An Interview with Stewart Home on ZANIWritten by Sean Diamond
ZANI - How are things, Stewart? Any plans for the week ahead?
It’s the same thing day after day, sit down and write/make some art, but only after I’ve been to the gym. So same as ever, although I’m doing more body weight workouts now, and especially enjoyed doing new hand balances.
ZANI - Can you tell me a bit about your new (old) book, Defiant Pose?
As they used to say on Blue Peter, here’s one I prepared earlier! Defiant Pose was my second novel, written in 1989 and published in 1991. It’s the everyday story of a nihilistic skinhead who gets his kicks by reciting pieces of political theory while getting blow jobs, so he can see if he can get to the end of the recitation. It is set on the Isle of Dogs before the place was totally yuppified. Easily the best book written in the 1980s, apart from the other two books I wrote in that decade!
ZANI - Several of your books from this period were written as left wing takes on Richard Allen’s Skinhead novels. Did Richard ever read any of them?
They were more of a take on the whole New English Library youthsploitation books, so people like Mick Norman (Laurence James was his real name) as well as James Moffatt (real name of Richard Allen). They were intended to reverse the politics of the Richard Allen books but then Laurence James had already done that with his Mick Norman Hell’s Angels books in the early seventies, where the gay angels were harder than the straight angels, and motorcycle gangs were the last hope for freedom in the UK after the government smashed The Angry Brigade. But I don’t think Moffatt was interested in his subject matter, so I doubt he read my books or the Mick Norman books. James incidentally was the editor on the earlier Richard Allen books, but refused to edit them any more at a certain point because they were so racist and reactionary.
ZANI - Tell me a bit about your recent Art exhibition, Re-Enter The Dragon…
That was looking at the genre of Brucesploitation movies in the form of an essay film and various other displays, but it also addressed genre in martial arts films and looked more broadly at homoeroticism in this martial arts subgenre (but which reflects the broader genre). It also addressed how the kung fu craze of the seventies came out of fifties and sixties countercultural currents that also led to the current popularity of tarot. The show was supposed to be on at The Function Room in London this month, but redevelopment meant that the gallery closed down. I’m now making new work that develops these themes to make a new show for London rather than repeating the one for Glasgow International, but I’m not sure where I’ll show it yet…
I bought three Brucesploitation films in honour of this project, a Bruce Li double feature of The Man, The Myth/Fist of Fury 2 and Dragon Lee’s Mission For The Dragon, directed by Godfrey Ho! All charity shop finds.
Yes, easy to pick up cheap! Bruce Li is my least favourite of the Bruce Lee clones. Dragon Lee is great and of course Godfrey Ho didn’t really direct Mission For the Dragon, he just oversaw the re-edit for the international market of a Korean film directed by Kim Si Hyeon. But then that’s what you discover with Brucesploitation, nothing is what it seems. In terms of clones I really like Bruce Le and Ramon Zamora. But not all the movies feature clones, and some of the best are hard to find in English…
ZANI - What’s your personal favourite?
Can’t limit it to one really, but among them are Bruce Lee and I (AKA Bruce Lee His Last Days, His Last Nights) with Betty Ting Pei, Bruce and the Shaolin Bronzemen (AKA King Boxer II) with Bruce Le and Black Dragon Vs Yellow Tiger with Tong Lung.
ZANI - Can you tell me a bit about your early life? You come from a fairly tough South London background don’t you?
I was born in Merton (London SW20) and the first place I ever lived in was Wimbledon, very street credible if you’re into tennis, although it was in an unmarried mother’s home as my mother was a teenage unmarried mother in the early sixties. Now that home is converted into yuppie flats, so I’ve gone up in the world.
ZANI - Your mother knew Alexander Trocchi didn’t she?
Yes, and a whole lot of hipsters, her address book is fabulous! Berry Gordy, John Lennon, Mick and Chris Jagger, a whole lot of writers and artists. But Trocchi she was close to and she appears in the audience in the film of him appearing at the Arts Lab in 1969 with William Burroughs and others as part of State of Revolt, which is featured in Cain’s Film.
