"Larry Wessel interviews Vadge Moore"
(Larry Wessel, 2009)
Larry Wessel, creator of the film "TAUROBOLIUM: THE TIJUANA BULLFIGHT DOCUMENTARY" and the upcoming documentary, "ICONOCLAST" a film on the life, music and ideas of Boyd Rice, speaks here with author and musician Vadge Moore.
While reading Vadge Moore’s extraordinary first book, “Chthonic: Prose and Theory” I couldn't help but think that Mr. Moore is a truly generous and enlightened individual, a shaman. He is a deep sea diver of the imagination whose bounty of knowledge he eagerly shares with all seekers of wisdom and truth. Vadge is the man with the answers so I couldn’t wait to ask him some questions. The result is the following interview...
Which came first: The Writer or The Musician?
I think they both occurred simultaneously. I always wanted to be a super hero (or super villain)...I knew I wanted to be super...so when I saw Kiss I decided that that is what I wanted to do: play music, be revered by many and live like a God. My interest in Kiss occurred at the same time as my reading Hunter S. Thompson's “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. I loved the chaos, I loved the anarchy of Thompson's stuff and I wanted to live like him, write like him, be like him. Quite a vision for a child of ten years of age! So there I was- my path laid out for me. I've come to realize that every time I envision something I always make it come to fruition. After Kiss and then when punk rock came into my life I had a vision of what I wanted to be: a punk rock star. I achieved that...maybe no where near the level of a Sid Vicious or Johnny Rotten, but I reached my goal. Once I was done with that, my next vision was to be a writer. So....here we are.
How old were you when you first "picked up the sticks"?
I was the typical drummer; always beating on mom's pots and pans. She finally got tired of me ruining her cook ware and bought me a cheap little drum set from Sears, the kind with the paper heads. I must have been around seven years of age. I destroyed those fucking things. I think I went through about three of those sets before my mother finally relented and bought me my first real kit. I had a natural ability but I still felt like I needed a teacher. My first drum teacher was a man named Jerry Slick. He was the first Jefferson Airplane drummer and the husband of Grace Slick. Poor bastard barely survived that marriage: he had nothing good to say about Mrs. Slick, I seem to recall.
Were drums your first choice of musical instrument?
Actually my first instrument was the piano, believe it or not! We had an old piano that had belonged to my grandmother, and I took lessons on that for a couple of years. Then I moved on to the guitar...but that seems to have happened at the same time as my interest in the drums. I was a very musical child.
I once befriended another drummer by the name of Eldon Hoke a.k.a. El Duce of The Mentors. I will never forget something he told me one night in the parking lot behind some dive bar in Hollywood. He said that he couldn't function when people we're telling him what to do. Did you ever cross paths with the late great El Duce?
I did. The Mentors played a show in S.F. sometime in the 90's and I went to see them. I spoke with El Duce after the show. He was polite enough to pretend he knew who the Dwarves were- but I could tell he didn't have a clue. When you reach that kind of legendary status you have no competition and you don't have to pretend you give a fuck; regardless, he still tried to placate me and was actually a very nice man. I heard later that he had passed out in the dumpster behind the club later that night. Classic.
In an interview once you stated that you ran away from home when you were very young because you could never put up with the rules and regulations from your mother, your family, your school or anyone for that matter. We're you a rebel for as long as you can remember or were there specific incidents that made you withdraw and forged you into one?
I've always been a rebel. One of my first memories is when I was probably about 3 or 4 years old. I lied to get out of having to go to school, feigning sickness; and later that day when the coast was clear I snuck out of the house to go play with my next door neighbor - not thinking that, clearly, he would be at school, where I was supposed to be, and not available for play-time. After knocking on the door and being told by his mother that my friend was not home, I returned to my house and was immediately confronted by my, much older, brother - who had been alerted, via phone, of my escape by the neighbor’s mom. I remember standing on the stairs, with my brother a few steps above me while he scolded me. My first instinct was to punch him in the nuts - which is precisely what I proceeded to do - POW! Right in the basket! That story is all you ever need to know about me. If my desires are in any way thwarted - I might just punch you in the nuts. So...a rebel from day one.
As Captain Beefheart wisely said, "The smart fish leaves the school". But leaving home at such an early age must have been really rough. This period of nine years between leaving home and joining "The Dwarves" must have been extreme. What was it like living on the streets of San Francisco? How did you survive without the help of your parents? Do you have any advice/survival strategies you can share with young people who might be reading this and who are right now plotting to "run away from home"?
