An exclusive encounter for MU with writer and visionary ALAN MOORE
DAVID ERDOS: True Vision arrives and can even be found through a phonecall. And so, across distance these words will have ‘brought to light’ the opinions that are guidance indeed for us all..
(DAVID CLEARS THROAT AND DIALS:)
ALAN MOORE: David, how are you mate?
DAVID ERDOS: I’m hanging on, sir. How are you? Hope all the family are well.
ALAN MOORE: We’re all fine, Dave. So, this is for Youth’s new Magazine..
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, which is coming from him and members of the South London Arts Lab; not as a product of the lab but as a new initiative. The brief is very much OZ meets THE FACE.
ALAN MOORE: Well, that sounds like a good idea. That could work..
DAVID ERDOS: Indeed! Ok, I know I have about an hour with you, so we’ll have a rough structure and some questions and thoughts I’ll put to you, and then lead on to anything you’d like to feature and discuss.
ALAN MOORE: That sounds fine, Dave.
DAVID ERDOS: Great. So, as we’re having this conversation on September 14th 2020, the day when this supposed edict is coming into play, it therefore seems churlish/wrong not to ask you what you feel about it. I was going to use a quote from your film with Mitch Jenkins, His Heavy Heart (part of the SHOW PIECES series), where the clown character says that he’s been reduced to masturbating and crying, often at the same time. Would you say that’s an assumption of where we are now, as a society? I’m referring to this Rule of Six that they’re bringing in today..
ALAN MOORE: Well, I tend to ignore anything the Government tends to say on the assumption that it’ll probably have changed its mind or violated the concerns its set within twenty-four hours. But yes, I suppose, in general, everyone is masturbating and crying, or at least a number of us have been reduced to that. But this is pretty much the rock bottom for all sorts of things; for capitalism, and even for reality. I find it difficult to imagine a reality more fragmented than our current one. One’s response could indeed involve a combination of masturbating and crying, or, perhaps there might be something else more constructive that we could do..(LAUGHS)
DAVID ERDOS: I’m being facetious of course..though it does seem to me that the quote could connect to passion and the need for a rallying cry. There’s a hope for some new form of communal feeling, but if anything people seem to have become more insular. That may of course just be my own small circles.
ALAN MOORE: Right. Well, my feeling is that of course we are all completely isolated from each other at this point. This would seem to me to be an illustration of the alchemic principle of Solve’; by which everything must be divided into its constituent parts, to the smallest atom; which is the process of analysis, where you separate everything so you can understand all of its tiny parts, and that is certainly where we are now as a culture, because we’re physically separated from each other. The next part of the process would hopefully be the Coagula, which is the equivalent of synthesis. Its where we put all the parts together in a hopefully improved working order. And I think people in general, or at least between the people that I’m in touch with, there is in some ways, a stronger communication between us now. I was talking to Jarett Kobek the other night. He’s over there in the ring of inferno that is Los Angeles, and he was talking about everybody seemed to have become a more refined version of themselves, which is absolutely true, I think. When something like this happens, its like we’re all playing statues and this comes and shows us what we are, whoever that happens to be. We become more like ourselves. Most of the people that I know are shining to some degree. They’re often beset by troubles, but they’re all becoming more intensely themselves. And I feel that even though I’ve not seen anybody other than the odd visit from (collaborator) Joe Brown or (friend, and NAL member) Michelle Labelle on the doorstep, you know, other than me and Melinda; I feel a far more intense connection with the people that I’m talking with over the phone. I think we’re probably in each others’ thoughts more, even if we’re in each others’ lives less.
DAVID ERDOS: That’s incredibly hopeful. But do you think that’s to do with the particular vibrancy and richness of the people who are connected and drawn to you and the circles you collaborate with?
ALAN MOORE: Well, obviously its very difficult for me to discern. I don’t suppose I’ve got any more wonderful people around me than are around anybody. It’s just to do with appreciating those people more. I mean, I would hope that this is more a general thing. I hope it isn’t just me. But this is what the world looks like from where I’m standing.
