Never Enough: Interview from the Liverpool etc. site

Barney-Hoskyns

NOT AFRAID ANYMORE: BARNEY HOSKYNS

La Violette Società 10
Tuesday, May 30th 2017, 9pm
Studio 2, Parr Street, Liverpool
Get tickets

Violette Records’ ‘La Violette Società’ is always more than just a gig. Its ethos – audiences buying a ticket to see an artist, leaving the venue talking about another act and armed with books or a t-shirt sold by a third performer – is inspiring and has been a catalyst for a lot in Liverpool over the last year or so. This time, they’ve invited music journalist and author Barney Hoskyns to town to talk about his latest book. By Alan O’Hare.

“It’ll be fun… don’t we all like brave experiments?” Barney Hoskyns, acclaimed author and auteur, is talking about coming to Liverpool this month to discuss his latest book, Never Enough: A Way Through Addiction. But he could be talking about a number of things. Successful scribe Barney, see, may have mingled with rock ‘n’ roll’s brightest burning stars, but it was a musical martyr of another kind that nearly put out his own lights: heroin. “I harboured no secret longing to be a junkie,” he reveals. “But most human beings behave addictively – I feel it everywhere.”

You’ll know Hoskyns’ name, even if you’re not familiar with his familiar tale. A former contributing editor at Vogue and Mojo magazines, the man who has literally wrote the book on the likes of Tom Waits, Woodstock and rock’s back pages is a renowned name in music and journalism. But addiction nearly made him infamous: “Addiction doesn’t stop just because you’ve had years of not using,” he says. “I’ve written this book to examine if it’s possible to move beyond addiction.”

It’s a question he’ll be tackling at Parr Street’s Studio 2 next week (May 30), where he’ll be appearing live at the tenth ‘La Violette Società‘. “The request came out of the blue, but I’m a huge Michael Head fan,” says Hoskyns (Violette Records is the home of ex-Shack man Head and the hosts of the happening). “I’ve been to Liverpool and wrote about many bands, but nobody articulates that certain kind of pain like Michael.” Time to set the scene…

It’s a brave book, Never Enough… 
I never planned to write it! It’s about one’s relationship with oneself and my reflections on what addiction means for individuals and society. What do you learn after you stop using?

What have you learned?
Bigger picture… it’s a an expression of society’s pain. But the book isn’t a ‘self-help’ read – it’s a rumination on how destructive addiction is, both psychologically and spiritually. Not to mention physically.

How destructive was heroin to your life?
I went looking for a connection in the wrong places. Taking opiate drugs was less painful than being me – I wasn’t a wild child acting out internal distress.

What happened, then?
I was either going to die or get help… and I needed to find a place I didn’t have to live addictively. The help is out there and they’re the well-worn paths you know about.

Talking to people helps…
The only antidote to self-destructive isolation is to open-up and let other humans in. Hey… I’m no evangelist, but you’ve just got to find a way to do that.

From the outside looking in, it appears Michael Head himself has thankfully found the same path.
Daniella‘ and the devastation brought home in that song… I’m aware of Micheal’s struggle. But, like I say, nobody articulates it like him.

When did you first start listening to his music?
It started with The Magical World Of The Strands for me. Obviously, I was around during the time of The Pale Fountains, but I’m not sure I would have gotten them back then, even if I’d been aware of them. But that album was like Arthur Lee had been reborn in Liverpool!

They’re both big favourites around here…
I spoke to John Head about Arthur when I was writing a book for MOJO. The thing is, the Head brothers’ music isn’t a slave-ish tribute to Lee, it’s just distinctive and has that Liverpool way of using warped psychedelia that is almost Californian… that’s unique to your city.

Let’s talk a bit about your books. Lowside Of The Road is a cracker – Tom Waits?
Tom had romantic notions of self-destruction, but he changed just in time. I was fascinated by that change as the straighter he became, the more crazy his music sounded!

