Interview with Stephen Jansen

Water sprays across the stage and Jerry takes off his Strat and hurls it at the nearest security guard. The instrument hits the unsuspecting staff across his back and he falls forward. The staff member picks up the guitar and feeds it to the front row.

“He’s done that before,” I yell at Jerry, who is already leaving. I follow him. I’m not stupid; I can see when someone’s doing a runner. Harlan and Marty quickly follow, leaving Keith to play on his own for a full minute before he realizes that no one is playing along. As we run past Geno we either curse him or punch him and run by the dressing room to get our stuff.

“Jesus Christ!” shouts Harlan, “What the fuck is wrong with this place?”

“This is usual,” says Keith, bringing up the rear.

Jansen

Despumation: Your piece is an excerpt from your collaborative novel, The Light from Dead Stars. Can you tell us briefly how this project came about?

Stephen Jansen: I had finished university and started doing freelance work. After a few jobs I started to look around for a ghost-writing job for someone who had a bit of a name that might attract attention. My third year lecturer at Uni told me that her son was in a band and he knew Harvey Bainbridge. I had seen Hawkwind many years before when Harvey was singing and playing bass. I got his number and called him. He wasn’t interested in a biography, which was my original idea, but I had a plan B, which was to write a novel about all the things he saw, the journeys, the people, the craziness of life on the road. This took several weeks of visits and chats with Harvey until eventually I had enough material to turn it into a chase novel. The situations and the people were changed, exaggerated, other rock anecdotes added and twisted to make the book less of a touring spoof like Spinal Tap, and more of a journey to some kind of goal. The more I tried to make it serious, the funnier it got. Tragically so in some places, but very surreal. The drug intake of some people in those days was scary. Health and safety laws in the UK would never allow those gigs to go ahead. Money appeared and disappeared into pockets and on shows that could never make a profit, but it all rolled on somehow.

Desp: You said, “The more I tried to make it serious, the funnier it got. Tragically so in some places…” Did you have to finagle that at all as you wrote? At what point did you realize that this was just going to be a funny novel?

SJ: Harvey told me that it wasn’t much of a story, as band life is just going around in circles and it all blurs after a while. He was right. The early versions of the book kept stalling at chapter four. The story had no engine until he mentioned the chicken story that became the drive of the book and the funny side of things.

The tragedy side came from the fact that there were so many casualties around him, mostly financially, as a result of being in the music business. I wanted to emphasise that, but the way the money was lost, spent on ridiculous amounts of drugs, wasted on big shows that lost money, or simply stolen, was so ludicrously funny that I thought it would better told as a humorous story.

That’s the point it changed. There’s something in British comedy that always laughs at the low points of life. Harvey kind of shrugs and says, “ah well. It could have worked.”

Desp: Do you and Harvey keep in touch? How did he like the results?

SJ: Harvey lives about an hour’s drive from me so I visit when he is not on tour or recording. I see a bit more of him these days as I’m working on the next ‘main’ book in the series, and he’s telling me more about the band. He seems amused that people are interested after all these years.

I’ll be selling copies of the book at the next Hawklords gig on 23rd October. The new Hawklords album ‘Censored’ was released on Monday.

Desp: You have a spin-off novel out—can you tell us a little about it and how it’s related to TLFDS?

SJ: At the end of The Light From Dead Stars (no spoilers!) an event takes place that causes everyone to scatter in different directions. I started to think about smaller novellas that told the stories of what became of the characters. I intend to write a few of these, to cover the characters lives before they reunite in the second ‘main’ novel (underway at the moment). Road Dirt is what happens to Steppenwolf, the band’s drug dealer. He becomes embroiled with a religious cult member who is on his way to Mexico to meet the mothership and leave the earth (or is it just the LSD?). A musician friend (Steve Dracup) read an earlier version of this (when it was a screenplay) and took it upon himself to write music for it. This is available as a download. The book is both available as both a hard copy and Kindle.

Desp: What was it about the Steppenwolf character that made him the first one you’d explore as a spin-offs?

SJ: Steppenwolf came from the band (“Born To Be Wild”), not the famous novel by Herman Hesse. The song, “The Pusher,” is where he came from, and the song “I’m Waiting for My Man” by the Velvet Underground. I found the idea of this character compelling because I can’t understand people like him. Where and how do you get into a job like that? He’s the instrument of chaos. I always watch people like that, (from a distance) and they always pop up when you think everything is going to be okay.

When I was younger, if you went to a party, the ‘Steppenwolf’ would always show up about 3am, just before the cops where called by the neighbours for the music too loud or dope heads crashed on their lawns.

I like Steppenwolf. He is a necessary weapon against the ordinary. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Desp: Give us your favorite metal band, and your favorite writer.

