Last Writes with… the co-hosts of Vayse Podcast (@VayseesyaV)

The premise of LAST WRITES is simple. Our guests face their final rest, but before Death claims them they are granted a few parting earthly pleasures, the memories of which will travel with them into the great unknown. What makes these questions appealing and insightful for me is that these are not necessarily our guests favorite things, but those they most want to experience one last time before they shuffle off this mortal coil.



Buckley and Hine are co-hosts of one of my favorite podcasts — Vayse. For those interested in the strange and unusual, as I certainly am (and suspect you are as well or else you wouldn’t be here), Vayse approaches high strangeness, magic, and mysticism head on and without pretense. The call themselves novices and “enthusiastic rookies” as they venture into these depths of the preternatural, but they are brilliant interviewers and their keen insights and interests make the journey one worth taking.

Peter C. Hine’s fascinations with magic are infectious and Stephen J. Buckley is reserved and thoughtful, with his music setting the tone for the adventures these men have set out on… bringing us along with them.

But now their greatest journey is before them and their Last Writes are prepared, so let us bid them a metaphorical fond farewell.



My partner Helen is a fantastic cook, and makes this recipe with plant-based mince, peanut butter, brocolli, and udon noodles. It’s spicy, nutty, and full of umami flavour. I think about it all the time. A massive big bowl of that would be perfect to send me on my way.


This is very tricky, but I think I’m going to pick a recent favourite, which is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I’ve only read it once but it really got under my skin. I don’t want to explain too much about why because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet read it (and you absolutely should). It will probably be a different experience the second time around, but if I could somehow capture that weird feeling it gave me the first time I read it, and take that with me as something to savour, then that would be it.


Since I went with a recent choice for the book, I’m going with an old classic here and picking my favourite film of all time, which is Labyrinth. It’s got it all – strange creatures, alternate dimensions, David Bowie, Muppets… all the boxes ticked. I’ve probably watched it more than any other film – even This Is Spinal Tap, which I’ve watched a LOT. I was obsessed with it as a kid. I used to try to force myself to visit the Labyrinth in my dreams. Something about that place and all it’s strange logic, mystery, and weirdness –  it really appealed to me, and probably had a formative influence on what I enjoy in fantasy works to this day. If I was a millionaire I’d recreate it and live at the center of it. But I’m not. So I’ll just have to make do with watching it before I die and hopefully it will have some influence on where I reside in the afterlife.


Another tough question. Music has been a huge part of my life for the last 30 years, and I’ve picked up a lot of favourite songs along the way. I guess for this I’d want something transcendent and beautiful to guide me into a higher plane, so I’m going to go with Galaxy In Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane. I mean, it’s not technically a “song” because there’s no singing in it, but I’m going to argue that that harp really sings, which makes up for it. I challenge anyone to listen to this with their eyes closed and not feel changed in some way. Beautiful.


Freddie Mercury. He was a big influence on how my life turned out because he was the person who made me want to become a musician, and I too have a mustache. He was also by all accounts a very nice, kind man. So I’d meet up with him, and once I’d got over telling him how great he was, we could make some music together. Normally I’d be intimidated by someone of his God-like status, but I’d hope that having experienced death that I’d be beyond fear and able to just hang out with Freddie without any anxiety.



There’s only one answer I can give to this: Smoky Sesame and Broccoli Noodles.

It’s from a recipe that (Vayse co-host) Buckley shared with me last November and I’ve been making it at least four times a week since, much to the aggravation of my family, who, for some weird reason, value a varied and balanced diet over appeasing my insatiable hunger for this wonderful stuff. It sounds simple, but I just can’t get enough of it. There’s loads of umami in there: tahini and soy sauce – it’s relatively healthy: broccoli and spring onions for vitamins, tofu for protein, chili for fun – it’s the perfect meal.

