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To Ease My Troubled Mind: The Authorized Unauthorized History of Billy Childish


The story of Billy Childish, the most famous artist you’ve never heard of, by legendary music journalist Ted Kessler.

Now available for preorder. All preorders will ship on or before January 7, 2025.

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Forthcoming: 1/7/25

$29.95 $22.46

What people are saying…

“If, like me, you are a devotee of Billy Childish’s music, his poetry, his painting, or his mustaches, then I needn’t bother to tell you how mandatory this book is. But to the Childish agnostic or the Childish ignorant, know this book is for you too. If you are even remotely interested in the gritty anthropology of underground music or high art scenes, in learning how obstinance and revolt can prosper in the face of corporate culture, or how one man overcame a truly Dickensian upbringing to single-handedly master all forms of cultural production and wrestle them into his own stubborn shapes, then trust me, you are in the right place. Ted Kessler’s formally unique collage of prose, oral history, poetry, and correspondence is the perfect vehicle for telling the story of Childish, an absurdly fecund artist who produces more culture in a week then most artists produce in decades. It is also a fittingly unsparing portrait of a man seemingly allergic to falsehood or pretense. Within these pages you will learn how Childish forged himself into a creative legend but also how he inspired a community of fellow travelers and how those friendships blossomed (and sometimes curdled) within the spheres of that shared creativity. There are tales of love geometries of far greater complexity than the triangle, plus UFOs, a literal goblin, Sasquatches painted in majestic oils, and of course ample tales of punk rock mayhem and trashed garage-rock brilliance. Compulsively readable and hugely inspiring, Kessler’s book is an overdue tribute to a man who not only contains multitudes but projects them relentlessly into the world.”
—Guy Picciotto (Fugazi)

“[Childish is] the UK’s most prolific creative force—painter, poet, musician, publisher, memoirist, and novelist.”
Financial Times

“A revered cult figure whose prolific output in the fields of painting, writing, and music have never failed to enlighten, annoy, and confuse in equal measure . . . With a unique mixture of gallows humor, uncomfortably confessional literature, strangely beautiful paintings, and incendiary manifestos, he has relentlessly carved the niche of a true original.”

“Kessler’s ability as a storyteller results in a profound portrait. Part life story, part art history, part investigation, part lover’s quarrel, it weaves a complex, compelling tapestry of Childish from fragments of his existence—ones that in the hands of another would likely have remained shapeless chaos. Here? It’s cosmic dust given form.”
—Terri White, author of Coming Undone

“Ted Kessler has elegantly, wittily documented Billy Childish’s maverick life, achievements, and persona with insight and skill, never allowing himself to be slavishly captivated—or repelled—by Billy’s ‘dangerous charisma.’”
—Miki Berenyi, author of Fingers Crossed: How Music Saved Me from Success

“To negotiate the convoluted life of Wild Billy Childish in text is roughly the literary equivalent of attempting to count the hairs on a copulating yak’s back. But somehow Ted does it brilliantly—with style and grace. A story of domestic violence, abandonment, misunderstood artistic integrity, dyslexic poetry . . . and guitars . . . Billy told me he probably won’t read this book. If so—he’ll be missing out.”
—Marc Riley, cohost of BBC Radio 6’s Riley & Coe

“Ted Kessler gets as close as anyone is ever likely to get to one of the most enigmatic artists of the modern age, with an electric text that brings in multiple voices and viewpoints to present a complex portrait of a damaged boy alone with his art against the world. It is a touching, sad, sometimes hilarious, and ultimately inspirational work.”
—David Keenan (singer-songwriter)

“A wildly compelling narrative. Packed with equal parts trauma and joie de vivre . . . A fascinating, all-but unbelievable story.”
—Roy Wilkinson, author of Do It for Your Mum

“Increasingly in life I ask myself, What would Billy Childish do?. Thanks to Ted Kessler’s kaleidoscopic, inspiring, and affectionate portrait of this complex true original I think I now know the answer.”
—Benjamin Myers, author of Cuddy


IN 1977, SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD STEVEN HAMPER was a stonemason in the dockyards of Chatham, Kent, in England. His heart, however, beat in sync with the punk rock tremors of the era, seduced by its celebration of amateurism. So, in a gesture of revolutionary defiance, he took a three-pound club hammer and smashed his hand, vowing to never work again. In doing so, Steven Hamper metamorphosed into Billy Childish, a true Renaissance man.

Childish has since remained steadfastly true to punk’s DIY cred, becoming one of the most recognizable and authentic voices in whichever artistic endeavor he undertakes. He has released over 150 albums of raw rock and roll, punk, blues, and folk; and has written many volumes of searing poetry as well as several autobiographical novels. But what he is perhaps best known for in recent years is his painting, for which he is now critically, commercially, and internationally feted. He hasn’t changed course in any of his disciplines, though. The world just caught up with the sheer volume of his brutally honest work.

To Ease My Troubled Mind is a mosaic portrait collated over a year of interviews with Childish, as well as with close family, ex-girlfriends, band members past and present, friends, foes, collaborators, even his therapist. It is an unflinching, yet frequently spiritual and funny portrait of an artist who is now one of the most prolific and uncompromising of his generation. The volume also includes a foreword by British comedian Stewart Lee.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Published: 1/7/25
  • IBSN: 9781636142135
  • e-IBSN: 9781636142142


TED KESSLER was on the staff at NME as a writer and editor between 1993 and 2003, before joining Q magazine’s staff, working there for sixteen years. He was Q’s editor for four years, until it closed in 2020. His first book, Paper Cuts: How I Destroyed the British Music Press and Other Misadventures, was published in 2022. He also devised and edited the acclaimed My Old Man: Tales of Our Fathers, published in 2016.

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