Wednesday 25 September 2013

A Very Sturdy Mind: Interview with Nicolas Huck

A weirdo in the best way, Nicolas Huck is reclusive, intermittently misanthropic, German, artistic and irreverant. He did the art for my band Djinn and Miskatonic's first album, 'Forever In The Realm'. For people curious to know more about him, here's a little interview I did with him over e-mail.

1. I first got to know you as an illustrator who works with the horror writer Jeffrey Thomas. You're also doing the cover art for an anthology of original Lovecraftian fiction I am putting together for Aetherial Publishing. What draws you to eldritch horror and all things Lovecraftian?

It is weird (how fittingly!)... but I have to admit that all my author friends (all... without question!) fueled my passion for Lovecraft and everything beyond. *shivers*
Even this evil social network (Facebook)  I am visiting and using for slandering about humanity has become a sheer pool for eldritch input these days. I mean I was a huge Lovecraft-fan before... but now, it is pure madness! And I like and enjoy this kind of madness there a lot. Tentacles... everywhere!

2. What are some of your favourite horror stories and films, especially from the perspective of the visuals they evoke/portray?

Oh this is an excellent but also a "hardcore" question... specially as fanboy of all things gory, strange and creepy! Famous and mostly american movies like Dead Alive, Fright Night, An American Werewolf in London, Poltergeist are surely some flicks we know and I appreciate. But i think "The Thing", "Evil Dead" and "A Clockwork Orange" are the clear favorites that inspired me for creature design and cinematography. All in all I should blame David Cronenberg, Chris Cunningham but principally Stanley Kubrick for their visual perfection, or at least for changing the way we look at movies. But for written tales and stories... hmmm, I think mentioning Lovecraft is almost needless, right? So I may just move on and mention one of his minions here: My friend Jeffrey Thomas with his classics "Punktown" or "Monstrocity". The man changed my reading habits! But I also love my non-Lovecraftian, Russian authors from Asimov up to my personal modern masters Lukianenko with "Spectrum" and Dmitry Glukhovsky & Co. with their "Metro 2033"universe.

3. I sense that the world of gaming is also an influence on how you visualise your art. Is this a fair guess, and what are your favorite computer games?

 Correct! As old schooler I love and will always love the dark realms of this certain game called "Quake" by the way. It really deserves respect, because it is truly one of the most unique and also "lovecraftian" games ever made. Always wanted to defeat Shub-Niggurath? Here you go! It is grim, disturbing and still unbeaten. But I am also a huge adventure game fan. Especially the "Quest for Glory"-series with "Shadows of Darkness" inspired me massively in my more atmospheric sketches and paintings. The developers Cory and Lori Cole are just two great people. The never get tired of showing people that they can be real-life heroes themselves. Oh, did I mention that they also had a huge Lovecraftian influence within their fourth "Quest for Glory" installment?

4. What is your usual process? Is it all digital or do you sketch/paint as well?

It is all about digital work since a few years now. I'd love to do a traditional painting someday tough. But as a user of all this modern computer "magick", I want to push and simulate it as far as possible. I respect and appreciate the way modern software can simulate oil paintings these days for example. Maybe I'm just too lazy for cleaning my hands after work anyway... *hahaha*. Seriously  i feel like a cretin here! Real brush-swingers have my full respect here and should not compared to me anyway. They are true artists!

5. Who are your visual/artistic influences?

This may come across really weird, but I can't remember about any old or new visual artist I dare to point my paws at and shout: It's all your fault! *hehe* I think I devoured so much of many styles and ideas, my mind just mixes a "Bloody Mary" out of them and so I can't identify the masters here anymore. I somehow prefer written lines as my basic inspiration. I don't know, but it seems I dislike to copy styles, ideas, colors... just features that are there already. It maybe allows me more freedom for brooding over my own style and ideas somehow.

6. Can you tell us more about the Huckbros fan videos?

 Haha, unholy thanks for mentioning it! My brother and me started creating our freaky videos for showing love to all the grindhouse and trash-flicks out there. Actually the "German trash cinema" has become pretty suppressed and hefty underground these days. I mean "officially", because it is cooking below the surface! Our pretty prim and non-flexible society just doesn't allow the genre to grow high. Maybe that is why we're taking care of it? Maybe! It is just our passion to create strange videos since a Lloyd Kaufmann dropped out his first "Troma"-movie or Christoph Schlingensief brought us the "Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker" ("The german chainsaw massacre"). Schlingensief was truly the master chief here! Sadly, also our time for making movies has changed. Ordinary work keeps us away from the projects we love to do. But the fire is still burning... and we know it all: There is no rest for the wicked! *hahaha*

7. Your music is electronic, and very cinematic. What inspires you to make it, and do you have any more musical projects in mind?

