I’m pleased to be joined by Alexander Mayor today as part of the blogtour for his book Not From Above. Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour.
- Let’s begin with a proviso: I firmly believe you should be wary of people who are adept at life listicles. That being said, I started my first book, ‘Not From Above!’ (Unbound, April 2019), intending it to be a kind of spoof self-help book. It quickly went off in another direction entirely. But looking at the stellar sales of professional anger purveyor Jordan B. Peterson’s ‘12 Rules for Life’, perhaps I’ve made a terrible error of judgement…
- I started writing a book… as an attempt to find a different way to present my music. In retrospect this was at best an idiosyncratic sales strategy. At the time (2015) it seemed that CDs had clearly died, Spotify would never really pay anyone, and most of the people who said they had a record player were probably bluffing. Perhaps, I thought one Spring morning, a book would be a good way to sell an album? Literary merch! Music printed on bits of paper! Well, we shall see…
- As a musician, you’re not supposed to ‘do funny’. Well, it’s frowned upon in the English-speaking pop world at least. The world is far too emo at heart. However, in a book, funny is just fine. So the book ‘Not From Above!’ is full of hopefully amusing monologues, scenes and stories, while the accompanying album (Bandcamp link) is more of a sophisti-pop affair – all lush orchestrations and reasonably attired emotions.
- I used to be a synthpop band. We did quite well in the early aughties, playing to excitable crowds in nightclubs across Europe. It taught me that if you invent something truly intriguing and original, eventually you can find an audience. And if you’re lucky, their enthusiasm will keep you going.
- Imagine… what would someone in 1952 have said if you asked them to join you at a post-work gong bath or a Titanic themed escape room? A lot of the stories in ‘Not From Above!’ are about the strange leisure pursuits and increasingly odd things we now call ‘work’. On reflection, I’ve possibly spent too much time in London.
- I started writing the book, with only the confidence that came from having enjoyed writing lyrics. Lyrics are definitely not poetry, and yet can be quite poetic. Writing prose involves a bigger canvas, but I’ve found it enjoyable to scale things up – even though these are only really short stories. Still, I’m recommending book projects to other muso friends, with the enthusiasm of a newly signed-up cult member.
- ‘Not From Above!’ abandoned its original, self-help satire angle, but I loved the phrase, it seemed to possess potential power. So you’ll find it peppered throughout the book, where appropriate. It’s also the title track and introduction to the new album of the same name. The song version imagines a bunch of male walkers lost on a hillside, desperately searching for some sort of goddess or vision. It’s quite jazzy, that one.
- I’ve got a follow-up book in the works, a collection microfictions inspired by photos of some of the weirder architectural gems in London. It’s been a hoot to work on so far, as the stories are often parodies of existing novels or literary styles. It’s nice to have a format where you can work quickly and intuitively.
- Track nine on the album is called Loyalty, which was inspired by a painting by the Greek painter Stefanos Rokos, (who’s just done an amazing collaboration with Nick Cave by the way). The song is about how falling in love can be a bit like falling under the spell of a terrible leader…
- I should probably go and tidy my room.
Find out more:
Not From Above! is published by Unbound and available now as a paperback or ebook. You can order a copy online here: Not From Above!
Not From Above! is the debut collection of stories from musician Alexander Mayor (who releases music under the name Alexander’s Festival Hall). It’s a series of what-ifs, how-abouts and darkly comic thought experiments, populated by central Asian dictators with overreaching literary ambitions, anxious young spies pursued on canals, passive aggressive board games, and starship captains who really need to learn to prioritise.
These are tales of decisive moments for indecisive people. Dating becomes rather more dangerous and ‘promenade theatre’ a little too immersive. Adventures are undertaken largely by mistake, in stories that catalogue the increasingly esoteric ways Londoners try to keep themselves amused. And of course, there’s that moment when a breakdown on a country road might just be the start of something promising…
Not From Above! is also an album of twelve upbeat, lush and romantic pop songs from Alexander’s Festival Hall – see inside the book for download details.
Alexander Mayor is a writer and musician based in London. He started his musical adventure as one third of early noughties synthpop band Baxendale, peddling unashamedly upbeat pop to European dancefloors. In 2013 he reinvented himself as the sole proprietor of a literary-minded pop group called Alexander’s Festival Hall with the album Not a Dry Eye in London. He also writes for German culture magazine Chart – Notes to Consider, pens sleeve-notes for the popular Too Slow to Disco vinyl AOR re-issue series, and turns out finely tooled paragraphs about brainy subjects for cold hard cash. This is his first book.
Follow the rest of the bloggers on the tour