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THE MAN WHO IMMORTALISED PHOTOBOOTH PUNKS: JOHNNY DELUXE - INTERVIEW BY MEL

Johnny Deluxe is the man responsible for hanging off bridges and other locations to display his works of art. These works of art are sometimes known as ‘The unknown soldiers of punk rock’ and are Photo booth images which have been kind of ‘Warholised’. I am fortunate to be amongst them and highly honoured I am too. There is more to Johnny than meets the eye, although one interview probably isn’t enough – let’s find out more. 

Mel – I’m pleased to have a little cheeky chat with Johnny. firstly I guess I have to ask – '100 Punks' have been in several publications and it really is such a unique and brilliant concept you started. Where did the idea of photobooth punks come from and why ‘100 punks’? How did you start to collect them?
 

Deluxe - Well my dear Mel, it came to me as many things do, in a back alley, I was think about what nonsense would be foisted on us as the 30th anniversary of punk loomed. It just horrified me, I could see all the box sets and magazine articles, telling us our own history, and written on the whole by people that weren’t there. I thought of all the stories my fellows must have, and of those that didn’t make it this far, and I just hit me, the photobooths, we all used them, it was a gamble, but luckily I was right, we did all use them.  So I set myself a punk style deadline of 100 days for 100 punks, and actually completed the project in 70. The photobooth part was very important, as then the picture was taken by themselves, I just coloured and art worked them, so that we had a link, but essentially they are self portraits, I was merely a catalyst.

 
Mel – Who was the first Punk you immortalised into your gallery of rogues?

Deluxe -The very 1st, was my ex wife, I had one of her and used it to try the process and see if it would work, but the 1st submission was from a chap in Leeds called sedated/daz, and so in that sense he is no 1. He has a great Mohican in the picture and it’s taken from the side, his hair looks like a blade, it’s brilliant. So big up Daz!!!

(Mel in 100 Punks display by Johnny Deluxe)

 

Mel – How many do you have in your collection now? It must have way surpassed 100 by now.

What do you plan to do with them once you have finished with the idea? I read that you planned to burn them in a big fire? Do you not think to sell them or donate?

Deluxe - I don’t have as many as you might think, perhaps 150, though it would be good to do a website, for everyone. They stopped coming in, and there are now websites that collate our generation, so hopefully the 100 punks inspired documentation of us, as well as bands etc. I find people not product interesting. I would if I could artwork them all, but to be quite frank, it basically bankrupted me to do the 100, as diy as it is, the project took all of my money, as I wanted it to remain independent, true to the spirit.

I couldn’t sell them, there is no way I could sell my fellows down the river, for as someone recently said to me a bit of paper with an old bags head on it. As trite as it may seem, I believe there has to be a bit of integrity in this world, and punk rock and punk rockers are far too important to me, I’d rather starve. I would donate them, if I thought they would be taken care of and shown, but when I tried to donate pictures to a museum from a 100 punk’s offshoot, I was advised that they would just rot away in a basement. I would indeed like to either burn/blow them up, that really would be a blaze of glory. The plan is to make them into a large autonomy sign, loaded with fireworks, and stand well back, be nice by the houses of parliament. Do you think they’ll let me?

Mel – Ha ha well you could try! You take these photos on ‘walk - about’ when/where is the next one, or is it classified information?

Deluxe - Galleries are great, but I like the idea of the pictures going where we used to go…You see, I’m not an artist, I’m just a bloke with ideas that I try to action as much as possible, well maybe I am an artist, but there has to be a capital f at the beginning of the word artist. I still want to do the kings road, it a logistics problem with that, I would need at least 25 people to walk them up. And I am open to any suggestions; I also still want to take over the worlds end one afternoon. Film premiers, etc, any ideas?

 
Mel - What's happening with 100 punks these days? The last outing was 'The Batcave' is there anymore in the pipeline? There was a book mentioned about 100 punks has this gotten underway yet?
 

Deluxe - The Batcave was great; I always saw all of those things as the natural progression of punk, so I was very pleased to do it. The book will happen, I am going to self publish, you cannot believe some of the things I have turned down for the punks, mouse mats, keyrings, coffee mugs. It has to be done right, and not ruined, so that means it will take a lot longer, but be the real thing. All of the anniversaries have been hit, so there is no time constraint, it will happen, wanna help?

