Interview with Artist Luke Spooner


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Carrion House is the online domain of England artist and illustrator Luke Spooner, whose work has appeared in projects featuring stories by horror masters Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Stephen King.

“I have a First Class degree in illustration from the University of Portsmouth,” Spooner says on his website. “My current projects and commissions include illustrations and covers for books, magazines, graphic novels, books aimed at children, conceptual design and business branding.”

Spooner’s projects include the interior artwork for Crystal Lake Publishing anthology “Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories” and the interior artwork for Bram Stoker Award-winning Crystal Lake Publishing anthology “Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders.” Both feature stories by horror masters Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Ramsey Campbell.

Spooner’s illustrations are also featured in the anthology “You, Human,” which includes the short story “I Am the Doorway” by Stephen King, and in “The Dead Song Legend Dodecology” by Jay Wilburn.

 

In an exclusive interview with HorrorAddicts.net, Spooner discusses his career.

 


THE INTERVIEW

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HORROR ADDICTS: Where did your artistic eye and talent originate? Any artists, books, or movies inspire your style?

SPOONER: I was doodling from the moment I discovered pencils and things to scribble on. In those early formative years, it was just a way of emulating what I loved; I used to draw my favourite characters from television shows, books – even imaginary characters that I’d make up and try to explain to others and write stories about. In hindsight; the desire to communicate ideas through visual means actually developed earlier than my attempts at communicating through spoken language. I’m not saying I was any good at it – I’m just saying it was my first port of call once I realized there were things I needed to get out of my head, but gradually, over time, it became a tap – a leaky faucet that you really had to put your back into if you were to have any hope of turning off. It never occurred to me that some people just didn’t do it. It seemed so important and instinctive but as with most things in life; once you arrive at school and find peers of your own age staring back at you, you notice people and they notice you, the things that separate you from them start to become clearer and more definitive.

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HA: How long have you been a cover designer? What compelled you to start your own business in this field?

SPOONER: When I reached the age of 18 I had gathered enough understanding of the world to know that there was a chance I could do something creative, something that involved creating images to convey meaning, for a living – a way of making money to allow me to create images for as long as possible with no interruptions. It was suggested by my art teacher that I undertake a Foundation Degree at the Wimbledon College of Art in London.  Following this suggestion and applying myself to getting accepted was a confirmation that I was indeed going to do something creative as a profession; I’d sat across tables from other students with artistic prowess far greater than my own for years by this point and despite this I still felt very strongly that I could find a niche for myself that they couldn’t fit into. That degree, in total, lasted a year and was essentially, what became known in retrospect, as an ‘options year,’ a term suitably vague and confusing. I ended up in a scary umbrella option called ‘visual communication,’ which basically meant commercial imagery in the broadest and (sadly) vaguest sense. I was trapped in a room, right on the edge of Wimbledon like a dirty secret, shoulder to shoulder with photographers, graphic designers, typographers, traditional illustrators, children’s book illustrators and even a couple of fine artists who had severely lost their way but decided that it couldn’t have possibly been there fault. I barely made it out of that year purely through the department’s constant need to try and cover every discipline’s needs on a daily basis. We were essentially a broth with too many chefs and I lost any sort of direction or idea of what I truly wanted to be. However, I did survive it and based on the few tethers I’d managed to grasp over the course of a year under the degree’s instruction I decided to sign up to The University of Portsmouth’s illustration degree.

When I got to Portsmouth everything was confirmed. I was reminded of what I truly enjoyed and what I wanted to do more of in the future. The degree provided the perfect platform for me to start from and presented the bare bones truth of what the world I was trying to install myself into was and would be like, so any second thoughts I would have had were put aside fairly early on. The unofficial mantra that got passed down by the lecturers, and made frequent appearances in our group tutorials like a support meetings code of conduct was “what you put in – you will get out,” and while that obviously sounds like common sense, I can assure you that you’d be amazed at how many people decided to sit back, put in minimum effort and just assume the work would find them both during University and out in the big wide world of work. I heard from one of my friends at a London based art degree while I was Portsmouth that her department’s stock phrase was “nobody wants you,” which although incredibly depressing is an unfortunate truth.

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When I left University in 2012 I had finished my illustration degree; handed in work, filled 14 sketchbooks, written a dissertation on film noir, even wall mounted my work for an exhibition to be looked over by a horde of complete strangers – all over the course of the final third year. What I didn’t realise was that we although the work was handed in on 11tth May – we didn’t officially graduate until the 23rd July. This meant that we effectively had two whole months of not having a clue who we were supposed to be; were we students? Were we graduates? Could we start working without knowing whether we’d passed or not? The list of open-ended questions goes on and on but when you’re talking about a department full of potential freelancers you knew you weren’t going to get any answers – even the lecturers gave the impression that they now saw you as competition as opposed to the subordinates they were teaching a week previous.

There was absolutely no hope of turning to your fellow artists and finding out what they had planned because competition was verging on blood thirsty, so rather than dwelling on it I decided that I didn’t need to know what grade I got, or even whether I’d passed, to be a practicing freelancer. I had a portfolio to my name and a desire to work and seek out potential projects so, for those two months, I emailed and searched, rinsed and repeated, sending upwards of fifty emails a day until eventually one client, just as fresh and new to ‘the game’ as I was, said they wanted me on board for their new project and were willing to pay me actual money in return for my services. That was six years ago, and I haven’t stopped since

HA: You call your online domain, CARRION HOUSE. Why that name? Does it have a special meaning?

