On the road with John Osborne

Interview: Tristram Fane Saunders 27 March 2012

The award-winning broadcaster and poet talks to TCS about his show ‘John Peel’s Shed’

Tell me about the show.

It’s about the importance of radio, the importance of music, and the importance of John Peel. It’s about the storytellers, that are what I associate with the bands who were on John Peel’s show. I got into poetry through song lyrics – The Kinks, The Smiths, The Velvet Underground – I listened to them before I ever read poems. There’s a guy called Darren Hayman , and it was incredible hearing him for the first time – the way he created these characters, these small, heartbreaking worlds.

All of the show’s music comes from the record-player onstage – why?

It would be easier to have it recorded, but people don’t often see someone taking a moment to put on a record on. It’s a simple moment, stress free. And because it’s these records, it’s seems part of a bygone era.

You’ve been described as “endearingly bashful.” Do you see yourself as a natural performer?

I never wanted to perform, but a few years ago my friend Joe came up to me and said, “I’m putting on this poetry gig – you’re doing ten minutes.” Luckily, the two sides work quite well together. John Peel’s Shed exists because of Radio Head . I kept thinking – “ooh, I wish I’d put this bit in, I wish I’d done that.” The show is kind of… live footnotes.

Favourite song from the ‘shed’?

The song that people always come up to me afterwards to ask about is this beautiful instrumental from an EP by Modest Mouse. It’s called Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Why is your latest poetry collection called “The New Blur Album”?

To give a slightly wanky answer, it’s to do with the acceptable side of consumerism, and enjoying the small things of life. For my generation, Blur were the biggest band around. Every few years there’d be this rumour about “the new Blur album”. A lot of people can chart their lives around what they were doing when the New Blur album came out. It’s quite a good metaphor for excitement.

What were you doing when the last Blur album came out?

I was teaching in a school in Germany, while lodging with a divorced lady and her two kids. I bought the album, then the next day they announced they were doing a secret gig in Cologne. I hopped on a train, and managed to get a ticket for ten Euros. I was there, in this tiny venue, watching… Blur!

Interview: Tristram Fane Saunders