How we met: Dave Stewart and Damien Hirst

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The Independent Culture
Rock star Dave Stewart, 42, left school at 16 and in 1981 formed the Eurythmics with Annie Lennox. He has also produced albums for stars such as Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. Married to Siobhan Fahey, formerly of Bananarama, he has two children, and three homes (two in London, one in France).

Damien Hirst, 29, is famous for his art works using dead animals preserved in formal-dehyde. He has sold a shark to Charles Saatchi and was in the news recently when somebody poured black ink into the tank containing his preserved sheep (valued at pounds 25,000). He lives in Berlin and London.

DAVE STEWART: We met a year ago at some art exhibition in Docklands. They were giving away

Beck's beer, and so we both got really drunk. I was standing in this group, and then they all started going, leaving just me and him. He was incredibly confrontational. Funny. Exciting. By the end we were under the table - had about 12 bottles each. But we didn't know how to get out of the building. It was totally nightmarish. I still

didn't know he was Damien Hirst.

We were miles from anywhere and trying to catch a taxi, but we could hardly stand. Lights kept coming towards us and then they shot past because Damien kept leaping in the road singing 'You're too good to be true, can't take my eyes off you. You're like heaven to touch . . .' I just fell about. We ended up walking for hours.

Then I remember him saying something. He said that he had asked his granny, when she died, did she want to be in his art? You know, preserved in formaldehyde. That was when I knew. This was Damien Hirst.

He reminds me of the Joker in Batman. Electric, turned on, alive. He'll talk for hours. Really get you buzzing. Says that you've got to cope with death before you can handle life.

Death has been sanitised and cleaned up. He likes slapping people round the face and waking them up. I saw his thing with a dead cow's head, and breeding maggots, and flies being hatched and zapped by a fly-killer. All in the same case. He's one of the few artists doing something important. He's completely obsessed with life.

He'll wipe the floor with any art critic because he's not coming from the same worried, insecure state as other artists who go round comparing themselves to, say, Constable. Damien's unique.

The night we met I got home about 11.30pm. I felt so inspired by him, by his ideas, by his raw nerve, I wrote a song called 'Damien Save Me' - from mediocrity and from people who don't share their emotions. The next morning I went up to the studio and put it all down on tape: 'Damien save me and be my guide, sooner or later we're all gonna die, when we were walking through the streets, everything you said was bitter sweet . . . Cut me in half and I'll let you see, what this whole wide world has done to me.' When I played it to him he just said, 'Wow', and kissed me.

I see him all the time. He's always popping in. Ringing. We had a great day on my barge with Gilbert and George: 2pm one Sunday, drunk. Up Regent's Park canal. Dinner in New York with Lou Reed. (Lou phoned me the next day and said, 'I hope Damien doesn't cut his hands off.')

Lots of women go for him. I get them breathing down my neck at parties hoping to be introduced. He's really caring, and he's absolutely bonkers about his girlfriend, Maia - he thinks that she's some kind of goddess.

We've both got the same sick sense of humour. I've got this

little camera, and when I get the film back it's nearly always got three new pictures. Which means Damien's borrowed it for a ha-ha. Last time it had pictures of his penis. He came round yesterday and showed me this video. Close-ups of his anus. It was the maddest thing you've seen. Hilarious.

He's got a studio somewhere in Rotherhithe. From what I've overheard he's got all kinds of things in formal-dehyde. I must confess I'm not that keen to visit.

Damien's totally alive. In tune. He takes pictures of a ping-pong ball in mid-bounce and calls it 'I want to be with everyone always for ever now'. That's Damien. Hitting the nail on the head.

DAMIEN HIRST: I got really drunk. I can almost remember everything. Dave had these weird glasses on, but I didn't know it was him. I mean, he didn't say: 'Hi, I'm Dave Stewart, Eurythmics.' Just: 'Dave.'

