Although I was born in and live in England, I've always related better to American music. I don’t know exactly why, but I'm sure it's partly because my dad is American. Whatever, without exception, the bands that have had the biggest impact on my life have always been from the states. So, when, in my early teens, Blur and Oasis were waging their war in the UK - or, rather, the newspapers were waging the war for them - I was quietly oblivious, instead immersing myself in the (then extremely uncool) albums of Bruce Springsteen.
He was the first musician that really had a profound impact on me, having bought Nebraska on a whim when I was eleven. It's a pretty stark record, especially at that age, but I fell head over heels in love with it, and was soon collecting as much of Springsteen's music as my pocket money would allow. After that, my obsessions turned to R.E.M. and Eels, followed swiftly by Modest Mouse and Jawbreaker. Much as I still love them all, it's really the latter who have shaped and moulded me more than anybody else.
I remember the first time I heard them - it was on, of all things, a punk tribute album to R.E.M. called Surprise Your Pig. J Church, Steel Pole Bathtub, Jawbox and a whole bunch of others were on there too, but it just so happened that, a few weeks (or perhaps months) later, a secondhand record store in the town I was born had a used copy of Jawbreaker's 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. I recognised the name and snapped it up, took it home, put the CD on and sat down and read the lyrics as I listened. At first, I didn't particularly like it. I'm not sure why, but I didn't. But I persevered, sitting in my room, reading Blake Schwarzenbach's incredibly poetic, moving words. And then it happened. "Do You Still Hate Me?" came on, and it clicked - the music, the lyrics, the rawness of the recording, the anguish in his vocals, the atmosphere and the world the whole lot together conjured up – and I had my new favourite band. And they've pretty much been there for the last ten years (alongside Schwarzenbach's other outfit, Jets To Brazil), although the others - Eels, Springsteen and Modest Mouse, not to mention Alkaline Trio, The Get Up Kids, The Gaslight Anthem, Superchunk, Karl Hendricks, MeWithoutYou and The Lawrence Arms and...the list goes on and on – still play an important part in my life.
So, to be able to write about music and, in doing so, share my passion for bands with other people in the hope they'll feel the same way, is pretty special. It means I spend a lot of my time at dingy venues in London watching bands and sifting through piles of random CDs each week, but it never gets boring. Which is why I write as much as I can – for AP, for a bunch of magazines here in the UK and, with whatever time I have left, for my own zine, Backlash, which is a true labour of love. But that's precisely what this is all about. If I didn't care about music, or any of the bands listed above or below, I wouldn't do this. If music didn't have such a profound impact and effect on me, I wouldn't do this. But, to quote Jawbreaker, "Some words keep speaking when you close the book," and it's the same with music. To be able to pass that passion on to other people is an absolute honour.
TEN ALBUMS THAT SEND CHILLS DOWN MY SPINE
Jawbreaker – 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
Jets To Brazil – Orange Rhyming Dictionary
Eels – Blinking Lights And Other Revelations
Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town
The Get Up Kids – 4 Minute Mile
Engine 88 – Snowman
The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
The Karl Hendricks Trio – Some Girls Like Cigarettes
The Paper Chase – Now You Are One Of Us