After a mis-spent childhood pouring over scores by Xenakis, Steve Reich and Louis Andriessen and listening to DAF, PiL, the Fall and David Bowie, Simon Bookish has come to scare you off then charm you back with a blend of messy distorted Laptop beats and samples, Casio synth pile-ups and icy songs about close-curcuit surveillance, American video art and Antonin Artaud. He is an increasingly notorious, energetic live performer, here to inject the spirit of the avant-garde back into pop music. And make you dance to a five-in-a-bar beat. Meet Simon Bookish, a bespectacled, non-athletic librarian, an heir to the neu-deustch throne.
"I came to London from Leicester to study Classical Music, I don’t really play anything anymore, I’ve burnt all my bridges in that sense. Originally I was into Early Music, Henry the Eighth and Handel, then I became disillusioned with it and got involved with experimental forms. John Cage was a big influence on me, I was doing lots of ultra minimal, restrained drone compositions that gradually became very electronic.
After 4 years at Music College, I’d had enough of being restrained. It was quite stifling in that environment and I’d simply had enough of being stuck indoors listening to anally retentive violin players.I played at the Whitechapel Gallery, replacing MCKinky last week. It was next door to the Freedom Press Anarchist Bookshop, Alabama 3 had played there previously and the anarchists had got really disgruntled at the noise traveling across the courtyard. They were holding up signs against the windows saying ‘TURN IT DOWN!’ Can you believe it?? They’re meant to be anarchists! So, most of my set was done screaming up against the window – it went down a right treat with them, although they tried their hardest to ignore me.
I’ve lived all over the East End, all the glamorous parts, Plaistow, Isle Of Dogs, Bethnal Green, Stratford, Mile End. I just love the luxury and am currently residing in Hackney, in the house of electronic music. There are lots of synthesisers in every room; my favourites are the casios, which I use for most of my Simon Bookish tracks.I write about a lot of pain and death, as I’m incapable of writing about love or generic lyrics. My songs are quite disparate, I’ve written one about the artist Bruce Naumann, called ‘Portrait of an artist as a fountain’. The song is about images from his work without mentioning his name. He’s excellent, and is one of my favourite artists.
I suppose I should have been an artist, when I arrived at Music College I always thought it would be like Art College, full of energy, ideas and aesthetics. I’ve often found that visual art has been a constant source of inspiration, probably more than music even.I’ve been writing more narrative lyrics recently, someone like Morrissey is quite an economical writer, people imagine him to be quite verbose, but in fact, his songs have very little in them.
I haven’t played any hometown gigs yet, I think my Mum would want to come and see and I don’t think that she could deal with it.Who inspires my clothes? I sometimes shop in charity shops, although I tend to find that they never fit me. London has its moments, although Leicester used to be brilliant, the best place I’ve found is in Amsterdam. They sell really good Army Surplus – although recently I have been making my own clothes. Leslie’s on Roman Road? No - I’ve never been there. It sounds dreadful!
I haven’t been out dancing in a while, I’ve been dragged down to Kashpoint a few times (Matthew Glamorre’s new club). I’ve ended up doing some shows down there – it has it’s moments of being really experimental, but there are moments of having to play cheesy old Electroclash to make people dance.I haven’t tried out any of the Turkish Social Clubs in Hackney yet, I used to go to Efe’s in Stoke Newington quite a lot. I don’t miss living there, it seems to be turning into Hampstead these days, I need a bit more realism for inspiration, more of a grimier urban reality.
Brick Lane is a place I still love – up until Friday night that is, when it becomes a little bit too much like Soho, all the Romford Hairdressers start invading and it becomes a little hellish. It does have a bit of the 18-30 atmosphere, maybe it’s got another couple of years in it until it becomes utterly, utterly horrible? Brick Lane has done quite well to avoid the New Look High St thing so far, but it’s a whisker away from McDonalds opening around the corner.
I ended up in the East End out for the same reason as everyone else: Poverty. The best thing about the East End is that it is not the west, which is always good! I think I’d much rather be here in the East with the threat of McDonalds hanging over it than be stuck in Notting Hill where the threat of McDonalds is a grim reality.I see Pete Burns around the West End quite a lot, he’s really amazing, has a beautiful face, enormous lips, womanly breasts, and the hands of a builder. From the forearms down he may as well be a Brickie! I’ve never spoken to him though, it’s always best not to meet your idols.
In the past 3 months I’ve been in the presence of Mark E Smith 3 times, but always have been a bit wary of speaking to him. Some of my friend were encouraging me to go and speak to him …."Come and speak to Mark! He’s really nice and you’re a big fan of The Fall!""I can’t, I just can’t do it!"Then it turned out later that a few people had gone up to him saying how much they loved The Fall, and what big fans they were. He told them to sod off, which sums him up really. I think he’s best appreciated from afar, apparently he owns a Porsche with a crate full of Brandy in the boot.
I’ve never set out to emulate anyone, although some people have said I sound like DAF (electronic duo in the wake of suicide), DJ Hell has tried to repopularise them recently. My sound is quite English, and I play up to that in many ways.My daytime job is a Librarian (I’m a Libran Librarian), I’ve been temping all over London – the best one was archiving missionary’s reports from Papau New Guinea. It was quite a hardcore Christian Mission, and the nuns all get eaten by the natives. There was a spate of missionaries interrupting tribal ceremonies at just the wrong moment, they all got devoured by the natives in a sacrificial way. Because I was working with the original documents I got to read their final diary entries "And tomorrow, we set sail for a new part of the island to evangelise to the natives there, I do hope it all goes well…"I have also been temping in the Veterinary Library, one man came in asking for an article entitled ‘Comparisons in the Differences in Quality Between Frozen, Thawed, and Re-warmed DogSemen’, and I thought to myself, "Simon Bookish, this is an excellent job!"
Most of my tracks are written on my laptop, I invade other people’s studios if they give me time. I am working constantly on the tracks, not out of a sense of duty to it, but it’s all I have hunger for at the moment. In terms of what I would actually want people to hear, I have a good albums worth. Not having a guitar means I have been shunned by the Camden’s Rock Scene. I tried to rehabilitate Camden last year, I was originally of the opinion that there was nowhere worse on earth. I had a few nights out in Camden where I tried to enjoy the aesthetic of the place, it was populated by strange girls in pink with dots on their faces, plucked out eyebrows and pipe cleaner hair. Lots of tourists as well, who really have no idea what they are getting themselves into.
There’s nothing out of mine on general release yet, however, I did a track with an ironic 2-step act called Turbo n’ Syntax based on Brothers Grimm Cinderella. It’s a version where the ugly sisters chop off parts of their feet, like Brothers Grimm go to the disco – it’s just been released on the new Kashpoint Compilation and is available from Victim on Fashion Street, and at Rough Trade Covent Garden."
Simon Bookish was talking to Adelle Stripe in November 2004
Simon Bookish/Leo Chadburn has recently released his LP Unfair/Funfair, and will be releasing Trainwreck/Raincheck also on Use Your Teeth Records in late 2006 check out www.simonbookish.com for downloads and further information.