A long time fan and critic of his work, I met with Grant Morrison and his girlfriend, Kristan, at the Tchai-Ovna Tea House in Glasgow. We sat at a low table on a raised platform with our shoes off. And then we started talking. Between ten past six and a quarter to nine, on the evening of the 2nd September 2002, the following conversation took place:
Brother Yawn: I collected Cut magazine when it came out.
Grant Morrison: mm-hmm
BY: and I wanted to start by going back to those times, which is 1989, a positive time for the comic industry; there seemed to be a lot happening in the wake of Watchmen and Dark Knight and there was a renewed public interest. There was a bit of a stramash with the Hitler story (New Adventures of Hitler originally serialised in Cut magazine) and I wondered how that affected you at the time because you'd just broke through into the mainstream and you were very much the star in waiting at the time - what were the implications of that for your own confidence as a writer and for freedom of speech?
GM: I found it quite exciting and also terrifying. It was exciting at first when people like Pat Kane began to walk off the magazine and then it got scary when guys from The Sun were phoning up and pretending to be the Wakefield Inquirer.
GM: Yeah and they'd say, 'y'know, were just a small provincial paper, were not really interested in this except as the most side subject of all, but are you a Nazi? -
GM: And I'm going, naw, naw man - I'm just a little guy, Nazi's are gone and so I'd get these weird phone calls so that was really scary but the rest of it was quite exciting - I liked courting controversy- more flames to the fire!
BY: I was excited by it at the time -y'know I'd been into comics since I was five or six and I knew there was something about comics worth sticking with, - most people didn't seem to get it but I liked them so when that all happened with Pat Kane doing his article and then walking off and then you came on and said your piece - it was good buzz for me -
GM: 'Fuck off and Die.'
BY: Yeah I think that's what it ended with but you'd built up such a strong argument and what was positive for a teenager like myself was here was somebody coming from this fringe medium and basically kicking ass in the mainstream y'know - it was like, 'Fuck You - this is the way it is' and I think that was quite a important time that wasn't picked up in the media, in that there were articulate comic writers and artists who were making strong points about politics, culture and media and then it went dead basically.
GM: Well people were picking up on it but it became a fad. It was just seen as hula hoops and y'know I think that's the way it always gets seen after observing it coming around a few times. It's just hula hoops and for a while people think its cool and people wear masks and gloves and things like that happen and then it goes away. It always just orbits around it never disappears. It just goes fallow and comes back into vogue so I think that was happening at that time. There was some interesting people around - Brendan McCarthy, the Deadline guys - all doing great things at the time. It seemed interesting - it was like pop, Speakeasy used to be like the NME (New Musical Express) back in those days; pictures of somebody getting pissed at some opening and there was a really good pop vibe around - it was like being in a band. It was great but that ended when Speakeasy ended. That was the end of an era.
BY: So there's a certain sort of gravity developing again, there certainly seems to be, in the way all the creators relate to each other, they're all working for the same publisher basically Marvel - do you feel its similar, or is it more superficial in that the connection's not there?
GM: It's less funny, it's more right wing, it's more conservative and money oriented, or that's how it feels comparing it to those times which were a bit more - ah mean everybody always says it! - y'know - 'the past was brilliant son!' - I think things move in cycles - I'm not a big fan of nostalgia but the last couple of years I've begun to feel a nostalgia for the nineties because people are really very conservative just now, very afraid of words, and very afraid of things, so I don't - so there is an interest in comics just now but it's the interest of the farmer for the turnip. (laughs)
BY: I'm not sure I understand that one!
GM: Well these people are just here to harvest us out and I think its good for comics to be willing to survive with that - that's what its about - the press interest is superficial - they're more interested in how we relate to movies because they can't avoid these images in their movies anymore so I think there's kinda that element to it. Nah I just don't know - I think there was a certain freewheelin' aspect of drugs and drink back in the scene in 1989, 90, 91 that just isn't there anymore. So it's the difference between Linkin Park and Kurt Cobain - y'know - one guy shoots himself the other guy does his (inaudible)
BY: Y'know at the time Kurt Cobain and Nirvana came out I felt that Nirvana was actually the first stage of pre-packaged angst - I know it led to a tragic end - but there was something about what I was being sold at the time I thought, 'I've seen this before', but I couldn't remember where it was that I'd seen it before.
GM: But his angst was genuine - the packaging was equally genuine but maybe you're right for the first time you noticed it but for the first time they've noticed everyone - you can go and buy Emily Strange Posse notebooks in the arcade there, y'know, and that's End of the World girls who were once outsiders or Goths or people who felt lonely or distant from the culture getting sucked in, embraced, not being allowed to escape anymore, so I think that's just part of what's happening.
BY: Is this a bad thing ultimately or is it -
GM: Nah its just part of what's going on. It might seem bad to people who are obsessed with those kind of divisions - we can't escape the spectacle.
GM: If we have to be swallowed we might as well change the digestion.
