I saw Attila the Stockbroker perform at the Cumberland Arms in Byker, Newcastle when I first started to write and perform poetry. He was funny and truthful, with real righteous acid in his tongue. You knew he’d seen both wrongdoing and optimism and thought and fought hard about them both. You knew this was someone that loved deeply enough to sink his teeth into injustice and hang on until the last dog died. Attila was kind enough to give me an interview about his recent autobiography, his politics and his history with the festival.
Your autobiography is out this year, and you’ve clearly had quite a life. What prompted you to write it, and how easy was it to get it on paper?
I’ve earned my living as a poet/musician for 35 years, done over 3000 gigs in 24 countries and got an unbelievable amount of experiences to share. I hope the book will make people laugh, think..and occasionally weep! As I say in the foreword, my message is this: you don’t need to be ‘a celebrity’ to have a happy and fulfilling life doing what you love – you just have to have a way with words, the self confidence and organisational ability of Napoleon and a skin thicker than the armour of a Chieftain tank. (Not everyone has those, of course…..)
It was very easy to write and a most enjoyable process, the first time I had embarked on something of this magnitude. My respect for people who write books for a living has increased enormously!
You’ve been a massive political campaigner and polemicist for decades.
What are your thoughts about the recent election? Are you surprised at what happened?
No. Given that there is no freedom of the press in this country, just a brazen Tory propaganda machine run by Murdoch, the Barclays and Desmond, and that many English (not British!) people are endemically conformist cap-doffing Ragged Trousered Philanthropists who meekly do what they’re told, I’m not at all surprised that when yelled at to vote Tory by nearly every press outlet in this country, 38% of them did. In fact, I’m surprised that not more did. It’s totally undemocratic. I’d shut the Sun, Mail and Express down in the interests of public decency. They can keep the Times and the Telegraph, we can have the Mirror and the Guardian. That’d be fair. I think it is fashionable to underplay the role of print newspapers in elections and claim that ‘the British public is more sophisticated’. Sorry, but I think if the Sun told people to shave off their pubes and put brillo pads in their underwear or they’d get crabs I reckon the dustmen would have a very hairy load the following week and the supermarkets would sell out of scourers!
Have your audiences changed throughout the years? Do you think there’s generally less political interest amongst the young than there was back when you first took up the mic?
It’s complicated because there is often politics there, just expressed in a different way. I think the fact I came out of punk and lived through the battles of the 80s meant that my delivery and focus was very militant and forceful. Most of the young people I hear now are more subtle (and often confused) about their politics. I’ve always been much more that JUST a political polemicist, though, and some of my best recent work has been intensely personal, as you probably know. There is a fair bit of action on the streets…I wish it was a bit more focussed, that’s all!
Are there any poets out there now that you think are successfully carrying on the mantle of poetic polemicist?
Yes, loads. Luke Wright, Itch from the King Blues, Janine Booth, Nextgen, Captain of the Rant…there are loads. Different from me but with a lot of the same sort of values and ideas. Looking forward to checking out some new ones in the poetry tent.
What are we likely to see you do on the P&W stage this year?
Lots of new poems – and a couple of autobiography bits.
This will be your 26th Glastonbury. What is it about Glastonbury that keeps you coming back? Can you remember your first? Who played?
I love Glastonbury – it’s the only festival anywhere where you can have a thoroughly enjoyable time without ever visiting any of the major stages, just wandering around, looking, hearing, soaking up the atmosphere. What keeps me coming back? The fact that I have been asked to perform here for the last 26 festivals. And I am very proud and grateful for that.
You’ve shared in this blog that you once fell asleep on your back, naked at Glasto and woke up sunburnt. Can you share any similarly weird episodes during your many times here?
TWO GLASTONBURY ERRORS
(Dedicated to the memory of Arabella Churchill)
Now I’ve performed at Glastonbury since 1983 –
That’s 25 so far this year, though each feels new to me
I’ve seen it grow from hippy roots into a massive splurge
A massive celebration where the old and new converge
And that’s OK. Each to their own. Us old school hardcore purists
And all the mobile-cashpoint-weekend-hippie Glasto tourists.
I have a thousand memories of sunshine, rain and flood!
Joe Strummer on the main stage, John Peel in the mud…
No time for all. Two special stories, and a rare old mixture.
The beer-befuddled memoirs of a punk rock Glasto fixture.
The first concerns a gruesome and apocryphal event
Concerning those unfortunates ensconced in the Dance Tent
One afternoon when Glasto staff were cleaning out the loos.
The bloke inside the toilet truck had two buttons to choose –
The one emblazoned ‘Suck’ and the other labelled ‘Blow’…
Wrong button, wrong place and wrong time. The end result?
The second is more personal and close to home, I’d say.
My wife and I were wandering one sunny Saturday
Amidst the close-pressed masses of a modern Glasto crowd
When she had a whim to do something to make her husband proud
Give me a lift, despite my beers, and really set me up
So she gently reached behind herself to make a loving cup
But my stopping by the beer tent quite undid her wifely plan
And the loving cup was given to an unsuspecting man….
Her fingers knew at once the heinous nature of her error
And she dashed off in embarrassment, confusion, pain and terror!
I’ve never asked Robina if the grounds for her surprise
Were because her chosen target was over- or undersized……
Or was it just a different shape? Well, that’s as it may be.
Long live Michel Eavis, and long live Glastonbury!
I’ve seen you perform twice in the Poetry&Words tent now, and you’ve smashed it both times. Do you have a secret for keeping the crowd on your side?
Start off as a performer shouting anti fascist poems at drunk nazi boneheads and being attacked on stage. After that, any audience is a piece of piss.
What’s next for you? Any projects coming up you’d like to share?
Autobiography published by Cherry Red Books in September and a huge book launch tour taking in everywhere that will have me!
Finally, can I put in a request for ‘Doggy on a String’ for when you play the P&W tent?
Mint! Attila the Stockbroker will be performing ‘Doggy on a String’ just for me (and some more of his work) in the Poetry&Words tent on:
Sunday 28th at 1.15pm.
Come early as he always packs out the tent! Find out more about Atilla the Stockbroker here: www.attilathestockbroker.com
More interviews lined up. Stay tuned.