DAVID ERDOS: There was a wonderful phrase you used some time ago in which you described characters from the genre you used to work in as ‘people without restriction.’ Not only is this a perfect means of describing Superheroes, but it is also emblematic for the state of being that we all need to aspire to, independent of the so-called governing forces that in many ways are the new supervillains.
ALAN MOORE: Well, I suppose I have become a lot more bitter and cranky about the concept of superheroes since then. But I’d say that the problem or the real issue is, that to do anything you have to find your own restrictions. This is what George Perec’s Oulipo used to suggest, by imposing interesting restrictions such as writing an entire novel without using the letter e. (Perec’s A VOID, trans. Gilbert Adair). These forced new forms. But even if you’re not talking about something as extreme as that, I think all artists impose a series of restrictions upon themselves to give the work shape and form. So, I’d say the ideal is the human being with no restrictions other than those that they may choose. That’s not quite as snappy, but it’s important that we’re able to choose our own restrictions rather than accept the shackles that are handed to us.
DAVID ERDOS: The Oulipo is a great example, from Perec’s initiatives, to writers like Ian Monk. How then do we persuade those who aren’t familiar with those works and who can’t gain access to those ideas, and to some extent manifestoes for change, to encounter and even accept them, especially in an age when the arts have become so marginalised?
ALAN MOORE: Well, the only way that I’ve ever had and I’m not sure how useful this is, but I think that the place for the Avant Garde is squarely at the centre of culture, and if the Avant Garde cannot place itself there, then that is the failing of the Avant Garde. I do tend to think along the same lines as David Foster Wallace, when he was talking about that failure. Yes, the Avant Garde produces stuff that is challenging, but it’s also very often hostile, ugly, or unfathomable. Or, at least it is in its modern expression. The urge to be more challenging and Avant Garde tends to alienate everyone apart from a minuscule fraction of the intended audience. I think it is quite possible to do challenging things in a popular medium. That’s what I was always trying for. As I say, I’m not sure how useful it was. But I think it’s always a fairly decent strategy to actually take some less exalted, or less supervised medium and sneak some Avant Garde into it. This, after all, is what Patrick McGoohan was doing in The Prisoner, whether he knew it or not. It was placing a new wave Science Fiction narrative straight into the laps of ordinary working-class people. And in my experience, they loved it! If something is presented entertainingly and in a way that actually communicates its ideas then people will love it. It’s just a pity that all too often in order to make something commercial you have to deal with concerns that will package that subversion and turn it into another commodity. So, that is a constant balancing act. But there are presumably strategies, there are ways around this. To delve into the popular mainstream, but with Avant Garde clothing on.
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, I suppose a good example of that is Stewart Lee and the whole approach and vision of his recent work. The only issue I can see in that is how he chooses to package his work. If you read the books and transcripts of his standup work, there are these long David Foster Wallace like footnotes, which could be seen as obstructive to someone coming cold to it.
ALAN MOORE: Well, when I was talking to Stewart most recently – in fact it was probably him who brought Covid 19 to Northampton.. (LAUGHS) as it must have been one of his last gigs before the tour shut down…
DAVID ERDOS: He didn’t have a bat with him, did he, Alan!
ALAN MOORE: Not that I could see, David, but you never know with these modern comedians..but he was on good form, and I was saying to him that I’d just read his previous book, the one with the view of ocean and clouds on the front, from the previous tour (March of the Lemmings), and I was saying to him that actually, if this was a work of fiction where you were just imagining this kind of self referential comedian who was having a kind of breakdown at the same time as the country was having a breakdown and you included all these David Foster Wallace footnotes this would be an incredible modernist novel! If only it hadn’t actually happened!
