Episode 5: Wendy Erskine, Part 1
From Belfast, Wendy Erskine has been called the greatest short story writer of her generation, by David Keenan no less. She has just published her second collection of short stories entitled Dance Move, and I was really lucky to be able to chat to her last month around the time of publication.
Wendy has kindly put together a short playlist to go along with these episodes (see show notes). We started our conversation by talking about the first track in her playlist, but we then veered off in various directions. We do circle back to it in part two of this conversation, which will be available next week.
This week we discuss Wendy’s writing methodology, how music inspires her work, her ideal word count, the complexity inherent in her depiction of characters and how to end a short story. Along the way our conversation takes in Chekhov, Throbbing Gristle, Jacques Brel, George Eliot and Raymond Carver, among many others.
Please note: while we try to avoid spoilers, if you haven't read Wendy's work before please be aware we do discuss many stories, and Dance Move in particular, at length.
Wendy Erksine playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4fpH3KP5eIjafUxMRSKSvH?si=4kKrPqGpTBegPFfbk9inpg&nd=1
Dance Move: https://stingingfly.org/product/dance-move/
Chekhov's Gun: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun
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8. Episode 8: Will Oldham57:40In this episode I speak to one of my songwriting heroes, Will Oldham, A.K.A. Bonnie "Prince" Billy. From Louisville Kentucky, Will has over the past thirty years forged a highly distinctive path as one of the great American songwriters of his generation. Recording under various iterations of the name Palace from the early 1990s onwards, before settling on the BPB moniker in 1999, Will has honed a songwriting style drawing on country music, old world balladry and classic rock, always tempered with his uniquely lyrical voice. Along the way Will has collaborated with Johnny Cash, who covered his 1999 classic I See A Darkness, Tortoise, Matt Sweeney, Dawn McCarthy, David Berman and Bill Callahan among many others. Will has also been booed by Bjork fans at the Holywood Bowl, taken the cover shot for Slint's Spiderland and followed his original calling of acting in movies (Old Joy, Matewan), among much else. Will and I discuss among other things his relationship with social media and promotion in general, the three books he read that inspired him around the time he started writing songs, the five mixtapes of Scottish traditional folk ballads that set him on a path toward songwriting, how Will feels about streaming (with some very pointed words for Spotify and its subscribers), and the family circumstances which led to perhaps his most personal album, the self titled “Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy” (2015). We also discuss Will’s experience working with Disney, Moana vs Encanto, hunting Octopus, the time Will received a text informing him of an imminent nuclear attack, and why Will is especially looking forward to playing for Irish audiences again soon. If you've enjoyed this podcast please take a moment to leave a review or rating, I really appreciate it.Show notes:Will Oldham and Bill Callahan, Office Hours appearance (2022): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPwlApaMhRQAndrew Rinehart with Bonnie "Prince" Billy Friend of The Devil video (2022): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM4Di68q-PkHugh Nissenson The Tree of Life: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/406215Nick Cave And The Ass Saw The Angel: https://www.nickcave.com/books/and-the-ass-saw-the-angelBPB Mixtape Vol 1 (2019): https://bonnieprincebilly.bandcamp.com/album/bpb-mix-tape-volume-1Bonnie "Prince" Billy LP (2015): https://bonnieprincebilly.bandcamp.com/album/bonnie-prince-billyWill & Elsa Oldham Bad Actor (morning TV appearance 2018): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2vXfOOb6IILouisville Academy of Music Presents Songwriting with Will Oldham (2020): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZDJoGn8LZgBonnie "Prince" Billy Squid Eye video (2019): https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=YcHwPZ0Jz6Y&list=PLPZeYMWvwYnCgNfvn28KI2Bg0Q66LekXbBonnie "Prince" Billy and David Berman Outsider (2022): https://bonnieprincebilly.bandcamp.com/track/outsiderBonnie "Prince" Billy High & High & Mighty (2022 Cassette/CD): https://haha.instituteBonnie "Prince" Billy September 2022 tour dates: https://pitchfork.com/news/bonnie-prince-billy-announces-summer-2022-tour/And finally...Neil's new album Things Keep Getting In The Way is out now: https://neilbrogan.bandcamp.com/album/things-keep-getting-in-the-way
