Paul Rance is Associated Content’s very own Renaissance Man. He is a writer, artist, musician, publisher, small business owner, editor, reviewer, and poet. He is also a human rights advocate, environmentalist, and animal rights activist, who has been a vegetarian for over thirty years now.
Paul has published everything from clerihews (a poetic form he enjoys and has mastered) to movie reviews on Associated Content. There is something for just about everyone to be found on his AC content producer page. With over 200 published pieces and counting on AC, Paul Rance is making his rich imagination, sharp wit, creative prowess, unbounded humor, huge heart, and unique presence known and felt throughout our AC Community – and the world.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Paul and would like to share that exchange with you. Grab a cup of coffee, (or what it is that you prefer) comfortably settle in your chair, and read on to take a trip into the Clerihew King’s world:
Q: What formal schooling/training have you had?
Paul Rance: Educated to college level, up to A-Level, which is the next step below a degree here in the UK.
Q: Could you name a few publications/websites besides AC where your work has appeared?
Paul Rance: Well, a lot of my writings appear on my booksmusicfilmstv.com website, which I began in 2005, and I’ve just started an art and photography site. I had a column in British small press publications Rattler’s Tale and Gaia News for a time. My poetry has appeared in British publications such as First Time,The White Rose, The Diggers’ Magazine, T.O.P.S., Black on White, and Yahoo! (an ’80s fanzine, not the web giant!), an Arrival Press anthology, and a lot of obscure fanzines and underground publications. Also had an article in Poetry Now. I really gave up poetry writing from the late ’80s, as I began concentrating on publishing other people, and also concentrated on writing lyrics for musical projects. I was also concentrating on selling art prints in the early ’90s, some of which I’ve put up on Associated Content. My small publishing business, Peace & Freedom Press, which I co-founded with Andrew Bruce, went full time in 1991, and has published several paperback poetry anthologies, and two magazines: Peace & Freedom (which I started in 1985) and Eastern Rainbow (which began in 1992).
I’ve only really starting looking to write poetry again since early 2009 (I thought my own creative work had been neglected, because I was too busy promoting other people), and only decided to place it on Associated Content. Helium have accepted several of my articles, but I just seem more into AC — because of the variety of creative stuff it accepts. I had music on mp3.com with my Peace & Freedom Band, and some solo electronica work — all around the year 2000. Got a coupla CDs done. Was on quite a few other mp3 sites, but most have bitten the dust. A Barcelona radio station played half of one of our albums straight off, and my/our music has also been on several American radio stations, mainly in California, and one in Berlin. Seattle underground label Missing Link Music also released one of our tapes.
I suppose one of my biggest claims to fame was on a British radio station, Talk Radio. I just sent in some silly letters to this sports programme, and they started getting read out. The show was hosted by former NME journos Danny Baker and Danny Kelly. Baker’s quite a well-known TV presenter in the UK, and he said of me: “He’s not a mainstream man”, which, though probably unintended as such, I took as a compliment! He also reckoned it was one of his showbiz writer pals secretly writing in, which was a compliment, but also a pain as I was struggling financially at the time! Fellow Peace & Freedom Band member Angelo Gravity topped me, though, by being on a TV show. He’d kept quiet about it, so a bit surreal seeing him going mental with his keyboard….
Q: What do you prefer more, the creative process of writing, creating music, or making visual art? Why?
Paul Rance: It depends what ‘clicks’. If I get something right pretty quickly, then that’s enjoyable. Or even if I know it’s something that will take a long time, but everything flows, then that’s okay, too. I get mad if things aren’t going well… It’d be TVs out of the window, but I’m not a rock star, so I can’t afford to do that!
Q: When did you realize that you indeed had a knack for writing poetry?
Paul Rance: In my late teens. Something must have stuck when I was at school, certainly the war poet Wilfred Owen, underlined by my maternal grandfather’s experiences in the hell of the trenches of World War One, which affected him late in life. My little black cat, Lucky, got killed by a car, and I put my emotional distress into a positive form, and a lot of poetry came out of that in 1980. I remember playing Public Image Limited’s “Theme” very often, with the line repeated over and over: “And I wish I could die.” Things have always affected me too deeply for my own good, certainly deaths and relationship break-ups. But who wants to be an unfeeling bastard?