DAVID ERDOS: Split infinitive/eternal Jest indeed! Now, as someone who continues to extend and redefine your own boundaries, would you bridle at the notion that a lot of that work has made you – and again I say this facetiously- a kind of Dystopian in Chief?
ALAN MOORE: Well I’m starting to have a couple of problems with the term Dystopian. I’ve started to see that a lot of my early work, particularly say, Watchmen, was seen as being a dark, gritty, dystopian Superhero franchise, which wasn’t what I intended it to be. I mean I can see that V for Vendetta is pretty much a kind of standard Dystopia and is presented as such. Watchmen didn’t seem to me to be a Dystopia. It seemed to be, pretty much a different version of our contemporary world at the time, where, yes, you’ve got superheroes instead of massive nuclear powers but the end result of that for the people on the street was pretty much the same. So, you know I wouldn’t have thought of that as any kind of Dystopia. I mean, a lot of my work – it’s not that they’re Dystopias, because I’m really not sure how useful Dystopias are at the moment. When we’re actually in one it seems a bit redundant to try and imagine any others!
DAVID ERDOS: When this started it did occur me to as to which exact story of book of yours we were in. But I’m not sure whether you’d be happy with that kind of thought.
ALAN MOORE: Yes, the thing is I did have a number of similar things said to me. But I mean, if this was something that I was plotting, it would actually have a plot and a kind of meaning to it.
DAVID ERDOS: And be much better written!
ALAN MOORE: It would be probably much better written and there wouldn’t be any of these pointless red herrings, and supposed plotlines going all over the place…
DAVID ERDOS: Exactly. And that was the point: how people often miss the true depth of something. What distinguishes V for Vendetta, which as I think one of the great accomplishments of the 20th Century is its beauty, romanticism, complexity and undeniability. And this begs a question that’s concerned with prophecy. Are you aware of that status and what or how do you feel about that?
ALAN MOORE: Well, apparently I have been cursed with prescience. I mean when I started work on V for Vendetta in 1981, or, whenever it was, probably 1980, where I thought I was probably going to set it in 1997 just because that was impossibly far into the future; one of the quick and easy symbols to tell the reader that we were living in a fascist surveillance state was to put mounted cameras on every corner, because I thought, well, that would look dead fascist! But then of course in 1997 the Blair government got in and after a trial run at I think Kings Lynn, they rolled out security cameras across the entire country. So, I think these are the sort of things that anybody might have seen coming. I did actually predict the Brixton riots. I was reading a book about my early work the other day – though I don’t want to give the impression that I usually sit around reading such stuff, but it was talking about a headline that I’d got in (the old music magazine) Sounds in my comic strip, in I think the final episode of Roscoe Moscoe; there’s something about ‘Riots in Brixton. Martial Law declared.’ And this was a good year before there actually were riots in Brixton. And luckily, no Martial Law declared. But in terms of actually being prophetic, the only thing that I am quite struck by, and that doesn’t seem to just be meaningless coincidence are the bits in (Alan’s recent epic novel) Jerusalem is the bit where the angel is talking about if the centre of the land is about to collapse then that will be like a hole in the middle of a tapestry that will spread to the edges and that everywhere will collapse. I mean, Northampton actually did collapse in 2018 when we were declared – I mean, we’re barely even a town anymore: we’ve gone into special measures. The Tories are carving it up into two voting districts which will probably be jerrymandered to the point that this will remain a Tory stronghold until the end of the universe! And lo and behold, here we are: we’ve got the conditions of Northampton now worsening and spreading – and this was happening even before Covid – we’ve lots of other places that are now teetering on the brink of the same abyss that we fell into in 2018.
DAVID ERDOS: I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware. What was behind these stipulations? What caused it?
