London’s Outrage

Here is my first interview with Jon Savage. It appeared in 3:AM Magazine in June 2002:

London’s Outrage Andrew Gallix interviews Jon Savage

3:AM: You were about 23 when punk came along. When did you first hear about it and why did it appeal to you so much?

JS: Being a pop fan from the year dot: I was a teenager at the height of the mid-60s pop explosion. Wanting to rock and there being no rock. The countdown to punk was very simple: Nuggets (1972) and Hard Up Heroes (1973) rekindled interest in the hard, mutated sixties pop that you could buy in Rock On [Ted Carroll’s record shop] in 73-75 (ie Yardbirds, Kinks, Who, Them etc). Patti Smith’s Horses. Charles Shaar Murray’s article about the Ramones (November 75). The Ramones’ first album (April 76). Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel”.

3:AM: I believe you were training to become a solicitor in 1975: did punk save you from a life of tedium like bank clerk Mark Perry, for instance?

JS: Yes. It enabled me ultimately to quit the law and enter the media — another kind of hell but not that particular kind of hell.

3:AM: Unlike Mark Perry, you graduated from Cambridge University. Did your social/intellectual background prevent you from feeling totally integrated within the new scene or, on the contrary, did it help you better understand its numerous influences and appreciate it even more?

JS: Um, I would have to say that despite the influence that those three years of University might well have had on me, you would have to place 13 years of growing in Ealing, and another 8 of being a teenager in Kensington and wandering around central London. I’m a West Londoner and was acutely aware of my pop-saturated environment. So for me not to be fascinated by punk would have been stranger. Plus there is the emotional element (oh sorry, because I have a brain I’m not supposed to have any emotions) and I was totally pissed off, isolated and alienated, in 1976.

3:AM: Why did you pick up a pen rather than a guitar? Did you ever consider forming a band?

JS: No, because to be in a band, in 1977, was to go up and down the country in a van getting spat at. I don’t think so. Plus, I was working in the lawyers’ office at the time and so was unable. Steven Lavers and I had a concept band called Para — I was Para Noia and he was Para Normal — but that’s all it was. If I had been in the same situation 12 years later (like Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne) then I would have no doubt started tinkering around with samplers.

3:AM: When did you start your fanzine London’s Outrage? Were you directly influenced by Sniffin’ Glue? What were your favourite fanzines?

JS: London’s Outrage was done at the end of November 1976: went to see The Clash, saw The Sex Pistols, and did it in two days. I was highly influenced by Sniffin’ Glue, Who Put The Bomp, Bam Balam, and, on the visual side, Claude Pélieu and John Heartfield.

3:AM: Could you tell us about how you produced London’s Outrage, how it was distributed and how many copies you sold?

JS: 50 copies xeroxed. 1000 copies printed. Distributed through Rough Trade — the first one, I might add. All sold. London’s Outrage 2 (all photos and montage set in Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grave and Notting Dale) — only 50 copies xeroxed and sold.

3:AM: I was surprised to discover that Sniffin’ Glue actually had an office: did you also have a professional approach to your zine? Did you ever consider turning London’s Outrage into a more commercial proposition like Jamming, for instance?

JS: No. I always disliked Jamming because I hated The Jam and the whole point of fanzines was to construct a new verbal / visual language, not to ape the existing music media. I also thought Sniffin’ Glue lost its edge when it got ‘professional’. Plus I thought Danny Baker was an idiot, unlike Mark Perry for whom I have great respect.

3:AM: “Outrage” was a punk buzzword like “boredom” or “anarchy”, but why exactly did you call your fanzine London’s Outrage?

JS: It was already on the Sex Pistols’ flyer (for the Notre Dame Hall gig) that I converted for the front cover. Easy.

3:AM: In a TV programme a few years ago, you spoke of the influence of Sheperd’s Bush on the Sex Pistols and of Notting Hill / Ladbroke Grove on The Clash: what impact did London have on the punk scene?

