AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES WILLIAMSON, CO-FOUNDER OF CREATION BOOKS
This interview was conducted in Tokyo, Japan during April 2014.
STRAWBERRY SHI-TENNO: Good morning.
JAMES WILLIAMSON: Good morning.
SS: I understand you are in Tokyo for an event marking 25th anniversary of Creation Books?
JW: Yes, that’s one reason. Actually the event was last night – it was a monorail trip from Tokyo Station to Daiba.
SS: How was the event? Tokyo Bay is so pretty at night…
JW: It was fine. The train was very full!
SS: You will do other events in some other places?
JW: Yes, we already did some events in other countries, and the last one is scheduled for December, in the Arctic Circle.
SS: Like a memorial service?
JW: Yes, exactly. A memorial for the dying of the light, as they say.
SS: You said you are also here for other reasons?
JW: Oh, just normal things like shopping and cultural research…
SS: Well, 25 years of publishing is a big achievement, isn’t it?
JW: Perhaps. It’s certainly long enough.
SS: I understand that the project will now end, is that correct?
JW: Actually it finished last year. The final Creation book was published in March 2013, I think. As a contributing editor, I still have a few books due to come out from other imprints, but I have no plans to do any more work like that.
SS: May I ask, did the project end because of falling sales, or some other reason?
JW: Several reasons, probably. But actually the sales figures I saw showed an increase in recent times. If you see the unit sales at January 2012 and compare to unit sales at January 2014, there is an increase of around 92 percent – almost double.
SS: I heard book trade is getting more difficult. So this is unusual?
JW: I think it may be the result of a rise in free publicity… at the beginning of 2012 I know we saw our web traffic more than double. But yes, in general the book trade has been declining for a long time now, well over a decade. Also, the proprietors of Creation have cited rising censorship and ebook sales as being highly undesirable. But I also had personal reasons.
SS: May I ask what those reasons are?
JW: [Laughs] Sure. I realized that I shouldn’t be wasting my time, energy and money promoting books by people who I didn’t know. Somebody sends you a book which you really like, and you agree to publish it, but in most cases you have no idea who that person is. And half of them turn out to be nutters. Just not nice people. And once I decided to liberate myself from these people, the next logical step was to quit publishing completely. … There are still a few authors on the Creation backlist, but it’s a very small percentage of the overall thing. Around 90 percent of current Creation titles were created and copyrighted in-house. The total royalty bill, combined, is less than $1,000 per year, virtually nothing.
SS: Some of the listed books are public domain?
JW: No, they are all original works created and copyrighted by Creation. Some of them comprise public domain elements, but they are still copyrighted works in their entirety.
SS: Did you ever publish something by mistake? Something you thought was public domain, but it wasn’t?
JW: I don’t think so… certainly you would never do that knowingly. Every book we published has a signed contract or written permission behind it, we’ve recently digitized everything actually. We were once given a book to sell mail order which turned out to be dubious, so we simply withdrew it from sale. That’s really all you can do. Luckily only about 8 or 9 copies were sold, as far as I know. But yes, that kind of thing does happen in publishing – that’s why books are published with disclaimers.
SS: Well. This must be the end of an era…
JW: Long overdue. Sometimes it’s too easy to just drift along doing familiar stuff…. I’m really glad I was given the impetus to quit at this point. I’d hate to be one of those people who just do the same thing for decade after decade until they drop dead of old age. And the best part is, once I decided to wind down the publishing, I found it was a lot easier to also make big changes in my personal life. So I stopped drinking. That may not sound like much, but for me it’s actually life-changing. My life was literally centred around social drinking for over 30 years…
SS: You just had enough?
JW: Well, you have to realise that I already drank more than 20,000… maybe 30,000 bottles of beer… and everyone has their limit!
SS: It must have been difficult to stop…?
JW: Actually, no. It was so easy. Once you want to, you can. But only if you want to. And I find it much better now, to be in control of yourself. I think everyone knows that alcohol changes people… makes them do things, say things, think things they wouldn’t do normally.
