Wednesday August 17th 2016
The Lodge Recording Studios, Northampton
Words, Interview and Enthusiasm by David Erdos
Sound, Film and Visuals by Keith Rodway
I: FINDING THE DOOR YOU DESERVE
DAVID ERDOS: Limited as it is, the reality defined by the way most of us now live it can be described as the limerick of a wounded imagination: Alan Moore is one of the major poets of our recovery. Meeting him was the fulfilment of a lifetime’s ambition, the chance to connect with a man whose body of work has helped to shape some of my dreams, thoughts and practise across the years and whose ideas, along with Heathcote’s have produced a lasting legacy for current and indeed successive generations.
Alan’s work stands in line with a select group of offerings that have aimed to transform, elucidate, challenge and educate, often in the most startling and entertaining ways. From William Blake, to Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Edward Bond, to Heathcote, Iain Sinclair, Angela Carter, and dammit, Anthony Newley, to all points in between, his graphic novels, essays, songs, stories and novels exist on a higher plane than simple changes or innovations in style and form. Those encountering such works are not only shown how to truly read and think but how to behave. For most of us that is simply to recognise the constraints we live in and attempt to comment and in some way change them. Heathcote Williams escaped from a certain type of English upbringing into a Sloane Square cupboard, and from that small sanctuary, attained the world; Alan has done so by making the humble and neglected boroughs of his Northampton upbringing, not only the centre of that selfsame globe, but of the magical one beyond it. Part of the appeal of this feature was the chance of bringing the two men together, albeit briefly. I was able to honour my own reverence for Alan’s work by enabling him to honour his gratitude for Heathcote’s and vice versa. It was a precious moment and part of an enchanting day, and allowed me to feel a real sense of purpose, by providing the mode of communication from which these two voices could merge.
The attached video introduction may be something to ask forgiveness for. My nerves were building as we waited in the Lodge recording studios for Alan to arrive, so excuse the small stumbles of speech. Luckily, for anyone who meets him, Alan Moore is the most engaging and considerate of men. His openness and generosity are well documented, his everyman quality complimenting his otherworldly experience, and this coupled with his gentlemanly cane and ornate hand gallery of rings intoxicates you into gratitude for his time and presence.
Read anything by Alan Moore and you will quickly realise that his work, views, approach and imagination are vital components for today and indeed, tomorrow’s culture and society. The responsibility of conducting myself well and creating a satisfactory experience for him was crucial to me and weighed on my mind. I am no cucumber in any regard and as such find it hard to be cool. Nettles (to extend the nature analogy a little further) are however there to be grasped, so I ask you to see through the stumble and glimpse the excitement and pleasure I was about to take. I was for these few hours the thing wading through the swamp (sic) of unknowing and he was the light shining through. Any of the work and titles mentioned in the film and subsequent conversation are worthy of investigation. If you don’t already have them, shame on you.
DAVID ERDOS: Alan had invited me Northampton which I had known well some years ago, but until I walked through the unassuming door of his preferred meeting place, the Lodge Studio I hadn’t realised it was the headquarters of seminal cult band, The Enid, who’s earlier incarnation had been the first gig I went to as a 15 year old. Mark, the joint manager of the studio alerted me to the noises and footsteps upstairs and who was making them. I had literally walked into the days of my own intrinsic formation. I was for those next hours, both blessed and transported. As we discussed the present and future, the past lingered and re-introduced itself, quantum like all around us. The concurrent strands of interest and dedication mingled perfectly and while I have done countless stupid things in my life, I have also completed my fair share of helpful and hopefully worthy actions. At a somewhat isolated time in my own life, I had been shown a long sought for door. Whether I deserved it was another matter.
II: THE SMALL SOUNDS OF APPROACH –
AN INTROPOEM BY DAVID ERDOS
The small sounds of approach herald Alan’s entrance.
Entranced I move shyly, admitting him to the room.
The conversation begins and there is not one stilted moment,
A flow of thoughts crest the airwaves
In tune with The Enid’s music upstairs.
Relflections of day. Incomprehension at Brexit.
Alan’s thanks for my present of Newley’s Gurney Slade.
We self reference for a while before talk turns to McGoohan,
That lost, sainted Patrick imprisoned by his own Prisoner.
All of the standards he set about the modes of perception
And that under us all is the villain
The Number One in our ego, subverting the hero
And exposing the slick dreams we all make.
Here is the kick and the thrill of touching one of my inspirations,
Along with the weight of the time he has granted
And that I am keen not to waste.
Keith’s camera turns. He can only film for an hour.
After that, the ideas continue, so new and real, they court taste.
III: TOWARDS JERUSALEM
(Questions and Film)
DAVID ERDOS: Here then is the film of that conversation. Halfway through a shared hero intervenes from the air.
IV: OTHER GOLDEN CITES – THE STORY GOES ON
(Containing a journey from Alan Moore’s Jerusalem through Four Dimensional Reality and onto Einstein and the illusion of Transcience, via the Snake God Glycon and the manifestations of Steve Moore’s Moon Goddess, Selene, all the way through to Timothy Leary’s shin and the re-invention of culture: A journey through the mind and materials of Alan Moore’s view of this and other worlds)
DAVID ERDOS: So there’s a tremendous range of emotions that bubbled up to the surface in me when you mentioned before about cutting off relations with many of the artists involved in the previous work; even though what I personally connect with – even as someone who started out as a painter – is less to do with the art and is in fact far more aligned to your own vision. The publication of Jerusalem is therefore of real significance, the signifier of a whole new period of practise, perhaps. I mean, its amazing to see a copy of it here on the table, as its something that’s been read about and discussed for a number of years. Is this going to start a new brace of novels and writings..perhaps not of the same length! Is it a million words?
ALAN MOORE: No, its not a million words. Let me –
DAVID ERDOS: Dispel that myth!
ALAN MOORE: Yeah. What happened was I was talking to my lovely, brilliant daughter Leah.. I have two lovely, brilliant daughters, but this one happened to be Leah and she was just calling up to check in with me and I said, ‘Last night I finished Jerusalem..’ and she said, ‘Oh, congratulations,’ and we had a little conversation and then she went away and because she is a modern person who lives in the modern world, she was on social media and she said, ‘My Dad has done it, he’s finished,’ and because I had said previously that it was going to be somewhere between half a million and three quarters of a million words, all the repetitions of that word ‘million’ had perhaps erased her memory of the qualifying half or three quarters. It went out as ‘he’s just finished his million word novel.’ And because of the way journalism works today, where I believe most of it is taken off the internet, this then became a Guardian article; it’s in the newspapers, so this is defintely true. It then gets back onto the internet that this has been in the Guardian and that gets picked up by other papers –
DAVID ERDOS: Language as a virus, indeed –
ALAN MOORE: Right! So in the end I’ve got a 614,000 word novel that ends up looking like a slender pamphlet, compared to what people were expecting. So, no, I would never do anything as big as this again but I don’t think I need to, I would have thought.
DAVID ERDOS: You’ve described it as the most readable thing you’ve ever written..
