❉ Music writer, Ace Records compiler and Iggy Pop fanatic Liz Buckley on Amadeus, Paul Dano and more.
Liz Buckley is a manager and compiler at top-notch reissue label Ace Records. Liz has also written about rock and pop for various publications and websites, and in 2016 was one of ThatLot’s 30 Amazing Women You Should Follow On Twitter. Like all of us here at We Are Cult, Liz is not only very passionate about her interests but also enjoys the opportunity to put them across in an enthusiastic, engaging style so she’s the ideal candidate for a Cult Q & A…
“When I was growing up, I would read absolutely anything with Barbara Ellen or Sylvia Patterson’s names on, regardless of whether I liked the band. And when it’s about the Manic Street Preachers, believe me, that’s high praise. “
What were you like at school?
It’s tempting to just give a one word answer. Like, “absent”. Or “fat”. I think when we look back later in life with the privilege of having forgotten most of our beginning, we’d all like to think we were more interesting than we actually were. I think I was just a kid.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Oh, I wanted to work in music from the moment I realised you could have (or at least attempt to have) an active influence over how you might be employed. It’s not like school where for the most part you are simply sent. So that was a revelation – “I actually get to choose the next stage? Fuckin’ A!”
I didn’t ever want to be a performer though, never a performer. I just wanted to shout from the rooftops how great the performers I love are, and in whatever paying medium might be available. I’ve done that in record shops, at music publishers, through journalism and at record companies. LISTEN TO THIS! has been my only motivation and the fact you could make a living from being enthusiastic was probably the best news I’ve ever had.
What advice would you give to your teenage self?
You’re about to get your first cat and it’s fucking great. But don’t let her out the bathroom window.
What are your best and worst qualities?
Oh God, those are never for you to say yourself – those are for other people to say, sat in pubs you’re not in.
“Paul McKenna rang in and was somehow furious about taps with no one to complain to. I said he should have known it was going to happen.”
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Temping on a vast reception switchboard at a posh bathroom showroom in Lambeth. I hate the phone. I never use the phone to speak to anyone, even my closest friends, so speaking on an oversized telephone and to hundreds of people in quick succession, and often at once and in groups, it was my own personal horror film. I lasted one day.
The showroom had a lot of famous clients and the connection to their Aftersales Department was down, so my job swiftly became simply apologising for money. Paul McKenna rang in and was somehow furious about taps with no one to complain to. I said he should have known it was going to happen – it was the last day for me, bathroom showrooms and phones.
Who were your heroes growing up?
Iggy Pop. My mum. And Then Jerico. The last one is a clear sign that we are not as great a child as we would like to think.
What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?
Don’t make me choose between The Day Today and Peaky Blinders. Which is my sneaky way of getting two choices rather than one. And also getting elements of Chris Morris, Alan Partridge, Cillian Murphy, Paddy Considine, Nick Cave and Jack White all into the bargain. Whaaaat a fucking cheat.
Monty Python: Is it funny?
Obviously. Which crazy bastard said no?
What was the last film that you watched?
A Streetcat Named Bob! I thought it was going to be a throwaway, daft thing to watch over a Saturday night bottle of wine. I cried like the world was ending because the cat in it very briefly went missing. I mean, I knew he was fine, I’ve seen him on the 73. He’s since got a book deal. But I was beside myself – I got my own poor cat Meep in a headlock and he gradually soaked up my ridiculous tears. He’s a very patient guy.
What film could you watch every day?
Amadeus. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it now… “Every day” would be a slight exaggeration but only a slight one. When I was 11, it was the big Boxing Day film that year and I curled up around my mum to watch it, both of us crammed into her not-quite-big-enough arm chair. I remember thinking it was going to be booooring, I wasn’t a fan of any classical music at that age, but my mum was and I wanted to be curled up with my mum at Christmas. We laughed and cried and quite frankly adored every moment and every single second of it reminds me of feeling the self-same things as my mum whilst we watched it for the first time. I can even remember her changes in heartbeat, as my head was on her chest. We watched it often together and reran the same emotions in all the same places, each and every time. She died when I was seventeen and I watch Amadeus to be near her, enjoying getting completely decimated each time I do it because nonetheless it’s still exactly like a huge armchair hug at Christmas.
What’s your favourite film soundtrack?
The Road by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis. It’s a beautifully optimistic piece of work to go with one of the bleakest films. It’s atmospheric and it’s beautiful and it’s unnerving actually *because* it’s uplifting. It soars. And it makes the film stir in you far more complicated emotions than you would have had if the music was pure tension and moroseness. And you need the promise of hope when there’s apocalypse and cannibalism I think. Call me chirpy.
Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?
Paul Dano, playing all four people in anything he fancies. He only played two roles in There Will Be Blood and it simply wasn’t enough.
Which film, book or record last disappointed you the most?
David Bowie’s Blackstar. Only ‘cos I was inconsolably disappointed that he immediately died.
Which record would you recommend and lend to a friend?
Oh, I give people records constantly, it’s a nice thing to do and there are so many bloody good ones. If you think that person will like it, make it a present. Asking for it back seems a bit churlish. “Here’s something you could own if you made more effort”.
Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?
All of them! Which is why I give other people their own copies.