JS: Well, it started in London, didn’t it? This is too wide a question. The answers are in England’s Dreaming. The one thing I would say was that London was so decrepit that 15-25 year olds could leave home and squat or find cheap flats. Obviously, this is no longer possible.

3:AM: What were the punk years like for you on a day-to-day basis? Did you hang out at Louise’s [where the Pistols and the Bromley Contingent used to hang out] in the early days?

JS: No.

3:AM: Were you a regular at The Roxy [London’s first exclusively punk club]?

JS: Yes.

3:AM: Did you shop in Sex, Seditionaries, Acme Attractions, Boy or Beaufort Market [all on London’s King’s Road]?

JS: Yes. In a way that was my introduction because I shopped in Acme and must have been to Sex before I heard the British punk groups. I didn’t shop in Boy because I thought it was naff. My friend Poly Styrene had a stall in Beaufort Market, so I used to hang out there.

3:AM: Who were your favourite bands? Do you still listen to some of them today?

JS: Ramones, Sex Pistols, early Television, early Clash, The Adverts, The Buzzcocks, The Saints, Wire, Penetration, The Slits, Siouxsie, Subway Sect, The Prefects, X-Ray Spex — the distaff side. Still listen to them today, not all the time, but I still like the energy, the humour and the strong emotions. I hated The Jam and The Stranglers: ghastly retro rubbish, old information. The point about punk was that everything should be new.

3:AM: In England’s Dreaming, you claim that punk’s gay roots were hidden as soon as the movement went overground: how important were those roots?

JS: As important as they are throughout the history of popular culture and artistic movements: damn near central. Many of punk’s original participants were gay, and much of the original aesthetic was also. There is much about this in England’s Dreaming. Gay involvement in pop culture is always downplayed, if not ignored, by scared and insecure het boys who can’t admit that much of what they love comes from queers. Well it does, so get used to it.

3:AM: How did you graduate from the world of fanzines to the weekly music press, Sounds, Melody Maker and later The Face?

JS: Quick pick up of anyone on the scene who had a brain in early 1977: in my case, thanks to Dave Fudger and Vivien Goldman. For the rest of it, read Paul Gorman’s In Their Own Write.

3:AM: How did you get on with other young, hip gunslinging punk rock critics like Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill, Caroline Coon, John Ingham or Jane Suck?

JS: This is the bitching question, right? Pass.

3:AM: Much of what you have written (on Joy Division, for instance, or the intro to The Manual) is punk-related: is it still very much an influence for you?

JS: Well, obviously. It’s not like I’m sitting here with spiked up hair or bondage strides, but I do not regret any aspect of my involvement with punk at all and despise those who, in order to achieve some illusory ‘adulthood’, deride their adolescent ideals. I think that successful adulthood depends on the integration of youthful ideals with mature experience of the world.

3:AM: Where does your obsession with pop culture (from Picture Post Idols to house music through The Kinks) come from?

JS: Being a sentient being with quivering antennae in early sixties suburbia. The Beatles hit hard, and then I saw the Kinks on the telly in summer 1964 and couldn’t believe that boys could look like girls and make such an unholy racket. Compared to the other great option, sport, this mix of glamour and perceptual subversion was so much more attractive. Football: just a bunch of people in bad clothes running round in the rain, getting shouted at. I still loathe sport culture, not the sport. I was 10 in 1963, so the whole parade of sixties pop was unfurled before my greedy eyes. I couldn’t get enough of it.

3:AM: How did you come to write The Faber Book of Pop with Hanif Kureishi?

JS: His idea. A good one, as it happens.

3:AM: Did you like him as a writer?

JS: I liked Buddha, didn’t like Intimacy at all. Ultimately, we both want quite different things.

3:AM: Why do you think it took so long for punk to have an impact on British fiction?