I'm somehow glad to haven't found my personal favorite genre, yet. Seems staying flexible is my actual mantra... or I just haven't found a genre where i'm good at. But oh yes, seems I'm very into this cinematic stuff. I was fan of all the strings, brass and drums since I enjoyed my all-time-favorite action-flick "Die Hard" with its excellent score of Michael Kamen. Also the great Alan Silvestri made me crave for good or almost lovely-cheesy orchestrals! For any other kind of wicked inspiration i have to blame Sepultura, Fear Factory, Gojira, Metallica, AC/DC, Megadeth, NIN, Portishead, Aphex Twin and everything that comes from the golden ages of music aka oldies. I think I'll try to do evil sonic mayhem with the genre of "Industrial Metal" soon. Hmmm... my muses? Well, many of my friends inspire me to go further and further here. I dedicated almost every track to them and their creative projects, such as indie games and movies.

8. Finally, what advice do you have to aspiring artists, especially those who want to make it as freelancers?

Stay stubborn and never give up in everything you do in your life. I'm not a good artist... but I may compensate that a bit with being... well, let's just say "being very sturdy" in my mind. It will be not always about creating a "good" or even "perfect" work ( least when not having to work for morons), it is about creating something you like yourself without counting the hours of becoming it finished. There is also no "good" or "bad" in art for me, generally. Most people have no good or special taste anyway, so never let yourself be scares away by anyone or any institution that apparently knows what a fine work should look like. Show your works to your family, friends and everywhere on the web, not only those self-called masters and manipulators at art schools for example. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can archive or not, especially not this rotten and selfish society. *hehe* Talent is hard work, not some kind of gift.

Finally, some Huck-links: 

Huck Bros Pictures
Nic's Music
Nic on Deviantart
Oh! and Nic's Professional Page! 

Tuesday 24 September 2013

audible and 'orrible

Thursday 19 September 2013

my rules. for me. (you too, if you want)

Scott Nicolay's Dogme 2011 outlines how weird fiction can move beyond Lovecraftian pastiche, and escape simply becoming another subgenre. When I first read it, I expected to disagree, but I found that I was already following most of its principles (I did once write a zombie story).

Re-reading it recently made me wonder if I could enumerate a list of my own self-imposed rules of writing a good weird short story. These rules are specific to me. Some relate to content and others relate to process, so I am dividing them into two lists.

1. If it isn't done in three days, abandon it.
2. Get back to it after a respectable amount of time has elapsed. Resume writing it, or start again if you prfer, applying rule 1 once more.
3. Rinse and repeat. Don't worry if this goes on for years. You are working on other stories too, aren't you?
4. If you think someone else has had the same idea, they probably have. Fuck that. If you aren't imaginative enough to write an original story with an unoriginal idea you should stop writing.
5. If tense and voice start shifting as you write, just run with it. This is one of those things you fix later.
6. When it comes to productivity, find what works for you but be willing to improvise. If you can manage 6 short stories a year, so be it. If you can write a novel every 6 months, they're probably crap unless your name is Simenon, but go ahead. Just be prepared to buckle up and punch out 10K+ words a day once in a while. It may come in handy.

2. Remember, no list of rules is complete.
3. Be very wary of portraying evil. Be even warier of portraying good. This is not a morality play. It's more interesting than that.
4. If your premise can be described in punchy, high-concept elevator-pitch terms, ditch it.
5. Ghosts are always with us; we are all someone's ghosts. Any other stock supernatural entity can be safely given the ditch.
7. Write about places you know. Write about people you know. Steal from life. Research is for non-fiction writers.
8. Read a lot of non-fiction. Don't read to learn, or for background research; read to creatively misunderstand.

