My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who dreams of a deckchair.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/ Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal."
MENK 29: OUT OF CONTROL
I’ve been up all night writing bullshit about nonsense and my head feels like fist-sized chunks of wedding cake falling apart in a cement mixer. My mouth has been the recipient of a coffee enema. There are spam-coloured udders of face flesh hanging under my sepia-toned eyeballs, and the rimy red sockets that they sit in have lost all their spatial integrity. If I sneeze right now my eyes are in danger of plopping out onto my cheeks and hanging there like the decorative baubles on a serial killer’s Christmas tree. How long have I been sat in this chair? My piles have got piles. When I started drinking all that Coca-Cola seven hours ago I felt amazing but now my internal organs are throbbing with toxic disgust. I feel like unlucky Pierre from that film The Human Centipede in a closed circuit of poisonous uptake. Christ alive, I’m fucking tired. I keep on seeing holographic Tupac at the perimeter of my field of vision sipping tea from a mug and giving me a withering look. But there’s no time for bed now. I only have an hour or so before I have to go to The Quietus.
There’s an art to writing all night long and it’s an art I don’t have. My friend Curley had it nailed at one point but I never did.
“Get in from the pub and turn your computer on. Open a bottle of wine and take your first sip as you make the first key stroke,” he would tell me. “NOT BEFORE! NOT AFTER! BUT AT THE EXACT SAME SECOND AS THE FIRST STROKE! If you start drinking even a few minutes earlier, you’ll just fuck it off and get hammered instead.”
Once he had to write the entire news section of X Gamer magazine overnight, and he managed to do it with only one or two of the stories ending up reading like nonsense. Somewhere around 4AM, seven large glasses of cabernet sauvignon in, his juices must have been really flowing as he unleashed a masterful potato metaphor, the like of which the world had never seen before and has probably never seen since.
He began by saying that racing games were like the humble spud – a staple so basic that there are limits to how much culinary trickery can do to embeliish it. TOCA (Touring Car Racing) were about to release a new game called Racing Driver, but this one came complete with a narrative that was “a tale of romance, drama and revenge”. Curley then asked the reader to imagine a bored housewife dressing a series of baked potatoes in miniature tuxedos to illustrate the pointlessness of the game’s narrative. The foodstuff had been pushed beyond breaking point by decorative fuckwittery. His news piece concluded along the following lines: “Romance? In a driving sim? It’s fucking ridiculous! And if TOCA serve us up a baked potato in a tuxedo then heads are going to roll!”
It really was something to behold, back in the days when no one and nothing were standing between Curley’s fizzing 5AM mind and his readership. You couldn’t necessarily trust his word on anything, though. He’s been homeless six times. And one of those times happened when he was on holiday in Ibiza. I still to this day am not even sure how one can even become homeless on holiday but he managed it.
I’m not a maverick like Curley, though. I just have to keep on plodding on, drinking more and more coffee and Coca-Cola until the job is done. And once in a while that means working right through. It’s impossible for me to deploy the tactical kip these days. I’ve injured something deep in my subconscious. There is a jagged tear in my soul. A five-minute snooze on the sofa carries a high risk of me simply being thrust through a portal into a deleted scene from Hellraiser 3 or Event Horizon. It’s better to not go to sleep at all. I go and lie on the couch but the whistle of the ever-present tinnitus starts doing my head in. I can remember with great clarity, buying a copy of Psychocandy by the Jesus And Mary Chain when it came out and listening to it over and over again, thinking to myself: “This is amazing! I wish everything sounded like this!”
Be careful what you wish for, dickhead.
Through the sheets of white noise, though, my hearing is still pretty sharp. Something falls through the letterbox in the hallway onto the mat. I leap off the couch. (And by this I mean, I roll off the couch and eventually get to my feet.) Then I run into the hallway. There is a red "you were out" Post Office card lying on the floor.
I yank open the door. A substitute postie is motoring away from me at a rate of many knots per second.
“Postie! What’s this slip for? I was in man. You didn’t knock.”
He pretends not to hear me and keeps on going. He’s only yards away from the corner where he’ll be home free so I yell the same thing again at the top of my lungs.
He turns round slowly, shaking with rage and shouts: “It. Was. The. FUCKING DRIVERS!” Before turning round and walking off angrily out of sight.
It was the fucking drivers? What does that even mean? I’m angry because I allowed myself to be temporarily bedevilled by a random collection of words spoken by a man wearing shorts, but this turns into inchoate rage when I realise what the missed parcel is. It’s a vinyl copy of Warmaster by Bolt Thrower I won off eBay.
LAZY CRACKHEAD MOTHERFUCKER!
Something that he has actually managed to deliver, however, is Don’t Think, the new Chemical Brothers live DVD. I lie on the couch, pick Little John up and put him sitting on my chest pointing at the telly so he can watch it with me. He seems entranced by it and likes the clown who says: “You are all my children now.”
