Q&A's WITH OUR COASTWORDERS FOR 2015
Take a moment to get to know some of the wonderful folk coming CoastWord this year.
Lach, you're the instigator of Antifolk. I won't press you for a definition. But for those folk coming to Words to the Beat who may not know you, where are you from and what do you do?
I was born in Brooklyn just like Bugs Bunny and like Ol Bugsy I'm just trying to stay alive entertaining hunters, thieves and witches
You're a New York City artist living in Edinburgh – what brought you to our capital and what made you want to stay there?
God brought me to Edinburgh (and by 'God' I mean Loki)
I love the beauty of Edinburgh, its literary scene and the perps who are eager for a Rock n Roll jump start of the Anti variety
I'm a fan of your Radio Four series, The Lach Chronicles. You may be Antifolk but you sure are pro-entertainment. How did the radio show come about?
I was discovered by Richard Melvin's independent production company Dabster and they pitched the show to BBC after they witnessed me hosting the Antihoot at Fringe
CoastWord is a literary festival with a strong musical bent and you recently toured in support of your debut book The Thin Book of Poems, How did you find reading live instead of singing?
Happy to hear CoastWord has a musical bent as I've been musically bent my whole life. Irrevocably so.
I enjoyed that tour immensely. Readings by day and rocking by night. Felt all Jim Carrolly and Patti Smithish.
You've recently launched a novel way for people to hear and purchase your work. Tell us the idea.
It's the future now. Fans can become my patrons and directly support my ability to continue to create by subscribing at www.lach.bandcamp.com. For the cost of cup of coffee a month they'll get my entire back catalog and all my future albums, songs, poetry, cartoons etc plus all sorts of subscriber only goodies. It's amazing, check it out.
As a Dunbar resident I have to ask this: have you ever heard of John Muir?
You will, Lach, you will!
Q: Monica, you and Johnny Smillie are returning to CoastWord this year after headlining 2014's Words to the Beat. What were your impressions of playing in Dunbar last year?
From the moment we arrived the sun was shining. It was a good omen as it was to be an evening filled with warmth from the sun,the hosts and the audience. A special night filled with all that is good in the world and art. A real community event in a wonderful setting. We were thinking wouldn't it be great to do this every night so it's great to be asked back.
Q: Your set here last year which was spellbinding. Can you remember the first time you discovered your voice could capture the attention of a room?
I suppose family parties but my teenage years in musical theatre gave me the confidence to perform to large crowds which served me well in my early rock and roll years.
Q: Your recorded work mixes country and electronica. Can you recall how you first got into both genres?
Well like a lot of west of Scotland of a certain time we were brought up on Patsy Cline and Sydney Devine but New Country was popular when I was younger and I got into the edgier end...KD Lang and the Reclines, Lone Justice as well as discovering Neil Young. Later I drifted towards beauty in music and discovered a lot through R3's Late Junction. This included a lot of electronic music a lot of it experimental. A lot of Choral too. It mixed this up with folk and it all just seemed to sit well together.
Q: How did you come to blend them?
Well after Thrum which was unashamedly Crazy Horse influenced Johnny and I wanted to take our Neil influence and mix it up with other aspects to try and create something new in the way great rock and roll has traditionally grown from Elvis mixing it up onwards. Johnny was getting into production and programming so we set about trying to create the most beautiful and unique record we could make. That record was 10 Sorrowful Mysteries and we are still very proud of it.
Q: Much of your music has a meditative quality. Do you see music as a healing force?
I don't claim it has any special healing force but I definitely have experienced the power of healing through music. Music is magical and almost as essential as air. It would probably be good for sales if all spas throughout the world were to purchase a copy though.
Q: Your musical CV is impressive as a singer, writer and collaborator. Tell us what you've been up to so far in 2015 and what's coming up for you this year.
Johnny who I rely on as my producer has become so busy this last year producing other acts that he has neglected our own projects a little but we have some works on the burner. We have a few shows coming up but our plan for summer record/ tour will now be put back I fear. Still doing the odd guest appearance and Johnny has had me in the studio contributing to some of his upcoming projects.
Q: As I live in Dunbar I have to ask, have you ever heard of John Muir?
Didn't know too much before our visit last year but checked him out since. I like his quote and think it can also be applied to music. "Everybody needs beauty...places to play and pray in,where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike"
Q: You are reading as part of Words to the Beat and have read at a number of festivals including the Edinburgh International Book Festival. How do you select what material you’ll read?
It really depends on the length of the time slot and the type of audience. I’ve read at the EIBF twice and each time I’ve written something especially for it – the stories had to be suitable for all ages as they were performed to an unsuspecting audience in the Spiegeltent. No swearing allowed! For the Words to the Beat I’m reading my story ‘Cowpunk’ which was recently published in New Writing Dundee 8. Lots of swearing in that one but I think this event is ‘after the watershed’. I thought it was appropriate as the story was triggered by one of my earliest memories – a ride in a cattle wagon to the abattoir! – and writing from memories is the subject of my workshop earlier in the day.
