A Gonzo Punk Interview: Kieron Gillen

August 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm (Interview, Uncategorized) ()




 Last week I was able to get a hold of Kieron Gillen a prominent video game Journalist and creator of Phonogram: Rue Britannia. We talked about his work on Rue Britannia and talked a bit about the upcoming Phonogram series: The Singles Club. If you haven’t read Rue Britannia be warned there is a bit of a spoiler.





Before we get to all the questions about Phonogram The Singles Club
lets talk a bit about the first Phonogram series, Rue Britannia. How did
it all come around? When did the idea to use Brit pop and magic in a
comic happen?
Well I drink a lot, and when I wake up, all I have to show for it is a
hangover and a load of writings. One day, it was Phonogram.
God, one day I’m going to have to have a proper answer for that one. I
honestly dunno – you can kind of see traces of Phonogram across all the
things I’ve ever written – both fiction and journalism – all the way
back to my late teens. It was growing, all the while. I suppose
fundamentally, it’s just how I see the world.
But I would note there’s one misapprehension in the question – it wasn’t
the idea originally to do a comic about Britpop being magic. It was
about Music being Magic. We played around with various story ideas to be
the first arc – if the Britpop one got bounced as being too obscure, I
had a structure for a story about Punk I was going to go to do instead.
Countering the idea that Phonogram is just about Britpop being Magic is
one of the things which The Singles Club is going to have to do.


That actually answers a question that I had down the line, so is it
safe to assume that The Singles Club is going to feature a different
genre? It also sounds like you have several stories you want to tell
about the Magic of Music, and of course I have to ask is the punk story
going to see publication?
Well, each series to equal a different genre seems a little ghettoised
to me. Even with Rue Britannia, while it had its focus, it was far from
only Britpop bands that were referenced – we started with post-Riot Grrl
Ladyfest, for example. The second series is about a moment in time at a
certain club, and the music it touches on is pretty much what would have
got played in that club, on that specific night. It’s about a scene in
its smallest sense – that is, a group of people, in a room, for an
evening. In it the Knife’s modern electro rubbing up against the Long
Blondes nouveau-Britpop and TV On the Radio’s
state-of-the-art-American-Rock have about equal importance.
To take the Punk series, the plan was to make it about the eternal
question of What Is Punk. In which case, it’d take in a whole lot of
stuff which a lot of self-identifying punks would never include. I’m not
actually planning to do it at the moment, admittedly – while the
question is fun, that Rue Britannia worked makes me unafraid to head
towards stuff that’s perhaps a little more unexpected.
But never say never, y’know?
Phonogram isn’t like any comic on the market, sure it has magic but the
mages use music to channel it. Not only that but every genre or music
seems to have an aspect of a goddess behind it. How hard was this to pitch?
It should have been nightmarishly hard. It turned out to be shockingly
simple – in fact, about the one simple thing in the project. We took our
pitch to Eric Stephenson at Image and he – being an enormous music fan –
loved it, and gave us enough rope to go and hang ourselves. We’ve been
enjoying autoasphixiation ever since.

So, did Jamie already have some art done when you pitched it?
Only a little. A page and some character sketches. However, Eric had
worked with Jamie before on the OGN Long Hot Summer, so he was aware of
what McKelvie could do and how McKelvie actually gets shit done. Mostly.
In the scene on the bridge, David says to the Ghost of Beth “Waiting
for a man whose main characteristic is his absence is a stupid waste of
time.” This line really had a lot of weight behind it and I couldn’t
help but think about how a lot of the greatest music revolutions seem to
have an Arthurian lore to them; for example, The Blues has Robert
Johnson, Grunge has Kurt Cobain, Rock has Hendrix, and Punk has Sid
Vicious. Did you make that connection writing that line?
A little – that was more what I was contrasting Richey’s *particular*
myth too. What’s interesting about him is that he wasn’t a Rock Star who
killed himself – it’s a Rock Star who just /went/. Is he dead or alive?
We don’t really know. And that unsureness is absolutely central.
However, more generally, it’s a similar thing. There’s certain people
who’ve become much bigger after they’re gone, and that bigness is part
of their being absent.
That bit of Richey plot was initially inspired by a rather odd dream I
had around the time of Phonogram. It involved some elaborate dream where
I ended up chatting to an alternate dimension version of Bill Hicks,
where he’d had lived. And I said “Oh – that’s great!”. He shakes his
head: “It’s not – that’s the worst thing in the world”. And I somehow
understood he was saying that Bill Hicks’ defining aspect is that he was
a brilliant, blackly funny comedian who died young. Being anything other
than that aspect makes you fundamentally nothing – it’s the equivalent
of being the Elvis who never started singing. You’re simply not that thing.
I applied that sort of logic to Richey and voila!


