Stu Spasm interview, Lit Lounge, New York City, 24th July 2012
Photos by Sondra London

Part I – “Don’t you ever fucking hit me again!”

Text: Rokko / Photos: Sondra London


Stu Spasm – mastermind of Amphetamine Reptile’s infamous heroes Lubricated Goat, who also played in Crunt, Beasts of Bourbon, and right now is orchestrating The Art Gray Noizz Quintet. Why did we meet at the Lit Lounge (RIP)? I think because there was a sculpture by H.R. Giger standing there. And the Mars Bar had already closed down to make space for some ridiculous scheissdreck. Well, the Mars Bar had stuck out of NYC’s über clean East Village like a sore thumb for years anyway. And so does Stu Spasm, but he’s still around – so welcome Stu!

Lubricated Goat in serial killer expert and true crime writer Sondra London’s condo in 1990, from left to right: Stu Spasm, Sondra London, Lachlan McCleod, Renastair EJ © Sondra London

Rokko: Let’s start right at the beginning: People always refer to you as an Australian, but you were born in England and moved to Australia when you were three years old.

Stu Spasm: Yeah, I was born in South London, in an area called Sidcup. That’s where my parents were living when I was born, you know, but I have no experience of it. Generally, my father is from an area called Peckham. When I was born, they moved to Sidcup which is kind of like moving to a safer, nice suburb. And that’s actually the area where all those bands from the sixties went to art school, like the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend.

It’s really frustrating, because obviously, you would think this would be a perfect area for me to grow up for what I was into, but I never even knew that there was such a thing as an art school until I read about it in articles with these people…

Years later.

Yeah, when I had already basically left school. That was when I was 16 and it was kind of like: “Well, my education is over.” Because I wasn’t encouraged to have any more education than that. My parents just made it quite clear that I was dumb at school. They used to talk about getting an apprenticeship. But there was nothing that I was interested in doing for four years. Four years is a very long time! If somebody had said: “You can be an apprentice for rock music for four years” – that would be different, but out where I lived in Australia, I just felt literally that I came from nowhere.

Why did your parents move to Australia?

They probably thought that they – and presumably I – would have a better life there. Australia had a real inferiority complex back then. Any band from the sixties and the seventies and even from the early eighties, they all went to England, not so much America but England.

Certainly, I knew that I had to leave Adelaide. All I wanted to do was to go to England and have a band. That’s because all of the bands from Australia – Radio Birdman, The Saints, AC/DC, The Birthday Party… – they had to go to England and then probably to America. They weren’t contenting themselves with just living in Australia and playing music, because that was the backwater, and you feel isolated to the rest of the world.

There was a whole scene of Australian bands, and some people in America and England had found out about those cool Australian bands. Of course, there’s a lot of shit ones, but there’s a lot of shit ones from everywhere. They were copying American music, there’s no such thing as “indigenous Australian rock’n’roll”, you know. There’s their own slant on it, but it’s definitely copying American, especially with things like the way they sing. I mean, English bands are trying to sing with an American accent and Australian bands are trying to sing with an American accent. And they also use American iconography, like they sing about being from the Mississippi and all that. And they definitely are not singing it with an Australian accent. No one wants to hear that. If somebody’s singing with Australian accent, it fucking hurts your ears.

Americans wouldn’t think this was cool, they don’t go: “Wow, listen to that guy with that cool Australian accent!” They’d think it sounds silly. And if you’re Australian and you hear it on there, it’s embarrassing. If somebody’s singing in an Australian accent, it spoils the song. Just think of a Chuck Berry song. [sings “Johnny B. Goode” with Australian accent]. Sounds stupid, you know! If these days there’s people that do it and people that it doesn’t hurt listening to it, then I’m totally alienated from that. It just sounds wrong.

© Sondra London

So, after England, your first stop in Australia was Adelaide.