SS: You did some strange things?
JW: (Laughs) I wouldn’t know where to begin. But when you have very high tolerance for alcohol, and you drink beyond the point where most people either throw up or pass out, you can find yourself in a very interesting place… but I wouldn’t recommend it. Basically, alcohol strips away your humanity… and what’s left can be quite frightening.
SS: Can you give me an example? It sounds interesting.
JW: I’m not sure if I have any recall of most of it. But I believe it gives you an inhuman type of energy… a bit like demonic possession or something. The worst part may be that you appear to be completely normal… you’re not some staggering drunk person, you’re probably more like an animal, very fluid, but lucid. But you’re not really yourself any more – just half a person, half of the brain is shut down. Well… actually there was one time, in Paris, when I had an out-of-body experience…
JW: Yes, that’s how I can best describe it. I was in Paris drinking with a few people… we were sitting in a bar, when suddenly that reality switched off for me and I found myself outside, moving at speed through the streets of Paris. That seemed to last for a long time… then I came back to my body, which was still sitting in the bar. I’ve no idea how long it actually lasted.
SS: This happened many times?
JW: No, just that one time only! But it was very weird…
SS: Any other interesting stories?
JW: There are really too many. One of the strangest beer days was in Rio, in one of the favelas. I went to the bar and there were some guys there with scarves around their faces, holding guns.. it was a bit strange.. so I thought I’d better buy everyone some beer. Turns out we all liked beer and football, and had a great afternoon. Anyway, it’s all nonsense…
SS: It sounds dangerous! Well, let’s talk about books! Can I ask about how Creation Books began?
JW: I suppose we have to [laughs]. I’ll try to keep it brief, if that’s OK…
SS: However you please, of course. It began in 1989?
JW: The first book was published in early 1989.. but thinking about it, we almost certainly started the business in 1988. That was myself and Mr. Alan McGee, of Creation Records.
SS: How did that come about?
JW: Alan was a friend of mine and one day we drank some beer and decided it would be fun to start a book company, I guess…nothing more than that, really.
SS: You knew him for along time?
JW: A few years. If you want to trace it right back to where it all started, the dubious credit must go to Mr. Jeff Barrett. It was only because of Barrett that I met Alan, and other people such as Primal Scream… Barrett was a great guy, ahead of his time… he had a rock and roll night called Let It Rot and he loved putting on all the new bands.. which I guess is how he met McGee. Anyhow we were all friends and did stuff together…. after a while Jeff actually went to work at Creation Records, maybe in 1985 or 1986. I moved to Brighton, which was place where I used to spend time, on a more permanent basis. A few months later some of Primal Scream decided to leave Glasgow and come and join me, and McGee came to join in the fun not long after that.
SS: It was a big party?
JW: Yes, it was; for about 3 years, until everyone started focusing on their work more intently and spending more time in London.
SS: You had an office in London.
JW: Yes, we did. We were based in Clerkenwell for about 15 years. And of course we also had business addresses in the other countries where our books were sold.
SS: Your first time in London?
JW: No, actually I lived in London during the early 1980s. We had a place in Kilburn, but we didn’t drink locally much as it was a time of the IRA and they didn’t welcome the English too much in those parts. So we used to walk up to Hampstead and drink in a pub called the Holly Bush, a very old place. At weekends we used to go down to Brighton and drink in a bar called the Electric Grape, and stay at the Grand Hotel… until the IRA bombed it.
SS: Ah.. maybe they followed you from London?
JW: [Laughs] It’s funny actually, when I was living in New York 20 years later my regular drinking bar was run by IRA supporters… when you live in New York, you soon realise that the whole city is owned by the Irish. They were nice guys though. … My first ever trip to London was actually quite a life-changing event. It was in the school holidays, at Easter. We went on a mission to buy the first two Stooges LPs, which at that time could only be bought on import from a shop in Praed Street. But as luck would have it, a new band was playing on Tuesday night, at the 100 Club… the Sex Pistols. So we went along, and it was amazing.
SS: That was one of their first shows?
