Copyright © Alex Botten

Truth and Lies

in Latest/Music/Philosophy

In 2011 I lied to Kristin Hersh.

It was on Twitter, I was sitting at my dining table in the house I shared with my now ex-wife and typed ‘I’m listening to the first Throwing Muses album on vinyl. It is wonderful’. I tagged Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh and posted the tweet.

Moments later she replied, “you know, i hate to be prissy, but i love vinyl *so* much”. I beamed with happiness, I’d loved Throwing Muses since I was a teen, now I was interacting with Kristin Hersh. I’d crushed on her like crazy when I was younger, thought she was beautiful and clever and talented, and now she knew I existed!

But I hadn’t been listening to the first Throwing Muses album and didn’t have a working record player at the time. I’d lied to Kristin Hersh. It didn’t matter, I leveraged that initial contact into an interview with her and Dave Narcizo for my Future Library podcast. I didn’t tell them I’d lied during the podcast, in fact, I bluffed that I had more knowledge of their recent work that I did. I’d not listened to their new records in years, had stopped around the time ‘University’ came out and bored me rigid. I’d never stopped loving the band, but I hadn’t actually paid any attention to them for a very long time.

In the late 90s I lied to Andy Wood in Dundee. He played in The Candy Store Prophets and was a lovely chap who I arrogantly looked down on because I didn’t think much of his band. Late-90s-me wasn’t a nice person. I was horrible about Andy and I’m sorry. Anyway, I lied to him about something as unimportant as the vinyl copy of ‘Throwing Muses’. He was at my flat on Dens Road, shortly after my arrival in the city in 1997 making admiring noises about my record collection.

“I once had a huge collection,” he said, “I’ve sold a lot over the years”

“Yeah, same here,” I lied, “I used to have a lot more as well.”

It came out so easily! I didn’t even need to say it! It meant nothing, proved nothing, wasn’t relevant at all to anything!

Earlier in the 90s I told several people at University that I’d played Pixies records really loud late at night to annoy my parents. This was one of my touchstone stories, the tale of ‘Surfer Rosa’ blasting out from my room at ten thirty at night, everyone else in the house trying to sleep. This story was different, this had actually happened. Not to me, mind, but it had happened. The Pixies story was true if you replaced me with Andy Grewcock, my house with his house, and his copy of ‘Surfer Rosa with my non-existent one.

Why did I tell those lies? I am certain there are others, half a million inconsequentially tiny untruths I’ve slipped into conversation over the years, none of them serious, none of them changing the nature of the world for the worst. So why?

Self-aggrandisement? For a man who has carefully nurtured a reputation for not caring what others think that would seem unlikely. Unless that reputation itself is a lie.

It is.

I desperately cared what people thought of me, I ached to be seen as the guy who didn’t care, the one cooly disinterested in impressing others. I painted a picture of myself as the independently minded outsider, coloured with borrowed stories and outright fabrications.

Have I changed? I’m not sure. My recent years have been shaped by an ideal of radical openness, adopted after being blown away by Karl Ove Knausgaard’s candour. I’ve built my creative life around the terrifying and liberating notion of revealing everything, I’ve spent two years writing an autobiographical novel spanning my entire life. I’ve subtitled it ‘My Wrongdoings’ and have written down all my most shameful acts and thoughts. So far, no-one is interested in publishing it.

This has had an unforeseen impact, I now have to stop myself from immediately saying what I think. I still feel intense shame over past actions, but I also see them as chances to reveal more of myself to the world. I consciously have to bite off sentences before they come out of my mouth, have to slam the door before secrets come pouring out. I have to remind myself that there is such a thing as too much sharing.

I used to invent stories to make myself look cool, now I desperately try to hold onto secrets because I think brutal honesty is key to everything.

I hope Kristin Hersh doesn’t remember me lying to her.

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