David Keenan

David Keenan (born April 1971) is a Scottish author, critic and musician. He is the author of England's Hidden Reverse, a biography of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse with Wound, a regular contributor to The Wire since 1995. He used to run Volcanic Tongue. His novel For the Good Times won the 2019 Gordon Burn Prize.[1]

David Keenan
David Keenan, 2019. Meeting with writers from the UK in All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature.
Background information
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, author


Keenan was a founding member of 18 Wheeler although he left after their second single and didn't appear on any albums. He played on the same bill as Oasis at their debut gig at King Tut's Wah-Wah Hut in Glasgow in May 1993, where Oasis were signed to Creation Records by Alan McGee and supported them on several early tours. He later formed Telstar Ponies and Phantom Engineer. From 1997 through 1998 he was a producer at XFM Radio in London, where he was responsible for the daytime and early evening programming, producing shows by Claire Sturgess and Keith Cameron while also presenting shows himself and collaborating with Ricky Gervais on various live, improvised sketches. It is rumoured that Gervais' character of Gareth Keenan in The Office was named after him as a back-handed tribute. In 1998 Sophie Ellis-Bextor's first group, The Audience, dedicated a track to him on the B-side of their "A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed" single, entitled "Bells For David Keenan". Until 2008 he was a member of Taurpis Tula alongside Heather Leigh Murray and Alex Neilson (collaborator with Jandek, Will Oldham and Richard Youngs) and played alongside Neilson as Tight Meat Duo, who often expanded to a trio with the addition of bassist George Lyle. In November 2007, the trio undertook a UK tour in collaboration with US musician Sonny Simmons, playing as a quartet throughout. In February 2008, he performed at the Instal festival playing a three-hour set in a one-off group which featured Alan Silva, Razorlight, Incapacitants and Don Dietrich of Borbetomagus, amongst others. Over the years he has collaborated with players such as John Olson (Wolf Eyes), drummer Chris Corsano, Acid Mothers Temple (as part of the group Rebel Powers), bassists John Edwards and Margarida Garcia, saxophonist Paul Flaherty, Richard Youngs, Pete Doherty, Matthew Valentine, Mirror, drummers Paul Hession, Sabu Toyozumi and Ben Hall and Japanese psychedelic group Suishou no Fune. Keenan has also issued four chapbooks of poetry, published by the American small press Kendra Steiner Editions. Two are solo works: Just Another High and High All The Time. A third, More Ragas, is a collaboration with Texas poet Bill Shute and a tribute/sequel to the 1959 book Ragas by David Meltzer. The most recent chapbook, published in December 2006, is Voluntary Quicksand (In Memory of Richard Brautigan), a collaboration with Shute and with Byron Coley. In 2008 Keenan announced that he was winding up his musical activities in order to focus exclusively on his writing. He is rumoured to be currently at work on a second history of the UK underground experimental music scene entitled Crime Calls for Night, as well as his debut novel.

His work for The Wire has been highly influential, helping to focus the magazine more towards coverage of new experimental rock, noise, folk, industrial and psychedelic music. His most frequently cited article is a cover story that appeared in the August 2003 issue entitled "New Weird America", where Keenan coined the phrase 'Free Folk', later bastardised to include 'Freak Folk' and 'Wyrd Folk' and used to describe everyone from Jack Rose and Charalambides through Devendra Banhart. He has presented several lectures on Free Folk and Industrial Culture in venues such as The Sage at Gateshead and the Colour Out Of Space event in Brighton. He also curated the Subcurrent festival, which ran for several years in Glasgow. In 2005 he was the creative consultant for the Instal festival, having retired from a similar position with Stirling's Le Weekend festival after a 5-year tenure.During the late-90s through the early 2000s, Keenan was the Jazz Critic for the Scottish Sunday Herald newspaper. Over the years his work has also appeared in Spiral Scratch (where he was first published in the late-1980s), MXpress, Melody Maker, NME, Mojo, Mojo Collections, Opprobrium, Uncut, The Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal and The Glasgow Herald. He has contributed sleeve notes and press packs to artists such as Throbbing Gristle, Albert Ayler, Ilyas Ahmed, Paul Flaherty & Chris Corsano, Pita and Gary Smith.

A 2009 quote of Keenan cited by Karl Shaw,[2] reproduced in his article in the Wall Street Journal (Review, Sept 24-25 2011), on the Beatles: "The Beatles are the absolute curse of modern Indie music...my favorite Beatle is Yoko Ono; without Yoko's influence, I don't think there would be any Beatles music I could listen to."


  1. Flood, Alison (11 October 2019). "David Keenan's Troubles novel For the Good Times wins Gordon Burn prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  2. Shaw, Karl (2011). 10 Ways to Recycle a Corpse: and 100 More Dreadfully Distasteful Lists. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-307-72040-5.
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