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INTERVIEW





BOMBS AND BUDDHISM: AN INTERVIEW WITH BILLY CHILDISH


Billy Childish was born in 1959 in Chatham, Kent. After leaving secondary school at 16, he worked in Chatham dockyard and then went on to study painting at St Martins School of Art, which proved unsatisfactory. In a twenty year period he has published 30 collections of his poetry, recorded over 80 full-length independent LP’s, produced over 2000 paintings and written two novels. He works and lives in Chatham.

Richard Marshall interviews Billy Childish

COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED




BC: … I saw a ghost story once where the walls had recorded ghosts. But I don’t have a telly anymore. They only cause more problems. Anyway. My name is Billy Childish and I write novels – and I make music and everything I do is very independent – not so much Indie music but as in not being part of any organisation and getting money from people . I did it on the dole for about 15, 20 years. I started off in 1977 doing punk rock music and I’m a painter mainly. I don’t really like institutionalised culture which is what we’ve got lots and lots of. And I don’t like marketed rebellion culture which we’ve got too much of as well. So it's all very exciting and nice for me at the moment because everything that I like is clearly illustrated in magazines, radio, recordings, television, and people’s beliefs which are all I find myself on the opposite side of the see-saw to most contemporary culture.

I don’t like yob culture, I don’t like people copying dadaism and pretending that its somehow radical. I don’t like cynicism and post-modernism and the post-modernist way. I like coming from somewhere without any belief that belief is the most important thing to have even if it's only the belief in what you’re doing. And it must be done with integrity. I dislike lack of integrity. I dislike all of the ways the world of man tries to make us passive observers rather than participators.

So I think children should be encouraged into creativity above all other things. And that therefore includes all of us. Because creativity is the greatest thing that we have and the nearest thing to God. That Stuckism thing was a funny business. I sort of … it's had a bit of a negative effect on some of the things I wanted to do but a necessary negative because it estranged me from the people who might have accepted me. And it's probably best that that’s happened but it's been hard. It’s very difficult because you want to be part of things but you also think that you can’t compromise your voice, you can’t compromise what your truth is for that and I can’t jump through hoops. I used to go to Art school when I was a young man.

I managed to leave school at 16, I worked at Chatham dockyard and then I managed to get to Art School but I was expelled from there for the same sort of reason because I’m not very obedient as far as other people are concerned. You know, they say you can have this, this and this if you do this. And I don’t mind doing this if it makes sense to me or if doesn’t seem to be phoney or false but people are obsessed with the phoney and fake.

Most of us live in a phoney or fake self a lot of the time. I’m guilty of this as well but I don’t think that that’s really a great achievement. So although with the Stuckists, I was with a group of people whose work I didn’t like and the way ideas were put across I didn’t like but I thought that might be quite good. I thought – why do we have to be in a group where everyone condones each other? – why does it have to be so fragile? – and I wrote manifestos for them which I liked, which were about this idea that it was permissible to have another opinion. Which I found out it wasn’t! The Art Orthodoxy at the moment will not permit an opinion that amateurism is better than professionalism, or that amateur is more professional than professionalism I’d say! It’s elitist and ridiculous the art world. That isn’t a great discovery. I’m a bit naïve sometimes and the most simple things surprise sometimes.

3AM: Would you agree then with Matthew Collings that we’re living in the worst times for art at the moment?

BC: No. We’re living in the best time for art. We’re living in the worst time for presenters on Television. You see, Matthew Collings wouldn’t know anything about art because he’s not an artist he’s somebody who is a professional avoider. A complete cynic. Always avoiding real integrity. And that is Matthew Collings' persona – it's not who he is – I’m sure he’s a very nice chap – but he doesn’t care enough because someone like Matthew Collings wants a job to do presenting on television and he wants to appear cool and cynical and at the same time it could be interpreted that he likes the thing he’s talking about or not.

