Clive : "I think we should start off with a piece of information that I think you should have before anybody else. Chris Ryall, who did the, in my estimation, superb adaptation of Great And Secret Show for the IDW company and Gabriel Rodriguez, who did the drawings - I have gone to them with a proposal for a 12-issue, completely original story which I have now titled and I just wanted you to have the title and the announcement rights of the project. It's called Torakator. What and where and how Torakator is, is secret right now."
Revelations : "That sounds mysterious - is it something you have written or something you'll be writing..?"
Clive : "I have written, I suppose. This is interesting actually... I, in a way, pitched this to Chris: he wanted to adapt something else and he came up to the house, he lives in San Diego and he came up to the house to talk about what we would next do. I said, well, before we get into sort of other novels, can I pitch something? So I laid it out for him, a half-hour pitch maybe and his first question when we were done was, 'Why?' and I said, what do you mean, 'Why?' He asked why I would give him a new story that could be a book or a movie. And I said the future of comic books depends on having unique work, I said I love this idea and I very much want it to become a work of art and I have great faith in both Chris and Gabriel. The trouble, the detail that Gabriel put into the creation of Quiddity and all the various pieces of The Great and Secret Show are extraordinary and I thought, you know, you guys deserve an idea I'm really passionate about, I said, and we're going to start off with something you'll love and not just be warming up something. And so that was my answer to 'Why?'"
Revelations : "And he accepted that answer?"
Clive : "Absolutely. He was very pleased..! Have you read The Gunslinger?"
Revelations : "The Stephen King story?"
Clive : "Yeah. It's actually collected now in a hardcover and it's not an adaptation of the Dark Tower books it's really a prequel and I think it's brilliant and beautiful to look at... It's not like Torakator at all, in terms of using the existing mythology, King's mythology of the story. Torakator is a new mythology... but pick up The Gunslinger, it's really nice."
Revelations : "We'll do that."
Clive : "I've got a bunch of things I want to talk to you about, but why don't you dig in first?"
Revelations : "I'm sure we'll be asking about many of the same areas, but why don't we start by reading you something? It's a passage from Les Dennis' autobiography, 'Must The Show Go On?' that came out last week - over the course of maybe twenty-five or thirty pages, he writes about the time he spent doing theatre with you. We sent him the photo of you and he acting in Dry Rot at school and he's included that in the book and he finishes that whole section with:
'A few years ago, when I was in LA, I went to see Clive at his home. It was the first time we had met in almost thirty years. We had tea, talked about the old days and chatted about what we were doing now. It was a lovely afternoon, but I forgot to thank him for the influence and artistic appreciation he instilled in me. I thank him now.'
Clive : "That is so sweet, so fucking sweet."
Revelations : "He's also just sent us the words to a couple of the songs from Hunters In The Snow that he says he still sings to himself sometimes."
"How fucking cool is that? I wouldn't even know what the melodies were... it's a long time ago..!
"My mother called me last week to say that she'd been called in turn by all her friends - my mother's not a great television watcher - to say Les had been on the Paul O'Grady Show and my ears should have been burning, but it was all very nice... If you get a copy of the show, I'd love to see it."
Revelations : "Sure."
"Let me tell you, I did the interview with the kids from Alaska [currently studying Abarat] and the
first thing they did, there were
sixty of them gathered in the assembly hall in Kodiak in Alaska, was sing 'Woe is me, Woe is me, I used to have a Hamster
Tree'. They then added, appended, I think between six and seven verses which had been written by two eight year old girls
which I am getting the words of and I, what I've done is I've asked Peggy, who is the teacher there, if she could put a care
package together for us - you and me - so that she can send photographs and information about the whole event so we can
put whatever parts you choose on the site, so I asked to check with parents, etc...
"They didn't record it, regrettably, which they will do when we do a second one - we barely scratched the surface so we will do it a second time and we'll have a tape on it."
Revelations : "So they were asking questions and you were answering?"
Clive : "Yes, they had thirty-three questions. I think the kids range from eight to thirteen, I'm not absolutely sure how that breaks down but I think that's right and there were actually fifty-eight kids assembled and an hour and three-quarters is a long time and you could hear a pin drop. It was marvellous and they were attentive and the questions were marvellous, you know about the names of the roads and whether I'd intended Candy's freedom road to be Lincoln Street and about Stillwell Street."
