JASON BRUMMELL - SUAVE COLLECTIVE
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Interviewed in 2017
When Jason Brummell, owner of Suave collective books kindly sent me copies of all his latest releases to read whilst on holiday I thought I would have enough to last the week, little was I to know that in fact I was to read them in two days!, this was not because I was speed reading the content but because his own, and his collective of writers certainly know their stuff, the cleverly written story lines and anecdotes embroiled in the fashion of Mod culture in the 60's made them difficult to put down! So when both Jason and one of his writers Jason Disley agreed to do a piece for the site we jumped at the chance. Here we interview Jason Brummell about Suave collective and his own Modernist history and later Jason Disley gives us an insight into his own writings and works.
Hi Jason (Brummell) can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from and how long have you been part of the Modernist scene.
I’m an author and publisher of a number of books all of which have at least one well shod foot in Modernism, something that has been a major part of my life for 35 years now.
Can you tell us about early experiences as part of the scene and give an example of how it changed your life.
There was never a single moment really where I decided I wanted to be a Mod. At that time ‘81/’82 Mod was there; on the streets and in the charts - at a time when you start to define yourself through your choices at about 11 or 12 years old, Mod was simply, there. My cousin Steve was a few years older than me (still is funnily enough) and was a Mod he used to have a white boating blazer with blue and red pinstripes. It was made of that funny woolly material that they did at Melanddi or Carnaby Cavern - I can still picture it now – I so wanted that boating blazer. I used to get hand-me-downs from him... never that jacket sadly.
My best mate was a guy called Rik Grant and we were the two Mods in our first year at school. We remained Mods throughout our whole school lives both getting our first scooters as soon as we could at 16. Before then, I would cycle up to the A3 and watch the scooters go past en-route to the IOW.
I would grill everyone I knew ‘of the right age’ about Mod; aunties, uncles and so on. Read whatever I could from the library (nicking the photos out and posting them on my bedroom wall – I was obsessed... I still am.
Tell us about your favourite part of the scene, scooters, fashion, music, the social scene etc
The clothes first and foremost for me. I love its quiet subversion. That refusal to be pinned and mounted to a particular social class. It is a subtle insurrection; being better dressed than your so-called betters. Those little details that would only be picked up by the cognoscenti. If the average guy in the street pegs you for a Mod... you’re probably doing it wrong.
I’ve had Vespas and Lambrettas since I was 16. I’ve had some with all the lights and mirrors on but these days, and truer to the less is more aesthetic of Mod, I have a Vespa GS 160 with just a couple of small embellishers.
The music is, of course sublime – it is almost spiritual in its effects and as for the social scene, it brought me into contact with a group of style-obsessed mates called The Suave Collective. The name of my publishing company.
Tell us about your favourite nightclub venue, style of music, bands and rally destinations and why they have become your favourites.
Blimey, so many changes over the years. From our first scooter gatherings in coffee bars, to larger nights at do’s and rallies all across the country. I once rode from Guildford to Great Yarmouth on a 90-kitted 50 special took 13 hours – some twenty years later I did Margate in a 1965 Jaguar S-Stype. These days (financial) priorities largely dictate I do smaller do’s and shorter visits to Brighton etc. One of the nice things about social media is that it brings you into contact with like-minded friends that you didn’t know you had. I can enjoy that as much as meeting somebody face to face these days.
Musically I was a teenage Jam fan (although my first love were The Beatles) and before I knew better I loved ‘Mod’ music like The Kinks, The Who and The Small Faces rather than the old Blues and Jazz ‘rubbish’ of my Dad’s. Latterly of course I discovered that ‘that old rubbish’ was considerably more Mod than the afore mention sixties pop stuff, but you keep living and learning and that is one of Mod, greatest gifts - it continues to inspire, entice and seduce me. Current favourite listening either The Spitfires (surely the finest UK band in a generation) and vintage Ska and reggae.
Can you tell us a funny story that has happened to you within the scene.
