Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions, with Alan Lord

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Alan Lord

Alan Lord is a true iconoclast and cornerstone of the Montreal punk community, having played in bands for years, including his current outfit Alan Lord & The Falling Men. Lord is also the author of ATM Sex (Guernica Editions), a collection of short stories, rants and musings that only Lord could have written.

Open Book talks with Lord about Burroughs, fruit stickers and offending, well, just about everyone.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, ATM SEX.

Alan Lord:

It's a grab-bag of satirical shorts accumulated mainly since 2004. No two pieces are alike, and quite frankly, it’s all over the place. A lot of the pieces are just rants about stuff that bugs me, like fruit stickers. Or bike Nazis. Once in a while I also get to bash at The Powers That Be, but that’s fruitlessly quixotic. No words of mine will ever worry Dick Cheney.

OB:

Are you ever worried about offending readers or is shocking people part of the fun?

AL:

After reading the book my wife said, “Gee, not one group you haven’t managed to offend!” But come to think of it, I haven’t lampooned gays, lesbians, Jews or Blacks (next book!). But why should they be off-limits? I try to offend everyone equally. As a self-respecting satirist, it’s my duty to consider no subject or social group off limits, and not to worry ahead of time about offending anyone. That would be the worst form of censorship — self-censorship — what William Burroughs called “the cop inside.”

OB:

You use advertising-style language in a satirical manner at some points. How do you feel about that sort of rhetoric?

AL:

Advertising lingo is an interesting meta-language, with codes, quirks and a set of unwritten rules all its own. It’s fun to play around with it and turn it back on itself, pushing it to absurd new limits. I seem to have a knack for it. Too bad I don’t get paid their astronomical salaries to do this!

OB:

You're also a songwriter. How do you handle working on different kinds of writing projects?

AL:

Each different writing project has its own style. My material runs the gamut from poetry to short stories, aphorisms, word play, cut-ups (disjunctive literature), dream journals, songs, lists of all kinds and even a novel I abandoned. Oh, and all of this I also do in both English and French, mind you. I even wrote a song in Spanish! By jumping from one style to another, I can’t ever get bored writing. As for songwriting itself, to me, the most successful song is a short story told within three minutes. Take the Beatles’ "Penny Lane," for example.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

AL:

A beachfront house in the Hamptons, with a nanny, cook and maid would be fine, thank you! Impossible, right? So my current pieces are short because I always have to write on the run. Usually I wake up at four or five a.m. and start writing in my head, lying in bed. Then I jot it down quickly at the breakfast table or at work with a coffee, before starting the work day.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

AL:

“Write what you know”; again, a quote from William Burroughs. For example, the songs I wrote were crap from 1978 onwards, until I wrote my first good song in 1986. It was good because it was based on a true life experience. My hit song “Bonyeu” is also a real slice of life any Quebecker can identify with. If what you’re saying is real, then people identify with that. A high point was when I ducked into a gas station convenience store, the song was playing on the radio, and everyone was humming or singing along with it. Mission Accomplished!

OB:

Who are some people who have influenced (fellow writers or not) your writing life?

AL:

Ok, here we go: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Daniil Kharms, Arthur Cravan, a ton of Dadaists and Surrealists (Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Desnos) and also French writers from Baudelaire to Céline. Lots of artists too numerous to mention, and also musicians/songwriters like Lou Reed, John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), Boris Vian and, of course, The Ramones. Read the lyrics to Ramones songs. They’re both hilarious and gut-wrenching at the same time. Succinct pearls of doofus wisdom.

OB:

What book did you read as a young person or child that you find yourself returning to as an adult?

AL:

One novel that affected me profoundly was Le Nez Qui Voque by Quebec’s Réjean Ducharme. I read that when I was 17. I never went back to it, but I mean to re-read it one day. To my knowledge, it’s never been translated into English.

OB:

Is there a book you’ve read recently that you wished you had written?

AL:

Yes. My Life by Keith Richards. Screw the book, I want his life! Seriously, I was in a jealous rage when I read Mark Leyner’s My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist. It’s what I was striving for in my writing, and here was a book in my face that I’d never be able to equal, let alone surpass. Arrggh!!!

OB:

What are you working on now?

AL:

I’m accumulating material for the follow-up book to ATM SEX. Also, I’d like a nice long sabbatical to re-work that novel I abandoned at 80 percent completion. But it won’t happen anytime soon. Family Life and working stiffdom beckons. I recently opened a Twitter account and I’m hooked, throwing off satirical one-liners... to 0 followers so far! But it’s a great format which forces you to be concise and clever within 140 characters... great training for ATM SEX II !!!


There’s a strong possibility Alan Lord may be the world’s only “Trilingual Writer Satirista Musician Songwriter Civil/Structural Engineer Ex-Avant-Scenester”. He built Montreal’s Biodome, penned the Co-Loc’s hit song Bonyeu, broke guitar strings in the legendary Vent du Mont Scharr and now Alan Lord & The Falling Men, opened for the Ramones and B-52’s, and is featured in the documentary film MTL Punk. Now back in hometown Montreal, he has lived in Paris, Toronto, and Santiago (Chile). If ATM SEX doesn’t give you a heart attack, then you surely have the DNA to reach the crap old age of 100.

For more information about ATM Sex please visit the Guernica Editions website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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