SJ: Difficult. Metal song is hard to say because I don’t really categorize that much. If it’s powerful I like it. But I always come back to Black Sabbath when I want some real weight. Writer, among many others, would be Brett Easton Ellis. And not just the obvious American Psycho. Less Than Zero is still mildly disturbing to me.

Desp: Name a metal song you’d like to see covered by a writer for Despumation.

SJ: “The Wretched by” Nine Inch Nails.

Desp: Nine Inch Nails is so not metal, but I’m going to let that pass, Jansen. What are you working on now? Books/stories coming out? Other projects?

SJ: I am working on the second TLFDS novel, which is called The Rust From Dead Cars. Then there is the next spinoff novel, dealing with Max, the crazed tour bus driver. I am also part way through the 4th novel in a series of ten, called the Chronophobia saga*. These are thrillers with a mix of hi-tech. A sort of psychic James Bond. I am also freelancing, but not as much as I used to. I had a play (translated) performed in Germany in May, and another opening in Australia in October. For all the stuff, best to visit my blog.

*You can snag copies of Jansen’s Chronophobia saga: Dossier 1, Dossier 2, and Dossier 3.

Interview with Jason Jack Miller

Nobody slips into the rhythm of war unnoticed. It’s not like you can stand there, tenuously waiting for somebody to call your number. You don’t drop in when it ‘feels right,’ or some bullshit like that. You’re shoved into it. And the only other time you ever feel something so god-awful and horrific is the moment you’re born. And there’s a reason we don’t remember that.

MillerNYCDespumation: I don’t know if you’d describe yourself as a metalhead, but I know you are definitely a lover of music. In what ways do you see music and writing overlapping?

Jason Jack Miller: They are both manifestations of cerebral noise. Print, I think, is a deeper exploration of that static than music, which can be more superficial and accessible. Consider the difference between a four-minute single and a four-hundred-page novel. The mass market knows how—and is more likely—to consume a pop song than a popular novel because listening is a passive process that requires very little unless dancing or singing along are involved. Writers ask much more from a reader. The biggest is probably the time investment. Depending on how fast the reader reads, they could be in your book for a week or more. In most cases, there’s a financial investment as well. There are ways to get free books, but it’s far easier to get free music at the moment.

Both writing and music are expressions of love or rage, of tempo and style. Both mediums provide a nearly infinite means of expression and invention. To me, they are nearly inseparable.

Desp: Talk a little about what inspired your story for Despumation and why you took it in the direction that you did.

JJM: For my current work in progress I’ve been reading a lot about the way Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been overlooked since the wars have ‘ended.’ Funny how somebody could drive around with a yellow ribbon on their car for years and still vote for a politician that would withhold funds from VA hospitals and veteran services.

Anyhow, I think the duress of combat—or any violent situation that causes PTSD—creates a particular emotional state. Rage, hatred, self-loathing, aggression, sadness. Metal is a way to lyrically and musically represent those feelings.

Desp: Want to give readers the short (relatively speaking, I guess) description of your Preston Black series?

JJM: Preston Black is a musician who needs a little help. The real world is sending him a very strong message—it’s time to let go of your dreams. Get a job. Sell the guitar.

When he forms a relationship with a mysterious stranger, things get supernatural. Preston is pulled into one of those old, tragic ballads the people in the mountains sing. Over the course of the next few novels, he confronts evil in many different forms. Snake-handlers, meth freaks, crooked lawmen, and the devil himself. And though I haven’t written it yet, it looks like he’s going to have to go to hell and back to restore everything he’d lost.

Desp: Give us your favorite metal band, and your favorite writer.

JJM: Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down. Probably because the political elements. And because they both deviated from the ‘metal template’ that preceded them. Mastodon is a close #3.

Choosing a favorite author is a bit tougher. I binge on writers then move on after I’ve gotten through a large chunk of their bibliography. I spent most of the winter and spring devouring Alan Furst’s historical spy novels. I bought several Jacques Tardi books on our last trip to Paris that I can’t wait to get into.

I suppose Neil Gaiman is name that keeps popping up in my head when I think ‘favorite writer.’ I had to reread OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE for a class I taught at Seton Hill in June. Rereading it gave me a deeper appreciation for what he does in the space between literature, dark fantasy, and horror.

Desp: Name a metal song you’d like to see covered by a writer for Despumation and explain why.

JMJ: Orion by Metallica! Part of me wonders if metal snobs will cringe at this choice, but I have to call ‘em like I see ‘em. The first metal I bought was Metallica’s GARAGE DAYS RE-REVISITED, so they were my gateway drug to the heavy stuff. I bought MASTER OF PUPPETS as soon as I had the money saved.

Why Orion? It’s epic. I’m thinking far future SF… A starship captain trying to hold it all together while gravitational forces rip his ship apart. And his death is just the beginning. (Sorry. I think I just wrote the story myself.) Of course, Cliff’s bridge riff symbolizes the transition through post-death, whatever the hell that is.