Most probably don’t travel well. My favourite though is courtesy of my mate Bedders. I’ve known him for 25 years and in that time he has been a top Mod, a truly sharp suedehead and now a Northern Soul obsessive and a genuine face on that scene,. He wears original star jumpers, wrangler flared jeans, monkey boots and has shoulder length curls – he’s actually a dead ringer for Noddy Holder and people shouting ‘Its Chriiiiistmaaass!!’ at him is a fairly regular occurrence. More unique is when he and I were walking back from a local do in Chichester with our mate John when a pissed up bloke comes up to us, nods at me and John, then seeing Bedders says ‘scuse me mate.... have you been in a coma?’ We just fell about laughing.
Now can you tell us about your own writing, how did it all come about, was it a burning ambition or something which came later, how many books have you written, what are they called and what each is about.
All About My Girl (my first novel) started life as a small article I wrote for my mate Bedders’ fanzine ‘Enjoy Yourself’. At that point I’d never really written anything in my life so armed with a brief remit of ‘just write about anything’ I wrote a small fictional piece based upon a Mod having an epiphany at the Scene club whilst dancing to the track of the same name by Jimmy McGriff (which was my favourite tune at the time). Everyone that read it was really positive about it and said I should write more. I eventually expanded that piece into the novel it is now. As I was in the print game I called in a few favours and printed a 1000 copies – It’s the story of four Mods and their involvement with gangsters and one of the greatest political upheavals of the 20th Century – It became very popular on the scene, with one reader stating that ‘there are many books about the look of Mod, this (AAMG) is a book on the feel of Mod’ and has long since sold out. I wrote the (semi) follow up All or Nothing which is set three years later in 1966 a couple of years after (I’m not a prolific writer). It is more a caper movie style novel – ‘Monkey’ Mark Raison likened it to a film tie-in novel for a film that doesn’t exist – I love that! – I have about 100 copies left of AON from its 1000 print run. I was then described by Mark ‘Bax’ Baxter and Paolo Hewitt in their A-Z of Mod Fiction as The Leader in Mod Fiction
About the time I was made redundant about two and half years ago (after 16 years... cheers then mate!) I was invited to the first Mod Literary Event in London by Ian ‘Snowy’ Snowball and Stuart Deabill. Those that attended will know just how amazing and special that event was, so buoyed with the experience and with the people that it brought me into contact with I decided I wanted to try and do something with the writing so I set up Suave Collective Publishing with a view to it being a vehicle for me to produce my books on and to help other aspiring authors get their work out there. It was to be a niche publishing vehicle but with strong Mod links.
The first novel I produced on SCP was a limited edition re-print (with brilliant new cover design by Steven Millington of Dry British) of AAMG, the sales of which funded its first release for someone else. Maradona Good, Pele Better, George Best by Nightshift author Pete McKenna – the book is about Pete’s attendance of Best’s funeral and is a deeply personal and moving account of the demons that beset both George and Pete. Sadly it wasn’t a success and I learned a lot of lessons, not least an author that lives abroad doesn’t help in terms of promotion. – It’s a shame really as its a very good book.
Last year I was approached by Snowy and Bax with the idea of producing a book about Female Mods. Snowy had three years of interviews and Bax’ little black book opened the doors to the likes of Mary Quant. My part in it was to take the interviews and the photos and try and get it into a book format, adding a few more interviews and pics along the way. Ready Steady Girls, as it became, was crowd-funded into existence via Kickstarter and with Karma Creative the team behind the About The Young Idea exhibitions designing it – we sold its entire 1000 numbered limited edition books in just six-weeks.
This brings me nicely up-to-date with two books out this year released simultaneously; My Generation the hilarious memoirs of original Mod (and fellow GS man) Dave Dry and Seven Day Fool by Modernist Beat poet Jason Disley which is a pulp-fiction detective thriller set in the Mod clubs and Cafes of mid-sixties Manchester.
Was it difficult writing that first book?
Not really – I had the basic story idea fairly early on; as I did with AON to be fair. My biggest problem was (and still is) finding time to write. Suave Collective Publishing isn’t my day job (however much I’d love it to be) – I’m not a prolific writer either. I write in fits and starts and so each book takes a couple of years to complete. I’ve got two other ideas for books I’m writing now. First is a multi-generation Mod story with a working title of The Young Mods Forgotten Story and second is a comedy (hopefully in the vein of The Full Monty) about A film club and a daring robbery set at the time of the miner strike with a working title of Soul Deep. Ideas I’ve got an abundance of... time I just never seem to have.