Q: I must say that you are quite the Renaissance Man, Paul. You have managed to successfully live a creative life and have generously made it a mission of yours to give recognition to other creative beings. Was there ever a time when you weren’t so creative and immersed in the arts?
Paul Rance: Senior school (in the UK that’s the ages of 11-16) I didn’t flourish at all. It was the start of my rebellious nature kicking in. I used to play truant a lot in my last year, preferring having a game of soccer with some similarly disillusioned pals, or signing in and then going off to London for a trip (about 35 miles away from Luton, where I lived). I had a job as an accounts clerk, but walked out of that, and bought The Beatles’ White Album with the pay off. Probably an idea to have a job lined up first, but I was only 17…. Just had the odd job here and there over the years. 9 to 5 and me just don’t really mix. My Dad was a creative guy, and rebellious in a quiet way, and so I got that from him.
Q: Do you attend poetry readings in your neck of the woods in Great Britain and are they as dreadful as they are here in the states?
Paul Rance: No, my last event was years ago. I heard a couple bitching, at a poetry convention, about some work of mine and a friend’s, but to my face they were all creepingly insincere. Also had a performance poet banging on for the best part of an hour. He was giving it everything, but he was hogging things a bit…. Met some interesting people, but I’ve never been one to belong to ‘a scene’. Scenes can become a bit too insular for my liking. Though I am in several groups of like-minded people, it’s slightly different to being part of a scene, I think. Don’t you all dress alike and stuff!
Q: Have you ever written or created artwork while inebriated?
Paul Rance: I shon’t shthink sooo. Not artwork, but other things. My review of the Jools Holland’s Hootenanny. Oh, definitely recorded music when drunk, though I’m not a big drinker. Drink’s good for doing a raucous chorus! Did a thrash punk vocal once. Must have been really bladdered, as I’m a quiet boy…. It’s on the net somewhere. MySpace….
Q: What profession other than the one that you are successfully in now would you like to attempt? What did you want to be when you were a child?
Paul Rance: Had thoughts of being a veterinary surgeon, but putting animals down would have destroyed me. Had a veterinary lady come back with the body of my beloved Apricot last September, and she looked ravaged, saying: “It’s been a really bad day. So MANY animals in great distress.” So, no, couldn’t do that.
Q: What age were you when you realized that you were an atheist and how has this realization influenced your life and work?
Paul Rance: I suppose when I stopped saying my prayers. I don’t want to upset people. If you believe in the power of prayer, then I respect that. Prayers have just never saved my dying family members and pets. One of my best friends, Doug, died at the age of 15. He was a kind boy, but died a horrible death. Where was God for him? I just don’t buy into the concept of religion either. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha were all good men, but people often distort their teachings for their own ends. An example: The Bible says: “An eye for an eye” re capital punishment, but Jesus said: “Forgive them”, and if you’re a Christian, then how can you support capital punishment? You’re following the teachings of Jesus, right?
After my Dad died, my Mother and I were invited to the local church. But most of the people there were all well-off with flash cars, and so with good reason to “thank the Lord”. I wonder how many of ’em give to charity. As long as you’re kind I don’t care what your faith is. I wouldn’t say not believing in organized religion has really influenced my work, though. I’m not going to bash Christians or Jews or Muslims, or people who don’t agree with my leftie political views, but I will bash unkind people — even if they’re atheists! That’s how, ultimately, I judge people — kindness.
Q: Do you feel that atheists are misunderstood and unfairly judged? If yes, why do you think this is so in society? Why do you think people find it hard to believe that when atheists do good deeds they do so simply because it is the right thing to do for humanity and not ultimately to procure a place for themselves in heaven?
