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JAMES DOMESTIC interview

In September, JAMES DOMESTIC released an excellent split poetry book with DAVE CULLERN called ‘Cruor’. He was kind enough to answer a bunch of questions about the book, poetry in punk, and the countless other things he does besides.

– Hi James, how long have you been writing poetry and how did you get into it?

James: Depends how you look at it I suppose. I’ve been putting words together since I was fourteen, making my first attempts at songwriting, so I guess you could look at it like that. But in terms of writing words that were not intended to be explicitly married to music, I guess I didn’t really start doing that until around 9 years ago. The Freedom Bookshop in London was firebombed in 2013, and I submitted something to the fund-raising poetry book that was published. I keep meaning to try and find my copy; it’s out of print now. Then not long after that, THE DOMESTICS did a split 7” with VOLUNTEERS and I added a spoken word piece to our side; the first time there had been a spoken word piece on one of our records. I think the only other time we did that was on the Cherry Blossom Life album.

I’m not entirely sure how I got into it…like everything else I do I suppose: I just decide I’m going to try something, and then I do it until I’m at least happy with what I can do in that medium. It never occurs to me that there’s something I shouldn’t try!

– How did you meet Dave Cullern, and why did you decide to do a poetry book together?

Well, my band, THE DOMESTICS, have played with Dave’s band, HAEST a few times, and I know him a bit through Toxic Wotsit Records, and Wotsit Called Fest, as we’ve played the fest and they’ve helped co-release a few of my bands’ records.

After that initial burst of poetry-writing some years ago, it kind of went on the back burner as I ended up with so many music projects on the go that took all my time, so when I picked it back up again, it made sense to do a split with someone I know – and whose poetry I’m into – that’s a little more established in the poetry world. I like Dave’s stuff; he has a good “voice”.

– Why do you think punks are drawn to writing poetry?

I’m not sure many of them are, are they? Nah, I suppose there are quite a few aren’t there. It’s probably just having too many ideas and wanting to do something more immediate that you don’t need to arrange rehearsals for, and work on and work on – something that can be splurged out and left as is…well, on a good day, anyway.

– Would you say that ‘Cruor’ as a collection of writing has any distinct overall themes?

Good question. I think me and Dave probably approach the world from similar angles, but our ways of expressing our worldview and personalities is pretty different when it comes to our poetry. I don’t want to put words in Dave’s mouth, so I say this advisedly, but I’d say themes that run through the book are bigotry, loss in various guises, social expectation, a questioning of mainstream values, ageing…there’s all sorts in there really. My stuff is stylistically all over the place. Some of it is quite absurd, at least at a surface level; other bits not so much.

– Do you have a favourite of your own works in that book, and a favourite of Dave’s?

Arsehole Man! is one of my favourites from my half; and it seems to connect with people. We’ve all seen Arsehole Man, and many of us have been Arsehole Man from time to time; I certainly recognise bits of my younger self in that poem, unfortunately! As for Dave’s stuff, ooh, that’s tricky…Survival Mantras I feel very connected to. It’s very familiar territory for me.

– Do you have a particular process for writing, for example working at certain times of the day or perpetual note-taking for future ideas?

Nope. I’m very instinctive when it comes to words. A line will present itself and I’ll either just run with it there and then, just spew it all out – think Stewed Ink from the book – because ultimately that’s been marinading for years, you’re just not always conscious of it until you get that ‘spark line’, or if I’m in the middle of something else when it strikes, I’ll jot that line down and come back to it later. But it’s not a labour; it just comes and I try to catch it. It’s like when I write songs; I’m not someone that sits down with the intention of writing a song, they just come to me more or less fully formed in my head, then I just flesh out the lyrics once I’ve demoed all the instruments, and it’s done.

– I believe you painted the front cover; what does it represent?

Yeah, I have a few paintings on my website – jamesdomestic.com – again, I just do it when inspiration strikes; I’m not a “proper” painter, whatever that means. Some people seem to like them though as I have sold a few. That wasn’t particularly painted for the book, we were just a bit stuck for a cover and I thought it might work, so suggested it and Dave was into it. It kind of fits with the title because of the colours, suggesting blood. I’m pretty sure I painted that one last winter. My mental health takes a massive dive in the winter – well, anytime except the summer really – as I have acute Seasonal Affective Disorder. That picture looks like how I feel in the cold, dark, damp months. My brain locks up, and social skills I’ve managed to accrue are harder and harder to use, panic attacks, depression…ugh; as I sit here in September I can feel it coming, and that’s not a nice feeling. Give Me The Sun is about that really. Medication and other things help, but it doesn’t cure it; nothing does.

– What else do you do besides writing poetry?

Well, I’m in a number of bands and projects. THE DOMESTICS is the only gigging band, the rest are currently studio projects, just putting out records on various labels, including my own Kibou Records label. Better do a role call of the others I guess…PI$$ER (with Bri from DOOM, Charlie from ANTI-CIMEX and several others). TOKYO LUNGS, DA GROINS, BRING THE DRONES, HAZARD PROFILE, BOTCHED TOE, KÖRD VÄRLD, DIS-TANK, DUB WEASEL, CABRO, and my solo album, Carrion Repeating came out this year too; I’m really proud of that one, although of course I’m proud of them all. I have a full-time job, I paint as I said, run a small DIY record label, DJ reggae, soul, and whatever when I fancy it and people ask (I’m an incorrigible record buyer). Oh, nearly forgot, there’s a 12” by DOMESTIC CURSE currently at the pressing plant. It’s essentially poetry over music in a way. Lyrically pretty long form. It’s a project I’ve done with John Hewson, who used to be in the excellent 5 STRING DROPOUT BAND.

– Would you like to recommend any other poets, bands, zines, publications, etc.?

My two favourite poets are probably John Cooper Clarke and Ivor Cutler, both of whom need no introduction really. I always have a book on the go – recently read that one by Akela, which was really good, and I’m currently reading the latest Andrew Cartmel for some light relief as I’m super busy at the moment. Zines I like are Cubesville, Gadgie…lots of online ones, which although I like the content very much, in my heart wish were paper zines! Old Skool. As for bands, I could list a thousand and still not be done…old and new. Here are a few that have seen plenty of turntable action these past few weeks: ILL CONSIDERED, HOLLIE COOK, TOM TOM CLUB (that first album is gold!), AXE RASH, TOTALITÄR, SLEAFORD MODS, THE METERS, THE FALL (a constant), KING TUBBY, LEPER, THE SUPREMES, ACID REFLUX, CAVERN OF ANTIMATTER, LA DUSSELDORF, IMPALERS, RAT CAGE, FROGGY & THE RINGES, TENEMENT RATS, SARUSHIBAI, plus a couple of great funk compilations, and some great dub stuff from the African Dub series.

You can check out all of my projects at www.jamesdomestic.com and the label/distro at www.kibourecords.limitedrun.com and www.kibourecords.bigcartel.com

CHEERS!

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