“ONE FOOT IN DARKNESS”
A Conversation with John Skipp
by John Boden
For most—horror readers and writers, at least—John Skipp needs no introduction. The rest of you, however…
John Skipp came into prominence in the mid-80s, pioneering the splatterpunk style of horror with Craig Spector. Together, the duo tainted the 80s and early 90s with more than a half dozen nasty novels. They split as collaborators in 1993.
Since their split, Skipp has continued collaborating as well as writing solo. He’s also branched out into music, film, and family. And in recent years, he has resurfaced as a ferocious blip on the literary radar; first with the novella Conscience followed by The Long Last Call, a novel. Both were repressed together in 2007. His most recent works are Jake’s Wake, a new collaborative novel with Cody Goodfellow, and Opposite Sex, an erotica e-book, by the lovely Gina McQueen (aka John Skipp).
Most, if not all, of this is touched upon in the following interview…gleaned from the man himself through a series of e-mails and phone calls. Enjoy!
JB: What got you into the horror thing? Was there a certain book you read or something that made you stand up and go “I want to do this for a living”?
JS: The earliest thing I can point to is that, when I was two and a half, I had one of those fevers that almost kill you. Seriously. I was hallucinating like a motherfucker…rats running down the walls, and I couldn’t stop screaming…till we actually had to do the Jacob’s Ladder thing, where my dad filled the bathtub with ice-water and submerged me in it. The rats hit the water and just dissolved. I remember this more vividly than anything…well, anything else that happened when I was two and a half, that’s for sure. Except for maybe my Grandma Skibski’s apple spice cake, which was reeeeeeeeally good.
From that point on, anything that was remotely scary scared the living shit outta me. Like, I’d be watching cartoons on a Saturday afternoon, and a commercial for tonight’s late-nite feature, Frankenstein, would come on, and suddenly I’m going “AAAAUGH!!!” and shrieking through the house, hiding under the living room table, until I heard footsteps clomping up from the basement, and I’d go “AAAAUGH!!!” again, until my Mom walked in and just looked at me like oh, you poor boy. [laughs] I was a genuine scaredy cat.
JB: So that fever thing sort of made you ultra sensitive in the fear receptors?
JS: Yes. Exactly. Stupidly sensitive. But at a certain point, I just got tired of being scared. So I started making myself watch these scary movies. I would watch Dr. Cadaverino—Milwaukee’s version of that late-nite ghost host so popular in the early 1960s—with Styrofoam tombstones and a mad scientist lab with foaming beakers, and a headless assistant who was always bumping into shit. Fantastic show. I started watching those movies that were freaking me out, and suddenly realized that some of them were really scary, but a lot of them were just really stupid. So I started to sort it out. Then I fell in love with Creepy magazine when it came out, and Famous Monsters of Filmland. At that point, I was hooked.
The first writer I fell in love with was Dr Seuss. Still a favorite. Then I found Edgar Allan Poe, through Creepy, and searched out the actual books. I used to draw the creatures from Creepy; I’d do these montages of panels I liked from the various artists. I started making up stories myself, but I didn’t really write them down.
Then, in eighth grade, I had a really really shitty art teacher, who sucked all the fun out of art for me. So I sort of switched gears, joined the drama department, and wound up writing the school play, then went on to edit the creative writing portion of the school newspaper.
All the seeds were already laid by then. I’d been reading Bradbury, the old Hitchcock collections like Stories They Wouldn’t Let Me Do on TV, and the vintage Brit anthologies from Pan and Fontana. That’s how I found everything from Daphne de Maurier, Saki, and Robert W. Chambers to Robert Bloch, Henry Slesar, and Anthony Boucher. So I had the classics in my bones.
Then, for my eighteenth birthday, my drummer’s girlfriend bought me a copy of Grendel, by John Gardner, which is the Beowulf legend from the monster’s point of view. This short, astonishing little novel was the first book I read that made me go, “I think I wanna try one of these.” It would be years before I even started a novel, but that was the one that planted the final seed of “Ya know what? I think this is doable!”
But by then, I thought I was gonna be a rock star; and it wasn’t until that shit didn’t pan out that I finally threw myself into writing. That was a few years before The Light at the End and the New York Times bestsellers list.
JB: I first encountered your work via a battered copy of The Light at the End I found in the auditorium in 10th grade as I was in ISS [in-school suspension]. I read it in one evening and went on a quest to find all the other books you guys wrote. I read and loved them all.
