Q1: When did you start writing and who has influenced you the most?
My first paid writing job was in 1982 – I was 22-years-old – freelancing for the NME, under the pen name Richard North – after New North Road (near Old Street), where I was squatting at the time. London back then was characterised by wrecked and abandoned property, corrugated iron, fires burning in rusty metal barrels in empty yards, wasteland, toxic clouds of tobacco smoke in the dole office, on the top deck of the bus and in one smokers’ carriage on the tube, darkness. It was an environment which you could truthfully run wild in, to paraphrase Malcolm McLaren. And I did. I loved it. I guess I was taken on at the NME to write about a particular type of post-punk bands sometimes called Positive Punk, the name of a front cover piece I wrote about the movement, which wasn’t particularly a movement – just a loose collection of reckless feckless glam soaked musicians, squatters, urbanites, trash clubbers, punk nostalgics, dopers, no hopers. It didn’t last long – satisfying a need for vitality for a mere few months, and then we all moved on.
I carried on writing for the NME as well a number of other magazines and papers, before taking a writing job at the BBC. Which I quit after ten years or so, to carry on with my own projects – journalism, theatre, and authoring a number of books, e.g. Looking for a Kiss, Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night (Zer0 Books), Dark Entries, etc.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
As a very young kid, I was looked after by my grandmother, while my parents worked. I come from a Polish background and my babcia (granny in Polish) amused me and herself by telling stories all day – fantastic Polish tales of dark foreboding, dire warning, dislocation and disaster, fortitude and survival, of how the cold will settle with deathly embrace around our shoulders if we forget for one single moment to beware, to be constantly on your guard. Folk stories, and family history of how, during WWII, my family had been ethnically cleansed by the Soviets from our home in Eastern Poland to labour camps in Siberia, and then, after amnesty, to the middle east, Africa, and, ultimately, England. A true odyssey. My babcia placed these tales in a mythological context. Similarly, her descriptions of current affairs were akin to the telling of contemporary fables. I guess knew then that I wanted to tell stories like her.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?
I suppose those editors and publishers who have, over the years, recognised my wild and raging talent. I humbly thank you. But, in my experience, writers rarely help one another and are mostly fuelled by ego, jealousy and hatred of other writers, especially successful ones. I’ve seen friendships end overnight after a former pal has had a good review or a few sales. The writing scene is characterised by vanity, rivalry, and bitterness. As Gore Vidal said, ‘whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.’ Ha. I also like the line ‘succeeding is not enough, others must fail.’
Q4: Where did you grow up and how has that influenced you? Have any travels influenced your work?
I was born in Aylesbury, Bucks, and grew up in Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Thirty miles up the M1 from London. Suburbia largely. There, kids left school and went on the track, the production line, at the local factory, Vauxhall Motors. If you got some qualifications you could join the civil service. Meanwhile, some couples had been going out with each other since 3rd Form and watched telly round each other’s house every night, not saying a word. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want any of that. Instead, 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. Which, for me, at the age of 18, in 1978, happened to be London the traditional refuge for suburban refugees – people who felt disaffected by life in the sticks: the treadmill, the mores, the conservatism, the repressive nature of family life. We wanted to tip all of this upside down, assert ourselves and fathom the world. There, in London, I wrote and produced my punk fanzine Kick.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?
I always think of my latest work as the most meaningful, for obvious reasons.
Q6: Favourite activities to relax?
Procrastination, prevarication, seeing people, avoiding people, bad language, bad behaviour, hanging out, talking shit, fucking around, shopping for clothes, lying on the sofa, lying in the sun, lying, being boring, yoga.
Q7: What is a favourite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?
The End. Obvious huh
Q8:What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?
While working I usually listen to Mixcloud – mostly dub, low event horizon music, spiritual jazz. Music always keeps it ticking along – the heartbeat, the soul and all.
Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?
I’ve signed my second book contract of the year – with the notable New York publishers Far West Press, purveyors of fine literature, who will put out my book of verse entitled Disorderly Magic and Other Disturbances in Spring 2023– available nationally in the States, select shops in the UK and Europe, and online worldwide.
