Making Magic out of Music - Part 2

Lowdown - Article

Share this lowdown

  • Button Delicious
  • Bttn Digg
  • Bttn Facebook
  • Bttn Ff
  • Bttn Myspace
  • Bttn Stumble
  • Bttn Twitter
  • Bttn Reddit

This August, music is magic as Image Comics delivers writer Kieron Gillen’s “Phonogram” to the masses. Broken Frontier got a chance to chat with Kieron about the upcoming limited series.

Making Magic out of Music - Part 1

BROKEN FRONTIER: You mention your "punky fanzine roots", did you try to capture the feel of the punk-rock fanzine scene through your plot of Phonogram?

KIERON GILLEN: Definitely, or at least the zine-scene I found myself involved in. They’re all different, and always great incestuous, bitchy little social groups full of memorable freaks.

Even in terms of aesthetics, we’re using a lot of zine techniques. There’s a scene in issue #2 where we use pure cut-and-paste fanzine montage, for example. Then there’s the use of zippatone married to rips across the page to try and get the feeling of old news-print tore out of magazines and stuck down for the flashbacks in issue #1. The back-matter, marrying extensive rants and in-jokes, that fanzines could be both intense and hilarious in a sentence is something which Phonogram strives for. Even the fact the book is in black and white rather than color. As an object, Phonogram almost feels like a fanzine in a way – energy, attack, intelligence, ego, insecurity, reinventing yourself through the detritus of life, and so on. Or that’s the plan, anyway.

Fanzines are stupendous pop-objects. If there’s such a thing as a grimoire in my religion, then it’s a fanzine. I love ‘em to death.

BF: You intend to have a glossary in the back of the book to assist the reader with some of the references, what kind of information do you intend to include in this section?

KG: A short entry on any of the obvious references, really. For example, in the preview there’s an off the cuff gag about Henry Rollins. His entry reads:

“HENRY ROLLINS: Ex-Black Flag singer and one-man alternative-culture cottage industry. Spoken word, acting, books, music: if it can be done while being covered head to foot in tattoos, he’s done it. Also a useful guy to have around if you need to lift any heavy objects, open stubborn jam-jars or scare away little birds by roaring at them."

Normally, in the case of an artist, we’d recommend an album to start with if you wanted to hear more, and maybe a touch of commentary when the creators opinion differs from the character. For example, Kohl name-checks Le Tigre in his opening monologue. Their entry reads:

“LE TIGRE: What Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hannah did next (Putting aside her solo material). And do ignore Kohl. He’s just posturing, and would dance to the modernised girl-band strut of Hot Topic as wildly as the next ageing indie-kid. At their (rare) best they’re totally inspirational. Start with their eponymous first LP.”

Of course, getting all the references isn’t really essential, and you can understand and enjoy the story with just what the characters say and do in the comic. To choose an example from the first episode, you may not know who Kenickie are, but you’ll understand the idea of someone being totally in love with a group who seem to say everything about them… and what made Kenickie specifically interesting is all in the dialogue. The Glossary is a starting place for people who want to dig deeper. And more power to them. We’re all about the deep, when we’re not being terribly shallow.

BF: Do you have all the scripts for Phonogram finished? If so, is there any other work on the horizon you'd like to mention here?

KG: I’ve got all the scripts written, but I’m going to be going back and rewriting bits and pieces until the very second the final issue flies off to the printer. It’s an obsessive book, and I really can’t help it. Hell, I don’t think I want to help it.

In terms of other works, when McKelvie finishes he’ll be moving onto his first major self-written work. It’s called Suburban Glamour, and is an urban-fantasy story coming out through Image.

In terms of me… well, Busted Wonder continues online with the ever-lovely Charity Larrison and I’m considering what to do next. Phonogram’s sister-pitch is still waiting on a yes or no, so hopefully I’ll be able to talk about that soon. And the second Phonogram is settled, I’m going to sit down and decide which of the four or so half-developed Major Projects I’m going to work into shape next. I suspect it’ll be the OGN romance – in the same way that Audition was a romance – with the working title Love=True.

