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The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music: Benjamin Myers’ Favourite Music
The Quietus , September 29th, 2021 09:41

Music journalist-turned-novelist Benjamin Myers shares the music that made him a writer from The Slits to Slipknot – and why almost all of it is impossible to write to…


Richard Dawson - Nothing Important

I was introduced to the music of Richard Dawson via this very website – big thanks to John Doran – and particularly his track ‘The Vile Stuff’ from this mini-album, which I probably played every day for a year. Like Nick Drake, it’s visionary stuff, a new map for music. The lyrics weave a narrative descent into down into Hades via a school trip gone awry, but the sound is from another realm: it’s completely non-western in construction and tone. It’s a folk music of sorts, but from another planet. Planet Dawson. You can’t listen to Slipknot forever.

Because we’re both from the north-east and of the same generation, and grew listening to bands like Faith No More, I felt an immediate affinity from afar. That same twisted and laconic humour that’s in Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer and The League of Gentlemen, or maybe comedians like Seymour Mace and Bobby Thompson, lurks beneath the surface of things, and I subsequently got to know Richard a little. He’s a sensitive soul and a deep thinker; John Martyn without the ill temperament, and with a playing style I would describe as Django Beefheart.

I was struggling with various anxieties a few years back and Richard suggested to me that as a writer I needed to master the art of saying no, because it’s as important as saying yes. In that statement was the underlying notion that an artist should be devoted to their art, and that they should control and not devalue it, nor let it be steered by others into dead-end directions. It’s something I still try to adhere to, and Richard’s generous advice probably made me commit even more deeply to literature.

Actually, my book The Gallows Pole came out at the same time as his album Peasant and we appeared on a local magazine cover together, shot at the place he was living in at the time. There were strong student house-share vibes. Just before the photo shoot Richard said: “Oh hang on, I better put something nice on,” and shuffled off into his bedroom, which seemed to be comprised of a mound of clothes in the middle of the floor, and in the dark he plucked out this wrinkled, manky old shirt. “Right, that’s better…” he said.