Wikipedia : “Sebastian Horsley is a London writer and artist best known for having undergone a voluntary crucifixion. Horsley's in-your-face writings often revolve around his dysfunctional family, his drug addictions, sex, and his reliance on prostitutes.”
I came across a book called ‘Dandy in The Underworld’ last year and found it utterly hard to put down. It’s rude, lude and very morbidly entertaining and it’s wonderful. Let’s start by telling you the readers a little bit of background on Sebastian.
Photo: Marcio Madeira
He was the son of the Millionaire Chairman for Northern Foods. Both his parents were heavy drinkers and indulged in numerous affairs. Sebastian’s childhood is one of wealth and mischievousness he freely admits he had quite an unusual family life (to say the least)! He ran a monthly column in the Erotic Review from 1998 to 2004. In 2006, he co wrote a weekly sex advice column in The Observer. 'Dandy In The Underworld' is Sebastian's memoirs, and was published in the UK in September 2007, in the USA in March 2008. Amongst many of Sebastians tales he alleges he had an affair with the infamous Scottish Gangster-turned-artist Jimmy Boyle, and that he has slept with over 1,000 prostitutes.
Sebastian was deported from America this year just as he landed at Newark Aiport his crime was Moral turpitude – Sebastian says they interrogated him for 8 hours, threatened to charge him if he didn't admit his convictions. Sebastian said the good news was they knew about the book, and the bad news was they knew about the book. They threatened him with prison "Porridge, buggery, and Class A drugs! ? Is there a 3 year waiting list? I am the only thing of value in this country and I am removing it immediately". Sebastian informed the press that he had prepared himself for the visit and even made some concessions he had removed his nail varnish !
Sebastian is very witty, crude and outspoken but he does it with more than a hint of Oscar Wilde, underneath the swagger and apparent arrogance I find him quite charming. He has written for The Observer Newspaper, and been featured in the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times, The Independant, New Statesman, and The Scotsman.
Let's fire the questions at Sebastian and see if we can get into his mind set, and explore what makes him tick. Mel - Many would describe you as an eccentric Englishman; I believe you don’t consider yourself as such, so how would you describe yourself?
Sebastian - I am by nature irresistible. My good looks, my charm, my mental instability and emotional evasiveness. Oh and my tendency to incest. I am a peacock without a cause. A pansy in the garden of love. A rogue in rouge. A futile blast of colour in a futile colourless world.
Mel - So your very modest then . Sebastian you have an incredibly wickedly fascinating auto biography but what or who inspired you to write it?
Sebastian - Darling, a man is rarely so well inspired as when he talks about himself.
Mel - Did you write anything in your book which actually shocked you?
Sebastian - Yes, the shit eating, the cripple fuck. I have opinions of my own. Strong opinions - but I don’t always agree with them. Unless something shocks, it is nothing. Dada Violence, shock, madness, psychopathic humour and suicide, these are the rhythms of dada. I am interested in an art which is more extreme, more violent and, finally, more self-destructive than ever before. I don’t mind if my book is seen as shocking. More people will read it if it is.
(Click the book to read Jean Encoule's review)
Mel - In the week of your 38th birthday in 2000 you flew to the Philippines to partake in a crucifixion (it’s alleged you’re the first westerner to experience this) – Why did you go to this extreme and could you describe the feelings as you lay on the cross for those who haven’t read your book!
Sebastian – I wanted to break the limits of life and test the boundaries of reality. Life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. Frightened of finding ourselves face to face with this terrible reality we try to cover it over with a curtain of fantasy. These fantasies become an armour that holds the person prisoner. Getting crucified was an attempt to push my personality off the rails. To loosen the rivets and tackle that bound my identity. To hack off the ball and chain of the self.
If I erased or made a fool of myself in the process then so be it. The real test of an art form and a human being is whether it will stand laughter and test itself to destruction. We can only know love by what is beyond love. We can only know pain by what is beyond pain. For me, it was important to experiment with things that took me into dark places in my heart. We must be willing to jump into total emptiness and nothingness and travel in the direction of our fear.
I was nervous but determined as I lay on the cross. There was no way I could have been stopped. You could have sooner have stopped a shooting star.
I am a romantic nihilist. I want to transcend reality. A true dandy will never abandon his mind to the grossness of reality. Of course, I am not religious. Well it’s true I worship beauty, and beautiful people like myself, but I never seem to be able to find the right church. But I’ve always had a bit of a thing for the crucifixion. A host of ideas are seen to meet at the site. God and Religion, good and evil, life and death. A man should always test himself in the most superficial areas of existence.
Mel - You flew to the
Sebastian – Darling, all is well. Style is when they’re running you out of town and you make it look as if you’re leading a parade. There is nothing worse than not being allowed into a country you wouldn’t be seen dead in. It was good for the book. The public takes no interest in a work of art until it is told that the work in question is immoral. But I was disappointed. In coming to
But I like Americans. I have always felt American in my artificial heart. We are all English at puberty; we die American. I always felt the book would do better over there. I hate
Mel - Why is it that in your blog writings you appear to have a low opinion of the female sex?
