Richard Hell, punk rock's patient zero
In the latest episode of the RiYL podcast, Brian Heater interviews Richard Hell, one of the pioneers of punk rock.
When we spoke in the East Village tenement apartment Richard Hell has occupied since 1975, the conversation turned turned to writing. His memoir covers the years beginning with his birth up through the end of his music career, and, as Hell made clear early on in our conversation, he’s not found of being asked the same question twice.
Between last year’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography and all that goes on between the iconic red and white covers of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, there’s seemingly little about Richard Hell’s relatively short music making career that hasn’t been written. Save for an outing with members of Sonic Youth under the banner Dim Stars, the man who played such an instrumental role in defining the aesthetics and voice of New York City punk had largely retired from the music game by the mid-80s.
It’s a tough proposition when speaking to an artist who’s been in and out of the public eye since the mid-70s, and it’s no doubt at least part of the reason Hell seemed to balk at my initial interview request. With his latest book having just been released in paperback, however, Hell agreed to meet with me and discuss his career as a writer, from his early days in poetry to the novels Go Now and Godlike and his 2013 autobiography.
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