Born in 1967 in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, Mat Osman is a founding member and the bassist of English rock band Suede. He studied economics at the London School of Economics, graduating in 1989, the same year Suede were formed. The band’s debut album won the Mercury music prize in 1993 and their latest album, The Blue Hour, was released in 2018 to critical acclaim. His debut novel, The Ruins, a story about two brothers, music and danger, is out now (Repeater Books).
Them (Redfern Gallery, London)
This fascinating exhibition was by a group of artists, musicians and party throwers in the 70s, including Derek Jarman, Duggie Fields and Andrew Logan. There’s an artist featured who died young called Luciana Martinez de la Rosa – her collages and paintings are amazing. They’re hugely stealable as album covers – so vibrant and human. I’d never heard of the group before, because they got wiped out by punk, so the show is almost like an alternative British history. I’m a sucker for lost artists and one-hit wonders; people who make something beautiful and then just disappear.
You’d think a show about vampires would be all about power, but What We Do in the Shadows is about a group of people just trying to get by. It’s a TV remake of a film by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi about suburban vampires in New York City. They’re living a boring life, until an ancient vampire from the old country arrives and announces a plan to take over Staten Island. But the vampires are hapless. They try to recruit people, but fail miserably. It’s funny and charming. Matt Berry plays a 1,000-year-old sex maniac, and it’s the best he’s ever been.
When I was writing The Ruins, I couldn’t find many good books written by musicians. Then I found this by John Darnielle from the indie band Mountain Goats. It’s about a guy who lives in rural Iowa in the 90s and works at a VHS store. Customers keep returning the videos as strange scenes have been recorded over them. He then sets out to find out who is responsible. It has the most exquisite sense of place and time and is genuinely unsettling. It would make an amazing film or TV programme. It could be a slower, darker sequel to Stranger Things.
This is about a group of students who build a tunnel under the Berlin wall to get East German families into the west. It’s a documentary and it’s insanely tense; there are mines, the roof collapses and the tunnel floods. I was driving and I pulled over three or four times, because I couldn’t get the next episodes to stream. I was standing in every service station between Manchester and Birmingham with my phone in the air, trying to download the next episode, as I had to find out what happened next. It’s thrilling and beautifully done.
I discovered Bohren & der Club of Gore a few years ago and they are the strangest band. They make incredibly slow German supper-club jazz, completely wordless. It must come in at 30 beats per minute. I’ve never heard anything slower. It’s absolutely glorious. They did a record called Piano Nights, which I’ve listened to the most. They’ve made six albums and they’re all great, but it is cough syrup music. I’ve played it to so many people and 90% think it’s boring, very samey, but 10% go absolutely nuts about it.
The one place that I always take foreign visitors to in London is the Vault, a bar on Greek Street in Soho. It’s fabulous. Incredible staff who really know their stuff. The bar is downstairs through a bookcase. It’s like Hogwarts with hard liquor. There’s a really nice crowd in there, too. It’s not expensive or snobby and still has that Soho vibe where people talk to each other. It’s one of the few places you can say hello to a stranger. It’s woody and dark, exactly the kind of place you want to spend an afternoon when it gets dark at four.