Smutty Smiff in Conversation with Steve Olson

Rock n’ roll, has got to go…

I don’t think so.

The past, the now, the future,

it looks as though it’s here to stay.

Smutty knows so too…

It’s in your blood, it’s just a fact.

From Wolfman Jack to The Rockats.

A lil bit of this, a lil bit of that…

Slapping bass to spin disc…

Fuck all this, this is…

Smutty Smiff. 

The Rockats Smutty Smiff interview by Steve Olson

Hi Smutty. Let’s do this interview.

Hi, Steve. Okay, sounds good. 

It’s more of a conversation about you and what you’ve been through.

Well, I’ve been through quite a lot. 

I’m aware, so here’s the deal. I’m going to ask you some questions that I already know because I love you.

Aw, cool, man, I love you too. 

Wait. Tell me your name.

Well, my full given name is Steven Dennis Smith, but since I was about 12 years old, I’ve been called Smutty Smiff. When I assumed the character Smutty Smiff in the Rockats, I stuck with it and I’ve been called Smutty Smiff ever since. 

So where did Smutty come from?

Well, Smith is a very common name in the U.K. and there were a few Steven Smiths in my school and one of them was Smudger Smith and one was Smitty Smith and I got Smutty Smith. I don’t know the connotations. It was probably innocent, but I got Smutty. It could have been Slutty.

[Laughs] So where did you grow up?

I was born in Southeast London and then I moved to Essex. I grew up in a counseling state with no dad, and my mom was a party girl. She used to drink a lot and go out to parties, so I basically did what I wanted from the time I was ten years old. Then I got into gangs with the Teddy Boys. 

How did you get involved with the Teddy Boys?

When I was 12, I started to like listening to old records rather than new records. I got into Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, as well as music like T-Rex, David Bowie and Alice Cooper. They were huge, but I delved more into the retro stuff. I also liked the style of the Teds, which was like a Mississippi gambler crossed with an Edwardian dressed person. Teddy Boy is an acronym that is short for Edward. We would have been called Edwardian Boys, but that sounds ridiculous. 

It’s doesn’t sound as good as Teddy Boys. 

Yeah. The Teddy Boys wore long drape jackets, tight trousers, day-glo socks and Creepers. When I first landed in Los Angeles in ’77, that’s what I was wearing and the Americans didn’t know what to make of us. They just thought we were punks because punk had hit the USA with the Sex Pistols, The Runaways, The Ramones and stuff like that. We were thrown into that party as punks, but we weren’t punks. We were the farthest thing from punks. We didn’t even hang out with punks really, when we were in England. It was only, later on, when our manager managed Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers and David Bowie and Iggy Pop and he found us. He was putting a band together and he took us to America and he introduced us to everyone as rockabillies, and we were liked by punks and rockabillies.

Lee Childers becomes your manager, but we’re getting ahead of the game. At what age did you join Teddy Boy gangs?

I was age 12 or 13. 

What year was this?

It would have been 1974 or 1975. 

“More than half of the Anarchy in the U.K. tour was cancelled. Punk rock was being outlawed on records and radio and in schools. People went berserk about the Sex Pistols saying stuff about the queen and stuff on TV, but the more people tried to ban it, squash it and get rid of it, the more people wanted it.”

Were the gangs a group of guys and did you guys have to fight the Mods or what?

Yes. We had to fight skinheads and we chased Mods down the streets in Southend and we’d kick their scooters over and hit them with bicycle chains and broken bottles. The fights were pretty brutal, but I was a fast runner. 

[Laughs] Yes! 

The fights were normally on bank holiday Mondays, which were like Memorial Day or Columbus Day, and the fights were always in beach towns like Clacton-on-Sea, Brighton and Southend-on-Sea. The Mods would ride down on their scooters from London and they would park their bikes along the sea front, and then the Teddy Boys would come marching down the hill from going to see a big Teddy Boy concert and they would clash with the Mods. I saw some pretty big punch ups in my time. 

So that turned you on to old rock n roll. 

Yeah. We were listening to retro rock n roll, and Lee Childers introduced us to other music. I hadn’t really heard punk, except for the Sex Pistols. Then I met Johnny Thunders, Siouxsie Sioux, The Damned, The Clash and everyone else. They came from the same counselor states and the same backgrounds and the same schools and they were just like us. I was a Teddy Boy, but I went to school with guys that were into The Clash. Just because you wore different clothes, it didn’t make you a  different person but, during that time, you were labeled. You couldn’t go to a punk bar dressed as a Ted or you’d get your face kicked in. 

It was that territorial over style of dress?

Oh yeah. Punks were being beaten up with bricks and bottles on the Kings Road by Teddy Boys, and vice versa. Punks would see one Ted on his own at the train station and they would annihilate him,  depending on what he was wearing. It was almost like the Hells Angels versus the Bandidos. Although they are both biker gangs, they hate each other. 