I have always wanted to know how that collaborative relationship worked? It had to be tricky. Who came up with what and how did you make it all gel? It seems more clear to me now, having read more of your solo work and other collaborations, how strong your voice was in the early novels…
JS: The thing was, I was the guy who was burning to write. Craig was a guy who was my best friend…we’d been in bands together. He went to art school, up in Boston—where they proceeded to beat the fun out of art for him, too—while I moved to New York City. I had started to sell some short stories to Twilight Zone magazine through T.E.D. Klein, who was the editor there. One day, Craig called me. He said he had this great idea for a story about this punk vampire in the subways. “You wanna try and turn this into a story, maybe we can sell to Twilight Zone and make a few bucks.” I’m like, “Yeah yeah yeah…I got some stuff of my own I’m workin’ on, but we’ll talk about it…”
He bugged me off and on for several months, then he took a trip down to visit me and we decided to write it then…that weekend. We went to a friend’s roach-infested apartment in the Bowery—actually where The Cleanup is set—and we started talking about stuff, and I realized rather quickly it wasn’t a short story at all. It was a novel. We talked about it for awhile and for the next year or so I’d write pages and send them to Craig, then we’d talk at great length about what would happen next. He then moved down to New York and became a street messenger. We had a place together; we would jam on the stuff all the time. The fact of the matter was we only had one typewriter—I was the writer. I wrote most of that book, working off of his story. But we were both totally involved.
After two years, the book was ready and got a shitload of rejections before it finally sold. That was when we realized we could do this as a career, and we wouldn’t have to be fucking messengers anymore.
We sat down and made a five-year plan, complete with color coded charts, and went into Bantam Books and laid out this plan—and we got the deal. At that point [laughs], Craig got a typewriter and started learning how to do this shit. The first real training session was the novelization of the film Fright Night, which had to be done in a month. I did an awful lot of rewriting on him, but he started to get his chops up; and by The Scream, his voice was really coming into its own. Craig is great with a story, really great to throw things back and forth with, and really good at poking holes in shit that doesn’t work.
One of the great things about collaborating, having somebody that you can really work with, is that after a while it isn’t you or me, but this weird collective, two-man hive mind, where the bees are just flying back and forth. And the only really important thing is “Did you bring the honey?” That’s how that worked…that’s how working with Marc Levinthal on Burrito was, and that’s totally how working with Cody is. And I have to tell you, outta all the people I’ve worked with, Cody is the only one who had a strong career going before I met him, and will have one after we’re done. He is by far the best writer I’ve ever worked with, and those other guys were good.
JB: Reading your new work, I can really tell how much of Skipp and Spector’s voice was yours. The cinematic pacing, the wordplay, the whole approach to violence and character and spirituality…
JS: Thanks for noticing. I really appreciate that.
JB: Was the split with Spector amicable? Was it a matter of you had gone as far as you could go together and just split kind of thing?
JS: No. And yes.
JB: How was working with Goodfellow? Jake’s Wake is great fun…and seems as though it was to write.
JS: It was fantastic. Now we’re a few projects in, we just finished a new screenplay which I can’t tell you about, cuz it’s a secret. We’re taking a few days off, which is why I have time to talk, and then we’ll start the next thing. We’re on a fucking roll.
Cody’s a total maximalist, much as I was back in the Skipp and Spector days, where the first thing you throw in is the kitchen sink. You know? Just throwing everything, from every direction. Whereas I have become more of a minimalist, almost a dramatist, from working to build a film career and learning how film is made. Really focusing on characters and little moments.
So he comes in from the big moments; I come at it from the little moments. We can both surf in each other’s terrain—I can go big, he can go little—but mostly it just means that we cover an incredible amount of ground in a very copacetic way.
When you’re working with someone who really really loves to write, who loves the process itself and not just the rewards, and you’re not just an echo of one another—two guys trying to do the same thing in the exact same way—you wind up challenging each other in the very best way. It’s a real pleasure every day to sit down and bang away at this stuff, knowing that he’s fifteen miles away doing the same thing. Knowing both of you are working hard at it pushes you, and makes you proud. I love working with Cody.
JB: How different was your mindset for writing Opposite Sex? I’d imagine the shackles of your normal scheme were gone as this was a “secret” pen-named project…at first.
JS: Basically what happened is, my agent is one of the founders of this company known as Ravenous Romance, which is an e-book company dealing in that weird line where romance and erotica butt heads, because they’re very different things. You read a lot of things like “Love’s Throbbing Passion” and it’s like erotica for the lady of the house, but it’s got this big emotional content to it. I always found stuff like that fascinating. I’m a big fan of love, and I’m crazy about sex—and I like money.
