TBR: Nalda Said came out during your time with Belle and
Sebastian. What was the genesis? Was it a project long in your head?
S.D : I wrote Nalda Said during 1994-1995, so it was
finished and exactly as it is now before I'd met anyone from Belle and Sebastian. I
couldn't find a publisher for it at the time though. I got close with a couple of the big
companies but in the end they didn't feel it was commercial enough. Then after I became a
bit better known with Belle and Sebastian and Looper it came to the attention of I.M.P.
Fiction that I'd written it and they put it out.
TBR: You were quite young when you wrote Nalda. Had you ever studied
writing in a class or workshop? Any views on the phenomenon of creative writing programmes
such as we see in the U.S.?
S.D : I've never studied writing in that way, no. I had a good
English teacher at school when I was 14-15, and he gave me my enthusiasm for it. I was
already writing songs at that time, and I could grasp what he was talking about through
that experience. But I've always felt that the only way to learn to write is to read a lot
and to write a lot. And to re-write a lot. A creative writing class might be good if you
feel you need someone else to say it's okay to be spending your time writing, to validate
your doing it. But if you don't have a strong sense of when something you've written is
right, and when it's not . . . if you need someone else for that then it's always going to
be pretty hard to be a writer.
TBR: Working in a band is time-consuming enough; how did you find
time to write? Were you able to set aside a definite time every day or were you forced to
work in stops and starts?
S.D : I would disagree to be honest. I don't feel that working
in a band is time-consuming enough. There's always a huge amount of time spent doing
nothing in a band - hence all the drugs/alcohol to try and fill up the empty time. So I
found I had all this empty time, and that it was damaging to the music to try and work on
it more than you should, just to fill up the time. I don't really like alcohol or drugs,
so I filled up the rest of the time writing books.
TBR: Writing is a solitary pursuit whereas working in bands is
quite the opposite. Do you have a preference or is it nice to have both options?
S.D : It's nice to have both options, yes. A lot of my musical
work is solitary too, 'cause I quite often work on my own writing, the songs and the
arrangements and other people's parts and stuff, so I like that I have the option to get
together with other people to play the songs. I think it's good for me too, 'cause
naturally I prefer to be on my own, and if I was just writing books all the time I could
sink into that entirely and be quite happy. It's good that I have to force myself into
company for music now and again.
TBR:. The unnamed narrator of Nalda Said fears friendship or
contact in case his secret is discovered; therefore, he's not much of a conversationalist
and is forever on the move. You too are often on the move and recently, so I've read, you
even went into hiding. Can one presume that there are similarities? Do you have a dark
S.D : I don't have a dark secret, no. Sometimes I feel like
I do, but I had it checked out by an analyst and it turns out I don't. At the same time, I
don't doubt there are similarities between me and the narrator. It's my belief that there
are similarities between most people and the narrator. I think he's as much observed from
humanity in general as he is from me.
TBR: The narrator's naive voice works to delightful effect, helping
create a sense of enchantment in the novel. His story, slowly revealed, is filled with
unexpected turns. Had you worked out the essentials of the plot before you began writing
or did it unfold in the process?
S.D : I think I had the general idea of what would happen
before I started, and the general idea of who the character was, but these things all grow
once you start writing, or they should do anyway. If nothing comes to life and changes how
you thought the book would be when you started out writing it then you can be pretty sure
its a dead book, and it won't do much for anyone reading it either.
TBR: After leaving Belle and Sebastian, you helped form the cult
group Looper. As far as I can understand, Looper originally started out as a multimedia,
spoken-word act but seems to have grown into a fully fledged music act with a new CD
recently out. NME said Looper was a gentle act of madness. How do you define
Looper? Any danger of this expanding into a Pink Floyd-style flying-pigs rock show? Any
plans for Spanish gigs?
S.D : No danger of expanding into anything that has anything
to do with any aspect in common with Pink Floyd. I absolutely detest Pink Floyd. Give me a
moment to calm down here....
Sorry, even the mention of the name is always enough to get me going.
