I went to the Roadburn music festival in the Netherlands for the first time this April, and it was an absolutely stunning experience. Degtyarov wrote about his experiences at Black Ivory Tower, and I provided color commentary as well as some sketches. As someone who’s found music festivals to be a mixed bag in the past, I’m a convert to the Roadburn experience and will be making a return trip at some point in the future.
I’ve been a fan of extreme music aesthetic powerhouse Valnoir of the design studio Metastazis for some time now. I spoke to Valnoir for Heathen Harvest about his artistic inspirations, the use of unusual materials in art, and his time in North Korea with Laibach:
The artist edition of the book is limited to fifty copies and they are all signed with the palm of my whole hand. For this, you need more than a few drops of blood, so I went to see a nurse. She took a pint of my blood at her place. The device she was using was not set correctly and at one point it just blew up. The syringe popped out because she was forcing it too much and the blood started going all over the place. Her dog was there and it started jumping around and licking up the blood. She started pushing the dog away and at this point I almost fainted because it was too much information. So now I have this pint of blood and I didn’t use all of it, so I put it in the freezer just in case it can be useful.
Feral House specializes in publishing works by writers with brash voices who express big ideas. Howard Bloom is no exception to this rule, and his profoundly disturbing book During a stroll around Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, I spoke to BloomThe Muhammad Code takes an apocalyptic view of the impact of Islamic extremism. about the development of his philosophy and how it explains the violent potential of mass human behavior.
When I was twelve, I realized I was an atheist. I had a bar mitzvah coming up, and I knew that meant there were going to be presents, so to admit to myself I was an atheist at that time was very bad. I held out until I had finished with my thank you notes and then fully admitted I was an atheist. The High Holidays came around in September and when my parents dragged me to synagogue, I refused to go inside. There they were, trying to pull me by my ankles out of the car, and I had a realization. There were no gods up there and no gods down there, but where were the gods? They were right there in my parents who were busy pulling on my shoes and shredding my socks to get me into temple! I had read enough anthropology at that time to know this is true of people all over the world, that they have a link to the gods through the ancestors. I knew about science, too. Galileo’s trick was taking an existing piece of technology, the lens, and turning it in a new direction by looking up. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek turned that lens in an entirely different direction: down, to look at pond water and see the microorganisms living there. My job was to take the lens and turn it inwards to look at the gods inside of us.
After failing in his quest to find financing for his 18- to 24-hour-long film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo and Santa Sangre) partnered with French artist Moebius to create a science fiction graphic novel titled The Incal. This epic, first published between 1981 and 1988, takes its hapless hero John DiFool across strange galaxies while providing a platform for Jodorowsky to explore his esoteric ideas, which blend shamanism, the tarot, Freudian psychoanalysis, and theater. As you might gather, there’s a lot going on here.
Jack and Kate break down how Dune‘s DNA exists within The Incal even though its creators take the tale in a direction that’s far more madcap, alchemical, and… well, French.
Can a work of art succeed at being both serious and light-hearted at the same time? Why are women so goddamn allegorical? Is there such a thing as an unfilmable graphic novel? Who is Kill Wolfhead and why is he the best? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Celebrated on the 15th of February, Lupercalia is thought by some historians to be the origin of Valentine’s Day (which itself is a Catholic feast day for multiple Saint Valentines, but that’s a whole ‘nother zine). My handmade, fully illustrated mini zine explores some of the ways we can take a page from the Ancient Romans to spice up our own romantic celebrations.
Carisa Swenson, the artist behind Wormwood and Rue, has created a black and gold enamel badge bearing the image of a fascinum, a winged penis amulet that represented everything from victory in war to good luck to protection against the evil eye. That’s some pretty intense juju for a winged penis!
For a limited time, orders will be shipped with a button showing my illustration of the god Faunus, an Ancient Roman nature spirit.
Morbid Fantasies is a richly illustrated reader’s guide to Gothic literature, guiding fans both old and new through the ever-changing landscape of this most ghoulish of genres. In its pages, scholar Jack Shear covers the history, key themes, and major books in the Gothic movement from its inception through the current day. It’s a love letter to this often misunderstood and under-appreciated form of entertainment, hand-bound and designed by Tenebrous Kate with featured illustrations by Dana Glover, Becky Munich, and Carisa Swenson.
In February, I’d written about the unique and overwhelmingly (yet delightfully) esoteric black metal and folk zine Black Ivory Tower, which at that time had been shuttered. It pleases me to no end to let you all know that Black Ivory Tower is back in blog form with a brand-new podcast. I’ve joined the BIT team and will be writing about the music that moves me as well as various beautiful, old-fashioned things.
Transmissions from the Black Ivory Tower Episode 1: I join Degtyarov and we talk about controversial album art, the pain of visa issues for musicians, and 90s video games. Unlike my podcast, this show does not include a section where the co-host is tortured by reading a filthy section of a book aloud (sorry to disappoint you all).
Magic for the People: The Art of Ivan Bilibin: I’ve long admired the artwork of the sole Russian representative in the Golden Age of Illustration. In many ways, Bilibin opened a window for Western audiences to glimpse the folklore and aesthetics of his culture, so I took a moment to appreciate his contributions.
It’s been another eventful month in the Empire as I march towards the Fall season. I’m putting the finishing touches on a new, limited edition, handmade book to be released by my Heretical Sexts imprint titled Morbid Fantasies: A Reader’s Guide to the Gothic. Not only is it a great primer in the genre, but it also features beautiful illustrations by several incredible artists. I’m hoping to have that out in October so stay tuned for more info!