ALAN MOORE: It was just chronic mismanagement by the council. The town went bankrupt. And this was why when we made our film, the council was so desperate for something to bring some potential money into Northampton, and some interest into Northampton, they gave us access to everywhere in town that we wanted and they even pointed out that they know that I don’t like them! And yet they stipulated that I could still say whatever I wanted to say about them and that this wouldn’t affect The film. And I said, that was very nice of them, but I was going to do that anyway! But they also gave us the old council building as our production offices. It was like being in a 1950s KGB building. But it was great! So, yes, this is what happened to Northampton, just a couple of years after the publication of Jerusalem.
DAVID ERDOS: Without wishing to demean Northampton or anyone else in it, does this make you their Gold; are you their prime asset?
ALAN MOORE: Well, I think we must be getting close. Me and –
DAVID ERDOS: Your close associates…
ALAN MOORE: And also a very cutting edge reincarnation of the Northampton shoe industry. Whereas once we made the shoes for the whole of Britain, certainly most of the time. I mean, we made all the boots for Oliver Cromwell’s army. And we also made all the boots for the confederates in the American Civil War. I presume we must have had a surplus of grey leather and stuff like that. We certainly seemed to know how to pick a winner!
DAVID ERDOS: Well, rather those boots than Corby’s Weetabix factory, right?
ALAN MOORE: Yeah. Both Corby and Kettering are teetering on the brink of lockdown, as are we. But I digress. Northampton has plunged into this – well, I mean its the first time in 35 years or something like that, that a town in the UK has gone bankrupt. And its the first one that has gone bankrupt because of austerity. But as I said, not the last. Like it, or not, it is the centre of the country in lots of ways and it’s an excellent barometer of what is coming too everywhere.
DAVID ERDOS: Which brings me to the notion of visionaries. While there are many artists whose Work embodies a visionary status, very makers are as equal or as mythic as the work itself, at least in the minds of others. There’s you, Ballard, Heathcote Williams… How do you define a visionary in the full cultural meaning of that word?
ALAN MOORE: Well, I’d say that with a visionary it’s always got to be personal. It’s got to be a personal vision. I think if you look under visionary in the dictionary you’ll see a picture of William Blake. He’s pretty much the archetypal visionary. As I’ve said elsewhere, human beings don’t come a lot better than Billy Blake. I suppose what this is connected to is finding a way of seeing. There was a performer called Nicholas Curry who worked under the name of Momus. Well, I remember one of his songs; there was a snatch of lyric that stayed with me: ‘I’m in love with everyone who knows its hard to find a way of seeing. Who knows that nevertheless that is the only way to flame into being.’ And I think that this is the important thing: to identify the way in which we see the world. And to then communicate that; to develop the skills that we will need to communicate that: Sing your particular song. Give your particular view of the world. And as far as I can see it, one subjective view of the world is not privileged over another. Everyone’s subjective reality is the entire universe. And they are constructing it entirely within the confines of their mind.
DAVID ERDOS: That’s certainly a visionary way of looking at subjectivity, as subjectivity is the real problem in art, most evidently in poetry, where one person’s revelation is another’s indulgence. There was that famous debate some years back when the playwright David Hare posed the question as to whether Bob Dylan was a better Poet than Keats and how we might measure that view. People seem to have moved away from the notion of that battle somewhat, settling certainly in the mainstream for good old style over substance, or worse, blandery. I wondered if you felt that.
ALAN MOORE: There’s always got to be some element of personal fire in amongst the elements of the work. You can have plenty of material and earthly structure in there, and you can have the air of intellect and you can have the fluids of emotion, but unless there’s some fire in there; a fire of vision, spirit, whatever you choose to call it…
DAVID ERDOS: Which Jerusalem was a perfect example of, full as it was, with your own voice and fire. It felt as if you were doing something truly radical and personal, informed as it was by elements in your own family mythology and that of Northampton.
