Saturday, October 17, 2015

Interview with publisher KURT AMACKER by Dave Wolff

Interview with publisher KURT AMACKER

Before you started publishing comics you were working as a DJ in the Goth scene of New Orleans’ French Quarter. While you were there you must have become acquainted with many creative and interesting people. Describe your experience?
I started DJing at a Goth night right after Hurricane Katrina that was more artsy and rooted in the rock n' roll side of Gothic music. A lot of the Goth club nights in NOLA had shifted to electronic music. First I was with a monthly night, and then a couple of monthlies and some concerts, and then it was a weekly or two on top of that. It just got to be too much.
There are a lot of excellent, interesting people in the Goth scene. I've seen some of them find a lot of success. And, when their art or career takes off, they start moving out of the social aspect to be a creator. But, there are a lot of people (as with any social scene) that are just barflies, full-time fans, and drama queens. New Orleans is an amazing city, and I'm proud to be from here. But, it's also host to a lot of really destructive personalities, both to themselves and others. And working in nightclubs screws with your sleep schedule; you end up drinking more than you would ordinarily, and you find yourself wrapped up in the most asinine interpersonal conflicts. People want you to take sides in arguments and you really get dragged through the mud. There are also factions and subgroups arising all the time trying to vie for the business of a relatively small group of people (at least in NOLA), so the scene is constantly "at war." Eventually, over time, and I just threw my hands up and decided to focus on writing. I still DJ and host events fairly often.  My experience DJing has expanded outward to acting as master of ceremonies, moderating panels, and giving lectures on a few different subjects (oddly enough). But those are one-off parties or concerts where I'm specifically booked.

How long have you lived in NOLA and what first attracted you to the Goth scene there?
I was born in New Orleans. My father was a Naval officer, so we moved and returned a couple of times. In 2000, I joined the Marine Reserves, so that sent me back and forth a couple of more times for training and activation (I was Stateside the entire time, just to be clear). My attraction to the Goth scene was born of a love of horror movies, vampire fiction, and dark music. I think the thing that really initiated it was finding James O'Barr's The Crow on the shelf of a mall bookstore. Something about that sparked my imagination. Add normal teenage angst to the mix and a burgeoning interest in the arts, and off I went. I started wearing almost nothing but black in about 1994 and continued that way until sometime last year. I don't know if I'd even consider myself part of the Goth scene at this point, as my interests have expanded outward over the years. I'm sure half of the Goth scene in New Orleans would say that I still am, and the other half are still hoping I'll make a hasty exit at the end of a pistol. But, I really just engage with art and media that interests me. I long ago stopped worrying about others’ opinions about my tastes.

What did you perceive in horror cinema and vampire fiction that wasn’t present in mainstream forms of entertainment? How far back did you look to find movies and literature?
I think it was really the sense of mystery and atmosphere in quality dark fiction. It made me feel like an outsider looking in; that there was a depth of history and references and allusions that were going over my head. Within all of the darkness, there was greater knowledge that I was missing out on. Of course, that depends on the work of art in question. There are plenty of really terrible works of horror fiction and a slew of awful Goth bands. Sometimes, there's really nothing to see or discover. But, I found enough in my early experiences with horror films, music, comics, and literature that I stayed with it. And, vampires embody what most teenage boys are thinking about: sex and violence. I'm sure the power fantasy appealed to me. Teenagers generally feel pretty helpless, so it's understandable why they gravitate towards them.
To answer your second question, I dug pretty deeply through literary history. I read Dracula when I was 13 and Interview With The Vampire when I was 14. By the time I was 16, I went back to the beginnings of Gothic literature with The Castle Of Otranto (1764), The Mysteries Of Udolpho (1794), and The Monk (1796). Just prior to that, I had an English professor who turned me on to Romantic poetry, like Byron, Keats, and Shelley. About the same time, I started listening to the back catalog of British Goth bands (or so-called Goth, depending on which music critic you ask), like Bauhaus, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, and all of the others that everyone knows. Whenever I like something, I often start at the beginning (which means I'm perennially behind on everything). With film, I started with the Universal horror movies when I was a kid and then graduated to Bram Stoker's Dracula, the film adaptation of The Crow, and other cult movies I could rent. I've been obsessed with Nosferatu (1922) for years. I was too young to drink and too uncool to get invited to many parties, so I spent most of my teenage years buried in dark art of one sort or another.