He is a walking magazine chap. He’ll sort of say – this is a chair, it's an interesting thing this chair isn’t it Or isn’t it? You could have it on its side. Would you still be able to sit on it? Some people would think so. Or maybe we could turn it into a tent. I think I quite like chairs to sit on. Others don’t. What have we got in the next room? Oh, we’ve got a chandelier – a bit like a glass isn’t it. You can’t drink out of it … you know how it goes. He’ll talk like this continuously and people like that because they can eat their meals and think – yeah, it's witty, it's cool, because that’s what’s important to someone like that. Keeping a job. So you slightly undermine what you’re talking about but maybe you do like it. Because they don’t ever fall into the terrible position of being a fan and having belief. Because if they were a fan and had belief they’d know about something and be able to talk about it in depth and at length and be boring - they’d care about it so you mustn’t care. And that is very important for a professional person to maintain this persona. And it means that they get short changed and we get short changed and art is done in this way as well. Everything is about not really being in a position of weakness which is a position of belief. You must not be surprised. You must not be in awe. You can be ridiculous and enthuse about something, you’re allowed to rub, but you mustn’t be genuine. Otherwise you’ll be removed.

3AM: So you’re presenting an alternative, dissenting art?

BC:I just think it's possible to have another opinion. I’d like to be included. And for that opinion to be recognised as valid. Maybe pop culture isn’t the best way of promoting art and art isn’t actually pop culture anyway. People like Andy Warhol are game players and that’s ok. You mustn’t be too serious, take life too seriously, but it’s a real matter of balance. I like jokes and having fun but cynicism isn’t having fun and jokes. It’s exploitative. And it's got very little blood in it.

So Tate Modern and the views of Mr Collings and Serota – they are profoundly bloodless. They have no heart and no real whatever. They’re anaemic. It doesn’t really matter to them. It doesn’t matter enough. It doesn’t have much heart or soul. Some work is very good at pretending to have that but it's not got commitment. You see, I think you pay for everything. We live in a world of cause and effect. You have to put a lot in to get a lot out.

3AM: Is there anyone in the art world you do admire?

BC: I don’t know many people in it. In fact I don’t know any. I’ve met people in the art world . I have one friend of mine from St Martins whose a famous painter and who certainly works hard and believes in what he’s doing – Peter Doyle – but I don’t know about the work . Modern art seems to have lost its bearings and its meaning. Round about with the dadaists.

3AM: Is that where you go back to?

BC:I think you’ve got to go back to the first world war period. This is the great scar in the mind of our society. I think that’s what really twisted everything. I don’t think we’ve recovered from that punch to the psyche. We’ve gone a bit mental. I think that’s quite good because there isn’t any meaning or structure. That’s understandable. At some point though you have to recover and address it. Get onto the other side of the see-saw. Now we’ve got a situation where art which is based on anti-art which is marketed as really being art. So the madness is really … well, you can understand the Dadaist reaction.

People so misunderstand what the dadaists did anyway. Reselling this tired old formula – far more tired than someone trying to paint a still life and far less integrity than some lady painting in an adult education a dog. Far less commitment. Doesn’t mean that hers is particularly revolutionary but it's certainly no less revolutionary than what they’re doing. And when you look at it on the integrity stakes it leaves the rest standing.

3AM: reading the autobiographical novel…

BC:I think if it was a biography it would have such … it's so subjective, full of feeling…

3AM: Yes, it’s the integrity that you talk about in your art that comes through.

BC:Well, I want to have a good relationship with myself. An honest one.

3AM: In the preface you write that you didn’t think it would get published.

BC: I hoped it would but it seemed very unlikely. It would be very difficult to get published now. I lived on the dole for a long time. It's hard and I’m not very good at manipulating people or spinning a line. And I know that successful people, even if it's not all they’re good at are very good at that sort of thing. There’s an element of sell. People think that if something is about something it's boring.

3AM: The book did have an old-fashioned feel. An Edwardian feel.

BC:I had an Edwardian, Victorian upbringing. My father and his Edwardian suits. I think that’s probably very true because I think that's when Modernism reached a very high point. When you get these first crosses, these first men marching out, they have great integrity, intensity and power. Only at that point.

It's funny you should mention that because I liked Punk Rock in 1977 and I don’t like Punk Rock very much in 1978. It starts going off. I like early Rock and Roll, and I like early R & B, I like early jazz and early crossover stuff when they first do it. It always has such power and I don’t like it when they become formulated or that they rely on that formulation in the sense that they parody themselves a lot or easy to deal with. The rough edges all disappear. So I like the primitive in things because I like the rough edges being there. I like that because the energy is still there.

