WORDSMITH: Anthony Joseph
ANTHONY JOSEPH is a man of many talents. As well as being a poet, musician, and author he is also, according to the Arts Council, one of the 50 writers who has made major contributions to contemporary British literature.
Juggling his time lecturing at Birkbeck University, writing a new book, Rubber Orchestras and releasing his third album of the same name, the Trinidad-born artist believes running on very little sleep is at the centre of his success.
How do you combine performing, recording an album, studying for a PHD and lecturing?
I don’t know, I just get the work done! I work ‘til about 5 in the morning and so don’t get a lot of sleep. It’s easier because I don’t have 9 to 5.
What inspired your third album?
The album is inspired by many things. Each song has a different vibe, living and working in London, the inner city grime, street side of it. I wanted to move out of myself. My last album was about my life, growing up in Trinidad. I wanted it to be a bit more universal.
What messages are you trying to get out through your music?
Each song has a different vibe, but I focus on the history of black folks, from the ocean to the river to the plantation and revolution. We’ve come all this way, we have to find a way of moving out of the trap of the history, but sometimes society has a way of dragging us back in because it isn’t built for us to move on.
How did you feel when you were recognised as an artist who has made a significant contribution to contemporary British literature?
It’s great; it changed my career. I went from being underground to getting publishers calling me up. It really canonised me into the mainstream British literature culture. It lifted me out of writing in a vacuum and opened a lot of doors.
What are you currently focused on in your PHD?
I’m writing a novel about Lord Kitchener, who came over on the Windrush. I’m from Trinidad and Kitchener was a national treasure; very important for calypso music. He had a similar life to mine, came to England to make his career. People like that are cult heroes, but there is no biography of him.
What’s next for you?
Back into teaching, it’s my long-term plan. I want to stay in academia. Music is great but as you get older, you need an easier, more reliable way to make a living. I don’t need a PHD to tell me I can write but I need it for a good job.
The album Rubber Orchestras is out on October 10 on Naïve