So, you’ve read Keith Richard’s ‘Life’, and Chuck Berry’s ‘Autobiography’. And you’ve probably heard enough stories about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to last a life time. But what about the guys who supply the gear? The guys who make sure there's never any shortage of drugs at the gigs, at the festivals, and on the tour bus?
Sabotage Times’ own Cat In The Hat (real name Simon Mason) has now told his own version of events; not from the bright lights of centre stage but from the shadows of the wings, where he found himself stationed as the indispensable personal chemist to the most famous musicians of the 80’s and 90’s.
The ‘rock ‘n’ roll doctor’ now works with addicts in some of the poorest parts of London, and has written a disarming and, for the most part, startlingly unglamorous book about his life in the fast line. ‘Too High, Too Far, Too Soon: Tales From a Dubious Past’, documents a life of excess, A-list parties, backstage passes, drug dealing - and a long struggle with heroin addiction.
Here, a man who has spent much of his life idolising musicians like Keith Richards talks about how he came to have his own story shelved in between rock 'n' roll memoirs in bookshops across the country…
First things first, when did you start writing the book?
I went to rehab several times, and one of the first things you do in rehab is write a short life story so your peers get to know a little bit about you. So in 1999, I was in rehab again. And they said write a life story - so I started writing.
They must have made for an interesting read….
Yeah. Even though it was shit, I had a framework that helped me remember. And then I used bands and music to fill in the blanks. And what I was wearing, who I was going out with, what side of my neck I was injecting into…
There's a lot of humour in the book. Did that help make it easier to write?
Yep. I think because a lot of what’s in the book wasn't funny. And I think doing that allows you to get into the darker stuff and escape from it a bit. And also, who wants to read three hundred pages of depressing shit?
That first time you went backstage at Glastonbury did you think - this is it?
I went from being a punter at a festival, to having a backstage pass, to meeting musicians that need something and I knew where they could get it. And I just thought, this is the way forward, clearly. When I'd had that experience, I couldn't imagine sitting in a tent at a festival trying to keep warm. I got spoiled I suppose.
Do you think if you hadn't been growing up in the hedonism of the 80s things would have been different?
I think if the events of my life had happened in the same way, 20 years later, it would have been exactly the same. I don't think going to Glastonbury made me a heroin addict. And I don't think taking thousands of E's or acid tabs… it was always going to happen. And it was fun, for most of it. Maybe not the acid, but going out raving, it was great. We were all going to fucking change the world.
What was the best thing about being the 'rock 'n' roll doctor'?
Watching someone that you idolise, a musician on stage, at Glastonbury on a Saturday night while the sun is going down when you're out of your mind on ecstasy. Knowing that him and his entire band are also out of their mind on the ecstasy that you've just availed them to. When you're young – that’s it.
Did you ever think it was too good to be true?
I went from spending five years in a Catholic school being told 'thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not,' to standing in a field with 40,000 people off their tits on cider and acid and all sorts of wonderful things and having a really good time. It was quite liberating.
You were hanging out with some very famous musicians when the events of the book took place. Did you have to be careful what you wrote about?
I like to think that the people that I was hanging out with at the time wouldn't have a problem with it. It’s nothing that they haven't spoken about in interviews and been far more open about. And I don't poke fun out of anybody, and I don't make judgements on anyone.
Yes, you only seem to make judgements on yourself…
Yep. And I don't think its glamorous and I'm sure there will be people who think I should be punished, but I've punished myself far more severely than six months, a year, five years in prison ever could.
But that’s the thing isn't it? So many people look at drugs and addiction as a criminal issue when actually it needs to be seen as a health problem?
They do in Portugal. In Portugal about ten years ago they started looking at it as a health issue and now the level of crime attached to drug use and addiction is half of what it used to be. It’s the most forward-thinking policy in the world, whereas here its still about punishing people who are not very well.
So - do you think drugs should be legalised?
I honestly don't know. I mean how would it work? I can't see how you could have a crack shop. It would be busy wouldn't it - (laughs) - It would have to have revolving doors and some pretty heavily armed store detectives. But I think people do need to see them differently. I always say that addiction is a terrible thing, there's no doubt about that. But are drugs a terrible thing? I don't think so, necessarily.
Music and drugs go hand in hand in 'Too High, Too Far, Too Soon'. Now that you're clean, has your love for music changed at all?
The last few years when I was using drugs, I couldn't listen to music, I couldn't listen to anything, because it made me upset. Whereas now I play in a band, everyone in the band is clean and sober. And we play the same songs that we used to get out of our heads to.
A lot of people that are struggling with drugs have this idea that life without it will be boring. And I tell you, there's nothing more boring than being a heroin addict. You know - sitting outside a cashpoint all day, with a blanket, begging. It’s fucking boring.