 Desp: That’s an excellent choice. We’ll be expecting that from you eventually. What are you working on now? Books/stories coming out? Other projects?

JJM: At the moment I’m working on finalizing the first draft of my next novel, ALL SAINTS. This one has been brewing for a long time, and finishing it isn’t quite as easy as I thought it’d be.

My wife, Heidi, and I are collaborating on a project I’m really excited about. Kind of an X FILES behind the Iron Curtain kind of thing. It’s very different from what I usually write, but it’s way more fun than I thought it’d be. When plotted out the second novel over the weekend. The hook is that the Romanian Palace of the Parliament is a prison without guards. A Kafkaesque LORD OF THE FLIES. And that’s all I can say about that.

Interview with Jesse Bullington

The glowing face was human, but that was about all that could be said in its defense. It glided up out of the blackness, surround by a softly undulating bubble that might have been air or might have been translucent skin. As Ido flailed her limbs about, trying to swim away from this radiant herald of her death, the face suddenly shifted—it was a woman’s visage now, and then it was a boy’s, and then an old crone…the only thing that remained the same was the wan light it emitted. That, and every face in the luminous orb was mutely screaming.

Bullington

Interview by Stephen Graham Jones.

Jesse Bullington was new in Boulder at the same time I was. First time we met was the same place we’ve been meeting ever since: over vegan chili. Which is pretty metal, if you don’t know. And, since then, each year I’ve read one of his novels, that’s been my best read of the year. Dude has an eye for fantasy and history, and he sings a razor line every time on the page. One of the few writers I trust to bring the goods with each novel. These are some questions I asked him, kind of ramping off his story in the debut issue of Despumation:

Stephen Graham Jones: So, you know a metal magazine’s starting up, and they’re going to run fiction, not just promotion and posters. And you know you want to be in that magazine. And you know what you’re going to have to do: write a metal story. And before I get any further, here, let me confess that I’m also the you, here. I knew Despumation was happening, and I’m into metal and fiction, so stabbing at this TOC seems obvious. It’s you in that TOC of the debut issue, though. All the metal stories I could think of were just junk that happened at concerts, and all the leadup and fallout and years-later cringing. You tapped into something more core with “Holy Diver,” though. Like, you peeled the gunk off the stage of the coliseum and found this whole other world yawning open. “How” is a stupid question to ask about that, of course—”talent,” “imagination,” “kitten sacrifice,” it’s all the same—but I can dig a “Why” out, I think: Why plant Ido Blackdew back in Conan-ish times? Are those the characters or mindset or setting you feel undergirds metal? Or a certain brand of metal? Extra points if you can incorporate Frazetta somehow.

Jesse Bullington: I went that direction with my story because I think fantasy fiction and metal share a common ancestor in our lizard brains: that desperate urge for escape from the mundane. It’s no coincidence that of all the myriad genres and expressions of music, it’s metal that draws the most from fantasy (and horror, but that’s an answer for a different story—yours, maybe?). You mentioned Frazetta, and I imagine way more metal fans will recognize that name than aficionados of any other form of music, and with good reason; drenched in dark inks and brutal set-pieces, Frazetta’s art is essentially an oxymoron: stationary metal. It can also be cheesy sometimes, sure, but that’s a risk you run with any art, isn’t it? If you aren’t willing to be laughed at or derided, you’ll never push far enough to break away, which is what metal is all about.

I think escapism has been a part of metal from the very beginning; the origin of metal was an attempt to break away into uncharted musical territory, and the constant evolution of metal and fissuring into strange new sub-genres is all part of that need  to escape from the common place, the expected, the acceptable. For me, and I think for most everyone who loves some form of metal, the escape the music provides is downright cathartic—whatever particular subgenres or bands you like, we can probably all agree that the moment when you can press play and lose yourself in the heaving noise is something special, something necessary.

And that’s exactly what good fantasy fiction can do, transport you away from this modern world with all its banal horrors and into someplace louder, faster, heavier, crazier. Violent, monstrous worlds, places infinitely more dangerous and therefore infinitely more interesting. So for me, all metal carries within ​i​ts ​deep, dark heart the potential to transport us away, into the realm of the Ido Blackdews and Conan of Cimmerias and other figures and scenes worthy of being airbrushed onto the panel of a bitching van. I think this is true of even bands that play it pretty straight and grounded, not just the obvious acts like Bal Sagoth (who Frankensteined their own mythos together out of homages to Robert. E Howard and a dozen other major fantasists). So as soon as I heard about Des​pumation, I knew I wanted to write something for it, and there was never any doubt that I’d write something totally over-the-top and fantastical.