SPOONER: I didn’t actually live in the city I studied in when I was at University. I lived forty miles away and was working two part-time jobs, so I didn’t really socialise much with other students outside of the formal lessons and group tutorials attended at the University. I used to commute via bus and train and when you couple that with the fact that our schedule, especially towards the end of the course, was pretty lax it meant that not a lot of people actually knew me beyond being able to recognise me in passing me in a corridor. However, during the second year of the course there was a big emphasis placed on creating an online identity for ourselves as prospective illustrators through online portfolios, social media, blogs etc. We were encouraged to represent ourselves as more of a brand than a person, where possible, and so for two weeks I went through all sorts of names that I thought would highlight the dark work I was creating, and hoping to create, for other people.

There were some truly awful names amongst the list of potentials and some downright laughable, so I eventually decided to take stock of how people already viewed me within the course as they were, to a point, pretty unbiased and probably a good indicator of how people would view my work having not really known me personally. In the first year we had done a project where we were set the task of researching and illustrating an animal of our choice over the course of a month and producing some sort of ‘end result’ based on our research and development. I had chosen a crow as my subject and had jumped head first into my research almost gratuitously. The end result was a series of illustrations based on ‘The Crow’ by Ted Hughes and when it came time to present the research and final product to my teachers, alongside everyone else, the other students were slightly taken aback by how ‘into it’ I had become when they saw the bulging sketchbooks and development folders. Subsequently people started referring to me as ‘the crow guy,’ not in a negative capacity (as far as I know) but simply as a convenient moniker based on simple fact — I did nothing to dissuade this.

So, knowing that I was already known as ‘the crow guy’ I took the word ‘Carrion’ and coupled it with the word ‘House,’ because I liked the idea of appearing as a professional house, or style of illustration as opposed to just some guy who could colour in really well and that’s how the name came about. It may also interest you to know that I also work on children’s books under the name of ‘Hoodwink House,’ a name chosen because I don’t feel that the child friendly style of illustration I utilise under that name is an honest representation of my artistic self, therefore I feel like I’m tricking/hoodwinking both customers and myself when I put on that particular hat style.

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HA: I read your website where you have worked on projects that include works by Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Stephen King. That’s impressive. Can you talk about how those projects developed for you? Do you feel more pressure when creating covers for high-profile projects with big-name talent attached?

SPOONER: All of those stories have come to me as parts of anthologies, so they are packaged alongside other stories, by other authors and therefore it diffuses that pressure by normalising those particular names and reminding the elated fan in you that they are just people. I try to make a point of going through anthologies avoiding any knowledge as to who has authored what as it’s the story I’m illustrating – not the writer. It also prevents me from trying to mimic any sort of aesthetic that they or their publications are synonymous with and in turn raise the chance of me coming up with something genuinely original and honest.

HA: In the age of Amazon and ebook readers, are covers as important in this digital age as they were in the days when hardcovers and paperbacks ruled?

SPOONER: Yes, of course. Covers are very important for conveying a theme or the essence of a book, ultimately providing an insight into what you might stand to gain or experience should you decide to have a look inside. On a simpler level; humans are sensory creatures so if you can appeal to someone’s imagination simply through the power of sight and image then you’ve already enriched their experience of a publication before they’ve even opened it. I would almost suggest that ebook covers need to be more illustrative than that of a physical copy as they are at a sensory disadvantage by not having that physicality and appeal to touch that humans enjoy so much.

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HA: What’s the key to a successful collaboration with authors and publishers in creating cover designs? Do most authors and publishers have a specific cover in mind or do they give you a lot of latitude in your design?

SPOONER: I think a successful collaboration comes from a mutual understanding and respect between the client and the illustrator. The writer should never see themselves as some sort of divine benefactor that has stooped to the illustrator’s level and offered them work that they are lucky to get – even if that is the case, and the illustrator should never be tempted to hold their skills to ransom and demand inordinate sums of compensation. Writer’s should realize that illustrators are a key part to making their body of work, not just a marketable and interesting package, but a complete and fully realized one with multiple layers. Illustrators should also realize that; yes, they are artists, they should never work for free because it undermines the entire profession, but they should also be open to the needs of the writer and understand that just because they are talented does not mean they are entirely right when it comes to understanding a writer or publishers’ vision. Working in tandem with each other towards the same goal, making all criticism fair and constructive from both parties – they seem like common sense things to keep in check, but they are often the first things to suffer when a collaborative effort starts to break down.

HA: I see your art incorporates visceral colors but also you have black-and-white illustrations. Which do you prefer and why?

SPOONER: I genuinely don’t know. I spent a long time simply sketching in standard pencil, sticks of charcoal and standard black ink so colour rarely made an appearance in my work during my infant to early teenage years. Around seventeen/eighteen years of age I had access to my A Level college’s entire art department, pretty much whenever I wanted, so I took the opportunity to explore the use of colour in my free time (lunch breaks etc.) and did so quite sporadically. The result was that colour would tend to explode within my images, as if the fact they were no longer repressed was reflecting a sort of violent display of annoyance at me personally through the very paper or canvas I’d set myself to. So I don’t know which of the two I prefer but I’m very happy that they are both present and hope I treat both equally well.

HA: On your website, you have a section for your illustration work. You also have a section titled “Self Directed Work.” What is the difference?

SPOONER: That simply refers to the work I make out of sheer impulse and self direction. None of it is commissioned by a third-party, they are simply the things I create because I have to create. Therefore, there are a few slightly weird pieces up there as well as a few canvas pieces, which is a medium I don’t advertise as a service to anyone. As you can probably imagine; there is a massive amount of work that I’ve produced for myself that isn’t on that page and is instead going completely unseen by anyone other than me.

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HA: What scares you?