Revelations : "Yes, you didn't know how smart you were!"
Clive : "Yeah, right! I don't know! But it was also how enlightened they were about the social realities and the social impact of fantasy. I was impressed by how much they understood that fantasy was not just escapism; now whether this comes from Peggy teaching them or, I'm not sure how it comes about but they understood in a way that I'm absolutely sure I would not have understood at their age, that the fantastic is an absolutely perfect place, venue, forum to debate the sort of questions like redemption and love and all sorts of questions which fantasy can address very seriously and they were... there wasn't a single moment where I felt as though I needed in any way to simplify or dilute my language - every now and then I'd check and ask if everyone was understanding and there'd be a big chorus of, 'Yes'. It was extraordinary, it really was extraordinary and I think it's a testament to Peggy and her principal came in at one point and gave a thumbs-up so obviously he was very happy with the way it happened. It was the best, it was very humbling, it really was, it was amazing and it's made me go back to writing the books with renewed vigour and excitement because when you realise there's an audience out there that really does understand what you're going for... you know what I mean?"
Revelations : "And hopefully for every one person you hear about, there are 100 or 1,000 who you don't hear about but who are having the same pleasure."
Clive : "I think that's exactly right, Sarah, I mean, who knew Kodiak, Alaska... it's a place plucked from a map, an arbitrary choice, if you will, so those fifty-eight kids could really be seen as being, as you say, echoed in many places around the world. I really did, I put the phone down after an hour and three-quarters and wished I was still smoking cigars because I would have loved to have lit a cigar at that moment! I really felt excited about the book in front of me for a completely new reason - actually fifty-eight new reasons."
Revelations : "How much did you tell them about what's coming?"
Clive : "I tried not to spoil things, I certainly didn't give spoilers of any kind and I didn't want to be a tease either, I mean, it's a bit of a tightrope walk. They seemed very excited. Some of them are on Book Two but it depends which class they're in, so some still have Book Two to go so they feel less of an urgency because they still have Book Two to read. But they are very happy that it's a big story, they are very happy there will be five books, there didn't seem to be any grumbling or noise that it will take a long time for the books to be made, they seemed to understand that it was very important to me and I wanted it to be absolutely right."
Revelations : "The New York exhibition that opens this month is based in part around your Midnight Meat Train production sketches."
"Some of it is: nine of the Midnight Meat Train sketches are up there and of course the timing was going to be that the
movie was coming out in May but it no longer is, but I like the drawings very much, I think whether or no the movie's
immediately after it is academic but the drawings are fun. What I think is more fun is that [Alix Sloan] has some really lovely
paintings. I mean she has Lightning Tree which is a picture a lot of people like and I love and I wanted to have that - it's a
picture that very few people have come through the house without noting in some way or other.
"It was my intention to be there, you know, if the movie had been coming out and the movie company had been paying I would have been there at the opening, but it didn't turn out to be that way and in some ways it's not the end of the world because I'm so besotted by Abarat Three right now that being taken out of the zone to go and do something other, wonderful though that other something is, would have been a little hard. It also feels as though my paintings are going to have to support themselves on their own."
Revelations : "No-one's going to buy them just because you're there."
Clive : "Absolutely right and so it's an interesting test in a way. You know my hope is that there will be exhibitions all over the world in the next few years and I'm not going to be at most of them: I'm going to be writing or painting or whatever and those paintings have to be admired or not admired and seen or not seen without my being part of the calculation."
Revelations : "Also the Palace of Rain Lantern - I love the palette on that one... "
Clive : "I wanted to have a picture - I'm going to be a bit immodest for a minute - that people say 'Wow!' at. And she's got another one - Forest And Bird - which is one of my favourite paintings that I've painted, it's almost abstract."
Revelations : "It's an unusual style for you... "
Clive : "It's actually a style I've been quietly, not acquiring... I don't know what the verb is - what do you do with a style..?"
Revelations : "Developing?"