ZANI - You’ve written a book about your uncle, the infamous cat burglar Ray “The Cat” Jones. Weren’t there a few other underworld figures in your family?
Yes there are quite a lot of criminals in the family but Ray Jones is the most famous of them, he’s my mother’s cousin rather than my uncle. I didn’t intend to write about him but when a writer friend told me he didn’t believe Mad Frankie Fraser’s account of Ray’s Pentonville escape I found the real story in the newspapers of the day, and because it was interesting in itself I did the book 9 Lives of Ray The Cat Jones as fiction, but it’s less fictional than the stuff you’ll read about him in non-fiction books about crime in London in the fifties and sixties. Other criminal relatives were based either in South Wales or West London, but Ray gets more talked about because he moved to East London as an adult and the focus for popular culture and London True Crime post WWII is East and South London, and of course Ray’s prison escape made him front page news, although his court appearances had been generating national newspaper interest since the early 1940s. But basically it is a mixture of burglars and gangsters, I have more time for the burglars myself, don’t really dig those doing protection rackets.
ZANI - Your pranks are the stuff of legend. Can you tell me about the one you played on The KLF’s Jimmy Cauty back in the nineties?
I just wrote a joke story about Jimmy showing me a bunker on his farmhouse property filled with bootlegs and weapons. It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, just one of a series of comic pieces I did for The Big Issue. I’d done an interview with Jimmy but he’d given the same quotes to The Independent in a separate interview done just after mine but published first in that paper. So my editor thought I’d done a good piece but they couldn’t publish it as the quotes had mostly appeared in similar form, and asked if I could do something funny. Anyway, the cops took it seriously and raided him looking for weapons thinking he was a terrorist. They obviously didn’t like him and wanted to believe what I wrote, although I didn’t think it was very believable. I felt sorry for Cauty, he got banged up for four hours in Exeter police station cells, and his young kid had the trauma of the cops searching his room.
ZANI - Wow. Did he ever forgive you?
The next few times I saw him he couldn’t even talk to me, but he got over it! He’s tough but sweet!
ZANI - Then there were the phone calls to the prostitutes. Weren’t these carried out with funding from the Lottery?
The phone calls to prostitutes were lottery funded and done as part of a Torkradio cyber project at Cambridge Junction. That was weird coz for some reason Tessa Jowell came in to see what we were doing, and we explained people got to access the material online, but it turned out she didn’t know what a modem was. She had these two guys with her in suits, and she just turned and looked from one to the other when we got ‘technical’ with words like modem. The very first call I made was great and is up online.
ZANI - When’s the next Semina series out? For the benefit of any newcomers who may be reading, could you explain a little about the aims of this project?
Semina is a series of short experimental novels I’ve been editing for Book Works. I think the next one, Mercedes Benz by Iphgenia Baal is due out in November, then we’ll have Aliasing by Mara Coson coming out next year. It’s been great working with all these young writers from around the world, Iphgenia is From London, but Mara is from Manila, and it is amazing that an open submission always turns up some great work. Iphgenia I’ve known for years, but I didn’t know anything about Mara before her submission - although when I met her it turned out we had mutual friends, including one who was close to both of us, a curator in Manila…
ZANI - When did you last bump into Will Self? (Home ran a ‘Will Self Is Stupid’ badge campaign back in the early nineties).
Can’t remember…… a long time ago. First time was at Elizabeth Young’s flat where I’d arranged to go and he’d just turned up. She was asking me a few questions for a Guardian piece that only ever appeared in her posthumous book of essays and he didn’t know who I was, so she handed him some of my books, including one with a Steven Wells blurb about how I made him sound like a sad Oxford junkie trying to sound hard. He never liked me after that, I hadn’t liked his writing before this anyway, so it was no loss to me!
ZANI - I first became aware of your work through a Steven Wells review in (long-defunct music magazine) Vox. You were good friends with Swells, where and when did you first meet?
