Interview: Ben John Smith of Horror Sleaze Trash!

Horror Sleaze Trash is a zine-centric publication based in Australia that focuses on more subversive material that I have been following for a couple years now. Ben John Smith is its unhinged editor-in-chief. He is a reflective sort that may have ended up a maniac if not for his family that keeps him grounded (pure speculation). His own writing is both woeful and humorous, with shades of Bukowski, and I was excited to be privvy to the mind of such a presence. In our interview we talk about perverts, punching baby rhinos, lunar urination, and his journey toward sobriety. Without further ado, Ben John Smith!

 

Did you know that Buzz Aldrin was the first person to piss on the moon? How punk rock is that?

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Its all about being subversive, right? Sure, Neil stepped on the soil first but who was the first man to shake things up a bit? Pull out his cock and mark his spot? The first man to splash some urine on the figurative tree? In the earth that i come from thats what the Alpha dog does, haha. The moon belongs to fucking Buzz until someone else wants to step up and start spraying his dick sauce all over the bloody joint. I hear one of them boys straight knocked a “moon landing denier” in the mouth for accusing them of orchestrating that shit. Don’t get me wrong – i question everything that the government feeds to us… but them men were further away from home at the time than any one has ever been. The only human beings to have their feet flat on a whole new orbiting ball or mud and mass. That takes some fucking huge balls man. They were brave god damn men. Its a big beautiful white ball that has sent lovers and mad men crazy alike; I would have taken a piss on it too.

How would you describe HORROR SLEAZE TRASH, and what specifically does the “Horror” part represent?

The name is a mix of many things. It came as a fluke that it resembled Hunter S. Thompson’s initials (whom i did name my child after – huge fan of that mad mother fucker).

The sleaze kinda stands for itself; but without being overly sleazy. Nothing is done behind closed doors and it’s not about being ingenuine; I’m not about to fuck your wife here if you know what i mean. I’m a married man with a son. There is a certain and beautiful amount of sleaze in everything, I think. Well, most things. When i say sleaze, it’s in a cheeky nod to the underground. Sleazy like a Sunday morning rather than a late Saturday night. It’s like a hot white light rather than a buzzing neon kind of sleaze. Writing is most definitely tainted with a series of sleaze and we welcome that form of honesty in droves. Its smut with a cheeky grin that will cum on the soles of your feet instead of your face. Its tactfully dis-tasteful.

The trash side of things is the moth eaten trucker-cap-tip to the hard working blue collar fellas out there getting their poetry hustle on. The grit and guts of the streets. The most authentic thing in life is the common struggle of the everyday man. Again – dont get me wrong; that’s not the generic term of trash but I just correlate the everyday grind with the streets and the trash. The sidewalk. The heart of the beast.

The Horror is specifically related to one of the best film moments of all time and a personal favorite. The last immortal muttered lines of Brando/Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now” when he mutters “the horror… The horror”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNUr__-VZeQ).

The horror represents the anxiety that if none of this worked, I would have made a real fool of myself – still maybe have… The whole writing and publishing thing, well it did at the start. Then it became a way to live. I was and am still horrified by everything. The horror is the weight of it all. The stark truth. The. Fucking. Horror.

So the words Horror Sleaze and Trash are just scapegoat words for a much broader meaning. Plus its punchy. White and pink 😉

How did you end up here?

You mean sober for October? Or as the editor in chief of HST?

As for being sober, the doctor gave me a pretty hard line to follow. Body’s not in good shape, I have been drunk for like 10 years straight, no break – every night. If I can do a month fully dry in October and liver count goes down I’ll be okay, might do another month. If it’s still fucked then I’m pickled and not much can be done. So I’ve been doing the routine exercise every day for 4 days. 20 body squats, 15 50kg dead lifts, 15 40kg bench press, 20 second plank, 30 sit ups, 50 jumping jacks and repeat it all 3 times. Feeling good. looking forward to October and getting totally sober. I’ve literally been drunk every single day since I was 18, I’m 33. What’s one month? If I like it and the liver has come down a little bit I might do another month. If It’s still all fucked then I’m cooked. Need a new plan. Not sure what attack that is – transplant? Sober forever? Drink and just die?

