Right folks and folksesses, here it goes my interview with the infamous Jasper Bark, scourge of daytime TV puppets, owner of some of the finest hair in the business, and not to forget a rather good author.
GNOH – Hey Jasper, how are you doing?
J – I was going to say “fine thanks”, but then I thought:“that’s the scripted response to that question isn’t it?” Which isn’t so much aquestion as a call and response.
‘How are you?’
“I’m fine and yourself?”
It’s like a conversation on auto pilot which neither of youhave to actually engage in. This said, when I ask people how they are and theyactually tell me I’m quite annoyed. “How rude” I think. “I wasn’t reallyinterested.“
So, erm … I’m fine I guess, and yourself?
GNOH – Who did that rather finepainting of you on your website’s homepage?
J – It was done by the amazingly talented Manon Art. I wouldurge readers to check out her site: http://artbymanon.com/. It was, of course,painted from real life which posed a lot of difficulties getting a zombie, aslime monster and a green fox to stand still long enough to draw them, as youcan probably imagine.
GNOH- And where the hell do you get a red cape in this day and age?
J – I traded it from a transsexual necrophiliac for someunspeakable favours. Three years later the stench still haunts me.
GNOH – You say one of your mostembarrassing moments was reviewing pop videos with Zig and Zag on The BigBreakfast, really? At least you weren’tsat next to Chris Evans. Is there anyrecord of this still in existence?
J – It’s the most embarrassing moment that I can publiclyadmit to.
A friend of mine, who is quite a famous stripper, recorded acopy for me when it went out. As she was doing this her bed partner of thenight before burst a blood vessel in his penis causing the condom he had justput on to fill up with blood like a water balloon. My friend, bless her heart,refused to take him to the hospital until she’d finished taping my segment.
This is a true story!
GNOH – Was Gabby still on the show? Did she smell as nice as I imagine she does?
J – I think she’d left by then, this was 96/97. I did thespot with Mark Little who used to play Joe Mangel on ‘Neighbours’. He startedthe interview by saying: “You know I’ve got a little Jasper” To which Ireplied: “Never mind, they have plastic surgery for that nowadays ”.
“No,” Mark said. “I mean I’ve got a son called Jasper.”
“Oh,” I said, and an embarrassed silence followed, in whichmy customary wit completely deserted me.
GNOH – Causing riots and disruption inmy home town of Edinburgh, don’t you know you shouldn’t stir up the fur coatsand no knickers brigade? The ladies ofMorningside must have been chattering about this for months.
J – I did have to hand in my WI card, and the laminatedrecipe for Victoria sponge.
I presume you’re talking about the scandal surrounding myplay ‘F*** The State – In 5 Easy Lessons’ which debuted at the EdinburghFestival. It did stir up a bit of a palava in the tabloids and a fewcouncillors called for it to be banned. It was up for a Fringe First (which arethe Oscars of the festival) but it was denied it due to the controversy.
The most unsettling thing was watching a bunch of the actorsgetting arrested for handing out leaflets for the show on the Royal Mile. Thisis something you expect to see happening to dissidents handing out seditiousliterature in the former Soviet union. Not actors handing out flyers for acomedy at one of the worlds foremost international arts festivals.
Some people really don’t have a sense of humour I guess.Thank goodness the British bobby is still susceptible to bribery I say.
GNOH – You were also a stand up comicpoet, is that not just an excuse to recite dirty
J – It was an excuse for a lot of things, most notably notcutting my hair cut or getting a proper job.
GNOH – You also spent some time as amusic and film journalist, who was the biggest douche you had to interview?
J – That’s a difficult question as there were rather a lot.Fame and money do not bring out the best in a person’s character.
I did interview Marshal Mathers when he first came toBritain to promote his first album. A female colleague and I went to meet himin a suite at the Dorchester hotel. His six foot eight, African American mindershowed us in and for some reason I still can’t explain, we did the interview inthe bathroom.
