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Baker's Dozen

Songs Of Praise: David Keenan's Baker's Dozen
Jennifer Lucy Allan , December 2nd, 2020 09:46

Jennifer Lucy Allan hears about high-fiving Edgar Froese, frightening the neighbours, disavowing the devil and how Scottish author David Keenan is all about saying yes. Portrait by Heather Leigh.


Demon – 'Don't Break The Circle’
Heavy metal was the mainstream thing that seemed wild before I had access to the music press and stuff. I liked it when it freaked out, and the ripping guitar solos, I loved it when it was demonic or satanic. Years later I interviewed Masami Akita of Merzbow and he gave me this amazing quote that's always stuck with me. He said when he began listening to The Who and King Crimson he was always waiting for the guitar smashing bit, and thought, well, why can't you have music that only consists of the guitar smashing bit? That's exactly what I had been looking for – I wanted music that just consisted of the moment where they smashed their guitar to smithereens in an orgy of feedback and destruction, and the closest I was getting to it was heavy metal. There was a guy on our street I knew who had 30 or so LPs and a really nice bedroom in the attic so when he wasn't in me and his brother and my brother would sneak in and listen to his heavy metal albums.

However, I was quite a religious kid – I went to church every Sunday, I believed in God completely, but was having a trouble believing in the devil. I'd been this very cosseted, very straight, religious, bookish, eccentric kid and I felt myself being drawn to this whole other world that seemed violent, extreme, frightening, and alien. I was also getting into the unexplained and UFOs – Unexplained Magazine, Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World – and this came together with the onset of puberty, which I associated with getting kidnapped by a UFO. I could feel myself changing so radically I was becoming another person, so was also having abduction fantasies.

In with all this, the devil was a big problem. I had to have it out with my mum, to ask if the devil existed, so I went downstairs and asked her to tell me honestly, does the devil exist? She said: ‘Do you really want to know, honestly?’ I said yes, and she replied [almost whispering]: ‘The devil doesn't exist, son.’ 

I was like ‘YESSSS!! [punches the air] THE DEVIL DOESN'T FUCKING EXIST!’ It felt so good! It was totally liberating, and for a while me and my mum were into doing stuff like ouija boards because the devil didn't exist, having all these breakthroughs, and the soundtrack to that was 'Don't Break The Circle' by Demon. The devil didn't exist, but there was something inside us we could indulge that was devilish, and that we owned. It allowed me to say: this isn't a devilish entity, it's not a UFO, it's not the Men In Black, it's an intrinsic part of me, and it's not bad either, it gives life flavour, salt and fun. It was a transformative moment.