Aldous Harding aged 16 – getting stoned and dropping chocolate bars into urinals

"It was one of the happier times of my life"

Aldous Harding: This photo was taken in Quebec, Canada, in 2006, and that fellow with me is my cousin, Fraser. We were very stoned outside the supermarket, buying iced tea. And that was the day we got really stoned and we cut up a bunch of his dad’s old leather jackets and made moccasins and went through the forest. We weren’t serious; it was just a bit of fun, because when I get high I like to make things. And then we also watched this episode of South Park where the counsellor, Mr Mackey, tries desperately to find out who shat in the urinal, and we just found it the funniest thing ever, and everyone was getting really fed up with us because we were leaving broken up chocolate bars all over the house. My aunty would come in and say, ‘what is this?’. Then we were like, ‘holy shit, we need to put one in the [Quebec supermarket] IGA’, so we went to the IGA and bought a load of chocolate bars and snuck into the bathroom and put broken chocolate bars in all the urinals.

The moccasins we made fell apart immediately; they were no good. I can’t remember what Fraser’s dad said when he found his leather jackets all cut up. I think it disturbed him more than anything – he was too disturbed to come at us about it. But my cousin and I were very close, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that much since.

My mum’s from Canada and all her family’s over there, so I went to live with them on the farm and worked in their restaurant, called La Rêverie. It was one of the happier times of my life. I didn’t speak French though, so I got by on my charm, and I wasn’t a very good waitress. I was a bit of a dropkick: I didn’t wash my hair and I stank of cigarettes and I was stoned a lot of the time. I think a lot of tortured teenage girls go through that bonged phase, where they’re bonged out of their minds and just working so they can get stoned again. I know a lot of people who did that and are now teachers or operating heavy machinery, and I think, Jesus!

I definitely considered myself a tortured 16-year-old, and I feel so embarrassed to say it. It’s funny, because I would always say that I had a pretty good childhood, and then you go to a therapist and talk about some stuff. I’d always beat myself up; I couldn’t understand why I found it hard, and I think some people are just like that. Some people just have a hard time, and it’s so hard to know whether it’s hard or you’re weak. I never know whether I’m a bit shit or sensitive, and for whatever reason I couldn’t get my shit together for a long time.

My big interests were smoking weed, trying drugs, fucking with men’s heads and fucking with my head. I was pretty angry, and then that anger turned to sadness, because I never had a healthy way to express it until I found music. But I was never rude to my parents, because in my mind my parents were weaker than I was. I took it for the team because it was a tiny, sensitive team – it was just me and my mum.

Sixteen is the witching hours. And I remember growing up in a very small town, on an organic farm, and having an incredibly creative mother, and when we arrived there I toned it down. I learnt to live like that, and when I went back to Dunedin [New Zealand] to finish high school I remember that all the boys had long hair and all the girls had short hair, and I was quite weird; I had long black hair and I got spray tans, so I was kind of like a goth but I had spray tans. See, I’ve never been consistent.

As told to Stuart Stubbs