Words & Music: Miles Hunt of The Wonder Stuff
I’m mildly ashamed to admit that I was a late starter when it came to reading of my own volition. Perhaps something to do with the choices that school made for us in those latter years of English literature classes. I still can’t get on with Shakespeare, much to my Father’s annoyance.
By the time I was forging my way out into the world on my own, and during the first couple of years of The Wonder Stuff’s existence, I made the acquaintance of journalist James Brown who gifted me a copy of Charles Bukowski’s Post Office. I read it in one sitting and have since never been without a book, of one sort or another, at my side.
I had tried to make my way through Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers before reading Post Office, somewhat unsuccessfully I might add, but still managed to pilfer a couple of lines for a song I wrote for the band’s second album, HUP, called ‘Let’s Be Other People’. It’s true to say that in times of scant inspiration to pen lyrics of my own I have been guilty of taking a lead from a variety of writers that I’ve read. Much better than swiping the odd line from other bands’ lyrics I find, less chance of getting caught!
I’m happy to say that in more recent years this isn’t a practice that I have continued with. Bukowski once said that nobody should publish their written material until they have passed the age of forty, as prior to that age they have little of importance worth saying. This notion has partially proved true of my own lyric writing.
As travelling has played a major part in my life I have always taken pleasure in reading travel books, Bill Bryson and Charlie Connelly being two of my favourites. I even got hooked on crime novelist Lawrence Block for a while, just because he is always so precise about the Manhattan addresses where the crimes take place in his books. I like to put myself on the streets he mentions.
I’m big on autobiographical writers too, not celebrities seeking another chance to earn, but writers with real stories to tell. Dave Eggers, David Sedaris and Pete Hamill are three that loom large. Looking at those names I think it’s fair to say that my tastes tends to lean toward North American writers, I hadn’t really noticed that about myself previously. Again, that may well have something to do with the sense of adventure I feel when touring with the band in that part of the world.
The book that has accompanied me absolutely everywhere is Howard Devoto’s collected lyrics, It Only Looked As If It Hurt. He’s the lead singer of the favourite band of my youth, Magazine. I’m always in lyric-writing mode and his work has always been inspirational to me. I don’t carry it around anymore though, I met him a couple of years ago and he signed it for me, it is now far too precious an item to risk losing on my travels.
I’ve just finished my own book, it is based on my diaries that I kept since the beginning of the band, simply titled The Wonder Stuff Diaries, ‘86 – ‘89. I’m self-publishing in October this year. While I freely admit it’s no rival to Kenneth Williams’ diaries I still think there’s a fair few people out there who will get a kick out of the stories.
Miles Hunt will be appearing at the Latitude Festival on Thursday 17 July, at the Literary Arena. For more on Latitude – including Litro’s own events at this year’s festival – click here.