FEATURE: Paul Broadhead – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Release started as an article I wrote for nobody in particular about ten years ago. The article recalled a time when I skipped school to go buy the first Counting Crows record back in 1993, trekking along narrow footpaths and blind corners in the road, the sun beating down on the back of my neck. I made the return journey with an extra skip in my step, in anticipation of spinning that album for the first time. I felt sorry for the kids who won’t grow up with record stores but who instead have instant downloads sent to their phone or whatever. I may not have had the 60s or 70s like Kevin Arnold in my favourite TV show, The Wonder Years – incidentally possibly the biggest influence on my writing – but I at least had that.

It was actually the 1980s that spawned my favourite music scene. Three of my all-time favourite bands; The Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du all emerged from the same era that would ultimately pave the way for Seattle in the 90s to steal the rewards. The first time I heard Somebody To Shove by Soul Asylum I assumed it was a debut single. I thought all bands just got big like Guns N’ Roses did with Appetite For Destruction. It turned out to be from their eighth album. So I saved up and I bought them all. I then read about The Replacements and Husker Du and did the same with them too. I love both the Asylum and Huskers, but it was The Replacements that really stole my heart. They have influenced everything I’ve ever done in my life. From my music, to my dress sense (or lack of) to my appetite for alcohol consumption. They drank a lot…

My first trip abroad on my own was Minneapolis in 2004. The Replacements’ frontman Paul Westerberg was playing three nights at the Pantages and so naturally, I went to all three. Prior to things like MySpace and Facebook I’d grown up thinking I was the only person in the world to get these bands. Thanks to a guy called Matt Tomich who ran The Skyway mailing list, I discovered I wasn’t at all. These people took me in and looked after me. I turned down the chance to meet Paul because it would have been too much. I’ve never really regretted it but I’ve savoured the “Paul + Paul = Paul” ticket stub he signed for me to pass on that night. And I hung out with Lori from Babes In Toyland and Tommy Stinson’s mum served me pancakes. Living. The. Dream.

I’ve always written song lyrics. I think I’m quite good at it, but I’m not very good at performing them, especially on stage. I had a band when I lived in London called The Regrets. Our most popular song was a punked-up cover of The Poddington Peas Theme song. At our last show in Camden a friend overheard somebody say that we were the worst band they’d ever seen. I took it as a compliment. If you can’t be the best, be the worst. It’s better than being forgettable. I don’t know, I guess it’s a Replacements mentality thing.

Music is in my heart. The idea of bands on the road eating shitty food and drinking shittier lager is very romantic to me. I never got to do it with my band, so I often pack a bag and go follow my favourite bands on tour.

With writing you don’t need to perform it. You just have to live it and have the ability to get down on paper what’s in your head. Oh, and maybe change some names to protect the guilty. That’s easier to me. So I took that article, my love of Minneapolis and my songs and threw mud at the wall and it all landed in the giant mess that is my debut novel, Release. I’d actually more or less finished the first draft of the book before I ever tried my hand at music journalism, despite the fact that the central character is a disillusioned one. So although there’s some people in there who may recognise themselves and certain events, it’s by in large a work of fiction. It certainly touches on some darker elements of the music industry and the pursuit of wealth and technological progress ahead of something a bit more substantial and real. And there’s references to love and family and to mental health that are perhaps a little bit more universal.

Ultimately though, it’s a love letter to Minneapolis and that music scene that has inspired me so much. It’s not going too far to say that without it, I wouldn’t be here. Those bands and many others besides have gotten me through a lot of dark times. Music is in my heart. The idea of bands on the road eating shitty food and drinking shittier lager is very romantic to me. I never got to do it with my band, so I often pack a bag and go follow my favourite bands on tour. Anybody from Los Campesinos! to Rihanna. I’ve eclectic tastes and music is my biggest passion.

I think I always had the idea of trying to record some music to go with the book but Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine gave me the courage to do it. He wrote my favourite novel Northline and records instrumental CD’s to accompany his books. It was just gonna be acoustic guitar and vocals on my little digital recording studio until I first went into my friend David Platt’s home studio. There, the songs took on a new life. He’s an exceptional guitar player and bassist and worked on programming drums and strings and, well, the album probably wouldn’t have happened without him.

Release has sat on my laptop in various stages of completion for up to ten years. But in reality, it’s a journey that started when I first heard Dave Pirner singing about wanting Somebody To Shove when I was an awkward teenager. Now that I’m an awkward 40-something, it’s finally here. I hope somebody finds something in it that matters as much to them as my favourite music matters to me.

Paul Broadhead will be performing a set of tracks from the album and there will be a headline set from The Impediments, a Bishop Auckland band who cover The Replacements and write their own Minneapolis inspired tunes. Paperbacks will be on sale on the night and every person who attends will get a free CD. Entry is Free. It all takes place at Prohibition Cabaret Bar, Gateshead on Friday 30th November. More information here.

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