Primera Persona In Barcelona

Arriving in Barcelona early on Thursday evening (3 May 2012) I was whisked from the airport to Hotel Jazz in the city centre by Ana Pareja and Claudia Cucchiarato from my Spanish publisher Alpha Decay. Having dropped my bag, I was taken on a quick walking tour of the city before we arrived at Bar Ramón where we watered for the rest of the evening. The first thing Ana did was order drinks and tapas, after which we were able to relax and enjoy the groovy sounds…it was blues to start with but switched to sixties soul. The food was incredibly good and I ate more of it than anyone else! When we arrived around eight the bar was empty but it quickly filled with regulars and people connected to the Primera Persona spoken word festival in which I was participating.
I was introduced to a slew of hipsters including Jonathan Ames who was performing at Primera Persona the night after me. We talked about writing and writers, and although Ames is from New York he only knew of – rather than knew – most of my close east coast novelist friends like Lynne Tillman and Darius James….  Primera Persona organiser Kiko Amat and Miqui Otero somehow found time to talk to everyone, including me. With Kiko I got into a passionate discussion about smoking seventies bands who’ve been left out of the rock canon such as The Dictators and The Gorillas. I also caught up with a couple of journalists who’d interviewed me for the Spanish press – Laura Sangrà and Jaime Casas. Ironically the barman who was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Cannabis Street’ still looked completely straight by the end of the night….
After Bar Ramón most of the crew went on to some other late-night drinking place, whereas I went back to the hotel and was in bed by 2.30pm. The next day I got up in time for breakfast and without even a whiff of a hangover. Spain isn’t really a breakfast country and I’m always shocked by the number of cakes on the buffet in Spanish hotels. I stuck to muesli and even that was way too sweet (I prefer it without sugar added to the mix). I risked the coffee but it proved to be beyond bad and I didn’t even manage to drink half a cup of the horrible shit. It isn’t hard to get good coffee in Spain, just don’t expect it to be good if it comes in a jug… I think they make the bad coffee mostly to please American tourists – who for reasons that beat me seem to like the beverage extra weak!
At noon Claudia from Alpha Decay came to meet me and shortly afterwards Paul Geddis from Vice Magazine arrived to do an interview. I took them both up to the swimming pool and sun bathing area on the roof of Hotel Jazz, and we had these facilities to ourselves as I answered the questions Paul put to me. We rapped about all sorts of shit including my books and political activism in Spain – but as this wasn’t an interview for a Spanish language publication we didn’t talk about Memphis Underground, my most recent book in that territory.
After Paul left, Ana from Alpha Decay arrived and we had a car to take us to a radio station. We had to produce ID, be signed in and pass through a scanner – making it feel like going into the BBC in London. There was a link up to the main studio in Madrid and I talked mostly about Memphis Underground with some very nice tunes played either in the background or inbetween the talk – including the Herbie Mann instrumental I’d used for the title for this book. The final question I was asked is apparently put to all guests on the show: “What’s your cloud?” This seems to be based on a Spanish phrase about daydreaming and I suggested my cloud was a purple bubble floating across the universe as if I was on an acid trip….
From the radio station we went on to the CCCB where I was performing that night so that I could do a soundcheck. The theatre had just been build and the equipment was top-notch – not since I’d participated in an event at The Barbican Theatre in London a year earlier had I had such a perfect environment in which to strut my funky stuff. I did my headstand reading and got applause from the technicians and administrators in the theatre despite the fact it was only a run through. One of the things I really appreciated on this trip to Barcelona was just how well the hospitality was handled. I never get treated as well in London! And so naturally enough my soundcheck was followed by a very late lunch with Ana and Claudia at the CCCB. Then I had an hour-and-a-half of free time before I had a photo session booked, so I went and chilled at the hotel. Returning to the CCCB I found Miqui, Kiko and their friends drinking beers, so I joined them. We had a bit of a crack before Claudia and Ana turned up.