That’s where my family moved to. I felt doubly handicapped: I felt handicapped that they had moved to Australia and then I felt doubly handicapped that they had moved to Adelaide. One thing that I definitely knew when I was growing up was: as soon as I was old enough, I was leaving Adelaide. My family would never take me on holiday to England when I was a kid and I couldn’t afford it. It really hurt me because all they ever talked about was England, how much they missed England. It’s almost like if they could have afforded to, they would have lived there – but they couldn’t. They didn’t wanna be fucking working class people in England.

But could they really lead a better life in Australia?

Yeah! They charged ten pounds – this was in 1964 – so for ten pounds, you could take your whole family to Australia – if you had a trade. You had to have done an apprenticeship, so my father was a printer, but he was also a musician. He didn’t regard that as his primary job, he regarded that as his hobby or something, which I think is wrong. My dad was playing jazz, and when he was playing music, basically rock’n’roll bands were taking over all the clubs – so he hated them for that. He thought, if he would go far enough away, they wouldn’t have them over there: “Maybe if we go to Australia, there’s no rock’n’roll bands.”

What were your parents like when you decided to be a musician? Were they supportive?

No, they weren’t supportive. I mean, I get along with my parents really well now, but I don’t know if they have forgotten what they used to say – but I fucking remember. They were the opposite of supportive, they were really negative in that way fucking working class people from England can be, to fucking keep you in your place. They were like: “You can’t fucking play the guitar! You will never be anything. You’re gonna be a dustman.” They would always say: “You’re gonna be a dustman” – like the shittiest job you could ever get.

But I got this “I’ll show you!” attitude. They were the first people to make me feel like an outsider.

Do you have siblings?

Yeah, but they’re not involved in music. The ironic thing is, my dad’s family probably encouraged him to be a musician. I don’t know what they thought I was gonna do instead. There was nothing out where they lived. There was nothing for miles around. These days, it’s built up, but at that time, there was just nothing. I didn’t wanna live out there. Like I said, I was being handicapped from being taken from England, I was handicapped from being taken to Adelaide, and then I was handicapped from being taken all the way out to fucking miles and miles out of town, to basically the country. So, I was jealous of people that I met that lived near the city, that could just go to gigs and that, you know.

On the weekends, I had to hitchhike 20 miles into the city, every time I wanted to get out. The first thing I had to do when I left school was moving into the city for a start – just moving from where they lived to the city of Adelaide, where the fucking music was. Then I had to move from Adelaide to either Sydney or Melbourne, and then I had to move to England or America.

So, when I was 16, I started hitchhiking into the city and going out to gigs and I didn’t know anybody there and had no experience of going out. It’s not like I left school and then I went out to local places that were out there. When I left school, I fucking went into the city and started to go out to the gigs I had read about or heard about on the radio.

© Sondra London

When did you decide on being a musician?

As soon as I got into playing music, when I was about 12 or 13.

What bands were influencing you back then?

They didn’t even call it “heavy metal” then, they were calling it “heavy rock”. I was into rock’n’roll and heavy rock. I didn’t like wimpy music – I liked music with interesting guitar playing, even though I was a bass player because my dad had an extra bass. He had a stand-up bass and a Fender jazz bass. And then he had this other, cheaper electric bass. It was shaped kind of like Paul McCartney’s bass, like a violin, it was like that, except that it was solid, so it was really heavy. I played that at school, but I played it more like a guitar.

We had a band in our class: there was a guy that played the drums, a piano player and a guitar player, and the guy that played the bass was me. But the guitar player, all he could do was play drummy chords on acoustic guitar, he wasn’t very good. And we didn’t really need a piano. But then, the guy that played the guitar was kind of a juvenile delinquent. And the drummer’s grandfather had a music store, and his parents were teachers. So, at the house, they had all those instruments, and the drummer and the guitar player got caught stealing milk money from people’s doorsteps.

The parents knew that the guy who had played the guitar made him do it, was a bad influence, so he wasn’t allowed to come practicing anymore – so he couldn’t be in the band anymore. And he sucked as a guitar player anyway and we didn’t really need a piano player. So, the piano player switched to bass, and I switched to guitar. And that was the way that it should have been, really.