JW: Maybe, yes… that was March 1976. We read a review of them in the NME the month before… it didn’t say much about the music, but the drummer was quoted as saying they were into chaos… which sounded really interesting. Different…
SS: And how was the show?
JW: I don’t remember much about the music. The gear broke down about half way through, and Johnny, who looked really drunk, kept trying to go home… with McLaren standing at the foot of the stairs screaming at him, “Get back on that f**king stage!” and stuff like that. Quite a night.
SS: Is that your favourite ever show?
JW: No, actually the Pistols were miles better the next year, on the SPOTS tour, with Sid… contrary to popular misconception, the Sid incarnation of the Pistols blew away the Matlock version. That remains my favourite show of all time, with the 100 Club just behind it. I guess my third favourite would have to be Primal Scream and the Stooges in Tokyo, which was in 2004, I think.
SS: Sounds amazing! Did you meet Iggy Pop?
JW: I spoke to him briefly… I’d met him before though. The first time was in 1980, at Hurrah club in New York.
SS: So Pistols was a big influence on you…
JW: And therefore on everything I did afterwards, yes. When we started Creation Books we just did it punk-style, really. Teach yourself, learn as you go, don’t worry about the established rules. I don’t think anyone else was doing that in book publishing… at least not in the UK. In the US there were already some great independent publishers, like Research, Feral House, Amok…
SS: Did those guys inspire you?
JW: Definitely, although not so much in terms of content. They all published non-fiction, whereas we wanted to concentrate on fiction, initially.
SS: Well, let’s talk about the books then. The first Creation book was by James Havoc. I heard that this was actually your pen-name, is that correct?
JW: [Laughs] I suppose that’s technically how you’d describe it, yes. But it was more of a conceptual thing… McGee originally wanted to form a Church…. and Havoc was the high priest. That kind of thing. You have to remember that pretty much everything we did in those days was just to have fun, and maybe annoy a few people along the way. Like the club night we had, which McGee called “Slut”. It was just inevitable that some humourless idiots would complain about it… Anyway you can tell by the name we gave the Havoc book project that it wasn’t exactly serious. My job became to provide the writing, and for a while I went along with playing the role. It was a laugh, and I certainly had nothing better to do…
SS: Have you used many pen-names?
JW: Oh yes, a few. I think making up pen-names is one of the most fun parts of writing books, actually. I certainly never wanted to use my real name… I never had vanity in that respect. Names are a bit over-rated, anyway… just another way of controlling people, basically.
JW: Yes, I think so. People complained that in prison camps they were given a number, not a name… but what’s the difference, really? A number is a sequence of digits, a name is a sequence of letters. I always thought Shakespeare got it right. You know that quote, “all the world’s a stage”? If you follow that to its logical conclusion, you realise that for every performance, every work, every action in life, you need a good stage name. But of course it’s all essentially meaningless, in any case.
SS: Well, going back to the start of Creation Books… You met Tony Wilson around that time?
JW: We went on Tony’s show… although the show went out at midnight, he actually made us tape it at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning, after a really heavy night out at the Hacienda. So we were half-dead to begin with. Tony was a great guy though, he was always very nice to me whether it was in the Hacienda, or New York, or wherever. His death was one of the worst things in recent years, for me.
SS: Did you like doing TV?
JW: Doing it was OK, but watching it later was horrible. I quit. After that Havoc would just be an occasional writing project, for fun.
SS: There was also an LP, wasn’t there?
JW: That’s right. But that was done purely for one reason, to try and get rid of the books we coudn’t sell. McGee decided that the best way to sell the surplus books would be to package them with “soundtrack” albums. So we had to record an album for less than 100 pounds… we just did it in a friend’s bedroom. It was fun, but nothing more than that. There were actually 3 LPs, one for each book published through Creation Records.
SS: So it was difficult to sell those books?
JW: Yes, it was… but they were basically garbage, so it’s not really surprising.
SS: So after those 3 books, Alan McGee withdrew?
