I FUCK LIKE A RABBIT, SO I MIGHT AS WELL EAT LIKE ONE: Stewart Home interviewed by Javier Montero
JM: How would you describe yourself - a poet, a novelist, a hooligan, an artist, a maverick, a skin head, a philosopher, a performer, a troublemaker?
SH: As a maverick ballet dancer, assuming you'll accept doing the frug and the funky chicken as ballet dancing (I did say maverick ballet dancing).
JM: Is your 'public personae' part of your work?
SH: Stewart Home is our work, he is a collective project set up in 1979 by K. L. Callan and Fiona MacLeod. The idea was for diverse individuals to produce a body of work that would be credited to a fictional author called Stewart Home, under a variety of names we were simultaneously involved in a propaganda campaign attacking Home and 'his' work as a means of generating media interest in the phantom scribbler. An unemployed actor called Tony White agreed to play the part of Home whenever public appearances were required.
JM: What's your connection with Luther Blisset? Have you read any of Wu Ming’s novels?
SH: Luther Blissett was a project that aimed to go beyond the one we'd launched under the banner of Stewart Home. Therefore we played a small role in the launch of the Luther Blissett project. The first Luther Blissett prank involved a claim that a London based artist called Harry Kipper had disappeared while cycling across Europe between various cities to spell out the word art. Kipper was last seen in Italy, and Stewart Home was supposed to be his best friend in London. After the Italian media ran stories about the missing artist Harry Kipper some television celebrities came to London to interview his best friend. Tony White playing the part of Stewart Home showed some of them a half-demnolished house in the East End and claimed it was where Kipper lived and that it had been knocked down since he'd gone missing. White posing as Home also gave various interviews about his friend Harry, talking about his interest in the occult and how good he was at surviving in the wilds because he knew all about what berries it was safe to eat.
JM: Are you interested in hoaxes?
SH: Yeah, the classic example would be the Salman Rushdie prank. On the fifth anniversary of the Fatwa I was very fed up with British media coverage of the Rushdie affair that configured all Muslims as fundamentalists, as though there weren’t Sunni, Sufi, Shi’ite etc. and as if these weren't as different from each other as the various Christian sects like Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox etc. So I decided to put out a fake press release saying that Rushdie had teamed up with John Latham, the sixties artist who was famous for burning piles of books. I sent this press release to fifty literary critics, with the phone number of Rushdie's literary agency and the name of someone that worked there, saying that Rushdie and Latham were teaming up to burns piles of the Bible and the Koran. The five rules of a press release are 'Who, Why, What, Where, When', and you also have to supply a quote so that a lazy journalist can write their article without doing any work, so I put in Rushdie's mouth the line I'd always wanted to hear him say: 'Since going into hiding I've been studying Middle Eastern history and I now realise that the workers are the only people in a position to define intransigent Islam. In 1958 when Quisan and the Free Officers seized power in Iraq, they killed the monarch and burnt the Koran. This is the kind of activity my collaboration with John Latham is designed to encourage.' Which of course isn't very believable as a quote from Salman Rushdie, but it would have been interesting to hear him say that. He was on record as saying that it was the job of writers to promote different views. I wasn't into winding up Muslims for the sake of it; I think Islamophobia is a genuine problem and needs dealing with. But at the same time it's possible to have criticisms of both Islam and Christianity. I didn't send my fake press release to Muslim groups; I sent it to literary critics on the so called quality Fleet Street newspapers. So the fake press release went out, and fortuitously the person at the agency whose name I'd given happened to be on holiday that week. But there was big police investigation into what had happened. The cops got hold of me after ten days. They'd been asking journalists who they thought might have done it, and someone from The Big Issue said: 'There's only one person who's got these interests in the whole of London.' There weren't any particular consequences, apart from a different person standing outside my door step all day every day for a week and then a couple of visits. And obviously I think most of the well known British authors are pretty stupid, I mean why bother reading Martin Amis or Julian Barnes, I don't have any relationship to that scene. With them its like modernism never really happened, I mean why write novels like that after Beckett and Joyce, its just a waste of time. So I like doing hoaxes against them.
JM: Which authors do you prefer? And artists?