Can you tell us about Suave collective, the inspiration behind it and the concept.
I was made redundant and was out of work for six months. Despite the very minimal redundancy pay I used that time to set up the website www.suavecollective.co.uk and to basically start networking.
The concept for Suave Collective is to produce small paperbacks (I love paperbacks) that could be read over the course of a weeks’ commute or lunch-breaks. They are affordable, stylishly designed and collectable – Terrible phrase I know but I want them to a ‘brand’ and something synonymous with style and quality – just like Mod. The paperbacks are the EXACT same size as the old NEL paperbacks like the Richard Allen Skinhead series... it’s all about the details!
Authors generally get between 4 and 8% of profit on books. So unless you’re JK Rowling you really aren’t going to get rich on what is essentially YOUR talents. Suave Collective is more altruistic – I assume responsibility for the financials and all the posting out (which is a job and a half let me tell you) once we break even (i.e. cover print cost) all profits are split 50/50 between author and SCP. As design is important to me, the cover designers also get 50p per book sold. I start out with the general aim of not losing money but getting quality work out there - if we make a small drink out of it then happy days but more important is creating something out of nothing - clean living in difficult circumstances, you might say!
How many different authors are now part of the business and how many books have you published.
So far my two books All About My Girl and All or Nothing, Maradona Good, Pele Better George Best by Pete McKenna, Ready Steady Girls by me, Bax and Snowy, My Generation by Dave Dry and Seven Day Fool by Jason Disley – all but the now sold out RSG are available via ww.suavecollective.co.uk
A lot of the books are based around the Mod/Modernist scene, is this a direction that you will continue with as you grow?
Yes – Its a niche that I know well, after all its been my life for the last 35 years! Is it becoming oversaturated? I’d like to think not and in any ‘market’ quality always comes through. I hope people that read Suave Collective Publishing output agree that they are quality books – I know many people who have the complete set and I’m very grateful for their shared passion, but none of that would happen if it wasn’t of a high standard – they have exacting standards these Mods!
Is it difficult being a publisher, do you find it a more freer process?
I need a creative outlet – my minimum wage day job doesn’t cut it and so I NEED to do something creative. There are a lot of talented writers (and illustrators/artists) out there – I am proud of what we’ve done so far – onwards and upwards, no runners and no half measures.
What future do you hope for with the business?
I’d like to get my two books-in-progress complete sometime in the new year. I’ve also written a couple of kids books about a man called Henry Speck The Worlds Best Dressed Man for which I’m looking for an illustrator for, which I think could be fun.
My big hope is that one day a film company picks up one of my books and makes it into a film. I would love to make a really authentic Mod film – something more Jimmy McGriff than Jimmy Cooper if you know what I mean? There was some interest in the past but nothing came of it, but I live in hope... failing that I’ll just have to do it myself ha!
What advice would you give an aspiring writer/publisher?
Value what you do – make it as good as it can be but ultimately make it happen – you can do it!
The same applies for poets, musicians, artists, DJ’s.... whatever. The Mod scene is very supportive if you offer quality and give back to the scene what you take out.
Back to the Mod scene, how do you think the scene has changed over the years? and what are your views on today’s scene?
Its certainly gotten older ha! If I had to be critical it is too often mired in icon-ism and in many cases it is ‘Mod by Numbers’ but then... every now and then... you see some of the youngsters who are dressed better than I ever was at their age or you meet genuine Modernists who love as much, the here and now, as the early sixties and then it really clicks again for me.
There is also a huge amount to be learned still and with some great people like Smiler (Paul Anderson) and Lee Miller who share their hard-won knowledge, if... you’re willing to listen.
And lastly, tell us, if you can what attracts you to do what you do and be part of today’s Modernist culture.
Mod is a sweet shop with all the best flavours – with the best music and the best clobber – why would you want to be anything else?
About Jason Disley
Jason Disley, is an Author and Poet who was born in Salford and was brought up in Prestwich. He now resides on the English Riviera, in the South West of England, with his wife and children. He is 48 years old. His interests are The Beat Generation literature, Jazz music and the history of British subcultures, in particular the Modernist movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He also has a passion for immaculate tailoring, and Scooters.