JS: Because fiction always lags behind music. And because the literary ‘scene’ in England is SO vile. Example: when in 1975, I left university for the world, my guides were not Martin Amis or Ian McEwan, but Patti Smith and The Ramones. They told me all I needed to know, not the overhyped products of an incredibly small, and inward-looking clique.

3:AM: Who are your favourite contemporary British writers?

JS: I don’t think in these terms. All my reading is concentrated on my work which is at present located in the 1930s.

3:AM: How did the British Film Institute’s Never Mind the Jubilee punk season come about?

JS: I was asked by Hilary Smith (National Film Theatre Head) and I said yes. I knew most of the footage because of the research I’d done for England’s Dreaming and Arena’s Punk and the Pistols programme.

3:AM: What impact do you hope it will have? Punk is often seen retrospectively through the black and white photos of the music press: maybe these films will show how colourful it really was? It might also prove once and for all that there were no mohicans back in 77…

JS: Well that’s a start! I think seeing beyond the clichés presented by lame thirty/fortysomethings (example: Never Mind the Buzzcocks — a total travesty; another example, the super-straight Nick Hornby) is extremely important: punk was wild, outcast, vicious and protective at the same time. It wasn’t boring, and it wasn’t straight (I don’t mean this just in terms of sexuality, but in a perceptual sense). It did not, initially, reinforce the dominant values. So if you’re pissed off, you might pick up some tips. You might find a bunch of outcasts coming together curiously uplifting. There is, also, some great music there (and that’s where I came into all of this). Otherwise: punk is dead. It was 25 years ago: half an adult lifetime. Bye bye.

Meet the New Barbarians


This interview with the late Steven Wells appeared in 3:AM Magazine in 2001:


Attack Books!: Meet the New Barbarians

Steven Wells interviewed by Andrew Gallix.

3:AM: When did you launch Attack! Books and, more importantly, why?

SW: I was hacking away at a Stewart Home-influenced psycho-novel titled Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty, about what would happen if everybody who has ever taken ecstasy suddenly went totally INfuckingSANE and started hacking up their nearest and dearest with garden tools and safety scissors.

Tommy Udo then invited me along to his “extreme spoken word” club The Shining Path where these mad scribblings went down a storm. It was the start of a brutally beautiful sado-masochistic sexual relationship. Tommy had some cash left over from his disastrously brief career as a Channel 4 TV presenter and wanted to start a publishing company.

Soon we had a name — Attack! Books. And a shitload of titles: Pagan Bastards!, Fat Goth Chick, Legalise Cannibalism, Apes of Wrath, Vatican Bloodbath, Prince Bastard (followed by King Bastard and Intergalactic Emperor Bastard) etc.

And a manifesto:


This generation needs a NEW literature—writing that apes, matches, parodies and supersedes the flickeringly fast 900 MPH ATTACK! ATTACK ATTACK! velocity of early 21st century popular culture at its most mEnTaL!


We will publish writers who think they’re rock stars, rock stars who think they’re writers and we will make supernovas of the stuttering, wild-eyed, slack-jawed drooling idiot-geek geniuses who lurk in the fanzine/internet shadows.


“Subtlety” is found in the dictionary between “shit” and “syphilis”. The self-perpetuating ponce-mafia oligarchy of effete bourgeois wankers who run the literary scene must be swept aside by a tidal wave of screaming urchin tits-out teenage terror totty and DESTROYED! ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! Hail the Social Surrealist revolution! Death to Brit Lit! Meet the New Barbarians!”

And a concept:

“Attack is punk rock—but for books! We are the Tamla Motown of publishing! In your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed! Written by psychopaths! For psychopaths! Gratuitously violent, stomach churning two-fisted avant-pulp rock’n’roll fuck-fiction! Attack! is the literary equivalent of being spit-roasted by two horse-cocked muscle studs! (On crack, obviously.)



