Sunflower Junction – new story arriving in March

Really pleased to announce that a new story, Sunflower Junction is due to appear in Black Static 57, due in Marc from this address –

I’ve been waiting a very long time to have a story illustrated by Ben Baldwin. He’s an incredible artist, and the piece he’s produced for Sunflower Junction is subtle but really effective and powerful. I absolutely love it.

Sunflower Junction is a story about loss and running away and how we choose to deal with the things we think we can’t cope with. It’s also about music. This is the fourth story I’ve written about songwriters and how music becomes a way of finding something within oneself. In Sunflower Junction, it’s to some extent about a search for a folk musician who produced one transcendent record, only to lose himself in one particular song that may have ultimately sent him mad. I love creating the stories of musicians and imaginary records in their history. 

Ryley Walker’s stunning Primrose Green, released a year or so ago was the inspiration for some aspects of the story, as were John Martyn’s and Tim Buckley’s similarly transcendent music. There’s often a sense, particularly live where these musicians are seemingly reaching for something beyond the music, and it’s at this sweet spot that my Sunflower Junction lies.

There’s also a man running from grief and hiding in a faded seaside town, an aging drug addict writing about one perfect time in his life, and a woman crippled by years of abuse. This makes it sound like hard going, but that wasn’t the intention. I like to think that here’s always a note of hope in everything I write.

Here’s a little taster…

So it was after midnight when I finally put the CD on, and was instantly engulfed by it. The warm currents of languid guitar, the tight, jazzy upright bass and drums, the speckled sunlight of the Fender Rhodes piano and vibes, and then the punctuation of the restless trumpet or clarinet. It sounded like late period Doors, or Tim Buckley or early Van Morrison, like Bitches Brew-era Mils Davis. A stoned, summery, somnambulant trip. Every song had something to say to me. A midnight crawl through an empty Los Angeles on Baby Blue Eyes; a pastoral rumination in an English meadow at the height of Spring on Forget Me Not; a tight jazzy tour through a sweaty Parisian club and its backrooms on Johnny Jump Up; and then there was the centrepiece of the album: the long, almost improvisational jam of Sunflower Junction, the words conjuring bizarre images, the music spiralling and turning into a mantra, a spell, a summoning; circling and retreating, repeating and shifting like a mathematical equation, each time changing one number, one word, one note in order to find its way into something even more heightened, more ecstatic…

​I listened to it again, this time through my headphones. And I sat beside the window, watching the dark mass of the sea rushing to the shore, until the first blush of light of another day stole through the clouds. I dreamed of Emily again. I tried to turn away from her but my subconscious had been denied her for another day. It wanted me to feel something again. And every time I turned away, she was there, as perfect as she’d ever been. Another woman preserved in aspic, but for different reasons.

​The dream was on my pillow when I woke. It was a broken, ugly thing, like the head of a dead sunflower, the yellow petals blackened at the tips, curled in over the centre. I picked at the sticky petals and caught fractured glimpses of the dream I’d had; quick flashes of memory, tugs of loss and longing that I’d trained myself not to feel. But curiosity got the better of me and I pressed my fingers deep into the puckered flesh of its folds, and felt her there, felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time because it was the past, and the past was an empty room to me now.

​I withdrew finally, and watched the grey light of day creep across it. Finally I found an old jam jar in the cupboard, gathered up the dream and placed it inside. I put it on a shelf a closet where I couldn’t see it.


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