Are those three novels that were published in the late 18th century rarities in Gothic literature? What can you relate to the readers about the tone and atmosphere of those written works?
They aren't rare in that they're out of print; quite the opposite, actually. They are rare in that most of the original Gothic literature has been lost. There is a company called Valancourt Books that has done a great deal of "literary archaeology" in tracking down lost titles and reprinting them. But, the problem is that most of the original books weren't very good. They were the equivalent of bad romance novels. The classics like the three I mentioned have lived on, fortunately.
Gothic literature, as opposed to simple horror fiction, has a few very specific themes and settings. Usually there is a castle or other building of Gothic architecture: a castle or an abbey, for instance. Inside its walls, usually you find a virtuous female protagonist pursued by supernatural forces, a sinister foreign villain or nobleman who wants her for himself, and, ultimately, a more virtuous male hero who arrives to save her. It's all very melodramatic, really. And that's only a template. The books all travel in many directions. But, I think a key feature is atmosphere and mood over outright horror. And again, this is subject to the whims of the writer. The Monk is quite gruesome and shows demons, incest, and all manner of ghastly goings-on. I think Ann Radcliffe's description of the mood the Gothic evokes is best stated in The Mysteries Of Udolpho--it should make the reader feel "a gentle melancholy." The best Gothic novels are deeply immersive. I spent several glorious weeks as a teenager reading Udolpho, and imagining the foggy mountains and decaying castles. To most modern readers of horror, the original body of Gothic literature would probably come off as a bit stodgy and boring. Their Victorian counterparts like Dracula, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights are a bit more palatable to modern readers. But, I think the earlier titles are worth a look.

Could today’s authors use some influence from The Mysteries Of Udolpho?
I think so. A lot of modern popular fiction (and popular anything) is really dependent upon rapid fire plot points, action, and "ease of use," for lack of a better expression. Beautiful, contemplative, engaging prose has largely fallen by the wayside for an approach that treats fiction like movies or TV on paper. Most popular fiction reads more like a treatment for a screenplay, rather than a book trying to achieve traditional literary merits. The Mysteries Of Udolpho would be a bit of a slog for most readers these days, and it is a very long and slow book. It's about 600 pages of fine print, much of which is concerned with describing the landscape of rural Italy, the eerie castles in which Emily St. Aubert finds herself, and the dense origins of its many characters. We live in an impatient culture, myself included. I'm curious to see if I can finish this part of the interview before I check my iPhone. A lot of people want prose that moves like an action movie or a TV show.
People are free to read what they like, but it's like watching someone turn down a prime steak to eat fast food. But, Udolpho is beautifully written and I recommend it. It just takes a lot of patience and period of adjustment.

It’s interesting that you bring up the prime steak and fast food metaphor considering how the media has been geared toward feeding the public instant gratification and leaving no room to think. Especially in movies that have so much overdone CGI that everything is moving faster than the brain is allowed to take it all in. People would rather be dazzled by special effects than take the time to take in a good story. Would you consider this a form of hypnosis?
I don't think I'm medically qualified to call it "hypnosis." I do think that it conditions our minds to expect a certain level of stimulation that it grows accustomed to over time. Most popular movies are shot like music videos these days--quick cuts and emphasis on really peak moments of action, humor, and what have you. That doesn't make them bad, necessarily--just fast. Watch a Stanley Kubrick movie and then a modern comic book adaptation. The former is remarkably slower and more meditative than the latter--and I like comic book adaptations just fine, I should emphasize (especially Christopher Nolan's Batman films). But, if you watch any film from before the advent of MTV, you'll notice there are more long pans and moments where the camera lingers to allow the audience to take in the shot. Now, audiences are conditioned to expect something like a visual and aural assault. It literally conditions your brain to need more and more stimulation over time, like a drug. Thus, it makes it more difficult for independent films, "art house" (whatever that means), and anything with a more modest pace to find traction in wide release. It's the same thing with the Internet and social media. The constant barrage of content and its availability on smart phones has destroyed my attention span. I have to discipline myself to simply read without checking my phone every couple of pages. Your brain likes flashing lights and rapidly changing images, and then it needs more and more to feel stimulated. South Park actually did a great episode about this sort of addiction, using "freemium" games like Candy Crush as a model.

How would the approach to writing The Mysteries Of Udolpho help the genre if its atmosphere was reawakened? What else has Ann Radcliffe penned that you would recommend?
There are modern works of literature out there that strive for the same level of glorious prose, carefully paced narrative, and atmospheric reflection. But, that brings up the endless debate over popular fiction versus literary fiction. I should be clear that I read some of both, though I find I enjoy the "junk books" of a hundred years ago more (the Weird Tales pulp writers like Lovecraft and Howard; and before that, Arthur Conan Doyle). To say that I maintain a diet of purely literary fiction and classics would be dishonest. But, I can tell the difference between the two. And, I wish that popular fiction would embrace a higher set of standards in both literary virtues and basic writing (like using complete sentences, for God's sake). That said, there were a lot of truly terrible Gothic novels written alongside Ann Radcliffe's work. Those works have been largely forgotten (except by me), and it fosters an illusion that books "used to be better." While some would still argue that point, I'd say it's highly debatable. Most of the time you only recognize a golden age after the fact because the worst of the lot fades away. And for more of Ann Radcliffe, read The Italian.