10. Don't try to explain everything. Even if it all makes sense to you, don't put all the connections and clues into your story.
11. Keep a dream diary. Refer to it for ideas.
12. Keep a diary. Refer to it for ideas.
13. Copyright isn't an imposition preventing you from playing with other people's creations; it is a much needed barrier that forces you to play with your own creations instead.
14. Don't waste time giving them what they expect.
15. Despite rule 7, there is one kind of research you must engage in: be a flaneur. Be the invisible man. Walk around your city, or any place you happen to find yourself in. Look at things. Don't try to remember everything, but pay attention to the things you do remember.
16. Places are characters. People are scenery. Dialogue is optional. Description is not.
17. Language is an end, not a means.
(This list is a work in progress. I'm still trying to make up my mind about rule 9)

'why, this is hell, nor are we out of it'

hardly a day goes by
and you are already a symbol
a symbol of flickering outrage
in front of a screen
a symbol of impotent dismay
in an ergonomic chair
hardly a day goes by
and i wonder what they did
with the remains
i wonder what they would do
with that smouldering mess
then i remember
hell never has a garbage problem
i don't wonder how you felt
it is not my place to imagine
your ordeal
it is not my right to feel
your pain
i cannot claim i know
your terror
you are only an animal
and i am a devil
and everyone knows devils
do not suffer or feel pain or fear
hardly a day goes by
when i do not quote
to myself
in my head
hardly a day goes by
when i do not wonder
if my master has noticed
that i am shirking
and what my
will be
but i am a devil
and i cannot suffer
like the innocent do
like you did

Tuesday 17 September 2013

About The Human Head

I am not certain
About the human head
It seems expressive enough
It seems to contain
Some sort of sentience,
At least some kind of nerve-fired
But I am not altogether certain
About the human head
Dennett says it is not
That nothing is conscious
There is only process
And no coherent self
I am not certain
About Dennett
And I am not at all certain
About the human head
Detached from the neck
I fear it will rot
All too soon
Rust this pike
And stink up this public square
But it is intended as a warning
And the dissenters must be shown
I am still very uncertain
About the human head
Its hatred for its fellows
Its impenetrability
To reason
I think about the Guillotine
I think about how you must lose
Your head
To be free
I think about all that the head
And I am still not certain

About the human head

Friday 13 September 2013

Just putting this picture here to cheer myself up for a number of reasons.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

'Silence Thereafter' by Wicked Inquisition

This is long overdue, and I’d like to apologise to Nate, who asked me to give his band’s record a listen back in July.

More to the point, I’d like to apologise to myself.

I’m a fan of proto metal/doom: Budgie, Toad, Blue Cheer, anything especially gritty and misanthropic that you could have downloaded from the late, lamented Chris Goes Rock blog. And Wicked Inquisition straddle a space between the bubbling-over energy and wide-open skies heaviness of these bands and the assured vintage doom stomp of genre pioneers like Pentagram and Saint Vitus. This is a wonderful EP, brimming with emphatic, catchy pentatonic grooves, psychedelic allegations and a palpable aura of herbal fumes, bell-bottom blues and a rowdy young quartet working a riff like there’s no tomorrow.

The opening track, ‘The Jester’s Crown’ brings the Budgie comparisons to the forefront, while ‘Brainstorm’ positively bristles with riffs, feeling like an epic doom-fest despite its concise 4.49 minute run time. Shades of Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, and a Wino-esque vocal delivery along with flailing, infectious leads that reminded me of Wino, once again, with elements of Victor Griffin and Dave Chandler, don’t prevent the song from also sounding fresh and original. The drum work is absolutely idiomatic and keeps the energy levels high, and the drums are also mixed well, punching through the mix as needed, but without an overly bright, modern sound.

The instrumental ‘Blue Nightshade’ sees lead Nate laying down some soaring, questing distorted lead lines over a mellow apreggiated backing. It’s a song to sway to, an atmospheric and oddly anthemic interlude before the last song in the EP, ‘Radius of Fear’ kicks in with some wonderfully assured, quietly doomy riffing. This one really screams vintage Pentagram, and the vocal delivery is some of the best among this set of songs. The contrasting riffs, upbeat and chuggy versus spaced out and doomy, complement each other brilliantly. The thick, dark and juicy guitar tone is just right for this kind of music and when the bass guitar steps out a little bit from the mix, it just adds to that free-for-all retro rocking atmosphere.

My favourite tracks on this EP are ‘Brainstorm’ and ‘Radius of Fear’. These are archetypal no-nonsense hard-rocking doom songs which pack in lots of great ideas into relatively short time-frames and are instantly memorable. I wish I’d treated myself to the chance to listen ‘Silence Thereafter’ a lot sooner, but this one is going to keep popping up in my playlist now that I have. Wicked Inquisition is the real deal, not just a trendy retro simulacrum. I can’t wait for their first full-length and I wish I lived someplace where I was likely to catch them live!

Thursday 5 September 2013

just thoughts in progress. blogs used to be about this kind of stuff, right?