So when Lori asked if I’d write them a book, I said I’d want to do it under an assumed name, so as to not confuse people. So I came up with Gina McQueen…you know, one half Gina Lollabrigida and one half Steve motherfuckin’ McQueen.
I wrote down a couple of ideas for stories and this was the one that really popped. The idea of these two people meeting at this hotel at a horror con weekend. It’s like Freaky Friday with fucking. I wrote it in seven extremely horny weeks. [laughs]
There are certain authors with Ravenous who are doing a book a month, just slammin’ ‘em out. I thought, I could make a lot of money if I just did one of these every so often, but it was exhausting. It really was. And I don’t know how many more twenty-page-long hand-jobs I have in me. [laughs] But I’m definitely not ruling out more Gina McQueen. I’d just need the right idea.
JB: All of your work has been so visually arresting, I cannot conceive of why Hollywood hasn’t been all over it.
JS: Yeah, cinematic narrative style is where I come from. And you gotta understand, most of those books have been optioned, some of them many, many times. That said, there are all kinds of reasons.
When Craig and I hit L.A., there were certain deals where it was clear that we were probably gonna get hosed and probably going to hate it. Then there were points where…there was at least one offer for Light At The End I wish we would’ve taken. That movie would’ve been made 15 years ago and it would’ve been great…we would’ve had a lot more money and things would’ve changed. So we made some good decisions, and some mistakes were made. And then splitting up just makes it weird.
JB: I have heard about—but not seen—the film version of Animals.
JS: Unfortunately, I’m not hearing great shit. But I haven’t seen it, either.
JB: Why do you think it is that werewolf movies are so damn hard to do? The last decent one I saw was Dog Soldiers, and it wasn’t even one-hundred-percent great, there were some turdly moments in that one.
JS: I liked it more than you did. I liked the idea of these guys armed to handle situations…but not that one.
JB: Yeah, but for every Dog Soldiers you have fifteen Skinwalkers…
JS: [laughs] Yeah, it’s a really hard one to get right and it’s sad how few good ones there are, but the good ones are goodies. The Howling is still great. American Werewolf in London is great. From there, you gotta go back to Werewolf of London, and the original Wolfman. Must admit, I’m very much looking forward to the remake on that one, with Benecio del Toro as Lawrence Talbot.
JB: If I ever won the lottery and had untold millions, I’d take on The Bridge…but I fear it’d have to be animated.
JS: Towards the end of Skipp and Spector’s time, Oliver Stone optioned The Bridge to do as anime. How fucking great would that have been?
JB: How about Jake’s Wake, the film?
JS: We were getting ready to shoot it on a very small budget. We had a great cast, a location, and everything. And right as we’re coming up on production, my production partner and I looked at each other and said, “This is not enough money.”
So now we’re back in pre-production. And interestingly enough, The Long Last Call now has some very interesting momentum behind it. So we’ll see how that all goes.
JB: Of all the things you’ve written/co-written…what’s your personal favorite?
JS: I can’t…I can say the happiest writing experience I have had was The Emerald Burrito of Oz, just because it’s such a sweet-spirited work. Marc Levinthal is amazing. He’s an incredible musician, whose roots span from classical, jazz, and punk to the most outside of outside music. He was the main musical force behind Green Jellö [name changed to Green Jellÿ in 1992]…ya know, “Three Little Pigs” and “Eat Satan’s Ham”. And he did the soundtrack for the film Valley Girl. But he can also really write. Just a sweet, humble genius with a fantastic weirdo imagination.
Of my solo stuff, I gotta go with Conscience. From the Skipp and Spector days, right now it’s The Bridge. And as for Skipp and Goodfellow, I think our best work is ahead of us.
But aside from Jake—which I totally love—there’s a book coming out called The Day Before that I’m flabbergasted by. We’ve written a pair of new stories—“Happy Birthday Nick the Stripper” and “Plastic Fantastic”—that have rekindled my love affair with the short story form. The new script is nuts. And we can’t wait to dig into this new novel, which will also be fucking nuts.
JB: Having been one of the pioneers of the splatterpunk movement in the 80’s, what do you think of the literary scene today? Do you feel the torch has been reverently carried or pissed on…feel free to rant and ramble.