My colleague was perched on the side of the bath, while Isquatted over the bidet under the disapproving scowl of the minder. Mr Eminemsat on the toilet and stared at the floor, answering our questions withmonosyllabic grunts.
About ten minutes in to the interview my colleague asked himabout the number of his lyrics that dealt with violence against women.“Alright, I see where this is going,” said his minder. “Don’t answer thatMarshal.” Then he picked me up by the scruff of my neck so that my feet weredangling above the floor and marched me and my colleague out of the bathroomand threw us into the corridor.
My write up, as you can imagine, was quite cutting andfilled with invective, but my editors had a failure of nerve and printed abowdlerised, sycophantic version of the interview instead. That same week theNME, who’d conducted a perfectly cordial interview, led with the heading ‘MeetSlim Shady – He’s an Asshole’ and completely trumped us.
About a year later I was given his second album ‘The MarshalMathers LP’ to review. I sat down, sharpened my knives and put it on thestereo. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out it was brilliant. Ohwell.
GNOH – Controversy, and socialdisobedience seems to follow you around, have you mellowed out recently? You must still do little acts of defiance , Iknow I still have to. Although they allseem to be directed at the Mrs these days. No I will never make the bed properly.!!!!
J – Controversy, for me, is a bit like the ugly kid brotherthat your mother forces you to take along when you go out somewhere. It tagsalong behind me leaving an awful stink and refuses to go away.
This said, these days I’m more likely to embarrass mychildren (who are both model citizens in the making) than I am to incite themasses.
GNOH – One last question, before we getonto your writing, just what exactly is your routine for keeping such lusciouslocks?
J – I live a clean life and I think pure thoughts. The restis up to God.
GNOH – What first got you interested inwriting?
J – I was five years old and I saw a piece on the 70schildren’s show ‘Why Don’t You’ about kids, a little older than me, who weremaking their own comics. All you needed was paper, felt tip pens, a stapler anda little imagination. I had all those! I could make my own comics, MAKE MY OWNCOMICS!!!
No idea has ever filled me with such excitement. Fromdrawing my own comics I began filling stolen school text books with stories.The compulsion got so bad that the following Christmas my parents had toconfiscate my pens and paper so I would come open my presents.
GNOH – Who are your favourite authorsof all time?
J – Oh heavens, there are so many!
My favourite horror authors are MR James, Robert Aickman,Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ramsey Campbell and Lisa Tuttle, I’m alsorather fond of Simon Bestwick, Gary McMahon and Stephen Volk.
My favourite genre authors are Sherri S Tepper, Ursula LeGuin, Philip K Dick and Gene Wolfe.
Favourite crime writers are Derek Raymond, Iceberg Slim,Edward Bunker, George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane.
Favourite authors would be Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges,Flann O’Brien, Yukio Mishima and Jerome K Jerome.
My favourite novel is ‘The Golden Ass’ written in the secondcentury AD by Lucius Apuleius a priest of Isis.
I could go on. Actually, I think I’ve gone on rather toomuch.
GNOH – How the hell did you come towrite a Strontium Dog novel? Strontium Dog along with Rogue Trooper are my two favourite comiccharacters of all time.
J – I sent the editor a specially prepared message from the‘Mutant Liberation Front’ demanding that one of their own be allowed to writeabout the leading Search and Destroy Agents. After all who better to chroniclethe adventures of the world’s foremost mutant bounty hunter than someone wholooks like a mutant.
Thankfully he saw sense and complied.
GNOH – How much freedom did you havewith Johnny, and were you ever tempted to push the boundaries?
J – It’s not so much the freedom that an editor does ordoesn’t give you, so much as
the expectations of the existing fan base that youhave to worry about. There is a diehard core of readers who are extremelyinvested in the characters, They’ve read every thing ever written about themand will be up in arms if you get even the slightest detail wrong.
I am always tempted to push at any boundary but if you takeon this sort of job you do need a lot of respect for the characters and theirhistory. There is a reason why Johnny Alpha is so popular, that ‘s because he’sa brilliant character and there is little any writer can do to improve on thework of talents like the creators John Wagner and Alan Grant.