Because energy is really nice. Energy is what I like. Most things that are supposed to be shocking, like in contemporary art, I think are for old women. And the films that are made are for people who have got no spirit. Like this contemporary art we’ve had recently I liken it to New Romanticism. Some people have likened it to Punk Rock but these people would not show their heads above the parapet in 1976. They’d still be listening to David Bowie and Queen. And that’s what they listen to now. And the Eurhythmics as Mr Hirst – just the most… you can tell by the things that they like that they are not at all radical in their beings. Which isn’t necessarily bad – we need people like that – but there’s no need to call them geniuses and dictating fashion when actually anyone with any integrity is always trying to undermine fashion because fashion is a means of selling things. It’s not about anything else. How to sell things to people who don’t need them or want them.

That’s not something to applaud when art is used in that way. It's not necessarily something to cry about forever but it should be pointed out. If you look at writing, who have we got? We’ve got great cynics like Amis – I read his piece that he wrote… I very rarely read newspapers but I did see his piece in the Guardian for when the Twin Towers were hit. It was all about showing off with language. It was all about how cool Martin Amis is. It was all word play. It was actually very disrespectful and a load of old crap. I did send a letter to the Guardian asking if anyone had noticed that Martin Amis’s article was a load of bollocks. They didn’t print it. I suppose they paid him. Apparently, I understand a lot of the papers reeled out these people to write this bollocks within a day of it happening. Published within twenty four hours.

These contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie are just appalling old windbags. You put them next to good writers like Dostoyevsky who had commitment and belief – who was quite a fucked up individual in his own life – you tread The Brothers Karamazov even though a lot of his novels are long and wander and difficult for me to read but you get sections or parts of them that are true and are incredible. Or Knut Hamsun, they are more contemporary than they can manage now because they were talking truth and it works.

You read what the English writers can come up with now and you put it next to it and its pallid. Its like an insect that’s had its blood sucked out. It’s useless. And you think - what is better? What should we use to go forward? Should we use crap because its more contemporary to go forward because we must have got so much better at this writing , so much better at art, so much better at … and immediately you think – no we haven’t! There are many improvements and many things that are great in life but we are not on this gradual ascent of a mountain. It’s not the way that it works. Often we’re going completely backward.

You have to assess, as I put it , ‘contemporary art is a cul-de-sac of idiocy.’ That was my little rhetorical name for it. Just for fun. So what are we going to do. Are we going to stay here because this is where we are or are we going to backtrack and pick up the trail again and head off? They give nothing, these writers, so you have to go back until you find someone who does give something. And the same with painting. You see what track we were on before everyone fell off that track. So maybe there were just a couple of people who were doing some interesting things back then so you say, ok, we’ll use this as a good starting point. Because we want to have integrity, we want to have meaning, we want to go forward.

But for some people doing that would be one of the worst things you could do. To be backward looking. You’re an anachronism. Not cool. Not trendy. And at this time when everything is cool and trendy everything is not to do that .You know! That’s why I say it’s the best time to be a painter because never have we had it so clearly illustrated what direction to take because there isn’t anyone taking the other direction. And as an artist you always have to look at the other direction. That’s what it is. You have to look at what people don’t look at. Art usually leads fashion and isn’t fashion. Fashion tries to catch up with art. And pop music took that place as well sometimes.

Now we have pop music and art which actually tries to emulate the fashion to become popular. So you’re in the position of pop music and writers of pop music trying to write songs that will be used by advertising or used in film. Like custom made. You’ve got artists advertising alcohol or whatever they can – anywhere that money comes in – they think, live now, pay later and it's cool. So it's cool to have this very adolescent attitude and the contemporary art scene is actually what you think business men and what people felt like in the early eighties is actually what the art scene has been like since the nineties. So they’re about ten years back. They had their Thatcher-like revolution amongst themselves and thought – right, we can do all of that – so they’re trailing so far behind in their art and their thinking they’re not trying to give a new way of looking, not even a new way, a way that is a clear way of looking.

3AM: Do you find your position quite an isolating one?

BC: Yes. And that’s really uncomfortable. Especially for someone who wants to be popular and central and I see myself as being a really successful and central figure. That’s where I feel a bit at home. But I never allow myself to go there for the sake of what sustains me which is doing things I believe in. So you get this isolation. I go out and play and I do readings and make books and put lots of things out. And I communicate with lots and lots of people but not quite in the mass way. But with a certain amount of success in doing that. It's about having a genuine connection with people. Which I really enjoy.

