Richard Cabut - I’ve Never Written for the Money – Always for the Magic (U.K Based Author)

I’ve never written for the money – always for the magic. Well, apart from in my only real full-time job, as a writer at the BBC. But I gave it up after ten years because I couldn’t stand being in an office for one more second.  

Tell us more about your background and journey.

I am an author, playwright, journalist, and musician. My latest book is called Looking for a Kiss (Sweat Drenched Press), a fabulous chronicle of speed, madness, and flying saucers (Warhol/Edie Sedgwick reference) – acid, post-punk, pop art,, teenage perversity, the nature of melancholy, breakdown, breakup and breakout, the Spectacle, bathroom functions, clairvoyance, personality crises, primal scenes, screams and schemes, the eternal quest for cool and the endless search for redemption.

Critic’s comments include: ‘A stunning, tour-de-force. Beautiful prose. Dragged me over coals but soothed me with balm,’ and ‘Like a bittersweet Coltrane solo crashing into Einstürzende Neubauten. Books like Looking for a Kiss are a flare in the dark,’ and ‘Looking for a Kiss is the read of the year. It is truly an exceptional book.

A great book. Original. Packed full of images/reflections /ideas – raw emotions.’

I’m also the author of the novel Dark Entries (Cold Lips Press, 2019) and the chapbook Déjà Vu, Deja Me, Deja You (Between Shadows Press, 2021), co-editor/-writer of the anthology Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night (Zer0 Books, October 2017), a 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).

Other fiction has appeared in the books The Edgier Waters (Snowbooks, 2006) and Affinity (67 Press, 2015). I was a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2016.

My journalism has featured in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, NME (pen name Richard North), and a bunch of other magazines including The Big Issue, Time Out, Artists & Illustrators.

My plays have been performed at various theatres in London and nationwide, including the Arts Theatre, Covent Garden, London.

I also published the fanzine Kick and played bass for the punk band Brigandage (LP Pretty Funny Thing – Gung Ho Records, 1986).

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I first wrote in anger, literally, in my 1977 fanzine, Corrugated Boredom (which later became Kick), pondering pretentiously on Dada and Surrealism, and penned bad poetry. Here’s one: ‘You live in a coffin / You can’t move / You’re buried alive / You’ve done it to yourself / What can you do? / Before, you wanted life / Now you just want existence’ — which I actually read outlive. You get the picture.

I lived in smalltown, working/lower-middle-class suburbia. Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Thirty miles from the capital. There, kids left school and went on the track, the production line, at the local factory, Vauxhall Motors. Or, if you attained some qualifications you could join the civil service. Meanwhile, Trevor and Nancy have been going out with each other since 3rd Form and watch telly around each other’s house every night, not saying a word – a grim pastiche of and preparation for marriage to come. 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. I was suburban punk Everykid in pins and zips, with a splattering of Jackson Pollock and a little Seditionaries. In my bedroom, there was some Aleister Crowley, a bit of Sartre, 48 Thrills fanzine (bought off Adrian Thrills at a Clash gig), Sandy Roberton’s White Stuff (from the Compendium shop in Camden), and Sniffin’ Glue and Other Self Defence Habits (July ’77), of course.

If, as the cliché has it, escape from the ghetto could, at one time, only be achieved using sport or showbiz, then either learning three chords or scrawling a fanzine was the easiest way out of the suburbs for bored punk rockers. I was rubbish on guitar at the time, and so I used my fanzine as fuel for propulsion.

Is it a financially stable career?

I’ve never written for the money – always for the magic. Well, apart from in my only real full-time job, as a writer at the BBC. But I gave it up after ten years because I couldn’t stand being in an office for one more second. I think writing is something that you have to do because if you don’t, you get consumed by the howling infinities.

Who is your favorite writer and why?

Off the top of my head, at the moment, I like: Beckett, Sontag, Witkiewicz, Crumley, Rhys, Genet, Lem, Kraus, Algren, Wojnarowicz, Wilson (Robert Anton and Colin), Ellis, Gombrowicz, Himes, Pinter, Rimbaud, Sartre. 
The usual suspects, I guess. 

All of these writers move beyond fear, bend light and dark, write/dance on the razor’s edge – beauty and boredom/disgust/etc.

Where does your inspiration lie?

Matcha tea, Iyengar yoga, dub reggae, punk rock, ennui, memory/imagination, showers, baths, the sauna, walking, sex, situations, genuine encounters, the sun, London, Dunstable, canals, the sea, swimming in saltwater, getting a word or a thousand or two in edgeways, no cliques, talking to people, change, the moon, falling out and in, surprises and transformations, certain clothes and styles, funk, spiritual jazz, Chopin, Mazowsze, Tarkovsky, Fellini, tears, smiles, Godard, Pinter, Jodorowski, the spirits, the spirit, naivete, sleep, the mirror, home, distance(s), fitting climaxes.

What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring writers?

If a muscle can feel repugnance, there is still a move to be made/if the mind can imagine, there is still defeat to remember On that theme, you can’t really beat Beckett: ‘Ever tried Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ ‘Success’ is overrated. ‘Failure’ is misunderstood.

Which is your favourite book and why?

I suppose, Ulysses. I studied English Literature at the Polytechnic of North London, the radical hotbed of revolt in the 70s. I took little away from this experience, apart from a poor degree and, far more importantly, a love and appreciation of this book. 

It’s the slow, careful, precise revolution towards reality, unalterable, ineffable but filled with fresh possibility, forces that are fierce and real; God’s strong signal. Looking for a Kiss is available via Amazon.

Interviewed by - Subham Biswas