Tag Archives: folk horror

Eoliths and Nephilim: A Word with Cobweb Mehers

There is an unsettling shiver on the air, a darkness on the waters where the light should fall… yes, it’s Folk Horror Time once more, and today we have a mover in the movement, that gifted artist (and occasional writer) Cobweb Mehers with us to talk about everything from Goth music to sculpture and the art of the Upper Palaeolithic. We make it sound as if we know what we’re talking about, and Cobweb makes it clear that he does. It’s our big interview for this week, so we’ll get straight down to it…

Cobweb low res version

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, Cobweb. Many of your areas of interest seem to overlap with ours, so we may be testing you today, quite unfairly. We first came into contact via the Folk Horror Revival movement. Did you yourself get involved with the Revival from a folklore background, a love of horror, or both?

cobweb: Initially I got involved to support a friend. Andy Paciorek (see  interview with the weirdfinder general) had some very big ideas and his enthusiasm and vision was a little contagious. It was a genre I was only vaguely aware of by name but I was already very at home in that aesthetic. I enjoy a lot of the related music and films but my real interest lies more with folklore inspired art. It was through Andy’s Strange Lands book that I started to get to know him, so that was my starting point.

I’m very excited about the various projects the group is looking at for the future. There is an enormous wealth of musical, artistic, and literary talent within the group and it’s great to see people interacting and bouncing ideas around. There’s so much more going on in the background that you don’t really see on the Facebook group. It really is the start of a revival and evolution of Folk Horror and I expect to see great things come from it.

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field studies, mehers

greydog: We agree with that, and are enjoying the Revival immensely. You may have noticed that despite the lure of dark forests and sacred groves, we draw a lot of inspiration from the sea and its boundary with the land. Do you have any affinity for the cold grey waters, or are you a woodsman when you seek out folk influences?

cobweb: I’m very much a sacred groves kind of person. I lean far more towards Machen’s Pan than Lovecraft’s Deep Ones, but I do have a thing for liminal zones. When I lived on the North East coast my favourite thing was to walk deserted beaches in thick fog. You’re caught between the sea and the land but both are silent and indistinct.

greydog: It’s a perfect moment. Now, you’ve spoken elsewhere of your admiration for the group The Fields of the Nephilim. As we don’t really cover enough music here (and we love their album Dawnrazor), maybe you could say a bit about this for our listeners?

cobweb: Dawnrazor was a revelation to me. I was 15 when I first heard it and it completely changed the way I saw the world. Initially it was more a case of atmosphere and style but the substance came with time. They’re a band I’ve grown up with and they’ve grown with me. I’m still finding new ideas and inspiration in their work. Fields of the Nephilim have been a catalyst for most of what I’ve done in one way or another.

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When I first discovered the internet in the late 90’s I spent many happy hours dissecting their lyrics with other fans and discussing the inspiration behind songs. I established friendships with people across the world who shared my interests in the esoteric, ancient history, archaeology, and myth. Most of them I’ve since met in the flesh and count amongst my closest friends.

It was through his work on the first Fields of the Nephilim videos that I got to know Richard Stanley. While we no longer see eye to eye, it was Richard who first invited me to visit Montsegur and experience the high strangeness of the Languedoc up close and extremely personally. It’s an amazing part of the world; initially I was drawn to it as during the Middle Ages it was a melting pot of esoteric and heretical ideas from across Europe and the Middle East, but there have been people there for over thirty thousand years so there’s a lot more to it.

In the Upper Palaeolithic it was where all the coolest artists and magicians hung out and it has been ever since. I fell in love with the region and go back whenever I can to climb the mountains of the gods, visit the sacred groves, and explore lost ruins and secret caves.

this is a terrible place, mehers
this is a terrible place, mehers

greydog: Speaking of the offspring of fallen angels (cheap link), we were always disappointed that the Book of Enoch was considered non-canonical – Azazel and the Watchers etc. And then we saw your piece about the Biblical Nephilim in the Folk Horror Revival book ‘Field Studies’. What interests you about this particular theme?

cobweb: It’s a subject I’ve been obsessed with for decades. It actually predates my love of Fields of the Nephilim and is what initially made me listen to the band. The reason it interests me has changed dramatically over the years as I’ve discovered more about it. The mythology grew out of a pivotal moment in the history of civilisation. On one level it’s our way of coping with the leap from nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled agriculturalists.

There are definite historical events that lie behind it that are probably nowhere near as exotic as the stories, but there’s also a spiritual aspect to what happened that’s much harder to pin down and unsettlingly pervasive. What may come down to little more than an argument about sharing technology and a fear of climate change thousands of years ago still forms the basis of the way we perceive the world. We can’t forget even if we can’t quite remember what it is we can’t forget. It’s something I find endlessly fascinating.

