Avid Scottish writer Craig Brackenridge has been writing about movie sleaze and demented Rock ‘n’ Roll ever since 1995 and has written for the magazines Total Film, Bite Me, BFM and The Encyclopedia of Cinematic Trash.
His first book ‘Let’s Wreck’ was a part-biographical look at the Psychobilly scene from the early 1980’s to the 2000’s. This mutated music genre grinds together the very best of Punk, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rockabilly and many other boot-stomping forms of music into a hellbound racket that has been starved of the oxygen of the mainstream music press for too long.
In a bid to continue to record the history of Psychobilly for posterity he launched ‘Vinyl Dementia: The Psychobilly & Trash Record Guide’ in 2004. ‘Hell’s Bent On Rockin’: A History of Psychobilly’ followed in 2005 and was an attempt to chronicle the entire Psychobilly genre for Cherry Red Books. After the mammoth task of ‘Hell’s Bent…’ Craig decided to move into fiction as he has been a long-time fan of exploitative pulp paperbacks from the 1970’s. Short snappy novels filled with bikers, skinheads, teddy boys, boot boys, youth gangs, randy window cleaners, sexually frustrated housewives and ruthless characters from the old west are what he enjoys the most and both ‘Psychobilly – The Novel’ and the blood-spattered Western ‘Apache Gold’ are his contributions to the genre he loves.
He currently writes for the music magazines Street Sounds (UK), Mad Music For Bad People (UK) & DogEatRobot (Italy) and has created sleevenotes for selected rockin’ releases from Cherry Red Records and Triumph / Western Star Records. More fiction featuring mods, rockers, ravers, cowpokes, zombies, truckers, hookers and New Town swingers is in the pipeline.
01. How did you get started in the world of words?
I always wanted to be a writer but was generally too lazy. In 1995 I was mostly working late shifts at a massive branch of Tower Records in Glasgow and with access to stacks of books, movies and music I thought I would start work on my own fanzine. Tower sold loads of fanzines from Indie writers so I reckoned I could write it there, print it there (on their photocopier) and then sell it there. That was my first finished work, the shortlived ‘Encyclopedia of Cinematic Trash’ which featured film reviews and news on horror, Blaxploitation and Spaghetti
02. Has it been a struggle getting your first book published?
I waited years for someone to write a book on Psychobilly and it never happened, so eventually I thought I would write one myself. That became ‘Let’s Wreck: Psychobilly Flashbacks From the Eighties and Beyond.’ It’s a pretty slim book that was part history of Psychobilly and part recollections of how I originally got in to the genre and my experience singing in a number of low-level Psychobilly & Trash bands. I financed the publishing of that myself, on the imprint Stormscreen Productions, using a well-rattled visa card but thankfully the book sold pretty well. That allowed me to publish, ‘Vinyl Dementia’, and then an early version of the novel ‘Psychobilly’. This then led to my publishing deal with Cherry Red Records for ‘Hell’s Bent On Rockin’.
03. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel?
I had an article on Blaxploitation films published in Total Film magazine and I was buzzing with excitement. They made a pretty big spread of it, it looked fantastic and they paid me £110 for writing it. I thought that was my writing career off to a flyer… then I never made a bean for another three years.
04. What were the main reasons that you started to write seriously?
I always felt, and still do really, that two of my favourite things – Psychobilly culture & exploitation paperbacks – have always deserved a bigger audience and some decent books. That’s what drove me to get started and that’s probably still what keeps me bashing my keyboard.
05. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing?
In the past few years as I’ve been writing regularly for magazines it helps to have a lot of deadlines and stay motivated. When I’m writing fiction I sometimes go long periods of time without doing much other than research but when I really get into it on a daily basis I listen to music for a bit to get me into it then just write solid for 2-3 hours, take a break for 10 mins then repeat. The first half hour of each session is usually shite that gets edited out but if I get in the swing I never notice the
06. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mindset?
So far all my fiction has been a thinly-veiled re-run of my teenage years with names & places changed to protect the guilty. Apart from my Western novel ‘Apache Gold’ – I’ve never been a bloodthirsty 19th Century Lawman (as far as I can remember).
07. What was it like in the 80s to be involved in Street Cultures, what were your pointers and outlook?
I know history would like to paint the 1980’s as a time of shite pop and yuppies but it was fiercely tribal. If you did decide to get involved in a subculture it was an amazing buzz because you got to meet people from all over the country and really feel part of something but it also meant that there was a lot of hassle from other subcultures. When me and my mates went out in Glasgow there were only a few pubs & clubs that would even let you through the door. This created an ‘alternative’ scene that rubbed shoulders with Punks, Goths, Skins and Scooterists. I loved this part of it as I’ve always had a wide range of musical tastes. Glasgow has always had a lot of religious and territorial divisions over the years and the alternative scene seemed to ignore that – which was a bonus.
