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Anthony Reynolds – The World Of Colin Wilson (Rocket Girl)
| Qmag, October 2012 | Shindig #29 | Wire, July-August 2012
‘A WORLD OF COLIN WILSON’.
Colin Henry Wilson (born 26 June 1931) is a prolific English writer who first came to prominence as a philosopher and novelist. Wilson has since written widely on true crime, mysticism and other topics. He prefers calling his philosophy new existentialism or phenomenological existentialism. His most famous book is probably ‘The Outsider’, published in 1956. It was then that Wilson became associated with the "Angry Young Men" of British literature, alongside Kingsley Amis and John Braine. He contributed to Declaration, an anthology of manifestos by writers associated with the movement, and wrote a popular paperback sampler, Protest: The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men.
He has had a particular impact upon musicians. David Bowie, Robert Fripp and Julian Cope have all acknowledged their interest in his work.
Anthony Reynolds was born in South Wales in the early seventies.
Between 1993 and 2004 he was founding member of the groups Jack and Jacques, releasing five albums. Since 2004 he has released three solo albums and also worked as a writer, publishing three biographies and two volumes of poetry.
Colin Stanley is a Colin Wilson Scholar and head of the Colin Wilson Archives at Nottingham university.
‘A world of Colin Wilson’ features Texts by Colin Wilson recorded by Anthony Reynolds at Colin’s home in St Austell in 2003/4. Music and noise was added later by A.R, Martin Carr and the Spanish group La Muneca De sal.
The making of ‘A World of Colin Wilson’ – A Short Q&A with A.R. By Colin Stanley.
C.S. I first discovered Colin Wilson's work in 1970 when, by chance, I came across his first novel 'Ritual In the Dark' in a bookshop in Exeter. How did you discover him?
A.R. 'Mysteries' in my School Library, circa 1986. Blew the doors open. It really fired up my imagination. For the next few years I picked up his books when I found them.
‘The Misfits’, “Diary of a Sex Metaphysician’ and of course ‘The Outsider’ made the biggest impact. After 'Mysteries' I maintained my interest in CW actively up until about ‘94 and then it fell by the wayside. ' I Re- discovered him a lifetime later in 2003 by chance in another Library- Shrewsbury. This time it was 'Poetry and mysticism'. This led me to write to Colin himself. I felt I had unfinished business with the subject somehow.
CS : ‘What’s your favourite book of his ?
AR : Short answer ; 'Adrift in Soho'. I know its among his least typical but this one moved me the most. Probably ‘cos I got it during the first week I moved to London in late ’93. Also, "Dreaming to some purpose', his autobiography, which he gave me personally years later just before it came out. In many ways I found him-the man himself - more interesting - to me- than the ideas at this point. Probably a failing on my part, but we take what we need at any given time...and discard the rest...
CS : In the past, the bands 'In the Nursery' and 'The Orb' have put their own particular spin on Colin Wilson's recitations. What was your motivation in using his voice to accompany your music? If you know the work of these other bands how do you think your approach has differed?
AR : I'd heard 'In the Nursery' - haven't heard the Orb w/Colin. I have the Julian Cope authored T.C. Lethbridge Box set. None of these takes on presenting CW in a musical context are what I wanted to emulate. I'm reminded of the work that The Disposable heroes of hiprhosy did with William Burroughs - I liked their backing tracks and I Love Burroughs - but both cancel each other out when combined.
So ‘A world of...’ wasn't merely about providing music beneath Colin's voice as he read his own texts. Nothing beats his better books in this regard. I wanted the album to be more expansive than that. Its also about my impressions of him, my feelings toward him and the journey I took to visit him as well as being about his ideas and work. One thing I wanted to encapsulate was the two journey's I took to St Austell in relation to what CW had meant to me as a younger man. The first visit in particular felt like a kind of pilgrimage and it was an epic trip. For reasons I'll go into some other time, I had to go from Shropshire via London. I think that the first journey took about 7 hours if I remember correctly ; there was a lot of time to consider where I was going and what that meant to me. I arrived at Colin's quite late and in a state of some refreshment; this had its own consequences - tragi- comic ones. But it felt like a major trek. So the track 'Just gone past dusk' is about that. In fact, you can hear my voice on that track, speaking into a Dictaphone as I awaited a connecting train from some obscure station in Cornwall and Colin’s voice doesn’t feature on it at all.
The track ‘Cornwall’ itself....that again was my impression of the place when I arrived and of the state of my mind when I did. There was a great 'roaring' that I picked up on as I entered St Austell at night, and somewhere inside it, represented by Colin's lovely home, this almost eerie like attempt at Calm and self control that CW personified. And I guess that's one of the key elements of what attracted me to CW - the sense of not being at the mercy of outside forces. Of making your own environment, from within, of imposing a will on reality, even within the biggest storm.
Also -one of the trivial but pleasurable things I took from CW's company was speaking with him about people he had met - 'men of genius' as he would have put it.
Henry Miller, Camus, Arthur Miller, to name but a few. I asked him if he had met Jean Cocteau and he hadn't- so I put them both together on this track. Those distant voices, through the storm and squall of my mind perceiving Cornwall - are indeed CW and JC.
There’s an outtake that features both Burroughs and Wilson, too.
CS : Why did you choose the phrase "the colour and the light around me" to be repeated on the track of the same name?
AR : I didn't choose that particular phrase you mention.
Three of the pieces were made in collaboration with Martin Carr. (EX Boo Radleys). I supplied the original 'field recordings' of Colin that I'd made. I then went in and improvised some stuff- vocal, piano and guitar phrases - and Martin recorded and then combined the two and sent me a mix. I made some suggestions and he went away and enlarged on them. It was a very easeful way of working....
This track is mainly Martin.
CS : Fans and scholars of his work will appreciate the 'Faculty X' track: 'New York Ozone Memory'. Have you personally had any 'Faculty X' experiences you can share with us?
AR : 'Faculty X'- Yes, I've had many experiences of this, as we all have, I'm sure. And I don't only mean in the Proustian sense - i.e., the smell of cut grass taking me back to the summer holidays of my childhood.
I get a strong sense of 'the other' when I’m on a train and I glimpse the backs of people's houses. Also- walking past houses at night- and you can see in the lit rooms- I often get an overwhelming sense of what the inhabitants lives are like. its an atmosphere, not a detail but it feels strongly real and true. Oddly, I only get this during the first time I visit a place. And then there are auditory experiences that recall something, a sense of being years and years ago...music I can't pin down linked to a place I can't define..I can't even find the language to describe these experiences and they are much less frequent now than when I was young...
CS : You have included the odd track featuring him on some of your previous albums, for example: he reads Rupert Brooke's 'The Hill' on your 'British Ballads'. What inspired you to produce a whole CD featuring him?
AR : This album was begun in 2003, long before British Ballads. I’ve always enjoyed spoken word albums, in particular those on the old Caedmon and Argo labels. I always thought CW should have made one, and although this album is far from just pure vocalised text, it has some of the spirit of those records.
One more thing I'd like to add is that I think CW was/is important because he appealed to Non Academic types.....or auto didactic types like myself...Also, there was an aura of 'cool' around him, a rock and roll vibe almost. He looked great too, at his peak. Not unimportant. For me he embodied the belief that you could access magic and/or your potential from a sitting room in a terraced house in Salford on a rainy wet Wednesday....whatever the perceived failings of some of his books...CW stood/stands for something ultimately hopeful, joyous, positive - he allowed us access to heaven without needing to be on God's guest list..