It has been written…

DSCF4225-RedigeraThere’s this famous quote that’s been attributed to various people over the years (Laurie Anderson, Steve Martin, Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Thelonius Monk, Clara Schumann, Miles Davis, George Carlin, to name a few), but was probably coined by Martin Mull; ”Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

While I can see the point the quote is making, I’m inclined to disagree somewhat. It is true that the experience of music does not really transfer into writing, but there is still a lot one can learn about music through reading. I am a passionate reader of biographies and musical literature, and it’s been a constant source of insight and knowledge to me.

thedirtUsually, my favorites are the ones that take you inside the creative process of an artist, let you inside the recording studios, the rehearsal rooms, the philosophy and the inspiration. The more gossipy ones that focus mainly on the private lives, addictions, divorces and scandals of the artists are generally less interesting to me, but of course there are exceptions. I mean, ’The Dirt’ is obviously a highly entertaining read.

In the Billy Momo mini-documentary ’The dirt road to Seven Rivers Wild’ Orren jokingly refers to me as a ”human encyclopedia”, which is quite an exaggeration of course, but I do enjoy collecting little nuggets of musical trivia, connecting dots, and discovering context. So it was with great pleasure I came home the other day to find a new book in my mailbox, Andrew Greenaway’s ’Frank talk: The inside stories of Zappa’s other people’. Basically it’s a collection of interviews with various FZ alumni, and I’m devouring it like a dog attacks a sausage.

I usually share a list of ”recommended listening” in my posts, but today I thought I’d share some of my favorite books about music, so that you may also have the pleasure of reading them.

Daniel_LanoisSOUL MINING: A MUSICAL LIFE – DANIEL LANOIS A beautiful memoir by the legendary producer/musician/artist Daniel Lanois. It has atmosphere dripping from every page, much like the man’s music.

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME: MUSIC, RACE & THE SOUL OF AMERICA – CRAIG WERNER
A thorough analysis of how music has been part of the civil rights movement in the U.S. Deeply fascinating, should be required reading in school.

ONE TRAIN LATER: A MEMOIR – ANDY SUMMERS
The Police guitarist writes poetically and beautifully, he could easily have pursued a career as an author instead of playing with one of the biggest acts in the history of popular music.

ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE: THE BAND AND AMERICA – BARNEY HOSKYNS The story of one of the most influential music groups of all time, written by one of the best music writers around. Very insightful and revealing.

BODY AND SOUL – FRANK CONROY This is a novel, unlike the others, but it is by far the most beautifully written book about the experience of being a musician I’ve ever come across. This one actually manages to dance about architecture! Warning: You will cry. A lot.

keith moonDEAR BOY: THE LIFE OF KEITH MOON – TONY FLETCHER Speaks for itself, really. A crazy ride through a life lived in the fast lane. Entertaining, legendary, and also surprisingly moving.

TRAVELING MUSIC: THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY LIFE AND TIMES – NEIL PEART The drummer/lyricist of Rush literally takes a road trip as well as a trip down memory lane as he listens to various albums along the way. A combined travel book and memoir.

IN COLD SWEAT: INTERVIEWS WITH REALLY SCARY MUSICIANS -THOMAS WICTOR
Exactly what it says on the tin. Gene Simmons, Peter Hook, Jerry Casale and especially the truly one of a kind Scott Thunes in personal portraits of a lifetime in music.

LORDS OF CHAOS: THE BLOODY RISE OF THE SATANIC METAL UNDERGROUND – MICHAEL MOYNIHAN AND DIDRIK SODERLIND A modern classic, investigating one of the most truly bizarre subcultures to ever emerge in music. Remember the early 90s, people?

rednecksREDNECKS AND BLUENECKS: THE POLITICS OF COUNTRY MUSIC – CHRIS WILLMAN
The political landscape of the U.S. viewed through the Country music industry. An often surprising read, tremendously insightful and educational.

THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA BOOK – FRANK ZAPPA AND PETER OCCHIOGROSSO
Not exactly a memoir, but rather part behind the scenes revelations, part political manifesto and part pure entertainment. Funny as shit.

BILL BRUFORD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY – BILL BRUFORD
Typically British dry wit and a generous dose of sarcasm make Bruford’s recollections bitingly funny, while at the same time displaying a never-ending quest for musical discovery and progress. Inspiring!

CHRONICLES – BOB DYLAN Beautifully written, as one would expect, a real treasure chest of musical history, and language that flows like wine. Supremely good.

FARGO ROCK CITY – CHUCK KLOSTERMAN Hysterically funny and strangely clever writing about being a metalhead back in the 80s. You will laugh your ass off while being nostalgic for an era you thought you despised. Possibly the funniest book you’ll ever read.

There should be something here for everyone. Enjoy!

/Gramps

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Being open to inspiration

Photo: Christopher Anderzon
Tomas Juto, aka Barba.

I read an interview with Tom Waits the other day about writing music. He said something about making your life a place where songs would like to come and visit. If one song comes, others will follow.

I totally agree with that. So I started thinking about when I get inspired to write. And more importantly, when I don’t get inspired to write. So that I can eliminate those things while I’m writing.

The first thing is turn the TV of. Not if a movie with Tom Hardy is on. Then turn the TV back on. Not because of inspiration. Just because he’s fucking brilliant. And smoking hot.

Red wine always seems to work for me. But being a responsible dad I can’t go around half drunk all the time. So that’s a weekend thing.

Driving is perfect! I write most of my stuff in the car. Recording on my phone and using my voice memo for lyric ideas n stuff.
I even had a keyboard in my car for a while when we where recording the Drunktalk album. I was stuck in crosstown traffic everyday back then, and Stockholm traffic can be a bitch, so I started having my own jam sessions while waiting for the car in front of me to move a few meters.
Anyways, I’m all about getting in to that writing mood right now. I’ll let you know how it goes. (Tomas Juto, aka Barba).

New album, new drama

Tomas_928 copy
Barba. Photo: Robert Eldrim.

I’ve never been one of those great lyricists that can just make up a story about a heart broken blind man who is unhappily in love with a deaf woman cause he can’t find a way to chat her up, and build an amazing story around that. I’m more of a hands on kind of guy. I have to fuck things up a little to have something to write about.

So going into another writing period as we are at the moment is always interesting. I’m in a quite peaceful and calm state of mind at the moment and have been for a while now. I guess times they are a changing.
Hold on to your hats friends. New songs in the making.