Have you had many altercations with cops?
If you're a drug addict, then you've always got drugs, so you're a criminal. So you're gonna get into problems. Also if you're a drug addict, often you're stealing—I've gotten done for shoplifting a few times, once for public nudity, criminal damage. That was at an anti-capitalism protest: I climbed on top of one of those media vans with a satellite on the roof and I took all my clothes off. The thing was, and although it was May in England, it was a cold day in May. I've seen photographs of it, and it was not flattering.
I got arrested twice that day, actually—both times for stripping naked. The first of the two, the police were rough when they arrested me; in my mind, there were five or six of them being really aggressive with me. But I've been arrested by quite nice police as well. I've not been arrested since I've been in recovery, so that's seven years. But it was fairly common to be in the back of ambulances, back of police cars, arrested and put in cells when I was younger.
Did you ever OD?
No, I've been really lucky with that. I was an addict for four years. The person that ran the treatment center where I got clean came and met my manager at the time, who's the father of the person who manages me to this day—my mate Nick. We stay very close, he's gonna be best man at my wedding. But they just thought I'd just been smoking too much weed; when they found out I had a serious drug problem, they put me in touch with this man who ran a rehabilitation facility. He came and saw me to give a verdict on my situation. He said, "If Russell doesn't come off drugs straight away in the next week, he'll be in prison or a mental institution or dead in the next six months." I remember thinking that was heavy. I went in the rehab facility a week later, and it was the best thing I've ever done. I've stayed clean since then.
Congratulations and good job.
Did you ever take a swing at a police officer?
One time I was doing a stand-up gig in Edinburgh that went a bit crazy, and I started fighting with some members of the audience. Then security came and beat me up a little bit. Then the police came. They dragged me off and were a bit militant, you know, pushing and shoving a little bit. But no John Wayne antics or anything, just a sort of general struggle.
Have you ever been punched square in the face? Like actually seen the fist coming at you...
Yeah, but not for a while. How about you?
It's been a few years, which is fine with me.
Me too. I'd really like to avoid that. There's no place in the face that's enjoyable to get hit. The nose is horrible; the jaw, when it goes out of alignment. I hate it all. I don't like that life. I don't like being around drugs, drink, or aggression. There's some elements of chaos I like now, but if there's gonna be any chaos, it might as well have some political motivation or some value. Like people protesting against something or people who cause chaos to create change or justice or equality, sometimes I find that a little exciting. But just senseless drunk and brawling? No.