ALAN MOORE: Well, that was its intention. There are people who will be disagreeing with me passionately, possibly even violently when they get to chapter 25, which is a bit of a puzzle, but its certainly not the same as Voice of the Fire where there was the stone age dialect –
DAVID ERDOS: Yeah, I’ve got Voice of the Fire in my bag as we speak –
ALAN MOORE: Ah, Well I still have huge love for Voice of the Fire. That was my first attempt at expressing how I feel about the place where I live. So to some degree, Jerusalem is an extension of that. It’s not a sequel. But I was trying to get deeper.
DAVID ERDOS: There’s a lot more about your family in it..
ALAN MOORE: There is a lot more, yes.
DAVID ERDOS: There’s a connection to The Birth Caul –
ALAN MOORE: Indeed, along with the biographical and semi-biographical things that I’ve done. There’s probably also connections to (seminal and never completed – due to artist issues – graphic novel) Big Numbers. All these works are trying to express the same thing, chiefly the importance of the places where we live, the importance of the materials that are right here around us that we overlook in our quest for the exotic.
NOT SO STRANGE INTERLUDE:
At this point Rodway leaves, a film gig back in Hastings. Alan thanks and expresses his friendship and support. Keith mentions IT and an enquiry from the Roundhouse, where we posit performance as the answer to their needs. The Roundhouse have contacted IT as part of their 50th celebrations. They want something for their archive but we want something NEW for today. Alan is keen to resurrect a character formed as a reaction to Brexit; a fascist demagogue rising from the rubble of a broken society wearing a beautiful white suited robe but taking on the form of a Mandrill offering a dark Mandrillifesto proporting to show us all that we’ve done. A spectacular plan, that could exfoliate Iain Sinclair’s Politics of Liberation, Ah Sunflowering through the mire into which we have currently weeded ourselves. Keith ups and goes to the accompanying strains of The Enid. Alan and I then continue. A dream made real in Northampton. Just Alan and me in a room…
ALAN MOORE: So we were talking about Jerusalem and it’s connection to my family. It’s fuelled by the amount of stories in my family and the amount of bizarre stories in my family that to me, seem titanic. The imagery. The background..
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, there’s that great Stephen Poliakoff quote, that there’s at least three great stories in every family –
ALAN MOORE: Yes, I’m aware that there are these great and unrealised stories in every family group and this is one of the things that Jerusalem is trying to say. Mine was so weird. The strain of madness that was in the Vernon side of the family, with my Great grandfather Ginger Vernon, who turns up in the novel as Snowy Vernall and my father’s cousin, Audrey Vernon who the novel is dedicated to and who turns up as Audrey Vernall, and this was just one of the strands that I knew about. How my Great Grandfather used to just run up walls. You’d be talking to him, then you’d look away, perhaps at something on the street and when you turned back he’d be gone and three stories above you, admiring a particularly nice piece of chimney breast.. and how he was once arrested for drunkenly haranguing the crowds from a rooftop – something reported in the local paper of the time – I’ve also heard other family rumours of how he had retouched the frescoes down at the Guildhall and made numerous other adjustments throughout the town. There’s also much talk of a Great Aunt Thursa, who I’m certain existed, and yet Leah, who’s been doing a lot of the digging up of the genealogy of the family could find no trace of her, so whether she was a family friend who was known as an Aunt, or an actual relation is unclear. And yet she was completely mad. There’s reports of her taking her accordion out and playing it during the blitz, while the bombers were going over, totally unconcerned. I thought this was just wonderful. And then there’s the stories of my paternal grandmother who was a Deathmonger. Deathmongers; now I’m sure the word doesn’t exist outside of certain boroughs in Northampton, although I’m sure the occupation does. A Deathmonger is someone who in areas that are too poor to have Midwives or Undertakers, there is a working class woman – always a woman – down the end of the street who will take care of either for a shilling. So, if you’re about to give birth, you call the Deathmonger! If someone’s just died you lay them out and call the Deathmonger. And my Gran was one. Terrifying woman. But I believe she probably became one after the early death of her first daughter at the age of eighteen months, so, yes I thought, well, there’s a story there and a sense that all these stories have an element of weirdness in them. I knew for instance that Ginger Vernon had at one time eaten his way through a vase of tulips. And I can kind of see that, because they would look very succulent..
DAVID ERDOS: They’re a beautiful flower!
ALAN MOORE: ..so, he’d sort of lost it and eaten the tulips –
DAVID ERDOS: Perhaps as a way to feel better?
ALAN MOORE: I knew that he also, when he was down at my Gran’s house on Green Street – she used to have two mirrors on opposite walls and he became convinced that these were two windows looking into the rooms of the terraced houses and that you could see in these rooms the various patriarchs and that if he waved they would all wave back to him –
DAVID ERDOS: How long had you been aware of all these strands?
ALAN MOORE: These were stories, some of them, that I’d known since childhood and some I’ve come across later. There was also the family tradition that every Christmas, my Nan would get the entire family into the front room and would take down a pristine china pisspot from the wall and would fill it with a foul concoction of various spirits and then the whole family would pass around the pisspot drinking these interesting blends of whiskey, rum and everything else; Looney Soup! This is like discovering they were cannibals!
DAVID ERDOS: Invocation of the highest order. A magic ritual!
ALAN MOORE: Its monstrous. And Deathmongers of course, I’m assuming that they called them that since it became inadvisable to call them by their other name. Because women who helped with birth – most of the witches who were hung and burnt, were midwives, so Deathmonger was a term that was brought in strategically to replace the term Witch, or Wisewoman. This was the 1940’s.
DAVID ERDOS: And yet it’s the only necessary function.
ALAN MOORE: Absolutely.
DAVID ERDOS: I’m marked by the memory of holding my own Mother as she was dying, as if I was touching for the first and last time all that was crucial. And of course, there’s that picture of you in Eddie Campbell’s adaptation of The Birthcaul, holding your Mother as she passes..
ALAN MOORE: These giant women who stand at either end of life.
DAVID ERDOS: Is it fair to say then that in terms of your own life and how its developed, that you’ve consciously chosen the magic rather than the madness, because of some of these roots and connections?
ALAN MOORE: Possibly. It seems like a better choice to me. And I’m not sure how crazy any of those relatives actually were. Ginger Vernon – and this was something that Leah found out – he was the first cartoonist in the family. In bars, for the price of a pint, he would draw a caricature of somebody. And that was something I didn’t know.
DAVID ERDOS: Another link.
ALAN MOORE: I knew that he would have these incredible fierce tempers where he would break most of the windows in the house, and yet everyone respected him. Conversely, he was so respected for his craft that one of his acquaintances who was just setting up a business making glass and supplying a lot of big contracts asked him to be a director of the company he was setting up, on the condition that Ginger stayed out of the pub for two weeks. And Ginger said, ‘No, I don’t much like being told what to do so you can stick it up your arse,’ Later, his wife would really berate him as they’d walk past the mansion of this guy up on Billing Road, while they traipsed back to their little terrace dwelling on the end of Green Street, so you can imagine what he’d missed out on all sorts of levels and in all sorts of areas. And yet I really respect that.
DAVID ERDOS: But then is this not the attitude and approach that you’re embodying, especially with Hollywood? Are you not Ginger, windows aside of course! (INEXPRESSED AND PRETENTIOUS IDEA:) Or are those windows representing perhaps the shattered viewpoints shared with the artists of your previous work?
ALAN MOORE: Perhaps.
DAVID ERDOS: And of course the book is or becomes pyschogeography on the highest level, doesn’t it? This puts you right there with Iain Sinclair.