How would you summarize Radcliffe’s The Italian and why would you recommend this publication?
It was Radcliffe's last book published in her lifetime. In short, an Italian man from a wealthy family falls for a poor orphan who lives with her aunt. He wants to marry her, but his mother is horrified at the thought. She appeals to her priest to help dissuade her son. The priest then interferes with their courtship, including posing as a ghost to warn him away and having the young woman kidnapped. She is forcibly sent to a convent, and the young man sets out with his servant to find her. Adventure ensues. Radcliffe's writing was still really amazing by that point, and it's also quite a bit shorter than Udolpho, so it might serve as an easier starting point for modern readers.

Did you read Weird Tales on a regular basis? What do you most appreciate about Lovecraft and Howard?
Well, the original Weird Tales ceased publication in 1954. It has been revived in different iterations a few times since then, but contrary to rumors I wasn't around back then to read it! But Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft were two of the standout writers among many there. And, both writers have gone through an odd critical transition. They were considered pulp trash at one point, and then a handful of scholars and literary critics started to speak out in favor of them. Collected editions started to trickle out throughout the 20th Century. In the case of Howard, there were a lot of editions that were made up of edited versions of his stories or expansions on his notes or partially written stories. Lovecraft got off a little better in that his work was largely left untouched, if unappreciated. But without dissecting their entire publication history, suffice to say that complete and unexpurgated editions of both authors are available now.
To answer your question more directly, I appreciate Lovecraft's inventive, quirky wordplay. The man could string adjectives together like few authors! But, the cosmic horror that he's known for, and most people love him for, is well worth considering. Lovecraft understood that the most frightening things would have to be incomprehensible to mankind. His narrators always describe things in the most ostentatious and spectacular terms: "the eldritch horror of consuming oblivion from the scythian depths of nothingness!" For a long time, that overuse of adjectives and abstraction really side-lined him among literary critics. He was considered either a poor man's Edgar Allan Poe or just pulp junk. But, as enough rock musicians, role-playing gamers, and other assorted readers on the literary fringe aged into the mainstream, Lovecraft's reputation improved. Now, he has a Library of America volume, a collection at Brown University, and all manner of conferences and respectable attention.
I like Howard because he writes propulsive, intense stories that are clearly aimed at men. It's old school blood and thunder fiction. Howard writes briskly and vividly, and it's fast, violent, sexy, and accessible. I think he outclasses most of the contemporary page-turners (particularly fantasy). He was dashing off stories to pay the bills! And Conan acts in a way that most men would like to see themselves. He's largely amoral, but he has a code that he adheres to. He can't be defeated in combat. He has women hanging off of him. And ultimately, he becomes king by his own hand. And Howard's prose is so engaging that, like Lovecraft, he has a large and vocal cadre of supporters for the idea of Howard-as-literature. It's a strange transition, wherein the "junk fiction" of one era becomes the literature of the next.

Do the film versions of Conan (the 1982 film with Schwarzenegger and the 2014 remake) sustain Howard’s original myths?
Not really, though the remake really nailed the character. Jason Momoa did a nice job of representing the literary Conan against a very messy script that had been, as I understand it, cobbled together from many drafts over time. Howard describes Conan as lean and panther-like. He wasn't quite the bodybuilder that Frank Frazetta introduced to the world via the paperback reprints in the 1960s or Marvel Comics. But, the 1982 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger has a lot of call-backs and nods to Howard's original, but they are more like allusions and bits of the stories rearranged against a very original script. But, I still love it. Conan the Barbarian is one of my favorite action films. It's not as faithful to the source material as Robert E. Howard aficionados would like, but it's a fantastic movie on its own. It really draws you into the atmosphere of the Hyborean world. Arnold Schwarzenegger had his own spin on the role that has grown better with age. I could talk about that movie all day, so I'm going to stop here. I'll just say that I hope they finally make the sequel that I keep hearing about.

What made your English professor imagine you would appreciate the writings of Byron, Keats and Shelley? What did you appreciate about those authors when you read their work?
It was part of the course curriculum. He wasn't tutoring me privately or anything. We did have a lot of long, interesting chats about film and literature. When he had time, he would answer all of my stupid questions about certain directors, bands, and artists. Ultimately, he gave me a lot of direction.
Regarding my own interest in the Romantics: I'm no expert, and I don't read nearly as much poetry as I should. I'm trying to rectify that, along with my hundreds of other shortcomings and bad habits. But, I've always gravitated more towards the Romantics and the Victorians like Lewis Carrol, Edgar Allan Poe, and Rudyard Kipling than modern poetry. I think the adherence to form and more traditional structures makes it easier to judge and appreciate a work. Free verse as the norm and the anarchic attitude towards criticism (of poetry, specifically) has really turned me off of most modern examples. It doesn't mean there aren't exceptions, but I don't go seeking a lot of newer poetry.