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ice age art

greydog: Let’s talk about your artistic work. You’re the talent behind Eolith, which specialises in a range of striking mythic and pre-history sculptures. Is the work you do for Eolith your main day-to-day focus, or just one of many sidelines?

cobweb: Eolith Designs is the platform for any work that’s my own idea rather than for commissions. I try to make it my main focus but I get distracted by other projects from time to time. I’ve just finished a cover design for Volume 6 of Cumbrian Cthulhu (cumbrian cthulhu), which I think comes out in the Autumn, and I’ll be doing some illustrations for upcoming Folk Horror Revival fiction releases.

swimming reindeer low res version
swimming reindeer, mehers

greydog: We believe that you contributed to the British Museum’s exhibition “Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind” a few years ago, is that right?

cobweb: Initially the British Museum wanted to sell some of my Ice Age art inspired sculptures in conjunction with the exhibition. I also offered to create a new work based on one of the pieces in the exhibition. It’s a thirteen thousand year old carving called The Swimming Reindeer and it means a lot to me personally but I’d not accounted for anyone else being as interested in it as I was. I expected to sell a dozen at most but it was insanely popular. I spent nearly a year doing little more than making reindeer and three years after the end of the exhibition they’re still selling them.

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venus, mehers

greydog: Which do you prefer, the detailed recreation of a genuine early artefact or having licence to experiment with mythological imagery?

cobweb: The Swimming Reindeer is the only sculpture I’ve done where I deliberately set out to do a detailed recreation. The British Museum sent me loads of very nice photographs and that forced me to work in a completely different way than I usually do. Even that isn’t an exact reproduction, but having seen mine in the same room as the original it isn’t far off.

The work I’ve done based on genuine artefacts has generally been a result of me trying to get inside the head of the original artists and work out why they did things the way they did. Everything is an experiment and an exploration of ideas. I do a lot of research before I start anything and I sculpt quite slowly so the process forces me to spend a long time focused on thinking about one particular thing and that is gradually distilled into the final piece.

albion - a prophecy, mehers
albion – a prophecy, mehers

greydog: You also do ‘flat’ art, of course. Do you find it less satisfying than sculpture?

cobweb: I probably paint and draw more than I sculpt, but I approach 2D art in an entirely different way. I use it for more immediate things; recording dreams and visions and things glimpsed at the more exotic ends of the consciousness spectrum. It’s not the kind of thing that lends itself well to going on people’s living room wall. I’ve been pondering putting a book together for a while now, as I think that would probably be a better format for them, but it’s finding the time.

entrance, royal palace at ugarit
entrance, royal palace at ugarit

greydog: We read once that you have an interest in Ugaritic studies, which would seem terribly niche except that we do too. In our case, it’s because of the Dagon/Ioannes connections and the whole Hittite and Sumerian mythology scene. This is an amazing resource for the stranger branches of fiction, including the Cthulhu Mythos writers – and bits of our own work. How did you get into the subject?

cobweb: This was another side effect of my Nephilim obsession. The Nephilim turn up in Canaanite myth as The Healers and they feature in the literature found at Ugarit. I very quickly developed a fondness for Canaanite culture and mythology. There’s a deceptive simplicity to it and a humanity that’s very easy to relate to even today. I have a particular affection for the goddess Anat; there’s a touch of genius to personifying war as a teenage girl. The Devourers are also worth looking into. They’d be right at home in a Lovecraft story.

dagon

greydog: As you know, weird fiction is at the heart of greydogtales. We’re guessing that you’re quite well-versed in that area – which writers resonate with you?

cobweb: I don’t read a lot of fiction these days but when I do it tends to be the classics of that particular genre. I discovered Lovecraft first and again that was down to Fields of the Nephilim. We’ve become overly familiar with him in many ways and he’s not taken seriously enough. He’s not the greatest writer from a technical point of view but there are still things in his work that are actually really scary even after repeated rereads.

shub niggurath, mehers
shub niggurath, mehers

Machen I identify much more with and I enjoy his non-fiction as well as his stories. I’d love to have met him partly because I have a lot of questions, but mostly because I think we’d have got on really well. I’m also quite keen on Lord Dunsany and have been known to dabble with Clark Ashton Smith.

pan by sgorbissa, deviantart
the great god pan by sgorbissa, deviantart

greydog: And to finish with, our perennial question – what’s coming from you in the next year? Any plans or projects you’d like to share with us?

cobweb: I have a couple of new sculptures in progress that should see the light of day before too long. One is my interpretation of what archaeologists call Judean pillar figurines, because archaeologists have no imaginations. The other one will eventually be one of a pair and is an exploration of ideas about the Nephilim covering a lot of history and geography. His other half will have to wait for a while though because the big project for the rest of this year will be jewelry.

I started my artistic career making jewelry and it was always something I intended to come back to when I started Eolith Designs. I’m really just aiming to make tiny wearable sculptures in silver.

greydog: Thank you very much, Cobweb Mehers, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. If you’d like to see, or know more about, Cobweb’s sculpture and design work, have a look here:

eolith designs

Not forgetting the music – if you don’t know the Neph then you can listen to the Dawnrazor track itself here:

And why not try exploring the Folk Horror Revival. We think it’s great. The website’s below, and the first book’s on the sidebar.

folk horror revival website

albion - a prophecy, mehers
albion – a prophecy, mehers

Next time: Don’t ask. Just don’t ask. Our brains hurt, and the dogs need to go out…

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David Senior: An Antiquary goes to Dunwich

We hope that all our listeners are crouched around their radio sets with the lights turned down low, for today we have a man who has walked in M R James’s footsteps (literally) and taken a touch of H P Lovecraft with him at the same time. Photographer and writer David Senior joins us, snatched from the Folk Horror Revival to talk about both his photography and his writing.

