11 - Ewan Morrison: Author, Screenwriter and Director
I'm waiting for culture to turn dark and deep again. The culture I came from was counter culture and it was angry and introspective. It has been utterly been pushed into invisibility by the rise of "be happy" culture. The ideology of positivity. We've been recycling this forced positivity for a decade now. It's like too much health food or some advert for happiness stuck on a loop. We're thoroughly sick of it and we can see through it to the structures of repression behind it. We're tired of the lie that we can all be everything we want to be if we just stay positive and believe in ourselves. The repetitiousness of that inane self promoting grin, the fake smile of competitive consumerism and artificial camaraderie:"Yay-culture". I predict we're going to go dark and angry soon. We have to. We're not adverts for god sake.
- Ewan Morrison
Ewan Morrison is a man of many talents: an author, a journalist, a screenwriter and a director. He has written a short story collection and a number of critically acclaimed novels, contributed extensively to The Guardian and been involved in writing and direction for film and TV for a number of years. Recently his first novel Swung was turned into a movie of the same name.
I encountered the writing of Ewan Morrison in 2012 when I heard about his novel Tales from the Mall. At the time I was knee deep in studying for a Scottish Literature degree. I always meant to get the book but I never did. The following year I took a module on Contemporary Scottish Literature and Tales from the Mall was on the reading list. I devoured it almost instantly. I was captivated by its unconventional style, its raw subversion of capitalism, how it questioned the very concept of identity in a consumer driven world, and the way it weaved fiction and non-fiction together as it explored what a mall is and represents on every conceivable level.
The following summer I consumed his entire oeuvre.
I spent so many years studying historical Scottish literature and when we did read something more up to date it was hardly contemporary - the newest thing on the reading list was Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. It was refreshing to finally observe the Scottish literary landscape as it is now, and Ewan's work is vital to that landscape. Ewan's work deals with many things that we now take for granted, and poses questions that I feel are very important in the current age - what is identity, community, individuality and the very meaning of our relationships to each other in the current, transitory digital age . We're being sold individuality as the ultimate expression of human existence, being told that there is an ideal person we should strive to be which is unlike any other. Yet when we step back we all look, sound and act the same.
So far I've mainly spoken to people who are involved in punk rock - the troubadours who sing their songs outside of the mainstream, who choose to do things their own way. The parallel between a musician outside of the mainstream and a writer outside of the mainstream is clear: unless you are in the mainstream you will find it extremely difficult to make a living from doing what you're doing. The internet, with its infinite everything, its boundless choice, is forcing us to "like" the same things. In our strive to be individual, to create culture, we're reposting and retweeting all of the same content as everyone else. Our voice just blends in to the binary din.
If this podcast stays outside of the mainstream, then that's where I'm happy to be.
My chat with Ewan was broad, interesting and one of the most challenging, thought provoking discussions I've ever had. I really hope you think so too. It's long but it's worth every second.
Where Ewan's creativity began and how it's rooted very firmly in community
Nirvana, Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain - how sometimes creativity and the darkness beneath it can lead one to their demise
Being in a community of artists in the Glasgow School of Art and how he spun off into TV
Making an hour of crazy arts TV every week for STV, including getting to interview Sonic Youth and Ivor Cutler
Missing the days of artists banding together and operating outside of the mainstream
How those that do band together in the millennial age don't have much to say
But also how his generation's biggest political achievement is ironic slogans on T-shirts.
Contemporary apathy happening as an accident by way of being too positive about everything all the time
Extensive discussion about Tales from the Mall and Close Your Eyes
The way the search for individuality has paradoxically lead to the homognoisation of culture and how individuality is the engine that drives his work
Facebook, twitter, the internet, consumerism, streaming, Amazon and endless choice causing the destruction of the arts industry
How we love to see our heroes fall and are often encouraged to gloat in the failure of others as it is chronicled a minute at a time by the internet
And a massive rant from myself on why the punk community is not a community in the way we would like it to be.
It's taken me a little while to get a writer on this podcast. Well, it's taken a while to get anyone other than a musician on this podcast, so I'm extremely grateful to be able to expand the scope of this show. This podcast has always been about creativity and passion from creative people from all walks of life. In time I hope to talk to as many people in as many different fields as possible. It'd be great if you came along for the ride.
We all experience and create art in different ways. I've come to realise that the themes musicians, artists and writers discuss in their work come from a very dark place. How we come to that creativity, the journey into and through it, is where the inspiration lies. Where the good stuff.
It's the fuel that powers this podcast. Featured Music Intro: Voodoo Puppets – Electric Chair Blues (used under CC licence, you can check it out here).
All music can be purchased on the links above. I make no claim to the copyright of these tracks. Links
Go buy any of Ewan's books from a book store. A bricks and mortar one. That'd be well good.
You can see his website here and his column in The Guardian here. Thank you! My thanks are eternal to you and everyone else who has listened to the podcast and helped me get it to where it is. It’s now on the goddamn front page. How cool is that? If you could take a second to rate and review this podcast on iTunes I’d love you forever and ever. Questions? Feedback? You can do either by dropping a comment in the comment box below. Or you can hit the contact link to show me some love by using the cool email form. Social Media I’m on a few social media sites, so it’d be pretty handy if you could show me some love over there. Check out the Facebook page. Or you can get me on Twitter.
Oh and seriously, rating and reviewing this podcast on iTunes would be amazing.