Launched in May 1997, Uncut magazine was the brainchild of Allan Jones. Inspired by his frustrations at the musical directions taken by his employers at Melody Maker, Jones identified an opportunity in the market for a publication aimed at a more mature audience. Uncut was the introduction for many to a treasure chest of new music, including a healthy focus on alt-country artists. It’s complimentary CD, which came free with each monthly issue, gave the reader the opportunity to sample music from a host of different artists. Most of these artists also had their albums reviewed in the magazine.
Jones’s musical career dates back to the mid 70’s. He was unexpectedly offered a position with the weekly music paper Melody Maker in 1974, having applied for a role he felt spectacularly unqualified for. The vacancy was for a ‘’junior reporter / feature writer’’ and the eligibility requirements were simply for someone no older than twenty-one, highly opinionated with no previous experience necessary. Striking the bullseye on all three counts and the possessor of an enormous music collection, Jones penned an audaciously arrogant application for the position, closing with the line ‘’ Melody Maker needs a bullet up the arse. I’m the gun, pull the trigger’’.
To his bewilderment he was not only called for an interview but offered the position, which he willingly accepted. Within a relatively short period of time he was enjoying the company of and interviewing - seldom without incident - a host of artists from Showaddywaddy to KC and The Sunshine Band and Leonard Cohen to Lou Reed. These encounters and the mayhem that often ensued are recalled in his 2017 publication, Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down.
Jones was invited to attend the Kilkenny Roots Festival earlier this year where he was interviewed by festival director John Cleere. The Lonesome Highway team had the pleasure of meeting with the affable and modest Jones,who happily agreed to be interviewed by us.
Has the Americana genre somewhat lost its way? It seems dominated these days by bearded male singer songwriters trying to recreate early Neil Young albums,or soul singers jumping on the increasingly popular country soul bandwagon?
Difficult to say really. Americana was always a catch-all phrase for a lot of disparate music and some areas of it don’t interest and excite me today as it did twenty-one years ago when I compiled the Uncut CD Sounds Of The New West (The Best Of Alternative Country). Someone pointed it out to me the other day that it has reached its anniversary and asked me if I could compile a cd like that today that would have a similar impact. I’m not so sure that it would have that impact as we’ve become so familiar with the musical territory and musical vocabulary of disparate groups. I think I could put together a very good CD. I’m thinking of The Delines, Carson Mc Hone, Ruston Kelly, Rayland Baxter, Israel Nash, Ohtis. But I don’t think it would have the same passion and power of that early collection which was so fresh at that time.
There was an abundance of left of centre music on that album. Will Oldham, Silver Jews, Vic Chestnut and Willard Grant Conspiracy spring to mind. There aren’t too many coming from that direction these days?
The only group that’s recently impacted on me in a similar way to the ones you’ve just mentioned is Ohtis, whose album, Curve of Earth, I mentioned when I was in Kilkenny. There does seem a prevalence at present for very burly singer songwriters, all with kind of pretty morbid backstories, all been through the ringer a bit. I shy away from a lot of that type of music,particularly the more confessional end of it,where they get very specific about the troubles they’ve been through. All a bit groaning for me. Very samey, a lot of them have their roots in Springsteen’s starker sound, Nebraska seems a key album to a lot of people.
Is that industry driven and a direction they feel they have to take to have any opportunity of survival?
Possibly so, I’m totally divorced from the mechanisms of the music industry these days. It just seems a very convenient and safe route. A lot of people identify with it, is it John Moreland comes to mind, look at how popular he is. I just find it a bit overbearing to be honest. There are exceptions of course,Israel Nash being one and I’ve just heard a very good album from Frankie Lee.
The Ohtis album you mention is very confessional. How do they follow that up, if there is a next album?
I’m still coming to terms with the first one having not known much about the group. Having just seen them live I don’t think they’re going to have any problems improving. There is so much potential in that group and they are such good songwriters. They’ve chosen to write their first album with a song cycle about growing up in a fundamentalist evangelical cult, rebelling against that, getting heavily involved with drugs as an escape or an alternative, rehab and redemption. It doesn’t seem terribly embellished, a lot of it seems autobiographical. Sam Swinson, who writes the songs, seems to have such a fertile imagination and is such a good lyric writer especially. He shouldn’t have much trouble coming up with new songs that don’t necessarily exploit his own experiences.
As a matter of interest, how well attended was that gig?
