To me, Everett True has had quite an exciting life! When I first met Everett three years or so ago he told me that he was a really boring person. I beg to differ. I ask, what kind of boring person would dedicate their life to publicly performing? (performing on stage and performing in print). Everett (born Jerry Thackray) and making music as The Legend! has done more in his ‘performing‘ life than the majority of musicians and music writers ever will. On the writing front he has self-published fanzines since the late ’80s, been published in everything from Melody Maker (he was also assistant editor) to the New Music Express to Rolling Stone and more and has authored all kinds of books on popular musicians including Nirvana, Ramones and The White Stripes. Music-wise as The Legend! he has: played in front of 20,000 people; played 1,000+ shows; put out so many releases I lose track of them all; and toured and recorded with, as well as having the respect and admiration of, many of the musicians he has written about and whom he calls friends. Finding him an interesting person with an adventure filled life, I’ve been asking him to do an interview with me since I met him, recently he finally agreed. Unlike pretty much every other interview you can find with him, that mostly concentrates on his writing work or stories of his associations and escapades with rock stars, I choose to speak with him about his life as a musician. Jerry Thackray, Everett True, The Legend! whatever lens you want to look at this man through, is a lot more human than you might think.
Tell me about your beginnings of becoming a musician. You’ve mentioned to me that you taught yourself Beatles songs from a book on piano and I know that you sang in the church choir with your siblings when you were younger.
EVERETT TRUE: Yeah. All my other brothers went on to be altar boys but I didn’t because they wanted me to stay in the choir so I got to miss out on pilfering the communion bread and wine—it used to really annoy me.
Why did I start playing music? I don’t know. I always sang. I was born in 1961. I never liked popular music when I was younger. I watched Top of the Pops a few times in the early ’70s because my friends did. I kind of liked T-Rex, I kind of liked The Sweet and stuff like that – teen pop bands, but I didn’t really understand what all of the fuss was about.
I discovered comics quite later on. I was probably 13-14 when I picked up my first superhero comic and instantly loved it. It gave me a whole different world to lose myself in. I could totally imagine the streets and skyscrapers that Spider Man used to swing through. I wasn’t so much into the superheroes themselves but more the places they were supposed to inhabit. I met a couple of friends, a boy from my school saw me on the bus reading comic books and he started chatting to me. I made a couple of friends that way and we used to hang out. It was around the time of punk and they started getting into punk music. It became quickly apparent that I would have to get into that or I would lose my friends and I kind of liked my friends. They’d been listening to music for a while and listened to slightly weird punk.
At the time I was discovering punk I was also discovering pop music. I’d go out and buy all the singles from the Grease musical, Saturday Night Fever and 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday and simultaneously I’d be buying stuff by The Fall and The Residents, Ramones and Blondie. Punk and pop were interchangeable in my mind, there was no difference. I was about 17 years old and the whole point of punk in ’78 as I understood it was that anybody could get up on stage and that was it. It seemed like it was a lot of fun to get up on stage.
We formed a band me and my friends. The first band was called Blowjob. I was told it was because we blew down recorders. I didn’t actually realise the connotations of the word. I scribbled it all over my school exercise book and got in trouble. The second band was called Fixed Grin because I wore braces on my teeth. I still think it’s a great name. Fixed Grin were your classic kind of cassette band of the era in as much as we didn’t really exist – we put out lots of cassettes, we never played live, we did lots of posters and we even made badges, we’d graffiti our names on walls but that was it.
Me and my friend Phil from that band, we used to go down to Chelmsford local musicians collective at the football club. They had an open mic night on a Sunday. One time we decided we’d go down there and play a song so we did Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. He played guitar and I sang it, I had my choirboy voice. We got through that one ok – the song had only been released a month earlier – then we started Get Over You by The Undertones and I managed the first note of it but that was it. That was the first and last time for a long time I ever did a cover version on stage, mainly because it seemed too much trouble to do cover versions. It’s like why would you go to all of that effort to learn somebody else’s song when you can just make up your own very simply.
