Crimson Celluloid: There’s a quote that I think of when I think of you Gene… “I suffer for my art, now it’s YOUR turn”. How much does suffering and adversity play a part in your creative process?
Gene Gregorits: It’s NOT the suffering necessarily, it’s the wisdom you acquire from being humbled. And people usually start developing ego, arrogance very early on, and suffering is the only thing that humbles someone –or shuts them the fuck up- long enough to understand the world’s natural energy, and their own natural energy. If you can’t understand certain kinds of dynamics, and the real flow of energy that defines life, you’re better off sticking to your punk rock or your soap operas or your sports because you’re still just an ignorant child.
CC: I never really rated Bukowski as a writer…just a fat, old drunk who got lucky. Do you get sick of the Bukowski comparisons to your writing?
GG: I grew up reading Bukowski. I grew up hard and poor, yet there were other poor people who were poorer and harder and I saw a lot of that as a kid. Bukowski taught me to have empathy and he more or less destroyed any ability I might have had to be a careerist. When I was young and drunker, people thought I was a walking joke, that I was stupid, that I was naïve. I was all of those things. But beyond all of that, I was very wise, and that came from Bukowski. Stoicism is waiting for your time to understand your world and your people. Now I know my world, and I know my people. Bring on the Bukowski comparisons. I don’t read Bukowski anymore, I find him juvenile most of the time. But I like much of his poetry and much of his prose and he always makes me laugh. I may be juvenile myself, but I have grown, and I owe a lot to Bukowski. It’s a compliment.
CC: I had a friend who was very creative but crippled with terrible Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He didn’t want to take medication because he thought it would negate his creative ability if he were “normal”. Do you think your writing would suffer if you didn’t lead the kind of life you do?
GG: There’s no answer to that. Sometimes alcohol helps, most of the time it just makes you resistant to knowledge or growth or creativity. It makes you boorish. But when you live with a bunch of apes who are either afraid of you or who find you an amusing novelty, or are jealous of you, etc., it’s a way to commune with yourself. But back to Bukowski, you commune with yourself too much, and you end up writing the same thing 50,000 times and that’s no good. Just because you don’t want to be Stephen King or Tom Hanks…well, that’s no reason to try to be Rimbaud or Oliver Reed. I lead the kind of life I lead because I don’t have an ounce of respect in me for anyone who lives for money, or who wants to make money dishonestly. If I take money from someone who thinks I can or ever would play nice, then I am one of those people. I have never done this and I never will. As for medication, it’s poison unless you are so sick that you can’t live without it, but usually thinking that you can’t do something without medication is part of the sickness that keeps the drug companies in business. I have chosen to learn my own sickness and make severe compromises to accommodate my sickness so I can write. I have chosen to avoid nearly everything in life. I live on the beach with my cat. I have everything I need and I am extremely happy. I will break as many hearts as I have to, so that I have dolphins with my coffee. My family might not understand this; but it’s the lack of understanding that drove me to the edge of the world in the first place. I was a difficult child. I guess I should have been medicated. That’s my idea of a joke.
CC: SEX AND GUTS was an incredible fanzine in its day..the pairing of you and Lydia Lunch was brilliant and scary. What memories do you have of working with her?
GG: Lydia was embarrassed by me and still is. I don’t care. I’m a writer and Lydia is a musician. That’s all there is to say about us as a couple. As for working with her; I wrote my sections for the Johnny Behind the Deuce novel, handed them to her, she would bang something out in 2 hours, and I’d spend a week on my response. That’s how that book happened and that’s why the book I published, with only my stuff, doesn’t make any sense. It works better that way. As for the magazine, we have very different tastes, I think. She loves Hubert Selby, whom I find demonic, and I love Nelson Algren, who she probably finds corny as all get out. Lydia’s a harder person than me. As for the magazine, she wanted Sex and I wanted Guts. The third and fourth issues were scary and brilliant. But I think so much of the nihilism was cosmetic and I didn’t question it at the time because I was rather engulfed in cocaine and I hadn’t grown very much as a man.
CC: Your in-depth interviews were always a highlight…do you have a favourite interview? Did anyone disappoint?
GG: My favorite interview was probably Jenny Wright, from last year. No one ever disappointed. I wouldn’t let them. I’m too good to be disappointed that way. As an interviewer, I have incredible power. I know how to push all the way to the brink, before someone leaves the table or hangs up the phone. You’d better print every word of this.
CC: What memories do you have of doing your spoken-word show in Australia? Rumour has it you spent the entire time stoned and defiling local ladies.
GG: Richard introduced me to a girl named Bec. I spent my time in Australia “stoned”, yes, and smelling of pussy. I went to expensive nightclubs with wealthy men in suits, “stoned” and stinking of pussy and wearing pissed-in Florida swim trunks, a blood smeared tank top, and motorcycle boots. It was winter time and I had no coat. The flipside to that is that I really fell in love with that girl and when the drugs wore off, my feeling hadn’t changed. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if my Aussie lover had come to my place on Corey Avenue, St. Pete Beach Florida. I have a much prettier and smarter and younger girl now. I HAVE turned into Charles Bukowski. But to get back to “the entire time”, me in Australia, well…I really liked the donkey fucking movie and insisting that that film win best picture when I hadn’t seen any of the other films at all, due to Bec’s pussy and the drugs we were doing, well…not only did that get me international fame, it’s also fucking hilarious.
CC: What’s with the self-destructive behaviour? You willingly document your self-mutilation, drug-taking, drinking and sexual liaisons….a cry for help or a cunning ploy to build a “bad boy of literature” reputation?
GG: Well…there’s then and now. Two different games. The old game was romantic angst that needed voice somehow and I threatened by both circumstance, ALL the circumstances, and what I knew was a miraculous talent. I was also terrified by the world. The new game is selling books and I did through both the old game, and my childhood, cultivate an inhuman physical pain tolerance. I’m a sack of dead meat with a brain that won’t stop growing. I’m not the bad boy of literature. I am a bad man who happens to be literate. I don’t want to be ANY man of literature. I just want to pay my rent and be happy.
CC: For the uninitiated, which of your books would you recommend to the first-timer?
GG: DOG DAYS. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t see how I’m ever going to be able to top it.
CC: I admire your writing and am jealous of your talent and output. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to get their writing out there but perhaps not having the confidence to do so?
GG: Cut off your fucking ear and eat it on pristine High Definition video. No one’s done that yet. I was using a 2002 Kodak EZ Playsport that had dried blood on the lens.
CC: What’s next for Gene Gregorits?
GG: Husbandry. And Intra-Coastal. The magazine AND the novel. Thank you David. I had fun.