Yesterday was a sad day for me. I am no longer a property guardian. I’d kept hold of my cheap-as-chips, wonderful space in London’s zone one throughout the pandemic in the hope that some sort of normality will return soon but it doesn’t seem to be imminent. I could no longer justify the cost of my pad that I’ve not properly lived in since the first lockdown. Adios Upper Street.
Whilst feeling mournful about giving up the space, the response to a set of interview questions I’d sent out popped into my mailbox. And they made me chuckle (a lot). Then, they made me feel nostalgic for the group living that I’ve so recently left. And then they made me gasp at the wisdom within. John Swale is an intelligent man and a dream to interview – of that there can be no doubt.
I was initially drawn to John Swale and the Missing Pieces after hearing their song, Party Like It’s 2019. It’s literate, amusing and deserves to be heard by many. We talk about the ‘inspiration’ for the banger he’s created below. Settle down with a coffee and a croissant on this Saturday morning, immerse yourself in these mighty words before then doing your hoovering to the party track.
Most readers of Sonic Breakfast will know nothing about John Swale and the Missing Pieces.What’s your elevator pitch?
Poetry is the underwear of the soul. Here’s mine! Also… don’t take the elevator. Take the stairs.Less carbon emissions. gotta say that, I’m a millenial.
And why should readers of Sonic Breakfast be listening to your music?
Don’t listen to my music, listen to the words! My songs are just poems I’ve put to music. It’s kinda like the poems are the kale…and the music is the mayonaise. You know the kale is good for the mind but it needs the mayonaise to make it a digestable prospect for most people. Most people are scared of poetry, ya know.
Party Like It’s 2019 certainly suggests that you lived it large that year. Care to tell more?
Actually I thought 2019 was a pretty terrible year for most of us…the election, Trump’s visit, Toblerones got smaller and then Greg and Amber split up two weeks after winning Love Island…tragic really…which made for the double irony of course cos 1999 was way better. I mean, we still had Tony the tiger back then didn’t we?!
What’s been the best gig you’ve ever played? What made it so special?
I live in a warehouse with 36 people and we put on a gig during lockdown just for us. In the lockdown before that it was that ‘don’t know what you got til it’s gone’ thing and we were so hungry for live music so it felt so fucking euphoric to be part of that world again. It was a true energy flow between crowd and performers. Although it was only a little ‘un it felt way more special than a lot of bigger shows I’ve done. Bring on the summer of love festival season post covid!
If you had to come up with your dream festival headliners, who’d be on the list?
Any festival at the moment would be a dream. And I can’t even dream of festivals right now cos my dreams are too fucking full of anxiety ridden narratives. Recently I dreamt Hitler and Goering came to my warehouse to kill us all…so I drowned them both in cereal bowls, then they turned in to little fish (specifically roach)…which I diced up and fried and fed to my housemates (it’s not complex I just think I’m Jesus in my dreams apparently) …. Then of course The Verve reformed and did an unplugged rendition of bittersweet symphony in our backyard in gratitude for us saving the world from the holocaust (Oh yeah the dream was set pre-holocaust) and then we all got wildly high. So I’d probably say The Verve would be my dream headliners, LCD Soundsystem and errr John Swale and The Missing Pieces. I mean, who else?!
Given the nods to Prince in Party Like It’s 2019, what’s your favourite Prince song and why?
I like the silences between the songs with Prince. What was he all about anyway? Just a guy with a Napoleon complex who was deluded about how sexy he was. That’s why I chose to rip his song off. Add to the first world torture inherent to my poem. I mean it’s a song about not being able to party while the world is in a fucking pandemic. Prince’s 1999 is a tacky as hell song and it needed to be to add to the joke. Plus his song was about an apocalypse not really about partying at all. It was perfect for it!
As the UK enters a third lockdown, what would be your advice to anybody struggling to cope?
Stop reading the fucking news! Lockdown seems to me like a once in a lifetime gift of time and space to reflect on personal internal shit and think and review what really matters in the scheme of things when all the fake shit like awards ceremonies, fashion, etc are taken away. I liked how uncool lockdown 1 was. I remember Joe from Idles talking about how he was going to bed earlier and earlier each night. It gave us all a collective vulnerability. also trust optimism. It’s very difficult to be sad when you’re smiling. I don’t wanna get too Deepak Chopra on this shit but suicide is a huge problem at the moment especially in young guys. So much emotion is chemically based. Running and exercise has saved me from the spiral of mental breakdown so many times during lockdown. And soon as I stopped reading the news my anxiety started to clear and I found out the important things through people I live with. Why poison your mind with fear of huge speculative shit like brexit, slowness of the vaccinations, etc you have no control of outside of you in lockdown when instead taking the time and mindspace to think about how to best inhabit your body, learn self love and what you’d like to give to the world in the future will ultimately be better for you and society. Amen.
And looking forward what are you hoping for more than anything else in 2021?
I actually hope that people will have taken this pandemic as a formative experience to reflect on the personal as I mentioned. It seems to have had some of an effect already. Things like the George Floyd protests to me wouldn’t have happened in such a beautifully momentous way if we hadn’t all been given the experience of stepping outside of our homes and immediately feeling vulnerable to the threat from the virus in a similar way certain minority groups have experienced that threat from others in society. Also I hope there will be less focus on the monetary. and the momentary. It’s kind of like… a good trip. I always think it’s a bit sad seeing people I know, loved up on a trip and treating other people with far more candid love and openess and honesty but then as soon as the comedown hits , they’re back to their normal selves, failing to incorporate any aspect of those higher feelings into their everyday life. It seems a bit like a wasted gift. I hope experiences from this pandemic won’t be wasted in that same way.
How did you celebrate 2020 turning into 2021? Was it radically different from your New Years Eve in 2019?
Well after a crazy chemical christmas with my 36 housemates(!) I wanted to have a sober,reflective start to the year and I’ll proudly say I missed Brexit day… cos I hadnt been reading the news and I had a great blue sky thinking day as a consequence. I read it had happened in a poem by Roger mcgough two weeks after the fact…’when Big Ben bongs and some sing songs, I’m staying in’. There’s always a real human beauty in his sardony and it was a great way to soften the blow. If I ever get terminal cancer I want Roger Mcgough to be the one to break it to me. Ideally while rigged up to a huge hand operated morphine drip please. As for 1st January, I spent the day writing in my big black book…less resolutions more a new post covid soul manifesto… taking obligatory breaks to join the cuddle puddle of my still loved up housemates in the basement of my warehouse. It was pretty dreamy…with not hitler, fish or cereal bowls in sight.
Tell us your favourite joke?
Apart from John Swale and the Missing Pieces? hmmm…a difficult one…ok how’s about… what’s the saddest variety of gardening implement…a forlorn mower. Not funny?…oh.. ok….what about…. A musician walks into a bar. Oh wait no he didnt. It’s lockdown!