Friday, 26 January 2018

The Music of The Unknowns - Shirley-Anne McMillan

It’s a great privilege to be writing my first blog post for An Awfully Big Blog Adventure! I’ve read this blog often over the years and I like how diverse the posts are.

The Unknowns is my Young Adult novel which came out in December 2017. It tells the story of an underworld gang of young people who have parties in the ruin of Crumlin Road courthouse and go on missions to disrupt racist and sectarian activity in the city.

Music is a big part of writing for me. When I need inspiration I go to music. When I’m writing there is music in my noise-cancelling headphones (partly because the music is helpful, and partly because I have a really loud three-and-a-half-year old, and a teenager who also enjoys music…). I like to play guitar myself and I love to sing. It won’t be surprise, then, to find that music often comes up in the stories I write.

The Unknowns is an urban story and it has lots of music; buskers in the city centre, bands playing at parties, ninja gigs in the local park, and the Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Writing it allowed me to think about and explore the kind of music I love to go out and hear in Belfast. I like camp pop music that you can dance to, skilfully played rock music, and I like raw, plain-speaking, loud-spoken punk. I hate to be bored and I don’t like ending up in places where the audience are staring at their phones looking as if they’d rather be in a coma than at a gig. Thankfully, Belfast has plenty of brilliant artists. Here are a handful who leant inspiration to The Unknowns.

Ross Anderson-Doherty

You can find Ross at AM/PM’s Cabaret Supper Club in Belfast, and on Thursday nights in Maverick, playing with Marty. He is on Twitter and Instagram as @thevoicebear. I don’t need to say what’s wonderful about him. Just listen.

Anto O’Kane

Anto is family (you have to say that in a Phil Mitchell voice, because that’s how we relate. We’re faaaaaaamily), and he is also a great singer-songwriter. The lyrics to this song, which he performs here with Tinpot Operation, are featured in The Unknowns, when Brew disrupts an organised fight in a park.

I cannot link to any video by Dan Gregory because every single one of them has something to offend somebody (and sometimes that person is me). But he is a great writer and he  often makes me laugh out loud. His language is profane and his themes are often provocative, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you go looking on Youtube, but you’ll also find some really raw writing about city life, addiction and the mental health crisis in Northern Ireland- the kind of thing that won’t ever get on the radio, but really needs to be said. A night out with Dan is a night you won't quickly forget.

I also have to mention Jinx Lennon, although he’s from Dundalk, not Belfast. I’ll go and see him play any time I can. Thoughtful, disrupting, playful, spoken-word punk. I love it so much.

(I’ve just noticed that Dan is in Jinx’s video here!)

These artists make me want to be a better writer.

You’ll notice that the ones I’ve mentioned here are all men, and it’s something I’ve noticed about the kind of music I really like- a lot of it tends to be dominated by male artists. So please let me know if you know of some women artists that you think I’ll like based on what you’ve heard here.

by Shirley-Anne McMillan


Sue Purkiss said...

Congratulations on your first post, and welcome to ABBA!

shirley said...

Thank You! :-)