When were you happiest?
I’m generally pretty happy. I have no good reason not to be. If pinned to a particular highlight, though, I’m going to nominate Saturday, October 1st, 2011, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with about five minutes to play in the last quarter. I’ve followed an Australian Rules football team called Geelong – possibly too keenly – since I was a kid. I never thought I’d live to see them win a Grand Final, but that happened in 2007, which I watched at a ghastly Australian theme bar in Islington, and again in 2009, for which I was in a hotel room in Macon. In 2011, I was at the game.
Where would you like to live?
In the imaginable event that none of my books ever sells sufficiently to enable the purchase of an Irish castle with a moat and a drawbridge, or my band never shifts enough records to underwrite the Nashville mansion with the guitar-shaped swimming pool, Leytonstone will do.
What is your favourite sound or smell?
Sound: twanging Telecasters, whining pedal steels, three chords, the truth, etc. Which is to say country music, which is actually kind of the reason I live here – my introduction to Leytonstone was the first time my band The Blazing Zoos played at What’s Cookin’ at the Ex-Servicemen’s Club. Smell: Australian flora, hence the encouragement of eucalypt, wattle and bottlebrush in my E11 garden.
Not once since I was 18 years old have I ever done anything which felt to me like working for a living.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
In all realms except actual gambling, bet with form.
What makes you unhappy?
Same thing as everyone else. Not getting what I want.
What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
Acknowledgement by the universe and all its inhabitants that things would go so much more smoothly if absolutely everything was calibrated according to my own preferences and convenience.
What is your guilty pleasure?
It really would take the English to come up with the idea of a pleasure being guilty.
Where do you hang out?
Home, or at the homes of friends. Measured against comparable great cities (New York, Paris, Amsterdam, etc) it is absurdly difficult to find a bar or cafe or whatever in London not blighted by television screens and/or compulsory music. Leytonstone’s own beautiful Red Lion would be very arguably the best pub in London if its stereo broke.
Who or what do you hate and why?
We could be here a while with that one, but the short answer: stupidity. The longer version of the short answer: absolutely not stupidity as in lack of education or opportunity, because that’s down to luck and is fixable, but the determined, wilful ignorance of people who’ve embraced it as a lifestyle choice.
The first part of that is impossible to answer, and the second is also pretty difficult – as any journalist knows, the consolation of things going wrong is that you know they’re going to make the best stories later. But a highlight of my time in Leytonstone was definitely working with Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlan on our 2012 album The North Sea Scrolls, much of which was rehearsed/composed/discussed in my sunroom.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
That seems like a weird thing to spend time worrying about.
What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
This is going to be the same for everyone, isn’t it? Various permutations of you’re fired/dumped/under arrest.
What has your career taught you?
Loads. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a journalist. As a general rule, though, it has taught me that most people, in most places, are basically okay, and would rather help you out than not. We tend to forget this, largely – ironically – because of the work of journalists, who get drawn to the mendacious and malevolent not just because they’re good stories, but because they are (like, by definition, almost everything that makes the news) unusual.
What is your favourite dish and why?
In general, steak and red wine. In Leytonstone, the dim sum at Panda, which is outrageously good.
What are you working on right now?
A proposal for what I hope will become my next book. The mixes of the imminent second album by The Blazing Zoos. Various other ideas which may or may not come to anything, as always.