Right. It seems as though a skinhead looked like a skinhead and a Mod looked like a Mod and a Teddy Boy looked like a Teddy Boy and a punk looked like a punk back then. The Hells Angels and Bandidos looked the same. In London, with what was going down in the ’70s, it was the uniform of what you represented. 

It was like a uniform. I saw Joe Strummer at a rockabilly gig one time and I knew it was Joe Strummer, because Joe had on a Teddy Boy coat and Creepers and he had his hair in a quiff. It was Joe Strummer, but he snuck in. I could go to a punk gig, but I’d wear my leather jacket and blue jeans and my Creepers and I would put on a couple of Clash badges and, suddenly, I was a punk. You could crossover because the clothes that the Sex Pistols wore in the very beginning were left over clothes from the Teddy Boy shop that Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood owned called Let It Rock. That shop turned into Sex, which was the shop that Malcom McLaren owned when he put together the Sex Pistols. 

It just seems as though, in that whole scene, Malcolm McLaren was into Teddy Boys gear and that’s early rock n’ roll. Then he goes and manages the New York Dolls, which was basically stripped down rock n roll with an attitude. Then the Sex Pistols are broken down rock n’ roll, but just totally cool. 

Yes. Vivienne threw in the bondage gear and sex clothes and took them away from the Creepers and the drapes. If you look at early Pistols photos, they were wearing Teddy Boys clothes with safety pins in them. Then they were more into bondage gear and the big mohair sweaters and the rest of it. 

It must have been mad fun to grow up in that whole scene, in London, as a kid.

Yeah. I was 17 and I went out every single night when I first joined Levi & The Rockats. Lee Childers asked me to join the band after he met and discovered Levi at a Shakin’ Stevens gig. Levi got up as a guest singer, and Lee Childers, who later became known as Leee Black Childers, was in the audience and he had just started managing Johnny Thunders. Lee had just finished touring with Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust tour and he managed The Stooges and he worked with Bowie as his publicist, so he had a lot of connections in London. He said to Levi, “I want to put a band together around you.” Levi said, “I have this friend, Smutty, and he’s a great dancer, but he doesn’t play anything.” Then Lee came to the rockabilly club and saw me dancing and he said to me, “Oh, you’re fabulous honey. I want you in this band with Levi.” 


Was Lee a queen?

Oh, yeah, he was a hard queen, à la Quentin Crisp. Lee said to me, “What do you want to play? Bass or drums? Billy Rath from the Heartbreakers will give you bass lessons.” A week later, Lee went out and bought me a stand up bass and sent me over to the Heartbreakers house to get bass lessons. They lived on the Kings Road and I’d drive my motorcycle with a sidecar over there with my stand up bass sticking out of it.  

No way! Okay, it seemed like Lee Childers, who I met through Miss Mercy, was a tastemaker. He had good taste from Bowie to the Stooges and beyond.

To me, he was one of the last people that could see star quality in a person. He believed in those old manager skills of Colonel Parker who just knew when someone had something special. He thought Jerry Nolan had it. He thought Johnny Thunders had it and he thought Levi had it. He put all these eggs in one basket with the Heartbreakers. Everyone in New York told him, “You won’t be able to manage Johnny Thunders.” When the Dolls broke up, Johnny Thunders was considered unmanageable. He was addicted to heroin, as was Jerry Nolan. That’s why the Dolls broke up. They broke up on their last tour somewhere down in Florida because the guys couldn’t get any smack. Johansen said, “I don’t need you guys in the band. I can replace either one of you.” So they both jumped on a plane and went back to New York and that’s when the Dolls ended. 

Well, there was no replacing Johnny Thunders or Jerry Nolan. 

Yeah. That was the whole band. 

Exactly. So you were in London getting bass lessons from Billy Rath and hanging out with Johnny Thunders.   

Yeah. They were playing darts with syringes in the house and there was blood all over the walls, and Johnny was bleeding from both arms. I was 17 years old and I was looking at them and thinking, “What the fuck is going on here?” They were out and out junkies and I had never seen a syringe, let alone people playing darts with them. 

Wow. You were just a 17-year-old kid getting exposed to all of this, and Johnny Thunders is Johnny Thunders. There is no other Johnny Thunders. 

No. And there never will be. Johnny played on our first Rockats gig at Royal College of Art and he saved the show because we had five songs and we could barely play one song and get through it together, and we had only had a few rehearsals. Then Johnny got up and we knew the chords to one Chuck Berry song and we played “Around and Around” for ten minutes while Johnny played with us. After that, Johnny got up and played with us for many weeks. Later on, he would come to Max’s and CBGB’s when Jerry Nolan was in the band. 