I got some Xanax and Valium to help with the first week. Then on the 8th of October I went bush for a few days to clear the old head and put on the tin foil hat. I never been camping sober. No drink. Just a FUCK load of Dr Pepper and bush tea. We caught and ate fresh water yabbies, a dude who’s right into his permaculture foraged a full salad of eatable weeds and fauna. We talked shit (a LOT of shit), shot the .22 rifle at paper cut-outs of clowns and cops.

I fell into the booze really early but when I turned 18 I fell into the cycle pretty bad. Everyone I know is a heavy drinker. I smoke weed every now and then but that’s something I have to distance myself with and keep it just casual ‘cause I was a pretty heavy stoner in my teens to be honest, and wasted a lot of my life in front of a Playstation controller. But games have always been a dear friend to me. I’m currently playing Resident Evil in VR and its FUCKING INSANE. The future is going to be wild that’s for sure. Gaming wise i mean. The crazy thing isn’t how much things have changed it’s just how normal everything has become. Eating three or even four meals a day. Doing things at night instead of sitting on the couch drunk staring at television static doing absolutely zero with my mind.

Also nearly raised a thousand dollars in a single week for charity that helps teach kids real life shit – so that cant be a bad thing, right?
https://ocsober2017.everydayhero.com/au/ben-john-smith-drys-out-in-a-vain-attempt-at-a-miracle.

As for being EIC of HST, the story’s a lot more simple. I was sick of websites out there rejecting people’s work because they didn’t like it. I hated the little clique-y groups people had who just published each others rubbish. The politics. So, I made a website and gave a platform to all the mad motherfuckers of the scene to have a stage.

This is a horror blog after all, so what are your favorite horror movies and books?

Holy hell man, thats a question I could bore everyone to death with but I’ll try and keep it at a bare minimum. The old school did it well. The original Tobe Hoopers “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is perfect. The shining start of something that would realistically change not just the horror genre but the world in which we live in. It was the start of so much madness – and Gunnar under that mask was just so fuckin intimidating. Fulci and Romero had that zombie shit on the lock. Man, i dont know if you had Video Busters in your towns but it was like a huge fucking pink painted video store full of VHS tapes. the horror section in Airport west had these cool decorations and me and my sisters and friends would just grab 4 or 5 covers over a weekend and work our way through the whole fucking section before we ended up in the “special interest” category watching “Faces of Death” and “Cannibal Holocaust”. Then as I grew older, say 13/14 years old i lost the fear of make believe and got poisoned with a more reverent fear of humanity and its lack of empathy. Films like “Once We’re Warriors” started to shake me up. “Romper Stomper”. the original “IT” had me all fucked up. I spent a lot of my childhood out on the streets of a night time when I was a kid, without sounding stupid we pretty much ran the fucking neighborhood, but I do remember when i had to walk home alone I wouldn’t let myself look down the manhole drains. Hahaha I even went through a bit of a marijuana psychosis fueled paranoid phase about cars killing me after I watched that “Christine” film – something about a love bug that killed people? i dont know – i just remember being really bugged the fuck out by it,

There are very few cinematic experiences you actually remember and carry with you through your entire life as moments that REALLY happened. That affected you, changed you, made you tougher/softer. Fucked with you deeply. Good film can do that. I remember my mum wouldn’t let me watch “Once We’re Warriors” as a kid so me and the little homies stole a copy from an older brother. Skipping school to see “Fight Club” and sitting next to a non-English speaking dude who pretended to be our legal guardian. The first time I slid “The Goonies” into a VCR deck and zoned the fuck out on that goodness hundreds of times over and over again.

“Blade Runner” came to me later in my life and it FUCKED ME UP IN A BIG WAY. No fan fare, no real moment or occasion in the pysical account of it taking place but internaly – whooped my fucking mind into mush. It just rocked me heavily. I am so deeply praying that this sequel realizes the height of the shadow it stands in and really brings the heavy hitting hard shit. Fingers crossed ,you know – cause I have a pretty fucking roaring man boner on Ryan Gosling ever since “Place Beyond the Pines” so…

“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Why does the world need scummy, outlaw, lowbrow writers and artists?

