Steve Wide is back with two brand new books. These follow on from his 6-volume A to Z biographical series which examined the lives of David Bowie, Prince, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, The Beatles and Freddie Mercury.
While the state of Victoria remains in a coronavirus lockdown, Glen Christie caught up with Steve to chat about his new series which moves away from the semi-linear and singular artist focus of the A to Z titles to a new format and style.
Steve Wide Presents: A Field Guide to… begins its initial 4-book run with a focus on Punk and Post-Punk & New Wave.
“I wanted more scope and depth, with these books,” he says about the change of format. “These books look at the music that has been part of my life, my radio show. What I wanted to do was write about these musical styles – looking at their influences, both where they came from and the influence they had on the musical styles that came next.”
And on the idea of calling them A Field Guide to…:
“I think it’s exactly what these books are – it is like birdwatching…or scouts or train-spotters. The bands are birds you are looking out for and the music is the field in which you would find them.
“With the A to Zs, I wanted to provide an opportunity for those people who weren’t familiar with the artists to get to know them in a simple but informative way. With the Field Guides, I’ve done a lot of in-depth research. I cross-referenced to make sure that the detail was accurate. I also looked at not only the music scene, but the politics of the time as well.”
On that note, the discussion turned to the politics of Punk – the focus of the first volume – and the insight that can be gained about the true impact and diversity of Punk music:
“Yes, when you say Punk to most people they it’s The Sex Pistols, Mohawks and people gobbing…and, of course, the infamous interview where Jon Lydon (Jonny Rotten) swore on British Television. But Punk actually started in America – then came across to the UK.
“It was meant to be an underground scene, but within a few years, it had gone from Underground to Overground and that killed it. That said, it has had a lasting legacy and it is the genre of music that really changed the scene. It was the moment when musicians thought, well, if they can do it, why can’t I?”
The first Field Guide leads almost seamlessly into the second and coinciding volume on Post-Punk & New Wave. In 2021, these two initial titles will be accompanied by two further volumes on Brit Pop and Grunge.
“I’d like to think there are 6 – 8 volumes, but it depends on the demand. I don’t see myself doing one on today’s music, which is genre-less. I want to focus on where music has come from, and it’s influences.”
I, for one, look forward to more of Steve’s insightful and accessibly informative Field Guides. There is so much to learn, and he is just the man to teach us.
Interviewed by Glen Christie
Steve Wide Presents: A Field Guide to Punk and A Field Guide to Post-Punk & New Wave, published 2 September 2020 by Smith Street Books and available through Simon & Schuster and all good bookstores. RRP $29.99 each.
Acknowledgement: Top punk rock illustration from Patricracy Fandom Wiki.