Viv Albertine: ‘I’ve done everything bad I wanted to do. There’s only boring stuff left’


Born in Australia, Viv Albertine, 65, was guitarist and songwriter in the all-female punk band the Slits from 1977 to 1982. She went on to become a film and TV director. In 2012, she released a solo album, and in 2014 and 2018 published memoirs that are being adapted for TV. She has a daughter, is divorced and lives in London.

When were you happiest?
The moment my daughter was born in 1999, because it took me seven years to conceive.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I am so contradictory. I want to be alone, but I need people; I despise conformity, but I want to belong; I don’t care what people say, but I am incredibly sensitive about criticism. It’s exhausting for me and confusing for other people.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I grew up in the 1950s and 60s when it was totally normal to tear women’s bodies apart. Being half Mediterranean, the worst thing for me when I was young was the body hair.

If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
Quiet, traffic-free, boring, all-the-shops-closed Sundays.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
We don’t know yet, but I feel very strongly that they should be working class, or at least not privately educated.

What is your most unappealing habit?
I argue with the TV, and it drives my daughter mad.

What is your favourite smell?
I keep my mother’s best scarf in my wardrobe – she died in 2014 – and every now and then I inhale. No one was on my side like my mum.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
DIY shows. My favourites are Masters Of Flip and Fixer Upper.

What does love feel like?
It’s like digging a field together: it’s hard work, not very glamorous, but you can stand back and think, “We did that.”

What is your favourite word?
I have a thing about words with the letter V. They have an energy and intrigue and sometimes I work through a list in my head – vicious, vulnerable, velocity, violet, vivacious, vespers.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had no female role models growing up. I lived an incredibly sheltered life: there was no TV at home and we had no visitors. It wasn’t until rock and pop came into my life that I concocted myself as a role model.

What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
“You’ve got cancer and it may be terminal.” I was holding my three-month-old baby girl at the time, and my immediate thought was that I had failed her.

What is top of your bucket list?
I have done everything bad that I wanted to do so there’s only boring stuff left, and I am not bothered about that.

What do you owe your parents?
I owe my mother almost everything that I am: bolshie, shy, rebellious, inquisitive, a perfectionist, intuitive. But I also owe her my loneliness and mistrust. I owe my father my legs and an aversion to very masculine men.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
I wish I’d told my mother that, in all the years I knew her, she was never once boring. We weren’t demonstrative, so that would have meant that I loved her.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I can’t stand dinner parties.

What is the worst job you’ve done?
In my first job in film, a giant bloke dressed like a sumo wrestler asked me to get his G-string out of his arse. He said he couldn’t reach it.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Romantic love – what a con. (I do still believe in it.)

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
The 1860s East End of London. I’d love to see the costermongers and rag sellers, the noise and dirt, the Thames and the docks, the warehouses full of fruit and spices.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A cook.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
I am going straight to cremation like David Bowie, so there would be no funeral.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Have a go. Failing doesn’t hurt so much after the first time. I didn’t discover this until my 50s.