JS: I am amazed by how many people were influenced by the early stuff, and how The Bridge seems to be the one that was a huge touchstone for guys like Cody and Brian Keene, Carlton Mellick III with The Menstruating Mall and all his wonderful, crazy shit.
I’ve said this before, but I’m very gratified that I still have my seat at the table. After all those years of being away, just to walk back up and have people just pull out that chair and say, “Have a seat, man.” What a wonderful feeling.
As for the modern scene, it’s as it’s always been. There are writers that I really really love, and writers that are less my cup of tea. But they don’t have to be, cuz someone else is gonna dig ‘em if they’re good enough. Luckily for everyone, I am not the universal arbiter of taste. [laughs]
Obviously, I think Cody is the shit, or I wouldn’t be working with him. I think Keene is really fuckin’ good. You can tell the books where he leans into it. The Rising is fantastic. I thought Joe Hill’s novel was really fuckin’ good. Mehitobel Wilson is a staggeringly good writer. Sarah Langan. Eric Shapiro. Stephen Romano…there’s a lot of really good people.
In regards to the new guys…the thing I’m not seeing, that I wish I were seeing more of, is the social conscience and that engagement with the larger world. I want to read more stories where the writer doesn’t only care about scaring me, but actually cares about the world. That is something I am always happy to see.
Mostly, what I look for in a writer is a distinctive voice, someone I actually wanna spend time in the head of. All those people I mentioned deliver that in spades. That’s what gives me hope: seeing new idiosyncratic motherfuckers who write like nobody else.
JB: Is print-on-demand technology the evil beast that some fear it is?
JS: Of course not. I published Stupography and Conscience as PODs, just so I didn’t have to wait for somebody else to verify that my book was okay enough for other people to read. Fuck that. There are certain works where I’m gonna go and put this thing out, and either people will read it or they won’t. I was very lucky in that I had my previous history to help pop me out. But the ability to just write something, lay it out, slap a cover on it and make it available to people is fucking tremendous, and I have no problem with that whatsoever.
JB: There are those who are really against this technology, for whatever reason.
JS: Sure. It’s like being able to produce your own album, ya know, just go in the studio and produce your own album. What is the fucking problem with that? We’ve reduced ourselves to the point where if a corporation—a mindless corporation that barely has time for the folks it employs—doesn’t ratify my project, then it can’t really be worth anything? Fuck. I didn’t get into this gig to serve the machine. I got into this gig so I didn’t have to serve it. The machine and I interact to the point now that it can smell the money off of what I do anyway. I have no problem with selling stuff, no problem with commerce. I am in fact a cheerful capitalist.
I just don’t need them to tell me if it’s good or not. If I think it’s good enough and people will enjoy it, then people at least deserve the chance to see if I’m correct or not.
JB: What are your thoughts on the rampant negativity in the community these days?
JS: The thing that really bothers me within the culture of writers, and it’s not just in the horror community, is this whole idea that it’s like it’s a big class room. Or worse, like writing is a group therapy project where everyone gets to vote on your diagnosis. Everyone is a fucking critic, tearing down other people’s stuff…like being in a piss-filled pool full of ten-year-olds who won’t stop slapping each other.
To me, creativity is a personal and private thing to be respected. Whether it’s great or not. I just respect the impulse.
This may be funny from a guy who collaborates all the time, but when I’m writing, it’s up to me. It’s not up to a fucking committee; if there’s going to be a committee involved, they’d better be paying the shit outta me—and I’d still hate it. The last thing I want is a jury of my peers taking a shit on every paragraph I write before I’ve even gotten the chance to stack them properly.
That seems to be the way the writing culture is, and it’s not just horror…I think that, by and large, writers groups are an unfortunate source of discouragement and pain.
It’s not always true, but a lot of times the best people are confident enough with their stuff they don’t need to take others down a peg to make themselves feel better. This sort of behavior is made entirely out of insecurity and fear, which of course are the greatest foundations to build a career on. [laughs] That’s not the kinda party you wanna go to, and it’s not the kinda person you wanna be. So don’t.
JB: I read once that horror thrives in times of war and social distress. They said in the 30s it did well due to the Depression, then in the 40s and 50s due to war…the 60’s and 70’s due to more wars…the 80’s due to the threat of nuclear war and all around political unrest, and then in the 90s…not a lot of horror in the limelight. With the new millennium, we get a new war and horror seems to be thriving again. Any merit to this theory? Really, it’s like one decade out of the last seven that had no war to jump-start the fantasist in us all…
JS: Well, I wrote an essay for Storytellers Unplugged when I was a teacher there—and tried to circulate it as widely through the crowd as I could—called “Because These Are Horror Times,” basically saying when shit is this fucked up and people are this scared, horror is the natural literature to address it. Why ain’t it addressing it?
