Iain on This is Hell! – May 2014

Here is the long interview to Iain Sinclair by Chuck Mertz on This is Hell! Radio from May 2014.

Now edited and partially transcribed by Ed Sutton on Antidote, this is the full version.

From This is Hell! website:

Jack Kerouac might have laid down the road, but the path America’s original freaks took – inward and Westward – survives today, in glimmers and traces. Iain Sinclair traveled to America to walk in the footsteps of the Beat generation, and he shares stories of his trip through memory and imagination, from the cultural ruins of Olympic London, through Albert Speer’s phantom tracks, to end up watching Wayne Rooney on television somewhere in Oregon.

Iain’s book American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light is out now from Faber & Faber.

Writer and filmmaker Iain Sinclair is a self-described “British writer, documentarist, film maker, poet, flaneur, metropolitan prophet and urban shaman, keeper of lost cultures and futurologist.” He is also the editor of London: City of Disappearances.


On the Road in Late Capitalism: Places, Journeys, and the Beats’ Legacy

Ed Sutton on the Antidote blog has published a partial transcription  of the Chuck Mertz interview on This is Hell!


Our ‘edition’ narrows the scope of the discussion, which centered on a latter-day exploration of the Beat Generation and their haunts, to just haunts. That is, we found the portions of Chuck and Iain’s conversation that centered on place, cities, and our place in cities to be most complementary to topics we cover on Antidote. Further, much of the discourse about the gentrification and commercialization of—and our alienation and expulsion from—urban landscapes lacks the poetic and emotional sensitivity that this conversation contains. We find this fresh, humane approach both affecting and appropriate to the real pain that underlies our objections to the neoliberal ‘development’ of cities we call home—a pain that can be expressed in the question, “Why doesn’t the city I love, love me?”



 Read the transcription on Antidote

Improving the Image of Destruction – In conversation with Iain Sinclair (extract)

Neil Jackson print-only interview with Iain Sinclair is available to order via Neil’s website. Click here



An extract from the booklet:

Improving the Image of Destruction – Extract

Walking itself, if you have the time to walk for a period of hours, does engender a fugue-like state, which is an interesting thing to achieve. You get into a natural rhythm, establish a dialogue with the landscape, and it brings with it a receptive state of mind for creating fiction or gathering documentary evidence, whatever you might be doing. So in that sense it’s a useful tactic. In another sense it has almost become a radical political act just to walk. The whole political bias in London is moving towards getting people onto bicycles; so you have these rows of blue Barclays-sponsored cycles, and you’re supposed to ride about advertising a disgraced bank that isn’t even putting money into the scheme anymore. Bicycles are taking over the pavements, the canal banks, everything – and of course walking, as a life style, goes to the bottom of the pile, because there’s no way you can exploit the walker. There’s nothing to buy into, nothing can be done with pedestrianism, unless you can get walkers dressed up in sponsored T-shirts advertising some conspicuous charity. Making a designer boast about ecological credentials. The walker is the last anarchist of the city.

There’s a sense that everything, particularly with London, is now scoped out as a branding opportunity.

There’s always a slogan. Improving the image of constructionWorking for a better Hackney. People come with their own advert. Even myself: to carry on being published, it only works if I have a brand – and that brand is to do with walking. I find that a little bit depressing. I’m stuck with it, but really that’s only an element of what I’m interested in.
One development with city walking is the way so many people are wired in to electronic devices. Physically they’re moving; mentally they’re not. At Liverpool Street station you can be swept aside by them, coming at you, heads down. Gabbling. Shouting. Jabbing at screens. So all those benefits I’ve been mentioning are no longer part of it. You’re logged in to the supernova digital cloud, speeding away from the sense of a physical locality. It’s eroding the present tense of the act of walking. When you do that, you’re taking everything away.

Devices are powerful in the way they end up changing mass behaviour.

I feel that what I do is already redundant. It’s from another age. There are still a lot of people doing exactly what I do, but it’s not the way the world is configured. The ability to navigate a passage through a large book, or to negotiate a complex structure, is vanishing fast. You want what you want before you know what that is. You want it now. Students who might be looking into the things I do, for an essay or a doctorate, wouldn’t dream of reading the books. They send an email and ask if they can come round, so that I can tell them what I’m on about. Bullet points. Make a recording. Transcribe. Print. Edit.
Just like this, our conversation. I think JG Ballard was the person for whom the interview form, or the transatlantic phone conversation, became as visible as the books. The publication of theRe/Search collection of interviews in 1984 was a significant moment in Ballard’s career. Personality, attitude, archive were as important now as text.



A note by Iain Sinclair on “By Our Selves” – a film by Andrew Kötting

The walk from High Beach in Epping Forest to the village of Glinton, north of Peterborough, in the footsteps (on and off) of the poet John Clare, became the basis for a book, “Edge of the Orison”. But that never felt like more than the start of something. For years a film, in the mood of Herzog’s “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser”, haunted me. Our paths were never likely to cross – so, as an admirer of ‘This Filthy Earth’, I pestered Andrew Kötting instead. Andrew didn’t say no. He made his excuses and swam to France or jumped on a plastic swan. (I suspected that he couldn’t read my book or John Clare.)

Decades later, Kötting came by accident on the photograph in “Orison” of a fearsome Straw Bear with his sullen driver, dark fenland figures out of Whittlesey. Now he was smitten. He saw the perfect excuse for getting thatched, bell-hung, hobbled. The game was on. His energies were alarming. Within days, we visited the great performer Freddie Jones, in his Oxfordshire village, and enjoyed a convivial discussion – before coming away with a VHS of Freddie’s electrifying performance as Clare.
Now Freddie’s son, an actor of beautiful infolded presence, minimalist gesture, silence, will play Clare on the road. On modest (bare-bones) budget we’ll start to tramp. With the hope that crowd-funding can boost the wherewithal to the point where a few of Kötting’s larger ambitions for ‘By Our Selves’ can be fulfilled. I’ll trail along, putting my oar in, carrying a goat mask, muttering dark asides. After the long curation of the 70×70 year of films, this should be a holiday.
Iain Sinclair

Alan Moore talks Iain Sinclair

Nick Talbot from The Quietus has asked Alan Moore about the graphic novelist’s relationship with Iain Sinclair. Click on the pic to read it.