The photographer was running late so we went into the theatre to get on with the event. First up was the young English novelist Ben Brooks who read while getting members of the audience to tattoo random words on his legs. This was apparently painful and at times Brooks pleaded with his tormentors not to push the needles in so far. I liked the idea of a distraction making it harder to read, although not being a self-harmer like Ben (or at least his fictional self) I prefer pleasurable distractions of the type suggested by my old Apeman Performance. The performances were being filmed and so we had close ups of blood oozing from the needle marks on Ben’s legs projected larger than life on a screen at the back of the stage.
Each section of the night was to run for around an hour with a break inbetween – so I didn’t have to go on straight after Brooks. I found Javier Calvo in the backstage area and had a quick chat with this legendary Spanish novelist. Javier was reading my story New Britain in Catalan, and he went on before me, immediately after my video based on the piece he was doing had been screened. Javier is an incredible performer and had a range of voices for the different characters in my story, making his reading style very different to my rhythmic monotone. When Javier finished we had Cranked Up Really High by Slaughter and the Dogs blasting from the PA, and with that as accompaniment I bounced out into the centre of the stage. The first thing I did was a recite a passage from Memphis Underground, then I moved on to 69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess. Next I did a bit of talk partly based on my book about punk rock Cranked Up Really High, but at the same time explaining why I preferred power pop bands like The Hammersmith Gorillas to The Sex Pistols. Finally I stood on my head and recited the final section of Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie. I left the stage basking in the warmth of my reception and a lot of applause.
I chatted to various people in the break after my hour. Juanjo Sáez and various friends appeared next to speak about their comics in Catalan. Since I couldn’t follow this, I nipped into the green room  to stuff my face with the food put out for performers, and while I was at it I grabbed a few beers. The cut-off jeans Ben Brooks had been wearing onstage were on the floor in the middle of the green room and someone picked them up and laughed that he was so teenage! After I’d eaten, the photographer who’d taken some shots of me onstage finally got around to snapping the long planned posed pictures of me.
The final act on the bill that night was Tobi Vail who I’d last seen perform as the drummer of Bikini Kill nearly 20 years earlier. She did a mixture of readings and music. When I saw Bikini Kill live I found them thrilling and I was hoping for something similar from this solo set. Vail sang and played electric guitar backed by only a bass player – and without a full rhythm section I found what she did lacked the kick of Bikini Kill. However, I was pleased when her last tune turned out to be a song in support of the imprisoned members of the Moscow grrrl power band Pussy Riot. Politically I thought Vail’s heart was in the right place, although I found her views about indie culture and her self-identification as a punk rocker way too earnest to groove me. That said, I’m obviously not a part of the demographic of teenage girls Vail is aiming to inspire, so I’m sure the fact that what she’s doing these days isn’t my bag won’t bother her at all…
After the first night of Primera Persona was over at the CCCB, I ended up at Bar Manchester where I mostly talked with Ana from Alpha Decay and Txell Torrent from the MB Literary Agency. Txell expressed amusement at the outrageous nature of my fiction, but also chatted about various London writers we know. She told me that she was a huge fan of horror fiction and absolutely loved Kim Newman (who she represents in Spain). Having performed I was able to really relax and enjoy some beers. The results of this are perhaps predictable, so I think I’ll end things here on a high rather than providing any more details of my trip to Barcelona. I left Txell in Bar Manchester and… Well let’s just say that since embarrassing confessions are a Ben Brook’s speciality, I’m happy to leave such things to him…
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Helen on 2012-05-06 22:45:01 +0000

