Working with Words: Mikey Cahill

Mikey Cahill writes the ‘Rock City’ column for News Ltd. He reviews and writes about music for Hit, jmag and Inpress, and has twice been a judge for the Australian Music Prize. We spoke to him for this week’s Working with Words, about meeting rock stars, being trolled, and reading adventures with Trainspotting, Martin Flanagan, and a household of junkies.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

Buzz Magazine in Frankston. A Something for Kate article. My tape recorder ran on rechargeable batteries … and I hadn’t charged them up yet. I scrawled notes and quotes and the interview scrubbed up okay. Auspicious start, I think not.

What’s the worst part of your job?


What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

Interviewing/meeting Mike Patton and Beck and Paul Kelly and Daft Punk and Nick Cave and Juliette Lewis and … (keeps talking while everyone leaves the room). Many more which I will tell you all about if you buy me a frangelico and lime on the rocks. Also, my writing has led me to being on The Australian Music Prize judging panel the last two years and the Barry Award panel at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival the last six years. Which is kinda sweeeeeeet.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing?

Write the truest thing you know.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself or your work?

A bit of unsubstantiated mudslinging on Mess+Noise forums, but then I was surprised people stuck up for me and shut a troll down. I didn’t engage, it’s the worst thing you can do.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Working the room.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

It can be taught, definitely. It’s all about finding your voice and then, as Juliette Lewis said: ‘Be loud, be proud!’

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Read, Write, Repeat. Exercise that muscle.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?


If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Grug. His underground lair would be a fine place for a soiree.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Trainspotting was a trip. It is so conversational and has such an incredible liquid flow. My mate Martin Flanagan (the Age) gave me a copy to borrow. I read it, loved it and dropped it back a little red-eyed on the doorstep of what I thought was his house in Carnegie. Three weeks later he got a knock at the door from his neighbours from a few doors down – who were actual junkies, the really friendly and strung-out kind that repeat what they say a lot but are fairly harmless – who said ‘Thanks for the book Martin, we really liked it!’

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