Surprisingly well attended, I thought there might be half a dozen people there, having not seen many reviews of the album. I don’t know how people even heard of them to be honest. A good full crowd, very encouraging.
The concept of a free CD with Uncut each month was quite revolutionary at the time. How was it received by industry and artists?
Just to briefly recap. When Uncut launched, the publishers were keen to push sales a bit more aggressively. The circulation was very static at the beginning, a bit low to be honest. They wanted to galvanise sales, so we had the opportunity from a promotional budget to put a few CDs on the cover. They were compiled and presented to us by Roy Carr, who was a bit of a trail blazer in compiling mixed cassettes for both Melody Maker and NME, when he was special products editor. Roy was a great bloke but he cut a lot of corners, so we had a series of CDs which were basically the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra performing classic movie themes. They were awful and did nothing for our sales. Then an opportunity came up to put another CD on the cover. I pleaded with the publishers not to land us with another run of these classic movie theme CDs, which the readers didn’t particularly like and we were embarrassed by! I had just written a cover story on Neil Young’s doom trilogy, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night and Time Fades Away. I thought if I could just find some music to match the cover, music that in some way,you could say had been influenced by Neil Young. I’d been listening to the Whiskeytown album, Ryan Adams, The Handsome Family and a lot of the names you’ve just mentioned. I said to the publishers ‘’why don’t I just go to the record companies and ask them for tracks from these albums’’. It promotes the artists who weren’t getting airplay and weren’t on TV, some hadn’t even toured the UK. I thought it was an opportunity for the record companies to give us tracks, a lot of people would hear them to the benefit of the magazine and the labels. Fortunately, most of the content I was chasing was on small labels. Loose were a classic example and the first label I went to. They immediately cleared it; City Slang were similarly great. The publicists were shocked and so was Roy Carr who’d been compiling these for MM and NME. We got everything we looked for and then Roy pulled off a blinder by getting an Emmylou Harris track and a Flying Burrito’s track, which helped to introduce and tail end the album. And it worked. Suddenly Uncut had a very enthusiastic readership. So many people were turned on by the music they heard on that CD, to the extent that they came back for more. We then developed the CD as the best of the month’s new music and some re-issue tracks. We got a generally good response from everybody, predictably with the exception of the major labels. Occasionally EMI might give us a track if they thought it was in their interest. Warner Brothers were very iffy about it, sometimes we could get stuff from them. Rough Trade were very unhelpful, 4AD and Matador didn’t want to know about it and very rarely gave us tracks. At first, we could get back catalogue material from the major labels but very quickly there was a complete embargo from them for free music for our CD’s. The record companies saw it as giving material away and didn’t see any benefit from it.
Many of the artists certainly gained from it. Lambchop, Richmond Fontaine, Jim White and many, many more. It essentially launched their careers in U.K and Europe, at a time when they could hardly get a gig in the States. Many of them still benefit from that early exposure.
A lot of the bands did indeed benefit, that was the intention. I never thought of it principally in terms of enhancing our circulation at Uncut. It was more about sharing some great music with likeminded people.
Your initial trip to Nashville to interview Lambchop, was that in your MM days?
Yes, it was June 1996. I had been pretty much disillusioned with MM for nearly a year, perhaps a little longer. Particularly about Britpop which I hated and our publishers were very keen to the point of strict instruction, that we should feature a Britpop band on every cover, which would mean a ceaseless rotation of Blur, Pulp, Oasis, Supergrass. It went on and on, it was dreadful. It cost us significantly in terms of lost circulation. Britpop did not add readers to MM, we lost readers in fact. MM readers bought us because we championed and featured obscure left field music, they didn’t want this kind of mainstream coverage. At the time the coverage of Oasis was so ubiquitous you could read about them from The Times to Farmers Weekly! They were everywhere, the popular press, the tabloids just thrived on one new Oasis outrage after another. They had such enormous coverage that there was nothing special about a MM exclusive on them. At the height of their popularity we had two consecutive Oasis covers, one with Noel and one with Liam Gallagher. They coincided with the Loch Ness Festival that they headlined and also Knebworth, incredibly popular shows but we couldn’t give issues away. Four years earlier I put an American band called Thin White Rope on the cover, for no better reason than the fact that I thought they were amazing and it sold about 80,000 copies. The combined sales of the two Oasis covers didn’t even halfway match that, the circulation had dropped that much. So, I thought we were going in completely the wrong direction, and was further disillusioned by the publishers wanting to make MM a much younger title. They wanted to place it opposite Smash Hits and I thought that was a disastrous plan of action and was wondering what I wanted to do next. The chance came up to go to Nashville and