Poetry in motion

If poetry is the new rock 'n' roll, MURRAY LACHLAN YOUNG is the new Elvis. Why else would he be wearing a Silver jumpsuit? Words: Jonathan Trew Photograph: Gavin Evans

‘WELL I SAW Fizzy Sipworth last Saturday night and her eyes seemed to blaze with a wonderful light. I said, “Fizzy, my darling, you look quite divine”. She said, “You would too, if you’d just had a line.” Simply everybody is taking cocaine.’

Murray Lachlan Young, 28, is a poet and he is standing in a spotlight in New York’s CBGB’s performing a showcase to the American music industry’s big shots. The room is full of the people who make things happen: the movers and shakers, fakers and takers, fast talkers and tall walkers, 24-hour party people who are probably no strangers to the odd line of Colombian nose-candy. They like Murray Lachlan Young. Even if he is satirising the world in which they move.

'I went out on stage in a silver jumpsuit and said: "Hi, I’m Kylie Minogue", and this middle-aged woman started throwing stuff at me. But eventually, I came out on top.’

Murray Lachlan Young

In fact right now, everybody likes Murray Lachlan Young. He recently secured a sponsorship deal with MTV, plus music and book publishing deals. A run on Broadway is mooted, he has a two-year recording deal with FM] UK, he has a clothing deal and his debut album Vice And Verse has just been released. Murray Lachlan Young stands to pull in around £1 million in the next couple of years.

Good going for a young man producing an art form which usually leaves its practitioners penniless. It’s an old publishing maxim that there are more people writing poetry in Britain than reading it. but Young seems to have struck gold. Yet although he is currently riding the tiger of the fatally fashionable scene, meeting all the right people and living the high-flying lifestyle he pokes fun at, he denies really being a part of it all.

‘How dare you.’ he cackles happily. ‘Any satirist that puts himself in a category above what he does is probably on a loser. You can only understand things if you get involved with them. The key is not to go too far or you can get lost without a trace and that’s nearly happened to me a few times. I’ve gone into my sociological observer participant mode and found myself very close to losing my soul.’

The line between Murray Lachlan Young the performer and Murray Lachlan Young the person is a blurry one. ‘l’m a big fan of alter egos and have had quite a few of them in my time.’ he explains. ‘On stage, I’m trying to make it more Murray Lachlan Young at the moment. It used to be a distinct character that I put on. The poet is essentially a character, but a good one, and it’s built from the fibres of me.’

Born in Washington DC of an English mother and Scottish father, Young started writing poetry while travelling through the southern states of America before learning his performance skills on a Salford University media performance course. He moved to London and dossed about on the dole for a while, scratching about during the day and ligging his way across the party circuit by night. A series of happy accidents led to Young working on London’s club scene as a surreal game-show compere and good news tarot card reader before reinventing himself as D] Len Sherbet.

While Young did well for himself in Clubland, poetry was always his abiding interest. He started performing at underground poetry clubs in London, his subject matter ranging from the vacuous nature of supermodels to the ridiculous nature of goatee beards, via the lives of the absurdly rich and people who can only reach orgasm by reciting luxury brand names. It dissects modern mores and cuts the feet from under many of the late 20th century’s pretensions. Dramatically delivered, well- observed and clever without being smart-arsed, Young’s poetry is cruelly incisive and tinged with a gothic melodrama. It’s also very funny.

Word spread and Young found himself in the enviable position of selling out Ronnie Scott’s. making numerous TV appearances and signing up with FM]. ln l995 he even played at Scotland’s music festival T in the Park, an experience he describes as the best and worst gig he has ever done.

‘1 went out on stage in a silver jumpsuit and said: “Hi, I’m Kylie Minogue", and this middle-aged woman started throwing stuff at me,’ he remembers wryly. ‘But eventually, I came out on top.’

Fortunately, the silver jumpsuit is nowhere in evidence today. Instead, Young is immaculately dressed in a tailored three-piece suit with a three-quarter-length jacket and a cravat. His hair is shoulder length and fashionany tousled. If Byron were alive today then he would probably want to look like Young.

Although commercial success beckons for Young, he refuses to compromise for it. ‘MTV didn’t know what they wanted when they saw me,’ he


says. ‘They saw this funny bloke wandering about doing poems about being followed by The Rolling Stones. They said, “Murray, about your Rolling Stones poem, we think that the Rolling Stones are a little bit old for our viewership but David Lee Roth is making a comeback at the moment. Would you mind changing your poem to I’m being followed by David Lee Roth?”

‘That’s what I was dealing with at the start. Trying to get across the fact that you can fuck off if you are going to start changing my words.’ snarls Young, for once breaking his habitual veneer of smooth urbanity.

With Young keeping his integrity intact, the world looks as though it could be his oyster.

Vice And Verse: The Poetry Of Murray Lachlan

Young (Fringe) Assembly Rooms (Venue 3).

Edinburgh, 0131 226 2428, until 30 Aug (not

Suns) 8.15pm, USO/£8.50 (£6.50/£7.50). Vice And Verse is out now on EMI.

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'You can fuck off if you are going to start changing my words'

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