We played all the Black Sabbath songs from “Paranoid”, like “Iron Man”, with cheap guitars. Finally, I got a Fender Stratocaster when I was 16.

And you’re still playing it today.

Yeah, that’s why it’s looking so beaten up, it’s hard to smash a Fender. You can throw a Fender around – I threw mine around across the stage. If you did that to a Gibson it would break. But the body of the Fender is light and it’s also something about the shape of the neck. It bounces across the stage…

The first thing I did when I got out of school was to save some money to go to England and when I was 17, I bought that ticket. I was too young to get my parents’ permission and they didn’t take me seriously, the same way they didn’t take me seriously when I said I was gonna be a rockstar. They said: “What’re you gonna work?” And I said: “I wanna be a rockstar.” And they go: “Seriously! You’re gonna work in a factory?” And I go: “No.” “Are you gonna work outside?” “No.” “Are you gonna work in an office?” “No.” “But where are you gonna work?!” And I said: “I’m gonna be a rockstar.” And they go: “Seriously!” It seemed like they did that all the time.

They just assumed that I was getting fucking taught properly at school. But we had this weird school, it wasn’t a proper school. They thought they had this new system. And instead of having your own desk and face to front, they had these weird-shaped desks. No one would ever understand what the hell was going on. And the teachers were these weird hippies. Probably the best teacher was an old-school kind of teacher who would cane you and all that kind of stuff. If you did something bad, they had an old-style headmaster and you had to go down there so he would cane you across the hand. First, he would go like cccccchhh [swipe it through the air] so you could hear it and then he would give you three on each hand.

And you had to say: “Thank you, sir”.

At least, this was traditional. The ones that were more traditional could teach you. But the more hippie type ones, they just didn’t command the kids properly.

So why did your parents send you to that school?

Because it was the closest one, you could just walk there.

Anyway, I bought the ticket to England as soon as I had the money, that’s how eager I was. They didn’t believe it until they actually found out that I had the ticket. ‘Cause I was 17, I still needed their permission – and they cancelled the ticket. I lost half the money from them doing that, so then I was really pissed off.

And back then, flights were still really expensive.

Well, it’s always expensive from Australia! This was 1979, and I think it was maybe about getting to $1,000.

Then I’d gotten done for drunken driving: I crashed into that car with a woman and her son. I didn’t hurt them, luckily, but I was supposed to pay for the damage of their car. I didn’t get injured, nor did anybody else, and then I got my car fixed and I finally got my license back – it was only suspended for about two months because it was my first offense and all this. But then, not long after I got my car back, my brakes failed. I had a car full of drunken punk rockers – I wasn’t drunk, but my brakes failed, and I crashed into this guy’s car and broke my wrist.

Everyone that I hung out with was older than me, you know, my parents kicked me out of their house. My dad used to hit me all the time – he didn’t hit me hard, but it was insulting. So, I had a cast on my arm ‘cause of that accident and my parents were fucking yelling at me at the dinner table again. My dad was saying: “You don’t wanna work!” And I’m going: “I can’t work, I’ve got a broken arm!” He was going on and on about it and then he hit me, and I was 17 and thinking: “How long is this guy thinking he’s gonna fucking keep hitting me for?!” I put him up against the wall by the throat: “Don’t you ever fucking hit me again!” And then he goes: “Come on, if you are such a man!” – and getting ready to fight. And then I hit him on the head with my cast – clunk! It probably hurt me more than it hurt him. That was the same thing: It didn’t really hurt me when he was hitting – but it was degrading.

So he kicked me out of the house and I went to live with all these, you know, fucking sleazy people. Those were people I got to know at the shows, and I went to every kind of punk rock show that was happening.

I actually bought a ticket to see Iggy Pop and Radio Birdman – but then they cancelled the show because of poor ticket sales. So, Iggy Pop didn’t come, but Radio Birdman came to Adelaide, and a friend of mine from school said his brother was gonna drive down to see Radio Birdman from where we lived. That would have been the first time that I had ever been out to a show, so I was all excited about that. And then, a couple of hours later, my friend calls me and says: “Oh, my brother is not going there.” I said: “I’m gonna hitchhike down there then.” I only had a vague idea about where it was and my parents wouldn’t let me do it ‘cause I was 16. I was really pissed off and that was the last time they’d ever stop me from anything.