Communication is everything about what being a human being is. Then we come to quality. When I was talking about how we look back at something – is it better to have an integrated rail network or not? Is it better to have electric tram service in every town or not? It is. We’ve come away, we’ve lost it, in the early fifties they got rid of it, dismantled the system which would be a wonderful thing to have. So we are not improving in that area. There are lots of areas we’re not improving. We have to look back and ask - what works?

Martin Amis doesn’t work – don’t use it. Andy Warhol makes some nice cow wallpaper and that’s what he does – he makes wallpaper. Great! He tried to make it into his big joke. But it is wallpaper. We have parodies on advertising. Witty. Witty isn’t a belly laugh. Get over it. It's dull. It's alluring to the eye, it's glinty, its for children. And great, we can have things for children, but let's not call a MacDonald’s a hearty meal. Ok, we have MacDonald’s, we can’t get rid of them – we should get rid of them. They should be allowed to have one MacDonald’s in every town. That’s what the Monopoly Commission should decree. One MacDonald. A very generous offer. One of their crappy diners in every town. One in London, one of Liverpool. That’s a lot. That’s enough.

Let's have a little bit of variety. Let's have variety of thinking. All of these so called modern artists don’t like thinking. They don’t like to be asked awkward questions. If you do ask them awkward questions they won’t talk to you. This is my experience. I was good friends with Tracy Emin for a long time and I’m persona non grata now because I disagreed. This is how great the intellect is. You cannot have an old friend who doesn’t agree.

Because if you’ve got the madness to believe that everything you do is art then you’re not allowed to contradict it and say it's not true. You might as well say everything a dustman does is art. What am I saying? That everything a dustman does is take away rubbish! Funny that they came up together! My friend Eugene, he came up with a good idea for testing some contemporary art theory. Of the art like Mr Hirst for example. For those people who feel everything they do is art. I think that’s good enough to put these people in an asylum.

Anyway, he had this idea to do a test. What you do is they have to choose two numbers and a letter out of the alphabet which would give you a grid reading in the A to Z. They’re allowed to choose it and imagine that grid reading becoming art because they thought it is! Then we can drive them round London and because they know they’ll be able to point to the bit that in their mind has now become art. They’ll recognise it because they can go to a gallery and they can tell the difference between a painter and a radiator usually, and even their own exhibits they can tell it art because they’ve done it, or its not art because they didn’t. So they would obviously automatically be able to recognise whichever turned up on their grid that they thought of as being art. Because they’re not stupid people. Or something.

3AM: So how come as an internationally known figure you’re also part of Chatham. This is where you’ve always lived.

BC: It's where I come from. I’m afraid of change. I find it difficult. I’m the only member of the family still here. Well, I’ve got a son now, he lives with his mother over the road. That’s Huddy. So there are two of us now. And I’ve got an American wife now who lives here with me. All my immediate family left though. I put that in, ‘I’m afraid of change’ because I want to be shocking. And I guess there must be a lot of truth in saying that I’m afraid of change. And I know that that’s not the sort of answer that people give. So that somehow ties in with my work. I want to supply the answer that might be true which ain't cool.

Because to be afraid of change is to be a bit pathetic. But change, I find it really difficult. Scary. I’ve lived in London for a couple of months. I’ve travelled a lot. With groups and doing stuff. Even that I find scary. Just going. I’m always worried about what’s going to happen and a lot of that comes from a very insecure upbringing. I watch films and sometimes they really affect me.

I went down to the local film club so I went down there last night and they had this film by Herzog on. It was about people being deaf and blind. It's an early documentary by him. It's really horrible. I found it a quite upsetting film. They had this little boy with a man who was teaching him and he had his trunks on and they were in a shower and when I watched it all I could see was that this man would sexually abuse this boy because I see what happened to me. It really affects me and makes me feel weird.

All about me though. Then we were trying to work that out – which bits are me? And which bit am I putting onto it? And what truth there is in that? It can make you stuck in some kind of place. That’s why that Stuckist name is quite good. I think it’s a nice tone for everybody. I think it suits everyone nicely. Because the idea is that that’s what you mustn’t be. Of course we’re not really. Everything is an appearance. You have to work for at until it changes - it suddenly moves again. It means that you’re dealing with reality and that you’ve got your nose against something.