The stinking ranks of pulpspewing semi-android hacks’ hideously swollen heads will all sport heavy steel headphones which blast cutting-edge extreme pop sounds straight into their shaking skulls whilst banks of video machines spew looptapes packed with horrific images of slaughter, torture, kids’ cartoons and triple-X rated hardcore-europorn straight into each slackjawed slave’s visual cortex through a complicated spaghetti of multi-coloured wiring. Using these revolutionary production methods we aim to flood the English reading world with thousands of utterly psychotic surefire smash-hit but shudderingly subliterate teensploitation novels mindlessly churned out in a few hours by the utterly drugboggled brain of an anonymous kidnapped rock hack whose finer sensibilities have been mercilessly crushed by a relentless and totally desensitising non-stop barrage of gratuitously-violent, overtly sexual and utterly tasteless cultural effluent and then smashed into atoms by the computer generated super-orgasms that thrash their emaciated body as a reward each time they concoct a savage sentence, sordid sex scene or sickeningly violent pig-getting-his-ear-sliced-off-in-Res Dogs style scenario that leaps clean over the boundaries of civilised good taste and falls screaming into the abyss of barbarity, perversion and dangerously demented decadence beyond.”

And a press release:

“Attack! Books are gaudily painted ruffian whores blatantly flourishing the rouged lips of their distended genitalia and giving you the come on. You are aroused to passion. Feverishly fingering the cheap pages, you speed-read the sordid contents, your mind reeling under the savage mental carpet bombing of the fuck-frenzied prose. At last, satiated and weeping, you collapse in a heaving heap. Then you sit down at your computer and start to write. The world must hear of the glory, the frenzy, the dementia and — yes — the love that IS Attack! Books. The pulsating glory that you once thought could only be found in the screaming amplifiers of beautiful and tragically thin young proletarian sex-rock gods thrashing machine-gun fuck rock out of cock-level held and crude-slogan plastered electric guitars has now found its literary equivalent!

The doors of perception are ripped off their rusting hinges and smashed into worm-ridden matchwood by a barbarian horde of Viking berzerker skum who stomp into the darkest corners of the human soul, howling like crazed wolves, roaring like priapic mastodons, screaming like blood crazed bull-chimps and shitting in your spanking new trainers like naughty puppies. Did someone say punk rock? Fuck punk rock! Did someone say Acid House? Fuck Acid House! All cultural references are redundant. Attack! is like The Battle of Stalingrad experienced by a five-year-old psychopath on Jacob’s Ladder style CIA experimental combat acid! It’s like being butt-fucked to a bloody pulp by a detective chief constable with a hammer head shark for a cock. It’s like wading knee deep through a sea of used condoms casually tossed aside by the Ghaddafi trained lesbian terror squads whose mission it is to inject infected semen into the arteries of the common mind. But basically, chum, it’s about love. Let’s not forget that, OK?”

But unfortunately Tommy had no money left after having to pay for a series of operations following a disastrous move to America where he tried (and failed spectacularly in front of 7.8 million TV viewers) to make it big on the WWF pro-wrestling circuit.

So we hawked it around:

MAJOR PUBLISHER: So who’s the target audience for Attack!?
US: Um, working-class and lower-middle class males. Probably.
MAJOR PUBLISHER: Do they go into bookshops?

So eventually we fell in with Creation books (nothing to do with Creation records) and put six books out. Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty by Steven Wells, Raiders Of The Low Forehead by Stanley Manly, Satan! Satan! Satan! by Tony White, Get Your Cock Out by Mark Manning (AKA Zodiac Mindwarp), Vatican Bloodbath by Tommy Udo and Whips & Furs — My Life As A Bon-Vivant, Gambler And Love Rat by Jesus H. Christ (edited by Stewart Home). But that relationship is coming to an end and we are currently looking to go solo and are in negotiation with some RICH PEOPLE to make this happen because we got TONS OF SHIT-HOT MANUSCRIPTS screaming to be born.


3:AM: I believe you used to work for the NME. Is this still the case? What sort of music are you into today? Do you think there is a generation gap in British fiction today between writers influenced by pop music (from punk onwards) and the rest?

