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Baker's Dozen

Crime Plays: Writer Ian Rankin On His 13 Favourite Albums
Luke Turner , November 21st, 2012 07:37

Ian Rankin talks to Luke Turner about his life in music, and how he'd like to write novels based on Joy Division and David Bowie albums


Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
This is the leap from high school to University. I grew up in a small town, and I was the kid who'd hide in his bedroom writing poetry and not telling anyone he was doing it. Suddenly when I got to University I was surrounded by people who wanted to be poets, writers and musicians, and I could relax a little bit, I didn't have to pretend any more, I didn't have to pretend to be one of the gang who hung around on the street corner with their Doc Marten boots on. I could say 'yes, I'm going to write poetry, and be in a band and try this and that'. Punk was great for that, because punk said 'it doesn't' matter what school you went to, or if you've got money, just get out there and try it'. I was scribbling stuff down and sending it off here there and everywhere. I was sending stuff to the Radio Times and there was a cat in hell's chance they were going to publish one of my short stories, but I thought what the hell, I'm going to get myself out there and see what happens. So when some people asked if I wanted to be the singer in their band I said 'yeah fuck it, why not?' We were actually playing a gig in Cowdenbeith in Fife the night that we heard that Ian Curtis had topped himself. I remember going onstage and saying 'this concert is dedicated to Ian Curtis'. I don't think anyone in the audience knew who Ian Curtis was - we were the support band to a heavy metal group who had a laser. I think the only reason people were in the room was to see a laser.

When I got to Uni it was the dark clothing, the black mock leather jacket - I couldn't afford a real leather jacket so I got a PVC type thing - lots of doom and gloom. The poems I wrote got a lot darker, and I was listening to a lot of Joy Division and Throbbing Gristle and Clock DVA. One of my huge regrets is that one of my friends came to my digs one night and said 'hey, I'm going to see the Buzzcocks, they're being supported by this band Joy Division'. I said 'nah I've got an essay to do, I won't go'. The next day I got intrigued by Joy Division and that was when I bought the first album and thought they were really good. Then I heard they were coming back to Edinburgh to headline a small club, so I bought a ticket for that… and of course they never made it. I could have gone to the venue and got my 50p back, but I held onto the ticket. I've still got it.

To me there's almost a narrative running through Unknown Pleasures. I'd love to write a novel that'd take lines from the songs. It's be about an assassin who's sent to a city that he can't make sense of. It's nighttime and he's wandering through the city and he doesn't know exactly who it is that he's going to kill. I've actually gone through the lyrics and plucked out lines from the various songs that you could string together as a story.