Fixed Grin existed in various incarnations, very heavily influenced by people like The Residents. We really believed that if you were going to make music you should try to make it from weird angles. We were sticking drumsticks under our guitar strings before Sonic Youth had ever been heard of. We’d hold cards next to the microphone or tape recorder and rifle through them for sound effects; we’d play the piano, blow down recorders. One of my brothers was sort of in that band and a couple of our other friends. We did concept albums kind of along the lines of what Daniel Johnston did – all about boy sees girl, girl ignores boy, boy kills himself. I wrote them. That was pretty much the entire concept of every single one. I was quite a very depressed person I suspect back then.
I remember in Religious Education when I was about 15 a teacher was talking about suicide and he said ‘I’m sure boys here must of considered it’ and he kind of pointed to me and said ‘I bet you have.’ I was like, Oh cheers [laughs].
Aww, I know the feeling, my guidance counsellor at school told me I was socially retarded.
ET: [Thinks for a moment] Anyway… music… I started doing it because you could. There was nothing telling me that you couldn’t. There was a fellow called Patrik Fitzgerald – I never got to see him until a few years later – I loved his records and the stories you’d hear about him. He was just this one guy with an acoustic guitar singing these really heartfelt songs which had some grounding in the social issues of the day. He’d be supporting The Jam at Wembley Arena and would be bottled off stage because he was getting up on stage with an acoustic and Jam fans didn’t want that. You’d just think, isn’t that way more punk than any of these punk bands to do that and to have the balls to do that.
ET: I had this made up band in Chelmsford. I went to college for two years in London and Deptford in 1979 at Goldsmith College. I studied maths and philosophy. I had to drop philosophy after half a term because I didn’t know how to write, nobody had taught me. It’s a shame because I wanted to do it.
You’re milling around at college in your first couple of weeks and people are trying to figure out what their place is in the order, people are discussing music and shit and someone will say ‘let’s form a band’ then someone else will say ‘That’s a good idea.’ I was like, I’m a singer in a band back home. They said I could be the singer. I wasn’t really a singer in a band back home though at all, it was just a made up band. All of a sudden I was singing songs with this college band. We never played a gig but we used to get together for regular rehearsals in our hall of residence. We were pretty loud. We’d do songs like Shake Some Action by the Flamin’ Groovies, Ramones songs, Do Anything You Want To Do by Eddie & the Hotrods kind of power-pop-punk. Every time we’d get together for rehearsals there would be ten girls that would come along and they’d just be climbing over us, literally—we had a really good looking American guitarist [laughs]. I was like, wow! It was surreal. None of them were vaguely interested in me, I wouldn’t hesitate to point this out but you’re just like, wow! That band went on to another college band which was at my brother’s college, it was called Futile Hurling.
They were a weird bunch. We never figured out a musical style which we probably should of done. We had a trombone player, a sax player, a bassist, a guitarist and me. We didn’t have a drummer which we probably should have done. Half our songs were really over the top jokey kind of songs about moles living at the bottom of your garden and stuff like that. We used to do a musical interpretation of Green Eggs & Ham the Dr Seuss book. The other half would be these really heart rendering over the top none-of-the-girls-will-look-at-me songs. I had one song called Walking Away From Happiness which went on for ten versus and had a trombone solo, sax solo, a kazoo solo [laughs]. God knows how anyone could have listened to that! All of these songs I would write just in one take. I was writing millions of lyrics at the time on pieces of paper, first take and you wouldn’t really need to change them – or want to look at them [laughs].
Around the time I started corresponding with this fellow called Alan McGee. I’d been to see his band a couple of times, Laughing Apple. The final time I saw them he rushed up to me and started talking to me. He said he’d seen me dancing down the front of gigs. He came along to see my band, Futile Hurling. He couldn’t stand us! Memorably he remarked it was like watching four hippies fronted by a punk. He liked what I was about, although he’s spent the last 30 years denying that. He liked it so much that we formed a band together. We went into the old Television Personalities studio to record a bunch of songs together. We recorded 11 songs in two hours and mixed them all in another two hours. He was going to start up a new record label, Creation Records. He wanted to me to be on one side of the first single and his own band on the other side but he thought the session went so well he decided to put the first record out just by me.