7. Episode 7: Vashti Bunyan01:14:05In this very special episode I get the chance to talk to one of my favourite singers, Vashti Bunyan.Born in 1945, Vashti Bunyan began her recording career in the mid 1960s. Her debut single, the Rolling Stones cover Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind was issued in 1965, and a string of recordings followed for Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate records, but at the time few were released and none found the success they deserved. By 1968, Vashti had abandoned her pop career to travel the length of the England and Scotland in a horse drawn bread wagon, aiming initially for the Western Isles and eventually winding up in the Outer Hebrides. Along the way, she wrote the sequence of songs about her journey that would become the legendary album Just Another Diamond Day. Produced by Joe Boyd and featuring guest performances from members of The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention, the album went underpromoted at the time of release and languished for many years. In response, Vashti left the music business behind completely, or so she thought.Vashti's new memoir Wayward is a beautiful recollection of that time in her life and I had the chance to talk to her all about it. We talk about being mislabelled first as a replacement for Marianne Faithfull and later as a "folk" artist, her early encounter with a very moody Cliff Richard, Mick Jagger's impersonation of her, her late blooming friendship with Andrew Loog Oldham, a disastrous attempt at collaboration with Nick Drake, finding out about her Romany ancestry, a very awkward encounter with Donovan, almost wiping the master tape of Diamond Day in a thunderstorm, and whether or not she is in fact descended from the ultimate pilgrim, John Bunyan. And of course we talk all about that epic journey.Our conversation was recorded remotely in April 2022.If you enjoy this podcast please consider leaving a rating or review, I really appreciate it. Show notes:Vashti Bunyan playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/64KxqaKycBGfnmpyCjQYtt?si=70f63b6e753c4652Vashti Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind (Shindig! 1965): https://youtu.be/MQrQytsIU90Tonight Let's All Make Love In London - Winter Is Blue recording (1967): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ-RLaHSCA0Expresso Bongo clip: https://youtu.be/rZ0M1oFWhsgBBC 'Everyman' documentary early 1970s: https://youtu.be/IoCe69tJ7TYDon't Look Back (1965) - Donovan scene: https://youtu.be/Lc6HcA6kEJc2007 BBC Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVLavhf10UMBuy Wayward: https://www.whiterabbitbooks.co.uk/titles/vashti-bunyan/wayward/9781474621939/
6. Episode 6: Wendy Erskine, Part 249:14In this concluding part of my conversation with the writer Wendy Erskine, we talk in more detail about stories from Wendy's new collection Dance Move, including how the stories were sequenced in the book and how the artwork was chosen for the Stinging Fly and Picador editions. Wendy also talks about the course in short story writing which led her to becoming a published author, including some of the things she learned there. Finally we pick up our conversation around the playlist Wendy has put together for these episodes, discussing her choices and how they inform characters and stories in Dance Move. Please note: while we try to avoid spoilers, if you haven't read Wendy's work before please be aware we do discuss many stories, and those in Dance Move in particular, at length.If you're enjoying this podcast please take a few seconds to leave a review or rating if you can, it really helps.Show links:Wendy Erskine playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4fpH3KP5eIjafUxMRSKSvH?si=37f5922557d6464fDance Move: https://stingingfly.org/product/dance-move/Support Ukraine:https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal
4. Episode 4: Autumns, Part 232:28The concluding part of my conversation with Christian Donaghy, who records and performs as Autumns. In this episode we discuss Christian's unique approach to song titles, his love of dub and approach to using effects in general in his music. We also discuss Autumns prolific output, upcoming release and touring plans, and the negative effect of social media on mental health.This conversation was recorded remotely in early January 2022.Tracks played:Autumns - Annoying Fucker (From DSS Dubplate - Touch Sensitive, 2021)Autumns - Eating On The Ground (From DSS Dubplate - Touch Sensitive, 2021)Autumns - Raw Meat Dub (From Dyslexia Sound System - Touch Sensitive. 2021)All tracks are used with kind permission of the artist, label and distributor.Available via: https://autumnsire.bandcamp.com & https://touchsensitiverecords.bandcamp.comShow links:On-U Sound: https://on-usound.bandcamp.comMental health support for musicians: https://www.musicmindsmatter.org.ukAutumns playlist: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvZ6qgQ_B83-winxXzTkfeLD-ALTa6llSUkraine Crisis Relief:ICRC: https://www.icrc.org/en/donate/ukraineUnicef: https://www.unicef.org.uk/donate/donate-now-to-protect-children-in-ukraine/Global Giving: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ukraine-crisis-relief-fund/IRC: https://www.rescue-uk.orgSave The Children: https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/how-you-can-help/emergencies/ukraine-appeal