GNOH – You have also written for kidscomics, such as Toxic, and Lucky Bag comic, how did that come about?
J – I had to do something to fill up my community service.
Actually, it came about when I became a parent. I found outthere weren’t very many good kid’s comics left. I’d loved reading comics as asmall child and wanted to do something for the next generation of comicsreaders so I got in touch with the editors of the comics and began writingstories for them.
GNOH – How much work is involved for awriter doing these sort of things?
J – There’s a lot of mental work coming up with the story.Standard British kid’s
comics are often variations on a theme that arises outof the defining characteristic of your lead character. Dennis has to find a newway to menace Walter, Suicidal Sid needs a new method to top himself, forexample.
Once you’ve come up with the story, worked out how itdevelops in an unexpected direction, then resolves itself in a way that is bothsatisfactory and unforeseen you start breaking it down into panels then youwrite the script.
I could usually write about four to six stories in a singlesitting and this was enough to provide a comfortable wage.
GNOH – Did your comic strips for2000AD, come before or after you had written the Strontium Dog novel?
J – Before, during and after.
GNOH – Where the original ideas yourown, or did you write the story based on plots they devised?
J – The plot, concepts and characters were entirely my own.2000AD editor Matt Smith is an accomplished writer in his own right and he willoccasionally make a suggestion but the stories always came from my ideas.
GNOH – Will we ever see your name againin the pages of 2000AD?
J – I certainly hope so. Watch this space.
GNOH – How did you come up with theidea of Universery Rhymes, was this your inner mischievous demon takingcontrol. I love the Blah Blah Back Seatpoem.
J – Thank you. It’s a little game I’ve always played withmyself. Whenever a song gets stuck in my head the best way to drive it out isto rewrite the lyrics, often coming up with an unspeakably obscene version thatsounds enough like the original that if you heard it sung aloud you’d think“Did I really hear that?”
As a parent you spend many long car journeys listening toEarly Learning Centre recordings of nursery Rhymes. These consist of one or twosession musicians singing along to the accompaniment of an electronic keyboard.So great is this mental torture, that you actually find yourself lookingforward to something as simple a key change in the middle of a song.
As a mental refuge I rewrote all the nursery rhymes so thatthe words sounded almost identical to the originals but were all subtlytwisted. Then it occurred to me there was probably a market for a naughty, allages album that could reinvent the old standards for parents and childrenalike.
GNOH – I’ve always wondered how aauthor gets into the mind set to write a children’s book. Do you think it helps if the author is stillin touch with his inner child? How do youkeep in touch with your inner child, Twitter or Facebook?
J – I don’t have an inner child because I never actuallygrew up. I just became very good at pretending so I can stay up late and watchwhat I want on TV.
GNOH – How did the Journal ofInventions come about?
J – I was approached by the paper engineer Dave Hawcock whowanted to bring Leonardo’s inventions to life in a fine art pop up book. Heasked me to write and research the book and although I was really busy at thetime I was really excited about the project.
Gnoh – Which of these inventions do youwish was real?
J – Interestingly most of them have since been built, usingcontemporary materials
according to Leonardo’s specifications, and all of themwork. I did an awful lot of research for the book and read all of Leonardo’snotebooks. There is one interesting passage, accompanying some sketches of wingdesigns, that describes how to ride thermal updrafts and down drafts and how touse the flying machine to ride out stormy winds and stay in the air.
There is no other contemporary writing that has thisinformation and I can’t see how Leonardo could have known of these thingsunless he had flown. Every contemporary commentator who mentions Leonardo’sfascination with flying claim his experiments were a failure.
However this passage, and the posthumous proof that themachine would have worked, point to the fact that the flying machine probablywas real.
The other thing I discovered while researching the books wasthat Leonardo also built fully functioning robots. No s***, he actually builtclock work suits of armour and animatronic animals that could be programmed tomove in specific ways.
I am in awe of the man. There are working models of theserobots in the book.
