The Healing Monsters: A Benefit Anthology

AUTHORS-DustinLaValley

LudwigAs some of you may or may not know, Metal Maniacs co-founder and former editor, Katherine Ludwig, has been battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and dark fiction writer, screenwriter, and metal/hardcore enthusiast, Dustin LaValley, has been struggling with some very serious Crohn’s/IBD issues. These things cost money, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall the last time I had the cash to just throw at some monster threatening your life, trying to bribe it to go away.

A little while ago, Shawn Macomber (Decibel, Fangoria, Rue Morgue, etc.) approached me with the fantastic idea of potentially putting together a benefit anthology for these two individuals who’ve given the metal and horror communities so much. Although we hadn’t planned quite yet to start releasing books apart from the usual Despumation mag issues, how could we say no to this? We couldn’t.

We’re far enough along at this point to announce it and put the word out. As in stands, we’re looking at a January 31, 2015 launch date. As of this post, we’ve received pieces by Mathias Jansson (Desp 1/2), Lewis Dimmick (This Music), John Palisano (Nerves), Jesse Bullington (The Folly of the World), Adam Cesare (The First One You Expect), Dutch Pearce (Decibel), Dean Swinford (The Inverted Katabasis), John Boden (Shock Totem), Billups Allen (Razorcake), JR Hayes (Pig Destroyer), Andrew Bonazelli (Decibel), James Newman (Ugly As Sin), and of course, Dustin LaValley. And we’re expecting more, which I will announce here as they come in.

The result will be a collection of poetry and prose that is sometimes metal, sometimes horror, and often both. Everything, words and art, have been generously donated, for which we are supremely grateful. All proceeds above production costs (which we’re trying to keep as low as humanly possible) will be split evenly between LaValley’s and Ludwig’s respective medical funds. Keep your eyeballs here for more information…

Interview with Michael J. Riser

Didi was there, strapless and heeled, rapidly approaching strung out. After another hit of something. Todd knew it even in that moment: this was the catalyst, that need in her eyes sucking him in, sucking him off, in desperation until the walls came apart, until the dripping silhouette came out of what was behind them. He knew he was tripping balls, but it spoke to him, gesticulating with long, shimmering appendages, opening him to the greasy world alive in its guts, the guts of the building. It took him by the hand, tore him away from himself, and he watched it leave with his sanity into that tar-black space, zipping the walls back up behind them like big white body bags.

And then he made promises to Didi. They left, and she let him do things.

Sweet Didi. His favorite vegetable.

RiserPic

Despumation: Can you explain a little about how “Cradlesong” was born from Meshuggah’s “Bleed?” Like, a bit about that process?

Michael J. Riser: Bit too early on a Sunday morning to think. Man. If I had to narrow the scope enough to give a concise answer, I’d start by saying my reasons for choosing “Bleed” were twofold. Firstly, I’m a glutton for punishment, and it seemed like a really difficult song to try to cram into the interesting framework Despumation is after. Secondly, “Bleed” has been something of a personal anthem for me in the wake of a lot of turmoil, and I think I wanted to walk outside of that, create something that wasn’t personal. The song’s speed and brutality naturally suggested a certain type of psyche to me when coming up with a main character, and that was more or less where I started. I wanted something off-kilter and a bit crazy. Lucid enough to tell a story, but that reflected the speed of someone thinking with no filter. I think the red string was inspired by the music video, and the story’s “villains” by the album art to some degree, but I honestly don’t know where the rest of it came from.

Desp: Talk a little about your process overall—your writing process. Any little rituals that get you started? Night, morning, middle of the afternoon? Do you plot ahead, or let it ride?

MJR: I’m a relentless non-plotter. The spontaneity of writing is a big part of why I do it, so boxing it in and trying to make it overly formal has a tendency to ruin my motivation and kill momentum. I’m not too ritualistic about the practice, but I always like to devote a decent amount of time to it. I hate sitting down just for a few minutes, so I want to make sure I have a big chunk of time to devote. I want to lose myself in it.

Desp: What was your first metal experience that you remember—the moment that got you into it?

MJR: That’s a tough call. I’ve had a lot of metal “firsts”, I think because metal itself is so wide and has grown so much from what it once was. My folks were involved and concerned parents, and weren’t too comfortable with me listening to rap and metal, so a lot of what I could get away with as a young man was religious. I know this will make people cringe, but I listened to a lot of Christian bands from the Florida hardcore scene, some better than others. I think Cleveland’s Six Feet Deep was far and away the most pivotal band for me, though, and really showed me what metal music was capable of. That was when it clicked for me, when metal turned into something more than just another musical interest. “The Road Less Traveled” is a perfect picture of a young person struggling with the world’s darkness and the darkness in himself, while simultaneously grappling with his belief system, people’s opposition to it, and his own moments of doubt. It was the first metal album that ever made me weep openly. I still think it’s a deeply emotional classic, even though I’ve distanced myself from religion.

