‘Every now and then, all a woman needs is a good throttling.’ This is what Ollie Splendid tells me, wearing a practiced evil grin, as...

Addicted to Fame: An Interview with Ollie Splendid

‘Every now and then, all a woman needs is a good throttling.’

This is what Ollie Splendid tells me, wearing a practiced evil grin, as he places his skinny feet in their heavy boots on the coffee table between us, and lights another fag. He is of course referring to his recent run-in with the law for attempting to strangle adult-film-star girlfriend Sasha White, a topic which his publicist told me was off-limits, but which he had a desire to broach almost immediately. To complete the narrative, White dropped the charges and took Splendid back days after the event, proving to everyone that the Internet’s sympathy for domestic abuse victims can indeed run dry, and we still live in a world where beating a woman will never hurt your music career.

Deliberately controversial, proudly addicted to almost every substance you can think of, undeniably talented and worshipped by all the wimpiest kids from Camden to Shoreditch, Ollie Splendid is the most famous goth-pop-electro-rock-country-metal-reggae-hip-hop star you've never heard of. He's what's been on the tips of everyone's tongues for years; a counter-counter-culture disease that no music critic can contain, even with their most powerful medicine: a one-star review. Of which Splendid has had more than I'll ever have hot dinners. But still, he's a cult hero, and his flame doesn't look like it'll go out anytime soon.

So, when he starts a conversation like that, I don’t know whether to be disappointed, or just roll my eyes and move on.

‘Sometimes, all anyone needs is a good throttling,’ he drawls, ‘but I’d say women need it more often.’

So, you don’t regret what happened?

‘I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t want to. How can you regret something you chose to do?’

Sometimes, passion takes hold, and we rush into things that we haven’t thought through. Does the great Ollie Splendid never experience that?

Splendid smiles. ‘I like your attitude. No, I don’t ever feel like that. Regret is a coward’s way of avoiding the fact that you’re a stupid cunt. Everyone is a stupid cunt, you don’t need to pretend you had a moment of madness; a real man would just admit that he’s always a stupid cunt, and move on.’

I ask Splendid if that means that he’s never regretted anything he’s ever done, that he’s the only man in the world who doesn’t feel remorse, because he’s accepted that he is flawed and has moved on. He sighs, rolls his eyes, scratches the trackmarks inside his left elbow; and I realise that that rollup he’s smoking stinks. Whatever’s in it, I haven’t smelt before. It makes my eyes water.

‘Well, I suppose there are things I wish I hadn’t done,’ he says, sliding further down the couch he’s reclining on, ‘The Parallel Plan is one of them.’

The Parallel Plan, Splendid’s 2012 album, was his most commercially successful yet. His sound, usually so choppy and undependable, was suddenly smooth and well-produced, rehearsed and professional-sounding. It sounded like every other one of his albums and EPs had been recorded in a garage, and this was the first one done in a studio. It sold thousands of copies, and finally shot him from nobody to nobody-with-a-small-following. So why does he regret it?

‘I don’t know. Maybe I love it. Maybe it’s fantastic. Or maybe I sold out. Maybe everything I’d done up to that point was screwed up and thrown away to produce something that people actually wanted to hear, instead of ignoring what people want, to make what I want to make instead. Nothing should be driven by the audience; I’ve already discussed that they’re all stupid cunts.’

So is the new album completely different? A harking back to those albums in which the audience’s opinion is disregarded?

‘I don’t know,’ Splendid says, sliding down so far that his buttocks hit the floor, his eyes rolling back into his head, ‘why don’t you listen to it? I fucking hate journalists.’

I point out that the album hasn’t been sent out, even in review copies, to anyone yet. That it hasn’t even leaked online. That there’s speculation that it hasn’t even been recorded, and that his current stint of interviews with music media is apparently just to keep fans happy while the late-arriving album is recorded.

‘Fuck you,’ he replies, digging out an inhaler he has spotted underneath the sofa, spraying its contents down his throat and gurgling for a full minute. ‘It was complete three years ago. I don’t need to answer to you. You prick. You’re just a whore, like Sasha. I hate you as much as I hate her, right now.’

I ask if he wants to take a break, continue later on.

‘Take a break? That’s exactly what I wanted to do. And she was all, You’re not leaving me, I say what happens in this relationship, and that’s not happening. Well, fuck her, she needed a good throttling. Did you know she lost her virginity when she was fourteen? Fourteen? That’s repulsive.’

I start to pack up, telling Splendid that I’m not comfortable with where the interview is going. I don’t think he’s in a fit state to continue, at this point. He ruffles his jet-black hair, punches the floor with his bony fists, chews his gums for a bit.

‘Fuck you,’ he repeats, slurring, ‘I’m fine. You can print every god damn word of this. My relationship with that slut has been exactly like my rise to fame. At the start, it looks like everything is going to be sweet, everything happy and exciting. You spend these first exciting months being creative and enthralled and looking forward to every new experience. Then you learn that you’re not getting as big a cut of the profits as your manager is, that your new lover has slept with half of her friends, male and female, and isn’t even ashamed enough to cut off contact with them.

‘Your publicist is more interested in that other band she works with, and your girlfriend has had anal sex with her modelling agent, who you shook hands with as if you were buddies just last Tuesday. There’s only so many of these revelations you can take. How many other people who get as much media attention as I do can honestly say they’ll never get rich off of what they do? What sensible twenty-year-old woman has already had two abortions? That’s just bad upbringing. That’s a bad person, right there. I feel like I’ve had more than that, the amount of times I’ve been fucked by this industry.’

