& DAVE BRITTON
As a direct result of his shock SF novel ‘LORD HORROR’,
Savoy Books and Records supremo and Novelist Dave Britton
spent time in prison in Manchester. But undaunted he talks to
Andrew Darlington about Savoy’s CD’s, their comics and novels...
‘Hello Mr and Mrs America, and all the ships at sea...’
– PJ Proby on the ‘Lord Horror’ CD Talking Book
‘They’re just scum’ explodes Dave Britton. ‘Fascists are scum, you just can’t deal with them, you can’t reason with them or excuse them. They’re shit. They are evil, purely evil. But can you name me one novel – just one, which captures that essence of pure evil? C’mon. Name me one...’ I flounder, before eventually settling on the only, too obvious candidate – ‘Lord Horror’ (1990) by Dave Britton.
‘Right. Ramsey Campbell is promoted as England’s answer to Stephen King. Who said that about him in the first place? I don’t know. He’s a great writer, and good luck to him. But I don’t see that element of pure evil in what he writes. Thomas Harris’ ‘Silence Of The Lambs’ (1988) is closer, but you tend to visualise Anthony Hopkins in the movie role, don’t you? Clive Barker comes even closer still, particularly in ‘The Books Of Blood’ (1984-1986). Clive Barker can be brilliant, also in the way he smears it across the mediums from short stories to movies. But even he rarely gets it exactly right. And that’s what I wanted to do with ‘Lord Horror’ – I wanted to create a character who is that personification of evil.’
|Dave Britton and Michael Butterworth at Savoy|
|Original Dave Britton artwork|
Savoy is an independent publishing label run by Dave and Mike. Together they’ve created some of the most fiercely controversial and banned work ever to come out of the Science Fiction subculture. Savoy, they say, operates like a family. The Krays. But hey – Mike and Dave do believe in Family Values, even if they are Adams Family Values...!
In the meantime Dave carefully reads out his entry in the ‘The Encyclopaedia Of Science Fiction’. And within this massive thick-as-a-brick tome, compiler Peter Nicholls writes that ‘Lord Horror’ is ‘a scatological examination of Nazism and the UK traitor Lord Haw-Haw, which made use of pornographic imagery upsetting to the Manchester Police...’ Dave throws up his hands – ‘‘pornographic imagery’ it says! Pornographic! There is NO sexual pornography in ‘Lord Horror’. Deliberately. There’s VIOLENCE, because it deals with a sick violent evil mind, but there’s no graphic depictions of sex.’ But Nicholls goes on to concede that the book is ‘clearly, if very offensively, a satire’. And if people take offence, perhaps that’s because they fail to correctly decode the right parts of the message? ‘Sure’ concedes Dave, ‘all people see is the violence. They don’t see the references.
Sure enough, on charges relating to the publication and sale of what these – and other self-appointed moral guardians considered ‘objectionable’ material, ‘Lord Horror’ was confiscated, found obscene, and then made publishing history when it became the first novel to be banned in Britain since 1968. Since Hubert Selby’s ‘Last Exit To Brooklyn’. Dave blames the ‘cult of anti-Northerness’ for the continued lack of cause celebré publicity over their serial cases, despite the high-profile support in court of people like Michael Moorcock. ‘Yes. The only way we’ll get recognition is when we’re killed by some outraged Nazi’ he snorts with delicious derision. ‘Or when I wind up in jail.’ In fact – as a result of the charges, Dave Britton actually spent time as a guest of her satanic majesty. ‘His experience in Strangeways was the main spur that started him writing. He knew in that moment that he mustn’t waste any more time. If he got out, he must write his novel.’
It sometimes seems that to the London-based Literary Luvvies, Mike and Dave are the cutest couple to come out of Manchester since Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. Something like the crazed motorcycle gang who rode through the toxic waste spill and came out hideously mutated. Outlaws from some alien Northern Hell.
“It’s red-hot, mate. I have to think of this sort of book
getting into the wrong hands. As soon as I’ve finished
(writing) this, I shall recommend they ban it...’
Tony Hancock writes his novel (Radio Show scripts)
‘This is Manchester, we do things differently here’ says ‘Tony Wilson’ in the ‘Twenty-Four Hour Party People’ (2002) movie. Mark Twain once claimed he’d like to have lived in Manchester, because ‘the transition between Manchester and Death would be unnoticeable…’
Dave and Mike, Manchester’s Badly-Drawn Boys, are not exactly treasured by this nation’s academic elite. Yet Dave wrote, and together they published this dazzling atrocity of dark enchantment, this black grotesque novel of mayhem and madness hot-wired into a Hieronymus Bosch triptych. This black absurdist comedy that casually opens ‘had it not been for the war, Hitler would have done well...’ The result was that the ‘Sinister Dexter’, the Obi-Wan-Kenobi and Que-Gon Jinn of radical publishing, left that previous dumb and vicious century dragging Horror’s fearful symmetry through the full vindictive contours of human stupidity, from Police Raids to Law Courts to a spell of incarceration.
|P J Proby on 'Savoy Records'|
|Original Dave Britton artwork|
Mike is as tall and blonde as Dave is dark and rotund. Dave is in black. Black shirt hung out over black trousers. Black hair and black-tinted glasses. He looks like the guy who’d steal your X-Box if you turn your back on him too long. Butterworth is taller, leaner, pale and interesting. His blonde hair is close-cropped, ‘his ‘Rave look’ jeers Dave. We retreat across Deansgate from the ‘Drum & Porcupine’ where, during the course of a tête-à-tête during which Dave voraciously devours a heaped dish of spare ribs, Mike opting for the vegetarian tagliatelle, we discuss Iron Butterfly’s lost psychedelic artefact-album ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ (1968), Mersey Beat star Kingsize Taylor, the collapse of Factory Records (‘just down the road from here’) and the critical gush-factor accompanying holocaust-titillation novels by Martin Amis and DM Thomas.