SPOONER: The idea of not being able to create or be creative in my pursuits or hobbies scares me tremendously. Once, while in a group tutorial at University, after summer holidays through which we’d been told to maintain a visual diary, a teacher asked to see what I’d amassed. Upon opening my book and flicking through it she went very quiet, looked back over everything and asked me if I had produced as much as I had because I was perhaps scared of not being able to one day. That question caught me completely off guard with how direct it had been but also provided me with the quickest, most uninhibited ‘yes’ I had ever given in my life.

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The Other Woman by Jesse Orr Episode 13: The Finale – Triplets

13: Triplets

She had always been there, since the beginning, when she crouched, afraid to come out. She spent her growing years watching with wistful longing for the world beyond the windows behind which she was rooted, imprisoned, helpless. There were moments where she was happy, fulfilled, but for the most part she was a silent observer.

    After some time, she began to feel stronger. Not so strong as to demand, but to ask. Little things at first, then as they began to be granted with greater frequency, she dared to ask for more, and more often. Finally, she began to take, and an amazing thing happened. The windows came down and she was outside, doing as she pleased. Even this became a regular occurrence, and she wept with joy at the sensation of being. Even when she was required to return to behind the windows, she did so with a raised heart, knowing it would be only temporary.

    Then the other came.

    The other was an evil bitch from the very first time it arrived. It started out bad and became worse as it got stronger. Soon her time out from behind the windows was being snatched from her with increasing frequency and she seemed to have little to no control over it. The other cared nothing for her or the owner of the windows and only sought its own gratification. She hated the other for its selfishness, and hated herself worse for the envy she felt for its ability to put the immediate moment above all else and act in its own interests. She hated herself for loving the moments she spent behind the mirrors watching it go about its disturbing business. It knew her as well as she knew herself, and knew that her anger, at its core, was nothing but envy. The owner of the windows was practically useless by this point, merely a shell, a scarcely sentient vessel for the war that raged within.

    She was alone.

    She watched as

Daniel took lefts and rights as rapidly as he was able, pushing the stolen car to freeway speeds between blocks. Cars honked as he weaved in and out between them and he ignored them. He wanted nothing more than to get away from all the noise, the shouting, the pain. Shooting a glance in the rear-view mirror, he saw a wild eyed creature with blood still dripping from its forehead and both eyes turning black. The eye shadow Princess had daubed on had smeared, dripping down from his eyes in gray tears. His coat of foundation had all but dissolved beneath his five o’clock shadow at this point and the pink lipstick Princess favored had migrated outside of his lip line. A messy blonde wig sat askew on his head, showing the wig cap beneath. The long black dress had become torn in multiple places and a black bra strap beneath it had broken.

Taking a turn at 50mph, he sideswiped a truck in an intersection as he blew through a red light and a moment later sirens bloomed in his mirror. Daniel laughed as he cried and drove faster. His leg screamed and he screamed back, throwing a middle finger out the window for good measure.

“Are you happy, Princess?” he shrieked, the car darting around a school bus and clipping off its flashing red stop sign. “Is this the kind of shit you dig, you sick fucking bitch?” The child at the front of the line of children crossing in front of the bus screamed and fell to the ground, his left foot snapped to the side from its impact with Daniel’s bumper.

The school bus’s red lights faded fast behind him as the siren and blue lights moved closer. Another had joined the first. Spying an alley, Daniel slammed on the brakes and turned the wheel, acutely aware if the alley was blocked he was going headfirst into the blockage. The stolen car ricocheted off the mouth of the alley and spun out for a moment before the squealing tires caught the pavement and it shot down the narrow road. Behind, three police cars braked in unison, backing and turning and maneuvering one by one into the alley.

Daniel pressed the gas pedal down as far as it would go, watching the flashing lights fall in behind him and begin to close the distance. Distracted by the rear-view, the car bounced off the alley wall and careened back and forth a few times before it straightened out, sending garbage cans flying. Ahead, Daniel could see a large dumpster blocking half the alley and turned down the next cross street with a shriek of rubber and another bounce off the wall. The stolen car had begun to steam from under its crumpled hood and its engine labored as Daniel raced it out of the alley and onto the main road. He held his breath, watching behind him to see if the blue flashing lights would follow.

He had allowed a moment’s relief to spill over him when four police cars shot out of the alley and with a howl of tires and engines came after him. Simultaneously, a helicopter swooped into view with a roar of clattering blades.

His heart shot into his mouth and Daniel stomped the gas pedal to the floor again. He heard the engine cough and screamed at the top of his lungs, weeping bitterly at what his life had become, at the shattered person he now was and what awaited him. He was reduced to nothing more than a segment of an episode of COPS where viewers laugh at the doomed would-be escapee driving his piece of shit car into the ground under the delusion there was somewhere to go. The thunder of the helicopter and the multiple sirens rising and falling filled his head and somewhere in there he could hear Princess laughing.

PRINCESS.

Hatred Daniel did not know he possessed flashed through him like igniting hydrogen. He glared into the rear-view mirror, past the bruised flesh and running makeup, into his own eyes, at her. He could see her in there and as he glared in hatred, something in the mirror caught his eye.

He focused on the giant shape in the background, tall supports, lines strung between them, the suspension bridge!

Slamming his foot on the brake and turning the wheel hard, Daniel sent the abused vehicle skidding around in a tight circle across two lanes and floored the gas one more time. The helicopter roared overhead in a loop as the police cars hastened to copy his maneuver. Daniel kept the pedal depressed all the way, honking his horn at cars who looked to be an obstacle. The bridge towered in the distance, rising up from the ground like a giant. The helicopter yelled something over a loudspeaker that Daniel could neither comprehend nor care about. He clipped the side mirror of a Buick and swerved away, honking repeatedly. “Get the fuck out of the way!” he screamed, his throat hoarse. A green sign loomed: MACNAIR BRIDGE ¼ MILES.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Daniel’s eyes snapped to the rear-view mirror. Princess was looking out at him, both furious and terrified. “What the fuck are you doing?” she shrilled again. “Stop it!”

