A surprisingly insightful Everett True interview from 2009
Someone alerted me to this the other day, done for an Italian fanzine. I thought I’d reprint it.
01) would you rather be referred to as Jerry Thackray or Everett True?
Either is good, but I guess that in a public context most people know me because of my writing, so Everett makes more sense. It sometimes feels a bit ‘cheeky’ if people use my real name – like they haven’t earned the right?
02) did the pseudonym enable you to fully express yourself, or would it all have been the same without it?
I’ve used plenty of other pseudonyms (most notably, The Legend! in the 80s at NME etc) but yes, it is worth bearing in mind that writing – like any art performed in the public arena – is part-performance, so it’s worth having a persona that you can slip in and out of. It used to be that all my different personas were far more separated: now, it’s all blurred and I don’t think it makes any difference whatsoever.
03) do you know who Richard Bachman is?
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull… no, that was Richard Bach. I’ve just Googled him, so now I do.
04) which was your very first record ever, and what did you think after listening through it?
If you mean, what was the first record I ever bought – it was The Sex Pistols (with Ronnie Biggs), ‘The Biggest Blow’ 12-inch. I came to pop music/punk very late on – when I was 17 – and it was a straightforward choice between either liking it or losing my friends. I wasn’t that good at making friends, so I chose the former. So I was old enough to know that the first record I bought would be something I’d be asked about in years to come, and chose accordingly. I wish I hadn’t. It’s a lame record, I don’t even particularly like the band – and the first record I actually WANTED to buy was far cooler (‘Denis’ by Blondie).
05) when did you start writing music, and when did you start writing about music?
I’m classically trained, so strictly speaking I was writing music (as part of school exercises) on manuscript when I was about 13. That’s too literal. I first formed a ‘band’ with my friends when I was 16 or 17 – before I ever bought a record, you’ll note. My friends were into esoteric stuff like The Residents, Ramones and The Fall. So the music was all about recorders (the ones you blow down), guitars with drumsticks stuck between the strings, really bad recording and piano. They called the band Blowjob. I was so naïve I believed them when they told me it was because we blew down our recorders and wrote the name all over my school exercise books and didn’t understand when I got slapped in detention by my teachers.
I started writing about music around about 1982 or 1983, when Alan McGee asked me to contribute a column about all the music I hated (called The Sound Of Music, after my favourite film) to the first issue of his fanzine, Communication Blur. I couldn’t even string a sentence together, so I used a ton of exclamation marks to make up for any deficiencies. We fell out a few years later, and so I continued publishing my own fanzine, The Legend!.
06) do you have any fave writers? not just in music, I mean.
The usual: Graham Greene, John Buchan, Michael Moorcock (when I was in my teens), Paul Morley (likewise), John Berger, Elmore Leonard, CS Lewis (when I was in my pre-teens), George Orwell, Charlie Brooker, Harlan Ellison (when I was in my teens), Phillip Pullman, Bill Naughton, Alan Moore, Philip K Dick, Eddie Campbell, JD Salinger… oh man, now I just want to keep listing names so I don’t miss any out… there’s no females on that list, which is wrong. Roberta Gregory, Jane Suck, Sally Margaret Joy, Jessica Hopper, Harper Lee, JK Rowling, Trina Robbins, Germaine Greer. I’m way more influenced by creative females than male.
07) you are considering the state of music in 2009 from a rather peculiar perspective, and your recent online activity is investigating the matter as of now (with your ongoing series on DiS and your blogs): what are your thoughts on the whole tripped-out mess?
That’s too involved a question. I will say this, though. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding about web 2.0: commentators think it increases choice. It doesn’t. It lessens it. I love the fact it makes art and music and so on accessible to all, IF YOU ARE ONLY PREPARED TO LOOK and know how to look. I hate the fact it’s made arts and music and so on accessible to all.
Folk say that everyone’s a critic now. Wasn’t that always the case? Folk don’t say (but should) that everyone’s a musician now. Wasn’t that always the case? Or is there a different level of expertise required for different art forms?
08) how would you describe the PLAN B experience??? did that teach you any lesson at all?
