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David Keenan Interview

Growing up in what I affectionately refer to as ‘the middle of nowhere’, where I live has always played an important part in my life. Somehow, the road of my life has led me to now live in Airdrie. It’s cheap housing and close proximity to Glasgow are the rewards for being in a town saturated in empty shopfronts and little opportunity. So, imagine my surprise to read an article in The Guardian that not only claimed it was once home to cool people but that one such guy had written a book (and equally importantly escaped).

David Keenan is the escapee and has had every cool job you ever wish you could stick on your CV – writer, musician, record label owner.  Not only that, he has an infectious enthusiasm for life, music and even Airdrie! I was lucky enough to ask him a quick few questions about music and the impact it has on his life:

What was the first lyric you remember noticing and thinking was exactly how you felt?

It wasn’t so much a lyric as a howl, a scream, when Iggy Pop just started flipping on the microphone during the breakdown of The Stooges “TV Eye”. That was exactly how I felt.

Do you have a favourite lyricist/lyric you wish you had thought of?

Favourite lyricists: Dylan, obviously, Lou Reed, Lana Del Rey, Kevin Rowland, Sterling Smith, Chuck Berry. The Ramones. Van Morrison. Iggy Pop. I love the lyrics to “Some Weird Sin” on Lust For Life, they are pure This Is Memorial Device: “Well I never got my license to live/they won’t give it up/so I stand at the world’s edge/I’m trying to break in/though I know it’s not for me/and the sight of it all/makes me sad and ill/that’s when I want/some weird sin”.

What lyric always makes you smile and why?

“You just sit around and ask for ashtrays/can’t you reach?”

How important is music in your life?


When did you start to feel this way about music?

When I was about 17 and fell in love with post-punk music and experienced for myself for the first time people making art without any sense of ‘permission’, forming their own bands, putting out their own records, writing these intense songs, I was completely caught up in the energy of it.

Do you feel creatives (writers, artists, musicians) are able to create because they are able to convey their feelings into their work, and in turn by doing this are more vulnerable in terms of their own mental health?

Absolutely. I don’t think writers and artists and musicians talk about this so much but it is such a lonely and creatively demanding thing to dedicate your life too, sometimes you can feel overwhelmed mentally, I certainly have, I liken it to flying too close to the sun, like, for example, having trouble turning ‘the voices’ off in your head after you have been listening to them for say, a year or so, every day, deliberately channelling them, but then it can feel impossible to get rid of them, ha ha. Magicians have banishing rituals at the end of a working but what do writers have? Also, it can be terribly lonely, it’s a solitary existence, spending most day every day, in silence, inside your head.

David’s book ‘This Is Memorial Device’ is out now on Faber.

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