Clive : "There you go, I've been quietly developing a style and seeing whether it was applicable, not necessarily to Abarat although obviously that's an interesting one and that painting will be going into Abarat, but whether these colour fields, the very intense colour with those very remote, few defining lines, whether that was something that people took pleasure in or whether they wanted to have on their walls. It's a picture I really, really like and I'm very proud of."
Revelations : "And it's interesting that Alix and Bert chose that one to publicise the whole show on the press materials."
Clive : "Well, I think it's a very New York picture - I am told, and I'm just quoting, I don't know for one moment what the heck a New York picture is! Very plainly, Alix and Bert have a sense that the marketplace there is different to the marketplace in L.A., is different to the marketplace in Chicago. I mean, it goes without saying that they would know more about that than I and I'm very happy for them to make those selections on my behalf."
Revelations : "Because many of the other paintings have an association and might sell because of the association, be it the film or be it Abarat... "
Clive : "... but this one has to stand on its own, yes. It's a picture I could live with - I mean I could live with it because I painted it, I'd be forever critiquing it in my mind but, putting that aside, I like the fact that it hovers on the no-man's-land between representationalism and abstraction."
Revelations : "Wow. That sounds like you know what you're talking about!"
Revelations : "That is so rude..!"
Clive : "Thank you, Sarah, that was profoundly rude, wasn't it?!"
Revelations : "I know what he means, though!"
Clive : "Yes, I know, 'what do you mean..?' I seriously don't know what a New York painting is but I do know what that painting is. Is there such a thing as a London painting?"
Revelations : "Who knows? For sure there's a mix of different tastes here!"
Clive : "Here in L.A. there's a sense of fun which people like in their paintings. I'm not saying New York doesn't like fun, the paintings at this show are very diverse paintings in terms of their subject matter and their rendering and I'm very happy about that, I feel whether the show is a success in terms of sales or not I'm very, very happy with the pictures that are being shown."
Revelations : "How disappointing is the push-back of Midnight Meat Train?"
Clive : "Oh, not at all, in terms of just the common-sense of not being up against Narnia and then Indiana Jones. I'm not disappointed at all - I'm relieved. I wish they'd never announced that first date - we always knew when Indiana Jones was and I never knew why they would do this suicidal thing in the first place. Now I'm just glad it's gone back. There are a lot of politics right now going on and I'm very much just staying away from it and burying my head in Abarat and painting and, actually photographing and there's not much I can do when the people who are responsible for release dates and the marketing of pictures get together in a room, they have no interest in me, they have no interest in my opinion."
Revelations : "Well, what did you once say, they'd tend to say, 'you're weird, you don't understand.'"
Clive : "Yeah, I'm not sure they'd say 'You're weird' but they would say 'you don't understand' and you know what, they're right, I don't understand, I have no opinion on it: my job is to make the art and make it as successful as it can be and then I hand it over to Alix, I hand it over to Bert or to someone at Lionsgate or Lakeshore and I feel my job is done and I've discovered the more I try and keep my fingers in the pie when the pie has actually left my bakery, the more troubling and difficult controlling that becomes. "
Revelations : "Let's talk about the Book of Blood FX shoot that you came over to England for last month. We're no veterans of sitting around on movie sets but it all seemed very relaxed, very under control under John Harrison's direction."
Clive : "That's John for you. And that's one of the reasons why I like John so much, not just as a director but as a human being, you know, that's his style. He is very low-key, he's not a dramatic fellow, he just gets on with it. Once in a while you'll catch a little bit of tension in his voice because he's unhappy but it's very seldom. You know, the days were all made and the shots were got and I think a fine time was had by all."
Revelations : "I think it felt as far from Hollywood as you could possibly get and still be making a movie."
Clive : "You said a big thing there Sarah because that's exactly the point, exactly the point, yes. You know, if I am to continue to be someone who has dealings with movies it will have to be in a place far away from how this town works because I just don't have any interest in the politics of it, it's just exhausting, it's pointless."
Revelations : "Jonas Armstrong's a great name to get for The Book of Blood, a real big rising star."