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earlham cemetery, david senior

With the almost lost town of Dunwich in the news again, we are surprisingly timely in our posting. We do have a vested interest. Our own period horror story My Lips Shall Speak No More, concerning one of the legends of Dunwich, should be anthologised later this year.

Coastal Doom
coastal doom, david senior

If that weren’t enough, M R James, who set a number of his stories in East Anglia, is still the hottest medieval scholar and provost to hit the weird bookstands. And we shouldn’t ignore the Lovecraftian connection with regards to his The Dunwich Horror. He didn’t make that name up, you know.

dunwich
dunwich, david senior

“How much of this once populous city with ”fifty-two churches’ is left at the moment I will not undertake to say.” M R James

To cap it all, we grew up on a North Sea coastline similarly being dragged into the sea year on year (see  whale-road, widow-maker ). If the Deep Ones wanted anywhere to hide, forget Innsmouth. There are plenty of drowned villages off the Yorkshire coast where they could share gutteral anecdotes and plan a day out in Hull. Ravenser Odd, now under the grey waves off Spurn Point, would seem a suitable host.

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courtesy yorkshirehistory.com

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David Senior has done extensive photographic work across East Anglia, and his pictorial path runs from moody, pastoral scenes, through ruined churches and all the way to modern dystopian decay, which means that his work has something for everybody. Not many kittens playing with balls of wool, though.

sparham, david senior
sparham, david senior

He’s a prolific photographer, so we’ve only been able to chose a few that caught our eye to illustrate his interview. His writing draws on today’s landscape and is edgy with menace, and we ask him about that as well. Do listen closely…

david senior

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, David, and thanks for joining us. For those who don’t know you, we should really start with Eastscapes, which is the website you use to display the range of your photography. Your work on Eastscapes covers many aspects of East Anglia, from contemporary neglect to the broad landscape. Do you find the area has a particular vibe or feel to it, one which resonates with you?

david: Absolutely. I’m not a ‘native’ East Anglian – I’m originally from West Yorkshire, and moved to Norfolk when I went to university at 18. As soon as I began to explore the landscape of the city and the surrounding countryside, it began to have an increasing hold over me: there’s something about its location – jutting out by itself, on the road to nowhere, much of it rural, its coastlines eroding – that I find tremendously powerful. There’s a genuine sense of isolation in a lot of the landscape, yet with rich reams of history and meaning lurking beneath the surface.

cawston woods 01
cawston woods, david senior

greydog: We’re going to pretend to know something about photography, although we clearly don’t. Are you a hi-tech, expensive SLR expert weighed down with extra lenses, filters and sensors, or a quick digital sort of guy?

david: Quick, digital. I actually know very little about the physicality of photography, and far less about Photoshop and high-end digital techniques. Usually when I shoot it’s either with an iPhone or digital bridge camera. I appreciate the low economic barrier to entry with photography at the moment: if you have a phone, you have a camera. It allows the potential for capturing spontaneous imagery wherever you are without needing to think too far ahead, plan in advance, or have to be able to afford the necessary equipment. I like that.

walberswick, david senior
walberswick, david senior

greydog: What we see in many of your shots is a very bold, even stark capturing of light and dark. Does this mean that you deliberately trek out under certain weather and lighting conditions, or are these opportunistic shots taken as you go along?

david: Usually opportunistic: I think I’m simply drawn to places and imagery in which darkness somehow threatens to overwhelm the image. Even on sunny days, the shadows are the strongest… I often prefer heading out very early in the morning to shoot, though – I want to find landscapes devoid of people, which, even in Norfolk, can sometimes be tricky! Plus it puts me in a more appropriate mindset to shoot: feeling as if I have this silent world to myself, free from distraction or crowding. I photographed Norwich city centre on Christmas morning. It was emptier than I’ve ever known it, and of course my thoughts turned to post-apocalyptic, ‘28 Days Later’ scenarios…

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station approach, david senior

greydog: Your site is sub-titled The Abandoned, the Forgotten and the Curious. This is immediately reminiscent of M R James, and of course you have photographed a number of sites mentioned by James in his guidebook ‘Suffolk and Norfolk’ (1930). Can we assume that you’re an enthusiast of his ghost stories as well?

david: I adore James’ stories, and if anything am perhaps even more fascinated by the 1970s BBC adaptations of his works for their ‘Ghost Story at Christmas’ series. Many of which were both set and filmed in this neck of the woods, so I’ve embarked upon the odd James pilgrimage from time to time! There is a variety in James’ work, and not everything is set in East Anglia, but recurring motifs do stick with me. Bleakness, loneliness, half-seen figures on an empty coastline. Even when not photographing anything explicitly ‘Jamesian’ – whatever that would even mean – his themes are almost always lurking there somewhere.