“What you have to remember,” I tell him, “is that the clown isn’t literally your father, merely a psychedelic father substitute.”
But he just gurgles and hits me in the eye with the remote control.
The Chems’ awesome lightshow features an army of cockroaches climbing out of the stage, up the walls and right across the roof and crowds. On screen, people are going mad for it, freaking out at the little light bugs but it just makes me think of the bad flat.
Even though I didn’t know it at the time I used to live on the same street as The Chemical Brothers back when they were The Dust Brothers. The Dickenson Road/ Birch Grove area of Longsight, Manchester was a pretty realistic neighbourhood back in 1994/1995. They told me once (later, during an interview) that they went out raving one weekend and when they got back, people had broken into their flat and stolen the floor. All the basement flats in the area had heavy stone flagged floors. (As did ours.) They said it didn’t stop them from having some pretty righteous but muddy house parties later that year.
We simply shouldn’t have moved into our flat, but it was borne out of necessity and opportunity. Our old flat in Burnage was getting turned over on a monthly basis and this one was standing empty. Our drug dealer Pete Dailor who had previously lived there had suffered some sort of nervous breakdown and had vacated it in a rush. It sounds like it was bad form, but to be honest, we didn’t really like him that much. He wasn’t even a good drug dealer. All he ever had was shit cannabis resin. He had no work ethic but he did have a large menagerie of exotic insects. Occasionally he would turn up at our house brandishing a cassette. He recorded his insects eating and would then ask if he could play the cassette on our stereo because it had an LED graphic equalizer on it. He could sit there for ages listening to this monotonous clicking sound, staring at the shifting fields of red and green rectangles of light.
Being quite mentally effervescent, he attracted rumour and urban myth like a bad story magnet but we managed to boil down some of the actual facts about him. He’d moved to Manchester to study zoology at the MET in 1991 but got kicked off his course for doing unnecessary homework. Basically, he got busted for taking four zebra legs home with him (one of the things left in the house when we moved in was a very heavy work bench and a bunch of G clamps and saws). Davy said he had answered the door one night naked apart from a blood spattered apron, but Davy was a lying cunt, so I’m not sure about this. He had a live-in girlfriend who sort of kept him on the straight and narrow but then she got pregnant. She asked Dailor to stop spending all of his spare time sitting in the dark smoking pot listening to his giant millipede having its lunch and to start getting the flat ready for the new arrival. When he refused to get with the programme she left and he deteriorated quite quickly.
It was good fun moving into the loon’s flat at first. He had a first-rate collection of oil paintings of communist leaders all over the place and a box full of vinyl-laminated drinks coasters with a crude cartoon of a clown holding a saw with his address and phone number (now our address and phone number) printed on them. They also bore the inscription: “Pete Dailor – inventor and children’s entertainer”.
The only insects left in the flat were decidedly unexotic, however. Every day when you woke up, there would be cockroaches everywhere. You couldn’t do anything before removing all of them, which was a depressingly and distressingly Sisyphean task. We got on at the council to do something about them but they just told us to forget it. “Every house in this entire area has them… once they’re in a block forget it…There are more in your flat than average but there’s still nothing we can do.”
After a while, it didn’t matter that the landlord never bothered us for the rent and there was a large portrait of Chairman Mao in the hallway. The idea of the entire street being infested with multitudes of insects was starting to play on my mind. I started having nightmares about Dailor’s girlfriend and what she was pregnant with. I couldn’t be in the flat without a drink in my hand. I’d crack a bottle of sherry the second I got up. I guess it was bothering my flatmate as well as he was on the bong from the second he woke up.
One night after the pub, toward the end of my stay there, there was a bunch of us messing about, jousting in the kitchen. This basically consisted of us getting on each others’ shoulders and engaging another pair of combatants with saucepans. When we accidentally knocked the first polystyrene tile out of the false ceiling I didn’t notice the couple of roaches that fell onto the linoleum floor. We started howling and smashing at the roof tiles until someone started screaming because they'd realised they had cockroaches in their hair.
My flatmate was the first to see the large suitcase. We dragged it down and spent ages looking at it. We were totally wasted and buzzing off what it could be… body parts… money… drugs… please let it be drugs!
When we opened it though it was just half-full of cockroaches. Mainly dead but enough still moving that I can still remember what it looked like now.
I lasted another week in the flat. I packed as much stuff as I could carry in a large suitcase and moved down South for good. I left at 8.13AM on a Tuesday morning. My flatmate was taking a break from filling his own suitcase for work when I left. He had another day of selling tat round the alehouses of Greater Manchester ahead of him. Novelty lighters adorned with ganja leaves and gonks for the Granby. King-sized rolling papers with cartoons on them and hash pipes for the Ducie. Packs of pornographic cards for the Piccadilly Gardens. He didn’t even look up from his bong when I said goodbye and walked out of the door.
Photo by Luke Turner