Mike lives on the culinary cutting edge. ‘I’ve always been able to live healthily on vegan food. I decided to eat cheese etc at my vegetarian boarding school where I’d been sent by my father to be vegan – to get me away from my mother who thought the vegan diet too extreme for young children and was feeding my sisters and I dairy and eggs behind his back! But at school I found I was the only vegan, so I changed to a vegetarian diet in an attempt to fit in. The school staff turned a blind eye, as I think they thought Dad was too extreme as well. Later in life I swopped back to being vegan, then back to being vegetarian for reasons of convenience. I’m now largely vegan – I won’t eat any dairy produce at all, but I do eat eggs – for convenience, if I can be assured the hens are genuinely free-range and no undue suffering is involved. I am a big supporter of veganism, and I believe if sufficient attention is paid to the diet most people can live perfectly healthily on it.’
|Original Dave Britton artwork|
|Early Dave Britton magazine|
These two unlikely negative role-models have been a volatile outlaw publishing and then recording partnership ‘since 1972 – man and beast’. One at permanent loggerheads with the highly moral Manchester Constabulary who they’ve satirised mercilessly in their various projects. Down the road from Savoy there’s a Survivalist store, and a Scientologist’s Dianetics Centre. Manchester – it’s murder out there, we pun it into Gun-chester, Grunge-chester and beyond. A city decomposing beneath a soggy sky into what Dennis Potter called the ‘quotidian ooze of ordure’, or what Dave and Mike might call the ‘creeping shittiness of ordinary life’. Dave is one of the few people who dare admit to enjoying one of Potter’s final and least critically respectable teleplays, ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’ (1993) – but only for the soundtrack. Rock music, and Science Fiction, are his obsessions, and the source of Savoy’s rearguard action against that ‘quotidian ooze’. ‘You can’t avoid the crumminess. But you can have fun trying.’
|Dave Britton & Michael Butterworth as 'Meng & Ecker'|
‘Horror was a sidewinding rattler. The Be-Bop-A-Lula
of Auschwitz. Dreams in one hand. Shit in the other.
Blood and disgrace. Drip-Drop on the worthless earth...’
‘Motherfucker: The Auschwitz Of Oz’
by Dave Britton (Savoy Books 1996)
Manchester is burning. A monstrous amoebic multi-tentacled beast squats over its skyline farting and belching its foul noxious breath. But – although cloned from the alien growth in ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’ which smeared Westminster Abbey with its disgusting excreta, it is star-spangled like the 1950s ‘Quasar of Rock’ Little Richard and roars like every Kurt Cobain CD in the world played at max volume simultaneously. A vulgar nightmare of bad taste fitted with thermo-nuclear teeth shimmying and slavering voluptuously through the soot-silt, decay and pigeon-shit. Rock is the addictive proscribed substance that inoculates you into your most outlandishly primal desires. Rentokil have probably faced greater challenges than the Savoy offices. But maybe not too many.
|Michael Butterworth as character |
in the ‘Meng & Ecker' comicbooks
‘“Garbageman” should have been recorded by Little Richard’ enthuses Dave Britton. ‘Can’t you just hear it? – ‘DANCE TO THE BEAT OF THE LIVING DEAD…!!!’’ He howls the lines in perfect Penniman, pumping imaginary piano-runs up and down the Savoy desktop. A murderously full-orchestral six-minute version the Cramps song is on their launch CD ‘Savoy Wars’ (1994), in full barking-at-the-moon madness. Because there’s more to Savoy than just texts.
|P J Proby covers Joy Division |
as Savoy Records 12" single
|Michael Butterworth pre-Savoy magazine|
‘He’s given up the booze now’ confides Mike, ‘and some of the stories he’s been coming out with are... amazing! If only we’d had a cassette recorder handy to preserve them!’
‘And I did say ‘FUNK’ you...’
PJ Proby on the ‘Lord Horror’ Talking Book
To Dave Rock ‘n’ Roll ended somewhere around 1960. But Mike discovered House. He likes Prodigy and the Orb, drawing elements from A Guy Called Gerald and 808 State into ‘Savoy Wars’. Because Savoy is an attitude. Relics with a cause. And Rock, at its best, is magnificently over the top. It’s that unifying absurdity that gives the Savoy projects their continuity. The outrage. The energy. The exhilaration.
As I leave, the sun is going down over Manchester like an A-bomb explosion in reverse. Rock has been low-life Memphis, New York, Hamburg, Notting Hill, Liverpool, Haight-Ashbury, Detroit, and now it’s burning asquat on the Manchester skyline farting and belching its foul noxious breath. Rock is a social disease that’s seen the best minds of four generations destroyed in madness, screaming, hysterical, naked, feeling sick, dirty and more dead than alive. It wears Buddy Holly’s glasses and Gene Vincent’s leg-brace. It is the self-abuse that gives you acne and grows hair on the palm of your hands. And it’s music you’d die for.
*‘P.J. PROBY READS DAVE BRITTON’S
“LORD HORROR”’ (CD SA3)
by T.S. ELIOT’ (CD SA4) read by P.J. PROBY
(Both Savoy Records Talking Books)