“I’m the most famous person in the village,” quips Nick Blinko, “or at least I think I can put that feather in my cap!”
This month, ABBOTSnews has been talking to Abbots Langley resident, former punk music star, writer and artist Nick Blinko.
Nick was born in Watford but has lived in the village since 1961. He was the lead singer, lyricist and guitar player for the anarcho-punk band Rudimentary Peni, and has also written several books. As an artist, his work has been exhibited all over the world.
Nick went to Langleybury School, which he says was known as “the prison on the hill” by rivals at Francis Coombe. It was there that he met his future bandmate and drummer, Jon Greville.
Nick then met bassist Grant Matthews through his brother, Timothy Blinko, who is now a professor of music at the University of Hertfordshire.
Initially, Nick and Jon formed a duo called The Magits and later the three formed Rudimentary Peni, an anarcho-punk band, in 1980. Initially, the trio played locally before moving on to bigger gigs in London.
Speaking of the band, Nick said: “We didn’t realise that the kind of music we were creating was taking off big time in the USA.
“I was drawn to anarcho-punk artistically whereas Grant was drawn to its political dimension. I think Jon just liked fishing – he’d often wear a t-shirt which said ‘I’d rather be fishing’.”
Nick says the band came as part of a second wave of “abrasive and fast” music, preceded by a first wave trailblazed by bands like The Clash and Sex Pistols. The band soon achieved notoriety on the punk scene; Dave Grohl, founder of The Foo Fighters and drummer for Nirvana, even did a cover of their song Teenage Time Killer.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, metal band Neurosis cited Rudimentary Peni as one of their key influences and described them as “simultaneously psychological and psychedelic”, with “strange archaic poetry that was literary and Gnostic, all wrapped in this incredible outsider art”.
Nick’s black and white pen drawings have something of a cult following and he often makes and donates artwork to the St Francis Hospice charity shop in Abbots Langley, which are then sold online for hundreds of pounds. His drawings have been described as “depict[ing] fantastically intricate confrontations with his own demons”.
Speaking of his own struggles is not something Nick shies away from. His book, Visions of Pope Adrian 37th, was inspired by a series of delusions he had experienced in relation to Pope Adrian IV, the only English Pope in history. Pope Adrian was born in Abbots Langley as Nicholas Breakspeare.
Visions of Pope Adrian 37th is now set to be reissued in an ornate new edition.
He said: “I began to have the overriding illusion that I would be the next Pope Adrian. Because we were both named Nick and lived in Abbots Langley, it seemed as if we had much in common.”
It was an obsession which led to Nick having a mental breakdown and being sectioned.
Nick suffers with schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness which can include symptoms of mania, depression and psychosis.
Nick’s first book, The Primal Screamer, is a semi-autographical book set in Abbots Langley and was inspired by a GP Nick met in the village. The novel is written in the form of a diary kept by a psychiatrist, Dr Rodney H. Dweller, concerning his patient, Nathaniel Snoxell, brought to him in 1979 because of several attempted suicides. Snoxell, who gets involved in the nascent UK anarcho-punk scene, is a “thinly veiled” version of Nick.
Despite his struggles with mental illness, Nick has been profoundly creative throughout his life.
He said: “My psychiatrist said to me recently: ‘All your life you’ve made music and art. You’ve done very well.’”
Nick lives with his partner Kathy, who he says is a great support for him.