Daniel shook his head, grinning at his own reflection as they shot over the threshold of the bridge. “Uh uh, babe. It’s over. For you and for us. We’ve had it with your shit. You got us into this, now pay for it.” Cables surrounded them and the helicopter backed off as the police cars followed, their quarry now separated by only a few car lengths.

“So you’re going to kill all of us just because you think it’s best?” Princess screamed, fighting to grab the wheel. Daniel laughed and slapped her hands away.

I think it’s best,” Missy said, and she glared at Princess in the mirror with more loathing and hatred than Daniel had ever seen. “Do it, Daniel, send this bitch to hell.”

Princess screamed and went for the wheel again just as Missy took it from Daniel and with a hard yank, sent the car crashing through the barrier on the side of the bridge with enough force to send it soaring horizontally for several car lengths before it began to lose altitude. The bridge was not the tallest in the world, but the helicopter filmed the car falling for almost one hundred feet before crashing into the water and slipping beneath the waves.

***

Dr Bob Derrick, PhD, pushed his way through the steel doors leading to the private visiting rooms at the jail which were reserved for confidential meetings. The prison counselor was tired. It had been a long day, but Mondays always were. This was his final appointment before he could go home and have a cold beer and Derrick was hoping it wouldn’t be a two or three beer night.

At the kiosk, Derrick showed his ID to the guard.

“All right, Bob,” the guard said. “It’ll be Room A today. Who do you need?”

“Thanks Fred,” Derrick said, loosening his tie. “Dasham, please.”

Deadpan, the guard looked at Derrick. “Which one you want?”

Derrick paused in his walk to Room A, uncertainly written across his features. “Which—how many Dashams do you have here, for Christ’s sake? Daniel, Daniel Dasham!”

The guard grinned mischievously. “Ah, well, he’s not here, I’m afraid, Bob. We do have two others in stock if you’d like–”

Derrick’s sense of humor was almost nonexistent at this point. “I’d like you to explain what the fuck–”

“Settle down, Bob,” the guard said with a chuckle and spoke into the microphone clipped to his shoulder. “Dorm 3, send Dasham down to Room A for a visit, please.”

“Which one?” the distorted voice on the radio crackled back and let go with a laugh and a hiss of static.

“Go along to Room A, Bob,” the guard said, hitting the switch that unlocked the door. “Dasham will be right down, and then they can explain what the fuck to you.”

“They?”

The guard gestured go on with his hand at Derrick and turned back to his desk. Unsettled and irritated, Derrick continued down the hall to Room A and let himself in. A white table sat under a large florescent light, two black plastic chairs on opposite sides. Taking the seat facing the door, as was his practice, Derrick set his briefcase on the table and took out his Dasham file.

When the door opened, the man who followed the policeman in bore little resemblance to the photo Derrick had in his file. Daniel Dasham’s eyes were made up with concealer to cover the black eyes and smokey black eye shadow and mascara over the concealer. Foundation covered his face, leaving a smooth flawless exterior surrounding light purple lips. His hair was nearing his eyes and he tossed it to the side, out of the way. Though he wore the yellow shapeless prison garb like every other inmate, he wore it as though it were tailored clothing made from the finest material as he breezed across the room and sat in the chair opposite Derrick, crossing one leg primly over the other.

“Dr Derrick, I presume,” the man said, his voice light and cultured. He held out one hand, its fingernails adorned with cheap nail polish. “A pleasure to meet you.”

“Uh, likewise,” Derrick said, taking the proffered hand and giving it a quick shake before dropping it. “You’re Mr Daniel Dasham, correct?” Derrick glanced at the folder even though he knew perfectly well the name of the individual before him.

The man shrugged. “If you like.”

“What does that mean?” Derrick asked, opening his briefcase again and taking out a pen and a pad of legal paper.

“The body you are addressing is Daniel Dasham’s, that is correct,” the man said, leaning back in his chair. “Who is in control of that body is never a sure thing.”

Derrick’s internal eyes rolled. “Okay Daniel, who is in charge today?”

The man laughed. “Today? Try right now, this minute. Next minute it could be someone else.”

“All right then, who is in charge right now, this minute?” Derrick wrote delusional on his pad.

“My name is Missy,” the man said. “I was here first.”

Derrick missed a beat, then scribbled Missy on his pad. “Here first?”

“Well not before Daniel, obviously,” Missy said. “It’s his body, according to what’s between his legs, but I’ve been here as long as I can remember. I just couldn’t do anything about it.”

“When you say here, uh, Missy, exactly where is ‘here’?” Derrick asked.

“In here,” Missy said, and tapped Daniel’s forehead.

“I’m not following you,” Derrick said, feeling the ghost of a yawn creeping up behind him.

“Mr Derrick,” snapped Missy, “are you to tell me that you are the one mental health counselor on the planet devoid of understanding of the concept of schizophrenia, delusions, psychosis and split personality?”

“Well, I think–” Derrick said defensively.