ALAN MOORE: I suppose that as well as wanting to teach people a new way to read, and get them to perhaps raise their standards of reading, I wanted to show that you can do huge concepts and still communicate them, and where you can still tell what the person is talking about! But as well as that, I wanted to suggest new ways for people to write. I wanted to suggest that the novel was capable of much more than people give it credit for. I wanted to suggest, that no, there isn’t any reason why you can’t shove a strange, savage children’s narrative inbeween a relatively straightforward section of the book, and a wildly Avant garde and experimental section. And have it all still being in the same book. I wanted to show that you could skip from genre to medium at will. It could be a poem and it could be a play, or it could be a hard boiled detective story, or it could be any of these things.
DAVID ERDOS: It’s the 21st Century Tristam Shandy.
ALAN MOORE: In some ways. That was an incredibly modern novel. One of the first and one of the first post modern.
DAVID ERDOS: Do you think that we have the culture that deserves these advances? I have this standard that I apply in my own work across the mediums and forms that people don’t work hard enough or think fast enough. Do you agree?
ALAN MOORE: I do. And I think people should be made to, simply because otherwise, they won’t enjoy it so much. I think that if the members of the audience are working as much as the artist is, or even just working a little bit to understand the work then it will be much more rewarding and make it much more personal to them. I think it’s what the audience need. So that is my only criteria for providing. It’s also what I believe.
DAVID ERDOS: So I wonder to what extent the vision is served by the notion of entertainment. Its a common argument in theatre for instance that all you have to do is entertain. I’ve never believed that. I think the theatre has to include that of course but is actually about something else: ideas, exploration, challenge, transformation. And that a play is a list of ever changing or uncharted decisions. It’s why I’m a great Pinterist. In his plays everything is both true and untrue at any given moment and you have to navigate each silence, and each mystification.
ALAN MOORE: Of course I have great respect for Pinter as a dramatist. I am more of a Bertholt Brecht geezer. In that I – I mean, I’ve always liked Brecht, but I’ve only recently realised in fact, how much my own methods were an unconscious approximation. I’d never heard about Brechtian alienation, until I realised it’s what I’ve been doing all my life. The thing about Brecht is that he took hugely difficult moral and political concerns, and he mashed them up with the most appalling and vulgar popular media; sing songs and cabaret..
DAVID ERDOS: Shows about murderers, reprobates, prostitutes, tyrants, capitalists!
ALAN MOORE: There are ways in which almost anything can be communicated, and I think the onus on us is that we can’t continually complain about the public, because they’re only responding to what they’ve been fed, and what they’ve been conditioned to like. We should be able to offer more tempting dishes with our culinary skills, and if we can’t make them irresistible enough, then that really is on us. Certainly, it would help and be encouraging to get more response from the audience out there, but I think its our fault, rather than theirs. Or, rather, that is the best way for us to regard it. That we should buck our ideas up and try a bit harder to captivate people.
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, that’s the point. So often in theatre actors think it’s all about them, but its actually about the play or moment they’re serving.
ALAN MOORE: Ah, now that is interesting as it’s a complete contrary to the stage directions for our feature film.
DAVID ERDOS: Right. THE SHOW.. (Alan’s film with the Director, Mitch Jenkins)
ALAN MOORE: Yes, it’s called The Show and will be premiering at Sitges in Spain in October. I’ve just recorded a beguiling doorstep interview with Joe Brown that will be introducing the film over there, from here in semi-lockdown Northampton. With The Show we’re going for a new approach to realism. Though I think it will surprise anyone who’s seen anything of The Show, or heard about it, that this could be thought of as realism! One of the things was that we told all of the actors to act as if the entire show was about them and that they were the most important character, because then we thought that it should work just like real life. Because that’s the way we all behave in real life: it’s always about us. And that’s the way everybody’s behaving, as if its their movie. So we thought, why don’t we do a movie like that and see what happens and we embrace the fact that everybody is trying to steal the scene.
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, there it’s part of the methodology. I suppose what I was referring to was this awful notion of ego and the situation where star or celebritised actors become more important than the work itself.