08. What was that 80s period in London like for you as a young man outside of the Music world?
When a group of us first travelled down in the late 1980’s to the legendary Klub Foot in Hammersmith’s Clarendon Hotel that was like entering Psychobilly Valhalla. The Glasgow Psychobilly scene was not huge so to see that many Psychobillies and top bands in one room was jaw-dropping. To be honest, my memories of every trip down to the big smoke are pretty sketchy. I was usually spark out with the booze before we reached Watford Gap but a few years later I played a gig at The Sir George Robey and that was pretty special as well. Both those venues have now been demolished and when I went to the 12 Bar in Soho last November it shut down a few weeks later – I must be a fucking jinx.
09. How did the Media distort what was going on with youth culture at that time?
Ah, don’t get me started. Apart from a brief love-affair with the music papers in the early 1980’s, Psychobilly has literally been starved of the oxygen of mainstream publicity since 1988. It’s as if it has never existed even though it has never been gone. The music press have always created an idealised picture of what they want people to believe is ‘hot’. The NME inflated the whole shoegaze / C86 Indie scene because it suited them but look in the actual Indie charts of the mid-late 80s – sure that type of stuff was selling but so were loads of Psychobilly, Trash and punk releases. Sounds was the only rock weekly that really reflected what was happening but unfortunately it closed down. I’m still dumbstruck by how little coverage some underground music genres receive.
10. What music, films and books helped you to the pathway of all things alternative?
Musically it was hearing the first two albums from The Meteors. I had always bought Punk & Rock ‘n’ Roll singles since I was a kid – bands like The Stray Cats, UK Subs, Matchbox, Darts, The Sex Pistols, The Clash etc. Hearing that The Meteors had taken the best of both these genres and created something new was literally life changing. There was no going back to drifting between Mod & Indie like I had been.
With films, ‘Quadrophenia’ was the starting point. I had always loved gritty TV drama like ‘The Firm’, ‘Made In England’ and rough Scottish TV plays like ‘Just A Boys Game’ and ‘Just Another Saturday’ but ‘Quadrophenia’ captured the true feeling of what it is like to be part of a movement and I never forgot that. When I got into Psychobilly a few years later I understood it even more.
My biggest book influence was a book about skinhead culture called ‘Spirit of ‘69’ by George Marshall. It captures the whole scene at that time in great detail and George published it on his own imprint S.T. Publishing, which later published the entire canon of cult 1970’s youthsploitation author Richard Allen and a magazine called ‘One Eyed Jacks’. I always wanted to write about the Psychobilly scene in the same way George wrote about the skinhead movement.
11. What other books do you wish you had written?
‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’ and the Western thriller series ‘Edge’. I was born too late to cash in on a time when these type of books were in every bookshop in the country. I love exploitation paperbacks and I will keep writing this type of thing until they come back into fashion.
12. How has the internet changed what you do?
The internet has helped with research in a big way. I can find dates, maps, record releases etc. in seconds. When I wrote the reference book ‘Hell’s Bent On Rockin’ it nearly killed me – hours spent leafing through flyers and fanzines and scouring record sleeves and labels for names and dates. Now sites like Discogs cough up all that info in seconds. When writing fiction I mostly write about actual places and events and put the characters in between all that so it’s great to dig up old pictures from that period to get me in the mood.
13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?
Don’t wait as long as I did to get started then keep at it. After getting a few early pieces published I kind of sat back but new writing can become old hat after a month or two so you have to keep going or lose momentum. Generally each book or article I have written has led on to the next one and as novel writing takes up so much time you have get yer thumb out on an almost daily basis.
14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?
An extended version of my novel ‘Psychobilly’ (with 33% more rockin’ & rumpo) is due to be released by Old Dog Books imminently. After that there is a late 1970’s Mods novel which I co-wrote, due in 2016. I’m still seeking a home for the printed version of my Western novel ‘Apache Gold’ then there is a Psychobilly-themed film in the works along with more smut & subculture fiction for Old Dog Books.
15. What has been the re-action so far to your first book?
The main thing people have so far mentioned is that they felt the book mirrored their own lives at that time, fairly accurately. Getting into Psychobilly for the first time seems to have been a shared experience from Dusseldorf to Dundee and all points inbetween.