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

MJR: My favorite metal band remains Meshuggah. After years of thrash and death metal, Meshuggah was something new. I classified other bands as being in a similar category at the time, yet Meshuggah didn’t really sound like them. There was something so base and primal about the listening experience. I remember being introduced to them by a guy I knew as Damascus who hung out with me at PlanetQuake (he played bass for Drive, a band that used to play with God Forbid before anyone knew who God Forbid were). They sat around in my playlist for a while before one day I heard Gods of Rapture, and that atmospheric solo at the end, and just suddenly realized how important what I was listening to really was. Meshuggah has been a heartfelt obsession ever since. Their music has come with me through pretty much all the major events of my life. It’s cathartic, wonderful, and thought-provoking, and I think I’ll always love both it and the guys who make it.

That said, Isis is amazing and comes in so close behind Meshuggah that they have to be mentioned. Panopticon remains the most heartbreakingly beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. To the point where I honestly almost can’t listen to it anymore. In fact, Isis would probably be my favorite band if their music didn’t so perfectly crush me every time.

My favorite writer is Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). I was an active member of the LCSNA for years, and have a somewhat embarrassingly large collection of related books. I also own first edition copies of the original Sylvie and Bruno books, which are over 120 years old now. Neil Gaiman is probably my favorite still-living writer. Listening to him read is one of the best experiences I think you can have.

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

MJR: This is a rough question. I want to answer it, yet I don’t, because part of me wants to write every single song I come up with. I’d love to see something done on “An Autopsy” by The Faceless, because it seems like it has so much unwritten potential. Neurosis’s “A Sun That Never Sets” would be fascinating. Anything ISIS would be a win too, but that’s almost too easy with such ridiculously rich material. “Not in Rivers but in Drops”, “Holy Tears”, “Hand of the Host” … the list could go on forever.

Desp: What are you working on now? Books/stories/academic works coming out?

MJR: To be honest, I’m not working almost at all. School has taken up the vast majority of my time this semester, and my Japanese studies are eating up the bulk of the rest of it. I still have plans to finish Plague Thieves, the novel-in-progress of the last 3 or 4 years, and I’m still looking for a publisher for Peristalsis, my novella. I had hoped some folks who’ve published me in the past were going to put it out, but they’re a small press, still just getting started in publishing larger works, and they were just too busy to give me a probable timeframe. Since I’ve been too busy to get off my ass and peddle the thing, it’s still waiting. Which is a shame. I dearly love that story.

Interview with T.J. Tranchell

“I fucking hate that song. ‘Nail You Down.’ What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Paul wrote the lyrics for it. God, I should have stopped him. I thought he was going to write one of those sex and Jesus songs. Holy Christ was I wrong.”

“Yeah, but you wrote ‘Barbed Wire Condom’ and ‘Acid Suppository,’ among others. Paul’s written less than a dozen songs in Nail Shitter’s entire career. Why didn’t you just take the title and run with it?”

Tranchell picDespumation: Where did “Nail Shitter” come from?

T.J. Tranchell: The first time I tried to write this story, it was not metal at all. It was punk. The band was supposed to be a Sex Pistols tribute band called Piss Rocket. As much as I tried, I couldn’t get anyone else in the story to care about the band. About a year and a half later, I spent a summer as an intern at an alt-weekly newspaper in Seattle. Part of my job was to go to two or and three shows a week and write reviews. I had been doing the newspaper thing for a while and fell in love with rock journalism. I took the experience as a working rock writer and someone who would go to the seediest dives for metal shows (because the rest of the staff preferred hipster bands) and turned that into “Nail Shitter.” The name came from the saying “shit fire, save matches.” I thought of a handful of things that might be worse than shitting fire and settled on nails.

The fun part of the story is that there is a good amount of truth in there, as I believe all fiction should have. I won’t tell you which parts are true, but there is a band that wasn’t famous when I first covered them but is now topping charts.

Desp: You’re a student. In what ways do you try to make your educational experience more metal?

TJT: Modern academe is such that if you can speak and write intelligently, the doors are wide open for subject matter. Much of my scholarly focus in on the horror genre and metal is a big part of that. So if I wanted to discuss the ways in which Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is more than just a retelling of the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name, I’m allowed to do that. Even if I wasn’t, I would find a way to make it happen. It’s tougher at the undergraduate level to forge your path, but I’m halfway through my Master’s degree in Literature now. As long as I can show some theoretical validity for a topic, I pretty much get to do whatever I want.

