The ex-axewoman from the iconic punk riot queens talks to us about making music again, having invested in a cheap Telecaster
Armed with chiming, atonal guitars, and real-life dramas, torn from recent experience, Viv Albertine has re-emerged with a musical vengeance. Since the split of The Slits in 1982, the feisty, once mud-bathing guitarist has spent the majority of the last three decades (largely) anonymously directing films for television. She made a surprise yet brief return to the reformed The Slits in 2009, who tragically lost founding ‘wildchild’ Ari Up to cancer late last year, is now making up for lost ‘fret’ time on her own.
Last December’s cheeky Xmas download ‘Home Sweet Home (At Christmas)’, is set to be succeeded by a solo record later this year, with a previously unreleased The Slits track ‘Shoulda Coulda Woulda’ featuring Neneh Cherry, pumping out its retro disco groove. Dazed Digital enjoyed a chinwag with the still strikingly goodlooking ex-flatmate of Sid Vicious...
Dazed Digital: You briefly rejoined The Slits after a 25-year hiatus away from music. How did you find playing guitar again?
Viv Albertine: A bit like that Channel 4 show ‘Faking It’. I didn’t really have the desire to do it, but I just thought I’m never going to be asked to join a punk rock band again, so it was impossible to say no.
DD: What have you been listening to in the last 25 years?
Viv Albertine: Just silence and children’s music, actually. But I thought if I’m honest with what I sing and play, then it’d be okay to put that out. I’m not doing it to write nice songs. This is my agony pouring out.
DD: What has been responsible for your agony?
Viv Albertine: The breakdown of my marriage, the repressive nature of being a mother, and the subsequent romantic encounters since I split from my husband, which have been shocking. I’ve felt like a naïve 18-year-old again, which people may find funny, because no-one would think Viv of The Slits as being sexually or emotionally naïve.
DD: It must also have been tough because of the tragic passing of The Slits frontwoman Ari Up in October 2010.
Viv Albertine: It’s unimaginable that she’s gone. She was a little girl when The Slits started. I can’t even get my head round it at all.
DD: On your site, you described her as the most unselfconscious person you’ve ever known.
Viv Albertine: She was very naïve and very free. I was very thinking, uptight and aware. The combination was brilliant. She managed to free me up in so many ways, both physically and musically. She was so relaxed with herself that she’d do things like piss onstage. Girls were shy about their bodies, but she’d just pull her clothes down and go.
DD: Wasn’t that part of the rebellious ‘punk’ image?
Viv Albertine: No, she literally just did it if she needed to go. If Mick Jagger had got his cock out and pissed onstage, it would’ve been pretty much something, but for a girl to be that relaxed and do it back then in the ‘70s, when Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell were the stars, that was proper ‘F**K YOU’.
DD: Speaking of your online blog, you discuss some very interesting matters in a very frank manner. In particular, you describe the moment you see a ‘boyfriend’s genitals as a ‘dealbreaker’, which invoked some verbally repellent reactions from male readers…
Viv Albertine: It did, but as a woman, when you’re dating, you’re effectively blind-dating with a bodypart that’s going to go right inside you. I just think it’s strange that no-one talks about that significant, intimate event, that traditionally comes so late in the game. You want it to be clean, too. I always compare it to a nose.
DD: I enjoyed your conspiracy theory about blue-eyed people, although it helps that I have brown eyes…
Viv Albertine: I could be completely mad and sound like David Icke, but I just find people with blue eyes colder, less passionate and more calculated people. When I was pregnant, I prayed that my daughter would have brown, green or grey eyes. My God, this is probably the wickedest thing I’ve ever said! I’d love there to be a scientific study to see if the brain’s any different between people of different eye colours. Throughout my life, I’ve yet to be proved wrong.
DD: Swiftly returning to the ‘70s, you flatshared with Sid Vicious. What was that like?
Viv Albertine: It was an awkward relationship, but we went everywhere together. He got me into so many fights, that he was the reason I started wearing Doc Martens. In fact, I was the first girl ever to combine DMs with pretty dresses, which is very normal now.
DD: You wore Doc Martens to kick people?
Viv Albertine: No, I wore them to run away from fights. Every night, we’d end up in trouble. There was no way I could flee comfortably wearing VW stilettos. Sid was a huge troublemaker, but a terrible fighter, so he always did worst thing first. He’d take his belt off and wrap the tongue end round his wrist and strike with a straight arm. Then we’d run. It was terrifying, but my whole life was terrifying at that point!
Text by Stephen Daultrey