I have had a couple of offers to exhibit outside of the UK, and here’s the deal, this is a civic exhibition, it’s free. I only ever ask for travel expenses and some form of accommodation. There are a few London art attacks coming, and they occasionally go to a gig, I’m hoping the damned will invite them onstage in December at the forum that would be nice for Xmas.
 

Mel – Which is your favourite 100 punk photo booth image, the one which captures the whole concept?

Deluxe - They all do, without you I am nothing, and visa versa.

Mel - I know you use a forum called punk77 can you tell me about your part in this forum, are you one of the moderators?
 
Deluxe - No I’m just a bloke that loves to communicate, punk 77 is a great place for like minds to meet, and there is a ton of talent in all forms on that forum. I have been lucky to meet a lot of the people and well, it’s really a great place in cyberspace, but, as ever, they need more ladies to sign up, just like back in the day, it’s mostly boys, and girls remember how cute punk boys are!!!

 

Mel – What is ‘Fist Fuck Deluxe’?

Deluxe - Fist fuck deluxe is a passion, it’s how I express myself musically, and I’m compelled to do it. I write and record the stuff then my brother Mr atomic comes along and does it live with me. It couldn’t happen without him. The name is a statement on how people are treated and not referencing a sexual act. It’s a form of sonic voodoo, I hope, very sensual. It’s non genre specific, anything can and does happen, and is defiantly a marmite experience. The performances are rare, it takes so much out of me to perform it live, I actually feel ill when I’ve done it and also I don’t see the point in touring it. It should be like a mayfly, live for a brief moment and then disappear until the nest time.

Fist Fuck Deluxe is like a delicious erotic dream, a dream of love, its intangible, cannot be caught, a fleeting sensation, like those mystery voices we sometimes hear when no one else is there, a phantom touch.
 

Mel – Tell me about your ‘YES FUTURE’ T shirt designs…did you train as a designer? The T shirt designs are sooo outrageous, I wonder has anyone been arrested for wearing one.

Deluxe - I have no training in anything at all. I have one qualification, cycling proficiency!

I needed to create another source of income to fund both Fist Fuck and the 100 punks, so rather than ask for grants etc, which once again would shackle things, I thought about something else I loved, and it was sex/seditionaries. I loved that stuff, so just put my mind into that space, and hopefully the designs are as though they never stopped. To me it was a great thrill to have something that you had to earn, and remember it was a quite a scary place to go into as a child, however and I must say this, Jordan et al, were all really nice, when you were inside. 

 I think there are very few things in the arts that you can be trained in, it’s oxymoronic, it’s either in you or it aint, and you just use your heart. 

Each one of the designs has meaning, they are not just outrageous for the sake of it, they are to make me/you think, for example, bomb London is a statement on 7/7 and how it was to live here at that time., forget about music is the dumbing down of music, kiss me you tranny fucker is about the medias attitude to women and how a real woman is no longer enough, every thing has to be augmented, bigger breasts, tan, square jaws, etc, essentially a tranny, and don’t get me wrong, I love tg people, they have to work at who they are, and that I respect, it’s an attack on the media, and a shitty shallow system, that will let us all die when our money runs out.

So far as I know no one has been arrested, under law they could be, but I think the coppers realise they have bigger fish to fry, like murderers, oh shit, how come Blair hasn’t been hung for war crimes yet? But back in the day, the obscenity law meant you were charged under the vagrancy act of 1898, or something like that……….excuse me? Is that not scraping a barrel? War is obscene, murder is obscene, poverty and hunger are obscene, a poor health and education system is obscene, peoples bodies are not obscene and nor are their sexual preferences. I use sexual politics a lot because it’s one of the 1st things that is controlled, control the body, create shame and disgust and the rest is easy………why would anyone be thinking about what other people may or may not be getting up to I the privacy of their own homes, seems prurient doesn’t it? And remember, in this country, anal sex between a married man and his wife is still illegal.


Mel - Where can I get one of your wonderful T Shirts/shirts? And how much do they sell for? Do you design custom one off's made to order?

