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Coral - Nick Power - Interview

  by Harry Sherriff

published: 9 / 8 / 2014

Coral - Nick Power - Interview


Harry Sherriff speaks to Nick Power, the keyboardist and co-songwriter in the Coral about his debut poetry collection, 'Small Town Chase'

Nick Power is best known for being the keyboard player and occasional co-songwriter in influential Wirral band The Coral, but last year he released his debut poetry collection, ‘Small Town Chase’, to critical acclaim. This debut is of such quality that it doesn’t feel like a debut. It’s clear that Power has been reading and working away on his craft for years and was waiting for the right moment to unveil this literary side. The collection brings to mind such heavyweights as Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski. Power has successfully transplanted that mid-west Americana feeling and fused it with his own slant on things to produce a unique piece of work that feels relatable but also a lot larger than what is on the page. PB: You have a new collection coming along? Does it have a title yet? What's the vision/theme for this one compared to ‘Small Town Chase’? NP: The new set of poems are going well, thanks. I want to follow the last one up with something better so it can be a challenge. I'm constantly putting pressure on myself to improve. I've got a few titles I'm playing with but can't seem to settle on one. It might be similar to ‘Small Town Chase’ with a few longer prose things in it. At the moment, I'm enjoying where it's taking me. I prefer to stumble around blindly for a couple of days if it takes me into an interesting area. If all goes to plan with the publishers, it will be out late this year, or early next. PB: When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer as well as a musician? NP: I started writing before I got into playing music. Then that took over for about ten years of my life. But I was always more interested in the songwriting side of things rather than the playing. I got into the band because I was interested in writing lyrics. I went back to writing when the band took a long break. PB: Is writing hard for you or does it come naturally with being around lyrics for so much of your life? NP: It's like anything; you have your good days and your bad. Sometimes it pours out of you and sometimes you're reading your old stuff trying to remember what inspired you in the first place. I'd say writing in the way I do is slightly easier than writing for the band as I only have to please one person rather than five. Also, there's a freedom with poetry in the sense that there's no rigidity in the form of verse/chorus/verse. Without getting too self indulgent, that is. PB: Do you ever listen to music whilst writing? If so what's good to write to? NP: Yeah, all the time. Mostly music with no lyrics so I can visualise things. Film soundtracks are great for that. Miles Davis/Sun Araw/Lee Perry/’Blade Runner OST’/Charles Mingus/Can/Eno. Soundscapes is the word, I think. PB: What was the editing process like on ‘Small Town Chase’? Did you have a lot to choose from or did everything you write end up in the book? NP: I had a lot to choose from in the sense that one day I decided to sit down and dig out everything I'd written in the previous ten years and try and get a little collection together. So, that ended up being about half of ‘Small Town Chase’. After erbacce showed interest in publishing me, I had to write the other half within six months. That was great because I had some validation of what I was doing. It had escaped into reality. I felt really inspired then. PB: Some poems in the collection feel like a scene distilled or a glimpse at something bigger, such as for example ‘Excerpt’ which shows a sister trying to pierce the ears of her younger sister. Is a short story collection on the horizon or even a debut novel? NP: Yeah, some of them read like parts of a bigger story, but I've always been into that - a glimpse of a small scene that might be a part of something bigger. I always like something that leaves your mind to fill in the blanks rather than doing it for you. As far as short stories go, I write all the time- monologues, dialogue pieces, narratives. The form may change but I'm trying to paint the same picture. It's an obsession. I get a lot of ideas from movies, too. I think that's where a lot of it comes from- small imaginary scenes of this bigger world I'm trying to create. Hopefully, there's some common thread that links them all. I like old British kitchen sink cinema like 'Cathy Come Home' and 'The Edge of the World', and also independent American stuff like 'Mystery Train' and 'Trees Lounge'. Movies that reflect a certain town or city in a dramatic and romantic way. Hard-boiled detective stuff too, like 'The Big Sleep and 'Angel Heart' for a surreal twist. Crime literature tends to make the leap into film a lot easier than other genres for me. PB: The release of ‘Small Town Chase’ seemed to be extremely positive. Did it all go as planned? Is there anything that you wish now that you had done in the months after it was released? NP: No, I was pretty pleased and surprised at the reaction. Because I don't perform the poems live, I had to find other ways of drawing attention to them, which turned out to be fun in the end. I asked a few actors and musicians to record readings of them, which I then put up on Soundcloud. This seemed really natural in hindsight, as a lot of the actors said they felt like they were reading small snippets of scenes or secret diary entries. PB: Is it tricky being a poet that isn’t part of a scene and who doesn’t do live readings? Live readings are obviously a great way to get the work out there. Is this something you might have to buckle to as things progress? NP: I know that I'd definitely like to work with and interact with other writers. I