01. How did you get started in the world of words?
I was inspired by Acid House. I attended clubs and warehouse parties, and was overwhelmed by the energy and passion of those nights. I was too young for Punk and even with the Mod revival of the late 70s I was still a school boy in short trousers, figure of speech. So this was really my first counterculture, I was old enough to be an active member. It felt like a revolution, dancing with attitude, passion and style, I loved it. I was reading a lot of Ken Kesey, Hunter S Thompson, Jack Kerouac at the time, and my then girlfriend was studying journalism at the Elephant and Castle, so I was surrounded by words, if you get my drift. I was reading the back of a Ken Kesey book, Demon Box and it included the words Positive Energy of Madness, I loved it, I thought let’s do a fanzine called Positive Energy of Madness.
Using the photocopier at work, I knocked it out and sold it around clubs and record shops. But in hindsight Acid House was too hedonistic to be deep, in a nutshell it was all about losing the plot, but I had fun, interviewed a lot of the DJs like Danny Rampling, Andy Weatherall and even got to interview Paul Weller, as he was dabbling with house music at the time, a lot of people forget that.
02. Has it been a struggle getting your first book published?
I have to give a little bit of history to answer that question. Paul Hallam is my publisher , and before I wrote Crafty Cigarette, Paul and I were friends, still are, plus I was and still am doing an online fanzine called ZANI. I emailed him an article which I had written about a forgotten band from the early 70’s called Jook, a terrace band from Scotland and London that sounded like The Who. Paul loved it, really loved it then I saw an article in his magazine, Street Sounds, about Richard Allen, author of the Skinhead books and youth pulp fiction. It dawned on me I could write a youth pulp fiction.
I called Paul and told him I had a novel ready called A Crafty Cigarette about growing up in the Mod revival in the suburbs during the late 70’s and early 80’s, would he like to put it out, he paused for a second, and said yes. I hadn’t even written a word, let alone had a plot, just a title, but I knew I could do it, so I started writing it and bingo, Crafty Cigarette was published. I know this sounds easy, but I spent many years writing as a labour of love, meeting new people, so I applied my trade in the evenings, and my time had come to get a book out and hopefully go further as a writer.
03. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel?
My first interview in my fanzine Positive Energy of Madness was with British Rapper Dizzie Heights, he had a club track out called Would I Found Love, it was an anthem back in the day. I was very proud, looked at it the other day, it’s naive and badly written, but so what, I was driven by passion.
04. What were the main reasons that you started to write seriously?
To be creative, that simple, and be happy, sorry I really can’t go deep on this one, because I just write because I love it, better than going down the pub or watching X factor.
05. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing?
Same as a day job, start at ten in the morning, finish at six in the evening. If I write in the evening, it will from six to nine with the phone on silence and in a drawer. I have a schedule and keep to it, I don’t need inspiration as I am full of ideas and energy all the time and I don’t get writer’s block, just sit in front of the PC and hit the keyboards. For sure some days I will be more productive, I am disciplined.
06. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mindset?
A lot. I think school and my hatred for teachers, then discovering The Jam’s All Mod Cons via my brother’s record collection when I was 12. Seeing all these exciting bands appearing on Top of the Pops, Madness, The Specials, The Beat, Secret Affair and hearing about a new film called Quadrophenia by a band I hadn’t heard of called The Who. Getting back into The Beatles, then calling myself a Mod before I owned or wore one item of Mod clothing. I became a Mod, as it gave the outsider a voice and its own rules, different from school, parents , the police or the church, I am pretty much like that now as then, as I ain’t corporate culture, do not trust the police, don’t go to church, but now I don’t belong to any tribe, just make up my own mind, I like to be me and…. Free
07. What was it like to be an 80s suburban Modernist, what were your pointers and outlook?
It was good fun, remember we were still school boys, so we were school boys in Parkas causing mischief and mayhem in our town centre, we didn’t have the money nor allowed to go into London due to our age, so we created our own world, even made a role-playing game called Mods and Rockers, based on Dungeons and Dragons, we should have patented it, I would be a rich man today. I suppose The Jam especially Paul Weller and Ian Page of Secret Affair were our pointers, as they offered debate in their interviews, they were stylish angry young men from two good bands, they gave us an insight as well as making us dance. Richard Barnes Mods! book was our bible, from that we learnt how to be different as Mods, drop the Parka be daring with our clothes, so my outlook was to be different yet to belong to a gang, like any gang we had our own values and rules, good or bad, but they were ours.