Do you ever write to perform or are you a writer for the page first and foremost?
The only stories I’ve written with performance in mind were the two for the EIBF – and I wrote both in first person, which I think makes performing easier. When I’m performing other stories that have not been written for performance I will adapt them – possibly shortening sentences to make breathing easier, or removing some ‘off-topic’ passages to try to keep the audience’s attention, even replacing difficult to pronounce words to stop my tongue tripping over them.
You write in a broad range of formats from novels to creative non-fiction. What inspires you to channel your thoughts in a particular direction and do you ever switch from your original intended format?
Most of the triggers (conversation snippets, old photos, art works, general people-watching) create sparks for short stories. Occasionally (very occasionally) as you mull over these ‘sparks’ you realise there is much more under the surface and maybe it’s worth considering the subject matter for a novel. There needs to be an enormous area of interest there though to sustain 300 pages and your attention for two years! My novel Truestory (to be published by Sandstone Press in Sept 2015) is about a woman struggling to raise a son with autism who refuses to leave their isolated farm. I did write some short stories on this subject before I embarked on the novel. While researching for non-fiction work you also stumble upon ideas you know will create great short stories.
Your second novel is out in September. Tell us about it and the significance of its title - Truestory?
Truestory is my debut novel because although I wrote a novel previously – Chickendust, which was shortlisted for the Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition – it was never published. So this is all new to me! As I said earlier the novel tells the story of Alice who is struggling to raise her son, Sam, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and refuses to leave their isolated farm. Sam surrounds Alice’s life with restricting rules and rituals and Alice feels as trapped as he is. Unknown to Alice, Sam has an on-line life and is seeking advice from all and sundry – which creates chaos for the family. Sam’s on-line name is ‘Truestory’ because he believes that everything he reads online is true.
Earlier in the day you’re joining Writing Mums for a workshop called Creating Fiction from Memories. Since becoming a full-time writer do you find yourself valuing memories more?
I’ve always been a bit obsessed with catching and retaining memories. I have 66 family albums (yes, 66) and I still print off photos and put them in albums for fear of losing them. I have a box of diaries in the attic from when I wrote a diary every day (between the ages of 15 and 25) plus lots of other ephemera. Capturing memories and working with them, developing them and changing them if you want, is one of the most fun things about writing.
Lastly, and I ask everyone this, what do you know about John Muir?
I visited Yosemite National Park in California in 2008 and heard John Muir mentioned a lot as one of the men instrumental in protecting the area. It was a bit strange to go all that way to hear about a man from sunny Dunbar! My only excuse is that I was born in Lancashire, not Scotland.
An ode to Michael by Roy Moller!
Words to the Beat is delighted to feature a set by the tousle-haired and multi-talented Michael Pedersen. Michael a poet, playwright and performer and has collaborated with musicians, film-makers and artists throughout the UK and beyond. Michael has written short plays for troupes such as the National Theatre of Scotland/Five Minute Theatre. A well-travelled troubadour he taught in Cambodia and visited India, Nepal and Vietnam His chapbook, Part-Truths, was published by Koo Press in 2009 and went on to become a finalist for the Calum Macdonald Memorial Award. Then came The Basic Algebra of Buttering Bread (Windfall Books, 2010). Michael's debut full-length collection Play With Me, was published in 2013 by Polygon Books (edited by Gerry Cambridge). I had the honour of playing the launch for the book with another Words to the Beat performer, Dunbar's own Davy Henderson of the Sexual Objects.
Michael is co-founder of the literary night and record label Neu! Reekie! who along with Rally & Broad (whose Rachel McCrum is another Words to the Beat performer and CoastWord's writer in residence) have transformed the literary and musical Edinburgh scene. Neu! Reekie! have put on shows in places as diverse as Glasgow and New York. As you read this Neu! Reekie! is heading to Japan – Michael's performance prior to Dunbar will be in Kyoto.
I first met Michael at a charity show in Glasgow where I was performing a Simon & Garfunkel song in the style of David Bowie. Michael approached me after the performance to book me for an early Neu! Reekie! and we've been pals ever since. Michael is lyricist for the band Jesus, Baby! and recruited me as guitarist, Carla J Easton of Teen Canteen on keyboards, Marco Rea on bass and the aforementioned Davy Henderson on vocals. We recorded a song called The Caterpillar Tango, performed a session of 6Music, played at Doune The Rabbit Hole. The songs Michael gave us to perform displayed his flair for playful humour and lyrical dexterity. Plus they had great tunes and an emotional depth that resonates through all his work.
Throughout our adventures Michael was always courteous, charming, charismatic and an inspiration. Since then Michael's had so many artistic escapades I can't keep up. Every time I turned around he's gallivanting on another continent and connecting people to poetry and the performing arts in his inimitable way. He is a magnetic presence behind a microphone and performs poetry that is pungent, panoramic and to the point. He will light up the Goldenstones Suite. Entertainment and erudition in one engaging package., that's Michael Pedersen.