JW: That’s right. You have to remember that neither of us had the slightest clue about the workings of publishing or the book industry, absolutely no experience when it comes to producing books… we just did it because we thought it would be fun. It turned out to be a lot harder to sell books than people think, especially as publishing was still a very closed industry at that time.
SS: But you decided to keep going?
JW: I did, because I’d just signed a deal with Henry Rollins… I figured there was a much better chance of his books selling. It was a risk, but we took it. Slowly we begain to build a profile, and build a list.
SS: How was Henry? Did you meet him?
JW: I met him…
SS: You must have met a lot of interesting people in the years?
JW: Definitely. Some really good people, also a lot of idiots. But I was an idiot too, of course. When I was drinking. I’m sure that everything I did whilst drinking was completely absurd… although that was always the whole point, to be fair. The rest of the time I think I just about held it together…. overall, I’d say I did the best I could within my limitations. But who cares, anyway…
SS: Well, it’s all part of the story… how the books came about. A lot of people like the books you produced, I think.
JW: Really? I suppose we did publish a few good ones… considering publishing was never the main focus. The main focus of my life was always trying to have fun… which usually involved drinking. I never particularly had any wish to be a publisher, I just got sidetracked into it.
SS: But you did it for a long time!
JW: Because it was so difficult, I think it became a challenge to make it work. So that was how I passed the time between drinking, anyhow. We may have been up to our necks in beer, but as far as publishing goes, we just had a toe in the water. We dabbled, that’s about it. But at least we tried.
SS: So what was your original ambition?
JW: I can’t say I ever had any ambitions, in normal terms. I mean a job, career, anything like that. I never had a life plan beyond going into a pub, drinking beer, and seeing what happened. I tried to do that in as many different countries as possible.
SS: But you were doing writing?
JW: That was about it. I did writing in between socialising.
SS: What were your main literary influences, may I ask?
JW: I really grew up reading Marvel comics, in my home time. It was Stan Lee who accelerated my literary understanding as a child! I think that the art is by far the most important part of comics though, in general. I really only liked Kirby… the other guys like Ditko, Johnny Romita, Buscema, Gil Kane, they were cool but only Kirby really rocked… until Steranko came along. When Steranko came along in 1968 or 69, he really blew me away…
SS: How about books?
JW: Just the usual teenage stuff … Ballard was my favourite. Probably music was more important to me during that period. And of course, music is eventually how I met up with McGee, which eventually led to publishing… so I guess it’s all connected.
STRAWBERRY SHI-TENNO: Good morning.
JAMES WILLIAMSON: Good morning again.
SS: There was some public criticism of Creation Books awhile ago… have you always had problems with authors?
JW: Yes, actually. Although only a small percentage.. most of the people we worked with over the years were fine, and some even became good friends. But there were always a few who failed to appreciate our efforts. There was even one amongst the very first three books we published, he kept phoning up, complaining and becoming aggressive because he thought it was taking too long to pay him. There was nothing I could do about it, I was only the editor… I passed his messages on the the guys who controlled the money, but the more he complained, the longer they made him wait (laughs). You should always be polite to people who owe you money!
SS: So he was the first…
JW: But not the last. It would take too long to list all of the ridiculous complaints we received… a few were justified, of course, but a lot were just based on ignorance – people who had no idea of how publishing works, or the realities and difficulties of being a small publisher. There was one guy who thought he should be paid royalties every time a second-hand copy of his book got sold by used book dealers… another who thought he should be paid royalties on books that were returned to us unsold… really dumb stuff.
SS: Book publishing has a notoriously difficult returns policy, I heard.
JW: Yes. Uniquely difficult, I believe. We’ve had authors who saw a big pile of their books in a store and asumed that meant their book was selling really well. Of course, it means the complete opposite; the more copies a store has in stock, the fewer they’ve sold. Stores don’t buy books, they just borrow them from you and try to sell them to customers. A book is only truly sold if a customer walks in and pays for it. Until that point, stores can simply return unsold copies for credit, no sale. And they often return them so damaged that they can’t be resold, but they don’t care about that. Nor can you predict when a book may be returned; it may be returned within 2 months, or not until years later. That’s why many authors who were published by Creation actually have negative closing accounts – they actually owe us money. Because when you place a book out of print, you’re legally obliged to allow the book trade a 6-month window during which they can return unsold copies. So in that window, you’re likely to get a whole flood of returns. Very often this negative value wipes out the balance of an author’s closing royalty account and puts them into debt. In other words, they were overpaid.
