Interview – The Last Living Slut author Roxana Shirazi
– by Shawn Conner
The Last Living Slut, Roxana Shirazi‘s memoir of backstage life, has been rightfully described as a cross between Neil Strauss‘s Motley Crue bio The Dirt and Pamela des Barres‘ I’m With the Band. The memoir tells of dressing room and hotel encounters from the groupie’s perspective, although Shirazi, born and raised in Iran, isn’t your average band-aid.
Although the prose tends towards the purple and sometimes judgmental (particularly of audience types and other groupies), The Last Living Slut is a hard book to put down. Partly this is out of disbelief – even talentless second-rate metal bands have hot girls showing up at their hotel rooms with Tesco bags full of lube and vibrators, ready to party and even buy them beer – partly it’s out of prurient curiosity as to who Shirazi’s going to do next and why (“My abortion was running down my leg. I was dead… I had to be with Josh Todd of Buckcherry. It would smooth the pain like cream marble on dry rot.”) and partly it’s to come across lines like “I felt so turned on doing water sports with Synyster Gates.”
Shirazi isn’t just a sack artist, however – these days she is more likely to be found carrying a laptop rather than a bag full of sex toys, and is more likely to be lecturing on gender roles or campaigning for animal rights than camping outside of Bullet For My Valentine‘s tour bus. In June of 2010 we spoke to her from London, where she has lived since leaving Iran in 1984 (or, to put things in proper perspective, three years before the release of Guns N’ Roses‘ Appetite for Destruction).
‘My mouthy tutor got turned on by my book!’
Shawn Conner: Doing promotion for the book, have you noticed a difference in the way men and women approach you and your experiences?
Roxana Shirazi: I’ve had different types of interviews. Some have been like shock DJs, who just want me to talk about the really explicit sexual stuff, and just want to get a reaction out of me. And it’s kind of like a joke interview. They haven’t read the book and they just want to talk about my bodily functions. Others are the opposite, and they just want to talk about my childhood and what instigated my adult behaviour. Some of it is very psychoanalytical and some of it is very very fun and some has been just balanced.
SC: Maybe a lot of women identify with the fact that you wanted to be free, and you went after it…
RS: Possibly. All the emails I get say how brave I am: “You have so much courage to write this.” I get that from guys too. Actually someone said, “I was really turned on when I read your book, me and my wife read it in bed.” You know what was really funny – when I was at university and writing this, we had give bits of our manuscript to our whole class to read, my tutor came back to me, and said “Oh I read this with my husband in bed, it was very lovely.” My mouthy tutor got turned on by my book!
SC: Have you gotten any feedback from any of the bands you’ve written about?
RS: Basically one guy texted me saying “I’m sorry I hurt you, the sex thing’s really good but I’m sorry you felt that way about me.” Another guy who’s in it and he seems like a sex god and he was like “Congratulations, I’m really supportive.” I bet you are, you’re going to get all these chicks now!
The bad-boy thing
SC: What I found interesting, you didn’t even have to like the music….
RS: My actual music taste is John Lennon, the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Doors. The hair-metal bands were more about the fun, the image, the going to parties. Instead of going to a club on a Saturday night, like normal people, going on tour with bands was my fun. Some bands weren’t fun, some of them were.
SC: You gravitated towards American bands.
RS: My thing was always Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue. Loved the bad-boy thing, loved the image, loved the music as well. ‘Cos I lived in England, I had this thing of, who’s going to be like Motley Crue in The Dirt. Who’s going to be the most extreme. Sometimes it happened to be an English band. But then when an American band was in town, me and my friends would get really excited because we loved how American men were. They were more free and liberated and not so reserved, easier to have fun with and get laid with. You didn’t have to try so hard.
SC: You sound like a guy describing girls.
RS: Sometimes it is hard. Me and my friends sometimes go out and we think, “Bloody hell, we have to try so hard.” One time I even had to get a male prostitute for my birthday. Because I live in bloody England and all men are so reserved and shy.
