Last up in my series of interviews to celebrate the launch of the new Gutter Books anthology ‘Waiting To Be Forgotten: Stories of Crime and Heartbreak, Inspired by The Replacements’ is … Franz Nicolay from The Hold Steady!
Name: Franz Nicolay
Story Title: Alex Chilton
Firstly, what drew you to this anthology?
Jay Stringer invited me to submit something, and I always try to say “yes” to things by way of an incitement to work.
How did you first get into the band, and what was the first Replacements album you owned?
I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret – I didn’t listen to the Replacements until quite late in life, and only because I was in a band that was constantly compared to them. And when I did, my favourite song on “Let It Be” was the Kiss cover.
How would you pitch your story to potential readers?
The song “Alex Chilton” is premised on the fantasy that quality will out, that even the cultiest artist can find an audience of millions. That is the sustaining idea of many mid-career musicians, who’ve passed through the “hot new thing” phase of their career without quite making it over the hump, and are staring down the barrel of a couple decades of slogging it out before they reach, with luck, the “rediscovery” moment, if it ever comes. I know a couple people like that, and this story is about the slow poison of that hope.
This story aside, does music have an important influence on your fiction?
I still think of myself as a professional musician and only a serious amateur writer, and all I’ve ever thought about since the age of five or so has been being a musician—so in the larger sense music is the most important influence on my life, of which writing fiction is a part.
Do you have any additional publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and 2017?
My book The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar, about punk and DIY in the former Communist world, just came out on The New Press, so I’ll be hyping that for a while.
Finally, if you had the opportunity to put together a music-themed anthology, which band or artist would you choose?
I think Prince would be cool. The wheat-to-chaff ratio can be a little daunting with Prince but he has a way of writing about psychological situations that are well outside the norm of pop songs.