ALAN MOORE: Well, I hope so. It’s a different approach of course to place than Iain’s. Its certainly more full of ridiculous fiction and obviously more personal to me… (PAUSES) Now, we’re about to move off onto a tangent. What was I saying?
DAVID ERDOS: Well, its tricky because everything you’ve been saying is so interesting. But I just raised the notion of you embodying Ginger…
ALAN MOORE: Well, yes, that is an important thing. There was a record back in the day, not a particularly brilliant record, back in the 70’s, but it was a lot of fun, by The Tubes. Do you remember them?
DAVID ERDOS: They sound..familiar..
ALAN MOORE: They were an Art/Performance band. The single that got into the charts was called ‘Don’t Touch Me There.’ But one of the songs on the album was called ‘Young and Rich,’ and I was listening to this at some point in the early 80’s at a time when I was relatively young and relatively rich and there was a lyric on it, on this particular song that said, ‘I can respect a man who had it all/and threw the ball away..’ and I thought, ‘yeah that sounds true. Don’t clutch onto things. Don’t consider any of this important..’
DAVID ERDOS: And that struck you very deeply at that time?
ALAN MOORE: Very deeply. So when I found out about Ginger having turned down this Directorship, without which I would not exist, had he not done that, because my nan would have been far too middle class to have ever married my grandfather and then produced my father and so on..
DAVID ERDOS: So, that one decision and it’s resonances filter down. Is there a genuine link then to a decision like that and turning down the film money from Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? I mean we were talking before about the examples your work has set. There’s no finer example in these shallow days of commerce over art, than this decision of yours which has set a standard for all artists when confronted or involved in compromise of any sort?
ALAN MOORE: I think there certainly is. And there’s also a connection – which is mentioned in the book – to my mates Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of The KLF, when they ridiculously went and burnt that million quid on the island of Jura and then brought the film around to a select number of venues, one of which was ‘Alan Moore’s Front Room.’ So I’ve got them and Gimpo and a few other people on my sofa while we watched that remarkable film and I thought that is so powerful because it said no to money. And money’s everything isn’t it? It’s the code from which we make life and death and everything in the world. You can buy death with it. You can be life with it. Everything. So to be able to say, ‘No, I don’t really want that,’ and to actually burn it, was stunning. I mean, Bill and Jimmy by deleting their back catalogue have lost a lot more than a million quid. I really admire that. Because money, when it comes down to it is the biggest chain that any of us have around our necks. And to say, ‘look, its just paper, its just kindling..’
DAVID ERDOS: Its almost a poetic, almost fanciful conceit, isn’t it? Tokenistic at best. As it says on a ten pound note, ‘promise to pay the bearer the value of –
ALAN MOORE: Its all imaginary. There hasn’t been a gold standard for years. And back when there was a gold standard before Gordon Brown sold it off, if everyone who had a ten pound note had said, ‘Could we, er, have a little bit of gold..?’ Well, the answer was, ‘well, actually,we..er..we haven’t got it..’ So, it’s always based upon illusion. And that was before quantitive easing, which is just printing monopoly money. Its an admission that none of this is real.
DAVID ERDOS: Its all just so tokenistic. And reminds me of what you were saying before about cartology and how one thing can represent or contain something else, so completely. I for instance, like you, struggle to believe in Astrology with its symbols and signs, despite the occassional look at a horoscope, whereas I find Tarot, even though I know very little about completely absorbing and strangely reflective.
ALAN MOORE: It’s a lot more compelling. With Astrology, I accept that yeah, the midwife standing next to the bed is actually subjecting you to more gravitational force than the remote stars of this particular constellation, or indeed, that one. I accept that. Though, I did have a moment during one of my magical experiences where I almost understood astrology and how it sort of works. Because I had a moment in which I realised that the entirety of the universe was actually only inside my head. And then that thought was too big to hang onto and I lost it. And yet there was a moment when I thought, ‘Yes, of course, all the stars are inside my head. That’s why astrology works.’ Its an internal constellation.
DAVID ERDOS: Will you hang onto Promethea, as one of the works that you’ll still lay claim to, or does that fall under the same umbrella of disownment as the others?
ALAN MOORE: I’m afraid that as I don’t own it, I have to let that go, just like all the others. Despite the fact that I know we did some wonderful work there.
DAVID ERDOS: Because that is surely one of your greatest achievements, not only structurally, but technically in terms of how it was accomplished, with the entire final art work and design making one great image, along with its containment and reflection of the Kabbalah and myth of Promethea herself. It summons the very notion of magic as a force for change through the pages of a graphic novel.
ALAN MOORE: It is something of a flourish, yes. You couldn’t do Promethea without magic. Especially the Tarot issue, with the anagrams. It stands alone, I think, just as a feat. It shows the reason why magic is important. I mean, the reason why the art of the final issue turns into two posters is because I was told to do it by voices. During a very important magical experience I suddenly realised that I was actually a magus, which is a kind of – it’s not a rank, its just a different level of consciousness to an ordinary sort of magician – so I thought, ‘Right, I’m a Magus,’ and I understood this with absolute clarity. So I then thought with Promethea the final issue will be issue 32, because that’s appropriate. It will be a 32 page issue and it will somehow be readable as a comic strip but it will turn into these two beautiful psychedelic posters. This is what will happen and I will announce this. And then the next day, over the next days, it took about ten hours I think, I wrote and typed out all of Promethea 23, the Hochmar issue.
DAVID ERDOS: You were given it?
ALAN MOORE: Yes. It just came out in a spurt of Hochmar energy. The thing is, then I had to actually do the thing. So, once I’d come down from all the mushrooms, I said I had to do this as I’ve said I will.
DAVID ERDOS: The mushrooms are still the way in?
ALAN MOORE: Sometimes. They were on that occasion. But there are other ways in. Actually writing is as conscience altering as anything. But on this occasion, when I actually had to do the thing, I was up at Steve Moore’s and I said, ‘how am I actually going to do this?’ And he said, ‘Well, let me make a little tiny, folded book and I’ll put the page numbers and then we’ll open it out and we’ll see what that would be like..’
DAVID ERDOS: There’s that fantastic (in the literal sense) scene in your multiform piece ‘Unearthing’ that acts as a kind of talismanic biography of writer, mentor and magician Steve Moore that I wanted to ask you about. The episode when you describe being with Steve and his Goddess Selene appears in the room before you..
ALAN MOORE: That was at my place, on the evening that I was just talking about. Him and Selene had gone to bed and I was still buzzing from the experience..
DAVID ERDOS: I’m fascinated by this. (WHO WOULDN’T BE?) Was that an actual manifestation? What was the precise nature of that? Would you be able to tell me? I’m sorry, if its an inappropriate question to ask.
ALAN MOORE: No, not at all. I’d asked Steve upto my place as he was reaching this crisis point where he after a month or two of solitary meditation could materialise Selene to the point of where, if he looked away, she would still be in the same place. She was like a physical person in the room with him. He’d go round to the shops with her.
DAVID ERDOS: But he sees her, you can’t see her?