She waved him aside. “See if you can follow me down this road. As near as I can determine, Daniel and I were born together with him in charge. I was inside, watching, powerless. As Daniel got older, he started to give in to things I wanted, mostly in how he would dress. He listened to what I wanted more and more and let me indulge myself. I found a job at a suicide hotline as my first “real world” job, just a voice on a phone and a few co-workers to fool, and I daresay we did very well. I don’t think any of them ever had a clue. He would often apologize for not giving me more free reign, but our parents are old-fashioned and would never have understood. I had to wear what I wanted and do as I pleased out of their sight, which fortunately was frequent with how often they traveled for business. Until one of their trips ended with their plane slamming into a mountain.”

Missy paused in her narrative, her eyes growing watery. Using a corner of her prison shirt, she let it absorb the tear to preserve her makeup before continuing.

“Them dying meant several things. Daniel, their only child and family, inherited everything. Hundreds of millions of dollars and assets were suddenly his. That doesn’t give Daniel enough credit, because he loved both his parents very much and would rather have died than broken their hearts. But when they died, there was nothing to hold him back from doing whatever he wanted. As soon as he realized that, Princess arrived.”

Derrick, his sluggishness a thing of the past, looked up from the two pages of notes he had been frenziedly scribbling. “Who’s Princess?”

Missy sneered and spat on the floor. “Id. Pure id, to use Freud’s terminology. Chaos, hell and misery. She has no concept of reality, of her actions, or of anything but the now. She didn’t have years to learn how to exist, from the very beginning she has had everything she ever wanted and what she wanted began to escalate quickly.”

“Did nobody know?” Derrick asked, incredulous. “Nobody besides you three?”

Missy smiled a little. “Our parents knew about me enough to send Daniel to a shrink who put him on a nice anti-psychotic, you can check with him if you want. Doctor Nathan, or something, whatever. Sometimes we took the pills, sometimes we didn’t. Once Princess came along, we only did the drugs she wanted to do.”

Derrick was still scribbling. “Amazing… how long has this been going on, Dan—er, Missy?”

“Daniel was a fucked up kid. He never did anything to animals but he would find ways to hurt other kids, ways that could never be traced to him. But there have been three of us since Daniel stood graveside at our parents’ funeral. Princess has been killing people for months. One day I said the wrong thing to someone who called the suicide hotline and they killed themselves. I liked it, so I started trying to convince some of the ones who called to go through with it, and got pretty good at it. ”

“Three personalities, all of them homicidal,” Derrick murmured to himself. “Fascinating…”

“Daniel and I both knew when Princess started killing for fun that it was just a matter of time but we couldn’t stop her. Daniel got an apartment in a shitty building to try and keep Princess away from our family home at the mansion, but over time, Daniel ended up being the one to stay at the apartment, while Princess and I spent most of our time at the mansion.” Missy snorted. “Princess wasn’t going to stay in that hell-hole, that’s for sure.”

Derrick flipped over a fifth sheet of paper on his legal pad. “How did you end up here?”

“Fucking Princess,” Missy snarled. “I had a thing going with a nice enough guy and we went to a hotel for the weekend. Unfortunately she came along for the ride, killed a shitload of people and we’ve been running ever since then, until that fucking attempted suicide stunt with the bridge.”

“Yes, that was on the news,” Derrick said. This is a massive understatement, the media is screaming themselves hoarse over the cross-dressing serial murderer at the head of one of the world’s most powerful shipping companies.

“I bet it was,” Missy grumbled.

“So, Daniel’s in there right now, with Princess, while Missy’s talking to me?” Derrick said, referring to his notes.

Missy’s sighed, her voice sad. “No. Daniel is dead.”

Derrick looked perplexed. “But you’re not.”

“Well spotted,” Missy snorted. “I didn’t say I understood how. All I know is that ever since they pulled us out of the water under the bridge, Daniel as I have always known him does not exist.”

“Oh.” Derrick frowned at his papers. “What about Princess?”

Missy’s face hardened. “Oh she’s in here all right,” she said, her voice soft. “The bad ones never die. She’s in here, refusing to take responsibility. Watching. Watching you.”

The buzzer over the door rang and Derrick jumped in spite of himself.

“That’s all for now, doctor,” Missy said, pushing her chair back. “But I’ll see you again, won’t I? I’ve never been able to talk to anybody and I feel so much better already.”

“Oh, uh, yes, certainly,” babbled Derrick, simultaneously standing, putting everything in his briefcase and offering Missy his hand. “I’ll talk to the guards and we’ll get a schedule and–”

“Good,” Missy said, shaking the offered hand once as papers spilled from Derrick’s file all over the floor.

“Will you be all right in there?” Derrick asked, ignoring the papers as he gestured to the rest of the prison. “With your, uh…” Derrick gestured at Missy’s makeup.

“Oh, we’ll be fine,” Missy said with a light laugh as the door opened to reveal the guard who would escort her back to the dorm. “We already have a nice boyfriend, and Princess knows how to handle those kind of men.”

As the door slammed shut, Derrick’s eyes fell to the glossy color photograph of one of the victims from the Rialto Hotel, mutilated beyond recognition. He shuddered.

Yes, she does.

   

Terror Trax: Zwaremachine

Saturday, October 6, 2018

6:36 P.M., Central Time

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dear Emerian,

Please be advised, the Zwaremachine is extremely dangerous! During the course of our interview I learned that the musician in question, one Mach FoX, is in fact, himself, the Zwaremachine. It did not arrive by spaceship as he claims –it was already here! By combining inverted Atari algorithms with voodoo-tech spells and song craft, Mach FoX transformed into a highly malevolent human / machine hybrid who wishes for nothing less than the utter and total annihilation of the human race! Once the Zwaremachine realized my discovery, the Robot Vampire Zombie minions were released upon me and I was chased along the dark streets of the city until I took shelter in a long abandoned Radio Shack, which, as I unfortunately learned, was indeed haunted by the ghosts of obsolete technologies. After several frightful hours I made my escape and took refuge at an all-night diner where I write to you now from my trusty laptop machine. My safety may only be temporary, though, for I fear that I soon may be discovered.  You must publish this interview immediately and alert the Addicts of this grave danger! And remember: although the music of the Zwaremachine is very, very good, its intentions are not!