As an undergrad, I supplemented my metal collection by being a college radio DJ for a year. I did an early Saturday morning show called the Ear Infection. College radio is still mostly free-form, so if I wanted to play Cannibal Corpse at 7:30 a.m., I would.

Desp: First and last metal shows, and the best part of both…go!

TJT: I grew up in rural Utah, so I didn’t get to a real metal concert during my formative teen years. I relied on bootleg cassettes from friends and as much metal as would seep through on the hard rock station. So the first concert I would classify as metal that I went to was AC/DC’s 2001 Stiff Upper Lip tour. The cool thing was that it was the first time the band had played Salt Lake City since 1994 when three people were trampled to death at one of their shows. Being there for their return was amazing.

After years as a journalist, I’ve only managed to get to one rock show in the last three years. It was exactly metal but it was Alice Cooper and Halestorm. Halestorm is great if you are looking for something more on the hard rock side of metal. The last legitimately metal show I went to was Mötley Crüe and Stone Sour at the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota. That was for work, too. That week, I saw those two bands, Guns ‘N Roses, Alice in Chains, Cheech and Chong, Bob Dylan and Pee-Wee Herman. Not entirely metal, but at those rally shows, bikers show their appreciation by revving the motors on their bikes. I can’t think of too many things that are more metal than that.

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

TJT: I’m more into 1980s metal that skirted between glam and thrash, so don’t take away any of my metal cred for this. I love Savatage. Soaring vocals, rock opera pretensions, sometimes a message…it just gets me. And I love that some members of the band and their producer morphed into Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The idea that PBS-watching grandmas and 13-year-old boys in Metallica t-shirts can go to the same show gives me hope for our society.

My favorite writer is Stephen King, but there are so many writers whose work I admire. Edgar Allan Poe is huge for me. Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson are right up there, too. I like to think that I can mix in aspects from all of these people into my own work. As I continue in my education, I’m finding myself more and more influenced by feminist theorists such as Tanya Modleski and Laura Mulvey and female writers such as Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates.

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

TJT: I’d love to see someone do an all-out horror story centered on Mercyful Fate’s “Melissa” or anything from Mercyful Fate/King Diamond. The challenge would be to not just copy the narratives already in place. The writer would have to take what’s there and go deeper, maybe even darker, if possible. The imagery is so rich in “Melissa” that I find it impossible not to weave stories around it.

Desp: Yes. YES. What are you working on now? Books/stories/academic works coming out?

TJT: Unfortunately, I don’t have any imminent publications. I had a good streak last winter and I have a few stories out now that I’m hoping to place. As for works in progress, I spent the summer revising my first novel (keep your fingers crossed) and started an anthology with Seattle area writer Michelle Kilmer called GIVE: An Anthology of Anatomical Entries. We’re in the process of selecting stories now and readers of Despumation will be happy to see some familiar names.

I recently started co-hosting a Stephen King-themed podcast with two New Englanders called “There Are Other Worlds Than These” and am almost ready to submit a King-based paper to a popular culture conference.

The biggest project right now is my Master’s Thesis. I’m in the planning stages now and will be cranking it out during the winter quarter (my university is still on a quarter system rather than semesters). It’s a horror novella and once it’s done and I get my degree I will start shopping it for publication. By that time, I will also be looking for a job and/or an MFA program, so if anyone out there wants to pay me to teach college English or to continue my studies, let me know (western states or low-residency preferred).

Interview with Dean Swinford

I hold it by its blue-black vane and jab the quill into the eyehole. The tip punctures something—some filmy membrane resists before it gives way. Then, the opening clenches the shaft, like some voracious mouth, some obscene osculum, and pulls it in, inch by inch, with the sloppy suction of a thorough and full-throated fellating, until the mouth’s quivering edges begin to root at my featherless fingertips.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespumation: The Nekronomikon Eucharist is an excerpt from your second book in your Death Metal Epic series. Without spoilers, want to tells us where this piece falls in that story? It’s significance?

Dean Swinford: This story is positioned at a turning point midway through the next book. Some of the mythical elements of the story have real-world analogues in David’s narrative of Belgian life.

In the series, I use these fantastical song-based interludes to demarcate section breaks. They are written in a very different style from the story itself, which is the real-world narrative of David Fosberg’s musical adventures as told through his ironic and conversational voice. I kind of put them next to that side of the story. There are overlaps, but there’s no direct interconnection of the two parts of the story. It’s more like the song chapters correspond to the unconscious or dream-like imaginings of various characters.