Edgar Allan Poe is an author cited by many interviewees as a major source of inspiration. Were there any particular aspects of his writing that stayed with you? What makes you prefer Kipling and Carrol to modern poets?
I think Poe stands out in that many of his most famous protagonists are (excluding Dupin) suffering from very real and personal horrors, in addition to those occurring around them. They are truly haunted, disturbed, or ill people, or their associates are, as in the case of William Legrand (The Gold-Bug) and Roderick Usher, who are described by another narrator. That was an aspect that Dani Filth and I wanted to imbue Lord Impudicus with in The Curse of Venus Aversa: that he is tortured by melancholy and succumbing to his various chemical dependencies. I prefer older poetry simply because, as I mentioned earlier it adheres to a more formal set of standards that I find makes it more accessible. It's interesting to see the clever word-play a writer will summon when they're working within an established format. I don't mean to dismiss every poet who was ever published after 1899. I've always liked Sylvia Plath. But, poetry seems easy to write. Consequently, you have a lot of people (and we have all done this) pouring out their feelings in what amounts to free-form ranting. That kind of thing is more fit for a diary than publication or presentation, I think. But there's a lot of bad everything, so what do I know?

I read Sylvia Plath in high school. Which of her poems have remained embedded in your consciousness?
I'm no expert, to be perfectly honest. Obviously, "Daddy" and "A Lesson in Vengeance" stand out in everyone's mind. And, I read "The Bell Jar" in college and rather enjoyed it.  I think her poetry appealed to me in high school because it was patently darker than a lot of other material that was available to me. When you're fourteen and your parents and school control most of your artistic diet, you look for the shadowy corners where you can find them. I'd see parallels and allusions between some of the bands I was listening to, and things that would pop up in English class from time to time.

For me, the most memorable moment in the movie Nosferatu was the scene when the door swings open by itself and the vampire Orlock enters the room. The scene is almost iconic. What scene from that movie has stayed with you?
I think the scene where Thomas Hutter has to sit with Orlock by the fire and talk all night. Hutter can't really acknowledge that his host looks truly monstrous, because he's there on business. And he can't escape to his bedroom out of politeness. So, he's forced to (we presume, after the scene concludes) to stay up all night making small talk with someone who looks like a giant rat. That struck me as something that would be truly disquieting: having to make small talk with a monster.

What was it about The Crow that fueled your imagination to immerse yourself in Goth culture? Where did your expanding interest in the arts come into play?
I've always loved comics as a medium. By the time I read that, I'd moved on from reading most superhero titles and started into "graphic novels" for adults (whatever that means). When I found James O'Barr's The Crow, it struck me as so much more intense, dark, and literary. I'd had this notion that comics could be better than a lot of the mainstream clutter coming out in the 1990s, so I read what everyone else did: Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, V For Vendetta, Maus, and a handful of other alternative or offbeat titles. So, I found it at the right time and it was exactly what I wanted. I also found it when I'd started to learn about some broader literary devices in the same English class I mentioned earlier.

What do you think of the Blade comic series that was made into a film series beginning in the late 90s?
There have been several Blade comics, but he hasn't had a single series last for very many issues. It's odd, because he's a great character that hasn't found a truly great writer since Marv Wolfman created him in Tomb Of Dracula in 1973. Blade was very different back then. He was a black Englishman living in "swinging London." He wasn't a vampire or half-vampire, but they couldn't turn him. Deacon Frost, the vampire doctor who attended to his pregnant mother, bit her and "immunized" him against their infection. His dialogue was reminiscent of blaxploitation films, and would come off as a bit dated to a lot of modern readers (especially those who saw the films). But, he was an interesting character in a time where there were only a handful of black superheroes. And like The Punisher, he didn't really have any superpowers--it was all training. He remained on as part of the supporting cast of Tomb Of Dracula, and appeared in some of Marvel's mature-readers black and white magazines. That's the Blade I really love. I think the first two films with Wesley Snipes are amazing, but none of the modern comic book renditions (both before and after the film) have really held up the way Marv Wolfman's earliest version has.

I like the first two Blade movies; the third seemed like a parody of the series, Goth culture and vampire lore in general. Watching the first movie I kind of viewed Deacon Frost as an antihero of sorts who sees humans as evil.
Don't remind me that 1998 was 17 years ago! I remember seeing the first one in the theater with my father and my sister right before starting college. Vampire movies based around anything almost always succeed. That's why they make so many of them. Even the worst ones can make their money back on a distribution deal with Netflix or Redbox. I didn't really see Frost as an antihero, especially given that he opposes not only Blade but the vampire hierarchy. He's a great villain, but he's the equivalent of a political extremist. I find supernatural fiction that spends a great deal of time damning humanity to be kind of pandering and tedious. It's really just trying to appeal to teenagers and misanthropes who think they're above the rest of us poor sods. If history documents events as they happened, art should document and comment upon how people felt. Ultimately, a work of art should leave you as a better person. Characters like Frost are villains because they hate us for the very humanity that defines us. And, anyone that claims despise humanity is either a monster or a hypocritical serpent eating its own tale.