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aldeburgh church, david senior

“Aldeburgh…has a special charm for those who, like myself, have known it since childhood; but I do not find it easy to put that charm into words.” M R James

castle acre
castle acre, david senior

“…no finer ruin is to be found in Norfolk.” M R James

greydog: It might be worth mentioning that we came across you initially through a connection with folk-horror, an area of growing interest and examination. Perhaps we should put you on the spot by asking what the term means to you personally.

david: There doesn’t seem to be a strict definition of folk horror, which is fine with me. I find it handy to see it as a vague umbrella term which covers aspects of a horror aesthetic which refers back to our more rural, folk-culture roots. That difficult-to-define uneasiness that one can feel simply walking through an otherwise picturesque village out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t necessarily think folk horror as a term has to be limited to the British Isles, but there’s a great deal of the British collective imagery tied up in it. Pagan vibes nestling alongside derelict Christian churches, scarecrows and sinister villages and forgotten copses.

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david senior

greydog: Now, on to your writing. Do your photographs inspire your fiction, or are they two strands which you keep separate?

david: Intertwined. The locations I photograph make their ways into my writing, and I hunt out locations to photograph that resemble the locations in my head. The Sinners of Crowsmere is punctuated with black and white photography, and one chapter is little more than a series of descriptions of faded Polaroids found in an old box. I try and write how I think my photographs would sound, if that doesn’t come across as horrendously pretentious!

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house in the woods, david senior

greydog: Your first novella, The Sinners of Crowsmere, has been described as transgressive, art-house and Jamesian (“Highly recommended… Wonderful arthouse / video nasty vibe on the Norfolk coast” – M. R. James Podcast). As we’re not sure what those terms mean when bundled together, can you give listeners a brief idea of what themes they might find in the novella?

david: It’s a sparse book, slight, spindly, haunted by ghosts literal and figurative. Yet it’s also about people in a small town, and the flaws and weaknesses that make us who we are: depression, violence, obsession, boredom, regret.

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kings lynn, david senior

greydog: You then went on to write Agony Pages. We cover a lot of Lovecraftian influences on greydogtales, and Agony Pages certainly has some of that feel. Did this spring from an existing interest in Lovecraft and similar writers?

david: I’m a sucker for Lovecraft and I’m a sucker for video nasty and gore culture. That indescribable thrill you’d get as a kid when you got your hands on some unmarked VHS cassette that had been copied off some friend’s older brother, and that promised untold violence and nudity… Agony Pages is an unabashed delving into the appeal of the sleazier side of horror. Whereas Lovecraft had sinister grimoires unfit for human eyes, the equivalent here are underground porno mags of mythical reputation that allow glimpses into darker and grosser worlds. It’s not particularly gory or explicit in itself, but all that gloopier, nastier stuff is lingering round the edges.

austerity dogs 02
austerity dogs, david senior

greydog: And as we like to look forward, we usually ask this. What might we expect from you in the future – more photographic work, more fiction or both.

david: Both. And hopefully together! I photograph constantly, even if I update my blog less frequently than I should. I’m working on the follow-up to Crowsmere, amongst other things, and am still trying to piece together a horror novel told entirely through photographs… Which may take a while, admittedly, but I’ll get there. Until then, I’ll just continue to wander with my camera and my notebook, trying to capture that indefinable sense of weird.

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anglian gothic, david senior

greydog: Many thanks, David.

You can find more of his work on his website eastscapes, and a link for The Sinners of Crowsmere is up on the sidebar now, under Things of Interest.

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Given our concurrent nautical weird theme and our last post (see stranger seas three), we had to add one more of M R James’s comment, from his Anglian guidebook:

“A merman was caught at Orford in the thirteenth century, and kept for some time.”

So there.

creepwood, david senior
creepwood, david senior

At the end of this week: It’s Scary Women 2, a double interview with UK horror writers Laura Mauro and Victoria Leslie. We might still have a midweek medley though, so stay in touch.

 

 

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Andy Paciorek: The Weirdfinder General Pt 2

And we’re back, with Part Two of our Andy Paciorek feature. This time we focus down on his folk horror artwork, how he does it, where it comes from and where it’s all going. And we present a range of his illustrations,  a feast for the eyes.

Not a feast of eyes, please note. That would upset the local coroner again, and we had a lot of trouble last time. You can only plead the headaches so many times…

self-portrait
self portrait, paciorek

greydog: Andy, hello again. So, weird art – it’s why we first noticed you, and what we hunt out here on greydogtales. Regardless of FHR, you’ve been an artist in your own right for a number of years. Your Strange Lands website was recognised in the Froudian Artists Awards in 2008, and covers creatures from Celtic myth and legend. Was this your first major venture?

andy: In the area of darker more mythic art, yes it was my first venture into this area. So that was extremely complimentary and inspiring that such a tremendous talent in the field as Brian Froud would select my work as one of the best of the year on his fantastic World of Froud website.

