Feb 28, 2014

Electronic words

This month, I wrote a column for Issue 6 of Electronic Sound. I'm not going to duplicate it here, because I want you to download the magazine when it comes out. I can, however, give you some words from my (pre-subbed) article.


Now have a Clark video. Happy end-of-February everyone!

Feb 26, 2014

I'm the new co-host of Bad Language

I can finally reveal that I will be the new co-host of Bad Language.

In a sensational move, two thirds of the existing Bad Language team are to move to London to become bricklayers or astronauts or something. They will continue to oversee Bad Language from a national level, which means I get to move in and help develop their long-running Manchester night.

I've already thought of some ideas to make it better. I hope you like them:

1. Lasso the moon and bring it to earth, like some beautiful, terrifying beacon;

2. All television versions of Miss Marple all talking at once all the time;

3. Funnels;

4. Lasso the moon and milk it, providing sweet, sweet lunar nectar for everyone. Mmmmm, bacon;

5. Moor the QE2 and/or similar size ship and/or a desert island inside Bad Language venue The Castle, fill the place with water, laugh like maniacs;

6. Change every attendee's surname by deed poll to Yeepman;

7. Lasso the moon then apologise profusely and insist we were aiming for Mimas and/or Titan. Offer to buy the moon a drink. Moon sexy time. Mmmmm, bacon;

8. Use only scripts from the sitcom May To December;

9. Infinite sadness, see also 8;

10. A cluster of elbows and/or packet of knees.

Joe Daly will co-host the next Bad Language with li'l old me. And a massively doffed hat to Daniel Carpenter and Nici West who built a fantastic reputation for the event during their time in Manchester. It's going to be fun working with them from their London lair.

Mmmmm, lair.

Feb 21, 2014

Special FX at the Royal Exchange

Tonight, I will take to a stage in the Royal Exchange to read alongside Abi Fernandez-Arias Hynes, Kieran King, David Hartley and Joe Daly for the theatre's regular early-evening entertainment slot. It's hosted by Bad Language.

Details here. It's a kind of a post-work start time, so do pop along.

Next week in the same slot, there will be a jazz quartet and the following week will be an hour of stand-up. All I can promise is a new short story about Come Dine With Me, which is neither jazz nor stand-up but maybe a tiny bit of both.

Keep up-to-date with all my peformances on my live page.

Feb 19, 2014

Clark's AMA on Reddit and George Clooney's pentatonic blues sequence

Clark, the electronic artist who's about to pop out a new single called Superscope, did a Reddit AMA yesterday.

A Reddit AMA is where forum lurkers can get to "Ask Me Anything" of a famous person. Hey, Cher, do you *actually* believe in life after love? Hey, the KLF, when's the reunion tour with Scooter supporting? Hey, Chad Kroeger, just... why? That kind of thing.

You can read Clark's answers to questions here

I quite liked:
 "Do your parents like your music?" "No."

"All of that modular gear will rapidly decline in value once the sea-level starts to rise."

"Extremely distracted/gormless Clark face,"

"George Clooney would be a gold edition Moog Voyager, with Ableton reverb over a major pentatonic blues sequence.
 He would, as well. Good ol' George.

Feb 17, 2014

My Harder Better Blog Writing Tour Faster Process Monday Fats

There's a blog tour going around like some kind of Swedish/Danish eco terrorist plague. You can see previous postings of this by Daniel Carpenter, who tagged me, Sarah Jasmon, David Hartley, Iain Moloney, Simon Sylvester, Kathleen Jones and many other writers.

The tour has been called various names, mostly My Writing Process, Blog Tour and Blog Tour Monday. I wanted my contribution to be part of my Harder Better Faster Fats series. So I shall call mine the somewhat catchy My Harder Better Blog Writing Tour Faster Process Monday Fats.

First, as in the rest of this series, let's start with a soundtrack:

“The humans are busy today. They scurry.” Nuke (unpublished)
Everything and/or too much.

I’m the type of person who needs activity. Friends will know me to be a prolific finger-in-pie merchant, careening from studio to stage, from tweeting to designing to doodling.

The one thing I learned about myself in the hurricane of the last ten years is that I have a pathological terror of boredom. And so I create and create and create, sometimes to the detriment of my immediate environment and my health.

Therefore, 2014 will be a strange year. It will be a year in which I aim to take on new commitments; the kind of commitments which are as exciting as anything else I do but will also mean that other people will rely on me.