What we want to be feeling is fantastic all the time and not feeling anything which is the opposite of meditative thought. And I suppose our society is obsessed with the opposite of meditative thought. There’s nothing meditative about contemporary art. I remember reading once Sarah Lucas – I know Sarah a little and like her quite a lot, she’s very nice – but I remember reading something that she said her art was like Jimmy Hendrix , there’s nothing meditative about it. And I felt that was quite funny because it seemed to show that she didn’t understand Jimmy Hendrix at all because Jimmy Hendrix wanted to be a very good guitarist and played the guitar all the time to be good at it and had a very intense relationship with his work, not a throw-away one.

Not that I can’t cope with throw-away because I do that occasionally. All of my work have parallels across. The music has informed lots of my views on art because when I was growing up as a little boy the first music I remember was when I was one or two, two, Dusty Springfield. I can remember her name. I don’t remember any of her records. But I know on this little record player, Dusty Springfield, that’s what I liked. My brother, he was a bit older than me, he had these Dusty Springfield records. This would be about 1962, 63.

And then we had Beatles records. And that was the first music I can remember liking. And then some Kinks records. Rolling Stones. It was a big thing listening to music. I used to really enjoy it. I remember when the Hippy Hippy Shake came out by the Swinging Blue Jeans – we got a copy of this record and we went to my grandparents house with their gramophone and my mother danced with me and threw me all round the room with this dance. I remember, she had this blue and red striped sweater top on. I loved that song.

And then all through the sixties we got all the Beatles records and listened to those and really enjoyed that. Then in 66, 67 I heard Jimmy Hendrix. When I was about 7. My brother and me, we saw Jimmy Hendrix on television and my mum said ‘look at his hair.’ So we had Jimmy Hendrix records. It took me a couple of months to get used to the idea of Jimmy Hendrix and then I quite liked it. And I had a Thunderbird record. I used to love Thunderbirds. I swapped that with Tony Ravenscroft up the road for a Little Richard record – ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, - and I thought , this is the kind of music I like. I never had any more rock and roll then.

And when the early seventies came along I just carried on listening to Hendrix and I actually didn’t like any of the early seventies stuff at all. Which I actually now do quite like. I can see that it was quite funny. So when I was fourteen, fifteen I was still listening to Jimmy Hendrix and this rock and roll stuff, and the Andrews Sisters, Buddy Holly and I had a tape of the music from Bugsy Malone, and Bill Haley and the Comets. They released Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl – because I got fed up with that Beatles late stuff and then they had this Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl and I thought this was really great. A bit later on I got Beatles Live at the Star Club where it gets better and better. So I thought the further you go back things get better and better.

And then punk rock happened. And I thought – this is just like all the music I’m listening to – you know, I loved all the early Rolling Stones records and now I was listening to The Jam and The Damned and so we formed a punk rock band in 1977 and we did ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’ and ‘Stingray’ and Fireball XC5’ , ‘Wotcha Gonna Do About It’ You Really Got Me’ - then we wrote our own songs as well. We did a song called ‘Beatle Boots’ because when I was little I wanted Beatle boots. I had a wig and a guitar when I was about 5, a toy guitar, so we did some stuff about that. And then this seemed to be a homecoming to me because this was the music I related to.

I never really liked David Bowie or Queen and that, although my friends did, and it was fantastic to find something that I liked and they thought was awful. I thought this was brilliant. And then very quickly, you know, like 78, we had the last Sex Pistols show in Britain in 77 it all went a bit funny. All of a sudden these people started coming out again, like Queen and Bowie and I thought we’d got rid of them forever. So it was a bit of a shock.

So then, we were into Gene Vincent in the punk group I was in, and the early Beatles and then a mate of mine played me Minette Ray who is a really vicious electric guitarist. I liked Hendrix still so he’d always go on about Muddy Waters and people so I listened to that. And I thought, why is it that this other stuff is better – and we’d tried to make records and new recording sound sounded weak and limp whereas old recorded sound didn’t. So this was about sound.

And music is about sound. That’s what its all about. Good song writing? No. You can have a really good song and no one else can do it good. It’s not how it’s played it’s the sound. It’s what it sounds like. It’s using equipment that sounds good. So I thought that was interesting. So I found things that sounded good, that had energy in them. And people mixing the sounds you make makes it go away. It dissipates.