I was so relieved because it was the European Championships. London was just full of Britpop and football, a horrible combination! So, I spent a week in Nashville and during the course of it Kurt (Wagner of Lambchop) and I were talking. He was telling me about his own disillusions and whether he should give up music, keep going or concentrate totally on laying floors, which was the job he had at the time. I confessed to him that I was equally disillusioned with my job and we started talking about it and we discussed an idea of me doing something else and he was really encouraging about it. It was during that period that I came up with an alternative to present to the publishers telling them I wanted to launch another magazine. I could not make the changes they wanted to MM, fundamentally I thought they were going to be disastrous. Obviously if they wanted a younger readership it was not going to pan out. I was getting older, there was going to be a distance between me and the readers which is never a healthy thing. I wanted to do this more mature thing. My first inclination was to do a film magazine and that didn’t pan out. I then accepted that I wasn’t as disillusioned with music as I thought, as every evening I’d still go home, roll up a spliff and listen to Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, The Velvets. So, I thought why not do a mix of music and movies and concentrating on those older more established bands that would appeal to a more mature reader and allow us to write much longer and detailed pieces and also introduce an element of fiction in there also by including movies and books. It was to cover the three great interests I had and I was pretty sure I wasn’t alone in those kinds of enthusiasms. Fortunately, it did turn out well. Kurt’s encouraging words really spurred me on to do what I did and develop Uncut.
Interestingly at that time when you visited Nashville Kurt’s Lambchop was essentially an orchestra with a large arrangement of musicians on board. Whereas he’s now essentially recording solo, experimenting with a computer. He’s still producing great music but I wonder if he’s also experiencing frustrations with the direction the industry has taken in recent years?
Yes, circumstances have dictated that that is the way he has had to go. It must have been incredibly expensive to keep the original Lambchop line up together. To take that band on the road must have been draining financially, but I do think the direction he has taken in recent times has been absolutely fascinating. I went to see him recently in London, he did have a band, Tony Crow was with him. They didn’t really revisit too much old material. It was new, it was fresh, it did not sound like the Lambchop of old particularly, yet all the old elements were there. It was a great show.
Filtering down the albums to review in Uncut must be a complete nightmare, given the amount of music that must be directed your way?
We’ve had a series of review editors who have been incredibly conscientious. In particular Tom Pinnock, who is the current review editor and preceded by John Mulvey. They went to great lengths to listen to almost everything that comes their way, although that’s often impossible to achieve, but that was the ambition. Albums that would come my way would be principally Americana and I would listen to as much of that as possible, especially when I was compiling the Uncut CD. There were some releases that were obvious contenders for the CD, but I always liked to burrow around in the hope of finding something that was totally unexpected from a completely new group.
Thinking about music media in general. Vinyl has made a real recovery and books have survived the kindle threat. Do you feel that the printed music media can survive?
I’d like to be more optimistic, but I can’t see them surviving indefinitely. Uncut and Mojo get by on the circulation that they have at the moment. I fear that with any erosion on their current circulations, which are very low, they would soon face profound trouble. It’s just been announced that NME and Uncut have got sold to a Singapore based media and music Company. Nobody at the moment has any idea what their plans for the titles are, hopefully there will just be publishing continuity and they won’t meddle in the editorial models, especially with Uncut, but nobody is quite certain. When titles are sold on, the future does not always turn out too well for them. The simple fact is that the sales of the music monthlies are just perilously low at the moment and I can’t see where new readers are going to come from. I’m unsure what the average age of an Uncut or Mojo reader is, but it would be on the older side. I don’t know how many younger readers they are attracting, or if younger readers who are interested in the music that Uncut and Mojo write about are getting their information on those bands online, which seems to be the place they go to at the moment. There’s an entire generation that have grown up not actually reading. They were too late for the music weekly’s and hadn’t graduated on to the music monthlies. So, the problem for the magazines is whether there is going to be enough readers to sustain them over the next few years and where they go after that I’ve no idea.
Audiences for Americana live acts facea similar problem attracting a younger audience. Though interestingly, Colter Wall played a sell-out show in Dublin recently, which attracted a young crowd. He had performed at Electric Picnic last year, which is a medium sized boutique festival attended by all ages. He obviously struck a chord with the younger attendees at that Festival and they came out to see him again. It reinforces the point that if people are exposed to good music they will get on board.