But yeah, when you’re scared, you need something to scratch that itch…we culturally need something to scratch that collective itch. To try and make sense of what’s going on, put it in context and make your fear manageable again…there is a lot of escapist shit, but also that really deep-seated gimme-something-that-can-get-to-this-hard-to-reach place and scratch it for me. To me, that’s the horror writer’s job. I think to the extent that we respond to that, you get some really valuable writing.
Bottom line is, shit’s always fucked up, even in times of relative peace. Dark times demand tough measures, and as Hunter S. Thompson said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
So, yeah, that’s the drill, and you are correct. Look at the 60s and early 70s—the Romeros and Cronenbergs that popped out of that mulch—to see how absolutely true that is.
JB: I recall a lot of your work makes mention to music, and The Bridge even came with a playlist of the albums you listened to while writing it. Is music an important component for you when you write? What are you diggin’ these days, besides Zevon and Tom Waits?
JS: Love those guys…but actually, I don’t listen to music when I write anymore. I used to…I used to listen to primarily instrumental music, because the words would distract me. I used to play Bowie, “Heroes” and Low, the instrumental sides…the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack…Ennio Morricone’s score for The Thing. The Rhythm Devils Play River Music, which is the percussion stuff from Apocalypse Now…I still love all that stuff. But when I’m writing, I need quiet.
I listen to music in the morning when I wake up, when I’m in the car, while I answer e-mails. But when I really need to communicate something, the music must go off. I write to the music in my head.
That said, I keep music running in the kitchen when I cook—I love to cook. I’ve been making mix discs for dinner parties and kitchen work and stuff, mix discs for every occasion. I love music more than almost anything. Music is the best.
JB: If I don’t ask at least one question about Mumbo’s Brain [post-Megadeth/Damn The Machine project from guitarist Chris Poland, featuring John Skipp on vocals], my buddy Ken will have my sac…so tell me a bit about how that came about?
JS: Basically, I joined Damn The Machine after they bagged their singer…this is an incredible story. Okay.
Shortly after the massive earthquake in 1994…I am at this point flat busted broke, my life has completely collapsed, I’m in this tiny little shit-hole apartment in Hollywood, waiting to die. This particular April Fool’s Day, 1994, I wake and go, “God, I don’t like to ask you for things, cuz I feel kinda like an idiot about it, I just wanna let you know that If I don’t play some music, or find people to play with to help get this music outta me, I’m going to fucking spontaneously combust. Thanks for listening.” And that was my prayer.
Marc Levinthal was at this point in this punk band called Nailed. He lived about fifteen blocks away and I had maybe $4 in the world, so I bought two bagels, a little thing of cream cheese and a bottle of tomato juice, and headed to his house to beg him to let me be in his band. But he wasn’t in, so I went home and ate the bagels and drank the tomato juice.
A little while later, my friend Carol—a big black mama, whom I’d met at a bar on Hollywood Blvd, after being nearly fag-bashed by four guys with baseball bats—she calls me up. She says, “You don’t have any food, do you?” I said, “No.” She says, “You don’t have any money, either.” I said, “No.” She said, “I’m gonna come over and buy you some food.”
So she comes over, we go to this local grocery store, we’re walking through the store picking out items, and all the sudden her eyes get as big as softballs, I look at her…
…and then the fucking aftershock hits. Bah-WOOM! The world starts violently shaking from side to side. Salad dressing is firing like rockets off the shelves, and people start running, and I grab this woman who’s nearly twice my size and hold her, because I know the only people who are gonna get hurt in this thing are the ones who tromp each other desperately trying to get out. And I start laughing, because my life is so fucked at this point that it’s like “Oh look, now an earthquake! What else ya got?”
So I’m laughing and holding this woman, and shit’s flying through the air, and then it stops. Then it’s like we’re in the Beirut Safeway, shattered shit all over the floor. She’s shaking, and I’m laughing, while everybody else is staring at each other sheepishly, like, “I’m sorry I just almost stepped on your head.”
Carol says, “What do ya wanna do?” I’m like, “Let’s finish shopping!”