So the Rockats were starting and Lee was putting together the rest of the Rockats. 

Yeah. Lee put the rest of the band together and we did a tour with Wayne County & the Electric Chairs in ’78. One of our first gigs was with Adam and the Ants and Siouxsie and the Banshees at the Music Machine in Camden in 1977. Then Lee set his sights on New York on Max’s Kansas City. Johnny was  giving him all kinds of grief because his drug problem was out of control. Everything for Johnny revolved around heroin, and he came over every day demanding money. Lee would give him money and Johnny would sell things and steal things. He was a very likable, charming, wonderful junkie, but still a junkie. I loved Johnny Thunders, and I spent many hours hanging out with him, and him playing with the band. At the beginning of the Rockats, I just remember Billy Rath giving me bass lessons with his eyes bugged out of his head on speed. 

The Heartbreakers definitely understood rock n’ roll and Billy was a competent bass player. 

Billy was a great bass player. “Pirate Love” is one of my favorite songs. To me, the L.A.M.F. album is as good as The Doors or the Pistols. The production quality is a bit muffled, but the songs and playing is great. It’s a great original rock n roll album. 

When you hear the Johnny Thunders So Alone album, I would have loved to have heard that production value with L.A.M.F. with the Heartbreakers who were so good. I loved the Heartbreakers, but So Alone is really well produced. It’s amazing. 

Steve Lillywhite produced So Alone. “Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” is such a great song.

“Great Big Kiss” and all of it is great. So then what happened to the Rockats. Lee had his eyes set on New York.

We landed in LA first because Lee needed time to get New York set up. Then we drove out to an Aerosmth gig in Texas and Steven Tyler helped us out because we ran out of money. Lee got a gig  taking pictures for Aerosmith, but then Lee got his camera taken from him by the police on the way there because we didn’t have any money to pay a speeding ticket, so the judge took his camera. Being in Texas, in a small town, it happens. 

“We had to fight skinheads and we chased Mods down the streets in Southend and we’d kick their scooters over and hit them with bicycle chains and broken bottles. The fights were pretty brutal, but I was a fast runner.”

That’s wild. 

We finally got to the Aerosmith gig and Lee and all of us are hanging out with Steven Tyler and Lee gets this money and then he went to New York. Levi and I ended up getting stranded in Kentucky for a couple of months while Lee and Gail went to get New York set up. Later on, we ended up playing our first gig at Max’s Kansas City with the Cramps. By then, I had a place to live in New York because I started seeing Gail, Lee’s assistant. Levi and all of them lived in Debbie Harry’s loft. Chris and all of them had a loft right across the street from CBGB’s and they had moved out. Richard Lloyd, who was in Television, lived downstairs and he was a junkie, and he came up there a few times and tried to have a go at the boys. So our first gig was at Max’s and I remember I was so scared because we had no equipment and no rehearsal space. We had six songs and Lee says, “You’re going to be playing for five weeks with The Cramps at Max’s. It’s a sold out gig.” We didn’t think we could pull that off, but Lee was like, “Oh darling, you’ll be fine. They’ll love you.” He was so optimistic about everything. 

[Laughs] I love that. He understood the whole star thing. With Levi & The Rockats, Levi was like, “Wow!”

Imagine five young guys that were 17 or 18 years old with this lead singer who had a blue quiff and a pink suit getting on stage at Max’s. No one had ever seen anything like that, except for the Dolls. We were like the Dolls of rockabilly. We wore as much makeup as the Dolls and we dressed rockabilly. When we went to LA, we played with The Cramps at the Masque and we played with The Go-Go’s, and The Germs and all those bands. I walked in with Stiv Bators who I knew from New York and we were instantly accepted by the LA scene. We were hanging out with Joan Jett, Kim Fowley and Rodney Bingenheimer, and going to the Masque, The Lingerie, the Music Machine, Club 88, Cathay de Grande and Madam Wong’s. 

You were making the scene and playing.

Yeah. We played the Starwood a few times. We actually broke up in LA. when Lee became more obsessed with Levi than the rest of the band. Levi, bless him, wanted to keep the vibe of the band more rootsy traditional rockabilly, while me and the rest of the band wanted to be more like The Heartbreakers. I liked traditional rockabilly and I still do, but I was so blown away by The Ramones and The Clash. Punk just blew everything else  completely away. 

Well, you were a kid that got to see it happen, and live it. That’s insane.

I was in the thick of it because I was with Lee Childers who was best friends with Malcom McLaren, and the Heartbreakers were on the Anarchy in the U.K. tour.

Then the Anarchy in U.K. tour was getting shut down everywhere, so they were not getting to play, which was making them agitated and pissed off. I can just imagine a hardcore junkie like Thunders not being able to play and get out that crazy energy. They come over to tour and half of the gigs are cancelled. 