It wasn't very rough at all, actually. It was very "freeing" for me. Getting away from my family's clutches felt great! The late, great Aleister Crowley once wrote: "Horrid word, family! Its very etymology accuses it of servility and stagnation. Latin, famulus, a servant." That sums it up perfectly. I had a good support base- friends in the punk rock scene that were squatting, other friends who had homes and couches I could crash on from time to time. It was a constant party, and there were so many shows to go to then- Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys that the party seemed to never end. I have no survival strategy to impart other than - follow your instincts. Problem is, most people don't have any fucking instincts and it is not something you can learn - it just is. I am a great believer in spiritual hierarchy. I think some people are born to win and some people are born to lose and there is no changing that. So, any advice I could give would fall on deaf ears because we each are the way we are and we can't be anything other. Sorry kids- It's true. So...follow your instincts, if you have any, and let the cards fall where they may.
Did you play in the school band and or orchestra as a child?
Actually - yes. In Junior High School I played the clarinet and later the trumpet; the percussion instruments were usually taken by the slow-spastic kids so I was forced to choose something else, which probably says a lot about drummers in general- although I like to think that I am the exception.
What valuable lessons did you learn in school?
None. Everything of value I learned on my own. I guess the basics of reading and writing were taught to me at school but my Mother was drilling that stuff into my head at home any way. I learned that it was very easy to skip school and go to the big city and hang out with some very interesting people. I learned that I hated school and that I would do everything in my power to not waste my time there. I wanted to learn more than what the schools were teaching; real life. I wanted danger and challenges - violence and chaos...excitement. I couldn't find those things at school. I didn't want to be tamed; it seemed to me that school tamed you, trained you, hemmed you in. There was no hemming me in. I wanted to live free and I did. Still do.
Was there ever an attempt by your parents to introduce you to religion? Did you ever attend church or "Sunday school" as a child?
Oh, god no!! (so to speak). My Mother was an atheist. She told me that she never believed in God- thought the concept was stupid: some big guy with a beard watching our every move. She told me that she used to climb as high as she could when she was a child and peer deep into the sky - searching for this so-called omnipotent being. No sign of him: no God. Bullshit. Problem was she was a very politically correct liberal and like most of that type she still held to the basic values of Christianity; you know, Christianity without Christ. I started off kind of moving in that direction- but one day a friend gave me a book by Friedrich Nietzsche and after that I became interested in Aleister Crowley and read LaVey's Satanic Bible...so p.c. liberalism was entirely swept off the table along with Christ after I had ingested those ideas. I think that philosophers like Nietzsche, Crowley and LaVey tapped into the basic zeitgeist - the spirit of our age. I never saw them as idealists - with beliefs that one has to strive for; rather I always saw them as shamen recognizing certain inherent truths. I feel that I have always had very keen instincts, so when faced with an underlying current of truth- I recognize it almost immediately. This would be my religion, I suppose. No Sunday School for me; I was always too busy sleeping off a hang-over.
I see your new book, "CHTHONIC: PROSE & THEORY" as a great instruction manual on how to increase one's intelligence and creative output, a road map for obtaining wisdom and truth. "CP&T" should be mandatory reading for students however this vital information is almost never taught in school. Why do you think it is that academia has such a high disregard for the truth?
Why thank you Larry, for that kind compliment. Academia has one goal: pump out more product for itself. It doesn't want their sheep questioning the meaning of life or their reasons for doing this or that - and I think that is fine. The few truly creative and intelligent people need the herd to keep going to their boring jobs, leading their ordinary regimented lifestyles, maintaining civilization so that the few can enjoy the benefits and the boon of culture. But, it's for mutual benefit, I believe. The creative and the productive will always create and produce - the consumers will continue to consume. No matter what your background - if you are a truly creative individual you are going to arrange your life in accordance with your desires; paint, write, play music and the mass of people can enjoy your out-put, if they so desire. Academia ain't going to produce a Baudelaire and we don't need it to. Baudelaire is going to do what he does, regardless.
If Jack Torrance, the writer portrayed in Steven King's "The Shining" had only read and embraced the ideas in your book I don't believe he would have given in to cabin fever. Have you ever had writer's block?