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Prior to that I was writing and illustrating comic strips for small press publications, zines, mail art projects and on community based arts projects. I then took a few years out and literally ran away with the show-folk as I joined a travelling carnival that took me from Wales to South East Asia and the Middle East. When I returned to art, it was rather different to what I had been producing before.

lunatishee
lunatishee, paciorek

greydog: Strange Lands draws on the Celtic Otherworld, as we said, but one of your current illustrated projects, Black Earth, draws on the Slavic Otherworld. What was your inspiration for artwork based on Slavic tales?

andy: After Strange Lands, the desire grew within me to approach the supernatural entities and creatures of various different cultures in a heavily illustrated field-guide type format. My father is Polish (my mother was Italian – they met in Middlesbrough in the north of England so quite a mix there) and on a visit to Poland, the idea of doing a Slavic based book took seed in my mind.

kikamora
kikamora, paciorek

At that time there were very few Slavic lore books available in English in Britain (there have been a few more since, but as myths and legends go it is still comparatively under-represented in western publication) but other work prevented me from starting on the Black Earth book for a few years, then I had to put it aside as I concentrated again on commissioned work, some smaller personal projects and then life situations came to the fore which also for a while diverted my attentions elsewhere. But I have returned to Black Earth and have made good ground on it. The writing is for the most part complete and the majority of illustrations done – however when I embark on personal illustrated books we are sometimes talking over a hundred illustrations per book not a handful so there are still a few dozen to do. But hopefully 2016 may see it released.

It’s an interesting project to work on. There are some very intriguing denizens of Slavic lore, some very dark ones also, which for me are a great pleasure to draw.

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rasputin, paciorek

greydog: We usually ask something about technique or media, for anyone who’s feeling creative. What do you prefer to use when getting down to work – pen, charcoal, acrylics? Paper, a computer screen or a cunningly scraped goat-skin?

andy: Nothing as exotic as goat skin I’m afraid, I may have to try that for a future project. My parents used to keep goats when I was a kid (bad pun). They’re feisty critters, I doubt one would keep still long enough for me to draw on it!

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griffin, paciorek

I actually prefer a very direct route from idea to image. Pen on paper suits me best. I rarely paint and when I do it is very different to my drawings, I paint loosely and quickly in an expressionistic manner (though I do think my drawing is quite expressionistic too in a manner, it is more detailed and takes a bit longer). I haven’t actually painted for a few years now and my last painting was in collaboration with the exciting artist Dr Steg on our Stegorek project.

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dr steg and andy paciorek

In drawing I used to do more sketchbook rough compositions but more recently I have used photoshop to create photo-montaged collages to work out compositions. Having completed the ink drawing I will scan it into photoshop just mainly to do basic touch-up work, but may occasionally add colour filters, but I prefer mostly to work in black and white. I reserve colour more for my photography work these days.

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paciorek

greydog: We’ve had John Coulthart on greydogtales, of course, and mentioned other contemporaries like Santiago Caruso, as well as some classical illustrators. Who do you particularly admire?

andy: Both of the artists you mention are excellent artists whom, through the wonder of the internet, I’ve been lucky enough to have had communication with. Though I have a love-hate relationship with technology (though sometimes I think on its side it just hates me! Amazing when it works, awful when it doesn’t and I do seem to attract glitches and gremlins), the internet in its favour has made it far easier to see the work of both older less familiar art and contemporary artists, and there are some truly astounding artists out there. Too many to name individually as it would be a disservice to those I’d left out. What I admire in work is a sincerity of style and motive and an interesting individual eye.

waterhorses
water horse, paciorek

Of all art I particularly love the Symbolist and Decadent movement, Romanticism, Expressionism, Flemish Primitivism / Northern Mannerism, Victorian fairy painting, Golden Age book illustration, pulp art, Ukiyo-e and the graphic works of artists such as Gustave Doré, Goya and Max Ernst.

Takiyasha_the_Witch_and_the_Skeleton_Spectre
an example of ukiyo-e – by utagawa kuniyoshi

greydog: Yes, Doré remains inspirational for so many illustrators of the weird (see also our post  john coulthart – axioms & other dark beasts) When we were much younger creatures, one of our favourite disturbing possessions was the old Dover edition of Goya‘s Los Caprichos, still in one piece and treasured today. It’s a source of monstrous images which we should cover in more detail some time.

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dover (1969)

Do you have a personal favourite among your own artistic pieces or projects, one which gave you particular satisfaction?

andy: I’m not sure if I do. With having a pretty massive oeuvre of work, there’s a lot to choose from. It’s always interesting to see which pieces other people pick out as their favourites of my work, as frequently it’s quite surprising and diverse.

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paciorek

Satisfaction wise, I’ve enjoyed working on collaborations such as those done as Stegorek and the Balcan~Paciorek projects, and illustrating the stories by different authors for Cumbrian Cthulhu and some other projects. For my solo work it’s always satisfying to complete personally epic projects such as Strange Lands.

PRINCE RANDIAN THE HUMAN CATERPILLAR2
prince randian the human caterpillar, paciorek

For my Human Chimaera book which provides over a hundred visual and textual portraits of ‘sideshow freaks’ was satisfying for a different reason as my intention was to present the subjects both with a respectful human portrayal but also to highlight the fantastic world that their stage names or descriptions suggested. I think I succeeded in pulling that off, so that was rather satisfying.