Yeah. More than half of the Anarchy in the U.K. tour was cancelled. Punk rock was being outlawed in records, radio and schools. People went berserk about the Sex Pistols saying stuff about the queen on TV, but the more people tried to ban it, squash it and get rid of it, the more people wanted it. 

That’s amazing. 

When you see punk stuff in Target now, you have to think back to being a punk walking down Sunset Blvd in ‘77. It was totally different. I remember I got pulled over on Santa Monica Blvd outside of the Starwood for being a male prostitute. I was wearing leather pants and a leather vest and they were like, “Where are you from? What are you?” 

So you’re on Santa Monica Blvd and you’re in black leather pants and a black leather vest and the cops pick you up because they think you’re a hustler?

Yeah. They thought I was a male prostitute. They busted me and made me put my hands above my head against the wall and said, “We know that you’re a male prostitute. You’re wearing makeup and leather pants. We are gonna take you down.” I said, “No. I just got off a plane from London. My manager is at the Tropicana Motel.” So I convinced them to drive me to The Tropicana, instead of arresting me. We got to the Tropicana and the cops knocked on the motel room door and Lee Childers answered the door wearing a pink bathrobe with yesterday’s make up on, smelling of gin, and said, “What’s the problem, darling?” I said, “The police think I’m a male prostitute.” He said, “He’s not a male prostitute. He’s in my band.” They just looked at him and pushed me in the door. 

[Laughs] Yes! That’s so good. Did you have all the tattoos on your arms?


When did you start getting tattoos? Was it when you became a Teddy Boy?

Yeah. I was around 14. By the time I was in the Rockats, I had tattoos from my shoulders down to my knuckles, and nobody else in the business did. I was dressed like a girl with full sleeve tattoos, and people just freaked out. I became friends with Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mick Rock and Bob Gruen and they all wanted to photograph me because I looked the part.


Let’s backtrack for a second. You’re in London and Lee wants to go to New York because Thunders is having a little hissy fit because he can’t seem to get dope as conveniently in London as he can in New York. So now you’re in New York opening for The Cramps. Lee is so optimistic and has such confidence in you, that he’s like, “Don’t worry, darling. You’ll be fine. They’ll love you.” There was interest from the media too and you have all of these great photographers like Bob Gruen and Robert Mapplethorpe and punk is gaining interest in New York and all over.

Yes. CBGS’s blew up with The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie and Television. They all came out of CBGB’s. Max’s was just up the way at Union Square, so they weren’t far away. At the same time that punk was happening in New York, it was happening in London. At the same time, the Sex Pistols were sneering at crowds in Manchester, the Ramones were doing the same thing in New York.

The Ramones were amazing stripped down rock n’ roll with such mad energy and chaos. I loved it. You got to see a lot of great bands. What bands did you think were badass in London?

I liked the Clash for their mad first album, and their first single, “White Riot”. I liked them all the way up to Combat Rock. We opened for The Clash at Bond’s, and did two or three gigs with The Clash. I also liked bands like The Damned, The Germs, The Dickies, and The Weirdos. X was one of my favorite bands when I first got to LA. In New York, it would have been Patti Smith at her height doing Easter and the Ramones and James Chance and the king of psychobilly, Lux Interior. No one could do it better. The Cramps were the ultimate punk band. 

I saw the Cramps so much. I went to Masque a few times and then it shut down and they opened the Other Masque and I saw amazing bands there like the Cramps, Fear, The Gears, X, The Go-Gos and Devo. The Cramps were magnificent. 

They were scary to watch. 

They were scary and a little older than us. They were like men and we were just kids. 

I remember Nick Knox and Brian Gregory.

Knox looked like he would pull out a Tommy Gun and kill you. To have that kind of a line up with Nick Knox, Brian Gregory, Poison Ivy and Lux Interior, how could they not be insanely amazing? Did you ever see Crime from San Francisco?

Yeah. I played with Crime. Johnny Strike still writes to me sometimes. In San Francisco, I saw The Avengers and I saw Chris Isaak’s first gig. We used to go up there with Jerry Nolan. We went up there as the Rockats and played Mabuhay Gardens and the Keystone and some of those clubs up there. 

How is it that Jerry Nolan from the Dolls became the drummer for the Rockats?

Lee asked Jerry to be in the Rockats as a replacement drummer after Dean left. Jerry said he’d be up for a few gigs, but he stayed throughout the whole time with Levi & The Rockats and then he drummed for the Rockats for a year. I went on the road with him pretty much everywhere. He was on the methadone program, so everywhere we went, before soundcheck, we would have to go to the methadone clinic to get Jerry fixed so he could play. Jerry was a bit older than us and he had the experience of the Dolls and Malcom and Lee and he played for Suzi Quatro back in the day. Jerry had a long history of playing drums and I think he was one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with. 

