Sometimes you need people to push boundaries, think outside conventions and don’t conform to existing limits. Louder Than War, born in 2010 to push against conventions and stereotypes has a manifesto that all should subscribe to: ‘We still believe in the power of music and we still believe in the counter culture. Music is one of the last things we have left No-one owns it. We can all make it. And we can all celebrate it. It is beyond the accountant’s grim fingers’ they are the kind of people you know are making the world, musically and otherwise a better place.’
As a big fan of music and words, the news that these inspiring and somewhat maverick people have hooked up with Jill Adam and Level Partnerships to develop a brand new genre-based literary festival celebrating words – oral, written and published – associated with the music industry, is somewhat exciting.
Louder Than Words takes place at the Palace Hotel in Manchester over 15th-17th November. It’s a weekend where all involved can meet to hear, share, discuss and celebrate the best of published and unpublished words associated with music and popular culture industries. Authors, artists, poets, performers, lyrics and lyricists, journalists, DJs, bloggers and publishers of music and popular culture are all included. Louder Than Words includes ‘in conversation with…’ sessions, panel discussions, interviews, workshops, performances and casual opportunities for engaging with associated professionals; each encouraging interaction and engagement with people passionate about music and the literary scene.
Some speaker highlights include Zoë Howe, a music author whose books include the authorised Slits biography Typical Girls?; ‘How’s Your Dad?’ Living In The Shadow Of A Rock Star Parent; Florence + The Machine – An Almighty Sound , Mick Middles who has been writing about – mostly – Manchester music since the punk wars of ’77 and authored 22 (!) books and John Robb, who, as well as being frontman of punk rock band Goldblade, music author of best selling books including the Stone Roses And The Resurrection Of British Pop and and Punk Rock- An oral History can claim to be the first person to interview Nirvana and the Stone Roses and invented the term Britpop.
Pretty bloody thrilled about this concept, I got in touch with Festival Creator and Curator, Jill Adam, to find out more.
What inspired the festival?
The chance to bring like-minded, interested and interesting people together for a weekend to meet, hear, share and discuss their passion and interest in the sector. I’ve felt for a long time that there’s nothing quite like Louder Than Words out there. There are opportunities to go to individual sessions or events – some solo standing, some as part of existing literary festivals – but Louder Than Words is distinctive in its entirety and focus in that it takes place over a whole weekend.
There seems to have been a big blurring of lines between different forms of art recently – do you think this has always been the way, or have new technologies and changes made this easier?
You’ll have to come along and join in some of the debates being held in some of our sessions! Technology is a big player in the field but not one that automatically means things are easier – either to do, access or understand – but it does have an influence. Fanzines are a good example in the evolution of self ‘publishing’ (in its broadest sense)… thirty years ago (or even 15 years ago), self-publishing sites for aspiring and ambitious writers didn’t exist in the way they do now – the technology helps, simplifies and speeds up aspects of the process BUT the content and the quality of the content is still the thing we judge the product by!
Can you tell me a bit more about some of the performers? Who are you looking forward to?
New announcements are being made from now via the website, including a range of in conversations, panels, workshops. John Osborne’s story telling piece John Peel’s Shed will be a highlight for me, as will the student writing competition award and the sheer range of great writers and aficionados involved in the Festival.
Obviously words and literature go far beyond the printed page, but what are your favourite music books?
Zoe Howe’s book on Wilko Johnson Looking Back At Me is a firm favourite – style, content, coverage and giving the reader that inside edge beyond what can be easily gleaned from Wikipedia ! Maria Raha’s book, Cinderella’s Big Score is a great text focused on women of the punk and indie scenes. It’s a read of nostalgia but also a text that stimulates the mind about changing times and attitudes – perhaps! I also love John Osborne’s Radio Head. I’m a big fan of radio and the ways in which different audiences and tastes can be catered for across the dials – his style is perceptive, highly amusing and right to the point.
One of the most obvious examples of music and words are lyrics. Do lyrics matter?
Well, at its simplest, lyrics provide or add a framework to a song. I think the question over what constitutes a lyric rather than a poem or a set of statements is an interesting one, but if they complement the song, for me, they matter. I’m not sure they’re always the driver in a song – or its development – for me they make up, or contribute to, a song’s completeness. To look at it another way, a song can be completely trashed by ridiculous lyrics! Some of my favourite lyricists capture that balance between story, information, humour, relevance and mood – Chris Difford is a great example. More recently, Alex Turner is tremendous – social commentary, context and culture all wrapped up in humour, wonderfully observation and of course rhythm. Can they have an influence of the listener – let’s stick with Alex Turner and yes, is the simple answer… listening to his lyrics is like reading a great book and getting the images and characters clear in your mind and the story unfolds.
If they do influence, should they be used for ‘good’ effect – a bit like Louder Than War’s Pop and Politics nights?
Ask Billy Bragg! For me the two are often inextricably connected – great songs by groups such as The Clash could (and should) equally be described as political songs. The timing and context are really important and that relationship certainly needs consideration in thinking about what ‘good effect’ means And why not? If lyrics can help engage people in politics and critical social thinking, then perhaps today, they can serve another positive purpose.
One of the things that is so great about Louder Than Words is the way that it takes music out from the headphones and into the real world, be that literary, politically, or socially. Exploring new spaces and places, thoughts and sounds, and the intersections between them all it’s a weekend full of promise. Get your tickets here.