Speaking of artistic endeavors, I’ve got work in the upcoming Occult Activity Book Vol. 2, created by S. Elizabeth and Becky Munich. I was working with ideas of occult couples, so I have two coloring pages featuring esoteric love matches, plus a papercraft Gilles de Rais. Look for his partner Joan of Arc to be offered free on this blog once the book is released. The first edition sold out super-quickly, so don’t miss your opportunity to own volume two. Pre-order your copy here!
On Slutist, I did something a bit different in August and talked about Artemisia Gentileschi, the Baroque-era Italian painter who overcame personal trauma to become a respected artist in her own right. Read her story here.
Decadent German black metal band Imperium Dekadenz draws inspiration from Tinto Brass’ Caligula, among other sources. Their lush, melodramatic, melodic record is a shoo-in for my best of 2016 list. Read my thoughts on their latest, Dis Manibvs, on Nine Circles.
Another historically-grounded metal album that moved me recently was Wrekmeister Harmonies’ Light Falls. It’s an emotionally harrowing journey inspired by Primo Levi’s holocaust memoir If This Is A Man as well as by band-leader JR Robinson’s strained relationship with his son. Not an easy listen, but a deeply rewarding one. Read my thoughts here.
It’s been entirely too long since I updated here, but y’all will hopefully forgive me when you see everything I’m up to.
The big news (such as anything can be termed “big news” in my world of esoteric nonsense) is that I’m launching a podcast with my trusted Heretical Sexts lieutenant J. Guignol. It’s called Bad Books for Bad People, and it will feature the most outrageous, shocking, shamefully fun books that we’ve enjoyed. Expect a variety of titles from a variety of time periods. Our first book is BleakWarrior, and Jack describes it as “”if SoulCalibur were a porno directed by Jodorowsky.”
Elsewhere, I’ve done bunches of stuff…
I’m continuing my Great Moments in Historical Sluttery column with two amazing women:
The dangers of rock music in Spellbound?, a Chick Publications comic informed by the work of the same dude who assisted with Dark Dungeons.
I got to chat with Anders Manga of Bloody Hammers, my former editor over at Occult Rock Magazine. The new Bloody Hammers is a delightful occult/doom/goth-flavored offering that should be listened to posthaste.
Bryan Proteau, aka Cloven Hoov, is another artist I’ve admired from afar for quite some time. His stunning linework and mystical imagery consistently blow me away. Read more about the work of this talented, thoughtful individual here: Alchemical Linework: The Art of Bryan Proteau.
Feral House’s sister imprint, Process Media, continues to delight with their eclectic catalog that includes historical reprints, how-to books, music overviews. There was pretty much a zero percent chance I wasn’t going to be thrilled with their most recent title, Priestess of Morphine: The Lost Writings of Marie-Madeleine in the Time of Nazis, which covers the poetry and prose of the forgotten bisexual star of Wilhelminian and Weimar Germany. It’s like they plumbed my subconscious to come up with that title, for God’s sake! Read my full review on Heathen Harvest.
In other articles relating to notable queer women of history, I wrote about Golden Age Hollywood screen goddess Alla Nazimova for February’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery at Slutist. More than just extravagant and beautiful, Nazimova was an accomplished talent who helped elevate other notable women. Oh, and he probably slept with both of Rudolph Valentino’s wives, if you want to get into the salacious stuff (which we all know you do). Read the article here: Alla Nazimova, Silver Screen Sappho.
I continue my exploration of heavy metal comics in my Stygian Imagery column at Nine Circles. This month, I highly recommend that readers check out Black Metalwritten by Rick Spears and Chuck BB. Don’t be a knucklehead like me and avoid it just because it’s about teens–it’s really great. Read my full review, in which I quote Venom lyrics to try to make some kind of point, somehow: Stygian Imagery: Black Metal by Rick Spears and Chuck BB.
2016 has certainly started with a bang, and February holds some really exciting developments that I’m looking forward to sharing. For those of you looking for a handy run-down of what I’ve been up to, you’re in luck!
January’s installment of Great Moments in Historical Sluttery, my monthly column at Slutist, is probably one of my favorites so far. Roman Empress Messalina is a fascinating figure whose scandalous reputation continues to titillate audiences looking for tales of sexy intrigue. Short of the whole “getting executed for treason” thing, it’s pretty amazing to think that one’s insatiable sexual appetites would continue to be a topic of conversation two thousand years after one’s death. May we all be lucky enough to be the namesake of a German strip club. Read the article here.
On a completely different but also-controversial note, I reviewed Feral House’s spicy new release, The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA 1979-1993 for Heathen Harvest. SPOILER: Many people are punched; little is ultimately accomplished. This was a challenging read from a very different perspective than the majority of writing on the subject, though its 600-plus-page run length makes it a book geared towards the VERY curious. Of all of the exhaustive details, I think my favorite anecdote was the fact that Ian Stewart of Skrewdriver was used as a bogeyman to convince his friends’ kids to behave themselves.
Lastly, but absolutely not leastly, my Art Coven sisters Becky Munich and S. Elizabeth brought together amazing artists and authors for their just-released Occult Activity Book and invited me to participate. If you’ve ever wanted Elizabeth Bathory paper dolls and Suspiria color-in pages, then boy howdy it is your lucky day! I’ve got my filthy hands on a copy of this and it is a creepy, cheeky good time. Purchase your copy here!
I was recently given the honor of an artist profile over at my heavy metal blog of choice, Nine Circles. I talk about how much I love the people I collaborate with, list some of my favorite music, and reveal how low I’ll sink to get to work with especially exciting new folks. You can read the article here.