Today I’m delighted to feature author Dominic Brownlow. His debut novel The Naseby Horses was published last year and is due out in paperback on 24th. It was long listed for the Bath Novel Award 2016.
Dominic lives near Peterborough with his two children. He lived in London and worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. He now enjoys life in the Fens and has an office that looks out over water.
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Firstly, hello Jill, and thank you for inviting me to your lovely cafe. Music was my first love and I was fortunate enough to scrape a vague living out managing bands for twenty odd years until around 2016 when I became a house husband and started writing properly.
‘Lonely Boy’ – Sex Pistols – although it is not really by the Sex Pistols and the purists, of which I am one, would be horrified at such a suggestion however this is about me, not punk. I love the Pistols. Let that be made clear. I believe Never Mind The Bollocks, still to this day, to be one of the greatest albums ever made and it still ignites the same excitement in me as when I first heard it. My introduction to them, however, was on being at a friend’s house, aged about nine or ten, and listening to his older brother, and mine I think, trying to learn the words to ‘Friggin’ in the Rigging’, an appalling rugby club type shanty loosely released under the name of the Sex Pistols. Lydon had left the band by this stage and what was left had become a vile pantomime of itself. I was too young to know anything about the band or punk or anything beyond the eighties glitz of ABBA and Showaddywaddy etc, but this noise enticed me completely and after they had left to stuff themselves with Corona limeade and Ringos I snuck into their room and played the B-side, ‘Lonely Boy’, sung almost entirely out of tune by Steve Jones. I was from that moment, and have been ever since, obsessed with alternative music. A few days later I went to Andy’s Records in Peterborough, bought Never Mind The Bollocks, much to my parent’s horror, played it continually and still periodically go back to it now.
To be listened to only in the absence of the real thing.
‘Kennedy’ – The Wedding Present
From that moment on everything I listened to musically was alternative, getting me through school and off to University, guided, of course, by the soothing voice of John Peel who I thought of almost as an uncle that I had never met (see later…). There are so many bands and songs I could name from that early nineties epoch of musical history and I feel honoured to have been at the right age to be able to go to gigs in its heyday. I was too young for punk and new wave and goth although I did manage to sneak into a Toy Dolls gig aged 16 and experience my first full on mosh-pit. Indie, however, was mine and I consumed it ravenously. I remember driving around the north of England following ‘The Weddos’ on three or four nights of their Kennedy tour. This song is made up three simple cords (G, C, D) and needs to be played at extreme volume.
To be played at the end of a party when most of the guests have left.
‘Carrion’ – British Sea Power
My obsession with all things indie eventually meant I joined a band, who officially released an EP I’m proud to say, then, when that all quite predictably failed, I started managing others and eventually set up a small business and worked for a couple of music companies and somehow made a humble living out of it for over twenty years. When asked at a conference once what I believed to the greatest pop song ever made I claimed it to be this, closely followed by ‘The Cutter’ by Echo and The Bunnymen.
To be listened to in the car.
‘Takk’ – Sigur Ros
Well, this is just beautiful, and shows it’s not all about guitars and angst switches.
To be listened to lying on the floor between the speakers with a large glass of red, feeling a little sorry for yourself.
‘National Shite Day’ – Half Man Half Biscuit
Unquestionably the finest band to have ever come from England, ever, and I really mean this, beyond the Beatles and the Stones. As Peel described them, ‘they are a national treasure.’ All the very best things go largely unnoticed, sadly. People, in general, accept too readily music and books and films that are laid out for them on plates gilded in the autocratic persuasions of just a few companies who think they know more about their tastes than they do. There is a vast ocean of extraordinary things out there that are superior beyond recognition in quality and drive and creative flair and originality and HMHB are one of those things. They have indirectly accompanied me on my journey so far and I can’t imagine what my life would have looked like without them at my side. Lyrically they are the most intelligent, sardonic, observant, amusing, often daft, critical commentators of life in England from 1985 to the modern day. And they also like having a go at the music industry, not like I do, but at the bands themselves.
To be listened to chronologically from Back in DHSS up to their recent album No One Cares About Your Creative Hub…..