Sebastian – Do I hate women? Men, women, animals; I don’t discriminate. They all piss me off.
Mel - Are you completely drug & prostitutes free in 2008?
Sebastian – No - just fucked a heroin today and shot some whore. If it’s white, snort it, if it’s blonde, fuck it, if its black or brown shoot it. Black with a gun, brown with a needle.
Mel - I know you say you don’t read and you only like women who are illiterate, but besides your own ‘Dandy in the underworld’ which book comes highly recommended by yourself?
Sebastian – I hate books. Oh, where do I find all the time for not reading so many of them? But I do. The chief knowledge that a man gets from reading books is the knowledge that very few of them are worth reading.
Writing is a long, painful and appallingly style less processes. It takes you away from people. Writers that I admire are those who have transcended their medium and made sure that they themselves displayed more style than their mere creations.
Quentin Crisp, Andy Warhol, Lord Byron. Their personalities touched the imagination even more intimately than their work. Books are only things, but writers are individuals. Of course, they all have a dash of vulgarity. Who, without an element of vulgarity, can become a work of art? The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp. Andy Warhol’s From A to B and Back Again. And all of Herge. Personally, I would rather have written Tintin than the collected works of Brecht.
Mel - What is the most flattering comment made about your book?
Sebastian – Cosmo Landesman’s wife said:“Dandy in the Underworld” made me physically sick.” That was very flattering - and splattering. If someone vomits reading it it’s like getting a standing ovation.
Mel – Who or what would you say had the biggest impact on your life?
Sebastian – Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Wilde, Byron; Rachel 2, Tintin, Marc Bolan, Johnny Rotten, Quentin Crisp; Paul Stanley, Francis Bacon, Axl Rose and the Dadaists: there they were ahead of me, all dandies, roped together like mountaineers heading for the highest summits of beauty. All transcendent trash - one foot in heaven, the other in Woolworth’s.
Mel – You openly write about your dysfunctional family life but do you consider yourself a neglected child - do you feel this impacted upon you?
Sebastian - Well I’m split on this. As a natural loner and auto-invention I grasped early the irrelevance of family life. Dandies reproduce themselves through emulation and style, never through family descent. Each earthly father accuses us of our impotence if we become truly creative personalities; they remind us that we are born of men and not gods. They say that you chose your own parents. If this is true then I seem to have made a terrible mistake. But in many ways I have known neither father nor mother. They both died years before I was born. In the words of the immortal Keats “That which is creative must first create itself. “
“The imaginative creation of oneself goes on almost from birth. -“ Yeats.
I find ordinary life unacceptable. When I was born I took one look around and said “This will not do.” I invented myself. I am a self made man in love with my creator. I have sacrificed myself on the altar of artifice. I am a shell of velvet enclosing an abyss. What on earth does “good” or “bad” parenting have to do with this? So I don’t see that any of my background has had any effect on me whatsoever. I think you are what you are from the day you are born: using things as a cultural disguise doesn’t hide what you are shallow down.
That said …Mother had a profound influence on me - she was a loon, a drunk and a manic depressive. Father had a profound influence on me - he was a drunk and a cripple and a cunt.
I never knew the experience of love in my paternal home. I began by loving what was not offered. When you can’t have what you love, you must love what you have: Yourself. So: Early parental neglect can be the most powerful of creative goads. I patched together structures, solid or rickety, to fill the emotional void, and invested them with a degree of healing power. The outward world and the part which I played in it seemed to me in some sense unreal and perilous - that reality lay only within myself to be explored alone and in silence. The real joy was escaping from existence into a world where I could be completely happy doing something quite absorbing and largely useless.
I am grateful that Mother created me. Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have created our masterpieces.
Mel – You were booted out of St
Sebastian – With a life like mine remorse is par for the course. I didn’t stay the course. Perhaps I should have. The chance to study anything without paying fees, even if it is something that can never be the slightest use, cannot be allowed to pass by. But I didn’t. Some play brilliantly with poor cards. Others loose everything with brilliant cards. I don’t think my life would have been any different. I’m a loser baby. A stowaway on the kamikaze flight of life.
Mel – Can we safely say you are an attentions seeker? Do you enjoy the shock element?
Sebastian – Who the fuck isn’t? The real motivation for any artist is “Look at me Mum“, whether they are conscious of it or not - or they admit to it or not. I am desperate for attention and adoration - like a child molester hanging around the lavatories. So what? The urge towards heroism is natural, and to admit it honest. Heroism is first and foremost a reflex of the terror of death.
We all have our fantasies of fame and greatness. Life, for most of us, is a process of gradually shedding them. Not for me. I would kill Mother just so I could use her skin to make a drum to beat my own praises. I cannot live within my pension of attention. I am likely to say anything simply for effect. And I do a lot of things for effect, which is not to say that I am superficial, merely that I know how to put across ideas.
Mel – I’d love to know the history of those skulls on your lounge wall?
Sebastian – They come from journalists and bloggers who write to me asking too many fucking questions.
Mel – You’re an incredibly stylish man, who designs your clothes?