Would it be possible to make a movie about a vampire antihero without the kind of pandering you describe? One in which the vampire is not the good guy out of a sense of moral superiority, but because humans in the storyline see themselves as above those they revile? I broached the subject after putting thought into the idea that beings perceived as evil are not as bad as those who shun and hate them. Or if not that, what would be an original idea for a vampire movie that hadn’t been tried before?
Vampires introduce countless variables in storytelling. In their simplest form, they speak to our most basic human concerns--the relationship between consumption and survival, fear of disease, fear of damnation, and more. I think that it's possible to have a vampire antihero that is above all of us, but it would be a really cynical film. Granted, there are some truly misanthropic movies--ones that convey the idea that humanity is too far gone for redemption. Some of them have even been brilliant. But, we see the darkness so that we can better strive for the light. I think that a lot of really misanthropic art (particularly horror) serves to just pat the viewers on the back and reassure them that they're better than everyone else. In this case, bad vampire movies often just congratulate teenagers and people with low self-esteem on how much better they are than those jocks/preps/normals/whomever.  Some people don't fit in, but that doesn't mean they're superior to everyone else. In actuality, a film that misanthropic would look down on its creators, it audience, and everyone else. I want to learn from art. But, I don't want to learn that I and all of mankind are irredeemable, and deserve only to be eaten.
There are certainly some vampire movies out there that end with the vampire living happily ever after (and happy to be vampires), but I can't think of any that aren't comedies. Twilight comes to mind, but I think that really just proves my earlier point about escapism.

It’s a double edged sword since people are taught from birth that they are inferior if they don't fit into the norm of society and almost warned not to be individuals or they will be ostracized. Mainstreamization aside, some revel in the vampire mystique and connotations of being undead in that they embrace their individuality without feeling better or worse than anyone else.
I think you can like vampires (or anything else) without using fiction as a crutch for your shortcomings or lack of self-confidence. Really, I think the difference between "high" and "low" art is its relationship to the audience (and believe me, I've loved some "low" art over the years). If the point of your story is "being a vampire is awesome," then you're just providing escapist comfort food. If it's an exploration of what a creature might experience--the loss of humanity, how time would feel much shorter, the ability to witness so much history etc.--then that's something interesting. I find vampires fascinating as an archetype and I love them in fiction, but I don't lose a lot of sleep wanting to be one.

I avoid such oversimplifications as “awesome” and “cool” in favor of explaining why something is awesome or cool. Of course I know it is a fictional subject but at the same time I appreciate vampire tales that have something to say about a given subject.
I think it might be clearer to say that if a work about vampires (or superheroes or detectives or soldiers) provides only wish fulfillment for the audience, then it's probably just derivative. That's certainly okay sometimes, but there's just so much more out there. Great art shouldn't prey on our inadequacies. That's what much of advertising is for: to tell you you're somehow lacking and to get you to buy a product. That's how I feel about a lot of popular movies and entertainment, though not all. The James Bond films are a great example. The last few before Daniel Craig took the role had just devolved into consumer porn for cars and men's products. Once Martin Campbell came back and directed Casino Royale, he managed to examine how very tragic and violent a man like that would have to be.

I’ve noticed from artists like Voltaire and Jerico De Angelo, that Goth has pushed its boundaries so much that it doesn’t only entail wearing black these days. As you have expanded your interest have you seen examples of this?
The fashion has expanded so far out that quantifying its tropes would take an entire book. I'm hardly an authority these days, but my wife still gets Gothic Beauty, and I see that when I have a chance to look at it. Obviously, there are still some aspects that will never go away: the black clothes, the allusions to fashions from different historical periods, etc. These days, I'm generally in favor of people wearing whatever they want.

What is your general view of Gothic Beauty as a publication? Do you read the goth magazine Propaganda? If so, what have you gotten out of it?
I'll glance at Gothic Beauty from time to time. I'm glad they've continued as a print publication, to be sure. Outside of some odd layout decisions, I mostly enjoy it. It's rather light reading overall, but I doubt anyone is going to publish the mammoth quarterly journal of Gothic literature, film, visual art, and fashion that I dream about. I also like that they have a reasonably broad perspective on dark music, and don't restrict it only a handful of subgenres. Dani Filth has been interviewed in it, for example. I think Propaganda ceased publication in 2002. I enjoyed it when I was younger, because it gave me a line on a lot of the bands I would go on to listen to in college. One of their main models, John Koviak, went on to create some really stunning music under the name Sub Version, as well as performing with Faith And The Muse. It's odd because a lot of those magazines were and are really committed to the Gothic subculture as a cause. I took that idea seriously for many years. Lately, my interests have diffused a bit, so I feel like something less of a member than I used to. And, I'm also incredibly cynical about subcultures in general. When I look at Gothic Beauty, I feel more like I'm reading about something I used to believe in.

Being a writer involved in the underground metal scene, I’ve seen some interpersonal conflicts, but I decided a while ago not to choose sides and channel my energy instead into continuing to support bands and fanzines. Those conflicts can be draining, but do you still like to DJ when you have a chance?
I'm a writer, but in many respects I consider myself an entertainer by trade. Sometimes that takes the form of lectures or writing workshops. As I mentioned earlier, I DJ and serve as master of ceremonies at larger events. I did both at a huge Gothic wedding here in New Orleans last year. I also just DJ'd in Pensacola, Florida at an event called The Black Syndicate this month. I DJ'd in Helsinki twice last year. I really love entertaining a crowd, but it really dulls the impact when you do it every week or even every month.

