Richard Cabut was born in 29 March 1960 and is a British author, journalist, playwright and musician. Educated Dunstable Grammar School to1978, graduating Polytechnic of North London in 1981. A member of the punk band Brigandage more recently co-editor and author of the anthology Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night and authored Dark Entries a novella. We recently had a chat with him…
1 You’re known for books like Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night, your work in the theatre. But your latest book is a short novel called Dark Entries.
Essentially Dark Entries is about addiction – about patterns of self-destruction and -negatation; a beatnik psycho pulp and an urban blues – naked confessional art/talking in public, like we talk in private/very verité/ inhuman condition/psychic thrills and ills/city sickness and slickness/ banal sex… that kind of thing. It’s a pretty savage look at the contemporary psyche. An honest peek at a modern lifestyle that’s characterised by aimlessness and self-abuse via reliance on extreme pornography and alcohol.
2. It sounds provocative and/or controversial.
Art and culture has been flattened. Everyone has to be the same – nice. Any views outside of the bubble are frowned upon, ignored or attacked. It’s group-think. And it’s damaging and boring. Dark Entries has been described as ‘London’s most notorious book,’ and ‘A book too far.’ It is about a guy who lives an extreme life – but people live extreme lives everywhere, and I think literature has to reflect that. Literature isn’t there to make you feel nice and cosy. Sometimes, it’s meant to disturb and prod. To create empathy and make human connections.BUY DARK ENTRIES HERE
3. In a way Dark Entries seems, at the same time, similar to and removed from punk – the subject of your Modernity Killed Every Night book, of course.
Well, there’s the shock value in both books I suppose. But one of the most glorious aspects of punk was its power to bring together those people who didn’t fit in – it created a community – a community of outsiders. In its confessional bite, Dark Entries – even though it is not actually based on myself – illuminates issues that lie largely outside of societal norms. Its sense of verité is all important. Stripping the veneer off the human condition. Truly exposing people, flaws and all. And who knows what that might give birth to? Maybe even a sense of true art in which the affirmation of individuality conveys universals to unite and make connections. Creating a greater sense of empathy and, yes, community. Maybe the same sort of community of outsiders forged by the advent of punk.
4. How did you get started in the world of words?
I started my own fanzine, Kick. I lived in small-town, working-/lower middle-class suburbia, Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Thirty miles from the capital. Here, kids left school and went on the track, the production line, at the local factory, Vauxhall Motors. If you could get some qualifications you could join the civil service. If, as the cliché́ has it, escape from the ghetto could only be achieved by means of sport or showbiz, then either learning three chords or scrawling a fanzine was the easiest way out of the suburbs for bored punk rockers. I was rubbish on guitar at the time, and so I started my fanzine.
5. Where did you see the first piece you had written in print, how did that feel?
I guess that would have been a live review of Dirt/Flux of Pink Indians at the Moonlight Club in the NME, September 1982. Thumbs up for Flux, down for Dirt. I had mixed feelings actually. Echoing the 1960s/1970s exodus of writers from the underground press to the mainstream, I jumped on the music press bandwagon. In doing so, I felt some small sense of guilt – selling out and all that rubbish. But, hey, this was more than tempered by the sense of personal acceleration and movement – and, in truth, despite the fact that all the punk fanzine writers had all sniped at the NME, we regarded it, in truth, with no little respect. We – those who took the IPC shilling – soon revelled in the attention and status that an NME by-line attracted and afforded.
6. What was the main reasons that you started to write seriously?
Well, Franz Kafka said ‘A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.’ I starting writing seriously in order to avoid being taken away by the guys in white coats.
7. What’s a typical working day like when you are writing?
I have an office in my house. The walls are lined with hundreds of books. There are pictures on the walls – my late sister’s art work entitled Censorship Conceals Truth/ Censorship Distorts Facts, a framed page from Sandy Robertson’s White Stuff fanzine – a picture of Patti Smith, a Billy Childish print (The Offence), an original Kevin Mooney (Ants, Wide Boy Awake, Max) art work. The idea/ideal is a place that’s orderly but inspiring. I put on music, usually on Mixcloud – dub, rockabilly, jazz. I make tea – English breakfast tea with soya milk, or matcha. I write. I get lonely occasionally. Then I go for a sauna at the gym in Deptford, near to where I live. Or, I do some yoga. Both are great ways to get ideas flowing. But the biggest enemy is procrastination. I have a great tip for avoiding that. I’ll tell you about it later…
8. What were your teenage experiences that helped to shape your later mindset?
What was it like to be young and involved in Street Cultures?
I was in love with punk rock. I was in love with picking up momentum and hurling myself forward somewhere. Anywhere. Rip up the pieces and see where they land. I was suburban punk Everykid in pins and zips, with a splattering of Jackson Pollock and a little Seditionaries. We strutted our Billy-the-Kid sense of cool – bombsite kids clambering from the ruins – posing our way out of the surrounding dreariness. We were living in our own colourful movie (an early-ish Warhol flick, some of us liked to think), which we were sure was incomparably richer, more spontaneous and far more magical than the depressing, collective black-and-white motionless picture that the conformists had to settle for.
9. What was that period like for you as a young man outside of the Music world?
The 70s were generally a period of transformation and discovery – there was time and space to find out about yourself, change yourself, find out just what is was that you wanted to do. The period was a springboard into the future – propelled by an unlimited, uncoordinated, frantic, out-of-control energy.
10. What music, films and books, things, etc helped you to the pathway of all things alternative?
Lenny Bruce, Quentin Crisp, Aleister Crowley, Cockney Rebel, Samuel Beckett, Raymond Chandler, Sparks, Dennis Wheatley, James Joyce, Austin Osman Spare, Knut Hamsun, the Fatback Band, Patti Smith, Roxy Music, graffiti on a desk at my school desk circa 1975: ‘Cimarons: kings of British reggae,’ The Survivors (TV drama, 1975), Bewitched, Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham, Only Lovers Left Alive – Dave Wallis, JG Ballard, the California Ballroom in Dunstable, three-button hi-waisted baggies, acne, Catholic guilt, pretentiousness, aesthetics, bunking the train to London.
11. How has the internet changed what you do?
It’s a strange shimmering world, full of paradox: a bedazzling universe of the market and the creative, of fascinating corridors and dead ends. Ultimately, it’s a notice board, and artistic life really only happens when you step away from it.BUY DARK ENTRIES HERE
12. Do you have any advice for wannabe authors?
Never be afraid of failure. Also, although everything is very hard – of course it is – it’s easier if you can find your community. A group of people who can offer support, fraternity, generosity of spirit. Start, with some mates, a cool writing group. Or, an uncool one. Or, a post-cool one. Whatever works. Join up, make stuff – zines, books, lit mags. Support each other. Spread the word. Inspire each other. It makes the process of creative work fun and fulfilling. Don’t wait for Faber to come knocking on your door. Do it yourself with others.
13. What projects are you planning for the future and please feel free to plug your latest book?
I’m going back to playwrighting briefly – I’ve had plays performed in various theatres in London and nationwide. I’m halfway into a new play called Now I Wanna Be Your Dog, about bullying. Then there’s another book, Looking For A Kiss, set in the early- to -mid-80s, about love, drugs, freewheeling, fucking up, falling down.
Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night is available from Zer0 Books or Amazon.BUY DARK ENTRIES HERE