Scarlet West’s wonderful memoir I’d Like To Thank Manchester Air Rifles documents her inner and outer life haunting the pubs of Soho. Scarlet is a compelling raconteur, sharing poignant and hilarious tales of dishevelled lives in her slow, steady Oldham tones and incongruously immaculate eye makeup. With her bleached hair, costume jewellery, unlikely Chanel outfits and casette walkman, she is the charasmatic and glamorous pivot around which alcoholic chaos reigns.
I met her in The Walnut Tree in Leytonstone (where she reassures me she ‘won’t go mad on the top optics’) to discuss Morrissey lookalikes (‘I love them all, I do’), drinking, and hanging on by a slender thread.
Where Do You Live?
Leytonstone. I was just looking for the cheapest place. I didn’t know anyone in London apart from a girl I met at the Smiths disco at the Star & Garter [Manchester]. I dislocated my knee in that place to ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’.
DJ. It feels weird to say ‘writer’, like showing off.
What are you working on at the moment?
A prequel to I’d Like To Thank Manchester Air Rifles called Frank Day. And a musical collaboration with Dave Ball from Soft Cell.
Do you have any odd creative rituals?
I always used to write in those 24-hour internet cafes after I’d been out. Or if I’d gone back to someone’s house to carry on drinking I’d borrow their laptop. I’ve never had a computer.
I’ve proven that I can write sober, but I like writing drunk, I find everything fascinating when I’m drunk.
I like to be up early. 9am start and six pints of Kronenburg. I’ve got some counterfeit Kronenburg at the moment and it’s horrible.
And, if I’m writing longhand, I go to Hollow Ponds. Like the Damon Albarn song.
What are you obsessed with?
E.T. Absolutely E.T. I’ve got over a hundred E.T. figures. I talk to them all. Each one has a different name. If I ever get rich I’d like to have a room and do it out like space and have them all in it. Someone once said perhaps I have Aspergers.
What’s on your bedside table?
A lamp. A Fosters beer mat.
What’s your idea of luxury?
A pot to piss in.
Catch Scarlet’s DJ set at the Arts Theatre Club in Soho every Thursday 9pm-3am.