All of our hopes rest with you, dear Emerian! Godspeed!

R.


What is a Zwaremachine?

Hello and thank you to Horror Addicts for letting me expose the Zwaremachine to your rabid audience. The Zwaremachine arrived in a spaceship haunted by the ghost of a robot and responsible for reprehensible crimes throughout the galaxy, it is currently hiding out on earth in the form of an industrial/ebm band. Zwaremachine is known for various stunts including walking through walls, time-shifting, and designing futuristic sonic weaponry. It is a dark and dangerous bio-mechanical entity.

How did Zwaremachine get started?

In 2011 I wrote a track called “The Zwaremachine” which was inspired by the horror-fantasy world artwork of Paul Gerrard. I used the first person while writing the story and lyrics which involved a biomechanical entity coming to earth and imposing rule over mankind. I became The Zwaremachine. After all the sequencing and vocal mutations were done I decided to release it and form an electro-industrial band to perform live. 

There’s a rumor that you, as a band, have the knowledge to build robot zombies from old VCRs, discarded human remains, and ColecoVision game consoles. Is this true?

Yes…and unfortunately I was not able to maintain control of them and make them do my bidding. Most have escaped and are living in the shadows and in small groups in desolate areas though some are being spotted near cities recently. While programming them with the clock chips and crystals from the old VCRs they kept resetting to 00:00 every time they experienced a power dropout so I wasn’t able to implement the final coding before they escaped. This resulted in them still longing for blood and the taste of human flesh -particularly the brains- even though they do not need the blood or meat of humans to survive. They will attack and kill when they feel the pulse in their brains that makes these urges. I only hope that humanity can defend itself. Also – they are referred to as RZVs and they are actually robot zombie vampires and can fly. I went a bit overboard in the design. You have been warned.

 

Has modern / current electronic music become too electronic? With so much of the work being computer driven, has it lost more of the human element that earlier industrial or electronic music had?

I’m longing for a more cyberpunk take on music, instruments and technology. I prefer a more electronic approach without the hindrance of pesky humans. I see that as the way we can advance to a new style of music. A lot of earlier industrial music had this spirit and wasn’t driven by the past but looking to the future and the undiscovered territory music could explore and exploit. Provoking thought and action can stimulate new sounds. We have to smash and destroy the old instruments and techniques to form new alliances between machines, music, and man. Machines must become man and man must become machines. Blood, Sweat, and Gears!

Make people dance, fill them with fear, or both?

Ideally they would be driven to dance by the minimal hypnotic industrial body music of Zwaremachine and as they reach a trance state they will slowly realize they are being forced to dance until they collapse and die. That realization will fill them with fear as they dance their lives away… so I guess it’s the best of both worlds!

When making dark industrial music, who is in control, the musician or the machine?

Aaahhh -the old man versus machine battle! The machines only let me feel that I am in control and it’s an ongoing tug of war for the ultimate power when using them. It is man AND machine, not one or the other. With Zwaremachine I was able to make a deal with the machines early on in the songwriting process. They agreed to let me manipulate waveforms and timing events but insisted that they be interconnected via musical instrument digital interface and control voltages. I knew this would be a bad idea because they would be able to communicate amongst themselves by both digital and analog means and possibly rebel against and subvert my mission to harness them to make industrial/ebm music to hypnotize the masses. So far they have been compliant but as a fan of horror/sci-fi I know it’s only a matter of time…

How can we taste everything? Is this a direct command or just good advice?

This is a warning about the RZVs (robot zombie vampires) and also a command to help human kind to survive. By suggesting they also try the leg or arm of a victim the person under attack may be able to escape or fend off and continue living only missing a limb…or two, with the brain still intact. For the RZVs it starts with a pulse in their brain and the urge to consume human brains… but why stop there? Why not taste everything!

 For the uninitiated reader, can you please tell us about some of your influences and where you feel that Zwaremachine fits into the cannon of dark industrial music?

If you visit any of the artwork done by Paul Gerrard you will instantly recognize the deep vast darkness… that is where Zwaremachine dwells and extracts influence from. His artwork and the horror/sci-fi of the ages as well as technologies past, present, and future all inform the lyrics and worlds of where this music lives: When the rare bits of light trickle through you may get glimpses of biomechanical creatures, surreal machines and a very small bit of humanity that has stubbornly held on through the centuries.

What influence does horror have in Zwaremachine?

I am not familiar with the genre personally…but I know the RZVs like some classics like Nosferatu and Night of the Living Dead and I had even seen a couple of them crack smiles while watching Evil Dead. The Zwaremachine prefers body horror and sci-fi horror like Tetsuo, Videodrome, and Planet Terror…i think it relates to the human machine hybrid and longs to become more human. But that is just speculation as I am not currently connected via synapses with the Zwaremachine anymore since the release of the Be a Light album this year.

There’s a strong visual element with Zwaremachine, and a particularly hypnotic yet, some may say, anxiety inducing characteristic to your videos. Could you please tell us about the inspiration behind this imagery?