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
As above, as much for an historical record on minor celebrities from the 1980s as for pure enjoyment, my collection of HMHB records
I’d need red wine, I’m afraid, and coffee.
I love film and seeing as this has transposed, in my eyes at least, to a Desert Island Disc type scenario, and I don’t want the Bible thank you or the works of Shakespeare for that matter (it’s 2020), please can I have a cinema?
And a library.
And my laptop to write on, preferably with internet access, if that’s possible.
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
This is a very good question and the hardest of them all. Hindsight is overrated. It tends to lend a sense of regret to the surface of nostalgia. It has no right to do that. I wish I had started writing earlier in life, to be honest, and not spent thousands of hours chasing other people’s dreams, often thanklessly, but if I had I wouldn’t have had the time that I did, most of which was rewarding. I didn’t ever seek a real job, blinded by this desire to work in music. I ignored advice from family and friends. If I had taken it, I would, of course, have made more money and probably would have been happier and not surrounded by friends who were financially comfortable and could afford things I couldn’t, and still can, but I didn’t take that route, and I survived. So, no, sorry. No advice to my younger self other than to occasionally say no!
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I was a Young Ornithologist when growing up and would go on bus trips to Kings Lynn and Wisbech and Gedney Drove with a pack up and a pair of binoculars. Simon, my character in The Naseby Horses, is a deeply introspective boy and finds great comfort in birds and wildlife. There is reward in stopping every now and again and looking beyond your own world and nature is the most obvious point into which to stare.
My band was played on John Peel – twice!
I’m possibly a bit OCD. I can’t decide.
I can’t really spell anymore, which annoys me as I always could. For a wannabe writer I understand this isn’t ideal.
I drowned when I was two and was brought back to life, I hope, otherwise this really has been the most persistent of dreams.
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
Other than finishing my next novel by the end of the year, I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of goals in life. I did it all that in my very hectic act one and two. I’m fifty now and have tapered my life dreams to watching my kids grow up, especially playing sport for their schools, writing, listening to music, watching films, the odd country walk followed by a pint or two of real ale with a packet of pork scratchings.
As a personal achievement, and in the same rather despairing breath, I’d like to be long or short-listed for a major prize, and in more general terms for the prizes of literature to be decided on merit alone.
And, while I’m here, I’d like to extend my culinary skills beyond five stock meals, see Peterborough United get promoted, start Paul Auster’s 4321, which I was given a year or two back now, in hardback as well, and still haven’t got around to, and see all the people who attend my funeral before the day itself.
Many thanks for joining us today Dominic, it was lovely discovering more about you. I need to go an educate myself by listening to all your music choices. I was a teenager in the 70’s so I’m afraid glam rock and ABBA was my thing, I bypassed Punk and as an (older) student in the 80’s loved electro/synth pop. I think the key word in my musical taste is clearly ‘pop’. I think we’d all agree a library, however small is an essential, though I’ll swap your coffee for tea. I quite like that your advice would be to occasionally say no, for many people it’s a regret that they should have said yes more often. Whatever our choices, it’s made us who we are so we need to be content with that. Argh, spelling – my inability to spell now drives me mad, not helped by the majority of the ‘helpful’ suggestions offering American options. I’ve also got 4321 on my to read pile too, let me know what it’s like – I’m sure you’ll read it before me. Here’s hoping for Peterborough United!
The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow
About the Book
Seventeen-year-old Simon’s sister Charlotte is missing. The lonely Fenland village the family recently moved to from London is odd, silent, and mysterious. Simon is epileptic and his seizures are increasing in severity, but when he is told of the local curse of the Naseby Horses, he is convinced it has something to do with Charlotte’s disappearance. Despite resistance from the villagers, the police, and his own family, Simon is determined to uncover the truth, and save his sister. Under the oppressive Fenland skies and in the heat of a relentless June, Simon’s bond with Charlotte is fierce, all-consuming, and unbreakable; but can he find her? And does she even want to be found? Drawing on philosophy, science, and the natural world, The Naseby Horses is a moving exploration of the bond between a brother and his sister; of love; and of the meaning of life itself.
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