Sebastian – I design everything and I have everything made. My suits, my shirts, my socks, my shoes, my ties, my scarves, my coats, my gloves, my hats my cravats my spats – my personality. All my clothes are made from natural fibres but everything else about me is artificial. When I walk in to a room I want people to say:”There is Sebastian Horsley.” I don’t want them saying “There’s Ozwald Fucking Botang“- nothing personal against Ozwald Fucking Botang you understand. You see, I never shop. I never wear brands apart from my own. I can't be a clothes horse for anyone. I can only be clothes Horsley for me.
Photo: Marcio Madeira Sebastian modelling 'Comme Des Garcons'
Mel - What matters in your life? When is Sebastian serious?
Sebastian – Nothing matters very much and very little matters at all. I have never in my life taken anything seriously - except a mirror.
Mel - What makes you laugh out loud?
Sebastian - Watching spastics fall off cliffs. Exploding thalidomide’s. I mean if you can’t laugh at yourself, make fun of cripples.
Mel - What’s your most favourite quote of all-time?
Sebastian -“I have a greater need for a chateau than a peasant has for a loaf of bread.”
Mel - Give us a life changing moment in Sebastian’s life!
Sebastian – Nothing changes darling. I can’t change the world; I can’t even change a fuse. How the hell do I know how the universe works? I don’t even know how a can opener works. A spot never changes its leopards. What can you do? It’s a real problem in life; to do something boring or to do nothing at all. My life is split between misanthropy and voluptuousness; the two great commandments being; to hate your neighbor, and to fuck your neighbor’s wife.
Mel - What makes you tick and what are you most proud of?
Sebastian - What makes me Tick? I am not a clock, pacemaker or bomb and nor do I have lice woman. I take great pride in my prejudice. I am a specialist in women and other diseases. I pride myself on failing at everything I try to do, and I’ve been trying to do this for a long time.
Mel - You say you hate art. Why is this?
Sebastian - Art is just another lady that talks charmingly and says nothing. And what is a frame but a warning that the wallpaper is not art? Let’s face it, there is no furniture quite so dull as art. At least you can sit on a sofa – or a woman. At least the Arabs understand this. They cover theirs in sheets and they can’t speak.
Mel - Tell me about your Muse’s who are all named Rachel!
Sebastian - I never hear the world “Rachel” without a beating of the heart – even now as I write it. Yes I am a multirachelist. But Rachel 2 is my favourite. So photographed, so much discussed, because of her enormous bust. I have not seen a pair so fair. Are those her own or are they silicone? English women are so refined, they have no bust and no behind. Not her. I like women who are over weight and underbred, over- bosomed, and under me. (Preferably with a terminal disease - that way the alimony payments don’t last forever.)
Mel - I'm sure our own Rachel in Barcelona would be pleased to hear that !What gets you through the negativity of life, the credit crunch, the bullshit, and the politics, how do you deal with it?
Sebastian - The fact that thankfully it will be over with faster than an advert. As our life is very short, so it is very miserable and therefore it is well it is short. Fancy a fuck? No time to woo, my cock is out and aimed at you.
Mel - You claimed in an interview that you’d be dead by 45, what would be your death of choice, and music at your funeral, any special requests??
Sebastian - Sorry to disappoint you. From birth to age eighteen, a dandy needs good cash, from eighteen to thirty-five, he needs a good tailor, from thirty-five to fifty-five he needs a good dealer, and from fifty-five on, he needs a good death.
I would like the guillotine if I may - or the firing squad. A gentleman should always be impeccably dressed for the firing squad. And give the order himself. Hanged in all innocence or a public and merited disgrace? No dandy could long hesitate. Or suicide. Except that if I did it wouldn’t be suicide, it would be deicide. If you did it would be pesticide. No funeral just put me out with the rubbish. If you do your job right, only two people show up at your funeral. One to confirm that you are dead. The other to check that you are buried. Both are allowed to fuck the corpse.
Mel - Finally what is happening with Sebastian at the moment and what does the future have in store? Do you have another book up your sleeve per chance?
Sebastian - Nothing. Works of art do nothing but they do it passionately. I am wresting on my laurels until they become wreaths.
Mel - I know you told me you were filming a TV piece so what’s that all about?
Sebastian - Darling, I am an idiot and television is an idiot lantern. People in television have no thoughts. They have no ideas. They know nothing about nothing. Telly has no vision. Don’t you wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There’s one called “Brightness” but it doesn’t work.
I am presenting a programme on prostitution. In praise of Prostitution. I am an idiot.
Thanks to Sebastian for entertaining us with his outrageous wit, self promoter and depreciation all in one and allowing us to drag him from his daytime TV and answer our questions – it’s been fabulous darling.
“It’s better to be quotable than honest, I don’t speak, I quote. I am a fraud. I have cobbled together my personality from hundreds of little bits. I am simultaneously the most genuine and the most artificial person you will ever meet.” – Sebastian Horsley
Sebastian’s MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/sebastianhorsley
SEBASTIAN THANKS THE BRITISH PEOPLE
Interview by Mel / Photos provided by Sebastian H
RIP my dear friend 18/06/10