I’d also demand to prepare it myself too. Ever since I started cooking it I’ve been slowly and incrementally refining the process. Each time I make it I try to make it slightly better than the last time. I’m not much of a chef and I have an extremely limited repertoire, but this is what it must be like to have a specialty. It’s actually one of the reasons I’m sad that death has come to claim me at this particular point in my life – I mean, if I can continue to improve on this recipe each time I make it, who knows where this could lead? What kind of achievements could I unlock? Maybe the perfection of this simple meal was my true purpose in life, my shot at achieving Nirvana – and if that’s true, then it’s essential that I have one last attempt at making it. My very liberation from attachment and worldly suffering could depend on it.Delicious.


I guess the first stage to answering this question is: do I re-read something that I’ve already read, whichI usually find to be a waste of time, or do I try something new, taking the gamble that it could be awful and I go to my grave without satisfaction, cursing my own misplaced curiosity? This is the only one of these questions that poses that conundrum – there’s no way my last meal would be something I hadn’t tasted before; I wouldn’t watch a movie I’d never seen before or listen to a song I’d never heard before when facing certain death. But reading’s different isn’t it?

The book I’ve read most often is A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick, but I know it so well now that reading it again seems like throwing away an opportunity. In life I’ve been trying to be a bit more adventurous, to move out of my comfort zone more often and there’s no reason that I shouldn’t also embrace this approach in death.

Then, assuming that I’m going to try something new, the next question is: do I go for fact or fiction? Do I go for one of the “must-read-before-you-die” type novels? Something like Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon or Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I haven’t read either so whichever one I choose, I’m still meeting my end embarrassed to have not read the other.

But if I choose a factual book, I risk reading something dry about a world that I’m shortly leaving. Unless I try to make good with one of the world’s major religions, perhaps by reading the Bible, or the Qur’an,maybe one of the four Vedas – but that in itself is a gamble, there’s a lot to choose from and I’ve never put much stock in any single one of them being 100% correct. This soul may well be beyond saving anyway.

So, that just leaves comic books, obviously. I trust you to back me on this Bob, comic books are definitely real books, no-one could read the Watchmen or Transmetropolitan or Preacher and not think that. I recently started reading the Invisibles by Grant Morrison – having not read the Invisibles is one embarrassment that I’m not prepared to carry with me to the next life – so my choice would be the omnibus edition of the Invisibles. It’s really incredible so far, I can’t believe I never read it until now.It has the indie cred of Infinite Jest but the ontological weight of the Bible (don’t bother fighting me on this I’ll be dead soon anyway). I like to think that by the time I finish it I’ll have a new (perhaps even more cynical) perspective on life and death. Plus, it looks beautiful, I could spend eternity just staring at some of Brian Bolland’s cover art.

And it’s long – really long – and I’m not a particularly fast reader, so that may buy me a few extra days to make peace (or to wage war – I’ll be guided by Mr. Morrison on that).


Ghostbusters is my knee-jerk reaction to this question, the no-thought lizard-brain answer, because it’s objectively the best movie ever made.But giving this a moment’s thought, Ghostbusters might not be the best movie for this situation – perhaps I need something a little more sympathetic to the plight of the recently deceased. Ghostbusters is totally black and white in its view that the unquiet dead are something to be battled, captured and incarcerated. That might be a little hard to stomach when facing my own mortality.

The temptation is to watch something profound, a movie that can really tell me something about the cycle of life and death, the nature of existence and what it really means to be human – maybe The Fountain or Inception or Bladerunner. But that’s all bit heavy really isn’t it? There’s always the laugh-out-loud movies, like This Is Spinal Tap, Monty Python and the Holy Grail or The Big Lebowski, but going straight for the laughs just seems a little hollow at this late stage in my life.

All things considered, the winner has to be Beetlejuice – it’s a comfort watch, it’s funny, it’s weird and the performances are all great.It dates back to a time when the release of a Tim Burton movie meant something, before the endless re-makes and diminished returns. Nothing looked like Beetlejuice when it was released, and nothing really looks like it now – often imitated never bettered.