Actually "The Shining" was a big influence on me in my teenage years. I loved the violent delirium. Yeah, maybe if Torrance had been more aware of the Monster that resides just beneath, it would not have consumed him so much. Of course I have experienced writers block. I think any writer that is worth anything has experienced this excruciating nightmare. It's fucking horrible. When it's all kicking on all cylinders it's the greatest feeling in the world; you feel possessed, you're riding on a wave, the fire is cracklin' and you are alive. Then...it just stops. Nothing. Empty. This can go on for days, weeks, sometimes months. Nothing comes out - at least nothing that's any good. Just when you've given up all hope and you think- "Great, I decided to be a writer and now all the juice is gone - no more mojo," that's when it suddenly appears out of nowhere - like a great electric horse; puffing and violent and angry and filled with murderous joy. At least that's how it is for me.
Throughout history artists, writers and musicians have used alcohol, absinthe, and countless other potions to help open up their wellspring of creativity. Which alcoholic beverage works best for you?
All of them. For the initial impulse nothing is better than a snoot full- however, I don't write particularly well while I'm drinking, it's more the lingering after effects that really help me out. Not necessarily a hangover, but more the sort of Dionysian delirium that lurks about after a good bender. Recently I've taken to consuming a good amount of absinthe since the bar that sits on the first floor of my building has been stocking it. Sometimes I don't recall the night before, but the disorderly state of mind that absinthe leaves you in has been a great inspiration of late.
I have met your lovely wife, Jenna and you two impressed me as a very happy couple. How do you balance the solitude necessary for writing with making sure to spend quality time with your wife?
Easy. Jenna goes to work in the morning and I am left to my own devices for the remainder of the day. By the time she gets home, I have written, studied and done everything that I need to do to produce, what some might refer to as, my art. We actually still get along great and I think one thing that you can attribute that to is- no kids! It's all about us and we love it that way.
How hooked in are you to the mass media? How important are world events to you? (for instance, do you enjoy reading a newspaper?)
Hardly at all. I don't read the paper and the closest I get to the mass news media is The Jim Lehrer News Hour or CNN. That's all bread and circuses, as far as I'm concerned. The powerful rule and manipulate and the sheep follow along...as it has always been. It doesn't matter who's in office. Defense contractors and Wall Street will make just as much money under Obama as they did under Bush. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" Now, as far as actual programing- of course I love good television: Curb, Seinfeld, Rescue Me...the usual.
In all of your travels have you discovered a country whose culture and people have appealed to you above and beyond the U.S. of A.?
Hmmmmm.....hard to answer. There are places that I've spent a good amount of time and really enjoyed - but I was still quite relieved and happy to return to America. In America things are bigger - like hotel rooms - and easier and cleaner, it seems. But Americans are so fat, stupid, hypocritically puritan and Christian that it is really nice to get away sometimes. Barcelona is beautiful - and kind of big, in an American sort of way. France is great culturally and the women are beautiful; but, it's kind of dirty. I loved Amsterdam and I loved Berlin. Milan is very nice, too, but if I had to choose it would be a toss up between Paris and Berlin. The culture in those places, the way they are laid out; plus, all my favorite writers and philosophers are either French or German: Baudelaire, De Sade, Nietzsche...But for the immediate future I'll remain in the American South.
"Chthonic: Prose & Theory" is a rare book. I totally dig it. I believe that your book has the power to become a life changing experience. Was the creation of this book a transformative experience for you?
It was absolutely a transformative experience. It has changed me and strengthened me in a myriad of ways. I had written the theory portion around the end of 2007 but it still wasn't right, there was something missing- the end wasn't adequate the wording was off, the right spirit wasn't there. Then I just dropped it - I'd had it, I was done with it. I wanted to put it away, let everything percolate and see what would come out of me. Well 2008 was the year; I dropped the theory and found myself scribbling stuff down in my journal with no rhyme or reason - just allowing everything to flow out of my subconscious. I banished the censor; whatever emerged, emerged and I didn't try to judge it. This was, what came to be, the prose section of the book. Upon almost completing the prose I realized what was missing from the theory section, went back to that and began to change things there. Then it all came together: the theory was the intellect, the prose was the spirit or instinct and now I had a perfect animal. I came to realize that what I was doing was confronting my Shadow- the Jungian Shadow.
When William Burroughs would discuss his method of writing he compared it to transcribing something that was already written in his mind. He also said that his greatest surge of creativity came after shooting his wife Joan in the head during a game of "William Tell". What was your experience of writing CP&T like?