Hahaha it doesnt…
No I’m just fucking around. It’s like Lenny Bruce says – “You need the mad man to tell you when you’re fucking it up, and you’re FUCKING IT UP!” The low brow scene is full of good people. Interesting people – you know. People with tics, with charms, with baggage they have carried – they are individuals. The world needs individuals more than it needs perverts, weirdoes and misfits, but I have just found the people who hang on the fringe to be much more interesting than most everyday socially accepted cultures. Like Kerouac said “The only ones for me were the ones that burned”.
The world needs more people/writers like Danger Slater, Chelsea Martin, Jon Konrath and Ryan Quin Flanagan. People who dont take themselves too seriously but have a fuckin buttload of talent.

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You give these creatives a platform from which to express themselves. You’re a goddamned hero.

Hahaha fuck man, I’ve been called a hell of a lot worse! I appreciate you saying that but all I did was build a stage. I’m glad it got some bums on seats.

What have you been reading lately?

Am about 18 hours into the audiobook for Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting prequel “Skagboys” which is just brilliant. It’s read in the Scottish dialect and accent so its crept into my subconscious inner narrative and now all my thoughts have a Gaelic twang. I’m reading a lot of Mark Twain’s unpublished letters after first hearing about them in Rick Remender’s comic “Fear Agent” (which is well worth the 100 bucks for the 2 hard cover volumes).

“There is in life only one moment and in eternity only one. It is so brief that it is represented by the fleeting of a luminous mote through the thin ray of sunlight–and it is visible but a fraction of a second. The moments that preceded it have been lived, are forgotten and are without value; the moments that have not been lived have no existence and will have no value except in the moment that each shall be lived. While you are asleep you are dead; and whether you stay dead an hour or a billion years the time to you is the same.” ~ Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1896

Still on a massive comic binge. Just finished Alan Moore’s “From Hell”. Finished all of “The Crossed,” and gave up on a few other series like “God Hates Astronauts” and “The Manhattan Projects.”

Evil Within 2 came out today so I’m most probably going to burn all my batteries out playing it into the early morning and going to work with only a few hours sleep under my belt to operate rotary power tools and high pressure air hoses but fuck it. Fuck it to death. It’s so fucking hot here and every one is drinking the cool, crisp, amber nectar of the gods and I’m sitting on the stoop with a fucking jug of crushed lemon and orange in a soup cup, feeling sorry for myself. Won’t mope too long, just a weak moment i assure you. There is a heavy band of rain heading our way and I’m going to stand outside in the garden and silently scream at God as it splashes down around me.

What are you currently working on, and what do you hope to accomplish some day?

I’m doing a fuckload of weight training. Three reps of 10 benches at 80kg and squats, biceps curls, sit ups. It’s crazy because I used to think people who looked after themselves suffered from a self-absorbed vanity, but I think I get it now. I understand where they are coming from by maintaining a solid set of routine and physical demand. I thought maybe the brain and body were at war with each other – thinking I could only offer a full devotion to one or the other; but there is a duality that strives when the body and brains are reliant on each other. I know it sounds fucking stupid but the soberer I’m getting, the more confidence I have with my abilities. Booze offered a brash bravado but it just brought bad and unnecessary situations. I can handle my weapon now. A bigger one if needed. I’m level headed, measured. Know when to pop off and when to keep it calm. There is a staunch fierceness in me now that’s like a level gauge; strongest when the bubble is in between the lines.

I am reading, drawing, playing video games. Watching film with both eyes open and following plot with more intent and deriving from the the narrative more substance, whether what the director intended or instead, my interpretation of it. Watched “Mr. Nobody” that sent me a bit silly but i recommend it – head fuck on many levels.

