“Larry Love” (aka Rob Spragg) of Alabama 3 (aka “A3” to statesiders), finds a kindred spirit in Hubert Selby, Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream). Selby, Jr. is “a high priest of low life culture … and inspiration to Lou Reed, David Bowie, Shane MacGowan and all chroniclers of seediness.” If the only song you know of this band from Brixton is the theme song to The Sopranos’ “Woke Up This Morning”, then you’re already hooked on their country/blues/acid house sound. Listen to Alabama 3 and experience the landscape of Selby, Jr.’s literature no matter where in the world you stand – its right there, at your dancing feet.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes.
His late wife, Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar stuck her head in a gas oven and killed herself. For the next 40-odd years, Hughes was equally vilified and celebrated for his contribution to world literature. In Birthday Letters, for which he won the Whitbread Book of the Year prize, he successfully and poignantly dealt with the legacy of Sylvia’s death, her subsequent canonisation, and the guilt that ultimately informed his writing.
As Seamus Heaney said, “To read the Birthday Letters is to experience the psychic equivalent of the bends”.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Raskalnikov, the anti-hero of Dosteoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, was nailed to the mast of Russian literature as the totemic figurehead of paranoia, guilt and suspicion. From the time when he murders an old money lender to the moment when he is eventually caught, we are drawn into the murky contradictions and morality of this character. He was a bad motherfucker ultimately redeemed of the failure of his will to crush his conscience … an example to us all.
3. The greatest album, ever?
I find the concept of “album” anachronistic, based purely on the economic peccadilloes of the tin pan alley and music industry panhandlers … a mere sop to assuage the desire of the industry to “commodify”.
If you insist: A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
‘Tis written in the stars that a man shall trek through no mans land until he finds the justification to go to war.
5. Your ideal brain food?
The collected works of Hubert Selby, Jr. A merchant seaman, suffering from TB and with a heroin habit that could kill an elephant, Selby Jr. wrote Last Exit to Brooklyn. Its portrayal of junkies, transvestites and assorted ne’er-do-wells led to it being banned as obscene by the British Government. Its subsequent categorisation as a classic novel and canonisation of Hubert Selby, Jr. as a high priest of low life culture was an inspiration to Lou Reed, David Bowie, Shane MacGowan and all chroniclers of seediness.
You might, if you look hard enough, find similar themes in Alabama 3’s aesthetic. We had the privilege of receiving an e-mail form Hubert Selby Junior prior to his death, granting us permission to use a sample of his voice in a track called the “Moon has Lost the Sun”. He charged us $1 to clear its usage and thanked us for the privilege of letting him be associated with a band of our reputation.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
My eight-year-old daughter because she is beautiful.
7. You want to be remembered for…?
The eulogy on my tombstone: “I told you I was ill”.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Hank Williams – Hank had the looks, he had the pills, he had the women, and he had the booze yet he still had time to write one of the most accomplished song books of the 20th century. He died young and left a beautiful corpse. Sweetprettymuthafuckingcountrymusicallnightlong.
Robert Johnson – He scares the shit out of me, he scares the shit out of Eric Clapton, and he scares anyone who ever thought they could go to the dark side, play delta blues and ever come back again.
Sandy Denny – A pissed up glamorous hooligan who could drink Janis Joplin under the table, she was an example to rock ‘n’ roll women everywhere and sang one of the most beautiful songs ever written called “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. I heard this at the age of 14 and Dylan busted my head open with “Jewels and binoculars hang from the head of a mule” and at the age of 43 I’m still searching for the “sad eyed lady of the lowlands” and all her “mothers drugs”.
10. Your hidden talents…?
As a son of preacher man I have been taught to never hide my light under a bushel, consequently I am a flayed carcass in the abattoir that is the music industry.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
“Heroin is a beautiful maiden when espied through the prism of seduction… You take her clothes off and she’s got one leg, one tit, serious BO and she’ll love you forever.”
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
“Property is theft” said Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. I squatted a millionaire’s mansion in St. Johns Wood in 1988 and put on rave parties.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Gucci shades, diesel jeans, Goi Goi jacket and three whores on my arm.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Camille Paglia. There is no point taking a woman to the Ritz who won’t pay for dinner. Camille would be more than happy to pay for dinner, forget the coffee and fuck my brains out in all manner of disgusting existentialist acts… Whilst enjoying the post prandial cigarette we would discuss Franz Kafka.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Paris, 1789…it was revolting
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Take Prozac, book into a health clinic, then massacre the mother fuckers who don’t need pampering.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
A concession box, a decompression chamber and old smoky the electric chair.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
This land is your land, this land is my land…I will traverse the mountain top, the valley below and always find peace on the frontline of the ghetto.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Grow up and get a proper job.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I am working on raising the consciousness of my fellow travelers in the Alabama 3 who perceive me to be a hick from South Wales, incapable of the eloquence needed to complete this questionnaire.