After that, I used to hitchhike into the city all the time, like literally starting the next week. Anything that was listed as being kind of punk rock.

This was like the beginning of 1978 and at Christmas of ’77, my parents went on holidays to Sydney and I went with them. My parents and my sisters went off and did whatever they were doing – and I went off and did my own thing. I went to see Rose Tattoo and a few other things, went to places in Sydney that I had been reading about. There was this show, literally across the street from where our hotel was and it was the first time I ever saw pictures of Divine, from the John Waters movies. There was this theatre that showed cool movies and X was playing there, and there was that band called the Psycho Surgeons. They had this single where the record cover was covered in kangaroo blood. I wish I had bought one back then, ‘cause they are worth a lot of money now.

When I got back to Adelaide, I went to see John Waters movies and I also went to hitchhike and see The Boys Next Door, which is what The Birthday Party originally was called. I was always hitchhiking into the city and then back to where my parents were living at three, sometimes even at five in the morning – which pissed off my parents and it also turned out that it was very dangerous. I did this for years, I hitchhiked all over Australia. Whenever I would come back to Adelaide at Christmas time, I would hitchhike all the way from Melbourne or Sydney – and back again. It turned out there were a lot of serial killers in Adelaide, a group of gay serial killers, and they were finding boys of my age and even older, into their twenties.

So what were the Lubricated Goat guys doing at Sondra London’s place? She told me: “I went to see them live but I don't recall why exactly I went there. Some zine connexxx, an intro from some underworld type. I enjoyed the show. Not so much the music, but as spectacle, theatre of the real, the aesthetic of ugliness. And they said they didn't have anywhere to stay so I let them come back and crash in my condo. There was a lot of drinking and hilarity. They stuffed the drummer into the works of the fold-out sofa and he just stayed there.

The next morning, they headed out and were 100 miles away when they realized they had left their video camera and their cash at my place – so they had to come back. They had sorted the cash and there it sat in nice little stacks waiting for them to remember it.”

© Sondra London

The kind of John Wayne Gacy victim profile?

Yeah, but they would find them on a garbage dump with a beer bottle up their ass, that kind of thing. Even that guy that used to read the news on the TV, his son was one of them.

Eventually, they convicted one guy but apparently, there were other people who were higher in society, like politicians and doctors, ‘cause there were weird surgical things done to those people. One guy was chopped up and his body was hollowed out and his legs were inside his torso, his head was chopped off and there were traces of semen inside the hole where they cut his head off.

It turned out that Adelaide was the place where some of the sickest fucking murders happened. It still goes on now. They call these people “The Family”, and some people say it’s a myth. But the one thing they can’t deny is that there was definitely someone killing these young men.


We were lucky enough to release a Lubricated Goat song on the Rokko’s Adventures #2 compilation, back in 2007. Sold out for a long time, but never forgotten.

But the time I started hitchhiking, I hadn’t heard of that. By the time I left Adelaide, I think that’s the time when the news started to come out. But I wasn’t someone that read the paper a lot. You just take the chances when you hitchhike anyway. In the course of getting to hitchhike 500 miles, you might get ten lifts, or you might get one lift that goes all the way. Also, these people could have done anything to me ‘cause it was so fucking hot there and you are out on the side of the road for hours, waiting for a ride and screaming at that guy: “Fuck you!!”, worrying you might not get a ride all night, thinking: “I’m gonna have to break into a farmhouse to sleep.”

And then someone happens to pull over at one o’clock in the morning and they go a couple of hundred miles – it’s such a relief! But then they fucking let you out at six o’clock in the morning. It’s like fucking adventures, I’ll tell you that much. It’s so hot and I fall asleep as soon as I get in the car, and you wake up two hours later and you are fucking a hundred miles further on – and this guy could have easily cut my head off and thrown it out of the window.