Can you describe the Gothic wedding you DJ’d at in New Orleans? What can you tell the readers about the Black Syndicate event in Florida? How well known is it and does it happen yearly?

The wedding was in December of last year at a concert venue in the Warehouse District. The bride made virtually all of the decorations and the food, much of which was inspired by traditional Gothic motifs (bats, cats, candles, etc.) and nerd culture (Dr. Who, Star Wars). A large swath of the local Goth scene attended (including an uninvited crasher or two), along with the bride and groom's family. I worked with the playlist they gave me, as well as my own entries. They asked me to really put on a show, so I dressed in a long coat, put my hair down, and carried around a cane topped with a silver wolf's head. After the ceremony concluded, we played a recording announcing me in a Dalek's voice over the "Imperial March" from Star Wars. So, I came out and gave a short speech and then announced the next few speakers and the various dances that followed (bride and father, bride and groom, etc). Then I DJ'd for the rest of the evening and, per the bride's request, stopped to tell bad jokes or say little atmospheric monologues. Outside of some technical difficulties, it went really well. I've known the couple for ages and they're dear friends of mine, so it was an honor. You can see pictures at The Black Syndicate is a Goth/industrial night that runs quarterly (or so) in Pensacola, Florida at a bar called the Big Easy Tavern. It's dark and chaotic in a way that I love. There is a chef there named Chef Grotesque who prepares dishes from organ meat for people to snack on, and they bring in DJs from outside of the state pretty regularly. It's a classy, well-run operation and the promoters are top-notch people who take care of their talent. It was my first one, and I can't wait to go back.

Does Chef Grotesque have a website or any social media profiles where his work can be viewed?
I think he keeps kind of a low profile, honestly. You just have to keep an eye out for him when he makes appearances and brings along a table full of brains, balls, and blood!

How many personalities from the local scene have you seen gain greater success and become creators in their field?

I haven't exactly kept count. Several people have really reached outside of New Orleans and found a larger audience traveling. Some started out as local DJs and then branched out into gigs out of state or with touring bands. Again, if people get good at something (whether that's filmmaking, comics, or fashion), they often back out of the social scene to concentrate on work. Any artistic medium requires more commitment in terms of hours than most jobs (obviously, I don't mean things like doctors, military personnel, etc.), so you have to decide what's more important: socializing or working on your projects. Otherwise, those things are at best hobbies in between club nights and bar outings. You are what you do every day.

Having worked in New Orleans, did you hear of a performance group known as Moonhoar? They are local belly dancers, but not your ordinary belly dancers. They dance to extreme metal, wearing outlandish outfits. I’ve watched several videos of their shows and interviewed them for AEA zine. Have you ever seen them perform live?
I've seen Moonhoar, and I know both Hairy and Warta fairly well. They performed at the third iteration of my yearly vampire ball, Fangtasia, which I put on with Jyrki 69 of the 69 Eyes. They opened for Christian Death. I feel like they add something really creative and different to a lineup. There's nothing wrong with another band, of course, but it really make people put down their drinks and pay attention when two beautiful women start shaking their hips to Nile or Behemoth!

How did you first meet the members of Moonhoar? Was your third vampire ball the first time you worked with them, or were there other events in which you collaborated with them? What’s this yearly vampire ball you mentioned?
I saw Moonhoar perform at a metal show a few years back, but I can't remember which one. Fangtasia III was the first time I worked with them. Again, that is my yearly vampire ball. It's a sort of official/unofficial True Blood party. HBO gave us permission to do it, but it's run by us.

What else can you tell us about The 69 Eyes? How long have they been around and how much material do they have out?
They've been around since 1989. They started out as a sleaze rock bank in Helsinki, and transitioned into Gothic rock with the album Blessed Be. They have ten albums to date. Their singer, Jyrki 69, and I met after a group I was working with booked the band for a concert here in New Orleans. We've been friends ever since. They filmed the video for "Borderline" here a few years ago, as well. Thankfully, Jyrki 69 and I see to find the time to meet up fairly often, even though we live on different continents. I like that they play music in the same spirit as The Sisters of Mercy, Rosetta Stone, and The Fields Of The Nephilim, but they also draw a lot of inspiration from classic rock and hard rock bands. I was a fan before I met them, so working with them on their comic book, and on the video, and the event is really an honor.