ALAN MOORE: Sure. Everyone we had was lovely. And actually, I can take credit for some of that, because I am probably at least as famous as anyone else as anybody else on the film and so if I’m not acting like an arsehole then why should they? And I’m sure that none of them would.
DAVID ERDOS: You’re the golden goose, Alan and the egg.
ALAN MOORE: Let’s hope so.
DAVID ERDOS: I rewatched The Show Pieces short films last night. So, The Show is a full length extension of those? There’s more of Metterton and Matchbright and the whole coterie? I’m not sure how much detail you want to reveal here…
ALAN MOORE: Yeah, I’m quite prepared to give you some broad stuff. All the Show Pieces films take place on the night of the 2nd of November 2018. The feature film, The Show takes place on the morning of Saturday the 3rd of November, 2018. So, its somebody coming to town on matters that are related to the stuff that we saw in the showpieces films. It’s about their adventures when they arrive in the town on their unusual mission.
DAVID ERDOS: And does it involve all of the former characters from the Show pieces films?
ALAN MOORE: Yes, well all of the characters in the Show Pieces films…
DAVID ERDOS: Are dead!
ALAN MOORE: Yes, they are dead, but that doesn’t stop them getting about. And they are in this film as well, but they were part of the dreaming underworld beneath Northampton. (Nighthampton) But this film, which takes place on the Saturday morning takes place in the real Northampton. Well, it’s not quite the real Northampton, but its our version, where we’ve got a whole bunch of new characters that we’re introducing, before re-introducing the characters that we have in the Dreamclub and then it all comes together in a satisfying finale, which nevertheless leaves the door wide open. In some ways the feature film is an incredibly lavish pilot episode for a possible TV series we’re wanting to do. I’ve written a rough outline for a thirty episode TV series. Though of course everything’s been put on hold by the pandemic. But yes, that’s certainly one of the things that I’m most interested in. I can’t wait for people to see this thing. It’s not going to be the best film ever made, but it’s going to be the sort of film that hopefully will be able to stop Northampton from completely collapsing into a black hole. I’ve tried to make this a very accessible, very funny, very commercial film, considering how incredibly fucking weird it is.
DAVID ERDOS: Well, what’s wonderful about the short films is just how captivating they are on every level. Obviously, your views on filmic adaptations of your former work are well known, but what’s great here is that like Jerusalem reclaimed the Novel as a film, here you’re reclaiming film as the prime location for the imagination and using the scope and scale of a film to break through the homogenised deadlock that many mainstream films still find themselves in.
ALAN MORE: One of the things I’m proud of is that our budget was so ridiculously low. The BFI offered us a million if we could find someone to match that. Then we had loads of people putting into the project and then pulling out again because they couldn’t get on with each other financially. And then we finally got backers who were putting what would have made us a £3.1 Million film, which is still not a huge amount of money, considering that it’s a film that has got quite a lot of stuff packed into it. And I was told it was going ahead, as by this time I was starting to despair of this thing ever seeing completion. Then I was told it was going ahead in October or November 2018. I noticed that there were lots of producers who were hanging around early in the shoot, and who seemed to be scrutinising Mitch Jenkins very carefully. But we got through it at an incredible pace and were getting some great stuff, and so at the end of it, at the wrap party, which we had at a Northampton restaurant which has probably closed down since then, I said that I thought we’d done really well to do all that on 3.1 Million, and then Mitch said, well, actually we didn’t do it for 3.1 Million. We weren’t going to tell you, until afterwards, but apparently, all of the backers had pulled out at the last minute and that it was just that BFI One Million. Someone on the crew at the time had said that perhaps we should give it a year or two to get some more backers in? And then somebody else had chipped in and said, you do realise that if Alan Moore even hears about this conversation, we’ll never see him again!(LAUGHS) So, the BFI said, well, Ok, we’ll be keeping a very tight eye on you, but if you want to try and do it for a million, go ahead. Though it won’t of course be a million as one hundred thousand of that is tax breaks. So, yeah, we got the entire film done for nine hundred grand.