08. What was that 80s period in London like for you as a young man outside of the Mod world?
I got into London when I was a late teen, well after the Mod thing. During the heyday of the Mod revival, we would only venture into London, well Carnaby Street, to go shopping during the school holidays, it was an adventure and could be dangerous, due to the Skinheads who liked to pick on kids. Then a few years later a good friend of mine worked in a clothes shop in Fulham, so we, well me and two others, started hanging out around there and ventured into the Kings Road, it was the days when Levis 501’s and other fifties type clothes were big, along with slick back hair or fifties style hair cuts. London was fun, still is, we just did what any 18 to 19 kids did, or some, dressed up, went to clubs or bars, drank, smoked weed and chatted girls up. But not the depth of Mod, and I was missing that as I am, and was back then, a deeper thinker. I was living for the moment, so I wasn’t studying what was going on, all I can say is that we left suburbia and found that London had more to offer than the local pub, and I still feel like that now. I could go into detail about certain things, but that would be like Uncle Albert from Only Fools ‘n’ Horses with his war stories.
09. How did the Media distort what was going on with youth culture at that time?
The media love a scapegoat and will distort it, of course they will as the journalists will see things at face value, not go deep and want to scaremonger the nation, create panic and hatred. The original youth culture, The Teds, faced the first wrath of the media. There’s an excellent book called Teddy Boys a Concise History by Ray Ferris and Julian Lord, that really goes into detail about how the media distort the truth and exaggerate events. I experienced this more with The Sun and Acid House in the late 80’s. I was attending a few ‘raves’, how I hate the word, that made The Sun headlines, and what they reported and what I experienced were two totally different things, in lay man’s terms, why couldn’t they write 1,000 plus or whatever the figure was, about kids dancing in harmony until the early hours, they were having fun, no trouble. No they wanted to make out it’s evil, cos it sells papers. But I suppose it all adds to youth or counter cultures being rebellious cos if the parents or the establishment get it and like it, then it ain’t worth doing.
10. What music, films and books helped you onto the pathway of all things Modernist?
OK I will answer in terms of which of the above influenced me during my time as a school boy Mod, otherwise the list would be endless. Music: The Jam, Secret Affair, Motown and Atlantic Soul, The Who, Small Faces and even they were not Mods, The Beatles. Films: well not Quadrophenia as I didn’t see that until late 1982 on video, but Midnight Cowboy, Blackboard Jungle, To Sir With Love, Ealing comedies, Z, Saturday Night Sunday Morning, If, Unman, Wittering and Zigo. Books: George Orwell, was reading that before Weller name dropped it, as my brother gave me Animal Farm when I was 11 years old, Jack London, loved his work, 101 Dalmatians, loved the feel of London in that book. Wind in the Willows, Emil and The Detectives, both magical books, James Herbert The Rats. I would like to say music was more of an influence In terms of the pathway to Modernist, but the films and the books did shape me, and all I have mentioned are still important to me now.
11. What other books do you wish you had written?
Harlan Ellison’s Memos From Purgatory, he wrote this when he was 19, with no publishing deal, saved up and went to live in Hell’s Kitchen in the 50s, joined a street gang so he could research them, that shows a true writer with a lot of courage. Dostoyevsky Notes from Underground, a great narrative of struggling but a lot of black humour, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, pulp fiction at its best and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, an amazing thriller written in two first person accounts, how she switches from the male and the female and develops the plot is overwhelming, first book in years I read in one reading. Loved them all.
12. How has the internet changed what you do?
Yes and for the better, no printing costs, that’s if you have your own website, and especially with blogging platforms, you don’t need to be an expert web designer to get an article published. You write it, lay it out, hit publish and bang it’s out on the net, then plug via FaceBook, Twitter etc. I love the Internet, not just in terms of self-interest, but information and films, music that are there 24/7, but I make a rule, I don’t surf after ten pm, do people still say surf ? I like to watch a film, then read a book.
13. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?
Just do it, set yourself an agenda and timetable, keep to it, with no excuses and have fun.
14. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?
Well I am plugging Crafty Cigarette, which is fun, enjoying that, learning about marketing, trying to get some reviews, which will happen. Penning a collection of short stories, under the working title of Love Is?, which is influenced by Harlan Ellison, Hunter S Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk , gonzo and insane short stories about everyday life from love to work, need a break from writing about Mod and want to test myself as a writer.
15. What has been the re-action so far to your first book?
Good, been on London Live radio and BBC Surrey, getting plugs all over the social media, even getting fan emails, been trolled, but too draining and boring to talk about. But got a long way to go before I can give a real answer, as it’s early days, but I am loving it.