MAXIMO AND BARTOLA THE AZTEC CHILDREN2
the aztec children, paciorek

greydog: We end with the year ahead. FHR’s Corpse Roads, Black Earth and so on – these books are all hopefully coming. Do you have other artistic plans for the year, or will these pretty much take up all of your time?

andy: They are pretty time-consuming, but by necessity I need to do commissioned work also when it presents itself to keep the wolves from the door. In recent years I’ve been fortunate to have worked on a number of books for Harper-Collins for their Element Encyclopedia and Art for Mindfulness titles. The subject matter there has ranged from vampires to adult colouring books, so that’s also been interesting to work upon and forces me to have a bit of greater diversity in my output, which is not a bad thing. We’ve had initial talks about further projects, so touch-wood they will be knocking on the door again in not too distant future.

corpsebirds
corpse bird, paciorek

greydog: We wish you good fortune in all your projects, and many thanks for joining us, Andy Paciorek!

andy: My pleasure, thank you for asking.

We included a number of Folk Horror Revival links last time, in andy paciorek part one. A link to the FHR book itself is on the right-hand sidebar, and many of Andy’s drawings can be found via Facebook. You can also visit Andy’s great site dedicated to the Celtic Otherworld here:

strange lands

Note for Revivalists: Our next Folk Horror article will be a feature on FHR writer/photographer David Senior, coming next week.

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FILMS FROM THE GUTTER

Before we disconnect the microphones, sweep out the studio and default on the electricity bill, a last something not connected to folk horror. We don’t say a lot about films on here (which may change, but we do have our hands full with fiction and illustrative art most of the time).

We have however mentioned the extensive news, content and reviews site that is Ginger Nuts of Horror here before, and they do cover films.

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The Nuts are now publishing their own book, which will feature the full collection of 2015 reviews and interviews from their popular Film Gutter series, looking at some of the most bizarre, grotesque and disturbing horror features ever made.

It’s dead good value, so if you like worrying, full-on horror films, you should check out the rest of the details here:

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But be warned. The Nuts do have a penchant for some dark, unpleasant stuff. Not like dear old creepy J Linseed Grant and his bad-tempered ponies.

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And we should be away. We couldn’t show all the Paciorek drawings we wanted to this time, but we may slip one or two in as we charge along towards Spring. Here’s one we rather liked as a last little reminder, from The Petrification of Phillipa Hesse, a cautionary tale by Damian Leslie & Andy Paciorek (2005/6).

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petrification of phillipa hesse, paciorek

Next week on the same wavelength:  Something about lurchers, more scary stuff and we’re building up to our next big theme, the watery weird that we call Stranger Seas. We can’t help ourselves…

 

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An Interview with the Weirdfinder General, Andy Paciorek

Dear listeners, are you folk of horror or horrible folk? This is your chance to decide, as we’re proud to present a major weekend feature with Andy Paciorek, artist extraordinaire and founder of the Folk Horror Revival. In Part One, today, we have an introduction to the whole concept, and Andy talks in depth about some of the seminal works and influences which make up this genre. In Part Two, in a couple of days, we dig deep into Andy’s own artistic work, lavishly illustrated by the man himself.

Please turn your paper over and begin…

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infrared photography by jamie emerson

greydog: Welcome to greydogtales, Andy, and thanks for giving us so much of your time.

We have of course been following the whole Folk Horror Revival with great interest, as it coincides with our own exploration of the weird – and occasionally the Wyrd (of which more later). So we’re going to be extremely unfair to you right from the start. For those who are not that familiar with it, what is folk-horror?

andy: There is no rigid definition of ‘folk horror’ as it is not born from a manifesto with strict guidelines but is a word that has been applied after the creation of its most early examples. Basically it is a form of fantastic fiction that blends aspects of folkloric, witchcraft or pagan elements with a horror narrative. However it is a sinuous beast. There are examples of horror that could be similarly described that are not ‘folk horror’, so aesthetic and ambience play a strong part. It is frequently something that can be felt and recognised through a growing familiarity than adequately described in words. For different people also there may be some discrepancy between what they recognise as being folk horror.

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vincent price, witchfinder

A good place to start is to watch the films that have become the unholy trinity of folk horror – namely Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973) and if they take your fancy work outward to less familiar items such as Robin Redbreast, Children of the Stones and The Owl Service for instance. And from there to non-British and non-European examples and also into literature such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Harvest Home and Kwaidan for example. Then having immersed yourself in more folk horror, you may be able to feel it more and recognise it further, but may not be able to describe it any more adequately. The more you see it in media and books, you will find you hear it in music and start to see it beyond fiction also but in life.

greydog: You are, in effect, the originator of the Folk Horror Revival – maybe you could tell us something about how that happened?

andy: I have a habit, if I look for something and it is not there then I become inclined to create it, and it sometimes becomes the case that I create a monster. I rather like monsters though. Such an instance was that I was personally looking for a folk horror page to follow on facebook. I kept looking over a period of time and there still wasn’t one so I created the Folk Horror page. The change of facebook’s practise in making posts from pages more likely to be seen if paid for was another catalyst as I was not going to pay for something that was non-profit, so as tumbleweed started to roll past the lonely Folk Horror page I looked instead to creating a facebook group.