But I used to do that for years until I started having bands that were popular. Quite a few people I knew were people from Adelaide that had moved to Melbourne or Sydney, and so, usually, when I wanted to see my parents at Christmas time… I mean now, I haven’t seen my parents for nearly 20 years, right, but back then, I used to go out of my way to hitchhike a thousand miles at Christmas to see them – even though they had cancelled my fucking ticket to England and hit me and fucking called me a piece of shit that couldn’t play the guitar and all that stuff.

Eventually, when we had bands, we were always trying to have a show around Christmas time in Adelaide, so we would rent a van and drive there.

And play a Christmas show for the parents.

No, my parents never came to a show, they are not the slightest bit interested. I put my dad on the end of the first Lubricated Goat album, telling me to shut up.

Ah, that’s your dad!

Yeah. And I heard they were really embarrassed when I played naked on TV.

I guess they were also embarrassed just by the name of the band, Lubricated Goat. [laughs]

Yeah. My dad was a musician as well, but he was in the musician’s union and he was getting paid like $30 an hour or whatever. And then, when I was in the Beasts of Bourbon, I would do a show, fly to Melbourne and get $500 just for me, just for one show. So, I sometimes used to call my dad up and tease him, taunt him: “Guess what, I just got $1,000 for one show, so fuck you!”

My dad thought he’s such a good musician – but he wasn’t on fucking TV. I had to show him that I wasn’t what they said.

Actually, there was a lot of stuff happening for a couple of short years and then nothing happened for a lot of years. A lot of stuff – as far as moving around and that goes – between 1979 and 1983. In 1983, I moved to Sydney.

To the “Graceland mansions”?

Yeah, well, that wasn’t the first place I moved to. When I was living in Melbourne, I met Brett Ford, the drummer of Lubricated Goat. We had this other band called The Singing Dog where we wrote a lot of songs that we were actually using as Lubricated Goat. But I didn’t have a lot of success, as far as that band goes. We did a couple of gigs, but then I moved to Sydney and I was in Salamander Jim and the Beasts of Bourbon and I finally got enough money to go to England. But the only reason I did it at that time was that Tex [Perkins] moved to England. He went over there to join the Gun Club. The Gun Club came and played in Australia and became aware of Tex and asked him to be their singer. He thought it was a good career move and went over to England. But we had recorded a Salamander Jim album at that time and that totally stopped us in our tracks, blew all this momentum that we had built up.

So, at that time I decided to go over to England myself – and at least I got it out of my system ‘cause I wasn’t having much fun over there. I was stuck in one of these bedsits, I was on the dole and I didn’t have much of a musical pedigree to show there because our album hadn’t come out yet. If I would have met the right people, it would have been different.

The good thing that happened over there is that I bumped purely by chance into Brett Ford, and there was a decision whether to stay in England and see if things work out or… A lot of the time we spent there was going: “This kind of sucks over here, maybe we should go back to Australia”, you know. So eventually, I went back to Australia, but Brett had been living in Perth and I went back to Sydney. I encouraged Brett to come to Sydney and eventually he did – and that’s when we formed Lubricated Goat. Tex also soon came back from England, it wasn’t a very hard decision for him to make either.

He didn’t really get into the Gun Club?

He wasn’t into the music they were doing, they had all these songs and said: “Can you put lyrics to these songs?” And he wasn’t “feeling it”, as they say. It’s annoying, because if that hadn’t happened, our band would have continued on and things would have been different.

When I got back, we started to do all the crazy shit, a lot of it was fed by our sense of humour and also by our general disdain for the Australian music industry. The Australian music industry still hadn’t been taken that seriously, but we had this weird attitude towards it. It’s hard to explain exactly what we were doing ‘cause it doesn’t necessarily even stand the test of time, as far as to listening to it. You have to listen to it in the context of their attitude.

I guess you were taking the piss out of a lot of things in a very arty, but also rock’n’roll way. Didn’t you once tell me something about playing on a self-built pirate ship?