Deluxe - Price depends on work involved, but generally £15-£20, and they can be ordered directly from me, though they will be in some shops soon, and it looks as though some will be licensed, I need to be doing more projects, and as they get more popular, I just don’t have the time to print each one myself, though I really wish I could. Though if you buy one, be prepared to have a dialogue with me, I want to know about you and what you think about things. And yes I am up for custom orders, I love collaborating, so if it’s a good and true idea, let’s talk.

 

Mel – Tell me about your first Punk band ‘China Doll’!

There really isn’t that much to tell, we were of the time, a group of mates. I loved playing with them, we only wanted to be a punk rock band, and there was no notion of making it. It was fun, we felt like we meant something, and then split up over petty arguments, but I have recently come into contact with the bass player ‘Smiffy’, and it was great to see him after nearly 30 years. He sent me pictures and the demos we did, and I love the naivety of the sound, I was barely legal at the time and a runaway, and it can be heard in my voice, perhaps someone might like to put it out on one of those obscure compilations, but really, the best part was just doing it. I just really loved it.
 

Mel - Tell me what it was like working for 'The Raymond revue bar' - any interesting experiences?

The revue bar was like punk, it was the people that were interesting, the company was shit, and they can try and sue me for saying that, I say it loud, the Paul Raymond organisation was and is shit. SHIT. It’s an exploitive organisation that basically has and always will pimp women, but heaven forbid not their own daughters, they take the most beautiful thing, sex, and try to besmirch it with their nasty minds.

I went there basically to destroy it from the inside, and I came very close. I was fired. But, I put the idea into people’s heads that they should be treated better. Also at the same time it was very warm backstage, we did the show on every kind of drug there is, pulled a lot of pranks on the audience, and the company, and if you are asking weather there were erotic liaisons backstage, I will only say…yes!!! 

What went on backstage was far more interesting than onstage. I loved those people, the girls, and the stage crew. As stage company manager, I was supposed to be in charge, and I was, but I have to say that I found it at times hard to be, the boss so to speak, I really didn’t give a flying fuck for the rules and regulations, Bob Monkhouse came for his regular fix, ZZ Top, every heavy metaler, oh the list is endless. We used to call it carry on sex, the show itself was the least erotic thing going, those kind of men have zero idea of erotica, women are just a 3d wank to them. However I must say, that there was something very charming also about the whole thing, it was stuck in a time warp, roughly 60’s, 70’s………….I did enjoy the work, just not the company. And I would also like to do a history of the place, there’s a lot of social history tied up with it, east end gangsters, film people, etc and Paul Raymond himself was an interesting man, from a story point of view. 

My favourite story though is one rehearsal I had to take; I convinced one of the girls that the new number in the show was to be a strip routine to Max Bygraves singing you need hands. Poor girl she tried for 20 minutes to come up with an erotic dance routine whilst peeling off her clothes, to that tune, and it’s impossible!!!!!!! I nearly lost my bollocks when I told her it was a gag, and she chased me around the theatre in just a pair of golden high heels.

It would take a whole book to really talk about that place; it was a mixture of fun and hatred for a good few years. And I only hope that the girls I worked with remember me fondly as I do them.

Mel - You moved to Hollywood a few years ago what did you do when you’re arrived there? How did you earn a living and where did you hang out? Did you meet any influential or inspirational characters?

That was 20 years ago, I have been back in London for 14………..it was a pin prick decision. I had no idea what it was, Hollywood, I was that ignorant, I just wanted a change for myself and my 1st wife, so we went, it was also force of will as the American embassy really didn’t want to let me in at all, and made that plain. Fortunately my sister in law worked for MGM, and they sponsored me, and it just goes to show the power of the movie studios, the embassy rolled right over as soon as they were shown that, and I was in!!! This little bastard, dressed head to toe in Seditionaries walking through immigration, “welcome to America

I love the American people, like ours, I hate their government, but they welcomed me and I blossomed there in the land of jasmine scented nights.