SGJ: Over-the-top and fantastical and a bad-ass woman protagonist. Which, aside from Red Sonja, fantasy doesn’t have nearly enough of. Or, urban fantasy seems to get all the women protagonists, while fantasy can sometimes get stuck in a Boris Vallejo poster. Metal too. There a reason for this, you think—or, is there a single reason that applies to both? And, so you won’t have to say it yourself, it seems like, with “Holy Diver,” you’re writing against that tradition very much on purpose. And, yes, as Whedon says, that I’m asking this question is maybe part of the problem. However, you seem like the person who can maybe get at an answer.

Bullington:​ Well, I think in terms of representations of women in media, whether it’s music or books or games or whatever, we see the same old sexist bullshit time and again, and that’s hardly limited to metal and fantasy. I think the root of the problem is that from day one our society actively discourages young men from relating to women, period—in the publishing world, for example, it’s well-established that young adult books do way better with a male protagonist, like Harry Potter, because while young women happily and effortlessly put themselves in the head of a boy hero, young men are far less willing to read about girl heroes. This isn’t the result of biological differences impacting reading habits, it is the consequence of telling boys over and over again not to be “girly,” of teaching them that the interests and strengths of men are fundamentally different from (and better than) those of women. So young men are imprinted with this idea that certain spheres are “dudes only,” and later in life some of these same guys are the ones insisting that female metalheads or fantasy fans have to somehow prove their bonafides or risk being labeled a “fake” fan who’s only in it for male attention. There is probably nothing worse for metal, fantasy, or society on the whole than the crooked patriarchal system, and the only way it will get better is if we stop tolerating this garbage from our peers, and do better with the next generation.

So, uh, that rant wasn’t maybe what you had in mind, but anyway, in terms of writing against the stereotype on purpose, I’m glad that Ido Blackdew came across as well as I’d hoped she would. She’s also an object lesson in what I’m talking about above, because in the first draft of the story she wasn’t Ido, she was Udo, an old character I played in a high school roleplaying game. It was only after I finished the story and was revising it that I realized that if I switched Udo’s gender the story would be even better, and so I did, and so it was. I didn’t change a damn thing other than her name and gender pronouns and such. I don’t know if I could always get away with being that lazy, depending on the character, but in this case I found that it worked like a charm, because when you get right down to it the big differences between individuals don’t have anything to do with gender or race or sexual orientation or whatever, they come down to personality. We’ve got to break out of our default settings if we really want to find new ground to tread.

SGJ: Yep. And I suspect a big part of that’s questioning the battlefield utility of, say, a metal bikini. Which Ido wouldn’t much go for, I don’t think. But she would go for some Dio or some Lemmy, I imagine, and she’d be right at home in a Danzig video, so long as she got to do some damage. And, from the tone of this piece—and, as everybody should know, it’s very much in keeping with your three novels, The Sad Tale of the Brothers GrossbartThe Enterprise of Death, and The Folly of the World—I’m betting those are more or less your tastes, yes? Or were once upon a time? Which is a set-up, of course; it’s like asking you to badtalk Sabbath. All the same, metal’s gone a lot of different ways, from the death growl bands all the way to Nelson, from early Metallica to late Metallica. Where do you fall on that spectrum? What do prefer? What can you recommend? Was Appetite for Destruction as pivotal for you as it was for me? And, for a last question: Of all the novels out there, fantasy or  whaever, which is the most metal of them all? If there could be only one, which would it be?

Bullington: Good question(s)! Where I fall on the metal spectrum varies from day to day, really, or even hour to hour, track to track—as I’ve gotten older my tastes have broadened, so I’m finding something I like across just about every sub-genre or micro-classification. It is kind of funny, though, that when I was a kid in the early 90s and first getting into metal, older stuff like Dio and the English greats like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead, etc. seemed way too cheesy, with Black Sabbath maybe being the exception that proved the rule. I came to metal via White Zombie and earlier Metallica albums, and didn’t waste much time becoming a kind of archetypal mid-90s dirtbag, giving myself whiplash with all the obvious black, thrashy, and death metal bands: Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, Pantera, Bolt Thrower, Cradle of Filth, Sepultura, Summoning, Old Man’s Child, Entombed, Meshuggah, Nile, Nailbomb, and so on. Gwar. Danzig definitely crept in there, as a sort of reverse-engineered gateway drug to the Misfits, and some of the more ridiculous melodic acts (or is it symphonic? Rhapsodic? Too many subgenres to keep track!)—anyway, Amon Amarth and Bal-Sagoth, definitely, and I’d maybe sneak Malice Mizer in there just for kicks. As I got older, though, I started appreciating the classics way more, and went back to all those aforementioned bands. Except maybe GnR, who will always and forever be “November Rain” to me. Worse fates, I suppose; that is a pretty monster ballad.
As for what I prefer now, and what I’d recommend, there’s so much that springs to mind that I run the risk of just filling up pages with names of bands. The internet has made it so much easier to find great new music that just about every day I’m turned onto something new. I’m digging the sludgey, doomy, stoner metal more and more, which is ass-backwards since back when I was actually a burnout I mostly listened to fast stuff. Lemme see, some of my favorite bands I’ve only discovered in the last ten years or so would be Wolves in the Throne Room, Sleep, Earth, Kylesa, Kvelertak, Jex Thoth, Jucifer, Agalloch, Ides of Gemini, Windhand, Absu, Asva, Pallbearer, Blood Ceremony, Insomnium, Conan, SubRosa, Deafheaven, Finntroll, Year of the Goat, Oathean, Christian Mistress, Boris, Old Man Gloom, Red Fang, Black Tusk, Horn of the Rhino, and yeah, I’ll own it: Ghost (BC, now, I guess?). Just to name a few!

