I have a short attention span. That’s a problem when it comes to art, because most artistic endeavours, be it music or writing or fucking clay sculpting, take a long time.
I get bored.
That initial idea I was so excited about, that little spark in my brain that at first seemed so bright and full of promise, withers to this dull, unworkable obligation.
I’ve got hard drives filled with unfinished songs and pieces of writing. Little bits of work that, for one reason or another, I’ve fallen out of love with. Christ, last year, I finished the second draft of an entire science fiction novel. I got bored with it and scrapped it to move on to another novel about an alcoholic reporter who is stalked by a serial killer. I got about two-thirds of the way through the first draft of that one.
This afternoon, I read through a few scenes from these discarded manuscripts. And you know what? They weren’t that bad. The sci-fi novel is a bleak affair, in which poor people pawn their aesthetically pleasing body parts (eyes, ears, genitals, etc.) for rich people to buy so they can look prettier. Actually, it was a pretty scathing allegory on the Kardashian-obsessed superficial times we live in, but with lots of death and sex and drugs in it. I thought that maybe I’ll revisit it. The plot’s crap, but the characters are great and the world-building was pretty striking.
The reporter one… well that was pretty good, too. Again, lots of drugs and sex and death. But what’s not to love about a novel that starts with this line:
Zofia Jankowski was the prettiest dead stripper yet. Twenty-three. Long, brown hair (probably dyed). Eastern European (probably Polish). Fake tits. Decapitated.
So if you’re struggling for inspiration, as I have been recently, take a look at your old stuff. It’s probably better than you think.
What’s the saying? “An artist is his or her own worst critic.” Something like that.
What put me on this path to checking out the old drafts is that I was trawling through a bunch of old songs I’d written and I came across a few decent ones that never saw the light of day.
Take this one, for instance:
I reckon about ten people ever got to hear this one. Production’s messy and, if you listen closely to the acoustic bit at the start, you can hear the traffic outside. It’s too long, self-indulgent and I didn’t quite know how to end it. In that respect, I guess it’s the musical equivalent of a Stephen King novel. I was also completely wasted throughout its entire recording, which means it’s like an early Stephen King novel, rather than one of his later, more focussed, less vital, sober efforts.
I was listening to a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd at the time, from what I remember – that’s why I layered those bar room pianos all over it. My fingers bled.
And I get bored with regular guitar solos, so I tried to make them sound like Phil Manzanera’s fucked-up solo over John Cale’s superb track, Gun (from his 1974 album, Fear, which you should really check out if you don’t already know it).
Why did I not play that to more people?
I was always very aware that being a pretty young boy in a band was a fleeting thing, so instead of writing songs about love and lust like everyone else did, I wrote about the loss of youth. This was, however, possibly a factor that contributed to my success not being as big as I would have liked. And writing eight minute tracks. People don’t dig those so much, either.
C’est la vie.