Music… why did I start doing music? No one ever paid any attention to me. I was the fourth child out of six, I was the third out of four boys, I always kept to myself, I was probably slightly autistic. I was pretty depressed throughout my early teens and into my twenties. I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was twenty-three. It was a big deal for me! I wish it wasn’t but it was. It was my way of getting noticed. If you got on stage, rightly or wrongly, people paid you more attention, even when there is only one person in the audience. More importantly for me it was a way of communicating how I felt – that I couldn’t get off with any girls. I used to write semi-political songs back then as well about what I saw as injustices.
Right from a very early age when I was 14-15 I started discovering comic books and my comic book friends quickly turned me onto underground comics. It was when feminism was really coming to the fore certainly in American underground literature. I was really, really, really heavily influenced by these female cartoonists doing comics. I came to music in ’77, ’78, ’79 absolutely at the time of post-punk, DIY, Roughtrade Records, dozens of really strong female musicians making music coupled with the fact that I’m a public school boy from the UK – I was trained to put women on a pedestal – all of these factors were heavy influences on me in terms of just thinking men were shit. It was probably because I had a low self-image as well and wanting to communicate this.
It’s interesting that you were playing music before you started writing about music because a lot of people know you mostly as a writer.
ET: The reason why I started writing about music – I have said this before but I mean it’s true – when I met McGee. McGee is pretty much responsible for me being here because I probably would have just faded back very rapidly… I was massively enthusiastic about music – maybe I’m doing myself a disservice – and I would dance down the front of every single show I saw because again everybody did it and if they didn’t it didn’t matter because everyone would do it the next night because it was what you did and it was a way of releasing sexual frustration. It was a way of communicating enthusiasm; it was a way of giving something back to the music. When I met McGee he had these ideas that he was going to make a living from music which was just like, you fucking idiot! He was going to start a club, he was going to start a record label, a magazine. For a short time I was probably his closest collaborator, for a crucial short period of time. I’d be around his house on the floor talking to him until 3 or 4 in the morning, three nights a week. I’d get up three hours later to go to my day job. He started his club and got me as the compère which he thought was hilarious because I was the shyest person he ever met. I was the biggest social retard he knew. He started the record label because he liked what I was doing with the music presumably or he just liked my honesty. The magazine, his fanzine, when he did the first issue he got me in to write a column.
I had this moment of truth when I was writing it: it would frustrate me getting on stage because of the dishonesty involved. I just felt it was so dishonest because you’ve wrote all these heartfelt songs – about not being able to get off with girls…
That’s a funny statement in itself, writing heartfelt songs about not being able to get off with girls!
ET: [Laughs] I know, well, writing heartfelt songs – I’m being a bit cruel on myself here – and then what do you do? You go ahead a practice them or play them on stage a dozen times. When do they stop being heartfelt? When do they start being routine and start being completely meaningless? How do you invest a song with meaning every single time you sing it? Surely the one time you write it is when it matters, no other time. I wasn’t able to articulate it as good as that but I knew something was really wrong with the process, I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like rehearsing beyond the social aspect of it. The idea of playing the same song twice on stage seemed wrong to me. When Alan asked me to write a column for him I couldn’t write to save my life, really I couldn’t. When I started my own fanzine which came out around the time of his fanzine, I had this moment of truth: this is just like getting on stage but it’s more immediate. I can write what I feel, I can put all my thoughts into words and communicate them to other people. Communicating was the most important aspect. Bam! I can leave them and that’s as honest as you can get, that I can possibly be.
