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
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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

May Days: Small town talking

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I’m doing the following UK events this month to discuss Never Enough, Small Town Talk (shortly out in paperback), and anything else anyone might want to ask me about…

Mon 15 May 19:30 (MEMBERS ONLY)

Shoreditch House, 1 Ebor Street, London E1 6AW

Weds 17 May 19:30

The Woolpack Inn, 6 Fawcett Street, York YO10 4AH

Thurs 18 May 19:30

Wakefield Beer Exchange, 14 Bull Ring, Wakefield WF1 1HA

Tues 30 May 19:30

Studio 2 Parr Street, 33-45 Parr Street, Liverpool L1 4JN

Mark Greif against everything

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IN A WEEK I’ll be conversing with fellow “critics” Laura Barton and Will Hodgkinson on the subject of how one writes about music – or dances about architecture, to cite Martin Mull’s almost-infamous 1979 phrase.

I have no idea what I’ll say, though the prospect of the evening has got me thinking about Roland Barthes’ 1972 essay “The Grain of the Voice”, which shaped a 1991 book of mine called From a Whisper to a Scream, and about an NME piece I wrote back in 1984 called “Subbed Culture” – a strident defense of “critical” pop writing in the face of the MTV/Smash Hits dumbing-down of the discourse in that era.

I may go back and read some Lester Bangs, Nik Cohn, Ellen Willis; or some Ian MacDonald, Geoffrey O’Brien, Simon Reynolds. Or I may just point to three remarkable essays in Mark Greif’s 2016 collection Against Everything: “Radiohead, or the Philosophy of Pop”, “Punk: The Right Kind of Pain”, and “Learning to Rap”.

The three pieces, written in an unapologetically intellectual style that’s nonetheless intimate and confiding and wholly unpretentious, made me realise it’s still possible to write about pop music and pop culture in ways that haven’t exactly been done before – to ask questions of punk, hip hop, and electronica that haven’t exactly been asked before.

“Learning to Rap,” written by a white Harvard graduate, may be the best thing this white Oxford graduate has ever read about hip hop. It engages with the music of, among others, Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. is ways that make their records as emotionally real as they’re socially radical. Greif is brilliant on race and class and crack and capitalism, just as he’s super-perceptive in “Punk” on how much the Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead had in common; just as he’s fascinating on the “philosophy” immanent in the vocal tics and synthetic textures of post-OK Computer Radiohead.

I don’t know what I’ll say at Spiritland, but I’ll certainly be thinking about the way Greif has encouraged me to take pop music seriously and personally all over again – to understand why, as Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote in Dancing in the Dark, music is the “rope” that holds my memories together and keeps my life in position.

An Unbound Night Out: How Do You Write About Music? 03/04/2017 6.30 pm

Spiritland, Granary Square, 9 – 10 Stable St, Kings Cross, London N1C 4AB

How do you write about music?

Unbound authors Tot Taylor (The Story of John Nightly) and Martine McDonagh (Narcissism for Beginners) are joined on Monday April 3 by the Times chief rock critic and author Will Hodgkinson, journalist and author Laura Barton and, yes, Yours Truly to discuss the question of How Do You Write About Music? Details of the event at Spiritland in London here.

Northern Uproar!

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Details of some forthcoming Louder In The Regions appearances in the Great Northern Powerhouse by yours truly + the great (and highly amusing) Jah Wobble + fellow scribes Chris Salewicz, Zoe Howe and more…

PONTEFRACT: The Tap and Barrel, Front Street

Wed 8th March  7.30pm  Jah Wobble in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Wed 12th April  7.30pm  John Osborne: John Peel’s Shed
Click here for tix & info

Wed 10th May  7.30pm  Barney Hoskyns in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Wed 21st June  7.30pm  Chris Salewicz in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Wed 5th July  7.30pm  Zoe Howe in conversation
Click here for tix & info

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SHEFFIELD: The Ship Inn, Kelham Island

Tues 7th March  7.30pm  Jah Wobble in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Tues 11th April  7.30pm  John Osborne: John Peel’s Shed
Click here for tix & info

Tues 9th May  7.30pm  Barney Hoskyns in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Tues 20th June  7.30pm  Chris Salewicz in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Tues 4th July  7.30pm  Zoe Howe in conversation
Click here for tix & info

The-Ship

YORK: The Woolpack Inn, 6 Fawcett Street

Wed 22nd March  7.30pm  Chris Salewicz in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Wed 26th April  7.30pm  Jah Wobble in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Wed 17th May  7.30pm  Barney Hoskyns in conversation
Click here for tix & info

Wed 14th June   7.30pm  John Osborne: John Peel’s Shed
Click here for tix & info

Wed 12th July  7.30pm  Zoe Howe in conversation
Click here for tix & info