Yes. The problem is always how the younger people get to hear the artists in the first place. Encouraging what you say about Colter. Last year I went to The Borderline to see Dawn Landes. She’d just released Meet Me At The River, it got a nine out of ten review in Uncut, favourable review in Mojo, I think The Guardian also gave it the thumbs up yet there were about thirty five people there. I’m sixty seven this year and I felt like a teenager in that audience! I went to see Courtney Marie Andrews last November and it was quite staggering. She’s what, early to mid-20’s and everyone in the audience was over forty or fifty.
I found the many of the chapters in your book, Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, hilarious as well as informative. Lou Reed, renowned for his bad manners, seemed particularly tolerant of you even though you were quite young at the time and ten years his junior. Did your in-depth knowledge of his music help to break the ice?
I think in the end he realised that I wasn’t just sent along as a token part of my job by MM. I was a huge Velvet Underground fan and was incredibly excited to meet him. Lou Reed at that time had no tolerance for journalists, they basically didn’t exist in his eyes. His normal routine was to try and humiliate the journalists, totally disarm them, mess with their heads and be as cruel as possible to them for no great reason except that he didn’t like journalists. When he tried that on me, I just shrugged it off. If he thought he was going to be intimidating he was immediately disappointed, as this was the Lou Reed I was expecting. If I’d gone into the room and he’d been sitting in the corner eating a pastry and sipping camomile tea, then I would have been disappointed! He was just as I thought he might be, which was fantastic. I think initially he was surprised that when he said something, I contested it, I wasn’t afraid to express an opinion and I think he reckoned I was a bit livelier and alert than a lot of the people that are usually sent along to interview him. For instance, on an occasion that I interviewed him he had just released Rock and Roll Heart, which generally got panned by reviewers across the board, whereas I had reviewed it for MM and really loved it. We were talking about some of the tracks on it and I said that I particularly loved a track on it called Ladies Pay. He said curtly ‘’Why’’ and I replied that I thought the guitar solo on it is fantastic. There isn’t a guitar solo on it was his response, thinking that would be the end of the debate. I told him again that there is a guitar solo on it. ‘’The guitar kicks in before the song picks up and it’s one continual guitar piece that runs through the entire song, I call that a guitar solo’’. He just laughed and said ‘’ok there is a guitar solo and it’s probably the greatest one ever recorded’’! A combination of flattery, knowledge and detail of his work provoked a more tolerant attitude to me and dropped the prejudice he previously had. He stopped treating me like a journalist and starting treating me as someone he could have a pretty intelligent conversation with. I didn’t think I was stupid. I knew a lot about The Velvets, who influenced them, the whole Andy Warhol scene. I’d been to Art School, when he realised all these things, he warmed to me a little more. I also think he found me funny and to my huge surprise we just hit it off and he became really friendly. I’d been told before the interview not to mention The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, John Cale, David Bowie, don’t talk about (the album) Berlin at any cost and whatever I do don’t mention Metal Machine Music. Of course, they were all my questions and I thought this is probably the only chance I’m ever going to get to meet Lou Reed and how can I get any conversation going without mentioning some,if not all,of the things they told me were off limits. So, I asked all the questions I’d prepared and he answered without any hesitation at all, and in incredible detail. I thought I really had a great interview. We’d drank the best part of two bottles of Johnny Walker Whiskey and I was packing up to leave. I was reeling a bit, well more than a bit, I’d only been drinking to be sociable of course (laughs), when he asked what I was doing next week and to come on the road with him. ‘’I’m on a European tour starting in Sweden and I want you there’’. I thought he was joking, but he called the head of press at Arista Label into the room, a chap called Howard Harding, and told him ‘’Allan is coming on tour with me’’. Harding looked at me and I looked at him and he said ‘but he’s a journalist Lou!’. Lou brushed him aside and told him to make sure I got air tickets and the hotel sorted and that I’ll be waiting for him at the hotel. True to his word, a week later a car turned up, whisked me to Heathrow, I flew to Stockholm, a car was waiting for me at the airport, I was driving to the hotel and there was Lou Reed in the lobby waiting for me. Absolutely amazing!
I’m not surprised he was uncomfortable around journalists, given that he undeservedly and consistently got bad reviews for albums that have since become highly rated. Most of the press just wanted Transformer Parts 2,3 and 4. What they got was Berlin, Sally Can’t Dance, Coney Island Baby and Rock n Roll Heart, all of which have stood the test of time.