Just hearing his recordings, you could tell he was a badass drummer. 

Yeah. I’ve played with him and Charlie Quintana, so I’ve had two great drummers in my life.

There are a few drummers that came out of that scene. The other drummer that is wickedly badass is Clem Burke.

Oh, I played with Clem too. I’m good friends with Clem and he’s a wicked drummer. Wicked! 

Yeah. Jerry Nolan had his style and Clem Burke has Clem Burke style. They all had their own style. Marky Ramone had his style. Even Topper Headon had his style of drumming. They were all good drummers. 

Yeah. Bill Bateman is a great drummer too. 

Yes. When The Blasters would come out and he’d be chugging on the train tracks, Bateman was so good. So you’re in New York playing gigs with The Rockats and you had all of these people taking photos of you, and Warhol is doing Interview magazine and it’s this crazy time, no?

Yes. For a few years, I was the pin-up guy of New York City. I never paid to get into clubs anywhere, and I never paid for new tattoos, and I used to go and eat at The Factory with Andy Warhol. 

“They thought I was a male prostitute. They busted me and made me put my hands up above my head against the wall and said, “We know you’re a male prostitute. You’re wearing make-up and leather pants. We are gonna take you down.” I said, “No. I just got off a plane from London. My manager is at the Tropicana Motel. Finally, I convinced them to drive me to The Tropicana, instead of arresting me. So we got to the Tropicana and the cops knocked on the motel room door and Lee Childers answered the door wearing a pink bathrobe with yesterday’s make up on, smelling of gin, and said, “What’s the problem, darling?” I said, “The police think I’m a male prostitute.” He said, “He’s not a male prostitute. He’s in my band.” They just looked at him and pushed me in the door.”

How was that? How old were you then?

I was 19. I liked Andy, but I didn’t understand him. I just went there for the free food. The more I was not impressed by him, the more Andy liked me. 

It must have been insane coming to the States from London and being these good looking kids that dressed really cool. The girls must have gone nuts. 

We never had a problem with the chicks. A lot of people might have thought that we were bi or gay, but we weren’t. It was the same way that people reacted when they first saw the New York Dolls. 

You guys also played Louisiana Hayride.

That was Lee’s idea. We met with Tom Ayers who was sort of the Kim Fowley of rockabilly. Tom was an LA character who had done work with David Bowie and Gene Vincent before he died. Tom talked Lee into letting us go to Shreveport and do the gig at Louisiana Hayride and a live record. We were on the Louisiana Hayride on the last day for the guy that introduced Elvis on the same stage that we played. We stayed in the same hotel and Levi stayed in the same room as Elvis stayed in.

I love that. I did time in Shreveport, Louisiana, doing a sculpture on Elvis Presley  Boulevard looking directly across to where the Louisiana Hayride used to be. I was thinking, “Smutty and Levi were down here playing in ’79.” It was cool. So you were doing the whole New York thing and then you guys moved to Hollywood. 

Yes. Levi & the Rockats went to Hollywood to live. That’s when the band became well-known in LA and we got hooked up with a production company and they booked us on The Wolfman Jack Show and Merv Griffin. We were suddenly the big new guys in LA. We played the Whisky a Go Go three nights and we played the Starwood three nights. We were all living at the Tropicana Motel in room 101. Eventually, we got three bungalows in the back when we were really doing well. The Rockats went out there years later to do American Bandstand. Levi & The Rockats last gig was in LA and that’s when the band disintegrated. Then Dibbs Preston and I went to New York and regrouped The Rockats with Jerry Nolan and Tim Scott McConnell and Barry Ryan who we stole from The Victims. 

Tim Scott McConnell was a big deal too. So how long did you do the Rockats?

We did The Rockats for four years and we signed a bunch of record deals. We did Live at The Ritz on Island Records. We did Make That Move and Secret Hearts. We also did a bunch of live albums. In ’84, we decided to take a break. We had sold out the Ritz like a hundred times and we had played with everyone that came through town including Kiss, Tina Turner, The Pretenders, Talking Heads, The Ramones, The Clash and David Bowie. We got back together again for a bunch of Japanese tours in 1991 and, over the last ten years, we’ve gotten back together again periodically. We did Viva Las Vegas a few times and other rockabilly festivals. 

What about the Stray Cats? Didn’t you have something to do with Brian Setzer and that whole scene?

I cut Brian’s hair and hung out with them when they first started and they were called The Tomcats and they lived in Massapequa, Long Island. Brian Setzer and Slim Jim actually came to my wedding, and I went out there and jammed with them. Then they went to England and got big in England and got discovered by Dave Edmunds. 

