* *


Provokator: Music has obviously played a significant role in your life. Therefore, my first question is a simple one: how has music informed your work?

Stewart Home: Well I didn't set out to become a writer, in fact from around from the age of 9 when I first heard "Get It On" by T. Rex and the saw them on TV, I wanted to play in a band. So I was playing music in public from the late-seventies through to the end of the eighties, and I also used to review a lot of rock concerts and records for fanzines, which is how I started writing. I didn't intend to write but I just slipped into it from doing music reviews and composing song lyrics... My first novel Pure Mania was based around music, the rise to fame of a neo-punk band called Alienation. All my early novel titles were lifted from relatively obscure punk songs too, regardless of whether the book had any actual music content. But while I grew up around the late seventies London punk rock scene, the other thing that was very big at that time among my peers was obscure sixties American soul music; what in the UK is often called Northern Soul. This is also something I love and my recent novel titles have been taken from soul and jazz tunes rather than punk rock songs. But the musical influence goes deeper than that in the books, since the rhythm of my prose is very important to me. Likewise my mind is saturated with tunes because I listen to music all the time, even when I write, and I'll use odd phrases from songs in my prose...

P: You state in your mission statement on your website that one of your motivations is blurring the lines between artistic mediums and literary genres. What do you hope your readers gain from this blurring of the lines? Is genre a limitation? Couldn't one say that by denying genre, you are therefore creating a new type of genre, a "non-genre"?

SH: Well I’d use the term audience, because sometimes I work the same material through different mediums such as writing, film, sound pieces, gallery work. But to narrow down what we’re speaking about, I don't find traditional literature very interesting, and in all the high modernist prose that interests me (surrealism, nouveau roman etc.) you witness the appropriation of hardboiled prose and other forms of genre fiction. I attempted to take that further by creating a self-conscious simulation of genre plotting in my earlier novels... I think that by blurring boundaries you can create more interesting prose. But things move on, what is progressive at one moment will cease to be so at other times. And of course one has to live out the contradictions of the world we live in, so "non-genre" (the "anti-tradition" is the term one sees more frequently used to describe this in the Anglo-American world) becomes another genre, just as so called "literature" is in fact just another genre and not something that rises above genre.... But a lot of the anti-tradition figures that interest me work across different mediums, and to take just a couple of well know names, you see Burroughs working a lot with sound and later in art galleries, and Robbe-Grillet working with film.

P: It's interesting that work such as yours which attempts to cross borders parallels what is happening in the world right now in terms of globalization, the spread of English as the lingua franca, and blurring of gender distinction. Do you believe that genre and distinct artistic mediums don't or shouldn't play a significant role in a society such as the one we live in today?

SH: I guess I come at this from a slightly different angle to you. To me the social relations that produce cultures are more important than the cultural objects (be that books, paintings, films or whatever) that emerge from them - and I really don't like the commodified society we live in. Genre is used to sell products, so the ad runs if you liked Martin Amis (I didn't and don't) then you'll also like Will Self (I don't). We need to get away from the idea of genre precisely because it is a function of commodification, it is all about making books (and other cultural products) saleable. So I think getting rid of genre distinctions is a small part of a much larger struggle, which is abolishing the capitalist society in which we live and under which we have all lived for some time, it is about opposition to both command and free market economies... Moving on, I think the blurring of gender distinctions can occur in both progressive and retrogressive ways, that the ability of women to collectively empower themselves is progressive, and that attempts to leave men feeling insecure so that they become better consumers of beauty products is retrogressive... I'm not against men becoming more beautiful, I'm against beauty being used as a vehicle for commodification. And while men wearing dresses is a good thing, it is not so great if this is done half-heartedly, they really need to walk the walk and talk the talk like a woman. For a man to pass as a woman takes effort, and I really appreciate it when I see a good drag queen; but a dress alone does not a woman make, and I think there's nothing sadder than a half-hearted cross-dresser. And moving on again, there is a difference between gloabalisation and internationalism, so I'm against the former and for the latter. English is obviously a very flexible language, since it is essentially a Creole created from other languages, but its success does make it very difficult for writers outside the main language groups to find an audience in their native tongue, and these problems shouldn't be glossed over, since the success of English has downsides as well as benefits.

P: Can you tell our readers something about your twelfth novel *Memphis Underground*?

SH: It is written using a time slip device, whereby I have inter-cut chapters describing the life of the same person six months apart, during which time they assume a false identity and are forced to move from London to an island off the north coast of Scotland by their economic circumstances. This is a device one encounters most frequently in science fiction, although I haven't written a science fiction book, and I'm using it in part to explore ideas about the relationship between what in the US would be termed the ghetto and the suburbs. It is annoying to see the way in which inner London is being suburbanised by the influx of the very rich as the City increasingly re-establishes itself as the financial centre of the world. This is of course running in parallel with the rise of the internet, which by removing the need many people used to feel to travel to urban centres to keep up with the latest cultural and other developments, also contributes towards the suburbanisation of urban areas in the overdeveloped world.

