'I got my politics from reading NME' Kerry McCarthy

Written by Kerry McCarthy MP on 28 January 2013 in Culture
The shadow foreign minister explains why music is so important to her

This article is from the February 2013 issue of Total Politics

Until well into my 20s music was far more important to me than politics, although there was a considerable overlap between the two. I got my politics from reading the NME in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, at a time when the music press was at its most political, and by listening to bands like The Clash, Gang of Four and Stiff Little Fingers. 
I studied Russian and Politics at Liverpool University because of an obsession with Joy Division. I read an NME review of their album Still which said that one of the songs was based on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. On reading it, I was hooked, and determined to learn Russian. I couldn’t study it from scratch at Manchester, which would have been my first choice, so Liverpool – home to bands like Echo & the Bunnymen – was a pretty good second choice. I went over to Manchester whenever I could, in the early days of the Hacienda club and for the Tenth Anniversary of Punk festival at the (then) G-Mex centre.
The last live band I saw was Goldblade at the 100 Club. The singer John Robb is a friend of mine, and I often write for his music website, Louder than War. It was through Louder than War that I first found out about Pussy Riot being arrested. I ended up going to Moscow to observe the trial, and have spent much of 2012 helping to keep the campaign in the public eye. 
I’ve got a few gigs lined up for 2013 already. The first is Dinosaur Jr, playing quite a small venue in Bristol. We were meant to see them at Alexandra Palace last year doing their classic album, Bug, but a series of catastrophes meant that we arrived just in time for the last 30 seconds of feedback and then had to endure a terrible prog-rock set from the headliners, Flaming Lips. 
I’ll also be seeing UK Decay in February. They’re from my home town of Luton and two of my closest friends are in the band. It’s their first London show for more than 30 years, so it will be something of a reunion for many of the old crowd. I first saw them play at Luton carnival in 1979. There wasn’t much else going on in Luton in those days so they were ‘our’ band. 
And in April I’ve got a ticket to see Swans in Bristol. Their album, The Seer, was one of my favourites from 2012. It’s very dark and intense, and by no means easy listening, but perfect to listen to when driving alone late at night.
Most of those bands have been around for years, but I also spent the weekend at The Great Escape festival in Brighton and saw some great new bands like Antlered Man, Odonis Odonis, and The Computers (who played in a launderette – we couldn’t get in so we had to watch from outside in the street through the steamed up windows). 
The Savages are another great new band, who I saw in Bristol in the summer, and hope to catch again soon.
Kerry McCarthy is Labour MP for Bristol East

Tags: Hinterland, Issue 55, Kerry mccarthy, Life, Music

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