To me writing was like performing but only way more real, especially doing your own fanzine. It was back in the days of typewriters and I would quite deliberately not go back and look at what I’d written, not correct any of the mistakes, not do a second version because I felt that that was dishonest. That’s why I made the transition from performing to writing. I just felt it was dishonest to be performing. It isn’t until that I got to be in my forties that I actually started to play proper improvisational shows with musicians. Since I’ve come to Brisbane I’ve been able to reconcile the idea of performing and still being honest—whatever honest means. I’m not naïve enough to think that honesty exists but whatever it is, that integrity of the core of your being, it’s important. That is what I was trying to capture with the early fanzines. It’s always dangerous looking back on stuff because whether you mean it or not, there is always a tendency to make it sound a little bit more glamorous or a little more ‘street cred’ than it actually really is.
Do you consider yourself a musician?
ET: I don’t know what I consider myself these days.
Have you ever consider yourself a musician?
ET: No, not in terms of a musician. I come from a classical upbringing. I’ve got grades on several instruments but I can’t play any of them particularly well. I sang in the choir, that to me is a musician, not someone playing rock music—that’s not being a musician. It can be if you want to define it like that but it’s interesting because I’m probably a fraction snobby like that which is probably why I’ve never really worried about those definitions. If I was pressed I could probably say I’m a singer but half the time I don’t sing. I don’t think I could really say that. I’m a performer more than anything else. That goes across my writing and on stage. I hesitate to call myself a critic at this point in time. I’m certainly not a journalist although I have been in the past both. I used to play guitar on stage but I was never happy with it. I can remember one time that I had just moved into somebody’s floor in Soho in London – taken up residence on their floor – and sitting in the kitchen and writing seven songs on my guitar I just got from Stephen Pastel, it was completely untuned. I made up all these songs myself but could never play them again. They were great songs but it was frustrating that I could never play them again so a certain amount of aptitude is good.
That’s like when Jhonny creates songs, he tells me he has to try to learn to play his songs for performance because when he records them that’s him making them up in that take. Pretty much most songs I’ve written have been on an untuned guitar, when I try to play them on a tuned guitar they don’t sound right to me. I’ve even written songs on a guitar with four strings.
ET: Yeah, it’s not important. It is if you choose to make it important but it’s not if you don’t choose to make it important. It doesn’t seem very difficult to write a song to me. I’ve never understood this great mystique that surrounds it. There’s a whole mystique that surrounds the art of songwriting. Look I’m not denying that a band like The Go-Betweens writes memorable pop songs and that Robert Forrester slaves over his craft and really takes a lot of time and effort but even with that in mind I don’t think there’s any great secret to writing a song. All you do is put a couple of chords in there, a change in there, you make up a melody and some words and that’s it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at all. In fact it seems like such a trivial small deal it just makes me wonder about people. Bob Dylan always goes on about it but Bob, why? So what? Your music has reached millions of people that’s great maybe I’m missing something but, I don’t think I am, I really don’t think I am.
There’s a classic line about music critics being failed musicians. It’s one that has always annoyed me and even angered me because I don’t see what I do musically in any sense or form as being failed. It’s failed if you want to measure music in terms of financial success but who the fuck does that? Seriously, who the fuck will actually sit down and say that they are measuring music in terms of commercial success? Certainly not these people that throw these things around like critics are failed musicians, they would never admit to that. So how are they measuring it? That they like it? That’s a good enough way to measure if something is music or not. I like my own songs just fine. I know people that like my songs as well, people that I respect and people that I like. I’ve written fucking 100s, 1,000s of songs. I’ve performed on stage about a 1,000 times probably at this time in my life. I’ve played in front of no people; I’ve played in front of 20,000 people. How is that a failure? Yes I haven’t gone on to sell five million records but that’s absurd, that’s so stupid and reductionist and pointless. Has the fact that I didn’t sell millions of records gone on to fuel the fact that I was a critic, no, of course not. The reason that I am a critic was because I thought the fact that writing about stuff was more immediate and more honest than being on stage and dealing with stuff. I’m not saying that is true for everyone, I’m just saying that’s for me.