ALAN MOORE: He sees her. And this was very worrying for Steve, because he was a rationalist and he knew that the most rational explanation, the one that required less multiplying entities is that he’s gone mad. So I suggested, ‘would it be helpful at all if you brought her up to Northampton and I will get into some sort of magical trance and we’ll see if I can see her?’ And he said, ‘yeah, ok, that might work.’ So, then he came up and was sitting in the armchair and said, ‘Right, well shall we do this?’ And I said, sure. So he took his glasses off and put them on the table and then he sat with his arms by his side and closed his eyes, and I was just staring at him. And I saw, sitting straddling in his lap, completely made of a sort of transparent electric blue there was the goddess Selene. She looked nothing like the one he’d talked about, the one he’d done the picture of and told me about all these years. For one thing she was disturbingly young. She was about thirteen. Thirteen. Naked. She didn’t have the Stephane, the moon crown. She had a single peacock feather in a headband, but the peacock feather rose into two crescent points at the tip. She was sitting astride his lap. His real arms were down by his side. He’d got a pair of phantom arms that were around her back. She’d got her head resting on his right shoulder, but she was looking round over her shoulder at me and smiling and I was just completely caught in this gaze. And it was real. It was happening. And then he just said, ‘hang on, I’ve got to sort myself out, here.’ And she just vanished. And I was saying, ‘I could see her. I could see her. You’ve got four arms, because two of them were around her,’ And he said, ‘Yes, I was imagining I’d got my arms around her,’ And I said, ‘She’d got her head on your shoulder but was sort of turning round and looking at me,’ And he said, ‘yeah, that’s why it was getting uncomfortable. She might was well just sit beside me. She wants to be able to see you.’ And so for the rest of the evening until they went to bed – THEY – they were just sitting on the sofa. I couldn’t see her. But she would occasionally join in with our conversation. She said some quite funny things! And then they went to bed. And then the next day they went back to London, craftily travelling on a single ticket. Apparently she was sitting on his lap all the way back.
DAVID ERDOS: Does Glycon appear in the same way?
ALAN MOORE: Not in the same way. My relationship with Glycon is different. He’s a presence and he’s also a focus. I think all of us have to make our own peace with the universe, beyond any religion, however they conceive it. One of the values of Gods – this is not to say of religions in the man made sense, but of Gods – is that they provide us with a focus through which we can hopefully understand the universe. So with Glycon who is a transparently fake God and thus transparently real, no more than he said he was. So Glycon for me, provides an ideal.
DAVID ERDOS: Did you make the picture you published of him first, as an act of summoning?
ALAN MOORE: I was moving towards that. I’d asked Steve ‘What’s the best way to become a magician?’ And he’d said, ‘Find a God or let one find you.’ And then about a week or two after that, I came across the illustration of Glycon, the statue of the snake god that had been dug up in Talymis and I thought, ‘That is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I feel an instant connection with that. And it’s got lovely hair.’ So then I was kind of feeling my way into it and then we had the initial experience on January 7th 1994 which is what I feel to be my first genuine magical experience, which felt like a direct contact with Glycon. A direct experience of Glycon; a coiling, recursive, idea-form; the best way I can describe it. A kind of divine immaterial form, made entirely of beautiful ideas that was self referential and recursive and a very sweet and enlightening presence, or at least in my estimation.
DAVID ERDOS: And coming at a perfect time for you, after the end of your first marriage, just at the time when you’d reached this crossroads or counterpoint in your life?
ALAN MOORE: It was probably a bit worrying at first, for those around me, when I announced, yes. I’m a magician in the proper non conjuring sense. I’m talking about daemons, angels, the whole lot. By saying that to your friends you’re putting them in an uncomfortable position because their first thought is probably going to be, ‘Oh shit, he’s gone mad.’ And yet if you are a coherent and eloquent and fairly persuasive, intelligent person, their second thought might be, ‘Oh shit, what if he hasn’t? because if he hasn’t gone mad, I might have to rearrange my own view of reality.’
DAVID ERDOS: Its one of your great creative acts, isn’t it? Almost the greatest thing you ever wrote was your change, or even your desire to make this change and then follow it through?
ALAN MOORE: Well, it certainly led me to understand the power of declaration. Simply by saying you’re a magician, you become one.
DAVID ERDOS: And it starts to happen –
ALAN MOORE: It starts to happen. Though there has to be the right intent.
DAVID ERDOS: Are we therefore living on the wrong frequency? If reality can be contained or represented by the cartology of the tarot, is the fact that we can put those cards back in their pack emblematic of the tokenistic nature of our own reality, especially one defined as we discussed before, by money? I’m someone desperate to make a connection or receive an indication of some other life level. I’m desperate to find some evidence of my parents now they’re both dead. They both died on the same day, some years apart, so that leads me to think of patterns and other systems. So, I’m – Well. I’m scared to ask you in a way and I’m aware that I’m pussyfooting around it –
ALAN MOORE: I know what you mean –
DAVID ERDOS: Thank you. I mean, is there a way, and in saying this I know it can only be done with people you know well and trust but could you give me some form of magical instruction?
ALAN MOORE: I could broadly suggest some things, yes. But in terms of the general point. I think we are approaching a different state of being in perhaps more ways than one. I was talking about the Coagula. There is also the thing that I was expressing in Promethea, which is that there is an inherent prophecy in the tarot that would seem to indicate, what with the final card in the sequence being The Universe, card 32 or path 32. So, with that you have the combination of the earthly sphere, Malkuth and the Lunar sphere of dreams and the imagination, Yesod, you’ve got them combining because that is the path that connects those two, the 32nd path that connects those two spheres. I think that as a species we’re probably moving up. The thing is this – Malkuth – this is all in our mind as well, demonstrably. We compose this reality out of the photons bombarding our retinas and the vibrations bombarding the timpana of our ears; everything. We’re putting it together moment by moment. But its only inside our heads where we’re putting it together. We don’t relate to reality directly. We don’t perceive reality directly. What we perceive is our perception of it. So this is another mental state, just as kabbalah suggests. I think that we are moving our focus up that central column of the tree of life. I would say that this is reflected in the growing virtuality of our culture. And its not even with things like virtual reality. I’ve been playing around with that and that’s going to have a massive impact. When I first heard about virtual reality, I said, I think quite cleverly; ‘What, like there’s another sort?’
DAVID ERDOS (Laughs)
ALANMOORE: So, you see, work and play generally takes place in some sort of virtual space. Increasingly so. I think we are moving towards a different position, perhaps necessarily. In our heads. I mean, we’re not going to suddenly turn all this into dreamland. That’s not how it will work. But by moving upto a different kind of reality from that virtual realm that we’re creating – and yes, it is all mostly escapist fun at the moment – but I suspect that the quest for artificial intelligence, what that will end up doing, other than giving us some incredibly powerful processing machines, is teaching us a lot more about non artificial intelligence and I think that the same goes for virtual reality. I think that this might give us a different perspective on good old fashioned ordinary reality.
DAVID ERDOS: So, as a young tyro novelist, just about to publish your second book and putting aside forty years of comics, essays, film scripts and graphic novels, is that now going to be the focus of your work; that you’ll now produce a series of directly themed magical or conscience shifting based works?
ALAN MOORE: Well, everything I do is informed by magic, of course. In saying that, I don’t think they will all be overtly magical and there isn’t a lot that is overtly magical in Jerusalem.
DAVID ERDOS: May I have a look at the copy you’ve brought along?
ALAN MOORE: Please do. And then I’ll sign it for you.