So we got $40 worth of food. We went to the checkout, and paid the nervous cashier. Everyone’s terrified, but I’m totally happy. We go back to my apartment to drop of the stuff, and Carol says, “Man, I really want to get stoned.” I say, “Boy, does that sound good.” She calls a friend of hers who probably had a little to share. So they say, “Come on over.” Because I heard they were musicians, I grab this cassette of music I had recorded with Brian Emerich, who did The Bridge soundtrack with us and now works with Darren Aronofsky on sound design.
We go over there and meet Carol’s friend, this gorgeous blonde, who lets us in. We start smokin’. The world gets better. Then her boyfriend Mark comes in from walking the dog and sits down. He’s a real character. He says, “You guys don’t know any singers, do ya? Cuz we just dumped our singer and we need a new one.”
Carol points at me and says, “He’s one.” Mark says “Yeah, right. That’s a little too easy.” We sit there smokin’ and talkin’ and he puts on an album. He starts playing the bongos and I pick up his girlfriend’s bass and we just jam a while. And he goes, “Okay, let’s hear your stuff.”
So I put on the tape—this is Mark Poland, incidentally—and it plays for about 40 seconds. He picks up the phone and makes a call, goes, “Chris, listen to this,” holds the phone to the speaker. A few seconds later he says, “Yeah, I’ll call ya back,” and hangs up.
All the sudden he’s a different person. He turns to me and goes, “Here’s the deal, man. We practice four hours a day, five days a week, we share the songwriting equally…when do you wanna meet these guys?”
I’m like, “Fuck, I’m not doing anything right now.” Mark picks up the phone again. “Chris, can we get together today? No? Tomorrow good for you? It’s good for me.” Holds the receiver up to the fucking speaker again, then hangs up.
Long story short. Next day we got together with Chris Poland, brother Mark on drums, and Dave Randi, the bass player—all of whom are total virtuosos—and we wrote three songs in four hours. It was just too good to be true. They said come back in two days. What I didn’t know was that they auditioned a singer that next day, a guy who was some hot-shot, a Coca-Cola jingle sort of affair, a great singer…and totally wrong. They recorded an instrumental version of one of the three songs we wrote while they auditioned the Coca-Cola guy. I had the tape of our session and I wrote lyrics to the stuff, and when I came back, it was just me and Chris. He says, “Okay, sing to this.” He burned this track, I had lyrics, I sang to it, and we all just went, “Oh my God, we gotta do this.” So we spent a couple years doing that, and whoever says prayers aren’t answered obviously wasn’t there that April Fool’s Day in 1994 with me and the guys.
Hopefully the one complete album we did, The Book of Mumbo, will come out this year. We need to detangle the rights to the one cover song: the blues version of [The Cure’s] “Lovesong.” Pure Stevie Ray Vaughn-style. It was very sad when Mumbo broke up.
JB: All people can be boiled down to two camps. Beatles fans and Rolling Stones fans. I mean, you can dig both, but on a deeper line it’s one or the other. Which are you?
JS: Beatles. I mean, I love both bands. Never subscribed to the fight. I’m a love guy, fundamentally. I was a hippie. Or as John Waters would say, I was one of those hippies that didn’t realize they were a punk yet. I really really have one foot in darkness and one foot in light—but I’m always fighting for the light. That just means I gotta dig my heel deeper into the darkness to get my balance.
To me, The Beatles were pure inspiration. Up until the point when I heard Jimi Hendrix play guitar for the first time, they were the greatest thing in the world. It’s all about the songs. I’m a writer, I like taking something and crystallizing it…and it’s the songs, the incredible range and perfection of them, that seals the deal for me.
I can’t say anything bad about the Stones. Sticky Fingers is still one of my favorite albums. I love Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! and Their Satanic Majesties Request, their Sgt. Pepper. But I wanted to be a John Lennon-Frank Zappa gene splice baby. That’s what I wanted to be.
JB: Life is what you make it and how you live it…how is yours? Any advice to others about how to stay sane and live longer? Drink more water…listen to more Beat Farmers…exercise?
JS: I’m stunned that I’m still alive. The only thing I can attribute it to, aside from the fact I haven’t died yet, is…you know what it comes down to? Happiness, too, is possible. If hard work and dint of effort can bring results in any field, happiness seems like one of the most worthwhile ones to pursue. My advice is to find the things that make you happy and honor the living shit out of them.
JB: Well, that’s the last question. I had an open rant scheduled, but we sort of included it earlier, so we’re done. Thanks so much.
JS: It’s a wrap! [laughs] Thanks, Johnny. That was fun.
Originally appeared in Shock Totem #1, July 2009.