Louder Than War recently met & had a chat with Simon Mason, author of new book ‘Too High, Too Far, Too Soon’. He tells both about his time as drug dealer to the Britpop stars (such as Oasis) and of his 7 year journey to become “clean”.
Feeling destined to make that ultimate dream as a singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band come to life, Simon Mason was ready for everything rock stardom had to throw at him – and with his group, Britpoppers ‘Limousine’, for a moment things looked pretty good.
However, after finding himself within a shouting chance of achieving his dream of rock stardom he became sidetracked by a different “career” & ended up making more of a name for himself as ‘the man who can’ to the stars of that very same music scene he was eyeing up for himself.
Though not a bad job in many ways it’s via his ‘dealings’ that the reader gets to enjoy such things as the back stage view of Oasis’ mighty rise to power in 94. He played his own small but essential part in that as he was ‘head of pharmaceuticals’ for the Mad-for-it Manc’s – as well as most of London’s then elite Britpop brigade. Being in “the right time at the right place” & with “the right profile” (as well as with the right substances) makes for some excellent ‘trips’ down memory lane, or at least, those ‘trips’ that Mason can actually remember.
Examples of what Mason can remember are his 24hr ‘serving’ stall at Glastonbury & the elaborate parties and gigs he’s put on. The people, artists, groups and places he can recall are all written up in a collection of honest, funny, and chaotic tales.
But the books deeper interests come in the shape of what happened before and after the ‘high times’ of LA, London, Oasis, Glastonbury, his band or any other situation Simon Mason found himself in the middle of. Today, as he releases his book Simon celebrates his 7th year ‘clean’ and it’s his journey to sobriety in which he makes his strongest connections. By openly describing his own trials and tribulations (which might offer hope to some) as much as the coke fueled Britpoppy 90’s he dealt in, he really does make Too High, Too Far, Too Soon a fascinating life story and a well worthy read on two distinct levels.
Louder Than War: First off Simon congratulations on the publication of “Too High, Too Far, Too Soon”. I’m already on my 2nd read through! It’s a fascinating as well as a touching life story and what’s more it’s wonderfully written. Can you give me your own take on the book please?
Simon Mason: I think what I’ve tried to get across is the journey of a man utterly convinced that the sex, drugs and rock n roll lifestyle is his only chance of finding some sort of happiness and place of ‘belonging’ in a world he doesn’t really ‘understand’. He ultimately arrives at the point where he’s so consumed by addiction that regardless of ‘who’ he’s hanging out with -whether alongside the stars he idolised or the desperate heroin addicts that became part of his day to day existence- he has no choice but to change his entire way of thinking and behaving, or die.
It’s a cautionary tale, for sure, albeit one that takes a path that at first seems exciting, but slowly, then more rapidly, turns into an absolute nightmare.
The Alan McGee quote on the books front cover “Simon Mason was the rock ‘n’ roll doctor”, now that’s a pretty solid acknowledgement?
Simon: Alan McGee knows what he’s talking about, he’s been very supportive and I can’t thank him enough.
Its an intriguing look behind the 90’s music scene as much as your own life journey in a way, but was there any uncertainty on your part putting this book together?
Simon: Firstly I’d like to be very clear about this, my book, as anyone who reads it will see, is not a shabby ‘kiss n tell’ or ‘I sold this and that to blah blah blah’, nor is it in any way motivated by money, there is no money in books like this and to be fair, if that had been the motivation for writing, I’d have done it years ago when I was a desperate smack head. It’s essentially a story about addiction, with a decent musical soundtrack!
I started writing because I wanted to take a good look at the way I once thought and behaved, try and make some sense of it and move on.
To be honest, I could have written much more about the ‘cat in the hat’ period of my life, but I feel strongly that I covered enough of that aspect of things in this book. As anyone who’s been ‘there’ and done ‘that’ will tell you if they’re really honest, most of the time that world is full of people talking utter shit, just like I did. It’s not real.
Was it hard to spill the beans on certain situations, like with people such as Liam? It’s safe to say we all know Bez likes taking drugs and Liam probably couldn’t care less anyway,but was it something that you had to think over?
Simon: Have I really ‘spilt any beans’? I personally don’t think I’ve said anything people didn’t already know? If I’d wanted to name names, I’d still be writing the fucking thing, it’d be longer than War n Peace!
I really enjoyed the writing and the descriptions you use…from waiting for the drugs to arrive & the way an addicts mind works to withdrawal and basically existing as a user / junkie…in fact some your most creative writing comes from those memories of being high or sick from drugs I’d say. Do you agree?
Simon: Obviously that life was not funny at the time, but I didn’t want to write another ‘my drug hell’ book, the world needs that like I need to start using again know what I mean?
The humour allowed me to ‘access’ those situations and write about what was essentially a very painful time in my life.
There’s also that touch of the lovable rogue about your character which also comes through in the text, you know it’s wrong but you laugh all the same – I loved it! Did you receive any help when it came to writing the book and putting it down?
Simon. As I mentioned earlier, trying to retain a sense of humour throughout what were at times some pretty horrific experiences allowed me to keep writing. Initially I had almost twice as many words saved on my pc, nobody ‘taught’ me to write, i just kept at it. I don’t know if i’m a good writer or not to be honest, but if one person who’s fucked on booze n drugs reads this story and gets a bit of hope as well as the occasional laugh, then it’s all good.
Of course the music itself plays a pretty central role throughout ‘Too High too Far too Soon’; the gigs, the albums, the bands. Music is the one constant thing that motivates you through the book isn’t it?
