Robert Duncan brings 70's rock heyday alive in 'Loudmouth'
At 22, famed rock writer Robert Duncan was the managing editor of legendary Creem magazine working alongside his friend Lester Bangs in Detroit.
Before that, Duncan had grown up in a dysfunctional family unit, constantly moving around until he found a more permanent home in New York City, bouncing around until he stumbled into the Creem job and into the career that he was always meant to have.
Since then, Duncan has continued to contribute to a number of publications, was the lead singer, songwriter and producer for several rock bands and is the author of The Noise: Notes from a Rock N' Roll Era: KISS and Only the Good Die Young.
Duncan currently lives with his wife, the rock photographer Roni Hoffman, outside San Francisco.
Now, Duncan is promoting his latest creation, his debut novel Loudmouth, a fictionalized version of his own tumultuous life story that both pulls on the heart strings and provides a belly full of laughs.
Loudmouth tells the tale of Thomas Ransom, who is born to a severely dysfunctional southern family and transplanted to New York City where he is left to his own devices by his neglectful parents.
He spends much of his childhood idolizing his criminally-inclined half brother and finding his own way in a city that provides a crash course in rock and punk and the ways in which they intersect with the larger historical events permeating the seventies era.
Duncan says that he went down the fiction route for his memoirs because, "Musicians talk about being in the zone and rappers have a flow and athletes too for that matter, and I just wanted to keep that going. If I had to verify every fact that I remember or misremembered, it would really f*ck up my flow. And then, it also gave me a way to protect the innocent people who I wanted to diss or just use something from their lives. I didn’t want to give them heart attacks!"
He went on to share, "Mainly, I just didn’t want to be looking over my shoulder at the facts or the case as it may be. I remembered an amazing amount and kind of got into a trance while writing the book, but I didn’t remember everything and I couldn’t imagine how to research any of it. Also, in my life, I moved around a lot over my formative years, and as I was writing the book, it would be like, well here I went to New York and then I’m out in Detroit and then I’m here and there and I was thinking, god damn, I’m boring myself! I decided to leave some of that part out and pretend a certain scene that may have happened in San Franciso in my real life happened in New York so I didn’t have to move my character."
When asked if anything surprised him when he was digging into his memories, he said that there was quite a bit that he unearthed and had forgotten about, "I remembered a lot about my older brother and a version of him is in the book. He was a Hot Rod gangster guy and he was much older than me. He was my half-brother and I was remembering so much about him and he had died many years ago, but so much was flooding back to me and that was really fascinating for me to read. To be able to find things in your memory you just didn’t know were there is pretty cool."
Duncan says that if he had to choose one interview over the years that was his personal favorite and best represented that era for him, he pointed to his interview with Bruce Springsteen, which is also featured in the Loudmouth book, "This was a guy who really wanted to engage on an authentic, deeper level. He was definitely selling tickets and records, but we really hit it off and the tour went through New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi, so it was a Southern tour in the late 70’s and it was the age of the Darkness on the Edge of Town, and that, to me at least, was probably my favorite and best interview that I did."
"It had that southern feel to it and I was walking around New Orleans with Clarence Clemons and some cop came over and hassled us because he was black and accused us of walking out on a check at a restaurant. He really wanted to haul Clarence in and it was incidents like that that stood out."
Duncan also touched on the correlation between environment and history when he spoke about his short time living in the Detroit area while working for Creem, "I wrote about this in the book, but Creem had so much to with Detroit. I was in New York looking at it as just a Detroit magazine, which wasn't completely true, but it definitely had that Detroit feel to it. The heart and soul of Creem had a lot to do with the heart and soul of Detroit. When I was living there, I found it to be a really singular place with its own special culture and people and history. That environment really does form so much."
Duncan says he will definitely be putting out more fiction in the future and has been working on another novel set in the Los Angeles art scene of the late fifties and early sixties.
Loudmouth is onsale everywhere now and available at all online booksites. A audio version of the book read by Duncan is also available at Amazon and on Apple. You can also learn more about the book at Duncan's website here. There is a newsletter there that you can subscribe to to hear about everything that the author has going on.