Describe the making of the Borderline video. How soon was it released after wrapping and where can it be viewed?
We spent three or four days running around cemeteries, parks, and the French Quarter looking for good shots. The interiors were filmed in a mansion on Esplanade Ave. and a bar called Flanagan's that is no longer with us. Nightwish was also in town for a concert, so we had a chance to catch up with a few of them and their manager (who bought me one too many giant fruity drinks on a particular evening). Shooting anything is a long and repetitive process. The end result is amazing, but getting there is arduous. I assisted the director, Patric Ullaeus, with everything from finding locations to shoot, to hauling gear, to holding an iPhone just off camera so that Jyrki could lip sync. And, many of my friends and I are in the bar scene of the video. So, we had fun. But, it makes you appreciate what filmmakers go through on a day-to-day basis: long shooting schedules, limited sleep, and short tempers! You can see the video here:

Was the Borderline video your first time working with Patric Ullaeus?
I'd never met Patric before we made the video. He and I (along with Jyrki 69 and Jussi 69) were on my friends Lord Chaz and Maven's video show, Bite Me, the Monday after we completed shooting the video. Patric is efficient, professional, and receptive. When he needed me to do something while I was working for him, he told me directly. When he needed something from me, he listened to what I knew about the local area. It was a great experience, and if he wanted to work with me again I would be there in a second.

Describe your appearance on the video program Bite Me? Where can it be seen and how often does it air?
Bite Me! hasn't run in some time, but I suspect it will return from the dead (as all vampires do!). There is a tour guide in New Orleans named Lord Chaz, and he was the one that really kicked off the entire ghost and vampire tour craze here. Now, there are dozens of tour companies like his. But, Bite Me! was a web video program he put on once a week with our friend Maven, who makes prosthetic vampire fangs. They had another host named Ross, who worked as DJ at a strip club--and remains one of the funniest guys I've ever met. They would talk about vampire movies and TV shows, review concerts, and just generally joke around on camera. They often had interviews with models, musicians, and anyone else of interest to the horror community. So, they had me on a couple of times as a guest to talk about comic book writing. And, I appeared with Jyrki 69, Jussi 69, and Patric Ullaeus after we wrapped up the "Borderline" video shoot.

What sort of writing were you doing when you got into it, and how did it lead you into the field of comics?
I started writing the script for my first comic "Dead Souls" while I was laid up in a barracks room in the Marines in 2003. Prior to that, I'd written editorial columns for my university's newspaper and scattered bits of bad poetry and prose. I seized on the idea of writing comics out of a love for the medium and a crippling fear of inauthenticity. I felt fake just reading them, like I had to create comics in order to justify enjoying them in the first place. That sounds strange, but it drove me to work. A friend had turned me on to Cradle Of Filth in college, and their music led me to reading more history. I finally had a spark of an idea based on what I was reading that wouldn't let me go. There were a lot of setbacks and I made several mistakes early on, but the first issue finally came out in 2008. I've been writing ever since.

How well was the first issue of Dead Souls received upon its release? Describe the characters and storyline?
Dead Souls was very well received when it premiered. We had a huge signing at a gallery on Magazine Street in conjunction with my friend's novel release. Almost everyone I knew showed up and bought a copy. Both Alan Moore and Dani Filth publicly praised the book. I'm still very proud of that first issue. Unfortunately, the quality of the art declined through the second and third. But still, for the third issue we had a huge concert with the industrial band Android Lust. The book is now being redrawn and remastered as a full graphic novel with an expanded storyline. Monty Borror from Cradle Of Filth: The Curse Of Venus Aversa is doing the art. The story begins with the historical Dracula, Vlad Tepes, living in New Orleans. He is immortal, but he doesn't know why or how. He meets Elizabeth Bathory, the notorious Hungarian noblewoman who murdered a number of her servants. They go on a brief killing spree, targeting criminals. But, they are being tracked by an organization made up of other immortals like themselves: serial killers, tyrants, and other historical villains returned from the grave. And, there is a hunter of sorts who has the only means to kill them. But, he plans to use Vlad and Elizabeth for his own ends. There will be more about the book released as the art progresses. We want to have a larger portion of the book assembled before marketing it or taking any kind of preorders.

Have you been distributing Dead Souls independently or working with a professional company?
At the moment, Dead Souls #1-3 are out of print. They were originally published by a company called Seraphemera Books. They were located in Houston but have since moved to Connecticut. We distributed them directly to shops, at comic shows, and online. The remastered expanded graphic novel will come out through my own publishing company, Dark Notes Press.

How long has Dark Notes Press been active and how much work does the company publish?
I started Dark Notes at the end of 2013 to publish Cradle of Filth's graphic novel. Immediately after, I used it to publish the third issue of The 69 Eyes comic book miniseries (the first two were published by Seraphemera). I also reprinted one of my older graphic novels that had sold out. I'm continuing to work with other publishers, but Dark Notes is mine and I plan to keep it around--both for a couple of my own projects, and from other authors.

When did you begin collaborating with Dani of Cradle Of Filth?
I've known Dani since 2008. I was a fan of Cradle of Filth for about six years before that. We met at a signing, and then I interviewed him as a supplement for the first issue of Dead Souls. He really loved the book, and we continued talking over e-mail and occasionally in person. In mid-2013, he asked me about working on the Cradle Of Filth graphic novel. I briefly panicked, and then agreed to do it. We spent the next several months going over the story, hiring the artist, mounting a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and then producing the book.