We had loads of insane conversations. He's got really crazy ideas. Like getting an oil tanker and using it for floating art exhibitions and concerts. Sell advertising space on the funnel and you drive round the world and park by a beach. The amount of detail - amazing. All

I could see was '500 Artists and Musicians Die in Tragic Oil Tan-ker Crash'. That's the way I am.

My dealer told me who he was the next day. I woke late. I was trying to deal with my hangover. Then we were properly introduced. (I've had a few nights like that, knocking on doors in Soho and finding yourself in someone's living-room at God knows what time in the morning. Dead drunk. My girlfriend once woke me; I was standing in the bath in my underpants, walking around. I got so confused I got kind of really angry.)

I asked Dave what it's like to be famous and have loads and loads of money and he was really down to earth - like, 'So what?' His mum met mine. We all went on his canal barge with Gilbert and George. Incredible. Being his mate you meet all these people like Lou Reed or David Bowie and you think, 'Oh my God, rock star, pop star', but once you get talking to them you quickly forget who they are. But then, when I'm talking to Lou Reed, Dave comes over and whispers in my ear, 'That's the guy who sang 'Vicious',' and then you suddenly get a shock and think, Jesus, that's the guy.

Bowie looks just like David Bowie. A real shock. He was dead relaxed and calm, and you think, how the hell do you stay like that, going through that? I find it hard enough just being me.

I also saw Lady Di at one do. She was great. I just went, 'Jesus Christ, that's Lady Di.' At a dinner. She's just so amazingly

Di. Unbelievable.

Dave is wacky and wonderful. All over the place. Got all these things on the go - like one plus one equals five. A nutter. Mad ideas - like Warhol. But completely in control. Asking 'Do you know this guy who makes weird videos?' and 'D'you know in the 1860s there was this guy who got arrested for sawing his girlfriend in half?'

I don't like using humans in formaldehyde. Doesn't work. We're used to seeing dead meat but not dead humans, and once they're in formaldehyde you simply think it's a model - like death doesn't really exist. I've dealt with dead bodies, I know. I did an anatomy course in Leeds. I think it's more shocking to use an animal. The cow is the most slaughtered animal. To present it in formaldehyde is really tragic and banal. A tiger would be too fantastic.

I've never seen Dave get squeamish, though I don't think he's been to my studio. He's sick, like me. A morbid sense of humour. Somebody once complained that I'd got some cows' heads in my studio: I needed to get some skulls so I had them peeled, but they smelt. It's quite normal. I mean it is

an artist's studio; you expect it to be a bit weird.

When I made the cover for

Dave's new album, he told me a lot about his drug and near-

death experiences. Living in the fast lane and making a lot of money very quick, he got all that trash

that goes with it and survived. And he's a family man. That's great. And he eats Thai food about five times a week.

His flat in Covent Garden is brilliant. He did a party for me there. I love it. Insane. It's like Willy Wonka's factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He's just got all these hi-tech toys, and he's got homes all over the place. In Crouch End he's got this really lovely secret garden. I was a bit terrified about the song that he wrote for me; you think, you know, Jesus, a pop song - about me.

He suggested we should make a film of the court case about this guy who tipped black ink into my tank with a dead sheep in it. For me the weirdest thing about that case was having to stand up there and talk about art. The first question I was asked was, 'Why are you an artist?' - like, why are you a lawyer?

For the cover of Dave's new album, Greetings From the Gutter, which was kind of about him - great idea, totally mad - I took all these special pictures. I lined up lots of coloured gas tanks with oxygen and medical gases which bring you round and others that knock you out, and had him lie on the ground propped up, with two intravenous drips in his arm. Like a puppet with an artificial life. Everything you need in order to live, except for life itself.

The greatest idea in the 20th century is the collage, and Dave is a living collage. He orchestrates different things. Business, photo-graphy, records. And he stays calm. When his kids are climbing all over him he says, really quiet, 'Don't do that.' And they don't. Brilliant.