A Year in Music – Ben Vendetta (Author)


A Year in Music with Author Ben Vendetta by Killian Laher

We had the chance to ask Ben Vendetta,  author of Wivenhoe Park and Heartworm about 2016. You can see the results below.

Find out more about Ben Vendetta here.

What music grabbed you in the last year, can be new or old?

A good mix of new and old. Really love the compilation of late ‘90s-early ‘00s Virginia shoegaze act Skywave called Killerrockandroll, which came out on Record Store Day. The band is most famous for being the launching pad for Oliver Ackermann, who went on to form A Place To Bury Strangers, but these guys were something else; a noisier, scuzzier American take on the Jesus and Mary Chain. I also enjoyed the vinyl reissues of the first two Primal Scream records: Sonic Flower Groove and Primal Scream. That period of the band when Bobby Gillespie and co. were ‘60s obsessed indie poppers seems to have been buried, but this is essential stuff. Another great new reissue from the ‘80s is the expanded edition of The Chills’ Kaleidoscope World collection, which includes the legendary single “Pink Frost”.

As far as new releases go, I was blown away by San Francisco post-punk outfit In Letter Form’s Fracture. Repair. Repeat. A simply stunning record that recalls the likes of Interpol and Joy Division. Tragically, the singer, Eric Miranda, recently passed away. Also digging the latest by the Warlocks, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Tyde, and Dublin’s September Girls.


Anything that fell short of expectations?

I was disappointed in the new Primal Scream album Chaosmosis. I thought the last one, More Light, was one of their best from this century but the new one plays it too safe. The production is slick and, sonically, it sounds like background music that might be played at a club if someone were to remake Miami Vice for the 21st Century.

2016 was a year punctuated by the deaths of significant musical figures (Bowie, Cohen, Lemmy, Prince).  Any personal thoughts about this?

Those deaths all hit me hard. David Bowie was a gateway drug to better music for me when I was a kid in the ‘70s. Rock ‘n’ roll radio was pretty conservative in Detroit (where I grew up) but artists like Bowie were a spark plug that let me to discover punk and new wave. I was lucky enough to see Prince on his Purple Rain tour and that remains one of my favourite live memories. What hit me hardest was the death of Kevin Junior, who fronted the vastly underrated band the Chamber Strings. I got to know Kevin from championing his music when I published my fanzine Vendetta in the early 2000s and he was a vastly talented, gentle soul, who passed much too soon at the age of just 46.


Have you come across any books or movies or other art forms that excited you in the last 12 months?

My favourite novel of the last year was Nathan O’Hagan’s The World Is {Not} A Cold, Dead Place, which has drawn comparisons to A Confederacy of Dunces and Fight Club. It’s a dark book but very funny and O’Hagan is a huge music fan. We connected on Twitter due to our mutual love of Whipping Boy’s Heartworm album. I also enjoyed Zoe Howe’s Shine On, Marquee Moon and Martin St. John’s memoir of his days in the early Primal Scream called Psychedelic Confessions of a Primal Screamer.

My favourite film was Sing Street. It captured the ‘80s vibe far better than all those John Hughes films, which were made in the ‘80s. Loved the Stooges documentary Gimme Danger and also liked the Oasis film Supersonic.


Do musical formats (records/CDs/mp3s/streams etc) play a part in your world?

Absolutely. I still buy records and CDs and listen to them in my music room, so nothing has changed for me in that respect since I was a kid. I have an iPod, which I listen to when I’m driving or when I’m on a holiday but nothing beats putting a record on your turntable and just sitting back and letting it all soak in.

How are things for yourself, any plans for a follow up to your last book Heartworm? 

Yes, I’m slowly working on a follow up to Heartworm, which will be the end of the trilogy about music journalist Drew, which begun with my first novel Wivenhoe Park. I had some health issues this year, which slowed me down. At a random doctor’s checkup it was discovered that I had some heart issues, which turned out to be a leaky mitral valve in two spots. I needed to have open heart surgery to get that fixed. I’m on the mend, but it’s been a slow process. I hope to get a lot of writing done this winter. I seem to work well in those months as the first drafts of Wivenhoe Park and Heartworm were knocked out in the winter months as well. At the same time, I’m still trying to plug those books – my publisher is a small indie, so it’s very much like being on an indie label these days where the band/writer needs to be much more active with promotion than they used to back in the day.

Categories: Header, interview, Music

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