The first book has a chapter, “A Dream of the Nekronomikon,” that plays a similar role. It’s based on a Deicide song and is a description of a robed pilgrim being drawn through a forest by the Nekronomikon, described as a sentient book-being with a single eye.

That chapter appears at the end of part 1 in The Inverted Katabasis. It marks a break between David’s bandlessness and the new energy he finds through his partnership with Juan. The pilgrim opens the book—with a knife; in many older books, pages had to be cut in order to be read—and reads the message “Worship me.”

My story in Despumation features a different version of the book. In that one, it’s written by the girl in the tower and she’s able to write it because she’s channeled the suffering of the pilgrims who initially locked her there. It’s message is different, too.

I’m using the Nekronomikon as a kind of character in these chapters and see it as one of the personified incarnations of metal. In the intro to The Inverted Katabasis, I describe the other two as a kind of goddess and a Lovecraftian octomonster of some sort. They’re images that suggest, to me, some of the different drives of metal: the quest for hidden knowledge, or transcendence, or chaos.

The girl’s transformation in the story alludes to the idea of the triple goddess in myth: the maiden, the mother, and the crone. The robed pilgrims are a kind of embodied chaos.

You should not be surprised to see another chapter, either in The Goat Song Sacrifice or the last book, The Sinister Synthesizer, that involves this metal divinity in its Cthulhian form.

Desp: Aside from this, do you have any other metal-related writing/publishing going on?

DS: I’m pretty focused on finishing The Goat Song Sacrifice, the second book in the series. Plus, doing what I can to let people know about the series.

Niall Scott, who is pretty involved with the International Society for Metal Music Studies, recently wrote a piece about The Inverted Katabasis. It’s in the reviews section of Metal Music Studies. You can access the first issue’s content for free.

Desp: You’re an academic. Is your university aware of your metal inclinations? If yes, how’s the response? (You don’t have to name your school and this can be really general.)

DS: Yes, they’ve been supportive. I’ve done some readings on campus and in the community and the response has been really enthusiastic. I think at first that non-metal people might be thrown off by the subject or even the book cover, but when they read it, they relate to the story of a guy growing up and they like the book’s humor. I don’t think of it as a didactic book or a story with a moral or a single message, but I think it helps explain to non-metal fans what people see in the music.

It also is a way of taking my research interests in myth and medieval literature and putting those into a modern context. As a teacher, I’m always trying to introduce students to the enduring relevance of classical/medieval/early modern literature, and the fiction is just another way of doing that.

Desp: Can you recommend a few pieces of classical/medieval/early modern literature that might appeal to a reading metalhead?

DS: Sure—while everyone knows The Canterbury Tales, metal readers might be interested in Chaucer’s “The Friar’s Tale” with its story of a summoner’s interactions with a demon. While people are no doubt familiar with Othello, they might not be as familiar with Shakespeare’s subtle representation of Iago as a kind of devil, or updated version of the vice figure prominent in medieval and early modern morality plays. Reading metalheads might be interested that Iago even refers to the diabolical act of musical downtuning. He says he will “set down the pegs that make this music” (2.1.198). I’d say the Commentary on the Dream of Scipio by Macrobius is another one where readers would probably see lots of metal parallels. It’s an attempt to understand dreams and their connection to the cosmos.

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

DS: Such a hard question. I’d have to put it in terms of albums I could listen to endlessly. If that were the case, Blind Guardian’s Imaginations from the Other Side would probably be at the top of the list. Lately, I’ve been listing to lots of live albums to help me as I’m writing The Goat Song Sacrifice.

As far as favorite writers go, I’d probably say Italo Calvino. I also really like Margaret Atwood and the Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom. The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies deals with myth and modernity in some pretty key ways for what I’m trying to do in my books.

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

DS: I’d love to see Jeff Vandermeer do something for the journal. It seems like he definitely has some metal inclinations. The song would have to meet the criteria established by the Encyclopaedia Metallum, of course. Otherwise, I’ve always thought that Opeth’s “The Night and the Silent Water” must have an interesting story behind it.

Desp: What are you working on now? Books/stories/academic works coming out?

DS: I’m well into the next book of the series. That said, I’m a pretty steady and deliberate writer, which is a way of saying I am slow. I saw on your FB where you were asking people how long it takes them to write 2000 to 3000 words. I try to get 250 words a day. This excludes weekends and holidays. Sometimes I might even spend an entire day fixating on a single sentence. Even then, I might not figure it out until I’m on my bike home from work. I’ll pull to the curb, take my journal out of my backpack, and scribble it down.

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.