What is the nature of the storyline thought up for the Cradle Of Filth graphic novel? How much input did Dani have while devising the plot with you?
It concerns a libertine poet named Lord Daniel Impudicus in Victorian England. His fiance was recently murdered and he may be facing an obscenity trial because of a volume of lurid verse he published. He learns that another book was found at the site of his beloved's murder. And, it transports him to a haunted landscape where he encounters ghosts, vampires, and other horrors. We ultimately learn that Impudicus has an instrumental role to play in the formation of Cradle Of Filth 100 years later. To learn what that is, you have to read it! We've recently made it available for the Amazon Kindle, including through Kindle Unlimited, wherein subscribers to the service can download it for free (
As for creative input, Dani and I concocted the story. I wrote the script. Monty Borror drew it, and then I lettered it and attended to all of the post-production duties. Dani provided edits, notes, and input throughout. He was an absolute joy to work with. He provided solid, spot-on critiques and story ideas. Most fans probably realize that he's an avid reader, and we like a lot of the same material: violent history, Romantic poetry, and really old fantasy and horror. So, it wasn't difficult to put our heads together and come up with a story we both liked and felt reflected the band's more refined influences. I think we both wanted to feel like you could put it on the shelf next to some of those luminaries. I wouldn't presume to say it's nearly that good, purely out of deference, but I hope you can at least feel like it might have been written in the same era.

Do reviewers generally get the ideas you and Dani put forth in this graphic novel and what you set out to accomplish? In what ways will completion of this project break stereotypes of metal performers and expand horizons for metal bands?

We actually haven't had many reviews of the comic! It's funny because Dani and I kept the project really close to the chest. We sold directly to fans and the comic was entirely produced by myself, Dani, and our artist Monty Borror (and not to leave out our cover artists Jamie Huntley and Tim Lattie!). I think most of the fans understood it, though. As I said earlier, we wanted to make the book a standalone Victorian horror story that fans and non-fans alike could enjoy. Most of the "fan service" (excepting the cameos that our Kickstarter backers make in a few scenes) is very subtle, and takes the form of lyrical allusions, jokes, and imagery that works divorced from the context of the songs. All of the reviews we've received from fans have been overwhelmingly positive, though, and seemed to appreciate our intentions.

Can you quote some of the feedback Dead Souls has gotten from readers and fans?
Well, the most famous quotes were from Alan Moore and Dani Filth. Mr. Moore called it "A fascinating debut that delivers much and promises a great deal more." Mr. Filth called it "One of the best and most profoundly imaginative comics I've read for centuries." The fan response was, frankly, incredible. As I said, the art on the original trilogy is very raw. The writing is solid, but I feel like it's still an early draft of a better work. But, people loved it and it sold very well. I feel really fortunate to have started my writing career (in fiction, at least) with something people love so much--even as I see its many faults. But, the eventual graphic novel collection will have about 70 new story pages that allows the narrative to breath. At this point, it's not even (to borrow from George Lucas) a Special Edition; it's a remake. I can say that it will retain the vast majority of the original writing, so fans of the original series needn't worry. It may be edited or arranged a bit differently, but the plot is basically the same. The plan is to launch a Kickstarter when we've got the video done, and we're much better prepared this time than we were last year.

What other projects have Monty Borror, Jamie Huntley and Tim Lattie been involved in besides Dead Souls?
Jamie and Tim haven't worked on Dead Souls. They all worked on The Curse of Venus Aversa, though. Monty illustrated a graphic novel called Quarantined back in 2011, written by Michael Moreci. The premise is similar to George A. Romero's The Crazies or 28 Days Later--a virus that drives people violently insane. Jamie Huntley most does book covers and original pieces. He doesn't really do comic book work, but Dani Filth liked his stuff and had used a bit of it for another project. Tim Lattie has been working on a creator-owned series he funded through Kickstarter called Night Stars that will be out through Ape Entertainment. It deals with time travel and aliens, and connects the two to the crash in Roswell, New Mexico back in 1947. His miniseries Creeple Peeple (written by Matt Anderson and Patrick Pidgeon) is coming out through IDW right now. The second issue came out a week ago, and the third one should be along soon.

Are there other projects or collaborations you and Dani plan to work on together?
I should be publishing his poetry book through Dark Notes Press, but that's pending the release of the new album, Cradle of Filth's tour, and other scheduling issues. You can't flood the market with product, or people sometimes pick and choose--or they confuse one item for another. We're looking at a general retail release for The Curse of Venus Aversa sometime after the new album launches in the summer. There's just so much media out there now, that you really have to make sure you don't jackhammer people with releases. Everything anyone's ever liked is now a comic, a show, a t-shirt, a line of figures, and what have you, so you have to stage these things.
In any case, thank you for the interview. And, anyone who wants more can check out my website, Facebook, or Twitter. My publishing imprint also has a site.

-Dave Wolff

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