He has written several collections of poetry the first of which was The New Beat Generation which was published by AH Stockwell in 1996.
The New Beat Generation was followed in 2002 by The New Beat Generation And Other Spontaneous Verse – a collection that incorporated the first collection with a number of new poems, this was also published by AH Stockwell. In 2016 Jason re-released The New Beat Generation And Other Spontaneous Verse through his own publishing venture Beatnpress -which uses Lulu.com for printing and distribution purposes. This was quickly followed by Jazz Poetry -Improvisations In Language -which is the first of a trilogy of Music inspired poetry. Still in 2016 the second part of the trilogy -Beat, Blues and the Rhythm of Fools was released. This book includes a foreword by the celebrated leader in Modernist Fiction Jason Brumell, who wrote of Jason's writing “Takes it's lead from the late 50s Beats, with a knowing nod to the Liverpool poets of the 60's but isn't confined to the past. It's about the here and now, the free and how to be, with its deft interplay of meter and space that is … equally reminiscent … of modal shifts … in Modern … Jazz (another clear passion.)
In November of 2016 Jason experienced his first taste of performing his poetry when he was asked to read one of his poems at a Mod event in Paignton. The poem “Fabric” from Beat, Blues and the Rhythm of Fools was read to a large audience -a daunting task made easier by the wonderful improvisation of the headline band that evening who had flown in from Paris: French Boutik. Their cool continental flavour and understanding of the poem, as they played in the background, lent itself very well and the performance was a success. From this single debut performance Jason was then invited to perform at an event called Blow Up! At the St Moritz club in Soho, where backed by another band, Dr Bird, he performed a poem called “Down At The Flamingo” a poem about a nightclub in Soho that was frequented by the early Mods in the 1960s. He also released his latest collection early in 2017 and the third in his music related series: Runaway Soul! A collection of escapist and Soul music inspired pieces. This book has a foreword by the celebrated Lewisham Bard and inspirational Beat Poet John “Jazzman” Clarke whose own writing is influenced by the unusual and syncopated rhythms of Jazz music.
Since his debut of his Spoken Word performance Jason has been a regular at the monthly Stanza Extrava at the Artizan Gallery on Lucius Street in Torquay. He has also performed at the Blue Walnut, doing a support slot at Robert Garnham's “Juicy” show. He is currently recording a spoken word album called “Speakeasy” with original music written by record producer, writer and musician Rick Blackman who is part of the Fred Hampton Appreciation Society, a fantastic Soul band who have recently released an album titled Songs Of Love And Resistance.
Jason, has recently released a short novel called “Seven Day Fool” It was published by Suave Collective Publishing on October 6th, 2017. The book is a Noir/Pulp Private Eye tale set in Manchester during 1965 and visits the popular Café bars and Nightclubs of Manchester during a cat and mouse adventure that hopes to prevent a great political scandal. It visits the famous Twisted Wheel Club not long after it had moved to new premises on Whitworth street, after having been on Brazenose street. It also calls in at The Cona Coffee house, A club called Jungfau, The Oasis, and other places. There are many musical and style references throughout the tale which has tension provided by the case of a missing illegal immigrant, who was last seen by her boyfriend and his mate. Two young men who have aspirations of becoming club dj's. What should be a straight forward case turns into something more sinnister as the world of international crime collides with the lives of three teenagers who just want to enjoy great music and the Mod style of the era. Jake Brody, Private Eye has a week to find the girl and to prevent mayhem. If he doesn't -he is going to look a fool.
Jason's future projects after the Speakeasy album are a new poetry collection cal Beat To A Pulp, which is a series of Pulp Fiction inspired poems that make up a complete story. He has onboard with the project an artist and friend called Andrew Shackleton who has recently had a painting curated by The Saatchi Art Gallery. Andrew will be creating a series of illustrations to accompany the collection. With a view to finding a publisher when completed. There is also a sequel to Seven Day Fool in the pipeline called Take It Or Leave It – which is set just a few months after Seven Day Fool. It will be another Jake Brody adventure.