Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Shields Against The World: Mat Osman’s Baker’s Dozen

From growing up on The Carpenters to reconnecting with music in his "wilderness years" Suede bassist turned novelist Mat Osman takes Luke Turner through his Baker's Dozen of favourite recordings

Photo by David Amery

If there’s a common thread through the music that Suede made during the 1990s it’s of youthful outsider energies trying to make sense of themselves against, as they so memorably put it, “the love and poison of London”. Take that same feeling back about half a millennia and you hit on the essence of Suede bassist Mat Osman’s fantastic new novel The Ghost Theatre. A magical fantasy set in the Elizabethan capital, it pulsates with the noise, fug and chaos of that era through the eyes of a theatre company made up of adolescents, kidnapped and forced to entertain the well-to-do. Into this melee comes a curious young creature called Shay who grew up in a bird-obsessed tribe or cult downstream among the mists and marshes of the Thames estuary, and seems to be in possession of magical powers. It’s at once a tense and exciting but odd and romantic book that gets under the skin of an idea of London’s eternal energies that I don’t feel I’ve encountered before, going for the essence of place rather than a purely historical account.

“I set out to write something really arty, about the nature of performance and the mask that takes over the face, and it turned into an adventure story,” Osman reflects. “I suddenly found myself actually quite enjoying writing that.”

The connections between his burgeoning literary career and musical interests are written all over his Baker’s Dozen selections, from his love of character development in the lyrics of The Hold Steady to his methodology of using songs to capture a mood that then unleash words on the page. Aside from that, Osman says that “I tried to pick stuff that has a time and a place for me, when I came to it and what it means to me. They’re not my favourite songs of all time, they’re just the things that I’ve bumped up against along the way and changed the way I think about music.” He grew up in a house soundtracked by singer songwriters like Roger Whittaker and the few records his parents owned, with radio from Terry Wogan or Crystal Gayle in the morning. With no older siblings – TV presenter and writer Richard is three years younger – Osman had no guide to teach him more interesting things. “I can remember on radio at the time if they played The Kinks it would be ‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’, if they played Bowie it was ‘The Laughing Gnome’; The Beatles, it was ‘Octopus’s Garden’ – this weird unsexy music, it had to be the safest, blandest part of it.” All of which leads us nicely into Mat Osman’s first Baker’s Dozen selection…

Mat Osman’s new novel The Ghost Theatre is published on 11 May by Bloomsbury and he’ll be discussing the book with Luke Turner at Rough Trade East in London on 17th May, tickets and info here To begin reading his Baker’s Dozen, click the image of him below.

First Record

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