Drummer and guitarist Clive Parker-Sharp, who played in bands like The Members, Spizz Energi and Big Country, presents his novel ConeBoy with tunes featuring art-rock collaborator Marshall Star.
“It revolves around a severely disabled child who has been born with an awful disfigurement and is therefore given the derogatory nickname ConeBoy,” says Clive. “He’s born at the tail end of the 1970s so the book covers four decades of his life and how he becomes famous as a result of his condition. And it looks at the knock on to his family, how he’s exploited by his family and how celebrity impacts on their family and everyone who surrounds them.”
“It’s semi-autobiographical in that I drew from my own life experiences...people, places and experiences in my own life. One of the main characters in the book, the father of the child ConeBoy, is an artist. So they rub up against artists, musicians and industry types.”
And Clive explains that the tale isn’t really about disability, it’s about the media.
“In a way ConeBoy is the only normal one in this kind of maelstrom that surrounds him,” says Clive. “It’s about how he is treated by his family and is treated by the media. In a way it’s kind of a comparison between then and now, what the media was like then and how the newspapers and the music papers and the printing press ruled. Now it’s social media.”
“What I’m doing is I’m comparing the different generations of media within the book and the knock on to the family. The fact is that the child ConeBoy is a sort of rock in this storm that is going off around him.”
“It’s a family story in essence,” he continues. “The child, in a way, is a foil that teases out this family story and I think that’s very prevalent now with what’s happening in the media. The shows that we’re putting on kind of develop that theme. The shows are a sort of Shakespearean tragedy souped up on Jeremy Kyle. They take from that kind of poetic rhythm lead narrative of Shakespeare and draw it into a very kind of mainstream media place. They’re fuel-injected readings from the book with a few songs thrown in.”
So how did the musical aspect to this tour come about?
“As I wrote the book, the songs kind of came about very naturally,” Clive explains. “It was obviously going to be more of a multi-media work so we’re doing a few songs, myself and my collaborator Marshall Star.”
“They’re a kind of acoustic, punk and anthem so they’re drawing on my own musical background and they tease out the work in a way, they colour the work.”
“People will come along and see that it’s a very musical piece,” he says. “There’s a lot of rhythm to the narrative in the work and it takes from the words in the book and it adds to them.”
This isn’t Clive’s first book. His debut novel, The Box, came out in 2012 through Strand Publishing. And based on the true life accounts of Nina Brem-Wilson, the diaries of her Grandfather Thomas, and interviews with Thomas’s sons, this thrilling historical tale of sex, betrayal and zealotry may well get a TV adaptation.
“I wrote the screenplay and got a bit of interest from producers,” Clive says. “Apparently there’s been a bit of interest from Netflix and the kind of usual thing, so we’ll just wait and see what happens. I just read that Martin Scorsese took 20 years to make the Irishman so in a way I’m not holding my breath.”
Novels may seem like an unusual direction for a former punk musician to take but Clive feels that there is a similarity in the way he approaches the different artistic mediums.
“In a way it’s kind of going back to the punk ethic,” he says. “I have an idea, I want to see it through. And the visuals come and the sound comes and the music comes all as part of that thing. I try to be kind of like a...renaissance man I suppose. I’m definitely not just strictly an author.”
“But I would no longer describe myself as a punk,” he admits. “In fact I think punk was over very quickly. You can probably count on one hand the number of months that punk existed.”
But, he argues, punk has had a huge effect on our culture, sense of fashion and music.
“It had a huge effect on me and the kind of subsequent bands that I played with,” he says. “The DIY ethic in having an idea and seeing it through, it made me an outsider, and made me feel that it’s essential not to let go of the concept. That punk ethic runs through everything and it’s absolutely essential.”
“When people come to the shows they will see that kind of visceral element. Even though the show is great fun and it’s all going to be about spoken word and the book, they’re going to have an edge because that is what defines me.”
This interview took place before the current shut-down of arts venues. These are the rescheduled dates but there may be further cancellations.
May 2 – Dc1 Gallery, Eastbourne, 3pm.
May 30 – Dc1 Gallery, Eastbourne, 3pm.
July 10 – Community Centre, Rye, 7.30pm.
July 22 – All Saints Centre, Lewes, 7.30pm.
August 5 – The Venue, St. Paul’s Art Centre, Worthing, 3pm.
August 12 – The Venue, St. Paul’s Art Centre, Worthing, 3pm.
August 22-September 6 – Newhaven Arts Festival, 3pm.
February 2021 – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-sea, 3pm, Dates TBA.
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