Did you fuck with Ana from Alpha Decay after left Manchester bar?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-05-06 23:01:18 +0000

No. When Ana left she went home to her boyfriend……

Comment by Aaron Goldberg on 2012-05-06 23:21:58 +0000

I read Jonatham Ames graphic novel ‘the alcoholic’, it was ‘ok’, like alot of stuff that comes out of New York these days.

Comment by Roberto Manel on 2012-05-07 08:31:20 +0000

@ Helen – The Texas class of 1976 cheerleaders reunion was in Barcelona the same weekend as Primera Persona and they were also staying in Hotel Jazz. So imagine Home getting back there inebriated and finding loads of drunk fifty-something women in white boots running around! It doesn’t make you much of a detective to figure out what happened next….

Comment by Kami Mcinnes on 2012-05-07 09:03:29 +0000

tough life! 🙂

Comment by Helen on 2012-05-07 09:43:25 +0000

Boring. And Anna boyfriend it’s a cuckold. Now more seriously. I appreciated some of your writings, but I don’t understand why you sell that critical, alternative and punk image and after you accept put your soul in events like Primera Persona. The travels, the hotels, the ego, the stupid interviews (don’t forget talk about acids), fifty-something women in white boots… I guess. You’re a sell-out. Oh, some guy read meanwhile put more tattoos in his body. Shocking. Childlike. I prefer go to the libraries and buy some books. You and the organizers must be shame equal as the politics. The same kind of egocentric and selfishness. Stewart, just write. The last. Your fucking Spain publisher Alpha Decay (worst design covers at Spain) put your last book at 26,50€. Crazy. Fucking classist for spoilt brat and daddy hipsters. One of the most expensive releases of all time here!! And the translation is.. well, they saved money with the translator and google. If you put it at 10€ and paperback you will make more money and more people will read your book. Or kick Alpha and upload it yourself at Amazon with high ratings for you. Stewart, refresh your publishing ideas. 26€ it’s old times. Think in what type of audience you want. Can you remember the tickets prices of Sex Pistols concerts? Alpha Decay cheated you and us, the readers. Love.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-05-07 13:28:19 +0000

Well as I pointed out in the radio interview Memphis Underground is available as a free bootleg eBook – or was last time I checked on at least two sites that had bootlegged it. I’ve done nothing to close that down. People can choose how they get the book. Most of the books I get I’m either given, get remaindered for a fraction of their cover price or borrow from friends or a library. If Alpha Decay hadn’t done the translation it wouldn’t be in Spanish (I can’t deal with books in anything other than English as I don’t have the language skills)… My understanding is that that they are an independent publisher but I think it is a mistake to think that even with an independent publisher you can escape the contradictions of capitalism… The point is to work towards abolishing capitalism rather than attempting to live ‘differently’ within it. And how do you relate what you say to Tobi Vail who is way more into indie cultural positions than I am?
As for where I stay, I generally know nothing about where I”ll be before I arrive. When I did some events in Spain for Virus who did one of my other books (and who you’d possible prefer to Alapha Decay), I actually found myself in a more expensive hotel in Madrid than the one I stayed in this time in Barcelona (I think the one this time was a four star, whereas the one in Madrid would have been five). I also get to sleep on sofas, floors and squats when I go do events. For example when I went to Paris last year to do events for one of my publishers there (the one that hasn’t gone bankrupt), they put me up in a squat. I rarely have any ideas about the places I’ll be staying before I get to them….

Comment by Nothern Soul Norman on 2012-05-07 14:58:14 +0000

Nothing would be too much to charge to see The Sex Pistols – you’d have to pay me to go!

Comment by Johnny Dollar on 2012-05-07 16:04:08 +0000

Bar Ramón sounds like the place to be…..

Comment by Sally Browne on 2012-05-07 16:29:07 +0000

Pussy Riot rock!

Comment by Euro Traveller on 2012-05-07 22:37:48 +0000

But why is there no jazz at Hotel Jazz?

Comment by Johnny Wadd on 2012-05-08 01:08:19 +0000

I’d like to see you do your Apeman Performance? Any plans to stage it again soon?