DAVID ERDOS: Alan, do you mean I can have this?
ALAN MOORE: Yes, of course. It’s for you.
DAVID ERDOS: I don’t know what to say. Oh, Alan, thankyou. You’re going to make me cry!
ALAN MOORE: Well, Man Up!
DAVID ERDOS (Laughs) I’ll endeavour to! The last thing you want is a weeping jew on your doorstep!
ALAN MOORE (Laughs)
DAVID ERDOS: Thank you so much.
ALAN MOORE: My pleasure. But in terms of Jerusalem and what you were saying about your parents and things like that: I wanted to give people another option for thinking about that. What Jerusalem says – and I hope this will be helpful to everybody and not the exact reverse of that – what it suggests is that post Einstein we would appear to be living in a universe and in a space time continuum that has at least four dimensions. Physical dimensions. That’s what a dimension is. We know that there is a fourth one because Einstein said that spacetime is curved, so that means that the other three ordinary dimensions of spacetime have to have another one, in order to be curved through. From what I understand the fourth dimension is not time, specifically but our perception of time that forms the way that we perceive the fourth dimension. We perceive it as a passage of events. This is what is called by scientists a ‘block universe; which is a four dimensional solid in which nothing is moving, nothing is changing, eternally. And in such a solid you would have to hypothethise that there is this huge..let’s call it a rugby ball.. of spacetime and a huge hyper moment in which everything is existing at the same time. But you’ve got the big bang at one end of the rugby ball and the big crunch or whatever at the other end, and every moment that has ever existed or will ever exist is somewhere contained within that huge solid. Eternally. And the moments that make up our lives, I imagine them as some kind of filaments, where you might say that we’re a couple of metres high and maybe a metre wide, half a metre deep, or whatever, and we’re seventy or eighty years long. So, filaments that perhaps look like millipeeds, with lots of arms and legs are frozen, like flies in amber, in time, forever. And its just our consciousness moving through that length that gives the illusion of things happening. Just like if you got a strip of film. The individual cells are not changing, they’re not moving. They are that way forever. But when the projector beam, or in this case our consciousness plays across those, Charlie Chaplin does his funny walk, rescues the girl and foils the baddie. There is the appearance of story and narrative and events, which are not really there. There’s just a series of moments. If this is true then when our consciousness gets to the end of our lives I would think it would have nowhere to go except back to the beginning of them. Which would speak to an eternal recurrence where everytime, it would feel like the first time. Although of course in the light of this notion it doesn’t make sense to even talk about a first time. But here every moment is the same moment, the same thoughts, all of the same events over and over again. All of the best moments of your life. Forever. And that is Heaven.
DAVID ERDOS: That’s amazing.
ALAN MOORE: And all of your worst moments, over and over again, forever, that is hell, that is purgatory.
DAVID ERDOS: That resounds with me very strongly. I’m sure its partly to do with my natural jewish neurosis but I live and remember everything I’ve ever said and done since about the age of seven. All the bad decisions come back unexpected and uninvited. Along with the good.
ALAN MOORE: Yeah. Me too. Its one of the reasons I stopped drinking was that I thought all of those moments when you – even thirty years later – you just go, ‘Oh, you twat!’ Its not like its just some of those moments, or most of those moments, but all of those moments – throughout which you were pissed!
DAVID ERDOS: But drink aside, that of course gives credence to the whole quantum, four dimensional theory you’ve just outlined. I feel these things all the time but the more you do you realise when you talk to others that they don’t think that way, or that if they do, they go out of their way to not do so, or avoid it entirely. What the great Ken Campbell referred to as Mystery Bruises.
ALAN MOORE: That’s right. I love Ken and Melinda and I are great friends with Daisy. But, yes, you’re right. Most people don’t think like that. I was greatly involved and more than halfway through Jerusalem when I came across this great quote by Einstein from a few months before he died. He was consoling the widow of a fellow Physicist and he said and I’m paraphrasing here but he said to this woman, ‘Look, to Physicists like me and your husband death isn’t really a big deal because we understand
‘The persistent illusion of transcience.’
That is five words. If I’d heard them before I started writing Jerusalem I would probably have saved myself some 614000 other ones!
DAVID ERDOS (Laughs) Jerusalem: A Title by Alan Moore!
ALAN MOORE (Laughs) And yet that is the persistent illusion that people have: that people, places and things are going away, never to be seen again. Whereas in a solid time they are there forever. And that makes every moment eternal. And it makes us all eternal. And it makes this place, Jerusalem, the eternal city. Everywhere. Even, perhaps especially the lowest places, the slums. Because they probably need Jerusalem to be ‘builded between those dark, satanic mills.’ That’s where you need Jerusalem most.
DAVID ERDOS: From the toilet cleaner to the stars, which forms part of your own journey.
ALAN MOORE: Yes. And so I wanted to give people that option. Because I’ve got a lot of friends who are hard rationalists and aetheists and I can understand that. But we all need a way of dealing with eternity and thinking about it. And this would seem to be a good way to do it. And I would also point out that Nietzche who was of course a far more sloppy thinker than I am (LAUGHS) – he came out with a slightly more flawed version of the same thing – but he was basing it upon the fact that he believed the universe to be infinite, so in an infinite universe you will get infinite recurrences just of this world, just as you would in mathematics. But actually, this is not an infinite universe. Its very big but it’s not infinite. So what he was saying about his very similar idea of recurrence was that it was the most scientific idea of a kind of afterlife and that’s why he liked it. And yet its not really an afterlife. It’s a during life.
DAVID ERDOS: Sideways. They’re all.. over there.
ALAN MOORE: Well, he was saying that if you followed that belief you would have a better life, whether or not it turned out to be true. To say every moment is eternal. Don’t do anything you can’t live with forever. Be kind. Try to make every moment as good as possible if this is where you’re going to be forever.
DAVID ERDOS: It’s the Spalding Gray concept of the perfect moment, that journeying from one to another regardless of the arbitrary nature of everything else.
ALAN MOORE: Yes. It certainly solves a lot of problems. One of the things during the 1980’s, when I’d got small children and the cold war was as bad as its ever been. And I had to tell them. I’d heard that the thing that frightened children the most was nuclear war, because their parents daren’t even speak about it. So I thought, ‘right, I’m going to have to explain nuclear war to the kids. I’m not looking forward to it. But I’m going to do it.’ And I did. And I had to think about what nuclear war would mean. And I realised that every biological struggle since the dawn of time would have been for nothing. It would all have been retroactively cancelled because now we have a dead planet and nobody will ever know that we were here. Now, yes, that’s very depressing. But you know, we might get through this, we might just get through this. But then of course, there’s the environmental problem which is pretty serious and that would lead to the exact same thing. So if we make this planet into something like Venus then every single human struggle, every birth, every decision, is all for nothing. Ok, so we might get through the environmental things. But then you know, give it a few million years, the sun is going to get bigger and start to consume everything around it..but then Eric Drexus suggested pruning the sun; Solar Husbandry! Or we might have migrated somewhere else. There’s always these scientific possibilities. But then of course, the universe eventually ends so all of it will be gone. However, with an Eternalist perspective, that all vanishes.
