Smorgasbord 2020 | Drew Hipson

From 2015 – 2018 an eclectic feast of authors, poets, songwriters, artists, bloggers, journalists and stand-up comedians shared their tales of dedication and inspiration, frustration and laughter on the Thrillers with Attitude Literary Smorgasbord. Five years on, I’m delighted to publish five new interviews. The words sharp and eloquent apply as much to my next guest’s writing as they do to his wardrobe. I am more than delighted to welcome Drew Hipson to Smorgasbord 2020. I first interviewed Drew in June 2015 when he was working on his memoir. Drew and I have at least a couple of things in common. We both rate The Jam’s All Mod Cons as one of the best albums ever produced, and both of us grew up amid the Brutalist architecture of Scottish New Town, Cumbernauld.

Hi Drew, when we talked about doing a follow-up interview, I think we were both surprised that it had been five years since the last one. What changes have there been in your writing life in the intervening years? 

I have done an incredible amount of writing over the past five years; as well as working on the aforementioned memoir, I’ve also written 60,000 words of a Style Council biography, have written poetry and songs and had a piece on The Clash LP, London Calling, included in a book which was published last year. Three years ago I also – somewhat over-ambitiously – embarked upon writing an overview of Paul Weller’s 40 year career for a special issue of the magazine (All Mod Icon). My intention was to create literary rhythms and use specific language within the piece that would capture the essence of each period of Weller’s career. I initially intended to write a 5,000-word piece and include contributions and interviews; however, it ballooned into a 25,000 word feature, which I had to edit down to 15,000 words. I obsessed over the use of every single word and had many sleepless nights and semi-colon nightmares! Frustratingly, the piece lay unfinished as I worked on other less-laborious issues of the magazine; however, the lockdown afforded me the opportunity to finally finish it and I actually re-wrote huge parts of it having been inspired by what I had already written. It is without doubt the best thing that I have ever written, and to be honest, I don’t think that I could have written it five years ago; the sheer undertaking of it seemed to have propelled my writing on to another level completely. I’m immensely proud of it, and I also must give credit to my incredibly talented girlfriend, Julie, whose expert edits were crucial in the final editing stages of the piece. Writing the feature also rekindled my love and admiration for George Orwell and in particular his incredible command of the English language, which I used as a sort of reference-point throughout the creation of the piece.

In the 2015 interview, you talked about writing your memoir, Le Depart, how has that progressed? 

It has lain unfinished for some time, but I think that it is sometimes a good thing to leave a piece of work and return to it with fresh eyes. My intention was to have the writing style akin to a Jean-Luc Godard movie, with a sort of jump-cut effervescence to it, which of course ties in with the central location of the book (France). I also wanted to contrast the Eastern-block-like Brutalist structures of my hometown – the architecture of angst, which instilled a sense of emotional imprisonment – against the liberating cultural boulevards of France.

Can you give us some insight into your life as a modernist and how that impacts your writing style?

I much prefer the word modernist to mod; firstly, the former contains the full word, modern, and secondly, for me, the roots of modernism are in 50s culture and not 60s; I think the 1950s were probably the most extraordinary time as regards design; albeit it was the age of consumerism, however, designers like Raymond Loewy created the most aesthetically satisfying streamlined version of America; a graphic identity which would later inspire the American pop art painters of the 60s. My interpretation of modernism is the concept of building on classical templates by contemporising literature, art and music, just as the modernist writers, like James Joyce and T.S. Eliot, designers, such as Le Corbusier, and jazz musicians, like Thelonious Monk, experimented with form and expression. As regards to my writing, the biggest influence of modernism is without doubt, the obsessive attention-to-detail.

Who would play you in the Drew Hipson biopic? 

Having seen a younger version of myself in the character of Oliver Tate in the film Submarine, I’d opt for Craig Roberts.

How was your lockdown experience? 

Lockdown did not differ much from what is everyday life for me – I work from home and don’t socialise much; though I missed my girlfriend, going to my local pub for the odd pint, and losing myself in existential daydreams in cafés and bookshops.

A few short questions to finish: 

Recently read and enjoyed? 

As I previously mentioned, I re-read a lot of Orwell, and in particular, Coming up for Air and Books v. Cigarettes, however, I chanced upon one of the best books that I have ever read – Submarine, by Joe Dunthorne; it is an extraordinary piece of writing and is like a contemporary take on The Catcher in the Rye, with shades of Joseph Heller.  

Recently watched and enjoyed? 

My girlfriend took out a subscription to BFI Player, so we have been discovering and rediscovering classics of French cinema, such as Jean Cocteau’s, La Belle Et La Bête and Orphée, Jean-Luc Godard’s, À Bout De Souffle, and Jean-Jacques Beineix’s, Betty Blue.

What was your go-to food during lockdown?

Like many, the lockdown afforded me time for reflection, and I decided to virtually cut out dairy from my diet which has had definite health benefits. I don’t have exotic tastes, but as I writer and artist, my essentials are espresso, Earl Grey tea, croissants and red wine.

What’s on your current playlist? 

I got a copy of Paul Weller’s new LP, On Sunset, months prior to release and played it constantly during lockdown; for me, it is one of his best pieces of work and his voice is incredible on it. My two daughters got me an Amazon Echo for Father’s day, so I have been rediscovering a lot of music from my youth and in particular, the brilliant, Hats, by The Blue Nile, which has the same indefinable enigmatic quality as French artist Georges Seurat’s drawings (once described as, ‘the most beautiful painter’s drawings in existence.’) I’m a huge Richard Hawley fan and have been playing Lady’s Bridge and Truelove’s Gutter a lot and can relate to the that same sense of urban melancholy – the Northern notion of yearning to reconnect with nature by the banks of the canals in the shadow of Industrialism.

Check out Drew’s magazines and artwork here.

Books by LG Thomson are available online and from bookshops in the Highlands. Writing as Lorraine Thomson: The New Dark dystopian trilogy, published by Bastei Entertainment, is available online. More info at thrillerswithattitude.co.uk

Drew’s 2015 Smorgasbord interview.

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