Inky Interview: Musician and Poet Simon Ross

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Six-foot-one, eyes brown, early forties, greying hair. No distinguishing marks; Art History and Film Studies graduate from Glasgow University; never considered that I could make a living from the kind of writing or music I make so I have mostly worked in office administration. I have three children: Amber, 17; Lily, 14; and Isaac, 10. Four cats, two dogs, one horse; lots of books and records. Moved from Scotland to Macclesfield eighteen months ago – the hometown of my partner, Jackie.  

Can you share with us a couple of your poems and the inspiration behind them?

This one is about the arrival of the ADP riot tour in Macclesfield last year. It was a conceptual art installation by Jimmy Cauty that toured the UK. It was a sculpture inside a shipping container of the aftermath of a serious riot. It was an attempt to get at the feeling I got from viewing it.  

Container Quartet.

MAERSK

The virus of the object – through the veins and arteries of the island – m23 a666 endless endless.

Arrival of chaos in reverse – its already happened – view the post action – rushes of what was.

Where were you, when were you, who were you, who you were, where you are, are you there

Hamburg sud

The mythic tour coast to coast incendiary Visigoth punk revelation – each town detonated on arrival city smoulders in fake fur and eyeliner – they can take it and use it. A hundred formations and reformations in the wake

K line

Let Freedom ride – going to further – figure of outward never looking back, can’t look back, blinded by vision – eternally reconstructing the fractured narrative until the clock stops and then opens the steel doors to find thirty stowaways suffocated and yet one flicks an eye open at the sunlight piercing the dead interior. The authorities give him a cup of coffee and let him walk away into the streets by the harbour – to begin telling the tale.

CHANG

The audience autograph the star – national debris and albions psychic leakage document of end of euro trip and winning at go and the reduction to yes no for against impossible complexities of indifference and sullen obedience – insurrection contagion captured on highway CCTV– memory and memorial of resistance germ – shaped conscience with an uranium half life – before and after simultaneous arrival/dispersal.

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This one is called ‘Hook and Removal’. I think this one is trying to get a feeling of a confusing dream – not exactly a nightmare, more a sense of being stuck in an alternative reality. I like the surrealist painters very much, so this is maybe something like walking through a de Chirico landscape.  

There is always an absence or maybe a blockage I can never decide

Approaching the resolution the film stops

The road suddenly ends

And there is nothing

Occasionally I feel a pull towards form behind or within the end

A subtle gravity

A revelatory attraction that I can never access

Empty stillness is what I expect but in fact it could be almost anything.

Let’s revisit the city, call it London, but it isn’t

Out in a zone devoid of history or culture

There is a river but no one talks about it.

There’s a commercial zone lock ups and railway arches

Cavernous interiors of a dubious economy

Wide streets with parked cars

People intent on getting somewhere else

There is a park with war memorials some of them still to be fought

School children in uniforms walk in twos

Back in the interior the light drips from a fissure in the ceiling

Pools of fading light ripple out and away – soundless light drips

Sudden faces lit up like carriages passing at speed at midnight

Eyes swivel in the death posture

Return to black

Even in the lightest times there can be a sense of this non entity

Weird sentinel of forbidden voyage

Wait, waiting

Unlikely final companion much delayed but elegant excuses

Offered – accepted and so begin.

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?

I have a box full of most of the things I have written in the last twenty years or so. I would say that themes of isolation, stillness and disintegration figure prominently. I am sometimes surprised at the violence in the images and I also have something of a preoccupation with death and altered states. I wouldn’t say I am particularly morbid or a sombre person, so I’m often surprised by what comes out. They are primarily internal imaginings and not much concerned with external descriptions. I like short sentences – space, quiet and movement. I care about the idea that language can be a means to solace and can, when employed in the correct manner, create a meditative insightful frame of mind – searching for the correct manner is an ongoing project.

As well as a writer, you’re a musician. What kind of music do you play and does it inspire your writing, or vice versa?

I like to play improvised music. For some reason, I have never been able to remember chord progressions and lyrics unless they are very simple, so it’s easier for me to play and see what happens. I particularly like playing in improvised groups. The exception to this is electronic music; software means it’s a lot easier to structure and to create and edit. In electronic music, I prefer to work alone. I have to admit that I don’t feel the music inspires the writing – perhaps I am trying to go after a certain feeling that music evokes sometimes, but not often; in that sense, perhaps music is more primary for me. One thing where there is a crossover is in terms of performance. I have been performing music fairly regularly for the last ten years or so but it’s only in the last year that I have been performing poetry on stage. I like the different expectations and anticipations of reading aloud to an audience. For the longest time my writing was only meant to be read so it’s been interesting to speak it out loud and learn more about what the poems might be about.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?  

War has to stop. I genuinely believe that if war stops everything that has been diminished in life and on the planet would be allowed to flourish.

Who inspires you and why?  

People who are unafraid to stand up for what they believe. Even when everyone around them is telling them it’s not working and the world seems indifferent to what they do – they carry on because they know they are right even if they can’t fully describe why. Artists that inspire me the most are John Cage, Charles Olson, Willem de Kooning , William Burroughs, Iain Sinclair, Richard Long, Lou Reed, Stanley Kubrick, Kenneth White… many others, but these ones come to mind first.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.  

Meeting Jackie in October 1996. My whole life changed forever and for the better – twenty-one years later, it’s still changing in lots of good ways.

What are you reading at the moment?

I tend to read lots of things at the same time and I don’t necessarily finish all of them. Novel-wise, I just finished Neuromancer by William Gibson, and I have just started reading Kafka’s The Trial; I’m also half way through Orwell’s 1984. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction; mostly I try to work thorough great books from the past. In terms of poetry, I’ve been dipping into ‘Canterbury Tales’ (the un-modernised text) Blake and David Jones. I like to read philosophy and political theory too, so right now I am going through John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, Nick Lands’ Fanged Noumena and a bit of Martin Heidegger, who I’ve been trying to get to grips with since university.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I want to continue creating and collaborating with others. I would love to set up an electronic music festival in Macclesfield sometime this year. Mostly I want to carry on moving forward and outward into new things.

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