I did many things, cocktail waiter, songwriter; I did some acting, made skulls, and did a lot of artwork. I met a ton of influential people, and could name drop till I was blue in the face, but the most interesting and influential people to me were the normal workers, the waitresses, the checkout people, the leaf blowers, etc, the ones that kept the place running. They still had dreams, and hopes and fears and lived and loved. The famous one, most were decent, but the star system takes a lot of humanity out of a person, the star is essentially a puppet, a caged bird living in a very privileged cage.

Constantly feted, watered and bathed, like a temperamental child, the sense of perspective becomes skewed, and the stories less interesting, you only have to look at that old bag Madonna to see the effect of it. Good luck guy.

Jesus may have died on the cross, but I can tell you there are a billion people in the industry that are sure they are him.

A better question would really be, what I didn’t do, I just grabbed life by the horns while I was there, kissed it hard and shouted wahoo!!!!!!

I thank America for that time, it’s a beautiful country, now hang bush or whichever fucker comes next, hang them all until you get someone of the stature of Martin Luther king again.

 
Mel – Did you design a set for Clive Barker; I’m keen to know more!

Yes in a sense, for a while I was co running the la version of the forbidden planet, with my ex wife and her sister. Clive came to do a signing, so I knocked up a set for him to sit in and do the business, I based it on ‘Hellraiser’ and punk, so used a lot of my own art work and some film props. Black plasticed everything and then run some chains etc, spray cans and a bit of spit. He was very happy with it, and if I remember rightly, we all got rather pissed at the end, nice fellow. Mind you though the Neil Gaimen one was funnier, I managed to destroy over 50 copies of one of the rarest comic books at the time to make that one, well Ltd edition, it is now!!!! I’ll tell you about that another time.

 
Mel - Who has been the lasting inspiration throughout your life?

Gosh so many, my father, my 2nd stepfather, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Tony Benn, Caravaggio, the doctors who broke my leg so it would set right, Miss Phizz, the physiotherapist that helped me walk again, twice!, my brother Mr. atomic, who constantly astounds me with his humility and genius, Manko for her mankoness, Sascha for being real and true, punks rockers the world over, who continue to make this world a better place, Kaz, for teaching me love. A nod to Mr. Lydon, who started so much, come back to the fold John. Revolutionaries everywhere, who won’t take no for an answer. Blitz Bob, Ms Dayglo, i am the fly, skullduggery, ian part time, nigey b, paull 77, vicious riff, miss fierce, steve machine, el diablo, ger, vomit punk, jock, teri, vivian, ariel, soo cat woman, hellin killer ged. jean encoule, suburban kid, and that gorgeous bugger johnny depp. Every girlfriend, ex wife, I have ever been blessed to share life with, really the list is endless, there are more good souls in this world than bad, and when we find the bad ones, we wipe them out.

Mel – Last but not least what is Johnny up to currently?

Right now to be honest I am sitting naked and about to kiss someone, but really what you are asking is where next Columbus.

Well currently I’m writing and recording with Sascha, she has got it, think every punk, jazz torch singer add grace Jones, and you have Sascha. I love her and watch this space, she has no time or interest to become a star, she just has it and I fear the world will let her be nothing less than one.

Mr Deluxe’s flying pirates, 20 life size crucifixion pictures of modern Seditionaries, is on its way, as is a book on the history of the Reading punk scene, which will be written by the punks themselves. The revue bar book is also coming. More portraiture, a club night called electro gash kicks off in October. FFD gigs coming, I have a slew of new t-shirt designs about to come out, and don’t forget my pink glitter tranny tank that is waiting in the wings, Just more more more, life is for fucking with, cruel systems smashed, it’s all about love and laughter, so from Mr Deluxe, just expect more more than before, as the fist fuck deluxe motto goes “we believe, you will”

well it's been a pleasure to get inside Johnny's mind for a while - let's talk T shirt - I will be in touch!! In the meantime why don't you check out his web site and T shirt designs for yourself.

 100 PUNKS GO TO
EDINBURGH
 

 

 

100 PUNKS (JOHNNY’S MYSPACE)

http://www.myspace.com/deluxuria  

 YES! FUTURE! T-SHIRTS

http://www.myspace.com/yesfuturelondon

FIST FUCK DELUXE

 http://www.myspace.com/fistfuckdeluxeinexcellcis

 100 PUNKS

 WWW.100PUNKS.CO.UK