P: *Memphis Underground* posits questions regarding several contemporary artistic issues, including who influences the youth culture. Do you believe youth culture is suffering at the hands of the media and those adults experiencing a "premature second childhood" that control it, or blossoming because of it? Should the generation gap also begin to merge?

SH: There is a lot less about youth culture in this book than my earlier novels. There is a lot about music but this isn't addressed from the perspective of youth but rather from the point of view of an adult male aged around forty. In London youth culture is far less visible than it used to be twenty or thirty years ago. There are a number of factors for this, soaring property prices make it hard to run clubs that appeal to more marginal tastes, so clubs have tended to become more homogenous and.try to appeal to everyone; the problem with this is that in trying to find something everyone likes the successful clubs end up removing all the specific things specific people like, so in going out of their way to alienate nobody, they end up serving up a musical experience that is so bland that nobody really likes it either. Which is why, dub step, the most interesting thing happening in London recently, is going on in the south and not the centre of the city. There are more interesting clubs from a music point of view in the centres of places like Glasgow, where rents are not so high and so there is less pressure just to pack people in than central London. Likewise, much youth culture in London from the late fifties onwards was based around music, and with the rise of computer gaming, music is not as important to the current generation of youths as it was to mine. Add to this the factor that now most teenagers have parents and grandparents who grew up with rock and dance music, and you can see it no longer has the appeal of appearing to be rebellious. Moving on, in a non-commodified world the separation between generations would not only be undesirable, it just wouldn't happen.

P: In just the first chapter, the novel includes delays, added stress and practical jokes at the hands of technology and modern machines. Since technology isn't going anywhere, should we fight against it and send a call out to nostalgia, do we have to embrace it or can a balance be achieved?

SH: The world is changing all the time whether we like it or not, we can't go back to the Stone Age. We need technology to support the human population we now have. But technology isn't neutral, and we need to grasp the way it moulds and affects our lives and try to work out ways we can make it work better for us. Again in the commodity culture we live in, technology is going to appear particularly obnoxious, but we can't just ignore it and hope it will go away; we have to deal with it.

P: Along the same lines, do you feel that the gradual flow of the written word from page to monitor is harming the younger generation's experience of literature, or even adding to the lack of that experience?

SH: I think most people still prefer to read novels on the page than on screen, but that may change as the technology changes. I don't think the screen is the problem unless one perceives a decline in reading as a problem, the reason people read less is because there are other diversions including access to films, games and music on disk and as downloads. But there are still kids getting into books, and actually I think the quality of readers ultimately counts for more than the quantity of them. The young have the problem of the market being more sophisticated about how it sells them crap than was the case for my generation, but I think the majority are intelligent enough to get through that if they want to, and will find their way towards something more satisfying...So I'm not particularly worried about them having an impoverished literary experience. While things might be a little depressing right now, I think that ultimately the kids will find their way to a new world, in part because this one is so miserable and unsatisfying.

P: *Memphis Underground* also deals with the pursuit of fame in contemporary society. In a world where people will do anything to be famous and others will watch them no matter how idiotic the action, what can artists and writers do to counteract the thoughtlessness and languor? Should we keep it to the underground, or attempt to cast the net into the greater pond?

SH: My strategy has always been to use all channels available to me. So I've published with corporate publishers and independents, I've used art galleries and film. I think it’s important to understand that the market distorts everything and that much that is interesting currently gets ignored because of this. So one has to educate oneself in the ways of the market and exploit its contradictions without allowing what one wants to do to be influenced by this, the trick while we are living out the contradictions of this world is to find ways in which the market which is everywhere will accept what you want to do, rather than producing material that panders to the market. Ultimately the market will be abolished, and today’s best selling books will no longer be consumed, while my writing will be read by an ever growing audience.

P: What can readers and audiences expect from Stewart Home in the future?

SH: The unexpected. Maybe a porn movie without any sex in it...

P: And finally, do you have any advice for the next generation of writers and artists?

SH: Yeah, don't listen to the advice people dole out to you. Work it out for yourself. Do your thing and don't worry about its reception until you're ready to deal with that. If you think something is worth doing then so called "success" doesn't matter, and if you have some success then that's just a minor bonus...

Originally posted at: www.provokator.org - with the following introduction: "In anticipation of the upcoming BLATTFEST, Provokator sat down with writer, artist, musician, Stewart Home to discuss music, the modern world and his twelfth novel Memphis Underground. Originally entitled "BLATTFEST: Digging at Stewart Home's Underground." BLATTFEST 2 – 5 May, Blind Eye, Vlkova 26, Prague."