This means less careening; less cascading from one unrelated thing to another. If the year goes well, I will also have crammed under my belt the best part of short story collection of entirely new work.

“A worm tries to burrow into my face. All it finds is cold, irritated human skin, a football field of blotches.” Norway (Peirene Press, 2013)
Let me answer that as honestly as I can.

Unrelenting bullying in primary and secondary school led me to build two robust self-defence mechanisms: food and humour. The former I abuse, and the weight you see hanging off my bones can be considered a form of self-abuse. The latter I express through wit and performance to the delight, mostly, of friends and audiences.

Add to this a sharp sense of tragedy due to the sudden death in my teens of my brilliant and incredible mother, stir once, cover and simmer.

Many writers will baulk at the thought of being lumped into a ‘genre’ and I will do the same. But how does my writing differ? The comic-tragedy and darkness of what I do comes from a place that is real and raging within; when this doesn't come through in my work, I'm either not trying or I have failed.

“The other day, she crushed a bauble until it burst into powder. The cuts on her palm were invisible and stung like hell.” And This Is My Mother (Merry Gentlemen, 2013)
I grew up on a diet of joke books and Edward Lear, of the Ying Tong Song and the Ning Nang Nong. I’ve also always loved novels and short stories, from literary to comic to horror, and my first memory of secondary school was getting an A+ for a short story about the London Underground.

I’ve never not thought of myself as a writer; indeed, my first proper job was on a newspaper, an experience that solidified some key elements about my approach to writing fiction:

- Life is absurd;
- Life is tragic;
- Stories are infinite;
- You can achieve a lot in very few words;
- Structure in writing is everything;
- I wish I didn't need deadlines, but I do.

“You look old, he says instead of thinking. You look old and almost dead.” Hoops (unpublished)
I’m writing this at 4am having been awake since an early-evening snooze that left my body clock wilted and useless, Dali-like. So here I am, under my duvet, in my pants, listening to the rain on the window and wondering if I will ever sleep again. I wouldn't call this "process" but it has certainly given me the space to come up with a new short story idea about a fantastical cavity search. Result!

My writing process involves:

- notebooks;
- backs of envelopes;
- phone notes;
- my laptop;
- my home PC;
- early alarm calls;
- testing stuff out live;
- short walks;
- long walks;
- dreams;
- a constant fear of death;
- too many Bic biros for one man;
- and a dogged restlessness that some may find exhausting. Fingers in pies, fingers in pies.

It boils down to getting down the word-count, but being clear in my vision of what I want to say before my bum hits the seat.


And with this fourth instalment, the Harder Better Faster Fats series comes to an end. Forgive me if I don't tag anyone to continue this particular branch of the blog tour.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned my two self-defence mechanisms. Both could be my downfall. My overeating is a considerable creative block and a continuing struggle, while on a lesser note, humour is an easy refuge from the apocryphal vein-opening gushing that 'truthful' writing is meant to require.

Back in my journalism days, Bjork said in an interview something along the lines of this: she destroys herself at the end of the day, then rebuilds herself all over again.

I love that as a coping mechanism for all the detritus that life splashes at us. Like the refrain of All Is Full Of Love, it's an idea that has circled and circled in glorious repetition over my life for many years.

Destroy, renew.

Destroy, renew.

Create, create, create.

(Pictured: Bjork)
(Fiction excerpts: me)

Feb 14, 2014

Sexy words: an infographic

I am putting this here for edumacational purposes. It's important to know the right sexy words to use when putting your sex ploopy near someone else's sex fandongle.

This is free to distribute and share as much as you want, but please wrap it in rubber first.

See also: Coolio

Feb 12, 2014

10 things I've been up to this past week


Performed at the Contact Theatre alongside Myra Dubois (pictured) and a whole host of performers and contestants in Mother's Ruin's Who's Got The Max Factor. I didn't win but I got some good laughs.


Chased a shoplifter down the street like Officer Dibble and/or something in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Well, actually, my bookseller colleague Dave and I walked down the street asking to look in his bag and then he pegged it.


Properly got into this Cashmere Cat track (Wedding Bells is out this week on LuckyMe).


Performed to a packed-out room at Write It: Mic It, in which Poleroid Theatre trawled themselves up from London to host a brilliantly entertaining evening of literary and dramatic performance,


Have been nominated on this blog tour by Daniel Carpenter, which seems to be spidering over the internet like a very slow but determined spider and/or number of spiders exerting the same effort as one very slow but determined spider. I'll write my piece soon.