It’s interesting, on the internet last night I was looking at an interview with former Melody Maker photographer Piers Allardyce. In it he refers to me, he refers to me as a failed musician. My first instinct was one of anger like, you fucking idiot! Then I thought well I like Piers. I think he’s a real nice, thoughtful guy. I was thinking well maybe not in the way people normally mean that phrase [failed musician] but maybe there’s some truth in that phrase. Now, as The Legend! which is the name that I called myself when I put out a couple of records on Creation and John Robb’s label Vinyl Drip – after I had my big falling out with Alan McGee – as The Legend! I got to do a couple of tours in Europe. I supported The Shop Assistants which are a band that people forget about these days which is just a shame because they were just a marvellous, marvellous band. I supported them in about 1986 I think about four or five dates in Switzerland and places like that. I supported John Robb’s Membranes with a couple of other bands on a German label, Constrictor Records’ package tour for 17 dates in 17 days zigzagging across Germany which is a mighty big place. That was in about ’87. These tours were really crucial to the act of being Everett True.
The Shop Assistants one was interesting because they are some of the shyest most sweetest kind of people that you could meet with the emphasis on shy and sweet. When we went off on tour together it was really lovely, it was really nice. It was just like being with your friends. I knew The Shop Assistants really, really well—they used to jokingly refer to me as their father. They asked me to manage them once which it was a very good choice not to although the way they turned out maybe it would have been better if I had. I was around from the very start. The first show I did in Scotland was supporting The Pastels. Before I was about to go on stage I was introduced to my guitarist for the night which was David from The Shop Assistants. They used to always stay on my floor when they came to London and I’d always stay on their floor when I went up to Scotland and we loved each other’s music. They weren’t wild people so there were no shenanigans. It was good escaping everyday life for a week or two, it was just wonderful. I’d still do my 9 to 5 job as a screen printer at the time. I think that that probably influenced me a lot more than I realised in terms of expectations of what people should be like in bands when they’re on tour or in terms of if they should be male or female – just really basic stuff. I really loved it.
The Constrictor tour in Germany was really interesting. 17 dates. It was absolutely fucking crazy! One of the classic rock n roll tours, no money scenarios. 4 bands, you could count me as a band even though I was by myself, in one van… sleeping wherever the fuck you could find. Any musician that has been touring will tell you the same thing. John Robb always contended that that was the tour that I learned to drink. I think there’s a certain element of truth in that, certainly I was drinking to excess there. It was also the first tour that I ever properly got groupies on. I would get on stage and some nights I would get into fights with members of the audience because I was by myself and singing songs to antagonise people. We played an army base one time and I started off my set with my anti-war song. Within about ten seconds there were these squaddies getting on stage to beat the shit out of me. John Robb was wielding a mic stand at them for them to keep their distance. It was a rock n roll tour! Any band would have had loads of experiences the same. It was my only real experience of that as a performer myself—that’s a crucial thing. To a degree that’s when I became sexually attractive, although that might have had more to do with my writing than my performing looking back on it. The people that were attracted to me knew me from my writing… anyway… this was a big deal for me. I actually missed the 17th date because I ended up flying across Germany to be at some girl’s house. I went back to the UK shortly afterwards. I didn’t want to return to normality especially with all of the alcohol and shit.
ET: When I found myself in the situation about two years later when all of a sudden I was Everett True – I was at Melody Maker, I was flown to America and all of a sudden I was this rock n roll critic star who was responsible for making and breaking bands careers. All I wanted to do, looking back on it, is recapture that buzz, the thrill I got from being on tour in Germany with The Membranes. That’s all I wanted to do, recapture that thrill of being up on stage every night, being drunk the whole time and being around people that were crazy like me; that whole comradery, that whole rock n roll lifestyle: the lack of sleep, all the bad times as well as the good, being sexually attractive—that’s all I went for when I was Everett True. .. well, not all I went for but one of the major components.