Oh, and if Phonogram does reasonably, we’ll be trying to do a second series. McKelvie and I have other corners of the world we want to explore.

BF: If any of your readers wanted to investigate the music that is the theme of this books, what albums would you recommend they purchase?

KG: For the first issue, secure yourself a copy of Gentlemen by the Afghan Whigs, I A by Scout Niblett and At The Club by Kenickie. Gentlemen’s the album Kohl’s channeling throughout the opening section. Scout Niblett’s the gig the middle section takes place at. And Kenickie, in the final section, bridges the ideas set up by the other two albums.

And all are pretty damn great albums too. Your life will be better with them in it.

BF: You did a lot of writing for videogame magazines before going freelance. What direct lessons – if any – transferred from journalism to comic book writing?

KG: Well, there’s the basic professional bits and bobs: Writing to deadlines. Knowing how to force yourself to be creative when you’re not in the mood, and still being good enough. Anyone can write when they’re inspired. Being able to write when you’re not is what really makes a professional writer. Even being able to write to word-counts is a good discipline tool for writing captions or dialogue, though McKelvie would be laughing himself sick at that as he tries to work out how to fit another one of my overwritten brain-dumps into a panel.

Other than that… very little. Both journalism (or criticism, which is what I do more of) and fiction are applications of a larger skill-set of just writing. Improvements are mainly indirectly. From spending a decade working out ways to make words do pretty tricks for entertaining appreciative crowds has made me better able to make words do tricks. That’s because of the exercise rather than anything I’ve ‘learned.’

There is one thing though, which may be a little overtly quasi-mystical and pretentious. But – hey! – has never stopped me before. My magazine writing is about phrasing an argument. Setting up a compelling introduction, laying out the facts, drawing the best line through them to illustrate what I have to say and leading to a conclusion. I tend to think of my plots in the same way. The practice I had of doing this in magazine writing, often dealing with fairly esoteric material, helps me when – as in all my comics – I’m trying to do something other than just entertain.

BF: Reading through the preview, I loved the part where David Kohl is miserable having to listen to acoustic singer/songwriter crap in the name of chasing girls. Makes me think of the misery I've been put through on several occasions... how do you deal with these events in your life?

KG: In my experience, go and hit on a girl at the bar until a Goddess incarnates.

BF: You believe that pop music can change your life, what's your view of pop
music currently?

KG: Pop Music is big. It’s so big that if you’re working at the periphery, you can’t even see what’s happening in the centre. I mean, I’m hardly the most isolated guy in the world, but I had no idea that fucking Kooks had gone and sold half a million albums in the UK. When did that happen?

But despite that alienation, I’m still having personal epiphanies with bits and pieces of pop culture. Seeing Johnny Boy in a tiny bar play to apathy, stripping down their Spector-indie-pop down to Ramones sharpness and filling me with absolute joy and rage in equal measure. I think of a few New Years back when, as midnight approached and the Capricorns ultra-obscure The New Sound popped up and was welcomed as if it had been #1 for twelve weeks. I think back a few years earlier, of collapsing into a bar to find sadly missed Bristol’s pop-Slits-Ingénues Mooz playing a set, framed perfectly in life, a secret treasure beneath Bath’s streets.

Pop Music? Pop music is so big right now that you’re able to write your own narratives inside it without even being touched by the inevitable march of history being dictated by the mainstream press. People do. Lives are changed. Things progress. Same as it ever was.

Also, Hey, Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken by Camera Obscura’s an awesome single.

Phonogram: Rue Britannia #1 will be released on August 2nd by Image Comics. For more information, visit: http://www.phonogramcomic.com.

Related content

Related Headlines

Related Lowdowns

Related Reviews

Related Columns


There are no comments yet.

In order to post a comment you have to be logged in. Don't have a profile yet? Register now!

Latest headlines


Latest comments
Comics Discussion
Broken Frontier on Facebook