Simon: My heroin addiction eventually robbed me of my interest in everything other than how to score more smack. I found I couldn’t even listen to music for the last few years of my using, it just made things seem even more painful. Glad to say these days I’m as obsessed with music as I was when in was a teenager!
So looking back on a list of musical related high-points in the book what were your favourites?
Simon: Two gigs spring to mind. The Oasis show at the first ever T in the Park festival was mind blowing, with or without the drugs (not that I could tell you what it was like straight of course).
Another performance, which is not included in the book but involved the same kind of ‘ingredients’ as the Oasis gig, was watching Paul Weller from the side of the stage at Glastonbury in 1994. I’d paid a visit to the tour bus prior to the performance & a person who shall remain nameless looked at my entire box of ‘work’, about £2k worth of ‘stock’, and pulled out a massive wad of cash and said “How much for all of it?”
Which is exactly what you want your rock stars to say really huh? Suffice to say, by the time the sun was setting and the band was onstage…wow!
I also need to say this though, the greatest ‘buzz’ of my life, was seeing my daughter being born, a few years after I’d stopped drinking and taking drugs, without question, nothing else comes close to that.
Simon: I’ve got no idea what drugs cost these days as I don’t need them in my life. Back then it did seem as if people had far too much money to throw about and let’s face cocaine is the most overrated drug of all time eh? For the record, I’m not ‘anti’ drugs, it’s more like they are ‘anti’ me.
The best thing I ever did for myself was get clean. Much of that period of my life was fun, but ultimately, it nearly killed me and I personally know many, many people who have not ever really recovered from that degree of excess. But yeah, we were all gonna live forever weren’t we?
Thing is, underneath all the apparent ‘glamour’ I was fucking miserable and no matter how much coke etc I put up my nose, I knew that my lifestyle was not sustainable and that the people I hung about with were more interested in what I had brought with me rather than who I was, which is hardly surprising since I was a fucking dickhead a lot of the time anyway!
So when would you say it all start to go wrong?
Simon: It went ‘wrong’ the first time I tried heroin.
There must be some thing you miss about those days though?
Simon: Being close to a band like Oasis, going from The Water Rats in London to Knebworth, is not something many people get to experience so I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t an amazing situation to be around, even in some small way. I got to meet a lot of interesting people and saw some stunning gigs, but getting woken up by my 5 year old daughter jumping on my head and kissing me is, although a completely different thing, something that makes me happier than I’ve ever been.
In terms of relationships, health and life itself what are the fall outs, prices paid for leading such a full on life style like you did?
Simon: The fall out, is that I didn’t get clean until 2006, my family spent years worrying about me, I’ve had to pretty much start again, I have a very simple life these days, no money despite having a full-time and very stressful job. I’ve nowhere permanent to call a home ‘cos I can’t afford to rent anywhere decent in London so I have had to move over 13 times in the past 7 years, flat shares, peoples sofas, sub-letting, etc. I want to stay close to where my kid lives, and she stays with her mother in Hackney which ain’t cheap any-more, but on some level, it’s ok, I’m lucky to be alive, I know of over 25 people who’ve died due to drugs and alcohol over the past few years, so it’s all about keeping things in context really.
You state halfway through the book “The tour was confirmed, the ad went in the press and I was by now possibly in the running for most annoying / arrogant dickhead in the world!” How big did you find the ego got?
Simon: I think I’ll let people decide that for themselves eh?
For any reason would there be anyone you would hope wouldn’t read the book?
Simon: Some I’m still friends with, others not, but I’ve made my Mum promise to not read the book, she doesn’t need to know any more than she already does. These days she knows I’m OK and that’s really the only thing she needs to know.
Do you still owe huge amounts of money to anyone at all then Simon, for fronted drug deals and laid on ‘good’s’ that were never paid for?
Simon: I probably owe people money, but they are all dead now, I’m sure people also owe me, but i’m not interested in that any more. I work with people who are messed up on drugs these days, I hope I’m good at my job.
On a more serious note, the book details some real personal stuff, was it hard to be so open about your life, from your childhood to adulthood, the whole episode of you visiting your old school which brought some rather dark memories back … what was the process of writing this down like for you?
Simon: It hurt at times and I’m not sure if, even today, I’m aware quite how difficult it was to put it all down. It probably wasn’t as hard as it was for those people who cared about me to witness though.
You go from using the finest quality ‘product’ to looking and scrounging for used needles to get a hit, it goes from one extreme to another. Was it the help and support from Narcotics Anonymous that helped you turn your life around … has it been central to you being the person you are today then?
Simon: 12 step recovery saved my life, it wasn’t my first choice, I had a lot of preconceived ideas about which I soon saw I was very wrong about. It’s not for everyone but it works for me, a day at a time an all that!
Anything you kept out of the book? Do you have more from where this came from and could we maybe see more of your writing in the future?
Simon: I could probably write at least two more like this, but for now I’m working on a fictional story, although I’m sure some of the characters in it will be recognisable if you know what I mean?
But yeah, I left a LOT of stories out!
So after a string of jobs taking in work such as an actor, a lifeguard and singer to name just a few how does the life of a writer sound to you, what would you like to do now?
Simon: I wanna be a spaceman and live in the sky x
The book is due release on the 20th of June. For a copy of ‘Too High, Too Far, Too Soon’ go to Random House book site or use the Amazon widget on the right.
All words by Carl Stanley. You can read more from Carl on Louder Than War in his author’s archive.