Lost In Eurospace: Thursday is now just a blur of meeting people and doing things, although I can remember making it to the Martin Creed opening in Cheshire Street. It was packed, an orchestra set up in a line played a simple series of notes and there was a black and white film of ass shagging projected onto a wall. Oh, and a nice neon sign saying "friends" and another wall was covered with black and white stripes. As you'd expect it was minimal, baby, minimal... Except for the fact you couldn't move because it was so packed. I was trying to find Tony White and we managed to exchange texts but weren't able to link up. Didn't see Martin Creed either... although I guess he was there somewhere... I legged it back out for some air and ran into Laura Oldfield and then a whole slew of other people I know who'd either spilt onto the street or hadn't been allowed in the gallery because it was too crowded... Eventually Margarita Gluzberg sailed into view and led me merrily around the corner to see her show 'Funk of Terror into Psychic Bricks' which just around the bend at Paradise Row. The title comes from Norman Mailer's coverage of the 1974 'Rumble in the Jungle' boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. It is Rita's first solo show for eight years (although she's been in many group exhibitions) and consists of a mix of large-scale coloured and black and white pencil drawings of boxers in clinches and naked self-portraits from a girl who likes to make love wearing boxing gloves baby. On a conceptual level the show is a fight between abstraction and figuration, a slugging match between romanticism and modernism. Me being me, I liked the harder edged more abstract black and white works best... Check it out baby....

The next day I took easyJet (or lousyJet as I think of it) to Prague so that I could appear in the Blatt Literary Festival. Unfortunately the plane was packed out with twenty-something British male sex tourists who were a pain in the butt as they screamed about how they'd brought Viagra with them so that they didn't "come within 30 seconds after laying out a ton on a whore..." I think there is something wrong with anyone who feels they need to pay for sex... Like try free love baby, you'll have better orgasms.. Anyway I was picked up at the airport by Travis Jeppensen and Heidi James and Heidi did such a good job of pretending to be my wife that we were given a room together (we were just kidding people on, and if we'd wanted a room together we'd have just asked for it...). So after a shower it was out for a slap up meal with Howard the man behind Twisted Spoon Press. Having stuffed ourselves it was time to move on to the reading at the Blind Eye. And there it was free drinks all night for the readers, an open invitation to get drunk... Heidi was up first doing among other things a fist fucking scene from her new novel, which went down a storm. No one was expecting me to do ventriloquism but I did and that went down a storm too... After a break Tom McCarthy gave a top performance despite being dosed up with aspirin and other shit coz he'd got a headache as a result of drinking all day; although that didn't slow down his beer consumption once the readings were over. I had a few more beers before moving onto absinthe and I don't remember too much after that. Yeah, I took the sugar, dipped it in the alcohol and set fire to the whole thing, savouring those green-blue flames baby... For those who don't know, absinthe is a distilled highly alcoholic anise-flavoured spirit derived from herbs including wormwood. Although it is sometimes mistakenly called a liqueur, absinthe is not bottled with added sugar and is, therefore, classified as a spirit. Absinthe's flavour is similar to other anise-flavoured drinks, with a light bitterness and added complexity imparted by multiple herbs. And if you drink very much of it, then you too are likely to find yourself lost in Eurospace, just as I did...

Stewart Home blog posting Sunday, May 06, 2007.

Memphis Underground

Stewart Home interviewed by Michael K


Stewart Home portrait 2004Stewart Home portrait 2004Stewart Home portrait 2004

Stewart Home in his hotel room before doing a reading in Brighton....
Home in his hotel room warming up for his Brighton reading.

Incomplete Adventures
So Flixation last Wednesday was a groove and a gas (even a gassssss), and I got to try out my ventriloquist act for the first time alongside my more usual readings... I was happy enough with that although I realised I needed to practice mike technique with the dummy.... So I left The Smoke on the Eurostar on Saturday, never taken it to Brussels before - only Paris - but it didn't really feel any different... then a a couple of changes to get to Maastricht; and all the while reading thru a ms copy of Mark Waugh's unpublished novel "BGDY"... which is fabulous. So I arrived and Marina Vishmidt met me coming out of the station... And I got myself a nice room with a kitchenette and all.... So after a shower it was time for dinner which was a big collective thing, and then a screening of "Venom & Eternity" with English subtitles by Isidore Isou, a lettriste avant-garde classic but still deeply influenced by dada and surrealism... oh and then just socialising... followed by sleep and a late breakfast before the real workshops on lettriste and post-lettriste cinema began. First up "Spectacle Recycled: Debord and the Curse of Post-Revolutionary Subjectivity" by Markus Klammer and Stephane Montavon. So we got a critique of Debord via Frankfurt School and other sources read in accented English between the gaps in the "original' French language version of "Screams In Favour of De Sade".... Interesting but I'd have linked the critique of Debord's fascination with conspiracy more explicitly to Bakuninism, and balanced this against more positive anti-vanguardist influences picked up from the communist-left... Next I did my usual thing and screened some of my films... trying mainly to broaden the debate out by insisting that lettrisme and Debord's post-lettriste cinema (still very heavily indebted to Isou, Wolman and others) can only be understood in a wider culture context... Which was also a point central to Nicolas Siepen's presentation "The Flight From The Flight: Film, Politics, Collectivity, Authorship, Subjectivity, Trace (May 68)" So what with film screenings (some simultaneous on monitors outside the main room) and the presentations, all this took nearly ten hours. Then a barbecue and more drinking followed by more sleep....
Stewart Home blog posting Monday, April 30, 2007.