Finally, the most metal novel of all time? That’s tough, because my new one hasn’t dropped yet… But no, for serious, this is the hardest question of all, and so it’s also the best. After extensive internal deliberation, a sip of whisky, and a few Dethklok tracks, I’m going with Freddy’s Book by John Gardner. Gardner’s most famous for Grendel, his wry, sympathetic take on Beowulf’s misunderstoond monster, but for me this lesser-known novel trumps it, at least on the metal scale. The main narrative features a weary knight in late medieval Scandinavia hunting down no less an enemy than Satan himself. Then there’s the language of the text, fast and fierce at times, brooding and dense when it needs to be, with more of a sense of humor than you’d expect, and always incredibly controlled and precise in its chaos as the schemes of the Unholy One come to fruition, corruption and religious hypocracy the order of the day. And this dread tale of old, witch-haunted Europe is itself a story-within-a-story, with the novel actually opening with its author arriving at a dreary, dilapidated house in rural Wisconsin and receiving the titular tome from it’s author, Freddy, an unsociable man-child hiding from the bleakness of his existence in the history he has created, a history as true and rich as any of the other lies we’ve told ourselves down the years, as we’ve crept from the shadows of our brutal past, bloody-handed and cruel-eyed and all agreeing on the version of events we’re going to stick to, in case we’re ever questioned. Freddy’s Book, man: tell me that’s not a Mastodon concept album waiting to happen…

______

Stephen Graham Jones has something like sixteen novels and six collections out there. His favorite metal? It’s all from the eighties, Metal Health up to Slave to the Grind, with plenty of Kix and Cinderella in there on cassette, and in his DNA. He figures D.A.D. is probably the most underrated of the hair metal shelf, and he still studies the back cover of Appetite for Destruction probably more than he should. Just still thinking ‘what if.’

Interview with Mathias Jansson

to my growling voice

chanting a black mass concert

while my fingers grip

the burning strings

MJansson

Maresa Whitehead: Talk about what inspired your poem, “Whispering Metal,” for Despumation. Why did you take it in the direction that you did?

Mathias Jansson: Well, the poem is inspired by the music video to Dimmu Borgir’s song Gateways. It’s a very visual video where a bath tub filled with milk and gore is central. From there the poem captures the feeling of a singer in a metal band who steps out on the scene and meets his audience.

MW: Are those lyrics you quote at the end? What from, and why, did you choose them?

MJ: The quoted lyrics are fiction; I made them up for the poem. But I think they could have worked in a real song.

MW: Did you write the poem specifically for Despumation, or is it something you previously had that fit the theme?

MJ: In this case, yes. But a couple of years ago I started a fictional Black Metal band called Seven Goats. Since I am interested in Black Metal and poetry, but realized I am completely unmusical so I will never sing or play in a Black Metal band. The only solution was to start a fictional band. The band only exists in the form of a chapbook published on Lulu.com with a background story, lyrics, and fragments from the band. It’s a concept that I would like to develop more in the future.

MW: Who is your favorite writer? How has he/she influenced your own work?

MJ: I like many different authors both classic and contemporary, such as Franz Kafka, Jeanette Winterson, Samuel Beckett, and other authors writing in the tradition of existentialism or absurdism. If you’re asking about horror authors, I don’t read so much horror, but Lovecraft will always work for me.

MW: What is your favorite metal band? How has it influenced your own work?

MJ: Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Carach Angren, Bishop of Hexen etc.—many bands which you could categorize as Symphonic Black Metal. Their lyrics and videos are in many ways associated with horror films, different art and literature genres so yes, they inspire me. I like to listen to this kind of music when I am writing horror poetry. It takes me mentality to new places and creates new images in my mind which is very useful when you write horror poetry.

MW: You’re known as a horror poet, so dark subject matter is nothing new to your work. What got you into the macabre side of literature?

MJ: Horror is in some ways a form of existentialism and I have always been interested in those kinds of questions. If you take a closer look, you find that most existentialism literature is about horror in some way. A person finding himself alone, abandoned, alienated from society, hunted by some unknown anxiety. To been alone in a big city hunted by anxiety could be as horrifying to be alone in a cabin in the woods hunted by a serial killer. And a couple of years ago I realized I was good at writing horror poetry, well at least editors wanted to publish my poems.