BY: When you talk about the spectacle claiming everything, surely there must be some controlling power to that spectacle and currently it seems as if it's a rather dull mainstream which is incorporating all the interesting ideas and then playing them back through various Hollywood movies, pop stars etc, whereas what you'd really want would be for the underground vibe to dominate the spectacle and disseminate that information for everybody - does this mean that the emergent Supercontext is going to be this corporate, bland environment that -
GM: No. The Supercontext is 5-dimensional. The corporate phase is something that's more mundane. It's very interesting because I've been doing a lot of work with it trying to figure it out but its hardcore y'know. It's demonic, the corporate world, but its coming and I think we have to deal with its ramifications. It's like I said in the comic, The Invisibles, everyone will be famous 24 hours a day, people's lives are just being consumed. Celebrities is the best program on television, that's all we call it: The Celebrities that's all we call it - I don't even know what the name of the show is: It's The Celebrities! We're watching it every night-
BY: The One in the jungle? (I'm a Celebrity : Get me Out of here!)
GM: Yeah - (laughs)
BY: Yeah - Uri Geller's out...
GM: He never saw that coming!
BY: Yeah that's right!
GM: But no, but I mean... Where was I? The Spectacle eats everyone and everything. There's a corporate phase coming; we could be in for a Dark Age - who knows? It's how you operate within that, how you deal with it. There's a lot of weird stuff going on; there's kids getting chipped and they really get into it which is great cos it means when they get kidnapped they can chop off their hands (giggles) or their arms; ah mean, they'll be diggin' the chips out (giggles again!)
BY: And sticking them in something silly...
GM: (laughs) nobody's thinking...
BY: One of the features of Marvel Boy I found interesting, I'm an architect by trade, its what I studied and I tend to approach most pieces of art from that perspective and I was really excited in Marvel Boy 3 with Hexus, the Living Corporation and the idea of a corporation shedding office space like skin. Y'know, I thought that was an incredible idea and I teach up at university and I like to kind of take these ideas and use them within an architectural educational environment. It's proved to be very useful-
GM: That's good.
BY: -to start to see everything as memes or ideas as viruses...
GM: That's the point - I came to it - the ideas out there - obviously you come up with a great idea and somebody else turns up with it two weeks later - but I just thought about it by meditating on Disney. Suddenly I thought, 'What the Hell is Disney?' Walt Disney's dead now but Disney persists as a concept and people who were born after the death of Walt Disney grow up and assume positions within Disney. What are they assuming positions within? It's in this really devotional way too. What makes you grow up to wear a Mickey Mouse head and go round scaring children? Or 'I'm going to end up on the Board of Directors of Disney?' Why, why do these things occur? So I was just seeing them as in the way the Demons in the old Grimoires were seen which was kinda aggregates of power to which people could adhere themselves to or join in cultish fashion so I began to think I could talk to them like that and use ceremonial magic methods to talk to corporations and found there were ways of doing it - that's why I'm wearing a suit - this is my magical garb for this working. That_s why we evoked gmWORD Ltd. They're very powerful, ravenous weird things -corporations, strange to deal with.
BY: Do you see your work within business as trying to direct it in a different way or inhabiting the structure that's there -
GM: Its more playing with it -
BY: And disseminating information?
GM: Yeah it disseminating information cos these people are hungry for what to them seem like radical ideas but which are our everyday waking ideas. When you think about things in a certain way those are just things, which become saleable in this weird imagination economy. It's an interesting development - I mean I talk to these guys and it's really strange; they want my business solutions and management consultant training etc. All you need to do is tell them the most ridiculous thing and how they apply it to business and at the same time you get the most ridiculous influence on the type of thought that permeates business. Business is the most bizarre Occult place on earth.
BY: I suppose Freemasonry was founded within a business environment.
GM: Yeah there is that kind of swearing of allegiances, the logos,
GM: The power of the logo, the power of the slogan, the magical words, those things they have on the wall that we had in Marvel Boy, we parodied it; 'the ocean devours the raindrop' (laughs) these inspirational messages that are quite disturbed.
BY: I remember when I worked in Woolworths when I was in 5th year at school (16) in Helensburgh and I had to go to a training session in Shawlands. (Glasgow suburb) Everybody throughout the region who had started at Woolworths was taken into a small room and-
GM: Sodomised! (laughs)
BY: Yeah (laughs) didn't happen! - this is another thing I wanted to talk about; Glaswegian humour and how it influences your work!
BY: At this training session, we're all just sat down, the first thing they said to us was, 'what is the most powerful force in the universe?' - y'know I'm looking around thinking - 'I'm going out for a bevvy tonight, I want this thing over!' - y'know I'm not expecting this - I'm on a Woolworths training course for part time staff and I'm sat down and there's some sort of very straight looking guy asking this very curious question. I think that was my introduction to this whole concept of well, I dunno, almost a kind of religious type of speaking within a business environment. It was very unusual to me at the time.
GM: It's even more, it's very occult rather than traditional religion because it uses occult language, hypnotic language NLP language, Self programming language all the time which is what business is run on and what these training course are all about and why they bring in weird people to talk to business as they try to think in different ways. So the whole thing is run like that, programming, re-programming and programming constantly.
BY: So are you involved in working with business in Scotland or is it a global thing or-
GM: It's anyone that'll take me! (laughs) I've been talking to people in Scotland recently we've been getting letters from people asking me to talk to them - so I'm just doing whatever that turns up right now.
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