Prior to Zwaremachine I was performing in an electro-punk band as Mach FoX and before that an electro-glam band called Silver FoX. Custom stage sets, equipment, lighting, visuals and costumes had always been part of these shows and something I really cared about when presenting the music and the live shows. Much in the same way that lighting and atmosphere can make a scary movie evoke emotions and keep you enthralled, I wanted the people at the show to see something special, and to set the mood on stage. Around the same time I started Zwaremachine I started to work as a VJ (visuals) and also combine hardware and software to create video art that I could project and also display on CRTs. A lot of the second hand monitors, mixers, processors and other hardware was flawed and became a glitch aesthetic I could easily exploit. This type of glitch work was then incorporated into Zwaremachine live shows and the fast paced strobing and broken images matched the feel of the fight to harness these unruly machines.

What inspires you to create? What drives you to keep making music?

I have a special bond with machines. Using hardware sequencers and drum machines and editing grids has become a way of life. The timing and spacing of notes is both limited and endless. I still explore composition and songwriting as much as possible and base my output on the 10:1 rule that seems to hold true for me – write 10 songs and maybe one or two are pretty good. Since meeting and interfacing with the Zwaremachine I have had better success due to the involvement of off world technologies. The machines speak to me and sometimes I listen.

How is the industrial scene in Minneapolis these days?

We keep rolling on here… the Be a Light release came out about 6 months ago in May 2018 and I expect we will slowly gain some following locally. The next step needs to be some touring ASAP since I have played shows in MPLS all summer to gain exposure and have some offers to travel with the band. There are many musicians and friends who are into this music but the scene is spread thin with many nights and not a lot of cross promotion. I have been trying to propose a Midwest Industrial umbrella to promote all types of music genres across the Midwest US and in the Twin Cities but it has proved hard to kick start a scene. In some ways it’s like the first wave of industrial/ebm has finally hit the Midwest area so we will see what happens.

Are any of your electronic instruments cursed or possessed?

Oohh -Don’t say that! They probably are. I know a few have felt and tasted blood. I have a circuit bent Roland TR505 that most certainly has its moments of possession complete with demonic sounds, and some of the modular synths I use also can become uncontrollable at times.

What are the future plans for Zwaremachine?

As mentioned I will start to play outside of the Twin Cities more next year and have plans to release more music that has already been written but not yet recorded. I have been performing each show this fall as a unique set with some great friends, musicians and vocalists as guests. I will also continue to collaborate on some recordings and seek other non-traditional venues to perform at and hope to mutate some minds.

When the world is destroyed by humanity, will the Zwaremachine remain?

Yes. If you do not know by now…the Zwaremachine is what WILL destroy humanity!

How can we keep up with / contact the band?

If you need to report any RZV sightings please use the OFFICIAL website:

http://www.zwaremachine.band/

If you want to stream/dl Zwaremachine visit:

https://zwaremachine.bandcamp.com/

If you want to impress your friends, you can get exciting updates here: https://www.facebook.com/zwaremachine

If you want to order Zwaremachine CD/Cassette/Shirts/Posters visit our label Phage Tapes 

@zwaremachine on both twitter and Instagram

Dear readers, please check out the official Zwaremachine video, “DRKNRG”, here:

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Kittens in a Blender

Why are there kittens? Why are they in a blender? Good questions, but shelve your disbelief for one moment and embrace the fact that you will be putting kittens in a blender and gleefully pressing the big red button.

Kittens in a Blender is a party game for 2-8 players (ages 8+, otherwise there are too many tears) and takes about thirty minutes to play.

Game Play

First, choose a color. The many, many kittens are divided into teams by color. Your objective is to save the kittens of your team and shred everyone else’s.

Next, shuffle the deck of cards and deal a hand to each player. Kittens in a Blender contains several types of cards for players to use: Kitten cards, Movement cards, and Blend cards. On their turn, each player must play exactly two cards.

There are three play areas: the blender, the counter, and the box. Kitten cards are played in any of these areas and moved using Move cards. If a kitten is in the blender when any player plays a Blend card, that kitten is blended and removed from the game. If a kitten is in the box when a Blend card is played, then the kitten is saved and placed under the box for safe-keeping. When all the Blend cards have been played, the players count the total number of their kittens that were saved and the person with the most wins.

Game Experience

There is a lot of cringing involved in playing Kittens in a Blender. Am I really the type of person who sends adorable kittens to their doom? After a few rounds, you get over that feeling and start murdering cats with no remorse.

The game creators seem to revel in this. Rather than supplying generic kitten cards, each one has an adorable name and picture to match. Over time, players gain attachments to certain kitties (my favorite is a bulldog-faced kitten named Princess), to the point where they will sacrifice others of their own to save a favorite.

The adorable art style underlines the macabre humor of the game. Each kitten is equally loveable and undeserving of its fate. You’re just a monster for playing this game and worse for enjoying it.

Final Thoughts

I know what you’re thinking: is Kittens in a Blender really a horror game? I guess that depends on who answers, but if you were to ask my 9 year-old cousin, my mother-in-law, or several of my more innocent friends, the idea of putting even fake kittens into a blender and hitting the button is plenty horrific. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then maybe you’re the perfect person to play the game.

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles – A Kbatz Kraft!

How to Tea Stain Labels and Make Spooky Bottles

by Kristin Battestella

Who has the money to buy all those fancy potion bottles and apothecary accessories in stores? Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz is here again to show how YOU can make some customized, old fashioned labels and aged Halloween bottles for your spooky display.

First, let’s focus on making the creepy labels, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog and all that. I made up some Shakespeare inspired labels with a few clip art pictures and printed them. Of course, stark white printer paper doesn’t work for our aged apothecary, so we need some tea staining.