Last Night...
Last night I did a talk with Iain Sinclair at the Soho Theatre. It was packed and afterwards in the bar I spoke to loads of people I hadn't seen for ages...
Stewart Home blog posting Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Brighton Breezy
Groovy times in Brighton, three days of what should have been fun in the sun, but turned out to be fun in the rain. The weather was poor but I had a blast. I got to catch up with shed loads of people I know, although a lot of the time there was a professional aspect to it. Hanging with writers also meant talking about texts I was editing by them, and I also hung out a lot with painter/photographer Julia King... her work is fabulous, both the paintings and the photographs and she's done some great images of me during that time (including the painting used on the cover of my Pure Mania CD)... The reading I did at the Permanent Gallery was a gas and we had a solid turn out despite pissing rain... Yeah words and music and good vibes and quite a few books sold. I used to read a lot in Brighton, but not since Do Tongues closed down, so it was great to get headline status on a Tight Lip bill. The recital from Memphis Underground was acceptable, actually the first time out in public, and the ventriloquism continues to go down a storm... first time for Brighton anyway... Oh and then there was the hotel... close to the nudist beach and a lot of gay cruising goes on down there.... which made me wonder if all the hefty women at breakfast (and there were a lot of them) were bull dykes down for a dirty weekend... Yeah, pretty surreal, these big but still beautiful women together in groups of two, four and even six at the breakfast tables... but always even numbers... whatever they were doing they looked like they were having a ball....
Stewart Home blog posting Sunday, May 13, 2007.

Groovy Good Times In Glasgow
Hey been busy yet again... but Sunday was another top night at Pre-Op.... but it really started on Saturday with me heading off to Stirling... I'd been to Stirling a shed load of times in the past but never to the university.... so I didn't even know it was at Bridge of Allen, rather than in Stirling town centre.... but I made the scene and after much talk of Joyce and Borges I took a walk into Bridge of Allen, not much to do there except wander along the river for 20 minutes until it was time for dinner at Clive Ramay's. So this was a more select gathering than earlier but I was concentrating on the food as much as the conversation.... yeah like salad for starters, spinach crepe for mains and double espresso for afters.... so then there was a ceilidh in The Royal Hotel, but the band wasn't really my thing, much too much on the beat, not enough playing around it, so I went back to the hotel with the Wallace Monument towering just outside my window... no internet connection which meant I watched the Hendrix documentary on BBC4... I dunno I would have preferred Hendrix doing more soul numbers like in the old days before he made it... the rock routines are okay, but they don't smoke they way he does playing instrumentals with Curtis Knight (shame about the vocals on a lot of that stuff); but I think the discipline of soul bands was better for him, good suits and groovy dance steps rather than this rockist let it all hang out indulgence.... yeah well Sunday had a few more film references than the day before, and it was an early kick off at 9.30am, so I was up at seven... but not talking till 4.10pm, and since everything ran a little late I wasn't finished until 5.30pm; the content of what I did being pretty much as indicated in the last blog - oh and the kids loved it (well some were bemused by it, particularly the ventriloquism...). So then it was a mad rush down to the coach station and the bus to Glasgow... I just had time for a take out on my way to MacSorley's.... Hex deejayed at the kick off, ambient and experimental, then I knocked 'em dead with my readings and ventriloquism.... and then, and then, and then, along came Nigel (that's a Coasters riff in case you missed it). Well Nocturnal Emissions came in behind me on the last long piece of my reading... before Nigel really rocked out.... a freaky deaky set with more deejaying of other people's material than I'd have expected... but a hot slot, with Hex back on at the end of the night and doing some great mixing on Denise Motto... so I was in XTC.... Yeah a great crowd too, loads of people I hadn't seen for like ten years, but pretty much everyone pooped out on going on to Optimo, Hex and me made what went quickly into an unusually hard night of techno.... and Hex was shaking his booty all night long, returning to the West End about 7am.... so a groovy night that remained full on till well after dawn.....
Stewart Home blog posting Wednesday, May 23, 2007.