Beaten Up by Kids and Wetting the Bed
Rapper, cartoonist, sometime Vice contributor; Simon Gardenfors is all three. His graphic novel 120 Days Of Simon is finally geting an English-language release, showcasing the 28-year-olds unwavering ability to make out with teenage girls, get beaten up by youth gangs, and wet the bed. It tells the story of four months spent couch-surfing the Swedish countryside, never going home, never staying with anyone for more than two days, all drawn in blocky black and white like a sleazy slacker Donkey Kong. The book has already caused a stir in his homeland – Gardenfors left nothing out, and what he saw as being uncensored, many saw as queasily amoral – especially his sex habits. We called him up to discuss those sexy allegations.
VICE: You planned this by advertising for couch-volunteers on your website. Was there anyone you turned down for being too deranged?
Simon: No. The long list was a bit too over-represented with 18-year-old guys who liked the rap songs I did, so I turned down a lot of those for being too samey.
Who was the most boring person you stayed with?
That's an interesting question! Let's flip through the back of the book and see if we can out the most boring person. Uh, maybe Victor Knertson. Sorry Victor! He was just like a normal guy. Just a normal 18-year-old guy in Sweden.
In the book, you put in a lot of things that people deliberately told you not to - their drug habits and sex lives. Was that always the plan?
The story came first, so if someone told me not to put it in the book, and I thought it was a funny story, I would put it in there anyway. Most of the people signed up for the project and they knew what they were getting into by signing up.
There's one girl called Miranda who didn't sign up and is apparently very angry about what you wrote.
Yeah. She was angry because she was one of the people that didn't sign up for the project. I met her at a friend's house. We had sex, and I drew some details about it. I don't know if that was the problem. She called me specifically to say please don't put this stuff I said in the book. I changed the name, and some of the details, but I still get threats because of that. Even last week - one guy at a party threatened to beat me up. This happened three years ago!
The sixteen-year-old is the one the haters are really nailing you on.
On the second night, I made out with a sixteen-year-old girl who lives with her parents. Then later she showed up at the release party. I was really embarrassed, and I went over to apologise to her, but she was OK – she really didn't mind. People have reacted really differently about the whole thing.
OK. Maybe she didn't object, but didn't you at least find it weird? It's quite an eccentric thing to do, surely?
I found it weird. That's why I put it in the book. I tried to put as much embarrassing stuff about myself in the book. I think it makes it interesting when people reveal the things that are like “Yeah. Oh shit, this is so embarrassing, I don't want anyone to know this about me.”
You're not a big condom fan in the book because you don't think condoms feel nice. Surely their feel should be measured relative to how gonorrhea feels?
Yeah.... uh, I haven't had gonorrhea. I didn't actually say that thing about condoms not feeling nice. There's actually a lot of misunderstanding on the internet to about what happened in the book. But I guess the controversy increases my sales.
You also got beaten up and mugged by a gang.
They were under twenty. But one of the guys who threatened me was only fifteen years old. That's embarrassing – to be really scared of a fifteen-year-old. I'm a bit of a coward sometimes. I was bleeding insanely from my head and thought, “Oh, shit! Maybe I'll die from this.” I went to hospital and got ten stitches.
What did they take?
They took my backpack with everything I brought on the trip, including the diary where I'd written down all the details of the trip. The teenagers just threw the bag in a field and just took the valuable stuff – my wallet, my drugs. So I got the diary back in the end.
You also became part of a motorcycle gang.
That's a long story! Like they say in the talk shows like Oprah: “It's all in the book – you have to buy the book!” It started before the trip. It was because of one of the death threats, that I felt I had to get into that. Well, I say threats – it was one guy and his friend who said they were going to kill me. I guess it was one death threat divided into two.
And you wet the bed.
I think it was post-traumatic stress from getting beaten up. I don't usually wet the bed. But a couple of days after I got beaten up, I woke up on the sofa and had wet the sofa. That was really really embarrassing too, believe me.
Did you announce it to your hosts in the morning?
No! I tried to hide it as much as possible. The person I was living with was asleep, so I went up and I poured myself a glass of water, just to fake that I had spilled the water glass. Then I tried to dry it up as much as possible. Think I got away with it too.
It all seems very consciously uncensored, but was there anything you still had to leave out?
There were a lot of things I felt I had to leave out, but they ended up in the book anyway. There were some stories – really personal stuff some friends told me that I left out. If you reveal a secret from your life to me, I wouldn't put it in the book. It doesn't need to be there. It has no context.