Since you asked me to put a list together of the music I listen to in the studio I've been giving it probably too much thought. And to be honest I try not to listen to music too much because it's such a distraction. I have to have the radio on all the time because silence drives me mad and, anyway, it's not silence but the sounds of my neighbours or people having a fag on the doorstep just on the other side of the window. Other people's music is always awful and every now and then it leaks into the studio from next door. The radio is just white noise really. I do listen to audio books and poetry but I'm a bit embarrassed about that. The list below is what I listen to on a good day, maybe a day off but one in which I'm in the studio pottering or tidying or sorting. I try to preserve some sort of atmosphere, some kind of temperature. It's air conditioning for my nervous system... I tend to listen to stuff I know well because new stuff has me thinking too much. I save up any music for dancing to for another time in my life.

Joy Division – Heart And Soul   

I can barely remember a time when I didn't listen to Closer. The album I bought in 1980 has painty fingerprints on the vinyl from when I turned it over for the umpteenth time. I was probably making sort of soul tortured self portrait or maybe a crucifixion. It signifies the lonely hours and somewhere in this track I lose and find myself over and over.


Buddy Holly – Raining In My Heart


This would have been one of the songs Dennis Potter describes as coming up the stairs. Buddy Holly was as much a part of my dad's psychology as Joy Division was mine. He has this very up beat melancholy, something like the best comedians. It sounds like youth dying gently. He's the Wilfred Owen of Rock n Roll.

The Cure – A Forest  

The Cure are at their best when it could be a soundtrack for a film. Soundtracks are great to listen to in the studio but they fill my mind with the pictures from the film so I tend to keep them for some other time. This appeals to my inner-goth, an absurd morbidity that embraces sixth-form poetry and what I like best about English art and literature. It's suburban Pre Raphaelite.


Nick Drake – Things Behind The Sun


Nick Drake keeps me on the right footpath. Or thinking about it, the wrong footpath. For some reason it always feels like he's playing next door and I'm over hearing it. I never really know what he's going on about to be honest but it feels as though he knows some secret, a secret that only you and he share.


Jack Hylton – Painting The Clouds With Sunshine

The soundtrack for Pennies from Heaven and the Singing Detective is never far away from any studio I have. I love the simplicity of these songs, their sense of fun but also the tear jerking mini soap opera of each. It's music from another time and as such creates a vacuum. I can feel like the only person left in the world when this song starts up.

Scott Walker – Stormy  

When this song comes on I'm close to packing the painting in. As Scott sings I'm always sat in some seventies night club wearing a velvet jacket. It's the end of the evening and the end of everything so why not sing about it. 

This Mortal Coil – Song to the Siren  

I could put in quite a bit of the Cocteau Twins. I'm in love with Liz Fraser's voice. It's a landscape into which you both ascend and descend. I'm not really that moved by choirs or religious music so the yearning grace of this is the nearest I get.

John Martyn – Soild Air  

I'm a recent fan of John Martyn. This has a seriousness which is hard to ignore. I admire how this density is handled so lightly, so casually. I would have some satisfaction for once if I could do something like this. My paintings are frustrated songs, really. At times it seems that everything is an instead of.

Morrissey – Late Night, Maudlin Street  

I'm always a little embarrassed to like The Smiths and Morrissey. I think it's the fans that spoil it. I've always liked the slower ones that are much more like spoken word. This track has such an intimate atmosphere; time to draw the curtains and get the kettle on. A cosy unease. It confirms for me, what all the music I listen to does, that the world is essentially shite.


Dusty Springfield – Goin Back


I can always listen to Dusty, even when she was permed in the eighties. This is a sigh made into popular song, not so much sung as exhaled with beautiful resignation. I'm attracted to the sentimentality, nostalgia and morbidity that comes with youth. It was made the year I was born ... 'catch me if you can I'm goin' back.'


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