That’s true. He found love, too, of course…
Yes and he’s a great dad etc., too, as he didn’t selfishly fuck up. It’s funny, now he’s a risk-taking and demented performer instead of doing it in real life. Interesting.

Your most recent musical book, Small Town Talk, looks in and around Woodstock. Why there?
It comes back to addiction again… there is so much damage in the story of those musicians. Can you have soulful music without pain?

“Why do we suffer? Because we have to.” Bruce Springsteen said that. 
Without wishing to generalise a particular place, it’s like all that early eighties music that came from Liverpool – the Bunnymen, Pete Wylie et al – when it fails it was almost comical, but when it triumphs it really is beautiful. It’s romanticism flirting with the dark side… bedsit heroism.

Barney Hoskyns, Never Enough: A Way Through Addiction, is published by Constable

For Christophe Edwards (1954-2017)

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spared

 

One, and then another, taken out.

A father gone, and then a friend.

The space they took now voided

when you thought they always would be there,

breathing somewhere far or near.

 

But keep your head down, get the job done,

keep the blinkers on.

Try not thinking what they’d think

if they could see you, see that life goes on

to no great purpose after all.

Olfactory lines

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They say you can’t describe a smell,

but when I’m in the bath or shower I want to say

where these scents send me:

to a special place in memory, or merely to the hotel room

where first I was suffused by Templetree or Silver Birch

or where the drenching of sweet Bushukan

transported me to honeyed glades or back

to other hotel rooms where odours spoke of luxury, enchantment,

and the softening thighs of dreaming girls.

 

These colours and these scents combine at 7.25 am

and for a moment drug me with perfume and with turquoise,

or drown me in their glowing amber pools.

Later comes the plunge in milky waters with a book:

I’m all but drinking the elixir of Fenjal,

an oil of blueish green that speaks

of foreign nights and vintage Vogues,

of willowed women in exquisite robes.

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Rediscovering Rublev

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This week I finally found time to watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1966 epic Andrei Rublev, recorded on TV a few weeks ago. I hadn’t seen it for many years and now wonder if I ever saw it at all. The only mental snapshot I retained of it turned out not to be in the film at all, though it did involve a church. I also retain a snapshot of Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia, which, again, I haven’t seen for years: a long shot of rainwater on a puddle in a ruined building. I’ll doubtless discover that too was a false recall.

There’s a lot of water in Andrei Rublev: the slow studies of wet stuff that make people think of Tarkovsky as a kind of pantheistic mystic. The most beautiful one – and the most mystical – is of the young apprentice, shot with a Tartar arrow, who (in slow motion) falls into a stream, followed shortly after in the water by a small, swirling cloud of white paint: the paint, one is forced to assume, that leaked into another stream in one of the film’s earlier scenes.

I’d forgotten the many horrors in Rublev, which wasn’t shown in Soviet Russia until 1971, and then only in censored form. It remains a brutally real depiction of life in medieval Russia: gouged eyes, burned limbs, panic and devastation wherever you look. Yet at the centre of its long narrative sweep is the still, Christlike visage of the icon painter Rublev himself, striving to square his humanity with the reality of power, violence and religious conditioning. (He refuses to paint a Last Judgement in the cathedral because he believes Christianity shouldn’t rule through superstitious terror.)

For all the film’s atrocities, there are as many moments of preternatural stillness and austere tenderness. Divided into chapters that jump forward in time, Rublev‘s only real thread is the haunted consciousness of its eponymous protagonist, who in one section takes a vow of silence that renders Anatoly Solonitsyn’s melancholy good looks even more despairing. (With a touch of perversity, Tarkovsky described the actor’s single-minded intensity as “demoniacal”.)

I remember thinking Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, was a pretentious travesty, so it’s nice to rediscover that Rublev, his second, is as beautiful, as meditative, and as visually thrilling as it is shocking and starkly unsentimental.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Those magnificent lines from 1 Corinthians 13 – we hear them spoken in the film – turn out to be true after all.