Paul Rance: I don’t think, here in the UK, atheists are despised or anything. I know it’s a bit more difficult for atheists and agnostics in the US. It’s ridiculous to look down on anyone just because they don’t believe in the same spiritual things as you do. People are often sheeple. They go with whatever seems popular. I think you’ve knocked the nail on the head there, in that some Christians are just keen to get a place in Heaven. What’s wrong with doing something for the sake of kindness itself? But the downside of being a secular nation is that the things that have replaced religion have no value at all. Young British women seem absolutely obsessed with celebrity culture. I can’t stand celebrities who wear fur, for instance, but fur-wearing celebs are still idolized — just because they’re celebrities. Morality has been trodden underfoot by the god of celebrity. A lot of celebs aren’t good human beings or role models. Nobody speaks out against ’em, because the media is populated by creeps, desperate to preserve their careers!
Q: I know that you are a man of peace . . . but what is the number one thing that makes your blood boil with anger?
Paul Rance: Cruelty to man or beast. I think the way we live has to be looked at. A lot of our clothes comes from Third World sweatshops, for instance, and meat often comes from animals kept in disgusting conditions. But most people are selfish, I’m afraid.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do during your down time? (I can just feel all the male readers here smirking & laughing at this one! I mean something besides surfing internet porn, fellas!)
Paul Rance: Flicking through my personal fellatio library…. No, listening to music, that’s number one. Oh, playing with my cats would top that. I guess we sometimes take ’em for granted.
Q: Who is your hero and why?
Paul Rance: I suppose I don’t have any heroes now. We all have feet of clay. I respect Morrissey a great deal. He’s making music, which is as good now, at 50, as when he was younger, I feel, and he’s still as uncompromising as ever, and still compassionate.
Q: Who do you utterly detest the most? Why?
Paul Rance: Detest is a strong word, but probably Gordon Ramsay. Not because he’s more evil than a lot of other people, but it’s the way all the media suck up to him that infuriates me. He’s a nasty bully to people, i.e. calling members of his own staff “c**ts’, he’s cruel to animals, he dislikes vegetarians, and I dislike him. I guess if I was ever in the same soccer match as him (Gordon also exaggerated how successful he was as a soccer player), my Attila the Hun side would come out…. Don’t like many politicians, and I don’t like the British Royal Family — cruel to animals. I don’t like racists or any type of bigot, either.
Q: What five literary works should every human be required to read, if you had any say in the matter?
Paul Rance: Watership Down, A Tale of Two Cities, Wind in the Willows, 1984, and Animal Farm.
Q: What achievement of yours are you proudest of?
Paul Rance: I’m not one to rest on my laurels. I’ve published hundreds of poets and writers. Some have gone on to really big things. I published a guy called Henry Normal in the late ’80s, and if you Google him, you’ll see he’s done very well for himself. Also promoted a lot of humanitarian/animal welfare/environmental causes, so I’d be interested to know how much money I’ve sent their way!
Q: What would you say to someone in their high school years who asks you for advice in embarking on a writing career?
Paul Rance: Do it, because you’re into writing for its own sake, and be patient. A number of great authors have taken years and years before they’ve been acclaimed. Everyone’s got different opinions, so being rejected doesn’t mean you’re no good. But be dispassionate about your work. Don’t delude yourself. Be thorough about your work, too.
Q: What is your favorite quote or mantra?
Paul Rance: “Do as you would be done by”. You can’t expect people to be nice to you, if you’re not nice to them. But if you are nice, then you should expect niceness in return! Though I would qualify that a bit. I mean if Osama bin Laden was nice to me, I’d just tell him to “clear off”!
Christine Bruness’ interview with Paul Rance that concluded on March 3, 2010.
Paul Rance’s Associated Content Contributor Page: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/435106/paul_rance.html.
Paul Rance’s “Lincolnshire Yellowbelly; Clerihew Tutorial” published February 21, 2010 on Associated Content: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2722715/lincolnshire_yellowbelly_clerihew_clerihew.html?cat=42.
Paul Rance’s Website: http://www.booksmusicfilmstv.com/.
(Please also see the “Resources” section for more links.)