GNOH – Between, the comics, thechildren’s books, and the living it up with Zig and Zag, you have also pennedtwo adult novels
J – Three and half actually if you count ‘Fistful ofStrontium’ (which I co-wrote). Before Dawn Over Doomsday, I also wrote anovelisation of the Sniper Elite game called ‘Spear of Destiny’, which hasextremely adult content.
GNOH – Dawn Over Doomsday, is set inthe Afterblight Universe, what exactly is the Afterblight Universe. Is this a zombie series, or is it just a postapocalypse series?
J – It’s just post apocalyptic, there are no zombies. It’sset in a world that has been decimated by plague and and a minor nuclearexchange. The World Bible was written by Si Spurrier who also penned the firstnovel in the series – The Culled.
GNOH – Do you need to read the rest ofthe novels to understand what’s going on?
J – No, each novel is completely stand alone (with theexception of Scott Andrews’ and Paul Kane’s trilogies). Mine came quite earlyin the series. I do make reference to events in a few of the other novels but Iexplain these fully and you don’t need to have read them to understand what’sgoing on.
GNOH – What’s your story about?
J – The Native American population is gathering under thebanner of the United Tribal nations but looks to be on a collision course withthe Fundamentalist Christian army of the Neo Clergy. The two armies are set fora showdown at Little Bighorn, once site of Custer’s legendary last stand, now atwisted nuclear landscape.
The battle will be decided by a former Amish sex slave,rescued from a brothel and taken on a perilous road trip across the Americancontinent so she can become the bride of an intelligent virus that will bringabout a new dawn over Doomsday.
GNOH – Is this just a good oleadventure story, or is there a message you are trying to bring to the readers?
J – Not so much a message as that implies preaching and asoap box. As a writer I’m primarily an entertainer, but most things that Iwrite have deeper layers of meaning and sometimes a higher purpose.
At the time that I wrote Dawn OverDoomsday, George Bush and Tony Blair were waging what many believed to be anillegal war in Iraq and a war on terror at home. It seemed to me that in bothconflicts the main people benefitting were those on the extreme fringes. Tosuch a degree that they might as well be working together. So I tried toexplore this in a tale of two large national armies trying to rebuild acivilisation in their own image. Each uses the threat they pose one another toforce those caught in the middle to choose sides.
It also seemed to me that the War onTerror was as much a war of faith as ideology. I believe that the only thingthat can resolve a conflict of faith is the very thing that started it – faithitself. In that sense this is also a story about redemption. In their own wayeach of the characters is looking for some form of redemption.
GNOH – Way of the Barefoot Zombie, isyour take on the zombie novel. Whatmakes it different to other zombie novels?
No other zombie novel will change your life quite so completelyor make you so irresistible to members of the opposite sex.
You can read my zombie novel in public without any fear ofcensure. What’s more, if you leave it on your desk at work I guarantee all yourcolleagues will want to sleep with you.
GNOH –I’m heading out to a Waterstonestoday, and I know they have a copy of it, sell it to me.
J – It’s set on a private island in the Caribbean where thebusiness guru Doc Papa has reinvented the zombie as an icon for the aspiringsuper rich. They are invited to free their own ‘inner zombies’ by interactingwith the world’s only captive colony of zombies. Once they’ve freed theconscienceless, undead brute that sits at the core of their being, nothing canstop them making a killing on the financial markets.
Thing go a little awry however when the island isinfiltrated by under cover members of the Zombie Liberation Front and amysterious Voodoo Priestess from Doc Papa’s past.
This is a merciless satire on the current state of theworld’s economy. If you’ve ever listened to the self serving excuses and liesthat come out of the mouths of the world’s leading bankers and politicians andlonged for them to be painfully dismembered by an uncontrollable horde of thewalking dead (and let’s face it – whohasn’t?) then this is a novel for you.
GNOH – How much research did you gothrough for this novel?
J – Quite a lot. These are old school voodoo zombies andvoodoo is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented religions in theworld. So I wanted to make sure that I gave a true representation of the faithand practises of those who serve the Loa. I spoke to a bunch of practitioners and read a lot ofbooks on the subject to make it as authentic as possible.