They do sound better now than they did back at that time in many ways. A lot of people have been reassessing all those albums in recent years, albums that were dismissed largely out of hand. A lot of people, and I talked with Lou a lot about this, were just disappointed that he just didn’t die like Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix where his legend would be intact. He was very, very aware of that and used to go on about it at great lengths. You could say the same about Bob Dylan. His albums in the 80’s were castigated, weren’t properly listened to, but each one of them has at least one or probably more tracks that was much better than anything that was being released around that time by his contemporaries. The albums that people thoroughly dismissed, was there ever any worse reviews given out for Knocked Out Loaded, probably not. Yet the album has one of Dylan’s greatest songs Brownsville Girl, a ten-minute epic song, quite unlike anything else in Dylan’s catalogue and probably my favourite Dylan song, at least when I’m not playing Up To Me which brilliantly was the song that was left off Blood On The Tracks! (laughs)
Your interview with Warren Zevon towards the end of his career was quite sad in many ways. He was solo in London when you encountered him?
Yeah, he had such a bad reputation within the music industry because of his drug use and massive alcohol intake, his unreliability and inability to work really. There was an attempt to revive his career when he signed to Virgin. Sentimental Hygiene didn’t sell terribly well, even with REM as his backing band and with Dylan and Neil Young on it. It just didn’t sell. The following album Transverse City cost a fortune to produce, I don’t think they actually finished the album, Virgin just released it as a bit of a Heaven’s Gate job. It nearly bankrupted Zevon and after that no major record label would go near him. He really struggled financially. Where his albums up to Transverse City had been recorded in one of the L.A. major recording studios with a stellar cast of musicians, Fleetwood Mac’s rhythm section, The Beach Boys and some of The Eagles doing harmonies. Everybody loved Zevon, everybody wanted to contribute. But finally, he was reduced to just recording albums on his own with a drum machine and some young engineer. Warren played on most of the tracks, maybe got Jim Keltner in occasionally to help out on drums. By the time I saw him there was no budget for a band, he couldn’t take musicians on the road and it was him on guitar and keyboards. It was still a fantastic show and when I met him backstage, he didn’t look like he was exactly on his uppers, very expensively dressed, a handsome and very cool guy. He was resigned to it I think; he was very wry about the fact that he couldn’t afford to keep a band on the road. I asked him how much he would need and he replied ‘’how much have you got’’. I didn’t even have the cab fare home so he was very disappointed that I couldn’t make an immediate investment in his career! (laughs). It’s a pretty sad story.
Reading through the lines, I don’t expect that you’re on Sting’s Christmas Card list!
(Laughs) From the very first time I met him; he was a pain in the arse. I didn’t dislike him entirely. I remember doing a very long interview with him for a MM cover story. It was the first time The Police headlined the Reading Festival; I think it was 1979. I spent the whole afternoon with him, got a really good interview and kind of liked him. His arrogance was immediately apparent but there was at that time a bit of a wry humility about him. It didn’t last very long and even during the course of the interview, the longer he was talking the fuller of himself he seemed to become. He almost became a different person after the interview than before. When I went on the Far East tour with The Police, Miles Copeland their manager had really liked the piece I had written on the Squeeze tour in Australia and asked if I could write something like that about The Police in the Far East. So, we went to Bombay and Cairo before heading to Athens and Milan. It was like being on the road with a branch of the Nat West, all they spoke about was money and how much money they were going to make out of this tour. Copeland would look out at India and say ‘’there must be a market for t- shirts in this sub-continent’’. Every discussion was about money, how much they were earning, how much it was costing them to get from one place to another, could they do it cheaper. It was very waring and Sting had this terrible habit of whatever country we were in, he would immediately adopt the national dress. I nearly died when he walked into Miles Copeland’s suite in Bombay wearing a fucking turban!
I sense that Bryan Ferry was equally ambitious, yet he comes across as not quite as self-confident as I would have assumed, reading some of your interviews with him?
