A round with Shane MacGowan {the poet}

Publication: Q Magazine

Author: Sylvia Patterson

Date: March 2010

It's Q's round, what are you drinking?

Gin and tonic [a double]. And a tea.

Shaun Ryder once said gin was "the crack of drink". What d'you reckon?

Nah, it's the smack of drink. Ckckckckckckc. [Shane's famously demented rattle-snake laugh ensures and a column of snot descends from his nose towards his lip, which he sniffs back up again. This happens intermittently for the next 20 minutes or so].

You made a charity record for Haiti - a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' I Put A Spell On You, featuring you, Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie, and Johnny Depp. Why choose a bonkers voodoo song?

It's Screamin' Jay Hawkins. [Begins banging black leather fingerless gloved fist on table] I'm not going over all that again. [Turns to girlfriend Victoria Clarke, working on a computer beside him] You say.

Victoria: Just say it again!

Shane: Because .... it's... it's.... primal voodoo. I mean, what the fuck is that other one [the Simon Cowell overseen version of Everybody Hurts] all about?

What do you think Simon Cowell would make of your song?

I couldn't give a fuck what he makes of anything.

Didn't you try to get Keith Richards for the song? He's a buddy of yours, too.

Yep. He was busy. If I was him I wouldn't want to come to England. Fucking taxman jumping on him with a parachute with SAS.

Is Keith giving drinking a betrayal to rock'n'roll? it's as if he's not "Keith Richards anymore.

He is Keith Richards. Who the fuck else is he? Screamin' Jay Hawkins and he's been dead for three years [Hawkins died in 2000]. A friend of ours just had a stroke. No, a heart attack. And he's alright. He didn't notice cos he was asleep.

Have you worked out yet why people drink in the first place? Paul Heaton of The Beautiful South once said it was "to break down the Berlin Wall of the self".

Cos it's easier to get than illegal drugs. it's another method of.. getting in touch with God. That's why people do drugs. You're triggering... stuff you don't really understand. But I'm not searching for an answer. I haven't even got a question.

You used to take 14 tabs of acid in one go. Once you tried to eat a copy of The Beach Boys' Greatest Hits Volume 3. Why was that?

I was trying to show Russian ambassador the worthlessness of American imperialism.

So that's the dimension of 15 tabs acid takes you into?

What are you talking about? Alice In Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll on fucking opium... He was a pharmacologist, yeah? [Flings teaspoon on table] Turner was gluggling back laudanum.

Did you know the chemical make-up of the human being is, pretty much, coal, chalk water, stars from outer space and absolutely nothing whatsoever?

Well, LSD tells you that quite clearly.

You were one of the original punks. What's been punk's legacy?

Some people advertise margarine. Other people make ego-massaging charity records. ckckckckkc. Punk was... it's about freedom. And chaos.

And gardening, maybe. You two did a gardening show last year for Irish TV, Victoria And Shane Grow Their Own. What's your green fingered speciality?

It's not my gardening show, it's hers. She started growing vegetables in the backyard.

Victoria: You sang to them

Shane: Did I?

Victoria: Yes. You played the electric guitar to them. He played The Jesus Mary Chain to them. And you sang Jersey Girl to the potatoes.

Shane: That's right. I need vegetables to keep me company. ckckckck.

Who's the greatest frontman of all time?

Me. It's about being a great entertainer. But not being conscious of the fact you're being entertaining.

Where have all the rock'n'roll outlaws gone?

Keith Richards is a rock'n'roll outlaw [Colossal silence follows].

You're not arsed, are you?

Not really, no. There's rock'n'roll outlaws in Haiti. Have I been there? No [bangs repeatedly on the table again].

How would you describe the 21st century so far?

They should blow a bit of concrete away. There's technology to blow people to bits with an atom bomb. And there's technology to make a bloody great atomic noise on guitars and fire hydrants. [repeatedly booting the inside of the table] You better ask her, she's good at the celebrity stuff [?]. Celebrity culture is a fucking oxymoron. Culture grows, celebrity fades. I never like culture much anyway.

I bet you're reading a culturally significant book right now.

Shane: No.

Victoria: Yes you are. The one about the IRA guy.

Shane: Oh yeah. Sean Treacy. First edition paperback.

What's the finest piece of poetry you've ever read?

No [shuts up altogether].

There are poems in your head. I know there are some of them you even wrote yourself.

No. No. That's it . I can't really talk anymore.

You've got fabulous new teeth now. So where are they?

Shane: I lost them. About a couple of weeks after I got 'em made. Two years ago, was it?

Victoria: Last summer.

Shane: Are we actually talking about false teeth now? They didn't feel good. I don't know where they are. D'you know where they are?

Victoria: They're in a plastic Tupperware box. Somewhere beside the sofa.

Shane: [indecipherable squeak] Hnn.

What's life for, Shane MacGowan?

Living. Just living will do.

Copyright © 2010, Q Magazine
All rights reserved

Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.
Transcribed and made available by Zuzana & MissWalshy.