When I become Everett True and when I was The Legend! as much as I could, I would be over the top honest, absolutely to my own detriment because I’m quite down on myself naturally. When I became Everett True one of my goals was to just make people jealous of me, especially in my writing. I’m not a performer up on stage, I’m a performer in print—I’m pretty much a bigger fucking star than anyone you’re ever going to meet. I’m certainly a bigger star than 95% of the musicians that I meet, that much was apparent almost immediately – earning more from it, more people knew who I was, more copies of my work sold, everything that you would judge that on, probably more creative as well.
I still contend that I wasn’t a failed musician but the fact that I wasn’t able to do that whole rock n roll lifestyle off my own bat as a musician is mainly because I refused to practice, I ended up playing by myself. From the beginning with Futile Hurling I would do 50% joke stuff and 50% heart rendering I can’t get off with this girl shit and that confused the hell out of people. The ‘failed musician’ taunt rings true in as much as I made myself become a rock n roll critic/star because I was acting like a musician in print, that’s how I was behaving.
The reason I got along with all of the musicians that I met, or most of them or didn’t, whatever, was because I was operating on exactly the same level as them. There is absolutely no distinction between what I did and what they did. Even to the degree that they would have to be reminding me to do the interview or whatever the fuck it was I was meant to be doing. I’d be like, fuck off! I’m not doing the interview! Performer is the better… I don’t know… am I still a performer? I guess I am.
I used to have massive issues towards the end of the ’90s being Everett True. Jerry Thackray used to have more problems with Everett True than The Legend! but both of them he used to have big problems with in as much as Jerry Thackray never got to sleep with anybody off his own bat, they only ever wanted to sleep with The Legend! or Everett True… which is fine. See I’ve known a lot of groupies. I’ve also known a lot of famous groupies, I used to be quite good friends with Cynthia Plaster Caster in Chicago. I never had a problem with groupies because I totally understand it.
In what way?
ET: Well people have problems with groupies because they think they only want to sleep with famous people, well so what? If you work in a bank you normally only want to sleep with other people on the same level as you that work in a bank and nobody has a go at you for that. It’s also a real male female thing clearly. My point there is that musicians that these groupies want to sleep with, they’ve made themselves into these personas; Everett True made himself into that persona, it was a particular persona that he created for himself. The Legend! was a persona he created for himself. If people wanted to sleep with me for that reason I was more than fine with that because that’s something that I actually had control over – I did that myself. If they wanted to sleep with Jerry Thackray, if they wanted to sleep with me because I was good looking, that’s something I didn’t have control over. That’s a little confused but anyway… I used to have a lot of issues with that.
Is there anything important you’ve learned from any of the musicians or creative people that you’ve met in terms of making music or performing, that kind of thing?
I don’t think so. I met Patrik Fitzgerald in 1982-83, he played on my first single. He’s so shy that guy, you wondered how on Earth did he ever managed to get asked to be on stage in the first place. Then again, I’m so shy. Someone like Patrik in so much as he just did it—you just do it. If there was anyone it would have been back in ’78-’79 when my ideas of what was bad what was good, what was wrong and what was right in music were being formed, it would be someone like Mark Perry with ATV – the idea of being improvisational and trying to change every single time or someone like The Raincoats that were just into being themselves whatever happened.
The weird thing is I kind of stopped performing as such for a block, a period of time, when I became a famous critic in ’89. I stopped performing for six or seven years. I got on stage with more people at that point in time but it was always for joke numbers or two or three songs.
Why did you stop performing at that time when you were so visible to the public?
ET: I never liked the whole routine of what you had to do when you were in a band, rehearsing and trying to get gigs and shit like that. I was perfectly happy to do them but no one ever asked me. Why would they? There’s loads of people actually actively seeking it. It was probably down to that more than anything else.
At this point do you have any regrets about your music career thus far?
ET: Regrets? Well I don’t really see what I could have done any different really. I suppose I could have kept my mouth shut around Alan McGee early on and I might be a millionaire… but I mean, who cares?
I wanted to ask you why you guys had the falling out?
