Thursday, 13 December 2018

Well, you've got lots of friends. Better ones. What's so special about her?

Why do you want to do this? 

She's my friend. 
She's my oldest friend in the universe. 

Well, you've got lots of friends. 
Better ones. 
What's so special about her? 

She's different.  

Different how? 

I don't know. 

Yes, you do. 

She's the only person that I've ever met who's even remotely like me. 

So more than anything you want her to be good? 

Are you having an emotion? 

I know I can help her. 

Yeah. Look at that face, he's having an emotion. 
Yeah. Yes, look at that bit, yeah, he's doing emotions. 

Oh, leave him alone. 

Can I take a selfie with you?

Your latest project Unearthing has gone through a number of different stages, starting off as a piece for an anthology put together by the pyschogeographer Iain Sinclair to how it stands now with these amazing photos and music by great musicians, along with yourself doing spoken word which is like performance poetry. I was wondering how much you've come full circle and returned to your days back in the Arts Lab in the late-sixties.
AM: Very much so. I suppose it could be argued that I'd never really gotten away from the Arts Lab, but certainly over this last year I have very much returned to my roots. The multi-media explosion of Unearthing rather took me by surprise, because it was such a strange project to begin with. It all really commenced with Steve Moore himself — the subject of the writing. Back in 1976 he bought a Chinese coin sword made of 108 coins all tied together and used it in this very simple magical ritual which he came up with on the spot. He used it to ask for guidance and perhaps a confirming dream. The next day, he woke up with a voice in his ear saying the word 'Endymion', which, he later found out, was the title of a John Keats poem. This started the bizarre course that Steve's life would take in many respects. It began his unusual relationship with Selene, the Greek Moon Goddess. So, in 2004, when Iain Sinclair asked if I wanted to contribute something to his London: City Of Disappearances book, I had something to write about. I'm always a sucker for anything that Iain suggests, really. 
Is Unearthing a work of psychogeography?
AM: It's more of a human excavation than the excavation of a place, but because Steve Moore has lived his entire life in one house on top of Shooter's Hill and he currently sleeps no more than four paces from the spot where he was born, it does become a work of psychogeography as well. So we do go very thoroughly into what Shooter's Hill is.
The etymology of the place name?
AM: Absolutely. Well, right back to the basic geology of how it formed. Apparently it was just because of a chalk fault that collapsed on the north side of the hill and that's what created the Thames Valley. So without that, no river Thames, no London. And yet it's this fairly isolated little hill, and there are lots of strange little places on it. We look into the place, but it's more an excavation of Steve's peculiar life which crosses into all sorts of different areas and crosses over with my life to a certain degree. It was certainly an odd little story that was self-referential. I've often found that if you write self-referential stories that feedback into your actual life then all sorts of weird things start to happen, or at least appear to start happening. Then Mitch Jenkins called round. I hadn't seen Mitch for years, but he told me he'd got to a point in his photography career where he was pretty much at the top of his field. He was bored of getting all these commissions to re-touch the irises of the latest American TV star, so he asked if I had any pieces of text that he might be able to turn into a series of photos. The only thing I had lying round was Unearthing. I said, 'Look, this is a bit big and unwieldy but there might be something in there.' Mitch came back in a state of excitement, saying that he wanted to realise it as this huge book of photographs. I said, 'Sounds good to me.'
How did it expand from that into music?
AM: Mitch said he'd been talking to the people at Lex records and they suggested all these wonderful musicians, which sounded fantastic. I came to this studio and recorded the various passages which the music was then composed around.
The piece has this ending where you describe sending the first draft of the piece to Steve and the instructions that he had to follow on opening the envelope. You read it, or listen to it, for the first time with him...
AM: He first read it exactly as it's described in Unearthing itself. I sent it to him in an envelope with the ending already written that was actually telling him to go out for a walk around this neighbourhood, and he did. He went all the way round to the burial ground and stood with his back to it, as I'd already described in my creepy self-referential story. He said he felt very weird.
Well, you would, wouldn't you!?
AM: He did actually feel a shudder run through him when he was standing with his back to the burial ground and since then his life has changed drastically. Unearthing itself was a big part of that in that there were people Steve had known for decades, and lived with in the case of his brother, who did not know how very, very strange he is. The thwarted love interest in the story read it and she was quite upset by it at first, but their relationship and their friendship recovered and became a lot stronger and healthier because of it. Steve has a new love interest. His brother contracted motor neurone disease just after Unearthing had come out and a couple of weeks ago Steve finally buried his ashes in the back garden. I was there with a number of the characters from the story. And, yes, this will eventually lead to a sequel. I have told Steve that I want to write a story called Earthing...
Would it be right to say that he's your best friend and he's been crucial to your career in a lot of ways? How did you first meet him?
AM: Oh yeah. Well, this was a different world, a long time ago. It would have been around 1967, so I would have been 13 and I was a comic fan. Every Saturday I'd go out and buy all of the Marvel or DC comics that had been shipped over from the States as ballast. And I would also buy the very few interesting British comics that were around then, which were mainly published by Odhams. They used to re-print black and white versions of the American Marvel titles. And there was an announcement in one of the issues of Fantastic that their new tea boy, Sunny Steve Moore, had got together with some friends and had put on the first UK comic convention. Now, I was probably too young to attend that, but I became an associate member, which meant that I paid some money and got all the literature. And in one of the fanzines that came in my introductory package there was an actual address for Steve Moore. I basically began stalking him and wrote him a couple of letters and we began a correspondence that has lasted for years. When I was starting out he was an invaluable help. When I decided to move from being a cartoonist to being a writer, it was Steve who read through my early scripts and told me to lose half the words and gave me a lot of pointers on how to do it. And then later it was him who inspired me to become a practising magician. In many ways, he's completely ruined my life!

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