Miles Kane talks about his latest album, Don’t Forget Who You Are, which was released on the Columbia label:
Miles Kane (Standard British/Liverpool accent)
I guess for the... the whole inspiration for this record, for me, was to... I wanted to make a Saturday night album, you know, and I wanted to make a record that made you feel up and... and it was something that if you had friends round for a few drinks before going out in town, it was the record that you put on, in a way like those old Motown records, or (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis, or something in the spirit of that thing, you know. And... and... and that was... that was the blueprint, really, and then when I sat down with Ian Broudie, who produced it, and we had that... this conversation, we ended up writing this song called “Taking Over,” which is a real sort of glam stomping sort of rock’n’roll tune with a great Mersey beat chorus, and... and once we... and then we recorded that track and once that was recorded it was like, “Wow, this is exactly what it... we’re describing, really, so let’s just do an album of that. And there was a lot of songs written and he helped me finetune a lot of the songs, and pick out the best bits and get rid of stuff that wasn’t up to scratch, and... and he had a massive part of it as well, Ian Broudie, you know, and... and I’ll never forget that, and he’s a top feller as well, you know, and, yeah, and... and that was it, and it was a very fun record to make, and a lot of high energy and even when I was doing the vocals, I didn’t want to do more than three takes, and ‘cause when we play live I... I love to give it a “Raahh!” or a “Yeah!” you know, a scream, and... and I think on modern day records there isn’t enough of that, it’s all so pre... precise, but the sense of pop music is things to just be in the moment and... and to feel good and... and so all those little moments on the record where it’s... we’ve got big choruses, but then there’ll be an occasional “Oh, yeah!” or scream, you know, we left them in ‘cause it’s real, and, yeah, it’s just a very exciting record that I’m very proud of.
The book I’d like to recommend is a book called – it’s quite famous now – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s quite a strange title. I loved it personally because it’s a very particular story about… well, the story is actually written from the perspective of a 14-year-old autistic boy and it follows the events that this boy goes through in a particular story – it’s a particular story – and the things that happen to him. It’s… it’s… it’s a lovely book, I think it’s written brilliantly because it’s… it’s done from this autistic viewpoint, so I think it’s a bit of… it’s quite genius from that point of view, and the book is… is a little bit bittersweet, it’s funny but at the same time it’s very, very serious because this is an autistic person going through autistic problems. Quite often students of ours at Gain English, they ask us, you know: “I want to read a book,” you know, “is… is it useful to read a book to improve my English? If so, which… which book do you recommend?” Firstly, yes, it is useful, especially from a vocabulary point of view, but it’s very important, I think, if a student wants to read a book in order to improve their English, it has to be (1) at the right level, otherwise it’s… it’s… it’s… you’ll just get bored and fed up and frustrated and (2) it… it has to be interesting, it has to… it really has to be something that a person wants to read, so a… a general… this is the book that I generally recommend to students because (1) I think it’s a great book and (2) because it’s written from the point of view of a 14-year-old autistic boy, the level of the English is actually, you know, it’s quite low in… in the sense that it’s not written like for English-speaking adults, it’s actually a lower level of English, far more understandable but challenging at the same time. And so I think that’s a great book for… for Italian people to… for any student to read.
Nevil Shute’s novel A Town Like Alice is one that has fascinated me for... for quite a while. It’s not a complex book but it’s... it’s a puzzling one: it has a very unusual structure; the language itself is quite straightforward. Nevil Shute is often described as a “storyteller,” which is usually a polite way of saying this person can’t write particularly well, but he can... he can spin a good yarn! A Town Like Alice is a story based in the Second World War and at the heart of it is the experience based on a true story of a group of women who were taken prisoner by the Japanese in Malaysia when the Japanese invaded. The Japanese didn’t have a prison camp or any... anywhere obvious to... to confine them and they found themselves being forced to march backwards and forwards across the country between different officials, none of whom wanted to take responsibility for them, and they were... they fell prey to exhaustion, disease – half of them died on the journey – but some of them managed to... to survive, and the heroine of the story, Jean Paget, is a woman who’s been through this experience. In itself it’s a very strong story but Nevil Shute for reasons known best to himself decided to put it along(side) two other stories, so he framed it, first of all by... with the narrative of an elderly Scottish solicitor who has acted as Jean Paget’s uncle’s executor, and he has to track her down as the heir to her uncle’s estate and although he’s now in his 70s and a widower, and she’s in her mid-20s, he falls in love with her, so there’s an element of romance there. And then the other element is to do... to do with Australia, the title A Town Like Alice refers to the town of Alice Springs in the middle of the Australian outback. And this is another love story: in Malaysia Jean Paget, during the war, meets an Australian prisoner of war who helps her and her companions – takes great risks on their behalf and eventually suffers a terrible fate at the hands of the Japanese, and as far as she’s concerned, she’s never going to see him again, but it turns out otherwise; I won’t go into more detail. So it’s a sort of intriguing literary conundrum, but also a very... very entertaining and moving book to read and I would... I would strongly recommend it.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda is author of the best-selling novel Secret Daughter. It tells the story of an American couple who adopt a baby girl who has been abandoned in India. Shilpi Somaya Gowda is herself the daughter of Indian parents. She was born and raised in Canada but moved to the United States in order to go to university and has lived there ever since. We asked her about the differences between Canadian and American society:
Shilpi Somaya Gowda (Standard American accent)
They are different. I mean, I don’t notice all the differences now that I’ve been in the US for so long but I remember at the age of 17, even going on a trip, I went on a summer trip in Colorado before I started university that fall, and just being with seven or eight Americans on the trip was… felt very foreign to me. I mean, I can’t… I can’t put my finger on all of the things that… that made me feel that way but, you know, in addition to language and politics and accents, there are a lot of subtle differences. I mean, I think there’s a different value system in Canada. It is a country that is more focused on, I think, on equality and on… amongst the population, and a little less focused on individual striving which, you know, has made America the great country it is. So that difference between being… you know, happy to be one of the crowd, versus striving to, you know, be ahead of the crowd, I think, is a sort of a subtle difference. There are all kinds of differences in the educational system and I remember graduating from high school in Canada and I had, you know, won the award in my high school for being the best English student and then I went to my university and had to take the introduction to, you know, English class that all Freshmen take and I almost failed out of the first semester because my writing style was so different than, you know, than… than the way American students had been taught and I thought, “Oh, this is… this is…” There I remember getting my first paper back and it was all marked up in red and I think I got a D and I thought, “Oh, my! I’m not in… I’m not in my home country anymore!” And so there are a lot of small things like that that I think made me feel as if I was, you know, an alien living in a foreign land and over time – you know, I’ve now been in the United States for 20 years – some of those differences have smoothed out and I think I’ve learned to navigate both cultures, but, you know, they’re… they’re different countries!”
Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s novel Secret Daughter was partially inspired by her experiences working as a volunteer in an orphanage in India. We asked her about this:
Shilpi Somaya Gowda
When I was a student in the university I spent a summer as a volunteer at an orphanage in India and I was 19 at the time and I remember when I went, I had to… it was… it was an organisation, orphanage, run by a Canadian charity. And so I remember when I went I had to sign some paperwork saying that I would not engage in religious conversion of the children, and I would not try to adopt any of the children, and I thought, “Well, I’m 19 years old, I’m not adopting anybody!” And I thought it was sort of absurd that I had to sign these pieces of paper which were… regulations the Indian government put on foreign agencies coming in – for good reasons – and, you know, I remember leaving afterwards, you know, a month later and thinking, “OK, I get it, I understand why they make you sign that piece of paper about not… not adopting a child because, you know, these children are incredible!” I just… I couldn’t speak the same language as them, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter. I just… I grew very attached to them, we found all kinds of ways of communicating non-verbally, and they really… they were etched in my mind when I left. I mean, I can, to this day, I can see their faces in my mind and I remember their names and… and I thought about them, you know, in the years since then. And I think, after I became a mother, I really started thinking about that experience and those children differently and I… I wondered, you know, what… what… what are the circumstances that could lead a parent to leaving their child in an orphanage because we never knew where these kids came from, they just showed up on the doorstep, we never saw the parents and what would… what would happen to them when they ended up, you know, on the streets of Bombay at the age of 16, with a, you know, the equivalent of a high school education and they had no family and no money. And, you know, what would… what would become of them? And so I became really interested in the idea of trying to construct a story around that circumstance, based on something that… that I’d seen 20 years earlier.
And in conclusion we asked her for her thoughts on the film Slumdog Millionaire:
Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Oh, I loved it! I loved every minute of that. I, especially, I think, the music and the soundtrack were a great part of bringing the energy of that city to life. I know a lot of Indians in India were disturbed by the fact that the slums were shown in such a negative light. I think they were probably shown realistically, but what many Indians objected to was that people outside India would take away the conclusion that this was India. And in fact the slums are not India: the slums are one part of the cities and the cities are a small part of India, but… but, you know, nevertheless it’s a very, you know, rich and colourful part of daily life for millions and millions of Indians. So I loved it!
Shilpi Somaya Gowda was talking to Mark Worden)
To visit Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s official website, click here: http://www.shilpigowda.com/
I’m James Drury, I’m the editor of Londonist, which is a website and company which is dedicated to telling people all about the great things that there are to do in London, the politics, the history of the place, news. It’s London for Londoners, basically, which is a really good insider’s guide to the capital and everything that makes people who live here tick. We’ve been going for 10 years, as a site, it was started 10 years ago as a blog called The Big Smoke, and it’s developed and grown and, in the last three years, it became a business in its own right, so, yeah, it’s really taken off. We get about a million people a month coming to us from all over the world, but mostly based in London, or in London when they come to us because we have a combination of politics and news, like issues around housing and that kind of thing, which people from London are obsessed with! As well as all the cool and quirky things you can do, there’s a lot of geeky stuff as well. It’s one of these things that, if you live in London, or even if you just have a passing interest in London, it really gives you a… it’s like a thermometer, I suppose for a bit of a feeling of what the city’s like.
To Kill a Mockingbird was a book which... which impressed me a lot when I was young, and I think it’s a beautiful read, I think it’s a beautifully written book. To... To Kill a Mockingbird, I think, is again about young people searching for a way to understand the world. It’s written through the eyes of the daughter of a lawyer in the South of America, and this young girl is trying to make sense of the world, trying to make sense of, in this particular book, good and bad, right and wrong. It involves a lot of issues, issues like racism and issues to do with social justice, but primarily it’s about human understanding. Her father, Atticus, is this philiosophical giant who tries to teach his children how to relate to the world. He often throws questions back at them, he never tells them, he always asks them to think, and that question of his, “What do you think?” is the one they dread the most because he’s making them answer their own questions about society, about right and wrong. And it’s a wonderful book because there are... there are so many very full characters in the book, and there’s even a character who you don’t ever really meet called Boo Radley, and he’s more of a... a presence than a character, but he... he is misunderstood by everybody around and also by the two... the two children, Scout and Jem. They frighten... they’re frightened of him, as are other people, but Boo tries slowly to have a relationship with them and at the end of the book, Scout, the... the narrator, the young girl, comes to understand him, and that’s... is... is, I think, what the book is about. It’s about understanding, not necessarily totally agreeing with someone; in fact the father, Atticus, often understands people’s position without accepting it or agreeing with it, and I think that... that’s the important message of the book.