I also did a lot of reading on finance and economics and thelives of the super rich as these are all themes of the novel too.
GNOH – You have produced a series ofbook trailers for TWOTBZ, folks you have to check them out they are brilliant?
J – Thanks Jim.
Quick, head on over here
Or check out the entry on Jim’s blog.
GNOH – If you don’t mind me asking, howmuch did they cost to make, the production values are very high?
J – A normal two day shoot like the one we did for thesetrailer should have cost in the region of £10,000 to £12,000. However I amquite persuasive when I want to be and I managed to convince the actors andfilm makers at Level Films that this would be an interesting and fun project toget involved with, and they all agreed to waive their normal fees. In the endthe budget was just under £2,000 and I managed to talk my publisher intopicking that up. Which was jolly kind of them.
GNOH – You’re a bit of anexhibitionist, aren’t you, that’s the only way anyone can explain that cravat.
J – Well I could be overcompensating, or perhaps I’msubliminally advertising. You know what they say: “Big cravat, big …”
GNOH – The trailers are very tongue incheek. Is this a reflection of the book?
J – No, the trailers are broad farce and slapstick whereasthe humour in the book is
much, much darker, more biting and satirical. It isnot just a humorous book either, that is only one note that the story strikes,there are many others that range from the horrific to the redemptive.
GNOH – You have an audiobook out at themoment, Dead Air, can you tell us about that?
J – It’s a horror anthology that began life as a one man,multimedia show and debuted at the Rondo Theatre in Bath. The audiobook versionis an expanded, redux version of this,with lots of shiny new extras.
It’s about a place where the dead go to record their finalstories. An underground frequency that carries the last testaments of thedamned and the dispossessed. Broadcasts that lurk in the black static betweenstations, whispering truths too terrible to tell anywhere else.
It’s very much in the style of classic anthology shows likethe Twilight Zone, or the Amicus portmanteau horror films or even old radioshows like Inner Sanctum. The recording is actually much closer to a radiodrama than an audiobook with its own theme tune and dramatic sfx.
GNOH – Am I right in thinking that youare about to release it as an e-book?
J – I understand that’s about to happen imminently.
GNOH – Don’t authors usually do thingsthe other way around?
J – I have never been accused of doing things theconventional way.
GNOH – And why is your name speltJasper on some books and Jaspre on others?
J – I had to undergo a bit of a rebranding exercise. Jaspreis an unconventional spelling of ‘Jasper’ but as I started to sell to anincreasingly international market it was apparently causing confusion amongcertain readers about how you pronounce the name and this was putting them off.
So, just like Jif (which became Cif) and Marathon (whichbecame Snickers) I’ve been re-marketed for a wider public. Unlike Cif andSnickers however, I don’t hang around the toilet for ages and you can’t feel mynuts for under a buck.
GNOH – So what does the future hold foryou?
J – I’m working on three different graphic novels at themoment. One of them adapts the work of the famous fine artist Ray Harris Chinginto a meta-narrative. Two are horror stories (one for a British publisher onefor an American). I’m at work on an off the wall super hero series for theAmerican publisher Silver Phoenix and I should have a regular new strip comingout in the newly launched British Strip Comic Magazine.
Aside from that I have quite a few speculative irons in thefire and a trilogy of novels I’d really like to start work on.
GNOH – Jasper this has been a blast,thank you so much for popping over for a chat.
J – Thanks Jim,I’ve really enjoyed my time here too. Couldyou get someone to walk me to the bus stop though? Only, the drugs have justkicked in and I haven’t got a clue where I am ….
GNOH – Here Jasper take this short cut through my cellar, watch out for the third step, it’s a bit loose. And don’t pay any attention to pleas for help, it’s just the drugs talking
Folks, I heartily recommend you pay a visit to Jasper’s website and spend some time exploring, you’ll find samples of his books, hidden treasures, samples of his comic work, and a load of belly laughs.
And folks you guy purchases Jaspers books by following the links below