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kwaidan, toho co. ltd

I was aware that there was a different dynamic to facebook groups with far more member participation and as I was creating new examples of folk horror in my own work, I knew there were other filmmakers, artists, musicians and writers creating their own forms of new folk horror so I decided then that the group would not simply be a ‘remembrance’ forum (though nostalgia and discussion of the classics is still and always will be an integral part of the project) it would be a ‘revival’ – somewhere where people who created work relevant to the group’s stated interests could promote their creations and meet other like-minded souls on which to collaborate in the creation of further work.

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As a butterfly that is pinned down and labelled is not as vital as a living butterfly that soars beautifully in the air, so to evolve and continue, folk horror must have the space and inspiration sources to soar. A good example of this in cinema is Ben Wheatley‘s Kill List (2011) which does not only contain elements of traditional folk horror but also adds social realism and crime drama to the mix. So added to the list of group interests were the not unrelated areas of psychogeography, hauntology, folklore, cultural rituals and costume, earth mysteries, archaic history, hauntings. southern gothic, ‘landscapism / visionary naturalism & geography’, backwoods, murder ballads, carnivalia, dark psychedelia, wyrd forteana and some speculative horror where the paths cross.

I also. even at its inception, had the intention that if possible the folk horror revival would roam beyond the boundaries of facebook and the interest shown and the wealth of talent that had found their own way to the group made it apparent that this was possible. So I gathered an excellent team of adminstrators around me, each of whom possess great and different skills and abilities. The FHR team soon became not simply moderators of a facebook group but a think tank for some exciting new ventures.

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Through the skills and hard selfless work of the team, the revival has extended into a Good Reads Group, Youtube channel, Spotify playlist, Tumblr and a great new website at folkhorrorrevival.com.

Beyond the internet there has been a great Folk Horror Revival Melmoth music mix that features the sonic talents of many members of the group. We established Wyrd Harvest Press to produce books and have been busy trying to organise live events and academic talks. The first fruits of which will burst from the bud in near future with, touch wood, much more to come. By exploring other avenues it helps make connection with others who are active in or appreciative of folk horror related material.

For all of which credit must go to the cabal of FHR administrators, – Jim Peters, Darren Charles, Dan Hunt, Grey Malkin, Kat Beem, John Pilgrim, Adam Scovell, Stephen Canner, Cobweb Mehers, Rich Blackett, Andrew McGuigan, Simon Magus and Andy Sharp who have contributed to the ongoing project in many ways and have also bore well my occasional outbursts of passion and melancholia. Also the input of the Revivalists – the growing active membership of Folk Horror Revival, has been vital. I don’t mean this interview to sound like an Oscar winner’s speech but I do strongly believe in giving credit where credit is due.

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greydog: We’ve featured the first book, Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, on here before. It’s a fascinating collection of essays and observations, well worth dipping into again and again. We understand that you’re hoping to follow Field Studies with further collections, is that right?

andy: We’ve been very pleased with the reception of Field Studies both for the work itself and as a charity fundraiser for the Wildlife Trusts. There are some fascinating essays in there and interviews with some great talents working in the area, but there is a lot of scope for further investigation, so a second volume of Field Studies is in production, which again promises to be another very interesting tome.

In addition we’ve decided to take the literary side in different yet still related directions, so in 2016 we have plans to release Harvest Hymns – a study of the influence of folk horror themes in different musical works and Corpse Roads– a collection of old and new poetry accompanied by some atmospheric photography. The work already received for these projects again continues to impress.

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corspe road, swindale head, by david stewart/nicholas rudd-jones

In 2017 we intend to follow with Ancient Rituals which will be a gathering of old weird and folk horror short fiction and Modern Rites which will be entirely new fiction works in the field. Both Ancient Rituals and Modern Rites will be illustrated with new images by some of the pool of considerable artistic talent within the Folk Horror Revival membership. Ideas for further possible books beyond these continue to bubble within our minds also.

Following the model of the fantastic Cumbrian Cthulhu charity book project, as with Field Studies, all of the Folk Horror Revival / Wyrd Harvest Press books will continue to donate 100% of the profits to the charity.

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greydog: We’ll look forward to those. Our own den of thieves here has a fondness for what we might call American folk-horror, dating from early exposure to Manly Wade Wellman, Appalachian folk songs and strange stories from the isolated groups in the hills – we might even add H P Lovecraft‘s inward-looking, inbred communities. Do you see any fundamental differences between the American and European versions?

andy: I personally don’t actually see any fundamental differences in the versions beyond cultural nuances and the nature of the individual landscape and environment. At the core there are still shared elements. These can relate to the themes that Adam Scovell suggests in his essays about a folk horror chain which can be found here – http://celluloidwickerman.com/2014/09/25/the-folk-horror-chain/

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appalachian mountains

I think there are some very intriguing strains of American folk horror. I really like Alan Lomax‘s musical explorations and the Appalachian stuff is very interesting. I love the murder ballad aspect. There are different flavours I think of American folk horror, in addition to those you’ve mentioned I would also suggest the Salem legacy which has resulted in works such as The Crucible and Crowhaven Farm. Thomas Tryon‘s great novels Harvest Home and The Other. Southern Gothic including the film version of Angel Heart. Some American backwoods dramas such as Deliverance and Southern Comfort may not have the folkloric or paganistic aspect, but do otherwise have something of a folk-horror feel. Also there is what I have referred to as Weird Americana in an essay in Field Studies, whereby elements of an American identity form the body of weird tales as delivered by such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, David Lynch with Twin Peaks and Daniel Knauf‘s Carnivàle.