Disorderly Magic is post-punk, dark jazz, pop art verse. Essential beat up/down, free-fall, free-for-all poetry for people who don’t particularly like poetry (and who do, of course).
Disorderly Magic features subterranean scenes, picturesque ruins, neon glowing, faded glamour, Chelsea Girls, the damned, the demimonde, the elemental, being on the edge of being pinned down by our ghosts.
Also, memory, magic, mourning, worlds and words that are desperately fragile –mapping the loneliness and expression of private sorrows, some peculiar energy from the streets, hidden and brilliant corners, ‘well of course I liked Godard’s films before 68 but…’
And, a graveyard of myths, nostalgia, ‘the problem is: to get back to zero’, image of nylon, sur et sous le communication, folk devils, alienation – full face or in profile, the Scala cinema London 1983, the Zone, the consumer society, concrete brutalist situations, that which doesn’t exist.
Plus, French film slurred, correct sounds for a new audience, POV shots, reverse shots, absolute technical precision, brand new revenge, compartmentalisation of our lives, everywhere at once, ‘“I prefer American films… they’re prettier” – “Yes, but less arousing,”’ invisible people in homes, in other words no normal life.
Additionally, blocks of flats, signs of repression, reality of reflection, very little ideology, juices stirred, dilation of the pupil, Polish mysticism, passage of a signal, pop blow jobs, pravda, overlaying one image onto another, all in black and white (black and white is fast – colour is slower) – standard speed for capturing abrupt movement, madness.
Set in full moonlight, before the Flood.
Disorderly Magic and Other Disturbances will be available for pre-order March 2023, and published May 2023 by Far West Press.
Moreover, my current novel Looking for a Kiss has been picked up by the exciting publishing company PC-Press.
It will be re-published next Spring (2023) in an extended and amended edition, with new text additions, artwork and cover. There will also be an audio book version. The paperback and hardback versions will be distributed to shops nationwide, and will also be available via the usual online outlets. Until then, Looking for a Kiss is no longer for sale.
PC-Press released Melissa Chemam’s book Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone, the history of Test Department, Total State Machine, etc.
Pete Webb, who runs PC-Press says: ‘Looking for a Kiss is a post-punk masterpiece. The book presents a particular slice of Post-Punk London in its brutal, negating and bleak narrative that brilliantly evokes the time.’
Looking for a Kiss remains a ‘fabulous’, poetic some would say, chronicle of speed and madness in the London/NY 80s post-punk milieu.
It was described in the programme notes of this year’s Lewisham Literary Festival, where I appeared, as ‘a cult classic post-punk pop art novel.’
Richard Cabut is author of the novels Looking for a Kiss (PC-Press, 2023. Previous edition: Sweat Drenched Press, 2020) and Dark Entries (Cold Lips Press, 2019), co-editor/-writer of the anthology Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night (Zer0 Books, October 2017), contributor to Ripped, Torn and Cut – Pop, Politics and Punks Fanzines From 1976 (Manchester University Press, 2018) and Growing Up With Punk (Nice Time, 2018).
His journalism has featured in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, NME (pen name Richard North), ZigZag, The Big Issue, Time Out, Offbeat magazine, the Independent, Artists & Illustrators magazine, thefirstpost, London Arts Board/Arts Council England, Siren magazine, etc.
Other fiction has appeared in the books The Edgier Waters (Snowbooks, 2006) and Affinity (67 Press, 2015). As well as on various internet sites.
He was a Pushcart Prize nominee 2016.
Richard’s plays have been performed at various theatres in London and nationwide, including the Arts Theatre, Covent Garden, London.
His poetry has appeared in An Anthology of Punk Ass Poetry (Orchid Eater Press, 2022), and magazines such as Cold Lips, Foggy Plasma, 3:AM Magazine, etc.
Richard exhibited as contributing artist (textual) to Always On My Mind, an exhibition in aid of The National Brain Appeal, the Fitzrovia Gallery, London, July 2022.
He published the fanzine Kick (1978-1982), and played bass guitar for the punk band Brigandage (LP Pretty Funny Thing – Gung Ho Records, 1986).