F3: Breaking the Circle

Here’s this week’s F3, which is another music-based rather than genre story. I’m not happy with this one but I’m not going to have any time to rewrite it or write an alternative piece, and I’m determined to stick to publishing one story a week. Some of my thoughts in the comments – I wouldn’t recommend reading those until you’ve read the story, of course.


Breaking the Circle

Hawkins feels uncomfortable about the Dictaphone hovering right in front of his face, but he’s committed to the interview now. Besides, he reasons, at this point any publicity is good, even if it is just an interview in a local fanzine.

“We also have a blog,” says the girl holding the Dictaphone, as if reading his mind. Hawkins nods and clears his throat, fidgeting with the beer bottle clasped between his hands.

“Start whenever you’re ready,” he says. The girl nods.

“To begin with,” she says, enunciating her words clearly for the recording, “perhaps you could tell us a little about the band and yourself.”

He holds back a sigh, wondering if he was wrong to hope for questions that were a little more penetrating than this.

“Malaise originally formed two years ago,” he says, slipping into a practiced spiel. “Ed and I were second-year university kids, still enjoying a little freedom. Si and Al were working the same shitty jobs they are now and playing grindcore in Al’s flat. We met at a show, got on, and formed the band. After a break while Ed and I studied and graduated we reformed and started taking things seriously. Since then we’ve self-published an EP and we have a single out next month from Satanikbatwingdeath, both of which we’re currently playing in support of.”

He pauses and swigs his beer, and adds “we’re keeping the shows pretty local, though.”

The interviewer smiles, and Hawkins instinctively smiles back, cracking his studiously stony demeanour. He realises he hasn’t asked her name, despite knowing that she writes for a ‘zine called Self Checkout. He shifts his gaze over her shoulder into the orange-tinged gloom of the club. There are only a few people hanging about, mostly in small groups, talking and laughing and sipping at nearly-full pints. Si and Al are sitting on the stage rolling cigarettes whilst Ed talks animatedly with the sound guy.

“The official biog, huh?” says the girl. Hawkins moves his attention back to her. She’s still smiling and holding the little tape recorder.

“That’s cool,” she continues. “You must get asked that a lot. I’m sure you have quite a lot of stock answers.”

“Yes,” Hawkins says, stupidly, realising immediately that it was a rhetorical question. “Uh… you can strike that from the interview, yeah?”

She laughs and he smiles again, this time not trying to stifle it.

“Okay, let’s hit you with a technical question. Is your decision to eschew effects a deliberate aesthetic choice, or is it just how things have turned out given your playing styles?”

“When we first formed we were determined to use an absolute minimum of effects,” Hawkins replies. “We agreed with bands and musicians who thought they were a distraction. It was obviously pretty ironic that we put so much gain on Al’s guitar, but for some reason distortion always gets a free pass. Anyway, later on we stopped being so militant about it, but by that point we’d found our sound, and there wasn’t any need to change it.”

“That Malaise sound is a good example of why ramping the gain on just one guitar gets a free pass,” the girl says. “It’s a sort of textural backdrop to the high-end clean sound you use.”

“Yeah, that’s it. Well put. Although that was accidental, originally. I just didn’t have an amp with built-in distortion and like I said, we didn’t use pedals.”

“Cool. Okay, thanks Hawkins. Mind if I go for a more personal question?”

“Sure,” says Hawkins. He feels relaxed now, and is even pleased that she evidently understands his band. He guesses retrospectively that the first question was fluff to serve as a generic introduction for readers.

“Your lyrics are very personal, although not in the confessional style that’s in vogue at the moment. They’re all written in the first person, and they’re usually directed at an unnamed second party.”

“Oh,” says Hawkins. He takes another swig from his bottle, swallowing the last few dregs of room-temperature lager. “Well, it’s a writing style, I suppose. Everyone has their own approach to songwriting. That’s just the way I feel comfortable, addressing my songs to other people.”

“But is it other people, or is it… another person?”

Hawkins isn’t sure how to react: for a moment he freezes.

Of course the girl is right, but this is the first time anyone has noticed. Even Ed, a close friend for many years, never picked up on the way Hawkins’s songs were all directed towards the same individual. The subject matter was always different, as was the tone and angle of approach, and Hawkins often wrote in an abstract or heavily metaphorical fashion, but all the same he should have guessed that someone would figure it out one day.

He still doesn’t know what to say, so he coughs and looks at the ground, trying to think quickly.

“Oi, Hawkins!”

He looks up, saved. “Si?”

“Better wrap up mate. Time to sound-check.”

Relieved, he looks back at the girl. “Sorry. It’ll be a short interview, I guess. Maybe some other time.”

“We could pick it up after the soundcheck?” she asks, hopefully, switching the Dictaphone off and slipping it into her jacket.

He shakes his head. “Sorry, we need to go grab food right after. Then the supports start.”

“Shame,” she says, evidently disappointed. “I wanted to hear your answer to my last question.

Hawkins smiles and slips away to the stage.

After the show he weaves the crowd and catches the interviewer’s attention, drawing her away from a pair of friends at the bar.

“Good set,” she says. “What did you want?”

“You’re right,” he tells her. “You figured it out. It’s just one person.”

She doesn’t reply or pull out the dictaphone, just asks: “Why do you do it?”

“That’s easy,” he replies. “I’m doing it for the day I’m no longer doing it all for her.”

She smiles at that, and her eyes glisten in the lights of the club. He smiles back, and asks her name.

4 Responses to “F3: Breaking the Circle”
  1. Shaun CG says:

    …so I don’t really like this story myself because it manages to be simultaneously emotionally flat and sentimental. That’s the main reason. It’s also /very/ sparse on description and heavy on non-personal dialogue, which isn’t so hot in flash fiction because it leaves the story feeling ungrounded. It’s also almost all set-up, which, eh, you might object to or like.

    If you’ve got any other criticisms (or, contrarily, you liked this for some reason) please let me know. :)

  2. Maybe you could leap in half-way through the interview, and pad out the rest with description? Either way, I *really* like the ending.

  3. Rachel says:

    The ending is great, but I’m not sure about the beginning. It was a bit slow-moving I guess, I dunno – although it’s not really long enough to be slow-moving is it? Heh. :)

  4. Shaun CG says:

    I think you’re both on to something – the interview wants breaking up to up the pace, and painting the setting would help with that.

    I’m glad you like the ending, actually, as that’s the bit I thought was terribly sentimental. ;)