Comment by Mark Watson on 2012-05-08 08:26:20 +0000

I went to Spain n a package hoiday in 1978. It was two week of fun in the sun.

Comment by Spanish Tummy on 2012-05-08 09:04:26 +0000

I’m a stomach upset of a type often suffered by tourists in Spain. Try me, you’ll like it!

Comment by Helen on 2012-05-08 09:40:01 +0000

Hi Stewart. I don’t like read novels at screen, but I respect -not much- the people choose to do it. A free bootleg is not fair. If everyone download your free bootlegs of Memphis Underground you will change your opinion and down the sites. You have earned your money and as a reader I want to pay for your dedication but 26€ it’s a robbery for us and for you. Alpha Decay is a independent publisher but as you know many big publisher has also independent publishers. At the end independent publishers are independent publishers because they do the things differently. In this case they act more greedy than big and capitalist publishers. They don’t care about readers. A contra-cultural publisher (is her own definition) will never publish one of the most expensive books of the lasts years. It’s a fact. I have many friends that have decided don’t buy your book because the abusive and elitist prize.
I can understand what you said about don’t know nothing about places, but the question is not if they put in big or small hotel. Sincerely, what do you think about Primera Persona? People paying 9€ for see their favorite writers recite in a different ways. Kiko Amat said was great because it’s not the classical forum with guest around the tables. Ok. But the tattoos, the guy reading meanwhile do a handstand… Is that what you expect from a contra-cultural and modern event? Is that what can we expect from culture? The times are not changing.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-05-08 20:59:56 +0000

If you check the list of my events on my homepage then you’ll see that most of what I do is free to get in to. I’ve even done free events in Barcelona in the past so if people didn’t want to pay for this one but wanted to see me then they should have gone to those free ones. Alternatively there’s also footage of me doing some of this schlock online so they can watch it on my YouTube channel. The thing is that for me to get to do something in a really good space and with really good equipment then that usually means people will be charged to go in – but no one is making them pay, and if people don’t like this then they can come to the many free events I do or even just the ones I do in squats and social spaces.
I don’t like tattoos so I’m hardly gonna like someone getting some done as part of a performance but then I’m not gonna stop anyone doing this either coz I’m not an authoritarian. If it turns other people on then it don’t bother me, even if I don’t dig it. I do like standing on my head and I’ve never seen anyone else (or even heard of anyone else) doing this as a part of a reading. What I read standing on my head is appropriate to that – it isn’t just any random material. I also do ventriloquism sometimes as a part of my readings… do you have a problem with that too? And obviously ventriloquism and headstand readings are a political statement against a bourgeois culture that takes itself far too seriously – they’d never do the stuff I do and I’m never gonna be some boring serious writer…..

Comment by Riot Guy on 2012-05-08 23:00:13 +0000

I sometimes think those ex-Bikini Kill grrrls – and not just Tobi Vail – are exploiting Pussy Riot because in supporting them they seem to be claiming they inspired them and actually the histories are very different and there is a history of punk in the Soviet Union and former Soviet Union and the eastern bloc and former eastern bloc that seems much closer to home for Pussy Riot and more important for them than what Bikini Kill were doing in Olympia Washington 20 years ago.

Comment by Panty Sniffer on 2012-05-09 09:46:32 +0000

So if Ben Brooks’s cut off jeans were on the floor does that mean he was wandering around in his underpants?

