Music obsession can be a blessing and a curse. I’m somewhat pleased that technology saved me from my fate. The scenario where I live in a five room apartment, behind each door and through hallways, mountains of CD’s and piles of vinyl threatening imminent collapse. The thought of being buried alive under books a very likely event.
Downloads seem to be a different investment, no real sense of possession as one experiences with something tactile in their hands. No moods or textures to stimulate, holograms, picture discs, gatefolds, images, colours and tracklists read on the bus on the way home from the record shop.
I take my music seriously. My youth was loaded with anarchic sounds. Indie was my main bag, still is. Escaping through windows every weekend to sneak into pubs with older boys with more than music on their minds. I craved the sheer rawness of live performance, I wanted to see the spray of saliva through light haze, watch smoke rise from heated bodies, experience the ancient heartbeat and voyeuristic pull of performance.
I wanted something different, I wanted the real thing, sniffing out the fakers was easy.
The mere suggestion of one of my favourite songs had me purchasing yet another Indie author. A 99c offer on Smashwords – obscene really. It amazes me to see such a great read practically given away, but this is yet another phenomenon for artists these days.
I recently scored a rare moment with Scottish born author Max Frick. I was so entertained by his debut novella Debaser, I wanted to find out how this slice of suburban mania came about. It’s discordant scenes at times mirroring The Pixies vocal frenzy. Max is an extravagant communicator of words and feelings. Prose rich in the minutiae, making this pernicious story blaze behind your eyes. It reads like PG Wodehouse meets Irvine Welsh without the locution. It’s a totally mashed murder mystery, a dark spiral of mind altering madness between a sadomasochistic odd couple. Mates, Tony Drake and Billy Wilson kickin’ it into trouble that leads to an unfortunate revenge bender with rockstar Ryan Watson.
Max Frick knows the angst and bitterness that his protagonist Tony Drake spits.
“I grew up in a town not dissimilar to the one depicted in the book. I’ve sat by that river, and skated that skate park, and I still occasionally shop in that shopping centre. And, believe it or not, Take That (one of the first boy bands; the beginning of the end) actually gave an early performance (you couldn’t possibly call it a gig) in that very night club. I was there that night, at the club. It was just an ordinary night to begin with. It’s the type of club that plays something for everyone: some pop, some rock, some indie, some oldies, a couple of slow songs at the end before the lights come up. In the middle of all of this the DJ made some announcement and these five young guys came on and began doing their synchronized dance moves to a backing track or two. Nobody quite knew what was going on, or who they were, and we could all have cared less (I remember a friend of a friend briefly toyed with the idea of throwing his beer bottle at them). And then they went off and things got back to normal. It was only much later I realised I had witnessed the birth of the apocalypse”.
Tony Drake is obsessed with music. He’s also fuckin’ mental.‘brimming with the fury of the unjustly oppressed‘. ‘Drako’ feels hard done by, his jealousy eats him up. The rise of the corporate boy bands of the 90’s didn’t annoy nor stimulate me. I just chose to ignore those groups, cattle called sending talentless wannabees with a look and lure for every girls purse, wall and sticky dreams. In this book, Frick studies the ‘cult of celebrity laid bare’. The untalented rise of the mediocre and zed graders. The difference between those who merely want fame and those whose art is a natural extension of self. He has other well thought out characters, the mindless consumers and the perpetrators of envy – the media, advertisers and record executives. Tony is super drug addled, which becomes a contributing factor to his erratic mind and simmering rage. ‘Fame comes at a price, they say, but the price has never been so low’.
“There are people these days with no discernible talent who are not about to let such a minor inconvenience get in the way of their becoming famous. And they do! Become famous, I mean. It’s baffling. Do they employ publicists, or what? These people have massive egos and very little shame. They no longer even pretend to have a product to sell. They are merely pretty packaging. There’s nothing inside”
Other characters reveal themselves to be leeches. Knowing that fifteen minutes is there for the taking. Those that hang, ride and encourage the delusional. Max doesn’t hold back, he really gets stuck into these life maggots
“Yeah, fucking cunts“.
Tony Drake speaks his mind, he is a wonderfully depicted character,
“I love the guy. I love his passion. I enjoy him the most when he’s venting his spleen, because it’s also me venting mine, up to a point. But he is a bit of a fool. Tony wouldn’t understand the concept of ‘dignified silence’. If you tried to explain it to him he’d probably call you a shiter (a coward in Scottish parlance) and tell you to shut the fuck up”.
This book is full of anarchy and disruptive personalities a familiar reflection of misspent youth and Britain in general.
“I think everybody’s youth is to some degree misspent, and that’s probably as it should be. The problem nowadays seems to be, in Britain at least, that that mis-spending continues into middle age and beyond. Nobody wants to grow up. So, yeah, characters like these are ten a penny where I come from. But also bear in mind that the anarchy in this book is confined to one weekend, more or less. And we’ve all had weekends like that. Haven’t we? Minus the dead superstar, of course”.
KIDNAPPED! BEATEN! RAPED! KILLED! EATEN! Max fills you in early with what to expect from this cathartic memoir of the 80’s and 90’s.’Cathartic’ in that his character Tony, seems fed up with being duped. Watching punters force fed what to think, what to buy and how to behave. This just really gets him reeling, and something Max can relate to?
“Absolutely. I don’t rant and rave at the telly like Tony might, but I do think it’s a cause for some concern. Billy Bob Thornton said a while back that marketing is the devil (at least according to Brainy Quotes he did) and it’s worse now than ever it was. We’re all being seduced into wanting that perfect lifestyle that’s promised to us in advertisements for everything from cars to toilet paper. But my real beef, I think, is with the weak-minded individuals who actually do buy into it; who would never even consider having any other brand of toilet paper in the house – good God, no! Life no longer imitates art (if indeed it ever did). It now imitates adverts.”
Max Frick writes about the music industry like he’s been on the front line, but it’s not a case of writing what you know.
“Not at all, in fact. I have no more knowledge of the music industry than the next guy (but I am very glad you thought that). My music mogul, Steve Steve, is a composite of the businessmen I’ve come into contact with over the years, simply transposed into musical surroundings, if you like. The rest is pure fabrication. I do like to think I know music though”.
Tony is a ball of negative energy, charged for trouble and confrontation. The antics with a constantly scene stealing howling wolfhound with his saliva enriched doggy dialogue had me in stitches. Does Dooley exist?
“No. I made him up. He represents a certain simplicity, I think. Animals possess none of the artfulness that humans do. They are always genuine. In my wildest imaginings, though, I sell enough books to buy a house with a garden, and a dog just like him. Or maybe even rescue one from the dog’s home. So, yeah, ultimately what I think I’m saying to the readers of this interview is: buy this book and you might just save a dog’s life. It’s entirely up to you”.
You can now find Debaser and his short story Old Mr Bitterman – Criminally Insane for free on Smashwords.
You can find Max Frick on Twitter