Q & A: Richard Milward and Paul Smith
Paul Smith, front man with alternative rock band Maxïmo Park and author, Richard Milward went head-to-head with a few questions about what inspires their work:
Q: What key components of books and literature tend to influence of stimulate your songwriting?
It’s hard to pinpoint one element, but I would say the way words are put together and the way feelings or scenarios are described. I try to balance description and emotion in my lyrics. I’m drawn to books that follow similar themes that I follow myself, so I’m not sure if they have a direct influence, but they tend to make me feel like I’m not just navel-gazing!
Q: Who are your favourite authors?
I like Cormac McCarthy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Updike, and I’ve been getting into Roberto Bolano’s writing recently. I’m heavily influenced by the poems of Frank O’Hara, though I can’t claim to understand them all!
Q: When do you tend to pick up a book – is it when you’re on tour or on your day off?
I find myself reading more when I have time off in Newcastle. On tour, I try to engage with the world around me since I find myself in a new place each day with loads of interesting sights or activities. However, if there’s a long drive or a flight, then I’ll be reading a book.
Q. What connections do you think tere are between music and books?
Well, they both tell stories and have the ability to really move people. From a personal point of view, it’s often the words in a song that truly grip me so the lyrical nature of music allows me a direct connection with reading, which I’ve always loved. People like Leonard Cohen have successfully linked poetry and music, or Joni Mitchell at her best for example. Saying that, there’s a big gulf that separates a good lyric from a good poem. They are, after all, different disciplines.
Q: How does music influence your work – please describe the feelings that you experience when your favourite tunes hit your ears?
It’s a huge influence. I mean, the thing I love about music is it causes an instant reaction – just a few seconds of music can instantly change your mood, while the power of literature reveals itself to you more gradually, page by page. Music’s definitely as big an influence on my writing as other literature or films, and certain moods or colours it conjures up definitely inspires my mindset when I’m scribbling away.
Q: Who are your favourite musicians/bands that get your creativity flowing?
It’s usually ‘experimental’ bands that seem to get the old juices flowing – like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Velvet Underground. They have a mixture of noise and pure pop that seems to reflect my own writing; I guess it’s almost sickly-sweet music.
Q: They say that music can capture the moment – did you find that when you wrote Apples?
Not specifically, although I was discovering the Beatles myself at the time (just like Adam in the story), so I wanted to include a lot of my own feelings about the Fab Four in the writing, especially in the sense of Adam’s ‘All You Need is Love’ revelation towards the end. As for dance music, it’s not the type of thing I usually go for, so my knowledge is pretty slim on it, but it had to be in there – a lot of girls in my school seemed to go for it. Something to dance round the handbag to.
To find out more about Richard’s thoughts on music and Paul’s literary inspirations, come to Desert Island on Sat 11 Sep at 6pm. (Tickets: £6 or £12 with a ticket to Apples) Paul and Richard will also be performing a DJ set after the evening’s performance.
Desert Island is presented in association with New Writing North.