At some point, lyrics became unimportant. Probably around my late twenties, when I stopped really caring about live music. I think some of Smog albums were the last I remember enjoying for lyrical content, and that’s suddenly a long time ago. It’s an odd situation for someone who professes to be interested in words.
Whenever I move house, my first ritual is to pin up a collage of paintings, photos and images I’ve collated over the years. This is my ‘thought wall’, a series of contemplative triggers which I’d look at above my desk. My writing routines were always based around these images, up until a few years ago, when I started making a daily journey by train. Without the physical triggers of the collage, I looked to other triggers for concentration. I reached for music. Trough of Bowland by Woodcraft Folk. Brian Eno. Boards of Canada. Slowly, the music became reduced to sounds and atmospheres, sometimes the nearest possible thing to silence. Instrumental.
The ambient solitude offered by some music is now essential to me. The familiar fields and outskirts of towns on that train journey will always be linked by a particular music phrase or effect. These days, I write, mainly, in motion. Putting together a poetry collection on the 168 bus. Typing this out via tube station wifi on the District line. Strip out lyrics, the insistent of a voice, and you soon realise that ordinary life lends itself to any kind of beat. Gestures by strangers noticed on the periphery, landscapes and situations, become imbued with meaning and drama. Your eye has always been a camera, your mind a film. These are the soundtracks.