And everything is about dissipation. Everything was about being dissipated – like Spandeau ballet and these things. Which is the sort of crap that these artists are in to. Its what they are into. It’s like fashion pretence. And of course punk became exactly like that. People talk to me about punk rock and Mohicans and stuff. And I tell them, no punk rockers had Mohicans. They didn’t have leather jackets, what are you talking about? That was all the pretend punk rockers. That was a year later. You know, when they took drugs and talked about anarchy and stuff. I didn’t even know what an anarchy symbol was. I used to ask – what’s that thing with ‘A’ written on it?

I remember people saying to me when I was at St Martins in 78 ‘Are you going to this rock against racism?’ gig. I said, ‘I’m not going to that.’ Oh, the Clash are going to be there.’ And I didn’t care. There was a right to work march I remember. I was really pissed off. ‘77. The best thing you could do was find out how to see the Sex Pistols and there were these people up at the Marquee or something – the Damned’s one year anniversary gig – and they were asking me to go on this right to work march and I said, ‘What’s that then?’ and they said, ‘Well, we want this right to work’ and I said ‘What about the right not to work?’ They just looked at me blankly.

So I wasn’t going on their march. And of course the bloody Sex Pistols played on it! So it was all about discovering what power is and what energy is. And its when it just comes out at you. And then I found out that people really wanted to be famous, have recording contracts and get their photos done. So we never did that. We just made our own records. Did one off records. Did about ninety or one hundred albums now.

Been all round the world with different labels. You don’t make so much money but you do all these things. I was on the dole for fifteen years so I needed to sell records. We’d keep half of the recording cost – you get five hundred quid we’d record it for a hundred, you get a thousand we’d record for two, three hundred. Then split the money. We’d record on old equipment. We found out - here is the biggest thing – I’m just coming to the whole point of what we’re talking about – freedom through limitation! Everything that is limited is better. Everything that is limited gives you the direction. It works for you.

So less MacDonald’s is better. On a television level it's obvious – less stations are better. People think more is more but it never is. And limitation in recording … you get old fashioned recording techniques, reverb play which is what they used to have, or a reverb room below a studio, and you get one sound , a fucking great sound but it's one. Now with digital you can have a hundred or a thousand but none of them are as good. Even the idiots who are involved in this are beginning to say this. The reason we don’t have valve is not because transistors or digital are better it's because people want to supersede things, sell things by fashion and have disposability.

Quality is not an issue in our world any more. So clothes are disposable – and it doesn’t matter because they’re made by children on the other side of the world. Everyone gets a raw deal. All of these things need to be smaller and limited. Everything needs to be regionalised. That doesn’t mean bringing down the barriers it means bringing about diversity. So, I’ve been a staunch supporter of Greenpeace for fifteen years and Friends Of The Earth and there’s a trust I give to if I’ve got a little bit of money to plant trees. I like trees.

I like people doing things for themselves. If you make something or you buy something I like it if someone does it because that’s what they really want to do. An artist who stops doing one type of art and starts doing another type of art because that type of art sells that’s ok, that’s their decision, but if that person then tells you that this has got an integrity then you have to have your bullshit detector on. We all make mistakes and go wrong on these courses but I think it's really bad to have a conspiracy of silence about this stuff. It's got to be said what’s happening. I don’t resent that these people are doing these things or our planet is how it is because I think it's all necessary.

You see, although I think the problem was the first world war I think it was very, very important and very helpful. It has brought us to the position where we are now and it is all to bring us into focus with the truth. And even when you’re facing the completely wrong way that can be the right way to face at the time. So if you’re stuck, that’s fine. I practice mediation and I practice Yoga for the last nine or so years. One of the meditation techniques I use you do for ten days, ten hours a day, sitting in mediation without talking without eye contact and it's really quite strong. You can’t become a member of this, it’s a Buddhist technique – very powerful – I’ve done this three separate times – and after that period it's like quite intense – you come to see yourself in a very different way and the world too – the unpleasantness of having to do it – one of the people who was on one of the courses with me I said to him‘ it’s interesting isn’t it that a lot of people in the outside world who don’t do this are real drinkers and really stuck into things and yet they’ve got incredible integrity, they still get on with things,’ and he said ‘ You’ll grow out of it.’ They talk about the path you see. And they say we all have a path and life is a spiritual thing fundamentally. They think that you’re on the path and you’re facing the right direction or you’re not.

