Lyrical writing with Kristin Hersh and Aldous Harding: WORD Christchurch

Lyrical writing saw influential indie songwriter Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses in conversation with Aldous aka Hannah Harding, local folk musician. Rachel Morton, station manager of RDU, was the chair.

And this WAS a good session. It was raw and intense, and I will only be able to hint at how intimate it was, and how deep it went.

Kristin Hersh’s favourite piece of writing is an article about cockroaches. Hannah picks the last six pages of The Outsider “no fullstops, one blubbering eulogy”:

You don’t need God, you don’t need a lover, you don’t need children …

Hannah Harding: Lyrical writing
Hannah Harding: Lyrical writing

At which point Kristin says:

You don’t need, but it’s still a gameboard.

On Songwriting


I don’t write songs about things. I feel under the auspices of the songs … they make their own collage from bits and pieces. I’ve liced pieces of it, the images … I don’t find out what a song is about until it kicks in. … Songs don’t knock me on the head and trick me to write them anymore … songs are a pulsing will.


I am going to help people escape from lives they don’t want to live … It’s a way to justify my anxieties as an art.

A safe place?

The two talked about anxiety (Hannah) and PTSD (Kristin), dreams, archetypes, the enormous emotional vocabulary of children.

Hannah feels when she performs as Aldous she is “genuinely walking in another’s shoes”. Kristin talked about performing with makeup and beer as her only weapons, and she told a devastating story that had everyone in tears:

All crying. Kristin Hersh got note from drug addict “I am going to kill myself tomorrow but you bought beauty in my life.” #wordchch — ChChCityLibraries (@ChristchurchLib) August 31, 2014

Kristin Hersh and Hannah Harding: Lyrical writing
Kristin Hersh and Hannah Harding: Lyrical writing

 When ideas come


4am. Your Ghost was written mostly on Scottish whiskey.


It always starts out as a poem. I do see it as a project and I want it to be influential and I want people to resonate with it.

The Indies: WORD Christchurch

The Indies brought together publisher Murdoch Stephens from Lawrence & Gibson, and two of his authors, Brannavan Gnanalingam and Thomasin Sleigh, with chair Guy Somerset, erstwhile Books & Culture Editor for the Listener.

— Murdoch (@DoingOurBitNZ) August 30, 2014

The Indies
Thomasin Sleigh, Murdoch Stephens, Brannavan Gnanalingam and Guy Somerset.
The Indies
Thomasin Sleigh, Murdoch Stephens, and Brannavan Gnanalingam.

The team showed how sharp indie can be, and as Guy Somerset observed they looked like an awesome 1960s band.

Lawrence & Gibson deal with all aspects of publishing – even the printing and using the guillotine. As Thomasin observed, you get to experience “a really physical relationship with your cultural product”. Murdoch wants the writers to have a real sense of being in a collective, all the money goes back into books and:

We want to publish writer’s first experimental works.

Cover of Ad LibThomasin’s book Ad Lib is about reality tv. How long is it going to go on for? Until we’ve all been in it? She is interested in the formulaic repetition, the same bit of content being used over and over again.

There was discussion about New Zealand’s small independent presses – Hue and Cry, Giant Sparrow etc. They all have  different styles. Murdoch reckons the hardback book is going to make a storming comeback (I do hope he is right):