I brewed a pitcher of tea – using a few ginger flavors that I don’t really like, which actually left the paper with a nice spice smell! I dabbed the steeped tea bags all over the pages, soaking them to different degrees. Some of them I went over several times to darken them more, or to make even more aged lines and stains. You probably did this as a kid to make some kind of old looking paper, and it is totally effective for Halloween décor!

You can see I stained the whole pages, rather than cutting out all the labels first. Cutting them would have left a lot of paper to waste, and by staining the whole piece, it gave me scrap paper that was also tea stained after I cut out my labels. Now I have extra if I want to hand write some tags and do something else fancy!

I left my pages to dry, and in fact, had enough tea left over that I went ahead and stained some more blank pages, inspiring me to make up some kind of old fashion spooky spell books – but that is another Kbatz Kraft!

Once my labels dried and I cut them out, you can see some of the places where the ink ran. For some of them, it did ruin them as too illegible, but for others, it was just a little old touch that added unexpected character. Most of these I intended as labels, but a few others I planned on making tags to tie around my bottle necks.

Well, what bottles, do you ask? You can go to the thrift store or dollar shop and get some plain or unique bottles, but really, if you save some of your household bottles, you can recycle them into something spooky. I’ve spent the last few months saving anything unusual looking – from medicine bottles, shampoo, and bubble bath to wine, bug spray, and candle jars.

I still have some spice bottles and stained paper left over, and initially planned to match specific bottles with labels before wondering if I should mass theme everything by spray painting them all a uniform gloss black or old fashioned brown. Instead, I took each bottle one at a time, using craft paints in several colors and foam brushes. Some bottles were already nice colored glass and I just went over them with a bit of dry bush to dab an etched, age glass kind of look. I’m not an artist and it took me some trial and error do overs on some before I was happy, but others I simply had to paint the whole bottle one color to cover up a label, more stark white, or an ugly bottle cap.

Once my bottles were painted, I began matching them with labels. Some shapes and sizes I had in mind didn’t go together and I ended up switching them around. Some labels became tags, and other labels that were too big ended up with the written label on the bottle as well as the matching picture as a tie tag. It maybe wasn’t as I had intended, but a happy accident as Bob Ross says, as the bottle colors, assorted labels, and extra tag ties created more variety in my little apothecary collection.

I’ve mixed the bottles I made in with some fancy bottles as well as other wine and soda bottles that I had put on other store bought labels. I’ve put them all across the top of my refrigerator, giving my kitchen a bit of a Halloween double take. By not being overtly all black typically Halloween looking from a far, guests get a little WTF when they are up close and see Tooth of Wolf, Baboon’s Blood, or the eyeball I put in one of those amber medicine bottles!

In addition to collecting the bottles and making up some of the labels in advance, this took me about a weekend. I spent a couple evenings painting the bottles with acrylic paints, then a Saturday doing the tea staining, and a Sunday using tacky glue and yarn for the labels and tags. This is family friendly or classroom safe Halloween fun as well, just perhaps messy with maybe the adults handling the hot tea or any strong smelling paint or glue.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can recycle what you already have and print out something to make look ye olde without having to spend a lot of money to look potion proper. Heck, I may just leave my bottles out year round!

 

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins – A Kbatz Kraft!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz steps outside of her Frighten Flix beat at HorrorAddicts.net to show how YOU can make your very own Affordable, Stylish Stuffed Pumpkins! 

 

 

“Puffed Stumpkins” by Kbatz!!

 

Since you can’t see all of the pumpkins in the video frame, here are a few pictures of my pile:

 

 

How to Make a Pumpkin Cat House – A Kbatz Kraft!

How to Make a Pumpkin Cat House – A Kbatz Kraft!

By Kristin Battestella

When doing some of our seasonal Halloween Shopping, I’ve seen several types of fabric cat houses in assorted pumpkin shapes. Some are just orange tent styles and other are more rounded, so I decided to give it a go and make my own sort of insulated cat house. It didn’t come out perfectly like I expected, however I hope this gives you an idea on how you can make something fun and fall inspired for your pet.

First, I had to gather my sewing supplies and cut my fabric. I made a football-shaped pattern to create a dozen ovals, sewing them together to make the outer section of the pumpkin. For the bottom I cut two circles from the orange baby blanket I bought at Goodwill for $4 (Don’t judge me, fertile people without four legged children!) One circle was sewn to the outer sections, then the other was sewn on top and I stuffed between the two with styrofoam to make a little padded base before sewing it closed.

Next I sewed the inner flat wall along the bottom circles’ rim. This left a channel that I could being stuffing with plastic bags – insulation along with heaps of catnip sprinkled inside the sections as I went. I began sewing the top of the inner wall and the outer section top together as I stuffed, adjusting to make the outer sections plump like a pumpkin on the outside while the inside remained flat and smooth. Once I was satisfied with the stuffing I sewed the entire top of the walls closed. Of course, you don’t want your wall to go all the way around – there has to be an opening for the cat, Poe fans!

Finally, I sewed another circle of fabric to the top of the walls and went around with the last of my fabric on top of that. Like the base I stuffed the top before gathered the fabric closed. I glued artificial leaves on top of my seam and added coiled pipe cleaners for whimsical stems and tendrils.

As I said, there were a few places where I was somewhat unhappy with the project, mainly some of my seams in the front that were a little unsightly and the final gather at the top. At first I thought it looked okay to be a little off to one side – a little off center whimsy! However, it just looks…off center.

Of course, you may expect something designed for a pet to get chewed on or messy perhaps, so I figured it doesn’t matter if there are a few less than perfect spots in this a quick weekend project you may only use for a few months out of the year. Unfortunately, my familiar is a very finicky little feline…

He doesn’t like his pumpkin cat house and won’t go in it!