Clive : "His performance was extremely brave, he dropped trou with no problem, very believable and very sexy, without trying too hard, you know? None of that phoney stuff you get in Hollywood. I was not aware of the Robin Hood phenomenon, tell me about the Robin Hood thing - we only get it on BBC America here."
Revelations : "They've dropped it into the 7 o'clock slot on Saturday, which is the slot Doctor Who owns, so part of the year Doctor Who's not on, Robin Hood takes over. They've got some really good scriptwriters - people like Paul Cornell. Having said that, we prefer the old Robin of Sherwoods with Michael Praed and Jason Connery. This new one seems played for fun at times, maybe it's aimed at a younger audience; despite the fact that Robin of Sherwood was scheduled earlier on a Saturday evening, it was somehow grittier - we've sat down and watched it again recently with our boys and noticed the number of people who get shot is astonishing!."
Clive : "It certainly took the mythology very seriously. It went into all that pagan background, like Herne the Hunter, and I liked that a lot. Robin's not just the good guy who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. "What sort of audience does this new one get, would the fans show up to an 'R' movie?"
Revelations : "Not the younger fans, for sure, but it's 7 in the evening, so it's an 'all ages' show rather than a children's show. There's been some great press around him being in Book of Blood."
Clive : "And I had dinner at Grouchos on the last night, just before I left London, with Sophie Ward and what a sweet and charming woman she was, so that was great. "And since then, since I came back, Simon [Bamford, who's also in Book of Blood] came over here to sit for me for the photo book."
Revelations : "Ah - you said you were hoping he'd come - "
Clive : " - to hang for a couple of days, it was wonderful."
Revelations : "He presumably combined that with the Horrorhound Weekend?"
Clive : "That's exactly right, and he got on a plane afterwards and popped on over and he stayed a couple of nights - which was not long enough, but it was marvellous. I got up and went to my desk, because Abarat still has me in its flow right now, I'm at my desk at seven in the morning and looked down at the pool and he's lapping the pool. It was great - it felt like, you know, this how I want my life to be. He's been my friend for thirty years, a feeling that wherever in the world we live, you know, I can still be friends with him and he can pop in for a couple of days, which is really what it was and we can paint together and eat together you know? And then there are other people painting here, so it's nice: you've got people making art everywhere - you know we've got people making music, and Mark Danforth who is making Jojo Baby - the documentary which I'm funding which is being shot in Chicago about this wonderful artist."
Revelations : "We don't know about that one...?"
"We slightly kept it under
the radar but I think now we can talk about it because he's right there shooting the footage. It's called Jojo Baby and it's about
a man we met in Chicago and is an artist, a gay man whose entire life is extraordinary.
"He has 500 dolls which he makes and they all have souls and names and hearts and histories. He has these castings he's made of people's erections which is something that goes way back to the old days of rock 'n' roll when there was a lady (whose name is going to escape me) but she was called the Plaster-Caster because she did cast the big names in rock 'n' roll. The collection is in private hands now but there was a film made about her, so he does this as well and he is the most extraordinary human being and this marvellous artist. And I said to Mark, if you want to do this, I'll fund you to make a documentary about him, just because I think this man should be honoured."
Revelations : "How does that compare or contrast with how you got involved with Mule Skinner Blues?"
"That was just something that came to me, someone I had known actually at what used to be Miramax, and he showed me
the project and I loved it and I said, 'well, anything I can do to help?' and he said, 'put your name on it!' and I said I'm very
happy to do that because that helped him and helped that picture. It was partially formed when I first saw it - this one has
been started from scratch.
"Mark was there for a few days of shooting and has now gone back two days ago to pick up where he left off and with another six days he will hopefully have enough material to put a picture together, but I guarantee that when you meet Jojo on film you will be amazed, he's one of a kind, he really is. And it takes me back to some of the people that I knew - there was a man called Pristine Condition, for instance, he came to my signings sometimes and was always really sweet, he had been one of Warhol's cross-dressing, you know, Garage people and then of course all that went away and those days of Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling with all that glamour and Joe Dalessandro and so on, all of that sort of vanished long before Warhol died, it only sustained them for a certain period of time I think. But Pristine Condition had extraordinary photographs which he shared with me of what it had been like back in the day, how glamorous, the high times that were being had by all. I like to think that there's something similar on a much, much smaller scale happening now - that we are trying to find artists out there who deserve attention, deserve to be honoured - Jojo is the first and I'm hopeful there'll be many more. Jojo is doing it in a way that people who like Lord of the Rings wouldn't necessarily like but it is nevertheless absolutely the work of a fantasist, a man who is dreaming with his eyes open."