SS: Can you recoup the money?
JW: Maybe we could have, or should have; but Creation Books was never about money, it was just about trying to make good books, and having fun. So we never invoiced authors for being overpaid, we just accepted the debt on their behalf. Of course some of these people, who owe us money, actually complain that the opposite is true – sheer ignorance. And then there are the deluded ones – the ones who think, for some reason, that their books actually sold thousands more copies than they were told about. They must think there’s some secret conspiracy against them by publishers, distributors, printers, and stores… it’s really pathetic, actually. Of course those people need to be careful… if they make such claims in public, they will most likely at some point have to stand up in a court of law and back them up. When they can’t, they’ll be in trouble!
SS: The actual figures must be on record…
JW: Well, exactly. Of course they are. Actually one of our main projects since 2012 has been to compile a complete and veriable history of all business matters, including sales… so such claims can be instantly disproved by documentary evidence, when the time comes.
SS: Maybe you should invoice the ones who complain! Sounds like they need reality check. But you said some complaints were justified?
JW: When you run a small business in a difficult industry, there will always be times when you can’t pay people on time. Some people are more understanding about that than others. But we didn’t mind complaints as long as they were polite and respectful… it’s the rude and aggressive ones who really make it seem it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But we were always honest with people. If we couldn’t pay them at that time we would tell them the truth, not try to fob them off with any “cheque’s in the post” rubbish…. you hope that people would appreciate that.
SS: But if your book is published, isn’t it reasonable to expect payment when it’s due? Sorry, I play “Devil’s Advocate”!
JW: It’s a fair question. Let me put it this way… if your book is published by a multi-national publisher with millions of dollars in the bank then yes, it’s probably reasonable to expect timely payment. But if your book is published by a small independent publisher who may have nothing in the bank, it’s more realistic to anticipate – and accept – possible delays. You should understand that a small publisher most likely works from book to book – they can’t publish a new book until they recoup the money from the previous one. And if that recoupment is slow, they’re unlikely to have any spare cash for royalty payments. If your book is slow to recoup, then the publisher may not be able to pay you at that time, it’s as simple as that. They can’t pay what they haven’t got. So while it’s obviously reasonable to hope for prompt payment, it’s certainly not reasonable to expect or demand it. And you should also be aware that if you start making demands and becoming aggressive, your publisher will probably start to view you in a very negative light… Of course our author problems weren’t just limited to people whining… we had a couple of people who took advances from us, failed to deliver the contracted books, and then also refused to return the money.
SS: So what do you say now to those who complain and criticize?
JW: Me? I don’t say anything.. I really don’t have any interest in that kind of nonsense. If people want to humiliate themselves in public that’s up to them, I suppose… but I won’t be joining in. It’s actually really nothing to do with me – let’s not confuse the internet with reality.
SS: But if they say bad things…
JW: It’s regrettable. But it really depends on the nature of it. If someone writes the unbiased truth, that’s fine. The truth is ultimately always very liberating. But if they write something which is based on truth but twisted into falsehood… characterize it as something it’s not… or something which is an outright lie… then that’s different, obviously. That becomes libel, which leaves them open to prosecution and financial penalties. So I guess they should be careful. And if there’s an element of financial extortion behind their activities, it’s important to report them to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
SS: They can be sued for damages, right?
JW: I imagine so, yes. Of course it depends on the nature of their intended victim. Some people might sue you, others might take a more direct approach… others might simply laugh at you. It’s a risk you’d have to take, I suppose.
SS: And you?