 Do dreams tend to find there way into your writing much?
The right sort of dreams do, which don’t happen often enough. I’m a bit
obsessed with dreams, while understanding talking about them is one of
the more boring things you can do. The thing is… well, imagine I told
you: Hey – I took a mass of drugs and hallucinated I was being eaten
by a dragon. You’d think that was notable. Conversely, pretty much
every one hallucinates similar things whilst sleeping every night. And,
when we’re experiencing it, it’s completely convincing. Or, at least,
mostly convincing. But our brain just processes it differently and…
well, dreams are interesting.
Lets move on to The Singles Club, you guys made a T-shirt could you
explain a bit about it? Why did you decide to do a T-shirt before hand?
As usual with us, a terrible mixture of commerce and art. San Diego
coming up and we figured we wanted to sell some T-shirts so Jamie could
eat – Phonogram is very much the dodgy-indie-band ethos transplanted
into comic-dom. In other words, we realise by selling neat T-shirts
Jamie can… well, I’ve said that one before.
But we also realised that Phonogram is a durable enough concept that we
could just introduce the second series characters on a T-shirt and
people would hopefully like it enough to buy it. Not even all Phonogram
fans even – the LAST NIGHT THIS DJ RUINED YOUR LIFE message juxtaposed
with McKelvie’s art sold a load to people who just liked the vibe of it.
Many of them DJs.
In short: It was fun, it was meaningful, we wanted your money.


Are there any plans to do more shirts?
Well, “plans” imply organization. We’ve done a shirt before this. We’ll
almost certainly do a shirt again.
At San Diego you were handing out this post card sized invitation with
a mini comic on them featuring Seth Bingo and The Silent Girl. The first
thing I noticed was the color, is The Singles Club going to be in color?
Yup. The first series was really designed to be black and white – we
were trying to evoke the sense of old fanzines and the cheap-weekly
music-press in the UK, with a mass of zippatone and similar. Conversely,
this time around it’s set in a club. Clubs need colour, ergo…
Also, Jamie wanted it.
What can we expect to see in The Singles Club?
It’ll arrive all bright-eyed into the world in December. This December.


How many issues are we going to see of The Singles Club?
Seven. Each one follows a different character through their night at
the club. They’re all stand-alone stories, so abstractly you could just
pick up any old issue and start reading there – though there’s all sorts
of interlinked moments which add nuance and shade to the experience if
you’ve read more than one. They’ll also be a couple of similarly
stand-alone back-up stories in each issue which won’t be collected in
the trade too.
I would like to thank you for granting me this interview, I’m looking
forward to The Singles Club as I’m sure most people reading this are.
Just a couple quick questions to wrap up, is there anything other than
The Singles Club that you can announce you’re working on, and when the
trade comes out for The Singles Club would you be willing to do a follow
Well, Jamie is planning to do a second season of Suburban Glamour after
Phonogram. Running at the same time to Phonogram, and at the complete
opposite end of the spectrum of comics, I’m doing a four-issue mini for
Boom set in the Warhammer universe called CROWN OF DESTRUCTION. I’m also
doing an ongoing comic for Avatar, which is still to be announced. But
will be bloody awesome.
And assuming we don’t screw up the Singles Club, yes, there’s more
Phonogram. Working title of the third arc is ‘The Word “Girl”‘, and
centers on Emily Aster.





(For more information about Kieron Gillen you can check out his blog at his site)











































  1. Will said,

    Nice interview man, he’s a very thoughtful guy and you had some very thoughtful questions

  2. Kwok said,

    ha. The Warhammer project at the end was random.

    Nice job!

  3. secret crisis war invasion identity rape scenario, no wait… links. « supervillain said,

    […] – Keiron Gillen interview about Phonogram series 2. […]

  4. Phonogram said,

    […] else has been up? Well, Kieron did a short interview over at Gonzo Punk to sort of ease into the ‘orrible PR machine. Worth noting to any gentlefolk of the press that if you want to have Kieron spew invective and […]

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    […] Here’s a better look at the sides, thanks to Gonzopunk… […]

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