Not a day goes by when I don't read about the terrible things people do to animals. Here are a few things i read about in the last few weeks:

  • An unidentified stranger threw a young kitten out of a window, aiming it at a protest being held about the conditions of dolphins in captivity. The fall broke one of the kitten's legs and the shock proved to be fatal.
  • A poodle-type dog adopted from a shelter turned out to have a prolapsed anus, and the cause has been determined to be the insertion of 'a cucumber-sized object'. Very likely, some human being raped this little dog, or molested her with something about the size and shape of a penis. 
  • A woman posts videos of herself crushing kittens and puppies to death and has an online fan following. 
  • The Government of Romania has approved the mass murder of stray dogs in the country. 
  • The Government of Britain has commenced its badger cull. 
And then there are the terrible things people do to people, which I read about and sometimes see with my own eyes. I could create another list here, but if you've read a newspaper recently, you know what I mean.

I live with my eyes more or less open and I am not made callous by it. I feel horror, shock, pity, anger and despair when I read of all these things. It doesn't get easier to read about cruelty and injustice, and I don't avoid the topic either, although I don't actively seek these stories these out the way some of my fellow animal welfare campaigners seem too. 

As I've said, I am aware of social injustices too, and while I primarily work with animals, I do step in to try and help the disenfranchised citizens of the city I live in whenever I can. I don't do this because I think I'm some sort of noble individual, but because I strongly believe that if we all work to alleviate the problems around us, we don't have to wallow in despair or wait for some government or corporation to apply a quick fix in return for our souls. 

I don't privilege the welfare of human beings above that of animals. But I feel that if you care about suffering and injustice at all, you have to come to a realisation that all living things who can feel pain and suffering deserve your compassion. I cannot imagine living my life in any other way.  

I am very tempted to hate and dismiss humanity, but I think it's just the selfish, oppressive, sadistic streak in humanity that I hate. 

Wednesday 4 September 2013

on 'invisible communities'

Doing and talking are not the same thing. Talk is cheap and so is sympathy. You are not special and your thoughts don't mean a thing if they aren't actually put into action at some point.

I recently got into a fight on a friend's animal welfare organisation's Facebook page. My friend stated that the two cat shelters she runs are completely full up. Due to the lack of fosters and the slow rate of adoption, she is not taking in any more cats. She will continue to look after the existing shelter population, seek adoption for them and so forth, but she cannot accept any more requests to take in more cats.

Someone commented to the effect that she would love to help, but with her 3 house cats and 4 ferals she can't take on any more. While this is probably true, it's irrelevant. My friend has taken on far more than this woman ever has, and has received far too little help and support. It's in poor taste to cite your 7 moggies against the couple of hundred my friend shelters. My friend's organisation has reached a point where it can no longer do one of the things it set out to do - take in abandoned pets or ferals in need of shelter - because there just aren't enough people to share the burden. WE ALREADY KNOW THIS.

I told the commenter that, unless she could help, I didn't see the need in her posting at all. This led to a bit of a flamewar with people telling me my comments were wasting time and that I did not realise there was an 'invisible community of cat lovers' who may not be able to help this organisation, but who all do their part, presumably by being there in spirit and in online comment threads.

To which my only reply is: fuck you. You're not doing your part. If you were, people like my friend and myself wouldn't be the only ones everyone calls when they find a lost kitten or an injured feral or want to abandon their pets. There would be people like you in every community, every social circle, waiting to step in and help. There would be more shelters and more support for the shelters we have.

Instead, there are a few people stuck with growing populations of cats in need, three or four dependable fosters, maybe a handful of kittens adopted a month and no larger community of cat lovers, invisible or not, to rely on.

What it boils down to is: there are people who love animals, who feel compelled to work for their welfare, but not at the cost of their own comfort. I don't grudge them the choice - really I don't. I just wish they would realise that they're just play-acting, which is alright, I guess, and stick to looking after their handful of pets - which is the one thing they're doing right, hopefully - and Shut. The. Fuck. Up. when the grown-ups are talking.

Because I've learned that large collectives of sympathisers don't actually solve problems. Just a few committed individuals do, no matter what all the hype over online activism and the power of communities will tell you. Awareness means nothing and sympathy is just wankery. If you can't help, then keep your thoughts to yourself. Don't waste the time of the few people who actually spend most of their lives trying to get things done. Don't be white noise, it's okay not to have your say and add your voice. Everything isn't a chorus. This dialogue isn't about you, it's about achieving actual results.

Still want to join in? The be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, because making a difference in the real world isn't just about rhetoric and debate and discussion. It isn't about community and communication and the wisdom of the mob. It's about doing.