Why did they go to England?

They heard that the rockabilly scene there was huge and it was. It was much bigger there than in the States. In England, rockabilly bands were having number one records in the Billboard charts. 

I think I remember Shakin’ Steven having number one records. 

Robert Gordon was big there with Link Wray too. There was Shakin Steven and Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers. “Jungle Rock” which was an old rockabilly song, got to number one on the national charts. “Jungle Rock” was by Hank Mizell. The Teds had never been bigger. It was a big scene. In the ‘80s, the Teds started to die out and the rockabillies took over. The rockabillies were like a cross between a punk and a Ted and they liked a bit of both. That’s where bands like The Cramps, Frenzy, The Guana Batz, The Nekromantix and all those bands started popping up. It was rockabilly done at punk speed. It was bands like Reverend Horton Heat, which was a psychobilly band. 

What about The Meteors? 

The Meteors were one of the first psychobilly bands in the U.K. along with The Shakin’ Pyramids and The Polecats. 

The Polecats did that Bowie song “John, I’m Only Dancing”, which was a hit song. 

Yes. It was in the charts. They were on Top of the Pops. The Rockats were much bigger in the U.S., although we had some great gigs in the U.K.

That’s so interesting. 

It’s because Lee never had us stick around long enough in London to get it. He didn’t care once Johnny went south. He just wanted to go back to New York and be with his friends. He said, “Fuck England. We don’t need it. We’ll go back and play there when we’re famous here. We’ll play Max’s and CBGB’s and we’ll go out and play The Whisky a Go Go and it’s all going to be fine. You’re gonna love it.” And we did. We were five young English guys in America with screaming girls at every gig. 

[Laughs] Yes! Once The Rockats stopped touring in ’84, what did you do?

I went around doing my picture thing and getting involved with different artists and photographers that wanted to take pictures of me. When I got bored with that, I went back to England and ran the biggest nightclub in London on Shaftesbury Avenue. I was the manager of the Limelight VIP Lounge, and there were a lot of celebrities there and I was letting everyone in for free. I was the guy that everyone in town wanted to know, so I was still being Smutty Smiff. Then I overdid it on the drugs and alcohol at the Limelight, and I needed to dry out, so I went to a friend’s ranch in Arizona for five months to chill out. I had a bit of money saved from working on this ranch and then I decided to go to LA and see my friend Pleasant. She put me up for a few days and then she introduced me to Alice, who would become my first wife. Tim Scott McConnell was living in Echo Park up on the hills and we started talking again. At that point, he was signed to Geffen and he had a boring studio band behind him. They were session players, so they were good players, amazing players.

It just wasn’t what he wanted to be doing.

Yeah. Then one day Tim came to a barbecue at Alice’s house and we started playing. I said to Alice, “I like these songs.” Then I got a bass in a pawn shop downtown for $400 and started jamming with Tim. We had no intentions of doing a band. Then Charlie showed up at one of the barbecues and started playing on the barbecue lid with drum sticks and The Havalinas were born. 

The Havalinas were such a special band. The chemistry of the band was fantastic.

The Havalinas was a good band. There was a good magic between me, Tim and Charlie.

With all good bands, there’s chemistry. I’ve seen it my whole life. The Havalinas had that chemistry. Charlie is a great drummer, Tim is a great song writer and you’re a great bass player. The whole show was fantastic. 

Thank you. Molly Malone’s was our watering hole at the end of our street, so that’s where we used to drink. We decided to play there, instead of going to the record labels and showcasing. Tim was against all that because he’d been on Geffen. He left with a bad taste in his mouth about showcasing and A&R reps coming by and sitting in the dark like American Idol, so we showcased at Molly Malone’s. The labels were like, “We’re not going to come and see you at an Irish pub.” We were like, “If you’re not going to come down, fuck you.” That made the labels want to come down. You have to use reverse psychology on a lot of things in rock n roll. 

That makes sense. What happened then?

Well, Bob Dylan’s son and the Wallflowers came down. We had The Cult there and Billy Idol and all the usual suspects from the LA scene came down. Then we got signed and we decided to make an acoustic record with no electric instruments. We made it at Dave Stewart’s, the guy from The Eurythmics, and we put the basics of the Sound Factory into it. Then we went on tour with Bob Dylan and Chris Isaak and Melissa Etheridge. The label didn’t understand us that well and Tim was very anti-label, so I had to do most of the radio interviews and promotions because Tim didn’t want to do them. He was burnt on the industry. He didn’t like being told, “You have to go to Tower Records and stand there and sign records.” He was like, “If they want the record, they should just buy it.” They would have in-store appearances back then and you’d have to go and play and talk to fans and try and sell records. Tim didn’t want to do that. He just wanted to play his guitar and write songs. 