MW: You’re also an art critic with a focus on new media and game art. Does metal music inspire how you approach visual art, too? How so?

MJ: Not really, but I am interested in how popular culture inspires contemporary artists from Black Metal, memes to video games. I have been written about Black Metal and contemporary art in different art magazines. The art used in, for example, metal music—on covers and music videos—are often very stereotypical and conservative if compared with the contemporary art scene. They often mix elements from old art as romanticism, gothic art, horror films, and soon on, and I don’t find it so interesting. But there are some interesting approaches between Black Metal and contemporary art. There is, for example, an academic journal called Helvete, which focuses on Black Metal and its relation to different academic subjects.

MW: How does your focus on new media and game art influence your literary work?

MJ: Not as a horror writer, but I am also interested in visual poetry so I try to create poems inspired by new media and social media. This is also something I would like to develop more when I’ve got the time. My experience of the horror genre is very conservative. As I see it, it would be hard to get experimental forms accepted for publications.

MW: In your professional opinion, what metal band has the best visual art?

MJ: I can only speak about bands I have been listening to. Cradle of Filth seems to work with very talented video directors, and Satyricon’s video “King” is very visual with its black and white style. In the end it’s about money. You have to be so successful that you can afford to hire the best people to create the visual art since metal bands basically are musicians and not visual artists.

MW: What’s the most metal experience you’ve ever had? What’s the most metal thing you’ve ever read/heard/seen?

MJ: I listened a lot to metal as teenager (most German Thrash and Death) but then for many years lost my interest for the music and listened to other music genres, but when I discovered Cradle of Filth I was guided back to the dark side. So, I would say Cradle of Filth and, of course, Sabbat (Martin Walkyier and Andy Sneap) which I also think is a great inspiration for COF.

MW: Name a song you’d like to see covered by a writer for Despumation and explain why.

MJ: I have no clue, but I have written a poem based on “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” by Behemoth, which I hope I will see in print in a forthcoming issue of Despumation :)

MW: What metal icon would you like to see write for Despumation and why? What artist and/or artwork would you love to see on the cover of the next Despumation and why?

MJ: I would say Daniel Filth from COF. It would be interesting to see what he could accomplish as a poet or if his lyrics would fade without the support of music. You can always help bad lyrics with good music, but poems need to stand on their own. But I think he also has the qualities of a poet.

MW: What’s next for you? What are you working on now? Any new books or poems coming out?

MJ: Well, I have an idea that I have made a draft for it’s called “The Confessions of Adrian Black: Ghosts That I Have Fucked,” a collection of erotic-horror poems about a person that has the strange talent that he can fuck ghosts, or perhaps a better description is that the ghosts rape or abuse him.

MW: Mathias, thank you for taking a time out with Despumation. How fucking metal would it have been if I had ended this interview on the 13th question…?

MJ: …

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A dark poet herself, Maresa Whitehead was awarded her MFA in Poetry from Chatham University in 2012. Her creative work has been featured in The Criterion and shady side review. Her corporate day job keeps her writing and editing skills sharpened for the night-time gig which is her real passion: she is a reviewer and interviewer for COMA Music Magazine. Her high school love of metal propelled her into goth/industrial music, and she thrives as a member of the Pittsburgh scene. Her most metal experience? Definitely her hands-on participation in the necropsy of a cat when she worked at a veterinary hospital. There’s undoubtedly a forthcoming poem about that!

Interview with Dustin LaValley

The kids dance. They form a line and skip across the floor in a circle pit before it breaks off and they spread out. They kick the air, stomp and punch toward the floor and swing arms and fists backwards while almost skipping in place. The arms of those at the forefront of the circle come up to protect themselves from the wayward foot or fist or body in whole and push them back inside when collisions occur. Those lined at the stage gather atop one another in pile-ons, bending and reaching, grabbing for the microphone during sing-alongs.

AUTHORS-DustinLaValleyLindsey Turnbull: How did you get interested in writing?

Dustin LaValley: At this point, I don’t remember exactly, but I did have an excellent English professor in college who pushed me to pursue my interest in writing. Eventually after some experience getting published in magazines, anthologies and my first books, he recommended me for the coveted SUNY Parnassus Award for Excellence in Creative Writing, which I won, beating out some two-thousand New York state student writers and authors…making enemies with the editor and staff writers of the college “magazine.”

LT: Do you normally write about music? If not, what other themes and topics do you explore?

DL: I write about whatever strokes my imagination. I try not to guide the work. Simply let it rest in whatever genre(s) it lands in, and then try and find a publisher in that genre(s). In the past it’s been fringe, horror, thriller, humor, literary, and most recently, adult fiction. Music has a lot to do with my work, flow seems to come with ease when listening to something instrumental, such as Pelican or Russian Circles. A few stories have revolved around music, shows and lyrics. Mostly music inspires.