Which book would you save if your house was on fire?
It’s a book. I’d rebuy it and call for the neighbours.
What’s your definition of what makes something cult?
Ian Astbuy. HAHAHAHA. Great joke Liz.
What are you reading at present?
Have just finished Tony Visconti’s autobiography. I love Tony because he’s so lovely and polite. He’s lived the rock’n’roll life, but even when he’s taking acid, it’s kept in a flask in the fridge mixed with honey and lemon. Have just started Cosey Fanni Tutti’s book “Art Sex Music”, which shows even if you’re dating an art rock guy on the fringes of society, he can still be an absolute prick.
You’re a passionate and well-informed music writer. Female voices are still quite rare in music criticism; are there any women writers on rock who have been inspirations?
When I was growing up, I would read absolutely anything with Barbara Ellen or Sylvia Patterson’s names on, regardless of whether I liked the band. And when it’s about the Manic Street Preachers, believe me, that’s high praise.
“I love writing , and I enjoy giving myself the discipline of trying to explain why I love certain things, not just how much – it’s far harder and more rewarding than being negative. Negative has a funnier vocabulary (the cunt) but when people understand and adopt a new positive it’s wonderfully exciting.”
You’re a manager and compiler at Ace Records, who have a proven track record for digging up rare gems and obscure nuggets across various genres, from Afro-funk and garage rock to Nilsson and Shel Talmy’s productions. As a music buff, how much fun is that?
So much fun I can’t believe my luck. Every single day I hear something that makes my life richer, discover something I didn’t previously know and now love, find someone who deserves a bigger audience or more credit and make a new music-loving friend or colleague. It’s an absolute privilege of a job.
You were chief music writer at Standard Issue, the online magazine turned podcast “For all women”. Can you tell us a little about what that was like?
It was tremendous fun, and a real shame the print version is no longer going. It was a fun project run by Sarah Millican that sadly didn’t make enough money in the print format to keep going without compromising on the advertising they took. The Standard Issue podcast is doing brilliantly though so that’s very rewarding – is getting a huge audience, so going to new strengths really.
I love writing though, and I enjoy giving myself the discipline of trying to explain why I love certain things, not just how much – and it’s far harder and more rewarding than being negative. Negative has a funnier vocabulary (the cunt) but when people understand and adopt a new positive it’s wonderfully exciting. Enthusing about tunes and retelling stories about the artists and making accompanying playlists to illustrate it all is like playing records for every reader in your lounge whilst making them cocktails… Some of them will even reply by telling you about the things that make them emotional. If you put enough tequila in.
Which other writers or musicians have inspired you over the years?
Oh my word, that’s a huge question. Too many to list or explain, I think most days I hear or see something that I think makes the world a little brighter or cleverer than it was the day before.
What are you up to next?
Am starting a new podcast for Ace so that’s a very exciting thing. Will be hosted by the wonderful, knowledgable, courteous and all-round fantastic bloke, Pete Paphides. Am thrilled to bits about it. First few guests are David Morrissey, Jon Savage and Bernard Butler, all of whom are flipping lovely. Theoretically, am meant to be writing a book. Aren’t we fucking all. Am partly even saying it out loud so I stop doing things with my weekend like watching A Streetcat Named Bob. I have some projects for Ace that I’m super-excited about, all at varying stages of completion and none of which I will spell out in print for fear of jinxing them. But they’re albums revolving around my own heroes, subjects I’m passionate about and things I have to pinch myself could even be a possibility… There’s not huge money involved in doing any of them of course but since when was that ever the point.
What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?
Get on with it. I think that was me.
Who has had the biggest influence on your life, and how has that person changed your life?
I’m not sure there is just one. We’re all pushed and pulled in many directions by a myriad of people aren’t we. There’s been people who have made me shine and some who have bullied me into crawling into a corner, and both have been equally important. Most animals make me wish the world was kinder. If there’s one person I’d like to be more like, it’s one of my dearest friends, Laney. She’s much more laid back than me, and always kind and funny. It’s good to want to be better. And funnier.
Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?
I’ve actually spent a large portion of my job sending unsolicited letters to my heroes and ending up at theirs for Christmas. So if you’ve got a small family with very few seasonal responsibilities, I’d actually highly recommend it.
What would you like to be your epitaph?
“Told you it was cancer”.
We are at a bar, what are you drinking?
Vodka and diet coke please. Unless we’re somewhere with no interval – then it’s a bottle of red wine and two pint glasses if you’re up for it.
What are your three favourite cities?
Rome, London and Berlin… Oh God, I love you, the EU.
What do you do to chill out?
I won’t lie to you, I don’t think I’ve ever relaxed in my life.
What element of your work has given you the most personal satisfaction?
Paying musicians who have never been properly paid.
What has been the most rewarding project in your career so far – and why?
Always the one I’m working on next.
Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
I really fucking want to see a gig in Tokyo. My ambitions tend to be quite achievable. Once i’ve done that, I really fucking want to see a gig in Mexico.
Is there anything unique about yourself that you would like your readers to know?
I really can’t spell thoroughrally. See?
Thanks you for taking time to talk to We Are Cult!
Thanks again for askin’!
❉ Follow Liz Buckley on Twitter: @liz_buckley