That’s cool but you have to play the game. 

You have to play the game if you want to be big. 

The Havalinas were fantastic. 

Yeah. Tim had the angst in his song writing and Charlie had the feel on the drums and I had a good feel on the stand up bass. The Havalinas could have gone a long way. We sold a lot of records, but not enough, I guess. Carol, who signed us, had a big ego. She was Bob Dylan’s girlfriend and she was the head of A&R at Elektra Records. She was like, “If you don’t sell a million records, I’m not going to be able to handle you guys.” The college radio guys had decided to put us on college radio tours, but the college radio guy wouldn’t show up to half of the gigs. He was too busy doing coke with chicks. It was just a bit sleazy, the whole thing. 

“I turned around and Andy Warhol was standing right in front of me. He says, “Oh, you’re fabulous, darling. You’re beautiful. You look like a boy. You look like a girl. What is your name?” I said, “Smutty Smiff.” He said, “Where are you from?” I go, “I’m from London.” He started touching my arm and he goes, “Are those real tattoos?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Do you mind taking your shirt off so that I can take a picture?” I instantly went back into this Essex Teddy Boy mode and I said, “What do you mean take my shirt off? What are you going to give me?”

I dug the Havalinas and I never knew what happened, but you guys weren’t together. 

Yeah. We got back together and did a few gigs after that, but then Tim went off and did his own thing. He learned to play 12-string guitar and slide guitar and renamed himself Ledfoot. He lives in Norway now and he’s doing good. He’s a great songwriter and his songs are just as good now as they were then. He keeps busy playing everything from Hells Angels funerals to big nightclubs to blues gigs to whatever. I booked him twice here in Iceland and he’s very captivating. He sits on a chair and taps on the floor with his foot and he’s got this bass drum set up on the floor. He plays 12-string acoustic and slide and tunes it down. It’s really evil sounding. He is good. You should go on Youtube and search “What You Mean To Me” by Ledfoot. 

Okay. What happens after The Havalinas?

After The Havalinas, I started doing more Rockats shows. Eventually, I met my wife who I’m with now, and I wanted to lay low for a little bit because I’ve been in the business for 40 years. I started DJ-ing parties and then someone said there was a radio slot opening for a DJ at this radio station here. 

When you’re talking about here, you’re talking about Iceland?

Yeah. Reykjavik, Iceland is where I live now. Somebody said to me, “Would you like to fill in for somebody on a radio slot?” I went on, and they were like, “Oh my god, Smutty, you’re meant for the radio. You’re so relaxed and comfortable.” So now I’m a DJ on a FM rock station. 

You’re like Wolfman Jack. 

Yeah. I loved Wolfman Jack. I play what I want on my show, so I’ll play Johnny Thunders one minute and I’ll play X next or I’ll play the Gun Club and then Hank Williams. I just play what I like.

Yes! How do people tune into your show?

You can tune in live in Iceland, or anywhere you have a computer. It’s called The Devil’s Jukebox on X97.7FM in Iceland. It airs on Friday nights at 10PM in Iceland, so in LA it’s on at 2PM at

Are you playing records that you have?

I’m playing CDs and music that I have and I’ll play some from YouTube and Spotify. I have a pretty large collection of CDs. I don’t have any vinyl, unfortunately. I sold it all or swapped it for drugs. 

[Laughs] Right. 

I also interview people. I’ve had Clem Burke and Mick Rock on the show. I interviewed Lee Childers on the show before he passed. I had Ledfoot on there and lots of metal bands from Iceland. 

Since I’ve been in Paris, I tuned into your show and it’s great. You’re live from Iceland.

Yes. I would have been in England, but I got stuck here because I couldn’t go back to London. I had a cushy apartment in Golders Green in London, but I lost it because they turned it in to a co-op and they wanted everyone to move out. I couldn’t even afford a closet in London now. It’s a joke. It’s like Manhattan. In the East Village, you’re looking at $3,000 for a studio now. Back in the day, you could get a two or three bedroom apartment in the village for that. I had a one bedroom apartment on 12th Street and Greenwich Avenue near White Horse Tavern with a rose garden that I paid $450 a month for in 1980. Now New York is just insane. I heard LA is getting crazy too with rent. 

It is. There are just more people that want to live in areas that seem cool.

Do you like New York or LA better?

I like both. They have separate qualities that are fantastic and 100% opposite of one another. When I go to New York, I love it. I’ve been going there since ’82 and I lived there in the ‘80s. New York is great. 

It’s a buzz. There’s always something to do.

Yeah. It has New York energy. I couldn’t even imagine being a kid there in ’77 and going to play Max’s with The Cramps. That’s phenomenal to me. 