DAVID ERDOS: The notion that the past is still happening over there is tremendously seductive. One of my fears watching my mother fade before me was the death of the mind co-inciding or trapped within the death of the body. And where that goes. And how it travels. And from that, what comprises us, that there must be something that makes me me and you you that isn’t just bound by chemicals. So, the idea that as her life ends here it immediately starts again there is as captivating as it is desired.
ALAN MOORE: What you witnessed was just the end of her story. And if stories don’t have ends then they’re just soap opera and they’re worthless. They just make it up as they go along and its worthless. I mean, I was saying this to Steve who had adopted his own eternalist point of view before his own death, before he went to put it to the test; I was saying, ‘you know, look, actually if this was true, I could see a lot of problems for everybody and a lot of problems for science because doesn’t this remove the concepts of cause and effect? Or it certainly makes them not so clear cut.’ And I said for religion I can foresee terrible terrible problems as one of the things this does away with is the concept of free will. This is all assuming a predetermined universe. So where is vice? Where is virtue? That’s a problem for all of us because we all like to have someone to blame.’ And I’ve thought my way round that, as actually the way it works out is, its still that way for us. Down here, its still going to seem like we have got free will. Whether we have or not.
DAVID ERDOS: Pornography is a strong contender for being a by product of that free will, at least for those who make or consume it, rather than those who are consumed by it. Whether its as cure for loneliness, raison d’etre for the internet or salve for the darkness in all men (and women) as evidenced in the beauty and brilliance of Lost Girls.
ALAN MOORE: I’m so glad you liked Lost Girls.
DAVID ERDOS: I loved it. It thrilled me through its beauty and ideas. Again, something we waited years to see and that when it came more than satisfied the reader on all sorts of levels, a collision of the truly personal and the truly political impulse. I mean, one of the things I wanted to say at the start of this interview, and should have, but we just started talking, was that – and yes, I’m being self conscious again and I know its something that countless people have already said to you, but I just wanted to.. thank you for your work. I’ll do it again as I type up what we’re saying now, and its not about just the past work, Alan, but I just want to look you in the eye and thank you for what you do.
ALAN MOORE: Well, cheers, man. You’re welcome!
DAVID ERDOS: Its hard to sound pure as I say it but I feel that about this select group of my enthusiasms, whether its Heathcote, or Iain Sinclair’s work, or Chris Petit. There’s this vanguard:
ALAN MOORE: You mean like a kind of Justice League?
DAVID ERDOS: Yes! Of Seminalists who are really ringing the changes.
ALAN MOORE: Well, what I hope is that this is all something to do with the phenomenon of Coagula. Connecting up, almost like making neural connections between people because the counter culture hasn’t gone anywhere. I am coming more to the conclusion that – it’s actually something that Scroobius Pipps said when we did our ‘Under the Austerity, the beach’ counter culture event, he said that the thing about counter cultures is that they always fail. And I thought, yes that is true. They always fail because they’re always assimilated by mainstream culture. So the thing to do is to make your counter culture either so toxic or so psychedelic that it cannot be assimilated without changing the culture that assimilates it. And I thought, well, this is how culture works, isn’t it? Counter culture is a necessary part of culture. And probably vice versa. And it was only in the 1990’s that counter culture suddenly stopped and we got Britpop, just in time for Tony Blair to get in and Noel Gallagher to shake his hand at Downing Street. We got this completely synthesised, phoney, top down, imposed form of culture, of union jack carrier bags and so forth and shit like that.
DAVID ERDOS: That’s why I very consciously reconnected to progressive music in all its forms as it seemed the last bastion of the idea, with music being the superior art form, capable of saying and doing the most, emotionally and in terms of causing actual physical changes in the body. Someone like Eno being the prime example.
ALAN MOORE: Ah, Eno.
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, I know he’s a great hero of yours.
ALAN MOORE: That was a real high point for me. Interviewing him.
DAVID ERDOS: Yes, that was a great radio and series and an important one; Chain Reaction. Stewart Lee interviewing you and then you interviewing Brian Eno. But you’ve now created a body of work that equals what Eno has produced. Forgetting even what you’ve produced in the past and now turned your back on. Will you now, in what you go on to do become more of a polemicist about these issues?
ALAN MOORE: Probably about the same. What I’m looking forward to doing is expanding into all sort of different areas. I’m probably not going to do another big novel for a while, though I wouldn’t rule out some sort of novel in the future.
DAVID ERDOS: Is Providence (Moore’s most recent comic series inspired by Robert Chambers The King in Yellow) the last comic, as such?
ALAN MOORE: No. It’s nearly. Its getting on that way. Providence I finished quite a while ago, that will be wrapping up, probably by the end of the year. I just got the art for number 11 this morning. And then there is Cinema Purgatorio, that I’m doing with Kevin O Neill, which I’m very much enjoying. We both got excited by the material. I’m just reading a book that Kevin sent me about Todd Browning called ‘Dark Carnival,’ because Todd Browning will be the next feature in Cinema Purgatorio. He was a strange character.
DAVID ERDOS: Well, people only ever refer to him in terms of (his film) Freaks, don’t they?
ALAN MOORE: His actual personal life. Apparently he used to work in side shows. And in one of them he was the ‘Hypnotic Corpse!’ Where he would actually lay in a coffin, underground with a breathing tube for about 48 hours – and for the bloke who eventually did Dracula, that’s quite an interesting balance! And then all these things in his early life. A very disturbed individual.
DAVID ERDOS: You were talking about other forms, so as a theatre man I was hoping you’d branch out into plays. Certainly some of the chapters of Voice of the Fire would make fantastic solo theatre pieces, and I know Another Surburban Romance started life as a theatre piece, didn’t it?
ALAN MOORE: It was written for a musical play that was never finished but gave rise to a number of wonderful songs. In fact, everyone should check out the debut album of The Dandelion Set, who are mates of mine, The Mystery Guests, Mr Licquorish, who vanished for years and who then got in touch – its him, its Glyn Bush from the Degotees, these are all old mates of mine who have suddenly connected up again and have done this album. They were doing the original music for Another Surburban Romance, so there’s various bits on it. I’ve done some vocals on it. Yes, that was grasping towards something. And there is of course a chapter in Jerusalem which is actually a play. It’s a Samuel Beckett play with Samuel Beckett in it. And Thomas a Becket as well, because they were both here, and its also a key part in the family story, in the Audrey Vernon story. And I’ve got John Clare there as well. I’d want people to get all of the proper context for it and that of course comes from the book itself. I don’t know if it stands as a play on its own, although it might do, but I think it’s a great thing to put in a novel. And it works well with the various narrative strands. So, I think that’s its proper place. I have to say, though, discussing other forms, that I’m up for any programme. Its like the stuff with electric comics which was initially one of the embedded concepts in a recent performance piece, but is actually now a real thing in the real world. We were voted one of the best apps of the year –
DAVID ERDOS: That’s great for a man who doesn’t use the internet!
