You are someone who has engaged with a range of different forms of writing and art, did these elements develop separate from one other or have they always been complimentary?
My dad studied to be a cartoonist, so as a boy I emulated him and discovered I also had a basic talent for drawing. He used to throw newspapers across the room in disgust when he saw the satirical cartoons, convinced he could do better. He gave up. Now he works in a factory.
However, I was obsessed with horror books and horror movies, so I filled sketchbooks with the kind of stuff that frightened my teachers. They made my parents take me to a psychiatrist.
Reading and writing was something that came naturally to me as well, but I started writing seriously just before I left school. I filled notebooks and read as much as I could and made my first submission to a magazine about five years later. Charles Johnson, poet and editor of Obsessed with Pipework, published my first poems. He used to mark my work. He’d write things like ‘This is bullshit and you know it!’ in the margin of a particularly bad poem. Without his feedback and generosity it would’ve taken me a lot longer to get published.
Everything else just followed naturally, the experiments with painting, music, photography, film etc – I am an intensely creative person, and would be happy expressing myself with any medium. But I am better at writing than anything else, so that is what I focus most of my energy on for now.
You have a very prominent autobiographical tone in your writing, which particular writers have had an influence with regards to this?
The Beat Generation, Jim Carroll and Charles Bukowski to begin with, but Harvey Pekar and Richard Brautigan, along with my research into Outsider Art, changed everything for me. Something about turning myself into art seemed to make sense, even if my life isn’t particularly interesting, the challenge, as we all know, is to find deeper meaning in even the most mundane situations, or to inject imagination into an otherwise ordinary experience, like doing the washing up or walking to the shop – even though writers and artists will always feel the need to explore the same themes over and over again, we each have our own reality, and the world as we know it must pass through the filters of our own experience. To be honest, the truth interests me. Everybody has their own version of it.
How conscious are you of the confessional or transgressive nature in your poems? Do you see any limitations in the linking of the transgressive with the personal, in the sense that it may prove problematic for others to read or for you to live up to? I am thinking here of a number of interviews with Hunter S Thompson, in his post Fear & Loathingdays, where he speaks of the frustration of being expected to write exclusively in that Fear & Loathing mode, and to behave in that manner too.
Hunter S Thompson made a caricature of himself. I hope I never do that. I try to transmit what happens in my head onto the page. From the beginning, I have slowly been pushing my honesty to a point where it is uncomfortable to people. People, in my experience, are more receptive when they have been affected by something, even in a bad way. It leaves a mark. Ghost Town Music has been my most popular book so far because I didn’t hold back in any way. If I upset people, myself or my family included, I didn’t stop to think about that. I can’t, it would undermine what I am trying to achieve.
My chapbook Building Murder with a Smile (the red ceilings press) has been my first attempt to capture a mood without telling on myself or using autobiography. Although it was written using the main ingredients of my psyche: Fear and Anxiety – I hope that is what comes across when people read it. A friend of mine called it a dark, nightmarish soap opera, which I think is pretty accurate.
My next book, Comberton (the knives forks and spoons press), has pushed autobiography as far as I’m willing to go at the moment without getting myself locked up or ostracized. If I had to explain why I do it, why I reveal my deep, dark and dirty secrets, why I publish the things that people save for therapy or the closet, I’d say it’s because I wish people would be more open. They shouldn’t be made to feel so alone all the time.
Do you feel that the domestic takes quite a big role in your writing? There seems to be an overt tension between an exterior space and an interior one, particularly in poems like 'Do you feel an idiot when you dance at parties?'
Yes, or at least it has. I’m not sure if it will continue to do so. Maybe there’s no escaping it. We are all locked into domestic routines whether we like it or not. But rather than let them suffocate me, I prefer to tell you that when I’m stuck in a room worrying about the bills or why my wife is pissed off at me, I am also somewhere else. I suppose it’s that ‘somewhere else’ that I’m trying to articulate.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment I am plotting and researching my first novel, which is about a post-op transsexual going through a psychotic breakdown.
I am also putting together a book of ghostly images and words called Phantomland and slowly piecing together Freak Exorcism (the final part of the trilogy that started with Ghost Town Music and Comberton). Both of these will be published by the knives forks and spoons press.