Yeah, but this wasn’t me, this was this other band, No More Bandicoots. They built the pirate ship. They were the band that used to play naked.

What about Chicken Holder?

Yeah, Chicken Holder was the thing that I did. Chicken Holder originally was a product they had on television, a thing that holds up a chicken. It looked like a dildo and you put your chicken on top of it so it sits up. And it’s got a little dish that catches the fat and the juice out of the chicken and you just sit it in the oven and it cooks.

There was another product on television called Toilet Duck, which is a scrubber, shaped like a duck so you can put it underneath the fucking rim of the toilet and clean it. So, me and Tex were in this one venue called Franchise and we said: “We’d like to book a show here.” And they said: “Who is it for?” We said: “Chicken Holder and Toilet Duck.”

The show was gonna be coming in a month, so we had a month to decide what these bands were gonna be. The Chicken Holder was me wearing this green kind of spandex outfit, like an aerobic outfit, really tight and shiny, the pants and the top as well. I cut the top so there was a gap between here and here [from shoulders to elbow], so you could see my tattoos. And then I had these green boots that went with it and I had a hat with a big feather in it and I had a sword and a big belt. I sang along karaoke style to a Frank Sinatra instrumental record. I also had a real chicken, meant for cooking, stuck to a microphone stand. And I had a synthesizer attached to the chicken and one guy played the chicken with a stick and it twitched the knobs on the synthesizer, so it looks like you’re playing the chicken. It goes like wwwwwwwwwwwrrrrrrrr and I had different people to do that: either Lachlan McCleod or Brett Ford would be the guy playing the chicken.

© Sondra London

And then, Toilet Duck just ended up being a weird, arty, noisy somewhat improvised band, you know.

Basically, we ended up putting together lots of bands with silly names. They were kind of inspired by the sort of albums they used to put on the television, these compilation albums, like “20 Exploding Hits!”, “20 Original Hits!”, “20 Original Stars!”. Have you seen those kinds of albums?

Yeah, like “Buy now and get a bonus CD for free!”

Yeah, and then it goes like “Featuring…” – and then they say the names of all the bands. So, we just made up all these crazy band names and then we’d make up the song that that band would do. For some, the best thing about it is the name of the band or the picture of the band. Sometimes, the actual song is terrible.

On the first Lubricated Goat record “…Plays the Devil’s Music”, you were playing most of the instruments yourself.

Well, on one side, we had a band – bass, drums and guitar. And then the other side, it was just me and the drummer, and I was playing everything except the drums.

Was Lubricated Goat already from the beginning your band, have you always been the driving force?

Yeah, basically. Back, when we lived in Melbourne, we had the band called The Singing Dog. For the first Lubricated Goat album, I wanted Brett to come to Sydney to play music with me, after I came back from England. And he said: “If you come to Perth, I’ll get you some shows.” So I went out there to do some shows and we started jamming and put a set together since we had no idea about what we were gonna do when I first got there. I had a bunch of words and some songs and that’s basically how it came about. I also knew someone who would lend me the money for recording if I wanted to. You know, not a lot, but $600. So, when I was out there, we ended up recording what should become the first side of the first album.

And then, on the way back do Sydney, I stopped my trip in Adelaide and did some recording with Martin Bland on his four track. I like the way that came out, that was the second side.

I could have made a couple of 7”s, EPs, whatever, but I just decided to pull the two things together to have enough music to make an album.

What about the last song on the record, “Can’t Believe We’re Really Making Love” – is there a story behind it?

We were just fucking around on the four track and trying to do some sexy music.

We found that Barry White kind of music really funny, so we decided to do something like that. It’s a very humorous album.

The record is humorous and spooky at the same time, it’s not light-hearted.

Well, musically, it’s good. When I was living in England, we were really getting into the Butthole Surfers. I heard ‘em for the first time and when I was over there, I really got into them, also into their lyrics.

Stay tuned for how things go on from there in part II right here …

© Sondra London