:: Article

Dandy in the Underworld


Sophie Parkin interviews Sebastian Horsley.

Artist Sebastian Horsley has just published his autobiography this week aged 45, Dandy in the Underworld (Sceptre, £16.99, or a tenner on Amazon, Sept 6. Harper in the US, March 2008).


3:AM: Why couldn’t Dandy in the Underworld have a happy ending?

SH: Because I don’t write fiction. Because anything that consoles is fake. You see, the good ended happily, and the bad unhappily, that is what fiction means. And I am good…

3:AM: If you’re obviously so desperate for affection, recognition, and love, why do you wear stacks?

SH: It is true, I am desperate for attention and adoration — like a child molester hanging around the lavatories. But you need extra inches to peer over the cubicles.

3:AM: If you could’ve been anyone else, who?

SH: Axl Rose in 1987. You see, Art is failed music. Music takes the innermost part of you and puts it outside. Art and writing are a complete waste of time.

3:AM: Why are you so Gay?

SH: Because faggots have stolen the word off me and I am trying to claim it back. I like the word Gay. I feel gay of a day. And what can I do about it? Well, we could cut down the poof population before they breed their peasant assholes into the sea. You see, left alone, a gay person is hardly gay at all, but put two such people together and they are four times as gay as they were separately. Four gay people are sixteen times as gay as two and so on. And where, my friend, does that leave me? Are you going to suck my cock while I am having this conversation with myself?


3:AM: Do you think you’ve ever been worth the money given to you?

SH: Where you are worth nothing, you should want nothing. By wanting nothing I got everything.

3:AM: How much of Dandy/Laughing Torso, is true? a) 50% b) 10% c) 98%

SH: 98%. Not that it matters but it is true. There is the odd lie. When I talk about injecting cocaine into my penis. That was a lie. It was heroin.

3:AM: Who do you think will be upset from not being mentioned in your book apart from the obvious, Robert P, Babette, The Rubbishmen, Andrew Campbell and myself.

SH: Me. I don’t think I’ve mentioned myself enough in my book. You see, I don’t like talking about myself; that’s why I wrote the book. The book is 116,780 words but if you take out the word “I” my memoirs could have been written on the back of a stamp and still have had enough room left for the Koran.

Anyway, enough about me… Have you read my book?

3:AM: Which members of your family still talk to you?

SH: Who cares? Distant relatives are the best kind, and the further the better. You see, as a natural loner and auto-invention I grasped early the irrelevance of family life.

3:AM: I know you’re big in Japan but so is Marc Almond, but do you think you’ll ever be famous?

SH: Well I am big in Japan. Proof, were it needed, that I am a failure. Fame is a vapour, an illusion. The only earthly certainty is oblivion. I was having my hair cut the other day. My hairdresser didn’t know who Marc Bolan was! She could only name two of The Beatles! And yet she knew who I was. (I had brought my press cuttings with me.)

You see, being famous is only to be forgotten fifty years later than usual. Besides, I don’t want to be famous. It is better to be an anonymous star than a famous nonentity.

3:AM: What could ever make you really happy?

SH: I don’t know why people get so fixated with happiness which always eludes them, when there are so many other invigorating experiences available, like pain, despair, hate and so forth.


3:AM: What makes you think you are an artist?

SH: I’m not an artist and I have a show to prove it.

3:AM: Do you think you succeeded in bringing the reader down to your level?

SH: Darling, never argue with idiots. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.

3:AM: Did you write the review in the Evening Standard or The Sunday Times?

SH: Both. Wilde said: “When the critics are divided the artist is at one.” And of course he was right. For a man to be great, opinion must be divided on that score. I am a controversial figure: people either dislike me or hate me.

3:AM: Aren’t you just another sohoboho from Mayfair that ran out of money like Nancy Cunard?

SH: Yes. I am a useless dandy. I am almost bankrupt. I will either commit suicide or die at the age of 50 because I will have said all there is to say… will you marry me?

3:AM: If you hadn’t had so much money would you have been a) a better artist, or b) more successful?

SH: The reason I am not a better artist and more successful is not because I had so much money but because I had so much beauty. All great artists are ugly. Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Francis Bacon, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst. The artistic creation is prompted by something which the artist lacks.

I don’t lack beauty. Faced with a choice “Would you like a picture of you or your work” in the newspaper, there would be no choice. I don’t want to be upstaged by my art.

3:AM: Wouldn’t it have been more fun (and better invested) not to have taken drugs and just have given the money to me?


SH: Yes it would. For God’s sake woman why didn’t you tell me that when I had money? I would have given it to you. Nine inches of angry gristle.

3:AM: When are you going to get a proper job?

SH: I do have a proper job. I do a splendid job as one of the handsomest men in the world. Fancy a fuck?

3:AM: What brand of nail polish do you favour?

SH: Any nail polish is better than real life. I wear nail polish because my hands are getting so old I am surprised they remember to come out with me. Glamour is to bewitch with illusion. You have to keep people off balance lest they see that you have no talent.

3:AM: If Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse both wanted you, which one would you choose?

SH: Ingrid Pitt.

3:AM: When was the last time you took drugs?

SH: It has been two long dark years since I had my last fix… I have renounced everything — except Satan. Don’t worry, I don’t think my body is a temple. I don’t think it is even a relatively well-managed youth hostel.

3:AM: Does either Jimmy Boyle or Hugo Guinness talk or want to have sex with you now you’re clean and serene?

SH: No they don’t, but so what? Think how many boring blameless lives are brightened by the blazing indiscretions of other people like me.

3:AM: Will you ever write a real book?

SH: Absolutely not. There is no more where that came from. I’m off to open a knitting shop in Carlisle.

3:AM: What do you think of Nina Hamnett versus Damien Hirst?

SH: We don’t think, darling. We think we think. We don’t.

3:AM: Who’s your favourite designer: Top Man or Primark?

SH: Neither. Women’s styles may change, but their designs remain the same.

3:AM: Blue Peter or Magpie?

SH: The Railway Children. The sexiest film ever made.

3:AM: Gordon Brown or Mrs Thatcher?

SH: Mrs Thatcher. I liked it when England had gone to the bitches.

3:AM: Cat or Dog?

SH: Cat. Cats are slimmer, cleaner, more attractive, disloyal and lazy. Cats are irresponsible and recognise no authority. They are mean for the fun of it. The fascists of the animal world. A dog is like a liberal. He wants to please everybody. A cat really doesn’t need to know that everybody loves him. Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. Fancy a fuck?

Hookers, Dealers and Tailors – an exhibition of Sebastian’s art is at Spectrum Fine Art Gallery, 77 Great Titchfield St, London W1W 6RF from 7 September 2007.

Sophie Parkin’s new book, Bazaar Nights and Camel Bites is published on September 15 2007.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, September 11th, 2007.