think you can really learn a lot from someone who you can relate to artistically. It takes it out of that isolated headspace and into reality and with that comes more experimentation and creative freedom, I think. As for performance, I wouldn't rule it out one day. It's something I have to work on. I'm just not much of a performer really. I'd prefer to work with actors in the same way a playwright does. If someone is better at portraying a character or mood that I've written, then I want them to do it! I think it's a fresh angle too. PB: You got John Simm and Maxine Peake involved. They’re obviously well-known top British actors. How did that come about? NP: They were always two of my favourite British actors - I'd met John Simm at a couple of our gigs before, so I thought I'd have a chance. He responded really well and said he loved the material. Maxine too, who I think is the best actor of her generation, hands down. They were both eager to be involved and that was flattering. They read a poem each and had it recorded within a couple of days of me asking. If I can expand on this with the next collection, I'd be happy. PB: You collaborated with a Liverpool artist Low Coney and produced some really cool artwork that was released with the book. What was the thought behind this? How did you meet each other? NP: I've known Low since I was four years old. It happened accidentally really. He'd been getting into collage art for a while and we'd both had interests in each other’s work. As he was finishing a new batch of work, ‘Small Town Chase’ was published, and he showed me some collages he'd set to some of the poems. I loved them. I wished some of them had been in the book to be honest, but it was too late by then. PB: Does anyone read your stuff before it goes to your editor? NP: Only me really, but the erbacce editors work with you and suggest things, which you can take on board and tinker with. I might send them to my brother who'll proof read for spelling mistakes. PB: For anyone who hasn't read your work can you describe your poetry, style, and influences? NP: I always wanted to write a more violent version of 'Under Milk Wood' by Dylan Thomas, so everything I do tries to reflect where I live, the people I grew up with. Relationships in a small town. Drugs, sex, dreams, bug collectors. If I see it, it has the green light to go in because I think, “Fuck it, it belongs to me. It's on my doorstep.” PB: What are you reading and listening to these days? NP: I am listening to 'Hot Dreams' by Timber Timbre as I write this. I am currently reading 'Billy Phelan's Greatest Game' by William Kennedy. Also Charles Simic, Billy Collins and a graphic novel called 'Transmetropolitan'. PB: What are the odds we’ll see you combine your two main strengths and release an album or even an EP of poetry set to music? Like John Cooper Clarke has done in the past. You’ve already done this on your SoundCloud? NP: Well, I've had an offer to do it from our record label, so yeah, I'd love to. It would be perfect for me creating a soundtrack to narratives. I've got access to recording equipment so it wouldn't be a problem. I could even use some of the recordings I already have. My favourite parts of movies are always when a voiceover comes in over a picture of a moving landscape- as in 'Badlands' by Terrence Malick. I'd approach it in that way. Sounds and words to create a vivid scene. PB: What's an average writing day for you? NP: It's all about variety with me. If I get in a routine then I become bored with it really easily. I try and travel as much as I can. That seems to be productive. The best invention for me was the mobile phone- I can write anywhere at any time. I never sit down in a room and force myself to think of ideas. I tend to gather feelings together and write them down and then try and arrange them into some kind of picture. PB: I like the fact there was no mention of being in a band in your poetry. It feels very biographical and first person but that is something that isn't touched upon. Was that difficult to avoid? NP: It's funny really. I always keep them separate for some reason. I think it was the thing of trying to prove myself as an unknown before getting published. I didn't want to mention anything so I was judged on the work alone. It seemed to work, so I kept it that way. PB: Did you read a lot when you were in the Coral? NP: Yeah, we always tried to put book and film references into songs, they're full of them. That was something we consciously tried to do. One song called 'Far From the Crowd' recalled 'The Collector' by John Fowles. PB: How often do you write a poem? How long does it take from idea to a point you're happy with it? NP: Again, it differs. Sometimes I'll end up with a diamond on the first pass, and I'll keep it like that. It's a great feeling. Other times they can be brats and you've got to force them into the shredding machine to find a new shape for them. Sometimes they're best off staying in there! But I try and write every day. I start to get some creeping guilt if I don't. PB: Can you recommend any books to our readers? NP: Yes- The whole ‘Albany Cycle’ by William Kennedy ‘Meet My Maker’ - JP Donleavy. Dylan Thomas short stories. David Peace – ‘Red Riding Quartet’. Paul Auster – ‘New York Trilogy’. Anything by James Joyce. Raymond Carver – ‘Cathedral’. Richard Ford – ‘Rock Springs’. ‘A Poet in New York’ - Frederico Garcia Lorca. PB: Thank you. The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Marie Hazelwood. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Small-Town-Chase-Nick-Power/dp/1907878610 https://soundcloud.com/nickpowerpoetry/sets/nick-power-small-town-chase

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Coral - Nick Power - Interview

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Coral - Nick Power - Interview

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