LT: What song inspired your story “Brothers and Sisters?”

DL: I believe it was H20’s “1995” though there are a few H20 songs that could have inspired the story. Their cover of “Attitude” by Bad Brains is featured in the story, and that could have sparked the initial idea…a lot of hardcore is about brotherhood and maintaining that PMA.

LT: Talk a little about what inspired your story for Despumation and why you took it in the direction that you did.

DL: The previously stated brotherhood within the scene, from town to town, city to city.  To an outsider, it’s pure violence, chaos. To us, it’s release and bonding. Like a family, we all have disagreements, we all do dumb shit that has no reason or logic other than to piss the other(s) off…and like family we make up and go out to the diner after the tiff. We’re dysfunctional, but we’re family.

LT: “Brothers and Sisters” perfectly captures the energy and feeling of a hardcore show. Do you get in the pit? Have you ever been in a fight during a show?

DL: A good number, yes. Crews sticking up for their boys (and ladies) mostly. Nothing big, small one-shots. Never did they come to anything more, perhaps a little brawl, crew vs. crew, but nothing that didn’t end with new friends being made. I don’t get in the pit, I’m more of the type that likes to be on the sidelines observing and supporting those inside doing their thing.

LT: Who is your favorite writer? What’s your favorite metal band?

DL: Favorite band, no idea. I love many bands: Trapped Under Ice, Have Heart, Down to Nothing, Snapcase, Cruel Hand, Drug Church…that’s only keeping in mind the hardcore scene. Lately I’ve been on a Turnstile kick, with “Death Grip,” “7,” and “Keep it Moving” as favorite tracks. And, the same goes for writer, author. Can’t choose a favorite. I do have favorites, such as Thomas Ligotti (My Work is Not Yet Done), Steve Erickson (Zeroville), Jason Aaron (Scalped), and Howard Bloom (The Lucifer Principle) sticking out at the moment.

LT: What non-metal artists do you enjoy?

DL: Prince. That little man can fucking kill it. “Darling Nikki” and “Purple Rain” are two go-tos of his for me. Mike Patton’s Lovage, Peeping Tom, and other side-projects. I love blues. Men with guitars and sadness. Robert Johnson and Leadbelly for instance and hip-hop artists like Gravediggaz, Public Enemy, and Da Lench Mob.

LT: What song would you most like to see covered in a Despumation story and why?

DL: Hmm…”Blizzards, Buzzards, and Bastards” by Scissorfight. Seems like that would be a fun one to have a go at. Some cool lyrics, imagery to stir the imagination.

LT: Which other stories did you enjoy in Volume 1 of Despumation?

DL: Not wanting to ruffle any feathers, hurt any feelings, I’d rather keep this one to myself. I will say, as I have in the past, that I do enjoy Jason Jack Miller’s ability to create and capture ambiance.  And, as I have also mentioned in the past, Mary Goff’s ability to craft.

LT: I feel like getting into a fight at a show is sort of a rite of passage for metal and hardcore. What other rites of passage, if any, are there?

DL: I don’t believe a fight is a right of passage at all, in any area or aspect of life, especially at a metal show. It’s simply an unfortunate part of life, more so for some than others. Some of us enjoy it, escape in it as I do when it’s between two consenting practitioners, professionals. To me, the right of passage is when you’ve proven you’re not in a phase or partaking in a passing fancy or trend. Whatever that may be. A basement show perhaps.

LT: What are you working on now? Books/stories coming out?

DL: A few different projects in different areas are being worked on. A film I wrote, Human Wreckage, is making the festival run this year, and my alternative adult novel, Swallowed: A Hypersexual Romance, is available from Blushing Books. Sex, drugs, violence, and heavy metal!

Editor’s note: Dustin has recently been experiencing/undergoing some very serious medical issues/procedures, the details of which you can read here. Please consider swinging by the gofundme page set up by his father and contribute anything you can to help him out with his mounting medical bills. Dustin’s provided us all with a lot of great things to read–it’s the least we can do.

Lindsey Turnbull is the founder of Scrapyard Magazine, a metal blog, and MissHeard Magazine, a magazine for teen girls/young women.

Interview with Author Sean Moreland

It was given many names, most of them spoken in hushed tones of terrified awe, or accompanied by panicked expletives of desperate disbelief. Titan. Cyclops. Géant. Monstre. Of course, there were also those who strove to impose a political or allegorical interpretation on the monster. The mayor of Toronto memorably referred to the thing as “Mechaquebecer” for its supposed resemblance to Godzilla’s robotic antagonist. Frothing at the mouth, the Mayor insisted that it was merely a reification of separatist interest, literally breaking up this great nation. Had not the all-too-literal bodies of pulverized victims, most of them Quebecers, heaped up rapidly in the wake of the creature, the Toronto mayor’s interpretation might have found more adherents.