SH: One of my favourite novelists Alex Trocchi was a friend of my mother, although I never met him. My mom would be round a Trocchi's all the time in the seventies, since they were both junkies and did a bit of drug dealing together and a lot of shooting up. I like Clarence Cooper Jr who wrote The Farm. I like books that don't make sense, Alain Robbe-Grillet or Darius James who did Negrophobia. Lynne Tillman is also very good, Cast In Doubt is my favourite novel of hers. As far as artists go, I probably mainly like film-makers who make films about artists. Roger Corman is someone I really like, Bucket Of Blood is just fantastic about someone who is talentless but then gets their break by covering animals and then people they've killed with clay and showing them at the local beatnik cafe. In other cases it can be just one film by a director. Driller Killer by Abel Ferrara is delightful, about an artist who is cracking up and goes on a killing spree, kind of low budget Polanski - but allegedly Ferrara likes China Girl best amongst his films, and I hate the whole buddy thing he is doing in that (it reminds me of Mean Streets which I loathe) and I'm not interesting in him reworking Romeo and Juliet through West Side Story.
JM: I‘ve the feeling that, even when The Assault on Culture is a highly interesting reading, your later works are far more radical and thought provoking. How do see now this book? Which are your favourites?
SH: The Assault on Culture kind of provided a sketch of an important part of the cultural background to my later stuff. It was also the most successful Stewart Home book until the novel 69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess came out. The Assault on Culture is what it is, I still like it, but my favourite book is always the one I'm working on. You have to move on, and I mainly write essays or novels, I've only published two book length non-fiction books to date, although I’ve written more than two, so The Assault on Culture isn't typical of what I do given that I've had eleven novels out in English, and a book of stories as well as collections of non-fiction.
JM: As far I've read, you are strongly critical of what is been organised as Young British Art, why?
SH: To begin with there are three notions in the idea of Young British Art that can be objected to. There is of course nothing wrong with being young (indeed the notion of young is relational and not rational, nothing is inherently young, only young when compared to something else). However, in this instance young is just a marketing device. I object to all forms of nationalism, but imagining oneself to be British is a particularly obnoxious form of this mental disease, it stinks up the planet. I also object to art because it is hierarchical, ie Hans Holbein is art C. John Taylor is not; Mozart is art, Jim Reeves is not; Alfred Hitchcock is art, Jess Franco is not. Art is about dividing things brought together under a single category (painting, music, film etc.) into good and bad and I don't think that's useful. I'm happy to loathe Mozart and like Jim Reeves, I probably prefer Jess Franco to Hitchcock but I like both as directors.
JM: Do see yourself as European?
SH: I see myself as an Afro-Celtic proletarian, but mainly as a human being. The point is to overcome alienation and realise our species being. Marx is an important reference point, in my political activities I aim for the abolition of politics and all other form of specialised activity. No more commodities, the abolition of money, an end to class society, an end to alienation and the specialised activities that accompany it including art and politics. We'll drop acid in the morning, shit at lunchtime, make love in the afternoon and be critical critics at night.
JM: What do you think of Tony Blair?
SH: He's just scum, over here we always knew the Labour Party was our enemy just as much as the conservatives.
JM: I have read that you have recorded a spoken word album, what is your relation with music?
SH: I had a music album out too, punk rock. But I like lots of stuff, particularly rare groove. Today I listened to Eddie Harris in a jazz funk mood, Pharoah Sanders and Cornelius Cardew. I listen to a lot of soul and funk music.
JM: Have you ever been in Spain?
SH: I've been to the Balearic Islands a couple of times. I also did a tour of Spain doing lectures and readings in 2004. My Spanish publisher organised it, an interesting mixure of art colleges, museums and social centres. So I went to Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Bilbo and Burgos, covering several different kinds of venue in each town. My translator came with me for some of the trip. He was very interested in shoplifting, and tried to teach me how to steal one of those big legs of Spanish ham (jamon). He was disgusted when I told him I wasn’t interested in nicking ham but would like to see him steal something more interesting, like soiled underwear from a launderette as a housewife was attempting to get her smalls into a washing machine. So when my translator ranted at me I was a vegetarian pervert, I replied: ‘I fuck like a rabbit, so I might as well eat like one!’ (All I needed was someone to go down on).
I found this on my hard drive; presumably it is an email interview done in 2005 for a Spanish website or publication.
Stewart Home interviewed on Neoism
Stewart Home tells it like it is...