SW: Yes, I still freelance for the NME. I am into loud, fast, violent rock’n’roll music and mindless bubblegum pop that makes me smile. I think everybody over 40 should be allowed to carry a large wooden stick (with a knobbly bit at the end) with which they should be allowed to beat all teenagers sporting long hair, goatee beards, ridiculously baggy trousers and pierced genitalia.

3:AM: Your manifesto attacks the Britlit establishment. What about the Chemical Generation writers or the New Puritans?

SW: The Chemical Generation are BORING! What the fuck have they got to say? I put on some ridiculously baggy trousers and a tea cosey and went to a disco and took some drugs that made me want to twitch to music designed to be twitched to by people who’ve taken drugs that make them want to twitch to music designed to be twitched to by people who’ve taken drugs that make them want to twitch to music etc etc etc. And then we went back to someone’s house and took some more drugs and talked shit and then crashed out for 48 hours and woke up maniacally depressed having contracted Parkinson’s disease. It was great. BORING!

And what the fuck is up with the New Puritans? It’s all so minimalist! Good luck to anybody out to sir up the stagnant, class-ridden cesspit of “serious literature” but the New Puritans seem to be reformists and, as it says on the tattoo on Tommy Udo’s horse-sized cock: ONE SOLUTION! REVOLUTION!

3:AM: What do you think of other alternative publishers/imprints like Pulp Faction, or Canongate in Scotland?

SW: Good luck to them. But I don’t think that any of them have Attack!’s evangelical zeal or clarity of vision.

3:AM: You want a “NEW literature” for “this generation”. How would you define this new type of literature?

SW: That slogan: Punk rock for books! It’s a tad crude (hem hem). Especially when we’re talking about a medium which, in musical terms, hasn’t even had its bebop yet. We want literature that is the literary equivalent of “No Limits” by Two Unlimited, Gabba, Hardcore, Grindcore, The Sex Pistols, Digital Hard Core, Daphne & Celeste, Little Richard, Apocalypse Now, The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Akira, amphetamine sulphate, The League Of Gentlemen, fucking on poppers, the screams of 80,000 assembled screaming teenypop fans, John Zorn’s Torture Garden, Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner, Brute!, the beach scene from Saving Private Ryan. ALL AT THE SAME TIME! We want literature that reeks of the sex, speed and violence of 21st century culture at its most mental! Writing that sucker-punches you in the heart, head, guts and gonads at the same time!

We’re offended by the very concept of “serious” literature. It’s so one-dimensional! We’re sickened by the constant elevation of prematurely middle-aged 19th century style wannabes as cutting-edge enfant terribles. A university English Lit course that fails to teach comics is as redundant as a media studies course that fails to mention television. Fucking hell! Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife burnt the first draft of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde because she thought it was shit. So the nutter hammered it all out again from scratch in 72 hours while off his fucking skull on medicinal cocaine. THAT’S Attack! It’s about dumbing UP! More is More! Screaming tabloid headlines, Stalinist aesthetics, situationist rhetoric, twisted morality, an ultra-modernist social-surrealist agenda, chip shops on both shoulders — who needs “character development” and “plot” when you’ve got a manifesto, a hit-list and a billion drugfucked chimps hammering away 24/7 on stained and battered Macs? “I wanna start with an earthquake and build to a climax!” — Sam Goldwyn

Avant-pulp is Social Surrealism.

Most novels take one or two good ideas and string them out over 200 pages. Fuck that. We want TEN great ideas. PER PAGE. Grab the reader by the throat and pummel him or her to a bloody pulp. And then fuck the corpse. Live on prime time terrestrial TV.

The swearing, violence, drug abuse and sex in Attack! Books is extreme, savage, frequent and utterly gratuitous. But we’re NOT into middle-class ooh-mummy-look-at-me “mondo” decadence. Pornography is dull. Avant-pulp is mindblowing. And Attack! avant-pulp is “moral” — from an extreme nutter anarcho-commie perspective. Ie all Tories, smothermummies, wankers, fascists and bastards DIE! Spectacularly.