Revelations : "It's fascinating to hear you talk in that way - we finished off our introduction to your non-fiction collection last weekend and in that we've written a little about how you've chosen the subjects of your non-fiction pieces - seemingly with quite a lot of care in terms of the people you've chosen to celebrate or write introductions for."
Clive : "I'd like to hear your thoughts on that because I think maybe I have but I haven't been aware that I have."
Revelations : "In terms of under-celebrated media, for example doing introductions for graphic novels at a time when graphic novels were not mainstream media - harking back to what was important to you, going through the dusty old boxes at Bascombe's, but also pulling out things you've felt should be celebrated because they're wildly creative, like what's gong on in Beau's work or DemonicSex as well as adding a celebratory voice to better-known artists like Giger. With the number of people looking for a brand of endorsement, actually picking through to the ones you've felt moved to want to write about has come out as one of the themes within the book."
Clive : "This is fascinating, because I've never thought about this before - it almost wouldn't be my business to think about this."
Revelations : "We've talked in the introduction about certain people who helped you at the start of your career and where you both returned the compliment and moved on to help certain others."
Clive : "I think this is wonderful, because you've got to pass it on. I think one of the reasons you have to pass it on is because mainstream media are so antithetical to the fantastic. You know, I always remember that quote from the guy at MoMA that the only way Giger would ever get into MoMA was if he paid for a ticket, which actually hurt Giger because he felt as though he would not be seen in his lifetime as what he believed and I believed he deserves, which is about a validation of his genius. This is a man, you know, who defined his own territory - now you might not even like his territory but it is unique."
Revelations : "It's instantly recognisable and the fact that so many Taschen books and posters and prints sell is an audience validation."
Clive : "Right, and the gurus who sit in judgement on the boards of these galleries don't look at what is really there and is really moving people on a day-to-day basis - whether it be the drawings of Jack Kirby, for instance, the great comic book artist or whoever - these should be in the Guggenheim, should be on the walls of the MoMA and you know what, instead we get this crap, we get a lot of this stuff that in theory should be good for us whereas this other art which really is influencing and deserves to be analysed if only because some of the paintings aren't particularly pleasant and it might be worth a criticism just from that point of view, I mean I love Giger but I think he's a misogynist and I think that's worth analysis."
Revelations : "A mass exhibition of all those 'unfashionable' pieces by different artists would be amazing."
"And it would be totally cross-media. I mean it would move through rock 'n' roll and the covers of albums and the endless
influences of fantastic fiction, be it Michael Moorcock or Tolkien or whatever on the bands that people were falling in love to
or dancing to...
"Just to finish up on the movie thing, I think Anthony's going to start shooting Dread in Scotland in June... Dread will be modest, it won't be a huge movie, it's essentially a haunted house story... It doesn't have a lot of prosthetics and so on, it's very realistic, it's not fantastical and he's written an amazing script... so that will be the second of the movies we're making from the books."
Revelations : "Great. Now, we've skirted around the theme of Abarat Three - how's it going?"
Clive : "Very well, very well."
Revelations : "You were reading us Chapter Thirteen with the ink still wet a few weeks ago, where are you now?"
Clive : "I'm on Chapter Twenty-Seven now, so that feels about right, I'm about 50,000 words through the final draft, which is a little under halfway. I think the other books are about 110,000 to 120,000 words. So it'll be of that length. I just had one of those emotions where you go 'Oh fuck, I should have done that..!' So I backed up two days ago to go and do that and I was so pleased. You know, Chris is typing it and every now and again I'll check in and see what he's feeling and what he's finding a little tiresome and I'll listen to him, of course, he's the first person reading it and he made a casual observation which got me thinking about something and I thought, my God, I could do this - it's actually to do with Bill Quackenbush and his possession of the hats which had belonged to Wolfswinkel."
