As part of the Safaplace men­tal health char­i­ty pop-up called Look Up, run by Stoke New­ing­ton School, Gilles Peter­son inter­viewed Will Ashon and Dave Haslam. Aside from the week-long series of events, Gilles also curat­ed the record and book shop. Both Will Ashon and Dave Haslam have been involved in the music busi­ness and made a shift to the lit­er­ary world.

First in Peter­son­’s hot seat was Will Ashon, the for­mer music jour­nal­ist who spe­cialised in hip hop. Ashon­’s lit­er­ary out­put is notably diverse: from nov­els to the high­ly orig­i­nal Strange Labyrinth – osten­si­bly a book about Epping For­est in which, as he com­ments, he employs the tac­tic of ‘tak­ing a small sub­ject and expand­ing on it’. He may have become known for writ­ing about nature but Ashon has now delved into a music-relat­ed con­nec­tion close to his heart (and to Gilles too, judg­ing by his obvi­ous enthu­si­asm) with his new book about the Wu-Tang Clan called Cham­ber Music, specif­i­cal­ly relat­ing to the group’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Cham­bers).

Ashon talks about his retreat from work­ing in the music indus­try where he looked after artists and encoun­tered the inevitable strug­gle of work­ing in a sphere where suc­cess is hard to come by. Ashon first heard the Wu-Tang Clan in ’93 and he recalls that sen­so­ry over­load and the result­ing sheer exhil­a­ra­tion, an expe­ri­ence that had a pro­found effect on him. Even down to a fas­ci­na­tion with the album cov­er with its masked fig­ures. The ref­er­ences may have been lost on him at first but that ini­tial gut excite­ment cement­ed his ear­ly love.

Espresso and pan au chocolat

Dave Haslam’s approach has been to keep the music and writ­ing aspects chug­ging along togeth­er in as har­mo­nious a way as pos­si­ble. The city of Man­ches­ter and its icon­ic music out­put is part of Haslam’s soul; he’s had his fin­ger on the pulse of the city and has DJd there and writ­ten about it for over 30 years.

Gilles inter­views Dave Haslam

Writ­ing Son­ic Youth Slept on my Floor took Haslam two and a half years. He says that it’s the first of his books where he has put him­self first, it’s about him pri­mar­i­ly, and his place in the Man­ches­ter scene. A huge emo­tion­al invest­ment, he had to be dis­ci­plined and set a rou­tine in order to write. The mem­oir proved to be a cathar­tic expe­ri­ence and he realis­es his luck in hav­ing such a rich his­to­ry to draw on, from the fledg­ling Hacien­da, to Mor­ris­sey vis­it­ing his flat, to Joy Divi­sion’s final performance.

Haslam also refers to the sub­ject of men­tal health, which is, after all, the rea­son that this whole week of events has come togeth­er. He describes the inevitable unso­cia­ble hours of a DJ’s sched­ule which are far from fam­i­ly-friend­ly and the dis­tort­ing effects it can have on your psy­che. Peter­son asks how he man­ages to get through it: Haslam replies his solu­tion is to sleep from 8pm, ris­ing at 1am for espres­so and pain au choco­lat. He talks about the dis­con­nect of being the cen­tral, focal point of every­one’s night out, yet some­how being removed from it, as Eliot once wrote: ‘The still point of the turn­ing world’.

Rec­om­mend­ed read­ing: all the above, plus Gilles Peter­son men­tioned This is Hip: The Life of Mark Mur­phy by Peter Jones.

There are more events at Look Up Pop Up, all pro­ceeds go to Safaplace.

Events held at Edwards Lane Gallery, Stoke New­ing­ton, N16.

Safaplace event

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