Um, there’s nothing to describe – not really. Plan B was a self-funded magazine that survived for several years, pursuing its own editorial line and not paying particular attention to marketing or advertising concerns. Aren’t all magazines like that? The lesson it taught me was, yes, of course: it’s eminently possible to produce a magazine like that and even pay the key members of staff enough money to keep them in corn and rice if that’s what you want to do. I’ve never really understood what seems to be the accepted approach to both music and magazine publishing: it’s far easier (and fun) to produce great music and writing than bad, so why don’t more people? All you have to know is what to leave out.
09) THE TRUE STORY ends up with rather grim undertones… but reality proved those last lines weren’t quite the truth regarding your relationship with music… what’s really going on?
That book was written almost a decade ago. Oh wait, no it wasn’t. The end of that book was based upon another book written almost a decade ago. I could have made the end more optimistic and bouncy, but ultimately I chose to finish the story at the obvious punctuation mark (more or less) – and… (shrugs)… it didn’t seem like it merited a more upbeat ending. Sadly, I wasn’t able to do what Charlie ‘I love Bruce Springsteen, me’ Cross did in his mighty, made-for-Hollywood tome, Heavier Than Heaven and transport myself inside the head of a man about to kill himself. So I had to make do with second-best and aim for an approximation of the truth.
10) what, in your own opinion, is the very task of a passionate music writer? is there something a music writer should NEVER do?
- Tell the truth.
- Make friends with other critics.
- Forget that they’re writing within the entertainment industry.
- Discuss the music.
- Write for any publications they despise.
- Be anything less than emotionally involved with the music they’re discussing.
- Start believing their own press.
- Start thinking that their opinion means any more than anyone else’s.
- Read press releases.
- Write lists.
11) …and what is the very task of a passionate music maker?
To never forget that if you’re on stage performing that you’re on stage performing to an audience. It’s the interaction between the audience and the performer that defines the music far more than the intent behind the music.
12) how did THE LEGEND start out? looks like you’re getting pretty busy these days, what are your plans for the future?
I have never had plans for the future. I wish I could’ve done. I didn’t start out, either. It was a joke, a cruel joke played upon me by some well-meaning but ultimately cruel friends. Without it, I would’ve… you know, I really have no idea whatsoever how my life would’ve turned out without it. I have no training, no skills (I was a really crap cleaner and screen-printer for several years in the 80s). Man alive. I’ve never had a safety net.
13) did you ever read reviews about your own music, and if so, what were your reactions? did anything ever piss you off?
Yes, of course I read reviews of my own music, the rare times they occur: mostly, they mention the fact I’m Everett True and that I once hung out with a couple of famous people and that I’m old and that I’m a bit weird and a bit fat and that I ramble, and by the time they’ve done all that there really isn’t much room for anything else. Have I ever been pissed off by anything’s written about my music? Um, I really don’t think that way…
14) what are your thoughts on scenes, scenesters, sexism and prejudice? I know you voiced a loud support of girls in music…
I am bored with homophobia, sexism, racism… unless it’s entertaining. It very, very rarely is – and if it is, there’s usually some point behind it, and intelligence (and I still have an unshakeable, rather naïve belief that truly intelligent people can’t be any of the above, even though the evidence seems to be to the contrary). I love scenesters and scenes: that’s what rock’n’roll is all about and it’s totally foolish to deny otherwise. I have belonged to, or been affiliated with, many tribes in my time. I support females in music because it seems that 98% of my contemporaries quite deliberately support the other sex: and a position in opposition is often more entertaining. Plus (to make a gross generalisation), I prefer the way females play music, and sing.
15) how about your one-word-opinion for each of the following artists:
- the sisters of mercy – Jolene, ice
- killing joke – Clarendon, menace
- the god machine – meltdown, desolate
- sonic youth – godfathers (and mother), inspirational
- the church – rock music
- placebo – rock music
- queens of the stone age – Jägermeister
- soul coughing – rock music
- prong – rock music
- cocteau twins – 80s
- george a. romero – freak
- the raveonettes – rock music
- king crimson – 70s
- michael Jackson – pop music, good
- foo fighters – pop music, bad
- david lynch – fun, inspirational
- ministry – rock music
- psychic tv – Brion Gysin
The Legend! (live on stage in support to Electrelane) at the Zoo with Josh, Joel and Sarah, 2012) pic: Michelle Brown