ET: We had a falling out because I was all about being incredibly honest in print. I just started my own fanzine and something Alan did upset me so I wrote about it in my fanzine. He got really upset by the fact that it was printed in the fanzine which is understandable because he was a friend at the time and his wife had to phone me up because he was too upset to speak to me. I totally understand it because I should have just been able to say it to his face. Why was I putting it in print? Was I that much of a social retard? I must have been but I mean that’s wrong, I thought I was being honest but I wasn’t. I was being dishonest if anything because I was hiding behind my typewriter. That’s happened a few other times since.
That’s what I was about to ask.
ET: I had a falling out with my friend at the time, Emma from Lush. I did a similar thing to Lush. I absolutely ripped apart their first album in Melody Maker. People always say ‘well as long as it’s not personal’—my stuff is always personal. If I don’t like something you know it, I try to hurt; if I don’t like something I try to hurt.
I remember once when I was getting frustrated with some things in my life we were talking and you were telling me that sometimes when you get frustrated in your own life you seem to lash out more in your writing.
ET: Yeah that is possible. The thing with Lush is that I should have said it to her first. I think it was cowardly. I’ve known of journalists and critics that are known for taking bands to task in interviews but they only actually do that after they meet the band, not to their face. To me that is really cowardly. If you’re going to do that then do it face-to-face. What was the point before the ‘falling out’ question?
Regrets. I asked because I remember you telling me once that you in some ways you wished you made more of a go at being a musician.
ET: I’m not sure that it would have been possible to continue putting out Legend! records while I was at Melody Maker while I was being Everett True. I did have that single come out on Sub Pop but people kind of ignored it because at the time there was too much else going on. It was frustrating in as much as… I started at Melody Maker, grunge came along, I knew all the kids from Olympia – or at least the ones that knew everybody else – I put out a record on K Records and recorded with Tobi Vail and Calvin Johnson, I recorded a couple of songs with Huggy Bear but that all quickly got swept aside and al of a sudden this Everett True guy became notorious within himself and it’s frustrating in as much as the Legend! couldn’t really exist because there was this Everett True and he almost seemed oppose to all of that. It took me years to recover from that. It wasn’t until I stopped being at Melody Maker, I stopped being at Vox and I came back to England and started doing Careless Talk… quite obviously a fanzine that I started performing with people that I considered my peers again—it took that long! But no, I have no regrets about it because I never saw it as a career choice being up on stage [laughs]. I never saw being a writer as a career choice either… stuff happens and you go along with it, if people want to pay you for it that’s fucking brilliant. I’ve never had the slightest clue why they did and why they don’t now quite honestly. This is my problem and I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon [laughs].
It kind of annoys me when I look back on the ’80s and The Legend! was part of an entire scene when he was putting out records on Creation and Vinyl Drip, even up to and including the very early days of Riot Grrrl and The Legend! never gets any respect or any mention anywhere. I think the stuff that I have done is just as good if not better than anything that pretty much anyone else has done—why wouldn’t I? I’d like that to be addressed a little bit but, why would anybody if I’m not willing to push myself? If you don’t promote yourself at all, why would anybody else? You can’t just wait for people to discover you. Artists especially go on about, just do your stuff and wait for people… no, that’s not how it works at all.
I remember the panel that we did at Unconvention earlier this year and the panel was discussing how a lot of writers and photographers too are reluctant to really push their stuff.
ET: Well that’s just natural. That’s how you get taught to be at school or something I guess. The reason people hated me as much as loved me at Melody Maker but also when I was at the NME was because they thought I was too pushy. Maybe even now, maybe even especially now, people think I promote myself to the detriment of what I’m writing about. I make no apologies for that because I’ve never claimed to do anything else in my writing except for making sense of my own life. That’s the only thing I try to do. I don’t think I do that particularly to well either.
Your circumstances change as well as a writer. If you marry and if you have three small kids you can’t be honest the same way in your writing as you would have done back when you were getting drunk every night and didn’t have any kind of commitments, you can’t be honest the same way – it’s not possible.