Comment by Robby on 2012-05-09 10:26:20 +0000

I prefer the boring serious writers. Now the writers are part of the capitalism circus. You said: “obviously ventriloquism and headstand readings are a political statement against a bourgeois culture”. Everything it’s a political statement and everyday the politics fuck us more. Then people like you, that think they do statements, must rethink about what means to do a statement. When you do a statement you are against something and can’t go against something if you go hand in hand with them and participate in his narcoleptic events. And after you said never know nothing about places and festivals. Culture it’s a fashion parade, fucking MTV writers models. Look at you. You seem a logo: your youtube channel, your blog, your facebook, twitter… like a corporation. Where is the alternative? Nowhere. And after people like you say that public are idiot and don’t care about culture and good music. Listen. If you really don’t take seriously you will be like Salinger. But you’re serious. And corporative. And sometimes you write good books. And I appreciated that.
Ben Brooks is worse than a believer.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-05-09 11:44:51 +0000

“And after people like you say that public are idiot and don’t care about culture and good music…” I didn’t say this… I might just as well take a quote from anyone or anywhere and criticise you on the back of it and it would be as valid as an argument as what you’re saying here. But it would also be a complete waste of my time. What I quote from your comment at the start of this paragraph also fetishises product whereas what’s important are the communities that create cultures.
“Now the writers are part of the capitalism circus…” Actually the book was the first perfected commodity and writers have been part of the capitalist circus since capitalism began. You seem unwilling to deal with the contradictions or historical dveleopment of capital and instead want to act as if it is possible for you personally to live differently in a capitalist society (this is a life-style anarchist position). There aren’t alternatives within capitalism, we all reproduce our own alienation…..

Comment by Tom Tyke on 2012-05-09 13:19:04 +0000

I absolutely love Ben Brooks coz he speakes for the kids of today. The fact that you farts don’t dig him just reveals that you’re too old and need to make way for the new generation!

Comment by Stuart Goddard on 2012-05-09 14:50:23 +0000

If passion ends in fashion “Robby” and “Helen” are the best dressed schizophrenic in town….. You can tell ‘they’ love serious writers like George Orwell since they obviously model ‘themselves’ on the thought police in 1984.

Comment by Peter The Punter on 2012-05-09 15:07:57 +0000

Robby: “When you do a statement you are against something…”
This is complete bollocks. If I say “I love peanut butter”, I am not positioning myself against anything but it is still a statement. If Robby didn’t appear to be a very sad anarchist I’d think this guy must be completely off his nut on drugs! Unfortunately it appears he’s addicted to something far worse – a really dumb ideology.
Anarchism is stupid!

Comment by Madison Ivy on 2012-05-09 19:06:31 +0000

Punk is stupid.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-05-10 22:35:41 +0000

You can say that again as regards the overdeveloped world! And punk is also dead in the overdeveloped world and its anarcho-punk true believers are in reality postmodern zombies!

Comment by G on 2012-05-15 07:32:12 +0000

May I ask whether you got paid for your reading at Primera Persona?
Thanks in advance for your reply.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-05-16 11:31:40 +0000

Haven’t you got anything better to do with your life than trolling?

Comment by G on 2012-05-16 14:56:38 +0000

Mine was an honest question (although I’m quite good at trolling too). I thought that considering CCCB runs on public money, any citizen from Barcelona might be allowed to ask whether someone got paid with money coming from my taxes.
Good luck anyways.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-05-16 15:48:59 +0000

The problem here is that what appear to be attempts at critical comments (but ones that utterly fail as critique) on this thread exhibit a complete inability to understand how the culture industry works (or capitalism for that matter). One point is I might be offered payment for something and then not get it (this has happened to me many times and I’ve had particularly bad experiences of it in Spain: although not Barcelona – it has been other places)… and also when you do get paid by many institutions funded with public money they will want to be able to record the event and financially exploit the recordings (so even when you are being paid it is likely to be as much for or even totally for the recording – which has a value – as for the performance). Since some of the comments above show no understanding of capitalism or the culture industry it seemed pointless to answer your question – and it still does to me – because I’m not interested in wasting my time on more of the stupidity that can be found above. And that stupidity is definitely trolling even if those doing it are too ignorant to know it is trolling…. To have any kind of meaningful discussion of this it would be necessary to look at all of the CCCB finances including what is made on the door at events like this. Talking about performers being paid or not paid is not enough so there is no point going into it without the other information (and I don’t have that).

Published At