No, Looper has pretty much always been a fully fledged musical act.
Sometimes the words are spoken, sometimes they're sung, but the music is always there.
We've done three albums now. The show we're doing at the moment has a mixture of feature
films that we've made and onstage dialogue as well as the songs, that develop a complete
plot and narrative, so it's quite hard to take it to places where the main language isn't
English cause no-one knows what's going on. Hopefully we'll have something simpler next
time that'll work anywhere.
TBR: Back in the late 90s you created Ink Polaroids, a
form of flash fiction that captures a view through words. Could you give us one of your
S.D : I don't really do those anymore. And I'm just sitting at
a computer in my living room just now, so nothing much is happening. I don't really do
much physical description in my writing. Something special had to happen to make an Ink
Polaroid of the event - something kind of everyday but also magical in some way. Nothing
much is going on today.
TBR: The Scottish writing scene . . . Kelman, Warner, Welsh, Laura
Hird, Michel Faber, Des Dillon, etc. What are your thoughts? Strong, influential and still
S.D : Hate Warner. Welsh is a bit cartoonish but quite funny.
Norman McCaig is a very good poet. Kelman values James Joyce too much, so does Alasdair
Gray. I find these currently well-known Scottish writers to be very minor and I think it's
deliberate that they're held up to be the cream of Scotland 'cause it means England can
still convince itself that Scotland's literary talents are all minor.
TBR: Do you see yourself as part of the writing community? Do you rub
shoulders with the likes of Martin Amis or Zadie Smith at literary lunches?
S.D : I've never met another writer. Never been to a literary
lunch. I did meet one of the other writers on IMP once, Ian Winn, but I think he's the
only one. I like Martin Amis's work though.
British music isn't cutting the mustard in the U.S. like it used to; in fact, for the
first time in 40 years there isnt a British act in their charts. Your thoughts and
feelings on the current music scene. Coldplay?
S.D : I think that's a misconception. The British music that's
cutting it in the UK isn't cutting it in the US, but a lot of British stuff that isn't
well known in the UK does pretty good in America, even if it doesn't chart in the top 40.
I think the UK totally misunderstands the US music scene just now, and tries to push all
the wrong UK stuff there. The US has a much more vibrant thing going on commercially at
the moment. A lot of the current R&B in the US is very experimental, very fresh. Stuff
like the The Neptunes and Timbaland. The UK is stuck in some retrogressive idea of what's
good at the moment, so America doesn't want it. Coldplay is the perfect example. They're
selling to Britain what Radiohead were doing seven or eight years ago, and meanwhile
America puts what Radiohead are currently doing to number one, while the UK says,
"This new Radiohead music is weird. Why can't they do what they used to do and sound
like Coldplay?" I like that new Radiohead stuff. You'll see another Coldplay-type
band taking it to the top of the charts here in the UK in another seven or eight
years time, and then the UK will try to export it to Americag and America will have moved
on again. Maybe it'll be Coldplay themselves.
TBR: What projects are you currently working on?
S.D : We've just put our our new album The Snare, and just now I'm
trying to catch up on how the technology has moved on since we finished that.
Off the cuff . . .
some literary influences
Martin Amis, JD Salinger, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Sigmund
Freud. Lots of other stuff too...
free music on the Net
My opinion on it? It's there and the technology makes it possible. I
don't think it matters whether you think it's right or wrong, it's just a fact now. I've
never downloaded anything. I prefer to buy stuff.
three favourite web sites
Ebay, Ebay, and Ebay.
Scotland versus the U.S.
Scotland. The U.S. reaction to September 11th has really made me
tired of them. Scotland is just more realistic in general, in everything from the
architecture to the peoples attitudes to the weather.
the pound versus the euro
I liked all Europe's individual notes and coins, in all the
different countries. But I think economically the euro make sense.
Tony Blair versus George Dubya
Tony Blair if he'd take his tongue out of George Bush's arse.
your greatest fear; greatest joy
My greatest fear is something dark and vague and horrifying, and my greatest joy is
the rare moments when that isn't present.