ALAN MOORE: Apparently so. And yet, the best digital comic of the year was my Big Nemo. Yes, I don’t use this technology myself but at the same time I am thinking about it on a deeper level than many of the people who do. And also its from a level that’s always going to be side on, as I’m not really engaging with this technology in the same way. It’s a bit like what Eno said about recording equipment arriving in Jamaica and them not really understanding it and playing with it and inventing dub. And he said the moment he heard dub, he said that he just wanted to quit, as they’d sort of done what he set out to do. Its a naieve mindset approaching a new technology and getting something completely unexpected out of it. At least that’s what I hope I’m doing. In general there’s lots of things opening up. Especially with the show and films such as Jimmy’s End and the Showpieces DVD that we’ve been producing up here. We’ve got our own imaginary universe going, with uniquely fresh and new novelistic concepts. And so, I’ve invented lots of products to go into this world, a bit like the kind of thing with Watchmen. A parallel world down to every last detail, if you like. We were thinking we’d have restaurants and different styles of dress. So making a film actually changes things. In the film we have some teenagers drinking this energy drink, where the can is slightly narrower and slightly longer and is as bright, luminoius green. And the drink is called ‘Fuelrods.’ I thought that was funny. And then I had a message from Mitch Jenkins the Director of Jimmy’s End saying he’d just got a message from one of the country’s leading energy drink producers, saying if create that in the new film we’re going to do, that they’d like to license it from us. And I thought, this is weird and potentially interesting, particularly as I think advertising is the work of Satan. I don’t like it and I don’t want to anything to do with it. However, this, would be like reverse product placement. You make up something in your imaginary world and then you export it to the real world. That would be fun.
DAVID ERDOS: Sounds great. The converse of that is this article in the paper yesterday about the Roald Dahl estate brewing the beer from The Twits, by using bits of the yeast from his writing chair, which would have tiny particles of Roald Dahl in it. Literary cannibalism in its most direct form!
ALANMOORE: That’s almost like transubstantiation. That is weird.
DAVID ERDOS: Bizarre.
ALAN MOORE: But what I thought was, to introduce an energy drink to the world, that’s of no consequence, a bit of fun, but that principle of exporting from the imagination is key: Because what couldn’t you do? So we’ve got things like a videogame that is causing a social panic like Grand Theft Auto, and is in all the papers, with people saying is this driving our kids to suicide? Is it making our kids mental? The game is called Escapism. We’ve got Escapism worked out. My daughter Amber who got her degree in computer technology, but realised about half way through that because the course was two years long and Moore’s law says that computer processing power doubles every eighteen months by the time she got her degree it would be completely redundant. But she’s done the game document and it’s a completely different approach to the usual computer game.
DAVID ERDOS: It’s a great family firm you have, Alan with Amber, Leah and John and Melinda all part of the cause and forging their own paths.
ALAN MOORE: Well, I have some talented people in my coterie. So there’s Escapism, which is a great name for a computer game. And we’re also introducing a made up counter culture. There’s a group of teenagers who you see in the background of certain shots and they’ve all got a certain style and mode of dress and they’re called The Post-Mods.
DAVID ERDOS (Laughs)
ALAN MOORE: And we’ve worked out their music, with the Jazz Butcher and others. And I also thought you could introduce a range of socially helpful institutions in the imaginary Northampton to the real one, and if they look sensible and look like they might work it would be almost irresistible to move them into reality.
DAVID ERDOS: Well, let a Guest edited issue of IT by you, be an advert for some of that, that would be amazing.
ALAN MOORE: I’m sure there’s lot of things we could do with IT. I’d love to do that. There’s going to be all these new forms. And I’m sort of juggling with them. Because that’s the other name for the magician: The Jongleur.
DAVID ERDOS: So is the revived arts lab all in service of this now?
ALAN MOORE: No. I just thought it would be good to have an arts lab, because where I came from, that’s what taught me. And its what taught David Bowie. David Bowie couldn’t have existed without the arts labs. It encourages this ‘try everything, mix things up ethos.’ With the arts lab I did the first gig of my Mandrilifesto, which I’m now taking with Kermit and Greg Wilson about doing it as a single, because its got some beats, you know!
DAVID ERDOS: You’re down with the yout’, Alan.
ALAN MOORE: I certainly am. With the next thing we’re doing with the arts lab and this is a suggestion from the people in it, such as Megan Lucas, who is brilliant and can do anything – as I’m trying to take a backseat and not dominate – is to call our next event , ‘The Annual General Meeting of a Medium sized firm of Accountants’ and she just had an image of four to six desks on a stage. And I said, well what if you’ve got people sitting at those desks and you’ve got a spotlight moving between them and one of them will get up and say something or do something but everyone else will ignore them and carry on working, so this indicates its only happening in their mind. And you could explore all sorts of themes and have all sorts of different people in that simple context. We could have a whiteboard which would have a normal looking graph on it, but which would be projected, so the image could change and explore fantasy aspects. And we progress from there to a brilliant resolution that we’ve arrived at between us.
DAVID ERDOS: Ah, you’ve done it. The first play by Alan Moore. Its so exciting what you’re saying there; The theatre is dead on its feet now in my opinion, because it has made itself a celebrity ridden vehicle going nowhere further than the Groucho Club. Its all bums and seats. And rich boys again. Shakespeare in Love – The Play.
ALAN MOORE: Terrible.
DAVID ERDOS: So theatre has to go back. Culture too. And Arts Labs clearly are the answer.
ALAN MOORE: Exactly. Its like what Will Shutes is doing with Test Centre; the books that are stab stapled. That makes me come! I love stab staples. That was when poetry was a real, vibrant culture. I finally got something in the last issue, the first poem I’ve written in quite a while, called ‘The Town Planning in Dreams,’ which is a bit of obsession of mine. The town planning in dreams is always much more convenient and flooded with sunlight and there’s always what seems to be a thirty second shortcut between any two points, even if one of them is at the other end of the country. There’s a backway. Dreams as a feeling –
DAVID ERDOS: Permeating the day. Writing as atmosphere and the conjuring of alternative histories, which is what you’re describing here with the film and theatre projects and is evidenced theatrically by Edward Bond and Howard Barker, whose works are primarily concerned with alternative viewpoints and heightened states. And of course its there from the start with you and in all of the most celebrated pieces. Watchmen is not about the Superhero – despite the fact it both kills and recreates that notion – nearly as much as it is about the story telling techniques and what you can do with them to put the ideas across.
ALAN MOORE: Exactly. Marvelman –
DAVID ERDOS: Which is almost the ur text for the comics work –
ALAN MOORE: Is a critique of the Superhero. I hadn’t expected them to revitalise the genre in quite the way that they have. Where people are now saying, ‘Yeah! If we make all superheroes miserable and pretentious they’ll be kind of modern again!’
DAVID ERDOS: Its like people didn’t listen. As they never do.
ALAN MOORE: Dead right.
DAVID ERDOS: When artists have something to say the hoi polloi seem unable to access it. Stewart Lee has become the Peter Watkins of Stand Up Comedy and you’re the Samuel Beckett of comics!
ALAN MOORE: (Laughs) Its true. It seem to me now that the thesis Steve Moore and I put at the end of The Moon and the Serpent Book of Magic is to connect a revitalised and rethought form of magic up with art. This would be of immense benefit to all concerned as it means magicians would have something to show at the end of their rituals, like Austin Spare did, short of taking a Polaroid camera in there with you, that is the closest we’re ever going to get to seeing what that realm looks like. Let the magicians and be artists and the artists be magicians as that would get rid of all of this vacuous conceptualism, or what passes for conceptualism – these demi ideas – I mean I thought the bling skull, and I’m probably a reactionary saying this, but there’s nothing there. Its an insult.