I first met Swells when he tried to interview me for the NME in the 1990s, but I was just hanging around and had a friend who was pretending to be me for the interview, but Swells sussed who I was and that my friend and I were just putting him on, although he ran the interview with my friend. I used to do that quite a bit, send other people to do my interviews for me. The question you’ll have to ask yourself is am I doing it again now? Anyway, after that I got to know Swells well and was even in at least one of the rock videos he directed, and did the book Whips & Furs with the little publishing operation Attack Books that he ran with Tommy Udo.
ZANI - Who can forget the outrageous religious satire of Whips & Furs, your least popular book with the critics I believe?
Yes, although several people have told me recently it is their favourite book by me! I think it’s underrated anyway. The critics never even mention it, or at least they haven’t to date!
ZANI - Didn’t you once write a screenplay with a part written for eighties pop sensation Sinitta? What was it about?
Yes I wrote a film script which was meant to star Sinitta for Mickey Tompkins and Nick Abrahams, but it never got made, so in the end I turned it into a long short story called Sex Kick, which was included in the Brit-Pulp anthology edited by Tony White. Can’t remember but it’s maybe 20,000 words long…. It had some great reviews, including some twit who thought I was trying to be hip by mentioning some crap Britpop bands, the idiot didn’t realise I was taking the piss outta them…
ZANI - Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with Punk? Despite having written one of the defining books on the scene (Cranked Up Really High) and playing in some punk bands you’ve always claimed to have been more of a Soul Boy….
I was into punk from August 1976 but at school, even down south, Northern Soul was bigger as a subculture, although by the time I left some of the kids couldn’t make up their minds if they wanted to be northern soulboys or jazz funketeers. What I thought was good about them was that they didn’t care that I liked punk, because I also liked some good soul records. But a lot of the punks I knew had a problem with me liking soul. But I never wanted to be into just one thing, so it was a mix. Yes I went to lots of punk gigs, but I also liked the mod revival from early bands like The Jolt through to seeing acts like The Purple Hearts and Back To Zero; but at the end of the seventies, 1978/79, Adam and the Ants were easily the best live band regularly playing London. I wouldn’t say I was more of a soul boy than a mod or skinhead or punk, I just never wanted to be restricted to one thing. These days I listen much more to soul than punk, but I listen to a lot of different things.
ZANI - Do you still carry a necrocard? (A necrocard was a donor card created by Home in the nineties, enabling those who carried them to leave their body for sexual experimentation after death. Bill Drummond of The KLF was probably the most high profile carrier of this rather unusual invention).
Yes, apart from when people respond to my social media messages asking them to SEND CA$H so that my wallet is really bulging, but mostly there is still enough room in my wallet for one as I don’t have any credit cards….
ZANI - Is social networking destroying or enabling serious culture?
Destroying serious culture but enabling corporate culture.
ZANI - Does Brexit signify the beginning of the proletariat revolution or a hollow victory for the far right?
It was a choice between Fortress Britain and Fortress Europe, whereas I wanted the abolition of not only all borders but all nations. So nothing to get excited about, but it achieved the almost impossible task of lowering public opinion about politicians. So perhaps it is the beginning of the end for the bourgeoisie!
ZANI - Who’s the better prankster, Chris Morris or Jeremy Beadle?
ZANI - Finally, talking of Jeremy’s what do you think of Corbyn? I only ask because there are many people who have never voted before intending to register for the next GE to vote for him…..
I don’t understand the obsession with Corbyn among people I know in London. You’d have thought after fooling themselves that Blair would be different they wouldn’t get fooled this way again. I actually fell out with people when me and another friend suggested Blair would soon be exposed as a reactionary scumbag just after the first New Labour victory at a party. Of course despite the loss of friendship it wasn’t long before they were agreeing with what I’d said. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…
ZANI - Stewart, thanks. It’s been a real groove sensation, as you might very well say!
Defiant Pose is available to pre-order from Amazon Here
For more information on Stewart Home please head to his website https://www.stewarthomesociety.org/.
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