Definitely. He was always very nervous, quite diffident, very different to Sting who would walk into to room and expect it to change just because of his presence. You would hardly notice Bryan (Ferry) coming into a room, which is not to suggest he was furtive. I think there was simply an inherent shyness about him and as you point out, a lack of confidence. I particularly noticed this when I interviewed him in the studio atthe time, he was finishing off his solo album, In Your Mind. He’d been in there nights on end, missing the deadline to complete the album. I was there for hours watching him work with his co-producer and engineer. They were just going over and over the same tracks and slightly modifying them each time. It suggested to me less a pursuit of perfection and more of a kind of indecision, a lack of confidence as to what should be the final mix. It was painstaking and Ferry would always leave finalising the lyrics to the Roxy Music tracks to the very last moment. The group would have no idea what they were creating or what Ferry was going to bring to it, or what his final vocals would be. It must have been pretty frustrating for the group, waiting for him to finally come up with the lyrics. He was forever polishing them or couldn’t decide. He also always seemed very easily grieved by criticism, not in the way that Sting would be, but more deeply concerned that he’d done something that people didn’t like. It was peculiar because he was obviously so popular in the U.K. at the time, but he was always very concerned that he hadn’t cracked America. This worried him and I think slowed him down in his creative process. ‘’What did I not do to get that elusive American hit’’. Even in the U.K. when he became less popular, I interviewed him at the time he released The Bride Stripped Bare solo album. He had just released what I thought to be a terrific single called Sign Of The Times which had been absolutely castigated by the music press especially by a guy called, Chris Grazier in MM. He had used the opportunity to attack Ferry, who had been reported in the press as having stayed in some grand hotel during the recording of the album. Grazier went off on this as evidence of Ferry’s decadence, which was grossly unfair.
You spoke in Kilkenny about your review process for albums, the number of listens required and the word count allocated to the album. Do any albums come to mind that became favourites that you posted lukewarm accounts on their release?
Not too many. I didn’t give a good review to Lou Reed’s Sally Can’t Dance, which I almost immediately regretted but in the long run I think my first instincts are the ones I stuck to. There were certainly albums that I reviewed and dismantled that sold in their millions but their popularity and me subsequently returning to them didn’t alter my initial opinion on them. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd is one that immediately comes to mind.
And is it reasonable to expect a writer to review an album in 150 or 200 words?
Well, I find it very difficult to write a review that in its first attempt doesn’t reach 3000 words! I just make notes and notes and notes, If I wrote them all up it would be completely unmanageable. I do find it very hard. For the guide page reviews in Uncut I thinks it’s now stuck at around 120 words which I find hellish. I do prefer having a much higher word count and more space to fill. But Uncut’s ambition is to review as many new albums as possible, which dictates that the reviews themselves have to be quite brief. It is difficult, especially if it’s a really good album which you think should be an album of the month, which you could write a thousand words on. You just have to accept that it’s a basic fact, not everything can be a lead review, there’s only going to be one album of the month. Some people are very deft at short reviews and find a way to convey a sense of the album very economically. I always regret there are so many tracks you can’t mention in detail and you can only give some very broad flavour of the album, highlighting maybe one or two tracks. It’s frustrating, you listen to something that’s so good and you want to write enough about it to give the album some attention and alert the reader to the nuance of it, the content, what it’s all about. You can’t get away with saying ‘’this is a great album. You have to justify it and in a hundred or hundred and twenty words, I personally find it very difficult.
Have you any ambitions for writing Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down Vol.2? There must be a lot of untold stories waiting to be told?
There are at least enough stories left for another volume! I’m not sure if the publishers would be that interested, they haven’t expressed any interest so far and when I retired from Uncut, I had no intention of writing any books at all. Major publishers are only interested in biographies of very major stars. When I made a list of who I would like to spend two to four years researching about for a book and then writing it, it was a very short list. Nobody needs another book on Bob Dylan. A Scottish writer named Ian Bell did a two volume Dylan biography and after that nobody need bother. You can add to it, but that’s such a brilliant piece of work, what is the point. I was approached by a publisher to do Cant Stand Up For Falling Down and most of the material was already written in one way or another. I just had to revisit it and polish it up a bit. I was happy to do that but the money on offer nowadays for even a major biography is so risible. If I was in a different position and really needed to work perhaps, I would consider doing that, but spending months and years just knocking off some biography, I can’t see the point in it.
Final question. You’re packing off to a desert island with a complete back catalogue of a few artists, excluding Bob Dylan, which ones would you choose?
Can I take their entire back catalogue (enthusiastically!)?
Ok so. Van Morrison, Lou Reed / Velvet Underground, Gram Parsons who’d be very close to the top of the pile, Neil Young, The Stones obviously, The Small Faces would be in there, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Warren Zevon who I love and Lambchop as well.
Interview by Declan Culliton