And the winner is… Crystal Pistol?!
SC: I’m scared to ask where Canadian guys fit in…
RS: I used to live in Canada, so I absolutely love Canadians, love love Canadians. I actually went on tour with this Canadian band, Crystal Pistol from Vancouver. Have you ever heard of them? They were insane.
SC: Oh yeah. That’s not in the book.
RS: If I had written about that, I may as well have not bothered with the rest of the book. They just epitomized every dirty – I would just have been repeating myself. Me and girlfriend went everywhere with them. You can imagine the hotel rooms by the end. Oh my God. It was disgusting. They were crazy. The things they did… They tried everything. They wanted to live as much as possible. Nice guys, too.
SC: What else got left out?
RS: There was one guy who wore a wig and it came off at a really bad time. I felt really sorry for him… as I was doing something, it came off in my hand. I realized, the poor guy is gonna feel so embarrassed if I write about that. With Def Leppard and Whitesnake I didn’t write much about it because, even though I got together with a couple of them, well one from each. I just thought, there’s nothing exciting to write about. A couple of guys from Skid Row didn’t make it in the book. Basically a lot of ’80s hair-metal bands didn’t make it into the book just because there wasn’t really cool to say about them.
‘I was hanging with Slash the other day…’
SC: After you’ve been to these extremes, how do you settle for a conventional relationship, even if the sex is great?
RSi: It’s to do with the person. Anyone can be anyone and have the charisma and personality and the kindness. I was hanging out with Slash the other day and I though if this had been two years ago I would have been really excited. But I didn’t feel excited. So maybe I’m done with the excitement of it. I’ve done everything, so this is not really interesting to me anymore. And what really gets me now is guys I can have an intellectual conversation with, like nerds and geeks – so I can have something more to talk about than strippers.
SC: It must be fun and exciting to have this dual identity…
RS: It’s draining. One of my regrets is, why wasn’t I myself with these bands? I used to hide the fact that I was at university. I used to tell them I was a stripper, or worked in a shop. I’d never tell them I was Iranian, I’d say I was Italian. It was so exhausting being two people, I could never merge the two together. I could never be at university and be like, yeah I’m a wild rock chick and I’m going on tour with this band. Then when I was with a band I was a completely dumbed-down version of who I was. Not a bimbo, but I chatted about things I didn’t normally chat about. Which was quite sad really. I wish I could’ve been myself completely.
SC: One thing I found quite funny in the book was the bag you used to haul from hotel to tour bus.
RS: I have this infamous pink bag, it’s been on every tour, in every hotel room, every tour bus. When I’d take it on tour I’d get a couple of corsets, stockings, gum, lube, condoms… and sometimes I’d take tins of food. If I was on the bus I liked to make sandwiches for the guys. I’m quite maternal, come to think of it. Quite a mommy.
A Life in Politics
SC: After writing this book, you can probably never run for office.
RS: That’d be sad. I’d love to be in politics.
SC: Are you lecturing these days?
RS: I’ve been doing a lot of PR. I was doing a bit of teaching at university about a year and a bit ago. And I was speaking at women’s conferences. I’d like to get back into lecturing and write more journalistic stuff and get back into academia.
SC: What was the editing process for the book like?
RS: The way I write is really poetic and the manuscript was quite dense. They [editors Neil Strauss and Anthony Bozza] said it won’t grip the reader as much. They said you’ve kind of got to water it down slightly to appeal to the masses. At first I was like No no no I don’t want to dumb it down. But we came to a compromise. And Neil and Anthony have been extremely supportive and really patient with me. Not many people can put up with me! I can be quite a spoiled brat sometimes.
The only thing I had a problem with, I didn’t want to call it The Last Living Slut, I wanted to call it “Sex Iran and Rock ‘n’ Roll”. But we agreed we would use the title as long as I could write my forward about the word “slut”.
The Last Living Slut is available on Igniter, an imprint of HarperCollins.