And the music! One of Danny Elfman’sfinest scores, early enough in his career that you can still hear the Oingo Boingo clinging to every crazy kinetic phrase but by this point he’s self-assured enough to go way out there and have fun with it.The result is a psychedelic Danse Macabre, absolutely mesmerising to listen to and more than a little responsible for the unique atmosphere of the film. And the use of the Harry Belafonte songs feels original and funny even on the hundredth watch.

But I think that the real reason I’d chose this movie over any other as my last watch is that it’s genuinely sympathetic to the plight of the recently deceased, not only that but, ultimately, it’s also optimistic about death and what waits on the other side, however strange and unusual that might turn out to be. Which is just the reassurance I need as I take the leap into the great unknown.


This feels like the hardest of these questions, certainly the one that troubled me the most, but the answer was always going to be “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. I say “by Jimi Hendrix” because he honest to gods made that song his own. There’s no doubt some strands of DNA from Dylan’s original are still knocking about in there somewhere,but the Hendrix version is a much more evolved beast.

Guitars shouldn’t sound like that. Music shouldn’t sound like that. This song feels more like a magical ritual than a piece of music.Hendrix often seemed to be drawing on something mystical, shamanic.It’s easy to see that he’s channeling something when you watch videos of him playing live but, for me, this is the closest that he gets on record.

From the first bar, like a knock at the door before it’s kicked down, to the last,carried away on a maelstrom of swirling vocals and frantic lead guitar, this tune has always reminded me of crossing over to the other side – or at least going on some kind of transcendental journey (see also the finale to season 3 of Battlestar Galactica). It’s so urgent and propulsive and he packs so much into just four minutes – all those crazy solos! And it’s one of his finest vocal performances too, I’ve often heard people say that Hendrix wasn’t a great singer – but his voice on this track is undeniable.

At this late hour, I don’t want to be listening to anything too melancholic, nothing that will make me contemplate my mistakes or regrets, I just want something that makes me feel really fucking cool. If I can cross the River Styx with All Along the Watchtower playing in my head then I’ve died a happy man.


This is a kid-in-a-candy-shop kind of question – the choice to meet anyone who’s gone before me?! That’s a lot of really great people to choose from. I’m going to have to hope that dying cures social awkwardness.

The one that first springs to mind would be Philip K Dick, I’d love to pick that massive, magnificent, frazzled brain -“So Phil, VALIS – what’s that all about?” I actually like to think he found some peace on the other side and so I probably shouldn’t be bothering him with my fanboy nonsense.

There are too many possibilities to run through here: do I talk politics with Bill Hicks? Get a guitar lesson from Hendrix? Ask Mark Lanegan to read me some JG Ballard? Ask JG Ballard to read me some JG Ballard?! But they say that you should never meet your heroes, and in life I’ve found that to be true, so I see no reason why it shouldn’t be true in death.

The truth is that I’ve cheated a bit on this answer (you’ve got to let me have one!) because I know that Buckley has also answered these questions and shuffled loose this mortal coil too. If I can find Buckley on the other side then we’re quorate for Vayse and there’s podcasts to be made, plentiful ultra-terrestrials to be interviewed and a whole new dimension full of weird stuff to be explored – and I’m guessing that I finally have a good enough excuse to not be in work on Monday morning!

Well, that was something else. Great responses, as I fully expected, from these chaps. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure, you need to make Vayse an important part of your podcast routine. And, while you’re at it, Stephen James Buckley’s music is well worth your time. I became an instant fan. You can check him out on his Polypores bandcamp page.

Soon, I’ll be a gust of Vayse, speaking through the magic of the internet across the great Atlantic pond that separates us. Hopefully they’ll take pity on me.

Please remember to tune in each Wednesday as we raise up another departed guest on our hypothetical funeral pyre so that they might express their Last Writes. See you next week.

One Response to “Last Writes with… the co-hosts of Vayse Podcast (@VayseesyaV)”

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