JW: I can’t really talk about my own situation specifically, as we have various people under legal review. But generally speaking, you’d have to say that that kind of thing – cyber-bullying, stalking, defamation, etc – generally reflects much more badly on the perpetrators than on their intended victim, don’t you think? I mean, once you reveal that you’re basically willing to do anything, say anything, or sink to any depth just to get revenge over some petty grievance, it doesn’t really speak much to your credibility, or character. But anyway….
SS: The internet encourages such behaviour…
JW: It definitely does. It gives people anonymity and the ability to insult, attack and threaten others at a remote distance. Cyber-bullying is becoming such a problem, with young people committing suicide over it, that I’m sure it will soon be criminalised. The internet just reveals the ugly side of people. And every time you read the news you can see that a large percentage of the world’s problems are caused by people who are locked into cycles of anger, hatred and revenge. Probably half the world’s population, if not more, live on the primitive level of cavemen. Cavemen with computers…
SS: This hatred, who knows what causes it…
JW: Who knows, right. I think a lot of people are unhappy because somewhere along the line they acquired the absurd notion that their lives have some kind of importance or meaning.. and so they spend all their time looking for something, some moment, whch doesn’t exist… Eastern philosophy informs us that we are no more significant than an insect, or a rock. If you can accept that, you become less anxious and more able to appreciate each moment.
JW: Buddhism, Shinto… they can be labelled as religions, but they are also important philosophically. I personally find religion a lamentable affliction, it causes so much death and destruction and hatred in the world. Again, people living like primitives. But Eastern philosophy rises above that, I believe. Well… can we go back to books for a moment?
SS: Yes, let’s.
JW: Going back to that returns thing briefly… I know of at least one small publisher who was put out of business by it. Imagine this: you’re a small publisher who prints small print runs of books, but suddenly one of the big UK chainstores orders 3,000 copies of a new title. You think it’s great news so you go ahead and borrow money from the bank to print the copies, which puts you in debt. But of course you can pay that debt, and also make some profit, once the chain pays you. Six months later you’ve had no payment, then suddenly all of the books are returned unsold, most of them still in the original boxes, unpacked. Suddenly you have a debt to the bank you can’t pay, thousands of unsold and unsellable books, and no money to print your next book or pay bills… it’s all over. That’s how easy it is for a small publisher to go out of business. And the chainstore that bankrupted you couldn’t care less.
SS: This happened to Creation Books?
JW: No, not to us. But a couple of times we suffered a similar problem, we had to stop and restructure due to cash flow problems.
SS: What happened?
JW: Around 2000, or maybe 2001, we experienced a sudden and severe drop in our UK sales, which dropped by around 75%. No idea why… anyway we assumed this was temporary, and kept on going. But actually UK sales never recovered, and a couple of years later we found ourselves unable to keep on top of our printing bills. We tried to work a deal with the printer to keep going on a cash-only basis, but it just didn’t work out. So we had to stop and start again.
SS: So you had unpaid debts?
JW: Yes, inevitably. I personally lost over $40,000 when that happened… for the last years of that period I didn’t even have a home, I slept in the office to save money and try to make it work… but sometimes it just isn’t possible. You have to realise that although we turned over plenty of money in the 90s, we never actually made a profit. We made a ton of money for our printers, plenty of money for our authors, for our distributors… but at the end of the day, the business always made a loss. When you constantly work near the edge like that, it can always go wrong at any point…
SS: You didn’t want to quit at that point?
JW: No… we decided that since UK sales were the problem, we’d simply start to concentrate more on the US side of our operation. We’d had a US business address for several years, as you need that when you trade in a different country, but now we felt it would be best to actually spend more time there, and do business in person. So we effectively relocated to New York.
SS: How did it work out?
JW: Not good, sadly. It was fine at first, but then somebody unexpectedly did something which destroyed the business.
SS: Can I ask what happened?