DAVID ERDOS: Nothing. Its the death of the idea. Hirst and all like him are the fucking enemies of art, in my opinion. They’re nothing more than the heroes of money.
ALAN MOORE: Yes. So why not give some vision, some magic, back to art? Connect them up. It would help both of them. Then connect magic with science. And that seems like a fairly easy thing.
DAVID ERDOS: You’ve taught people, if one were to try and sum up your work, not only the true value of an idea, but what an idea is, and how to use it. The irony of these mainstream films is that everyone makes superhero films to cover up the dearth of ideas, or they’re displacements for that absence, and yet you’ve used the superhero form to explore the very ideas they are unable to appreciate. Your work is evolving all the time, while the rest is standing still. It seems to me that everything you go on to write now will be a gift in some form, separate to this evolved function as a sage and magus, pointing the way forward. I’m sorry if that sounds sycophantic. Heathcote does the same thing solely with the polemics and poetry. Like you he is one of the last examples of a truly sustainable talent. There’s a new thing, poem or polemic every week, after fifty years.
ALAN MOORE: You’ve got to admire that.
DAVID ERDOS: So, you are now one of the select people starting a new culture, through this work.
ALAN MOORE: Well, thanks Dave, that would be nice. But the real work comes from the most contentious idea, which is to then, after art and science, connect magic up with politics, because then you would have evidence based government. Now wouldn’t that be a magical thing?
DAVID ERDOS: It would. Thanks, Alan.
ALAN MOORE: Thanks, man. It’s been a wonderful afternoon, Dave. I’ve really enjoyed it. And I’m very happy to do this for IT. I’ve been longing to see IT return for all these decades and now here it is. Anything I can do to help.
DAVID ERDOS: We’ll make it happen. We must.
ALAN MOORE: Hey, did I tell you, I’ve actually got a bit of Timothy Leary on my altar at home?
DAVID ERDOS: Really? Which bit?
ALAN MOORE: Its actually a small part of his shin. Apparently, some of his ashes were blasted into space, by which we mean blasted into Nevada, because most of those things don’t have enough escape velocity,so they tend to end up in the desert. But some of the remaining ashes were given to friends including Brian Barrett who wrote ‘Whisper’ and who was told to scatter them on Stonehenge and allow anyone who caught them to give them to anyone who they thought deserved them. My friend John Higgs was there for the ceremony and at the end he noticed a tiny flake of bone left on the altar, so he gave it to me in this little reliquary and I put it on my altar. And so I asked my ‘gentleman supplier,’ ‘Do people actually do acid these days?’ I’m not sure I want to do any myself but I wanted to know and he came through with two little sugar cubes, so I put them in the reliquary with Tim, because I think that’s what Tim would have wanted! And if I ever do get round to taking the acid I’m sure it will be infused with the spirit of the counter culture in its purest form!
DAVID ERDOS (Laughs) Just as in two hundred years time they’ll be venerations of clippings from the Alan Moore beard!
ALAN MOORE (Laughs) Yes, though I think I’m up for being buried, a return to the source. Put it this way, if I were cremated people would be advised to stand downwind of the burning –
DAVID ERDOS: It’d be a hell of an explosion!
ALAN MOORE: Certainly an interesting wind! My carpet scrapings, man. They’ve got an instrinsic street value!
DAVID ERDOS (Laughs) But we’re not talking about that, Alan. As I don’t want you to go anywhere…
ALAN MOORE: Apart from on, into the Northampton of course.
DAVID ERDOS: Of course. Thanks so much, Alan.
ALAN MOORE: Its been lovely, it really has. It’s like – I did an interview last night for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine on the phone- which is the same but without the Andy Warhol – so this has been like going back in time…
DAVID ERDOS: Which as we know now is just over there.
ALAN MOORE: It certainly is. See you soon.
V: THE MAN IN ROOM FIVE
DAVID ERDOS: And with that he was gone, trailing love and respect in the distance. A man set on returning the shallow world to the deep. You need only read one comic or book by Alan Moore to grasp his essence but that leads you onto the next one, and that in turn to the next.
To have written:
Anon E Mouse, Maxwell the Magic Cat, Roscoe Moscow, The Emporers of Ice Cream, Future Shocks, Axel Pressbutton, Halo Jones, D.R and Quinch, Marvelman, V for Vendetta, The Bojeffries Saga, Captain Britain, Swamp Thing, Superman, The Killing Joke, Watchmen, Promethea, Smax, Fashion Beast, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wildcats, Top Ten, Neonomicon, and to move away from them all and then create projects like A Small Killing, Big Numbers, Lost Girls, 20,000 years of Erotic freedom, Americas Best Comics, Voice of the Fire, The Birth Caul, Snakes and Ladders, Angel Passage, The Highbury Working, Dodgem Logic, Providence, Cinema Purgatorio and of course Jerusalem and the forthcoming The Moon and The Serpent Book of Magic, along with numerous musical and counter cultural happenings is to offer the world a series of new beginnings. From William Gull’s explaining of Hawkmoor’s mysticism of London to Coachman John Netley in Chapter 4 of From Hell to any page of Alan Moore you care to pick up you will see revelations and reverberations that if you have any richness in your soul at all, will stay with you for life. His work in all its forms is literally moving us on.
Although Alan has disowned his early work as it is all owned by others I will crave his and your indulgence in summing up. In chapter four of V for Vendetta, V has captured Lewis Prothero, the current ‘Voice of Fate’ for a dystopian Orwellian England and former commandant of the Larkhill Resettlement camp, set up to exterminate and experiment on all of the country’s political, sexual and artistic transgressives. V has recreated the camp within the confines of his Shadow Gallery HQ and has stolen Prothero’s priceless collection of dolls. Dressed as inmates, Prothero’s panic rises as he knows V will both destroy them and him. Before doing so, V takes the guilty man on a tour of his model invocation of the horror Prothero is responsible for. He arrives at a final corridor where the special cases were kept. Rooms one to five, each designated by the appropriate roman numeral. As we reach the final panel and see the V on the door and recognise as Prothero does that V is and was the man kept inside it, clearly the most horrific specimen the regime led by Prothero has encountered. At this moment, the full scope, horror and brilliance of the book, series and idea combine and converge, it has to be said, magically. We know that V is more than human, while being rendered less than it by the state; a child of madness, disfigurement and even deviancy but someone who is the ultimate challenger and changer of forms. That page changed me utterly when I read it as a twelve year old boy and helped form my own imagination. It stands now as merely the prototype for all of Alan Moore’s efforts in both offering and creating solutions for the restrictions we have placed around ourselves along with those we have allowed to have been placed around us. How many other artists are there now who’s work is not just about or informed by their own self regard? Whether shameful so called Conceptualist, or coke infused celebrity actor, none of them wish to break the bounds of their own being. Alan Moore shows an alternative. We have traipsed down the corridors of our own horrors for too long. We must now seek true and lasting change through the true politics of liberation, the kind that comes from a return to the idea and what it alone can achieve.
In the magic of our own minds and in the places that form and shape us we can still deny the path our oppressors are intent on forcing us along. We can be the voice in our own private fire and seek and assist the new Jerusalem.
We must now be the man in the room five.
David Erdos, 25th August 2016
With thanks to Alan Moore and dedicated to him, Melinda Gebbie, Leah and John Reppion, Amber Moore and the Northampton Arts Lab.