Posts Tagged ‘ben walker’

Success, DIY, and the avoidance of fame

July 28th, 2013 No comments

If you’re going somewhere, where are you trying to get to? […] First it’s just getting a gig, then it’s supporting someone big, then it’s being someone big in your own right, and then what? Eventually, surely, the ultimate prize becomes not being famous, becomes regaining some of the dignity and privacy you so happily shed all those years ago. – Miranda Ward

F**k the Radio, We’ve Got Apple Juice is Miranda Ward’s account of the rise and self-propelled fall of UK band Little Fish at the end of the 2000’s, written in collaboration with the band. Little Fish found a kind of fame when spotted during a gig by Linda Perry from 4 Non Blondes, and went on to support Courtney Love and Blondie on tours around the world before recording an album in LA – only to follow this up by moving back to Oxford and recording their next album in their garage. But the book is less a biography of the band than an honest, insightful analysis of what exactly the band wanted from music, and what exactly they regard as success. Alongside this Miranda Ward examines her own motives for wanting to be a writer, and what that even means in an era of wall-to-wall blogging and self-publishing.

What was so refreshing to read here was what felt like sincere honesty in the band and the author’s desire to avoid fame. Whereas it is common to hear musicians and authors say they do not want to be part of the mainstream music or publishing industries, you still always have a nagging feeling that were they to have a hit single or novel they would lap it up and jump straight in to the fame machine. But it feels like a revelation when Little Fish recall that their most enjoyable gigs were the ones they played in Oxford venues to small audiences of appreciative fans – and when keyboard player Ben Walker describes what he now thinks of as success: as simply ‘being able to do interesting things with my time’.  Miranda Ward herself describes being surprised by a perfect day, of spending seven or eight hours writing, going for a swim then having an evening with her boyfriend, and what this means to her:

I don’t want to be a famous author for the fame; I want to be a famous author so that I can structure all of – or as many as can be considered reasonable – days like this. Because this […] is what makes me happy.

This feels exactly right to me. I’d like people to read what I write, because even though I take pleasure from writing itself there seems something missing if no one reads it. But in the end I just want to have the opportunity to go on writing about the things I consider important. This is the kind of life I aspire to in The Tyranny of Careers.

In this manner a fulfilling life is one that is focussed on what Miranda Ward calls ‘sustainable creativity’ – where the purpose of writing or making music or whatever is not necessarily to produce a book or an album, but simply to find a way to fund the continuation of making stuff. And whilst this means making do with less, and creating in a DIY fashion, these were the aspects of creating that made Little Fish feel more successful, rather than less. (In line with the DIY ethos of the book, it was published by Unbound, who raise the money needed to publish by collecting money from subscribers beforehand.)

This is a successful life for me: one of continued sustainable creativity. Highly recommend.