SeanWriter Alyssa Cooper asks writer/editor Sean Moreland a few questions…

AC: Talk a little about what inspired your story (“Rrröööaarrr”) for Despumation and why you took it in the direction that you did.

SM: Kriscinda (whom I first encountered from work she’d placed with Postscripts to Darkness) knew I was a Voivod fan, and asked me if I’d submit a Voivod-inspired story for the issue. So with “Rrröööaarrr” I basically set out to write a story that played with the tones and themes of some of the Voivod songs that stuck with me over the years. It was a tremendously liberating and joyful experience.

While I knew I wanted “Korgull the Destroyer” to be a central figure in the story pretty much from the outset, it was actually the voice of the story’s protagonist, Osprey, that drove most of the story for me.

AC: Give us your favorite metal band and your favorite writer.

SM: I’m never able to answer the “favourite writer” question. I devour and adore the work of way too many writers, living and dead, to ever be able to just point to one. In terms of dead, moldering writers, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading (and sometimes writing about) Poe and Lovecraft, William Burroughs, Kathy Acker and Anna Kavan. In terms of living writers whose work has recently been really inspiring me, Glen Hirshberg and Caitlin Kiernan both spring to mind, as does Michael Cisco and Sarah Langan…

There is a similar problem with my “favourite metal band”. It tends to vacillate rapidly depending on my mood, which shows I’ve seen recently and what I’ve been listening to. He may not be full-on metal, but the first rock show I ever witnessed was Alice Cooper playing the Memorial Centre in Kingston, Ontario during his Trash tour in 1988-ish, and that was a formative moment for sure. The theatrics, the horror-show backdrop with straight-jacketed killers and Jason Voorhees-look-alikes, the spectacle of it totally blew me away. I’ve had a longstanding love of Tool, too, since first seeing them touring for Undertow in 1993. The Melvins are in there, too, and drone-heavy stuff including Isis and Mogwai.

 AC: Name a song you’d like to see covered by a writer for Despumation and explain why.

SM: “Serpentine Offering” by Dimmu Borgir covered by John Milton. Oh, right, he’s long gone, séances aside, and besides, the lyrics already owe too much to him. Does the writer have to be living, and writing currently?

If so, perhaps Blood Ceremony’s song “The Great God Pan” covered by Michael Kelly. He could make the Machen magic in that song spark, I’m sure, and refine it through an Aickmannian alembic.

AC: What are you working on now? Books/stories coming out?

SM: Right now I’m mainly editing and working on non-fictional stuff; essay collections on Poe, Lovecraft, monstrous kids in film, Charles Beaumont’s writing. I’m looking for a home for a couple of short stories, glaring at one I’ve been working on for two years which just isn’t coming together, and slowly starting to work on a couple of others. I’m also periodically poking at a manuscript for a poetry collection tentatively called Bloodflower Matchbook. Many of its constitutive poems have been previously published, and though they feel like they want to merge into a little book, they are having trouble finding this form, and my attention is regularly taken away from them by Postscripts to Darkness and essay editing.

AC: Have you always had a preference for the darker side of fiction, or did it develop later?

SM: Always, I think. It started early, first with spook-story collections for kids like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Tales for the Midnight Hour at about age 4 and 5, then moving on to the Dark Forces books, Creepy and Eerie and the Twilight Zone magazine, then on to Poe, Lovecraft, King, Barker, by early high-school and on from there.

AC: I noticed “Rrröööaarrr” was set in Quebec; how influential is your Canadian heritage to your writing?

SM: Very, although usually not quite as explicitly so as with that story. I’d have trouble explaining what exactly the contributions of my heritage(s) are, but that’s part of the equation. I’d say about half of the handful of short stories I’ve had published are explicitly set in Canada, but even when this is not the case, my odd Anglo-Ontarian ‘Nuckishness is always lurking just below the surface, like a hungry musky about to devour a duckling.

Speaking of large, powerful, predatory fish, I’m acutely aware of how much amazing dark fiction has been produced and is being produced by Canadian writers. I’m not generally much of a patriotic person, but reading work from writers like Gemma Giles, David Nickle, Michael Rowe, Tony Burgess, and Michael Kelly constantly fills me with a sense of mingled humility and awe in some ways strangely akin to the troubling sublimity of national pride.

AC: Tell us a little more about Osprey. Where did you get the inspiration for such a unique character?

SM: She began life as a series of staccato words strung together as a proto-poem-sort-of-sentence about a female suicide bomber. Falling across the page, these words reminded me of the arc of raptorial wings in flight, which gave Osprey her name. Her literal wings sprouted sometime during the first rough draft of the story, fortunately for the world in which it takes place, and the rest of her tragically short life spilled forth from there.

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You can read “Rrröööaarrr” in Despumation Vo. 1: Issue 1.