It’s amoral. It’s shocking. It shows human nature at it’s most cruel, manipulative, and selfish. Oh, and it’s written as a how-to book. Talk about taking narrative device to its logical conclusion.

The 48 Laws of Power is my favourite non-fiction book. I’d tell you to read it, but that’s a very arrogant thing for me to do. Instead I will “heartily” recommend it.

I’ve been mining this great tome today for stories to base songs on. It’s not that I want to write a song about Napoleon, then one about Michelangelo, then one about Alexander the Great… but each story (and there are hundreds) illustrates some timeless aspect of human behaviour.

The first story in the book might be my favourite — it’s about Louis XIV’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet. He felt that he was falling out of favour, so he threw an incredibly lavish party in the king’s honour.

The party was such a success that Louis subsequently had Fouquet arrested on trumped up charges (for stealing money on Louis’ behalf!) and sent to live in solitary confinement for the remaining twenty years of his life.

Why? Louis was jealous — people were more impressed by Fouquet and his amazing party than they were about the king himself. Fouquet broke a timeless law of human nature — “Never Outshine The Master.”

I like stories like that. Dark. Exciting. Human. The kind of thing that happens (albeit in smaller ways) every single day. At school, at work, on the bus, in the street.

Anyway, the album is starting to take shape.

It’s a giant thing to do a piece of work like an album or a painting or a novel. The actual work itself is monstrous.

But what about when you can’t even put into words what you’re trying to accomplish? I personally find it much harder to figure out what I’m doing than I do to actually do it.

Part of the problem is that when I was approached by Andrew from Bank Street Arts, I didn’t want to do “just another album”.

The world doesn’t need that. I could write an album tomorrow. But it’d be shit. You wouldn’t want to hear it. It’d be riddled with cliches, artless rhymes, and you’d be constantly hearing where I’d stolen the melodies from. The world doesn’t need it.

I spent almost a year in Rome. Just before I left I read a new book. “Nobody Wants To Read Your Shit.” It’s by Steven Pressfield. It’s magnificent, and much more heartwarming than the title would immediately suggest.

It encourages you to start off with the assumption that nobody wants to read your shit. Firstly, because they don’t. They really don’t. They are not interested in it in the slightest.

Secondly, because if you start off from that place, then you might actually start to think about how you can use your skill to make it more interesting, more resonant, more artful, more… alive.

The world doesn’t need just another Oliver Manning album. But perhaps by digging deeper I can come up with something where the world will be pleasantly surprised.