JW: What basically happened is that our distributor terminated our contract, for what seemed a very petty reason. This resulted in an abrupt fall in income and once again we fell behind with our bills. It was a lethal blow, we had to cease trading once again. We were left unable to pay printers, bills, royalties on time. We had to cancel books which had already been scheduled. The whole project had to be wound up. Because we had no cash to store or transport stock, thousands of books had to be pulped, and dozens of titles deleted from our backlist. No distribution equals no sales equals no income, simple as that. For me personally it was life-changing event. I had to move to a third-World country, it was the only option. All the money invested in the US project was gone.
SS: Where did you go?
JW: I actually decided on Bangkok, because some friends of mine in the diplomatic service were posted there at the time, and highly recommended it. Also it looked like an interesting city, and at that time it was also very cheap to live, due to very favourable currency exchange rates.
SS: Maybe that worked out OK then? Any other problems?
JW: In the long-term it enable me to survive, yes. But there was still fall-out to deal with from the US failure. I soon learnt which authors I worked with were supportive, and which ones were just mercenary. While most people understood the problems we had and felt able to reciprocate the support we’d given their work, I found that there were a few who turned really nasty when we couldn’t pay them on time, and demanded the rights to their books back. These included people whose books we’d published and supported for over ten years, paying them large amounts of money over the years. There were also some whose books only existed because we’d commissioned them and paid for them in the first place! It was quite depressing to be honest… and incredible how these people revealed their true natures in all their naked ugliness. None of them even bothered to ask if we were having difficulties. I also found that several of them used agents or other third partiesto write to us. Americans in particular seem to think they can bully you into doing what they want simply by getting some lawyer to write a stupid letter. Most of them have absolutely no sense of humour. It’s a weird culture…they also that tipping culture, which is truly strange. I find it really degrading… If you try to tip someone in Japan, they’d be really insulted – and quite rightly so.
SS: Did the person responsible for ruining your business ever apologise?
JW: No! In my experience, many Americans never really apologise for anything.. I think they’re scared of admitting liability. They live in constant fear due to the nature of their society. This person has never apologised, never come forward… just remained anonymous while I had to suffer years of financial hardship and take the blame for the results of his actions.. [laughs] Sad story, isn’t it?
SS: Won’t you tell us now who this person is?
JW: No, because that matter is also now under legal review. But at least that story had a few positive results, in the end.
JW: Well, it made me realise a couple of things. One, I learned which writers were supportive, and which ones were just parasites. And two, most importantly, I realised that the only way for a business to be immune from such unexpected events was to be completely debt-free at all times. So from 2005 onwards we absolutely refused to accept even a penny in credit from anyone. Not from a printer, not from a bank, no-one. And that’s why we have absolutely no debts to this day.
SS: It must have been difficult though…
JW: Nearly impossible! To build up a business almost from scratch, with no credit and virtually no working capital… it’s extremely hard, and slow. In fact we had to produce a series of limited edition books for a couple of years, just to survive. It was the only way. And there were a few friends whose support during that time was invaluable. But eventually it paid off… we managed to have a small business which paid for itself and could keep going without relying on any credit or debt.
JW: Yes… but of course we still suffered from the perennial problem of a couple of abusive authors. Some things never change! But let’s not talk about that. Suffice to say that I was finally given the necessary impetus to quit publishing, then quit drinking, and change my life. Which is absolutely great.
SS: OK… So do you still see Primal Scream?
JW: Yes, occasionally. I think the last time I saw them was in Hong Kong… before that it was Melbourne, Tokyo… we tend to meet up in places like that and hang out for a while. It’s good to see your friends sometimes.
SS: How is Bobby these days?
JW: Good. He also gave up drinking!
SS: Yes, I read that.
JW: Every party has to end eventually. And what goes up, must come down…
SS: So after 25 years of publishing, do you have a new plan?
JW: Hm. Well, let’s see… I’ve already personally created over 300 copyrighted intellectual properties, which are renewable in perpetuity.. and been around the world a few times… I think it might just be time for a rest!
SS: Yes, indeed. Maybe next year then?
JW: I don’t know. I guess I’ll be looking for a job. But whatever I do during the short time I have left, I’m pretty sure it won’t be of any interest to other people. Thank you!
SS: Thank you!