3. Episode 3: Autumns, Part 129:51From Derry in Northern Ireland, Christian Donaghy has been recording under the name Autumns for the past decade, with a super prolific string of releases on labels such as Touch Sensitive, Downwards, Death and Leisure and Opal tapes among many others. His music has evolved in that time from early period guitar orientation to a highly distinctive brand of dub drenched techno which Christian describes as Derry Dub Wave, all while still retaining a post punk ethos. His live shows are incendiary, sometimes confrontational and always propulsively entertaining. In this first part of our conversation, recorded remotely in early January 2022, we discuss hometown ambivalence, how Autumns debut on Downwards came about and how the project evolved from indie beginnings to what it is now. We also discuss Christian's attitude to live performance, his live set up, and his experience of touring and performing in Moscow and New York.Tracks played:Autumns - Raw Meat Dub (Dyslexia Sound System, Touch Sensitive, 2021)Autumns - Having It (Dyslexia Sound System, Touch Sensitive, 2021)All tracks are used with kind permission of the artist, label and distributor.Show links:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VilniusAutumns 'Mini LP' (Downwards, 2014): https://autumnsire.bandcamp.com/album/mini-lpAutumns live set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgqEIf725DM
2. Episode 2: Group Zero, Part 234:53In this second episode I continue my conversation with my friend and former Girls Names bandmate Cathal Cully to discuss his solo project Group Zero and his latest release "Everyone's Already Come Apart".Picking up were we left off in episode 1, Cathal and I discuss the process involved in making the new album in more detail, Cathal's love of cycling, literary inspirations, and club singers, with particular emphasis on one well known exponent of the genre.Group Zero - Everyone's Already Come Apart (Touch Sensitive, 2021)https://touchsensitiverecords.bandcamp.com/album/everyone-s-already-come-apartTracks played:Group Zero - Memorial DeviceGroup Zero - The Club SingerGroup Zero - We Need WaterGroup Zero - Memorial HallAll music is used with kind permission of the artist, label and distributor.This is Memorial Device by David Keenan (2017)https://www.faber.co.uk/product/9780571330850-this-is-memorial-device/Paul Shane "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" - Pebble Mill, 1996https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGcqkqB-pIERobert De Niro "30 seconds speech" from Heat (dir. Michael Mann, 1995)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGPWW9PjztoGroup Zero playlist: https://spoti.fi/3Li8P49Neil's new single 'Watercolours' out now: https://neilbrogan.bandcamp.com/track/watercolours
1. Episode 1: Group Zero, Part 131:58In this first episode, I'm joined by my friend and former Girls Names bandmate Cathal Cully to discuss his solo project Group Zero and his latest release "Everyone's Already Come Apart."Recorded remotely in late November 2021, this first part of our conversation covers the long gestation period for the record, artwork choices, publishing limbo, abandoned practice rooms, gigging anxiety and the early days of Girls Names, among other things.Group Zero - Everyone's Already Come Apart (Touch Sensitive, 2021)https://touchsensitiverecords.bandcamp.com/album/everyone-s-already-come-apartGirls Names - Demos 2009 - 2012 (Tough Love, 2020)https://girlsnamesbelfast.bandcamp.com/album/demos-2009-2012Girls Names - Stains On Silence (Tough Love, 2018)https://girlsnamesbelfast.bandcamp.com/album/stains-on-silenceTracks played:Group Zero - Memorial HallGroup Zero - You Can See The Dust CrawlGroup Zero - Memorial DeviceAll music is used with kind permission of the artist, label and distributor.Neil's new single Watercolours out now: https://spoti.fi/3r7ewcY
Trailer00:46I'm Neil Brogan, I make songs. In this podcast I will be speaking to people who make things about how they make them, and how they feel about the things they make. Episode one coming January 2022. Please subscribe and follow me on Instagram and Twitter for updates.https://linktr.ee/brogans_run