DAVID ERDOS: That’s amazing. That would have been unheard of even thirty years ago, when you consider HandMade films etc…
ALAN MOORE: It just shows what you can do if you’ve got an imagination and a decent script.
DAVID ERDOS: Absolutely. And it also shows how morally irresponsible mainstream film has become. For the price of any low level blockbuster you could house the homeless in this country.
ALAN MOORE: Yes. Its become obscene, where the budgets of some of these films are like the budgets of several third world nations. So, we’ve done a really low budget film that looks like a really expensive film, because we just put a lot of talent into it.
DAVID ERDOS: Which seems to be the precept for most endeavours now. Style over substance has become more dominant in some quarters.
ALAN MOORE: That’s it. I think ours is a good film in the real sense. I don’t know how it’s going to be distributed, but it will be launching as I said in Spain in October.
DAVID ERDOS: You won’t need it, but anything I and we can do here to promote it, it goes without saying, just let us know.
ALAN MOORE: That’s a lovely offer, David.
DAVID ERDOS: It also connects back to what we were saying about visionary status. I don’t see the same kind of sustainable talents now like those who inspired me when I was a kid. Who are the new, or emergent visionaries now, that you recognise?
ALAN MOORE: Well, let me think. Probably Steve Aylett.
DAVID ERDOS: Of course…
ALAN MOORE: He’s working towards a new collage comic that is going to be called Hyperthick and which is even more demented than the similar stuff he did for (Alan’s own magazine) Dodgem Logic. It’s brilliant.
DAVID ERDOS: Heart of the Original, like all this work is breathtaking. Lint, Shamanspace, etc
ALAN MOORE: It’s a fantastic book. So yes, Steve Aylett.
DAVID ERDOS: Yes but Steve is of an age, isn’t he? I mean I’m interested in your answer to this, as I’m someone who taught all the disciplines; acting, writing, directing for many years, and began to come into contact with young people only interested in celebrity, or self promotion and who were less interested in expertise, context. I don’t think it happens in music, but in other forms, do you think there’s a different dynamic?
ALAN MOORE: Yes, Steve is of an age, but of course a spring chicken next to myself. Steve was born in 1967. As with Stewart Lee, a lot of these people were born, ironically, around the Summer of Love, and they’ve grown up to be cynical, hateful people! (GALES OF
DAVID ERDOS: Funny, that, Alan!
ALAN MOORE: Yeah, I don’t know what’s happened there. Though, I would also like to talk about a very young man whose work I’ve been very impressed by. It’s a guy who wrote to me called Ben Wickey. It was one of the most intelligent letters that I’ve ever received. He was talking about a project that he’s got, a comic strip about Salem. He’s already got to this credit that he was the artist on The Illustrated Vivien Stanshall, which was written by his widow, Kiki Longfellow-Stanshall. I’ve just finished reading that and it’s an incredible book. And Ben has also worked as an animator and done an animation film about Edward Gorey. But he was talking about this book about Salem and was mentioning of course Giles Corey who was crushed under paving slabs as a wizard at Salem. He was actually baptized, or christened at the font of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the round church in Sheep Street here. So, yes, he was a Northampton man. Apparently he was eighty when they piled the stones on top of him. And he took a fuck of a time to die. He was defiant to the end. His last words were: ‘More weight!’ Which is the title of Ben’s book. This won’t be available yet, but he’s just done seven copies of it, of which we were very grateful to receive one. That’s the first of two books that he’s written and illustrated, so he’s going to send that round. I mean, I am so far away from the comics field at the moment but that doesn’t mean that I will ever lose my respect for the comics medium. And Ben is doing some fantastic stuff in that regard. But yeah, there are people around in every field, who even if you are not seeing their work very much, that’s only to be expected. But they’re there and they are working towards some sort of a future. I think we’ve got time for one more question, if that’s alright with you, David?