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greydog: We loved Carnivàle, and might have mentioned it if you hadn’t! Now, growing up in rural Yorkshire as we did, the landscape was a huge part of that ‘different’ feel, the sense that there was always more past, with its events and myths, beneath the surface. Did you feel this during your own upbringing, or did it come to you later?

andy: I’m from Durham so that is just a spit and a stone throw from Yorkshire and yes, there is something about the landscape. Something in the air, the water. I was amused and intrigued by the fact that in the very early days of Folk Horror Revival so many of the people who found themselves at the group seemed to have come from the north of Britain.

I think that it is something that takes root at an early age. I don’t know whether as many children feel that now, with seemingly more time and attention taken up by technology. But landscape and involvement with it does have a resonance that carries over into both tastes and work. You can feel that in Rob Reiner‘s Stand By Me, the film adaptation of Stephen King‘s story, The Body. This film I feel flows to the brim with childhood nostalgia and of kid’s relationship to the environment. I also had a similar feeling in reading the chapter about dens in Paul Farley‘s book Edgelands. It’s also palpable in books as diverse as J.A. Baker‘s The Peregrine and Alan Garner‘s works.

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vincent blackshadow (2006)

This quality extends to other areas of Britain such as the Dartmoor of Alan Lee and Brian Froud, the League of Gentlemen‘s Peak District village of Royston Vasey, Richard Littler‘s Scarfolk and Emily Bronte‘s misty moors. In the TV movie, See No Evil about the true life Moors Murders there is a short scene of Saddleworth Moor and that is all it needed for me to install in my head the thought, that not just only in this film but in the actual atrocity the moor was as major a character as Brady and Hindley. This barren place, though not devoid of a raw elemental beauty, casts a dark ominous shadow.

I am currently reading and very much enjoying Andrew Michael Hurley‘s novel, The Loney. The titular Loney is a place on the coast, but Hurley did not need to say it was in Lancashire because in reading his description of the place my mind instantly returned to Morecambe Bay, a place that beguiles me both in its dangerous nature but also by its desolate beauty.

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From the highlands of Scotland, down the spine of the Pennines to the Norfolk Broads to Snowdonia and Cornwall, there is a brooding quality to parts of the British landscapes, that suggest secrets hidden but also stories waiting to be shared, waiting for writers and artists to venture into those parts and when they do, they do not entirely create the work themselves but are the conduits for the spirits of these place who wish to tell their tales through them.

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greydog: We mentioned the Wyrd (fate) earlier because of our love of old North European stuff (our technical term). As in the poem The Wanderer (9th/10th C). This is probably because the wanderer in Anglo-Saxon is eardstapa, ‘earth-stepper’. It was our first introduction to kennings – where a compound is used, like ‘whale-road’ for sea. In our teens this sounded awesome, like something out of a fantasy novel, and so we followed it up. Are you interested in the myths and beliefs of those cultures?

andy: I do have an interest in the different beliefs of different cultures. It is fascinating stuff. The word ‘Wyrd’ just has an amazing feel to it, it looks so much more enchanting than its ‘weird’ derivative, though I do like that word also and ‘weirdo’. There is a beauty and magic in words, and like places they can be the catalyst to creation. I remember reading a piece by Ray Bradbury on creative writing and he said a method of his would be just to write in a notebook titles that came into his head, ‘The Jar‘, ‘The Skeleton‘ etc and that when the time was right referring to the notebook and seeing these scribbled titles, the stories then would begin to write themselves within his head.

greydog: We do the same thing, but then forget why we wrote the words, which is less productive.  And Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is another example of a tale (and film) with folk lore elements. Right, we’ll pause there, give you an interrim “Thanks”, and pick up again later in the weekend.

We take a break for a day or so to prepare the second part of our feature, where Andy talks about his artwork, inspirations and techniques.  With lots of illustrations.

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The interview above has raised many examples of works in this area, so do get digging. For a feel of what folk horror might mean to you, greydogtales suggests two films and two books which reflect some of the dread and closed-in community unease we love about the whole scene.

Blood-on-Satans-Claw-12742_9Unapologetic British folk horror film: The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

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Unsettling US folk horror film: Winter’s Bone (2010)

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British classic book: The Owl Service by Alan Garner (1967)

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US classic book: John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman (1988 and a bugger to get hold of in the UK)

Next time: Part Two of the Weirdfinder General, and news about the first film book from The Ginger Nuts of Horror.

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