It isn’t “literature.” Oh GOD! Fuck NO! The “serious”, “psychological” novel is the most tedious genre going. It sucks. It’s boring. Who wants to read about the inside of some knuckle-suckingly middle-class fucker’s head when they could be reading about vampires, aliens, mutant alligators, drug-crazed zombies, Margaret Thatcher sex golems, deranged ex SAS assassins, killer-priests, frankensteins, satanic rockers, football hooligans etc etc etc? You know — exciting, fun stuff. Mad POP stuff. Most of the manuscripts we get sent try to be “literature”. They fail miserably. Don’t give us “an idea!” Give us a universe! Preferably one per chapter. Be honest, face facts. You know three chords. So hammer out some hilarious, ranting, frenetic, breathless punk rock. Leave the symphony till later. Get loose, Let rip. You’ve got the rest of your life to be boring.


SO — TO SUM THE FUCK UP — WHAT IS ATTACK!? * It’s Motown for Pulp. * It’s literature that reflects the insane revved-to-fuck flick’n’fling pace of the century that spawns it. * It’s extreme digital hardcore punk rock’n’roll speed gabba for books. * It’s about whacking 50,000 volts through the corpse of an artform that is so moribund and up its own middle-class arse that it considers sad bastard public school Oxbridge junkie Will Self to be a punk rock enfant terrible. Is he fuck! He writes like a sanatogen-sodden geriatric! And you can stick Martin Amis up your arse as well. * It’s in your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed. * It’s a REVOLUTION!

To save the English novel we must first destroy it! Attack! is an unequal-opportunities employer, we’re out to finally and irrevocably destroy the Oxbridge upper-middle class death grip on “literature”. Our bible is John Carey’s The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia (Faber, 1992). We have swallowed wholesale the knowledge that the reason novels got so tedious, self-referential and dull in the early 20th Century was as a reaction against mass literacy. They didn’t want the oiks to read books. God no! Well fuck you, you snobs! The oiks are biting back.

We’ve gone back to Swift, Defoe and Austin and brought them screaming forward into the 21st century. We’re sick of desiccated and prematurely middle-aged bores telling us that comics and action movies should be more like novels (character development, grandiose statements about the human condition witter, drone, bore blah blah blah). Fuck that! Novels should be more like comics and action movies! Visceral, gaudy, exciting, vulgar, cheap, nasty, banal, cheesy, tasteless, head-exploding and gut-wrenching technicolor roller-coaster rides through the nerve-shredding extremities of human behaviour. Cheap thrills! Books that spew 10 ideas a page at you, that leave you breathless, sweating, frightened, excited, inspired and with urine-drenched trousers. Novel writing isn’t an “art form”. It’s typing on drugs.

3:AM: What do you mean by “avant-pulp”? Hasn’t the concept already been used by Jeff Noon?

SW: Yes, we nicked it of Jeff, Fuck him. He’s not having it back.

3:AM: Could you tell us when and why you started writing?

SW: God no. I’m knackered!

3:AM: What sort of submissions are you looking for? Do you also intend to publish fiction on your website as well as on paper?

SW: See above and yes.


Thirty Two Feet Per Second

My love has just left the flat, never to return. I can still smell the scent of her perfume in the room. I can hear her receding footsteps in the corridor.

When I was a kid, there were two different ways to go home, both equidistant. Every day, me and my sister would split up outside the school gates and see who would get there first.

As I open the window I think of the future that could have been, of the children we will never have. Every day they will split up outside the school gates and see who gets home first. We will hear their footsteps coming up the garden path.

Standing on the windowsill, I watch her winding down the six flights of stairs, carrying her blue suitcase. There are two ways to go home, both equidistant, but mine’s the quickest.

Last one’s a sissy.