It was fun. We were young and we were meeting all of Lee’s friends. Because Lee was managing us, he gave us access and carte’ blanche to The Ramones and Patti Smith and all these people. They were all Lee’s close friends. Mick Rock, Bob Gruen and Robert Mapplethorpe were all Lee’s friends, so we would mingle with them at different clubs most nights of the week. 

That’s just crazy. You’ve had so many crazy stories since all of this started. What are some of your favorite moments that stick out the most in your memories?

Well, the first time I met Andy Warhol I went up there and we demolished the food in true Essex style and we had stuffed extra food in our pockets to take home. We were eating all the food and Lee said, “Just be nice to Andy and, if he comes and talks to you, just talk to him. He’s a very normal person.” I was like, “Yeah, right.” Here’s this guy with blond hair and glasses and a little camera. He looked like a freak. So the band was just milling around at the factory on 14th Street and all these little minions were there. I ended up in the corner and I turned around and Andy Warhol was standing right in front of me. He says, “Oh, you’re fabulous, darling. You’re beautiful. You look like a boy. You look like a girl. What is your name?” I said, “Smutty Smiff.” He said, “Where are you from?” I go, “I’m from London.” He started touching my arm and he goes, “Are those real tattoos?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Do you mind taking your shirt off so that I can take a picture?” I instantly went back into this Essex Teddy Boy mode and I said, “What do you mean take my shirt off? What are you going to give me?” Then I said to him, “What do you do?” He said, “Well, I’m a painter and I’m a photographer.” I could see Lee in the background waving his arms around going, “Oh my God, what is Smutty doing over there with Andy?” I said to Andy, “Well, I want something. Get me something. I want a book.” Andy flicked his fingers and some guy came running out with a book, and he gave me the book and I took my shirt off. I remember walking down the stairs and Lee was freaking out. He was like “Why did you take your shirt off? What was Andy saying to you?” I told him what happened and he said, “Oh my God, Smutty, only you would say to Andy Warhol, ‘What are you going to give me?’” 

[Laughs] Yes!

Lee told me that Andy liked me because Andy was not used to having anyone question him, because he had Mick Jagger and John Lennon hanging out there. Then Andy put me in Interview magazine on my own and he also did a spread on The Rockats. 

So he gave you a little more than a book. 

Yes. I still have the book around here somewhere. It’s called From A To B & Back Again. It’s the philosophy of Andy Warhol, which is kind of interesting. 

The story behind you having that book is fantastic. What about Mapplethorpe? You shot with him too, no?

Yeah. Lee knew him and he used to go to all of the same clubs that I went to. I’d see him at Johnny Thunders gigs and he liked my hair. One night we got to talking and he was dressed in leather and I thought he was cool. I didn’t know that he was a total S&M queen. I liked him, so I agreed to come around to his loft in SoHo. He had one of the first lofts in SoHo before anyone lived in SoHo. I went down there and quifed his hair and then he asked me to look at his portfolio. I looked at his pictures and I was like, “Oh my god, I wonder if I’m going to get out of here alive.” [Laughs] Then he asked me if he could take pictures of me and I said yeah. We did two photo sessions and we became friends. He was a cool dude. 

That’s totally cool. Now you live in Iceland with your wife, Katrín, and you have three kids now, right?

Yes. I have a daughter, Kali, who is a model in LA. She signed with M Model Management, thanks to you. She’s working with Carol and Maria and she loves them to bits, and they love her. Then I have a ten-year-old boy and a five-year-old boy in Iceland. My boys are Vincent and Charlie. 

So you have two little Smuttys and a junior miss. That is brilliant. Do you still play music?

Yes. I’m playing in England at a summer festival with a band called The Montecristos that is going to have me up as a guest. Neal X is a guy that plays with Marc Almond and he used to have a band called Sigue Sigue Sputnik. His new band, The  Montecristos, is kind of a trashy rockabilly band. We’re playing at the Byline Festival, which is a festival to promote independent journalism and free speech. It’s presented by John Cleese and Alexei Sayle and the band from Russia, Pussy Riot, is playing and The Vapors and The Blow Monkeys are playing too. Everything about it is kind of controversial. There are talk tents and news media tents and people talking about journalism. They’ve got ska bands and a reggae tent and it’s a laid back chill thing. I’m staying in a wigwam with my family for a few days there, in a big Indian teepee. We’ll have a barbecue outside in the middle of the woods on a private estate with deer running around and lakes and trees. It should be nice. 

That sounds totally fun. Well, we’ve talked a lot. I just think it’s amazing how the Heartbreakers were the ones that brought you into the scene with Billy Rath giving you bass lessons and Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan playing drums with the Rockats later on. That’s just insane.

It was crazy fun. I had a pretty good run with the punk thing. 

Yes. Thank you so much, Smutty.

Thank you, Steve. 

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