I have a bonsai I am repotting and have built three planter boxes for flowers for the wife and a 3×2 vegetable patch to grow tomatoes, carrots, celery and assorted herbs, all the right foods to harvest this time of year as the weather in Melbourne turns into that dry hot hell that I despise so much. Must be my English blood still, though I’m sure thinned down through Australian culture, circling around my hard worn and tired body.

Me and local artist Griddy are working on a comic at the moment too. Saw what she has at the moment and its going to be so fucking insane. Im already proud of it and its still getting finished but believe me, its going to be fucking amazing. She has brought such depth and style to the table. Im blown away by her mind and talents.

What’s the last moment of pure zen you experienced?

Jake LaMotte died on the day I first had an isolation tank float. He would have been so fucking disappointed in me for this but it’s something my wife does where you lay inside an egg filled with salt water and float around in complete silence. I couldn’t sit still – but I did experience a few things that i had never been able to understand before; sitting away in that little white egg.

There is a colour that is both black and white at the same time, and everything is beautiful in the void. There is no such thing as nothing and I can’t wait to die but I am a patient man. I’m having too good of a time living but I’m really subtly looking forward to a really really long sexual encounter with the universe. Going back to the fold. The womb. The incubator. I am literally the biggest overthinking anxiety-ridden human being you would ever meet; but I hide it well. If I feel like I have done something foolish I will think about it every passing moment for the rest of my life. I have a lot of guilt and shame. I have probably never experienced a state of genuine calm in my whole life, let alone a few moments of Zen – tried Yoga but there were just too many beautiful things to focus your attention on – like French manicured toe nails; how can a man find god in a place like that?

What do you think is the biggest animal you could take in a fight using only your bare hands?

I’m pretty sure i could fuck up a horse in a fist fight if I had had just the exact right amount to drink – not to much to lose my balance and not too little to lose my nerve. Maybe a small wild cat. I could definitely punch the fuck out of a freshly born baby rhino; no doubt in my mind I would stomp the fuck out of a large bird of some kind. I’m confident in my ability to fight pretty much any animal smaller than the size of a football.

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Finally, what is your proudest accomplishment to date?

Man with a 16 month old running around the house I feel like I get very little accomplished. I recently primed the back fence. That made me feel good. Needs a top coat but im halfway there.

I got a shout out (kind of) on the Ear Hustle podcast after I sent them a photo of me at the Royal Typewriter sending my man Steve Champion a letter while he sits on death row in San Quenton SP. I got a good vibe from that. I found time to sit down and do this interview. I didn’t think people wanted to hear me talk shit anymore, if I’m honest, and it was really humbling to be asked. Feel like I have shit and got off the pot. I don’t know, was a never had been and am still a never was but it was kind of nice when people were poking the bear. Seeing how far I could take things. It’s like I’m an old man now. I’m working on a new chap book – I’ll see how that goes and if I can get it finished. First time I’ve written in a long while.

There is something gratifying and different about accomplishing the little, mundane and domestic things. Put the washing on, hang it out, brush your teeth, not going on a school shooting spree. It’s the small things, you know – like there are things I want my son to understand better than I do.

If you want to be alive, to truly be a free man you must never let time and circumstances erode your soul. Fight with everything you have, muster up all your strength to save the invisible part of you that I know burns inside your chest – in your lungs. The struggle to maintain your passion for freedom and love is the only, THE ONLY, way to not let them beat you. Spend your life with a loyal commitment to defend the truth of the human.

Do not let the system win completely.

Over a long enough timeline everything will be refused down to a nothing of its original self. The anti of its original state. The opposite. A mighty mountain is worn down by time to the nub of a pencil head. By abrasion. All impact with enough time diminishes the most robust materials, even something ethereal. Government, system and obligation have, over time, achieved to make the fabric of the human soul an anti soul.

I can still feel my bones and teeth inside me still so I know I’m still alive. They haven’t beaten me to death yet.

If I can save myself from being completely crushed by the world and get through it at the end with enough grit left to give my son some of the moral adjustments I have learnt along the way – then I’ll be proud. If I can make this month off the booze without sticking a steak knife in my throat – I’ll have accomplished something.

Finish painting the back fence, well, that’s another story entirely…


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