DAVID ERDOS: Of course. Do you think then, that it’s about reaching large groups of people anymore, or is that future more about finding widespread and more selective groups? As a way of starting that culture again. Do you think that we need to start that culture again?
ALAN MOORE: Hmmn. Well, I myself would like to see a material culture. This might be because of my own prejudices. But I think you’ve got to have material culture before you can have material counter-culture. I think the idea of magazines is a great one. Maybe this is never coming back, but it struck me recently that the way that I and many of the people I knew managed to find ourselves in our current positions, or got to the point that we wanted to get to in life; a lot of the ways we used, are simply not there anymore. I was asked to do an intro for a very very good biography of Malcolm Mclaren that came out recently, and it occurred to me while I was reading it, that there was a particular scaffolding that enabled us to climb into those positions. It was Art Schools, Arts Labs, in my own case, to start with; the underground press, which then vanished, or at least the national underground press did. By which time there were poetry magazines, and they endured while there was the brilliant poetry boom of the sixties and seventies. Then there were regional alternative papers… then there were regional newspapers, whether they were alternative or not..there was the music press, which was one the ways I got into being an artist and writer. But all of the ways, all of the steps, all of the handholds that got me to where I am don’t exist anymore. And I am suspicious of the fact that the modern handhold are all owned by some tech company or other. I mean, I was talking to my grandson, one of my grandchildren, and he was talking about how at the moment he’s looking forward to becoming a Youtuber! I mean, he’s ten, you know..but then my daughter Amber who was in the background chipped in and said that maybe having your own Youtube channel was like having your own fanzine! And when I was talking to Jarett Kobek the other night he was talking about how he had started a book about Youtubers, and the tragic stories of a number of them, as he was saying that for a lot of these kids, unless they become one of the successful Youtubers, all they’re going to be or have are all of the disadvantages of being well known and none of the advantages. I mean, a lot of them – and I wasn’t talking about this to my grandson – but a lot of them have suicided. And Jared said, and this is very unlike him, that he gave up writing the book because it was just too depressing. He couldn’t actually face doing it anymore as it was making him feel terrible about humanity. So, yes, I’ve got my reservations about all the modern media. I would probably greatly prefer a return to material media, because I think when you’ve not got that physical artefact the atmosphere behind a counter-culture suffers. It’s an intangible and ephemeral feeling that needs something physical to actually coalesce around. There’s a number of problems that I have with virtual online culture. I can’t really comment on it much because I’m not part of it. But I’m not part of it for a reason. So, I really applaud any attempt to do print media, because I think people want them. It’s like vinyl albums…
DAVID ERDOS: The future is still in the past!
ALAN MOORE: Yes, I think it is. And we should also not assume that every new thing is progress. It might just be a new thing! It doesn’t mean that it’s better than what came before.
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, it’s the blu—ray argument, isn’t it? I don’t need to see the acne on the face of the crowd, it’s the beauty and composition of the image that’s important. Or the HD thing; it doesn’t look real, it’s actually a form of distortion!
ALAN MOORE: Low tech offered lots of interesting ideas that were needlessly abandoned and we could still go back to them.
DAVID ERDOS: Substance prevails.
ALAN MOORE: Exactly. At the end of the day, it does.
DAVID ERDOS: Well, that’s a wonderful place to end, Alan especially for an interview that will appear in a magazine and actual paper object. Thanks so much.
ALAN MOORE: No problem at all, David. And best of luck with it all.
DAVID ERDOS: One last thing I wanted to say to you is simple and heartfelt and also straight from the gut. For the vision you’ve shown over all of your work, both you and that work are deeply treasured, valued and loved.
ALAN MOORE: Well, thank you. That’s very much appreciated, David. And love straight back at everyone. Take care.
DAVID ERDOS: And with that, all was done. But the vision contines. Moore waits for no man. But let us all wait with him.
Written by David Erdos
Photos by Joe Brown