote about music – Frank Zappa was rubbish wasn’t he?
Reminds me of the quote (no doubt a misquote) that writing about music is like dancing about architecture! Zappa’s not an easy artist to like, true, but I’ve got mixed feelings about him. He was clearly very talented (just one listen to Peaches en Regalia shows that) but I think his lack of commercial success compared to, in his view, less gifted peers made him a little envious and bitter. I do like his send-up of hippies and the late 60s music industry fad for psychedelia on We’re Only In It For The Money and his collaborations with Captain Beefheart, but much of his music leaves me cold.
No seriously, what is your take on writing about music or any art form?
There’s a lot of terrible writing about music, for sure – often reviewers in many leading music magazines and websites sound like they’ve swallowed the thesaurus. There are plenty of notable exceptions though, Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus being two of the finest examples. Thinking about music journalists active today, those that I tend to read avidly include Richard Williams, Rob Young, Simon Reynolds, Alexis Petridis, Geeta Dayal and Sasha Frere-Jones.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite music books/books about music?
Of the writers listed above, I would recommend Rob Young’s Electric Eden, about the British electric folk revival, and Simon Reynolds’ Retromania, about our nostalgia for pop music’s past and how some new genres have harnessed this nostalgia in original ways. Two books that were a huge inspiration for Pop 365 were Ian McDonald’s Revolution In The Head and Bob Stanley’s Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop, both forensic, well-researched and encyclopaedic. Also, it’s worth saying that some musicians, like Dylan and Patti Smith, are brilliant writers too – it’s been a very painful wait for the next instalment of Dylan’s superb Chronicles.
What about your favourite books (of any kind), what are they and how would you rate your favourite music books alongside them?
Jonathan Coe’s The Rotter’s Club, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, Hamlet, D. H. Lawrence’s Women In Love, Dickens’ Hard Times, Celine’s Voyage To The End Of The Night, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History … almost too many to mention. It’s hard to compare really, many music books put the emphasis on writing about creativity, while most fiction is a creative act in itself.
Traditional music writing is declining in numbers (like many traditional print options) even the NME is going free – any concerns about the future of music writing?
As somebody that works in publishing, albeit not on the consumer side, I can see first hand how new technology and shortened attention spans have disrupted journalism hugely. The music industry has been affected in much the same way and is struggling to adapt to the new era of streaming and social media. So music journalists are in a very tough spot. There’s still a lot of great music writing out there – relatively new ventures like The Quietus website and Song Exploder come to mind – but the challenges are creating a unique product and making things work financially.
Any plans for any other music books in the future?
I’d love to write a book about Dylan, but it’s hard to find an original angle. One of my favourite discoveries while writing Pop 365 was the wealth of British post-punk albums and artists that exploded in the late 70s and early 80s, so I’d like to dig deeper there. I think the best music books are full of primary research, with less focus on opinions, so if I were to write another book it’d be about a more modern artist, Sufjan Stevens say, or an emerging genre. The big challenge for me though is finding time amid all the work, volunteering and family pressures – the great thing about writing Pop 365 was that I had to be disciplined and find a few hours each day, normally late at night, to focus on each album. I’d have to recreate that in some way for a future book, but the sheer effort and sacrifice does feel me with dread. If only I didn’t have a mortgage to pay and kids to feed…