But I disagree . And I said to this chap – because you’re allowed to talk after ten days - then you find out why you’re not allowed to talk because you get involved in lots of stupid conversations with idiots! – ‘facing the wrong way is exactly what some people need to do. Because everything brings you to where you need to be. But when you look at someone else’s life and where they are you sort of think ‘Oh, they shouldn’t be doing that, they shouldn’t be there,’ you know but you don’t know what someone else’s business is.

So me and Tracy could argue about who’s stuck or not but in this life Tracy needs to do what she’s doing. And alright, maybe she’s going to be really woken up in a nasty unpleasant way but that’s the only way that it’ll happen. That’s her business. And she’s going to find out that these things don’t solve the problems that she thinks they will. She comes from a damaged background and wants it all to be nice and thinks it can be by avoiding stuff. She’ll find out that it's not the case. The same as the First World War, people have to go through these things. The only things that make us address ourselves are the big knocks. They’re the only things big enough to make us question what’s going on. That’s why we’re here on earth anyway. So you can change. Which is what I’m most afraid of. But it gives you this opportunity because you can’t just have a good time and if you did just have a good time well – you know people who are just having a good time because you meet them and they’re fucking annoying and they’re arseholes and they don’t get real. And we’ve got to get real. That’s the point. So those people, they’re putting money in the bank to get a really big bloody reminder shortly. And you can hate them for it or you can be really sorry that it has to be that way. And of course, it’d be lovely to have such a lovely outlook and to be so compassionate all the time but unfortunately we do wish ill of certain people and you have to learn not to do it. Because it brings ill to ourselves. But that’s alright. Because really the point is that it is really alright.

That brings us back to Mr Colling’s view of how terrible it is to be an artist. In past lives I’ve probably been a very religious person. I am very interested in Christian beliefs and in Bible study. I’ve never been to a course but I’ve read a lot and studied the Bible. When I was a young chap at school my friend was into Bruce Lee so he said I should do this Kung Fu so I went with him and they did Kung Fu and Yoga so I got really interested in Taoism when I was about fourteen and that was also going on. I started drinking when I was quite young and I gave up at fourteen for a year or two because I was interested in this stuff.

And then punk rock came a long so I got off on that. And then I drank quite heavily in my late teens and twenties and then I stopped in my early thirties. I met someone who was interested in Buddhism and yoga so I got involved in that again. There is one story really. There’s just different people telling it in different ways. I used to go to one group who were called something like The Friends Of The Western Buddhist Order and you used have a mediation and then a discussion. I used to call it the Buddhist Argument. And we formed a group The Friends Of The Enemies Of The Western Buddhist Order – a sub group within. The main group didn’t know about us. Three of us.

Because I always like inventing organisations. I did the Conservative Union Of Green Fascists for a while as well. We used to do this eco-terrorism. When we were kids. We used to have guns and bombs. We used to go buy stuff to make black powder. Anyone who tried to build on the woods near us got a lot of trouble. Doing their engines in. I’ve still got some of the guns we made. Until the IRA bombed Maidstone which is near here we used to go get the basic ingredients in Boots. We’d go into one chemist and buy saltpetre and go into another one and buy sulphur and get charcoal and grind it up and get chemicals and work out how to get nitro-glycerine.

Buddhism and bombs. You know, I’ve been into sex and pornography and lots of hedonistic stuff. A lot of contemporary culture is so boring to me because I know it so well and I know it in myself so well – its very appealing. It seems to be very powerful and potent but actually it isn’t. It’s very immature. A very important thing is to grow up and be not like the negative aspects of the parents we have experienced but to become men and women – so as men , we need to grow so we can get on with women rather than men who just want women to be girls. Or girls or women who just want to meet boys. You can understand how we’ve got to that state because there’s so much falsity about males and what men are that we’ve destroyed all our heroes.

Actually what I think is key is what we need are heroes. Not maybe fashion heroes. Maybe local heroes. Or maybe heroes to ourselves. This will be a way of addressing the need and the requirements of the coming years. People are desperate to have something they can bullshit and I’m really sick of it. People are really sick of it. But they don’t really think that there is anything that isn’t like that. But there is. It’s in all of us. Within us. Within all of us.

And it’s our responsibility as humans and being born into this world to bring that to the fore and not be intoxicated by the ephemera of life. The fashion. You can still have fashion but we can make it twenty percent rather than ninety percent.



Richard Marshall is a talented writer and acts as an editor for 3am.



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