Were drugs an aspiration for you?
No, it was just an accident. I never, ever wanted to devote my life to drugs. I’d started smoking joints and they relaxed me. Because I wanted the best hash I started meeting people that had the best hash. Gradually, over a couple of years I met people, started doing it as a business. I signed on at college and I used to go in at the beginning of each term, get my grant money and start up dealing, then I eventually met people, started importing it. Then we went over to importing cocaine – it’s a fraction of the size, much easier to smuggle in, and you’re facing the same risks. All of a sudden I’m doing the cocaine that used to knock my head off.
That was about 1975, and after that I tried smack. That was a big mistake because all of a sudden that was the best feeling I’d ever felt in my life.
That’s why it is so dangerous. It’s silly telling people simply not to take it. You’ve got to let them know that the reason it’s so dangerous is because it’s the best feeling you’ve had in your life, and it’s so hard not to want it all the time, and if you have it all the time eventually it stops working and you need it just to be able to function.
When I was in The Only Ones I didn’t have a habit. I used to dabble with it, but whenever it came to working and going on tour I didn’t take it with me. Sometimes halfway through the tour someone would offer it to me, but I’d always try to be as clean as possible when I was playing music. It was only afterwards, when I didn’t have music to occupy me, that the attraction of it became too much.
I can’t understand people being aspirational about drugs and to me, drugs are heroin and crack, because they’re the hard drugs. Crack is different to heroin, heroin just makes you feel great, but crack makes you want more crack. It makes you feel great for about a minute or so, but then you just want more crack. Then you do become an automaton.
That long period of drug-induced oblivion. Did you enjoy it?
It wasn’t that long, it was from ’81 until about ’88.
Seven years. That is quite a long time.
Well, yeah, I suppose so, but from ’88 to ’95 I was totally clean. Part of the reason I didn’t do anything for ages is because I knew Johnny Thunders. I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but I used to look down on him, because I used to think he was a fuck-up. He was talented but could do a lot better than he did. Ultimately, I didn’t want to become like him, so when I got a habit I told myself that I’ve got to get myself clean before I start doing music again. Which was a mistake – I should have just carried on but the straight part inside me wouldn’t let me.