Revelations : "You mentioned he'll make them into a patchwork coat of power..."
Clive : "I have been using the patchwork coat as something that happened more at a distance, it wasn't front and centre and I suddenly realised that there was a way I could make it front and centre that would be just tremendous. So I back-tracked a couple of chapters and wove this new element in and it just got me so damn excited I didn't want to go to sleep. You get to these places - it's always wonderful when you get to this place in a book where you just don't want to go to sleep and the last two or three nights have been like that because I am excited. There are basically five storylines in this book, five clusters of narrative elements: Candy obviously has one of those and she trails a series of other characters that you're obviously familiar with. So there are five of these and what I'm trying to do is make sure that the weaving in and out of those remains in balance - I feel a bit like one of those guys with plates spinning up on sticks, and who's racing back and forth to make sure they all stay up in the air, but actually that's part of the fun of it and it was inevitable that in this book I was going to have a lot of things in play and so there's a lot of stuff going on and a balancing act. I'm proceeding cautiously because I want to make sure we don't lose sight of any one character for more than three or four chapters and I'm actually having a blast and I'm painting at the same time, so it's all very good."
Revelations : "So you're sleeping less, you're getting up early to write, you're painting, you're photographing too... "
Clive : "I'm also healthier - I've had an operation which has changed my life."
Revelations : "So many people have been sending through their good wishes for you - "
Clive : "Would you pass, collectively, my thanks to those people, my love and my thanks - my thanks to all those people over the years who, at various signings or events said, your throat sounds bad, are you OK? And those people who said it showed something quite seriously wrong - you know, they were right, there was something seriously wrong but it was something that could be fixed, you know we're talking about perfectly benign growths which are now gone and I think you can probably hear it in my voice?"
Revelations : "Yes, in expression and in tone. And of course, all the time you've been replying to those people, 'there's nothing wrong' because that's what you believed."
Clive : "And there was... Inevitably when you talk about growths, polyps, people want to know whether it's benign or not. These have gone, there was nothing cancerous - the danger was that they were causing me to have difficulty breathing and swallowing and talking and now they're gone and I can't believe the change in my energy and the way I sleep more easily - you know I would wake up over and over again because I was stopping breathing in my sleep and I don't do that anymore and so it's been, for something that took an hour and a half to do, talk about life-changing! I feel incredible, I feel so good!"
Revelations : "And you had lots of things on before, before you got this extra energy..."
"I have been, in the last few years I suppose, slowly cutting back on a few things, saying 'I will let that be what it's going to
be': that's been the case with some of the movies, I've allowed Joe and Anthony to do their thing and trusted them to do
the brilliant things they've done, I'm proud of them. Now, just this allows me to come back to the place where I am sitting
right now which is at my desk with my dogs all round me and do what I do best, which is to write stories.
"I got a little too drawn into the movie business, you know, I think I did it out of some self-preservation. In the end though I have realised that the 'self' that I have to preserve is this self; the books will be there when the movies have been made and have been either good or bad or indifferent and, you know, onward... "I'd be much, much happier to be writing more books and painting more pictures in the years to come than I would be spending time arguing with producers - other people love it, you know, Joe loves it and he's very, very good at it; I am constantly wishing I was sitting somewhere quietly with pen and pencils and so it's really lovely to feel like I have a burst of energy and life to get on and move forward with the books.
"I got somewhere very close to something horrible happening to me and someone was looking after me - and that was what the doctor said when he first put the thing down my throat that Thursday and said, 'You're going to hospital tomorrow morning,' he said, 'Someone has been watching over you very closely so that you're here today and I need to do something about this or you won't be here much longer.'
"Trust me, I have said my prayers and I have given up my thanks and I'll continue to do that and my way of giving thanks is by using the gift of time to actually do what I'm supposed to do: write stories and paint pictures and I've got a huge amount left. I've had lots of flowers and letters and cards: and that people should be so sweet and that people have been so concerned, the most I can do in return is promise that I will spend the time I now have that I might otherwise not have had to be at my desk and write more stories and paint more pictures... "