So are you pissed off that your girlfriend has had experiences you haven’t? Would you rather she’d been shut in a room forever, that you owned her like a jacket or a pair of shoes? Are you just eaten up by jealousy? Or is that just a channel for venting the frustration you feel about the unfairness of the music industry? Do you think you deserve more from what you’ve done?

‘I’m pissed off that I’ve spent my whole life not being an arsehole, and no one told me that the only way to get ahead is to be the biggest arsehole you possibly can, and never feel remorse for any of it.’

I wonder if Splendid is always this scattered. He doesn’t seem to be able to structure his thoughts. I watch him pop a pill into his mouth and wash it down with a warm beer that’s been sitting on the coffee table since before we got here, and ask if it’s this insecurity he seems to be feeling that drives his drug use.

‘I use drugs because I like the feeling they give me. I take them because they turn the volume down on pieces of shit like you, always shouting advice on how to live at me. I couldn’t make music without these drugs, because I wouldn’t want to pour my heart out onto disc knowing that scum like you is going to hear it.’

So the car accident he was involved in before his first album, which many have said was the beginning of these addictions (and in which his high school sweetheart was killed), didn’t have the effect that has been reported?

Splendid sits up, seems to sober up for a second, and just stares at me through glazed eyes. After a while, he growls, ‘Fuck you,’ and pulls himself back up to sit on the sofa opposite me.

I decide to change the subject. Perhaps Splendid wants to talk about the screenplay he is apparently working on, for an indie film about which details are currently sparse.

‘I’ve always loved to write,’ he begins, a little robotically, but seeming more as if he now wants to conduct an actual interview, ‘so when I was approached to try my hand at a screenplay, I jumped at it. I’m about halfway through, I’m fairly happy with it so far. It’ll need editing, like anything does.’

How long until it’s finished?

Splendid sighs again. The pause before his answer is a long one. ‘I don’t know. Maybe it won’t be. God, I hate this shit. I just wish I could quit and move to some island where I wouldn’t have to speak to another human again.’

Do the drugs cause these mood swings?

‘What is this, therapy? I’m unhappy because I hate everything. I hate everything because nothing gives me any reason not to hate it. I hate Sasha because she can’t keep her legs closed, I hate my manager because he’s stealing money from me, I hate journalists because they ask stupid banal inane questions to satisfy the idle curiosity of fans I’ll never meet or give a fuck about, and I hate myself most of all for caring about any of this shit.’

These are the types of concerns that everyone has, in one way or another. Some feel them more than others, and some people worry about different things. But we all have worries, we’re all just walking bags of issues. Why would you hate yourself for caring about them?

‘Because one day,’ Splendid says, lighting another one of those evil rollups with his skinny, shaking hand, ‘you’ll be flying through the windscreen of your girlfriend’s mini, zooming headfirst at the side of a lorry at a hundred miles an hour, milliseconds from certain death, and you’ll realise that nothing you’ve ever worried about has mattered. It doesn’t matter how promiscuous your girlfriend was before she met you, how ridiculous your friends’ decisions have been and how they’ve all ruined their own lives through their own stupidity, how much money your manager is making at the expense of your own bank balance. What matters is the set of relationships you formed and maintained while you had the chance. What should have concerned you were the friendships you established and how you made those people feel, the love you cultivated and the people you’ve made sure are definitely going to miss you. You realise that the only way you’ll ever live forever is in the hearts of others, and everything else you’ve ever focused on is trivial in comparison. You realise this all too late, and then you’re dead, so you can’t change any of it.

‘Except sometimes, you’re not dead, and you wake up in hospital, and you’re doomed to have nightmares forever more about what happened and what you realised. But still, even though you have all these residual issues in your head, even though you had that beautiful moment of clarity, and even though it haunts you every day, you haven’t learnt anything. You still resent your parents for not giving you the opportunities your friends had, you still hate your job, you still don’t spend enough time with your nearest and/or dearest, and you still wish your girlfriend had more class. All that deeper meaning, that inner clarity, that love you felt when you were certain your brain was going to be spread across the side of an Eddie Stobart, it’s all gone, and you can’t find it again.’

Splendid sobs, loud and hard. I don’t know whether to hug him, or leave the room. I certainly don’t think we can continue the interview. I move closer, pat his shoulder, and turn my recorder off. He seems to forget I’m even there. When he begins to pull a belt tight around his left bicep, I decide that it’s definitely time to leave.

And now, in my hotel room, typing the interview up, I reflect on how lost Ollie Splendid seemed to be. If this whole persona he portrays to the media is the product of such deep insecurities and unresolved issues relating to a truly life-changing event, how good should we feel about buying his music? We’re watering the plant that creeps up his sides, slowly taking over his life. We’re friends with the monster that lives under his bed, and no matter how often he changes addresses, we’ll always tell it where he lives. He can’t survive with the limited fame he has, keeping his issues alive and sticking him firmly in the public eye, where the skeletons in his closets are exposed every single day; but nor could he really function without it, he burns too bright to be kept in the dark. It doesn’t seem like there’s a solution for this damaged young man who spends every minute of his day worrying about things he doesn’t need to, but I do feel like my hour or so with him, wondering what he was on about, has made me understand him more than I ever did before.

Then I get a call from a much more sober Ollie Splendid, obviously fresh from talking to his publicist, telling me that if I print any of what he said earlier, he’ll cut my fucking throat.

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