Bought my first ever Lydia Davis book on the strength of one tweet. Who needs useless Amazon reviews, huh? I think I'm going to enjoy it.


Looked at my laptop and thought: why am I too tired to write? And then thought about Lydia Davis. Then thought about all the ideas in my head. And looked at my laptop. And thought again about writing and not writing.


Scribbled a bunch of critique notes on my writer chums' novels (pictured). Which is the main reason why I haven't blogged for a few days.


Saw Stewart Lee do a gig in Salford. Actually, it was more than a week ago, but it's on this list because it's the best I've ever seen him. He took his ironic meta deconstruction schtick to a whole new level with a brilliant, precise and lengthy heckler put-down.


Asked a guy in a theatre dressing room what kind of thing he did on stage, having no idea whether he was a dancer, comedian, poet, singer or fire-breathing Adrian Chiles impersonator. He replied with some gravitas: "contemporary". Theatre's brills, innit.

(Top picture by Mothers' Ruin.)

Feb 5, 2014

Harder Better Faster Fats: a promise of a worthless wordbasher

For me, blogging is about nuzzling the stains on my favourite sofa: it's comfortable, it's familiar and it smells vaguely of chicken madras. It's fair to say that the character I represent here is a mixture of the real me and some fictional extreme version of me that sweats Windowlene in a basement.

Before I carry on, get this beautiful piece of electronica down your eartubes. It's a Plaid choooon from a soundtrack from a few years ago.

(Read previous instalments of Harder Better Faster Fats here.)

I've always loved fiction. I love storytelling and strange worlds; the hopes and horrors conjured from authors' minds. I'd always written stories, but it wasn't until the ego-boost of the 2010 Manchester Blog Awards (during which I threatened to nuke one of my rivals) that I took my creative writing seriously.

My arrival on the fiction scene began quietly with a story about tooth fairies for 330 Words, published 11 days after the blog awards and featuring a photo taken at the ceremony.

I followed that with a modest call to arms called The Beatoff Generation: Our Future Books Shall Bleed From Your Shelves Like A Hardback Elixir Reddened From An Embarrassment Of Grammatical Riches.


I've since done 40 gigs in one year, put out a couple of books, been in a thing with Nik Kershaw in, experimented with online narrative and hauled my fat ass around some of the most bearded joints of Manchester.

But like the track above, as time goes on, I'm calming down. I'm focussing. Or at least, that's the theory.


It's my aim in 2014 to produce enough stories for a collection. So that means fewer performances - or at least, fewer open mic slots - and a stinking pile of first draft wordvom each month. I call that a promise. I might even write it down to make it realerer.

Publishers will suggest I write a novel. More routes in. But I'm going to focus on what I enjoy, not because I like faffing around and don't like success, but because I have to what I want to do. It's the one thing to which I'm driven, above my scuba diving, barbershop quartetting and time travelling.


I need this like Justin Biebpipe needs notoriety. Like Prince needs a lawsuit. Like, er, Liam from One Direction needs elbows. I am a worthless word-basher. This year, I will write more and I will read more. Nothing else matters.

There are some obstacles in my way, and they're related to my reason to write. These will be the subject of the next Harder Better Faster Fats.

Yeah. How'd you like them cliffhanger apples? This is literally more exciting than a pop star's bendy-arm-middle.

(Pictured: Plaid)

Feb 3, 2014

Two writers talk about pens, get reduced to Fractions

Hurray! Fractions is 10!

I mean, it's not like a proper birthday or anything. I've just made my 10th Fractions video. It's not worthy of cake, although now that I'm thinking about cake, I kind of want to lick your skin off like icing. Not in a weird way. In a cake way.

Fractions is a series of short videos featuring simply animated and soundtracked abstracts of stories and ideas. It can be as weird as hell, which is how I like it. I had been writing a story for the 10th video, but idiot-inspiration (idiotspiration?) struck me when listening to internet radio.

Manchester writers Anna Percy and Daniel Carpenter were banging on about literature on Fab Radio. I shoved a microphone at my computer speakers and, in my mind, dared them to say something silly. And then they started talking about pens.

Within two hours, I had edited their voices and written music for it. See this alongside the rest of the Fractions videos here. And give Fab Radio your time: they're lovely people.