Writing "Chthonic: Prose & Theory" almost killed me. I'm not kidding and I'm not exaggerating. During the entirety of 2008 I threw myself, body and soul, deep into my vices. I overindulged in everything that I did; I went to the extremes in everything and tried to take my body and mind to the limits, what poet Arthur Rimbaud called the derangement of the senses. I knew that I was heading for a crash; a little voice inside me told me that I was going to hit a wall, and that I had to hit that wall. Then I would either die or emerge stronger. One night in November of 2008 I had to be rushed to the Emergency Room with extreme pain in my abdomen and trouble breathing. I spent seven whole days at the hospital hooked up to tubes, machines and a catheter: my pancreas apparently was on the verge of totally shutting down and if my liver and kidneys hadn't been so strong (go figure!) chances are good I wouldn't be giving this interview right now. Emerging from the hospital I put myself on a regimen of recovery, of discipline: exercise, diet, weights and to this day I've never felt better or more healthy in my life. I finished the book and can now look back on the previous year and see that I had forced myself into a confrontation with, what Carl Jung termed, the Shadow. In alchemical terms this is called the preliminary nigredo, putrefaction or "blackening" phase. It was, for me, a time to release all of the dark, violent, vicious aspects of my Self; the prose certainly reflects that and the theory definitely describes that, but I had to actually do it physically and mentally in order to move through that particular phase. It's an over-used quote, usually spoken by people that could never understand him, but Nietzsche's axiom, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," does actually apply in my case. This experience is intrinsic to the chthonic and I try to demonstrate that in the book. I always knew, deep down that this was true and that some part of me was leading me down this path. I came across a quote from Carl Jung after I had had sufficient time to recover and, regarding this process of transformation, he wrote, "Right at the beginning you meet the 'dragon,' the chthonic spirit, the 'devil' or as the alchemists called it, the 'blackness' or nigredo, and this encounter produces suffering..." It did indeed do that but there was also a sense of exhilaration and triumph because a part of me knew what path I was on, even if my conscious mind didn't really recognize it. Now, I do not recommend that everyone needs to go out and try to push themselves to the brink of death. I say in the book that this path is not for everyone and indeed it is not! Don't try this at home, kids. But, for those natures that are so constituted - and luckily I have a healthy, Irish constitution - and for those that are supremely in touch with their instincts and their True Will, this dangerous path, if propitiated correctly, can take you to the heights. I am now stronger, more disciplined and healthier than I have ever been and my forthcoming books will probably reflect that strength. Not that the darkness of "Chthonic" will ever go away; indeed the chthonic realm does possess a high degree of vitality and creativity that should always be utilized. However, the next book will probably emphasize strength, will and triumph, but I've come to realize that I can't force anything, that I have to allow the depths to speak through me; if the subconscious has more filth and depravity in abundance than that is what I will write. In the theory portion of the book I discuss how important the "complexes" are to certain kinds of creativity; I have a feeling they will always be lurking around. Around my twentieth year I opened myself up to this chthonic realm and it only took me twenty more years to complete the process.
How do you compare the energy and feedback you get from a live audience to the relatively silent appreciation you must be receiving from your readers? Do you miss being on stage?
Sometimes I do miss it, but whenever The Dwarves come to town or I see them live, they usually send me out onstage to sing a couple of songs, so I get my fix. The reaction of a crowd is always exhilarating. The appreciation of the readers is obviously not so immediate, but I value it more. However, the books are really about recording my personal transformation and that's far more important than any quick-fix exhilaration or ego-stroke that I might get onstage or from the feedback of my readers.
A cult of "lone wolves"must be forming around your book right now as I write this. Will you be reading CP&T to a live audience anytime soon?
That remains to be seen. A friend from England invited me to speak at an event earlier this year, but I thought it was premature seeing as the book hadn't been released yet. I'll wait and see if I receive any worthwhile offers.
As much as I believe that your book will be an inspiration to writers and artists and creative people of all stripes I also feel that your book in the wrong hands could inspire a bloodbath. As the “Devil's Advocate” I must ask you, "Are you concerned about this?".
As I try to make clear in the book - this is really about personal transformation, not about inspiring a bloodbath. What I recorded in the book is a lifetime of testing the boundaries of "good" and "evil" and going beyond those opposites. Some sections of the prose are a recounting of past experiences, some are an expression of malevolent darkness, the darkness that I was experiencing at the time; part reality, part fantasy, all of it a process of transformation. That is what I would like to inspire, if anything. The whole book can also be enjoyed as pure entertainment; that is up to the reader.
© Vadge Moore / DISCRIMINATE MEDIA, 2009