The "X" in comix is a distinguisher in the same way that the "K" is in magick. One peek through any underground comix from the late 60's makes it clear very quick that the X stands for X-Rated. Adult themed comics lit up the underground as the surge of sex, drugs and rock n' roll found expression in all forms of DIY media. Artistic giants of the era like Robert Crumb, thrived publishing with an indie press working well outside of the restrictive Comics Code Authority.
These outsider artists took irreverence towards religion, conservatism, and all forms of authority and the status quo to heart. Their influence was felt aboveground in places like Playboy, National Lampoon and animated films made in Hollywood. By the 1980's mainstream comic publishers began creating alternative lines in order to lure serious artists with the promise of freedom to create stories with dark and adult oriented themes.
While there's admittedly plenty of self-styled "Satanic" art that has flooded into pop culture, what makes Atomic and his projects really intriguing is the delightful sense of humor and devilish mischief he mixes together with a healthy dose of homage to the 70's wave of Satanic B-movies.
This is not the take yourself too seriously, sneering Satanism. No, these comix are all about getting raunchy and explicit while thumbing your nose at the moral majority with a sly grin. Having participated in subculture scenes in London and Tokyo, Atomic is a master of a unique blend of vintage occult, horror, punk, Golden Age comics, goth and psychedelics.
When he's not making his Satan soaked brand of comix, Atomic stays busy with a number of other collaborative endeavors ranging from curating gallery exhibitions, managing a modeling collective or customizing prosthetic limbs. Yep, he really is that cool. If you're not convinced yet, just read a little further and you will be. Unless of course, you're really uptight and prudish, in which case you're going to fucking hate this.
You've been warned.
|Jason Atomic in the studio (photo: Anthony Lycett)|
What’s the lowdown on your childhood? Did you grow up in a ultra-conservative Christian home, a completely free-spirited hippie liberal scene or neither?
Neither really. My mum is arty & my dad is pretty straight. They are not religious so I wasn’t subjected to much Christianity or anything like that. We always had lots of history books about the place though, so I developed most of my religious ideas pre-school looking at Time Life books on Ancient Egypt, South America and Rome.
By the time people tried to get me into Christianity I already saw it as a boring, new-fangled religion.
I couldn’t understand the appeal of this plain-looking Italian hippy in a loin cloth compared to animal-headed gods, giant pyramids, human sacrifice etc...
and it utterly bemused me that ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ finished with an evocation of the Egyptian god Amen. We used to move house every few years too, I think that helped me avoid some of the social programming suffered by my peers.
What was the first counterculture that really grabbed your attention?
I was vaguely aware of long haired freaks as a kid. I remember visiting London in the very early 70's and seeing them loitering around the statue of Eros in their platform boots and flared trousers.
I remember an occasion around ’73 when our car was overtaken by a bike gang who captured my imagination as one of them wore a red-lined black Dracula cape! It was flapping and billowing in the wind as they sped past us. It’s probably an imaginary addition, but as I think of it now I can picture a coffin-shaped side car.
Later still, around 1976 when I’d have been 9, I was exploring empty buildings and stumbled across a hippy squat in an out-building attached to a big old Victorian pile. Looking back on it now, this must be the genesis of my hippy occultists in Satanic Mojo Comix. There were goat skin rugs, candles and scarves dotted about the place along with a copy of Wheatley’s The Devil And All His Works, which I must admit I stole. My mum wouldn’t let me bing it in the house!... people in those days, even non-religious types, were still quite squeamish about such matters.
I complied with her wishes, but only after tearing out all the pictures of naked witches & stashing them under the eaves outside of my bedroom window. I have often wondered if they were ever found...
The first subcultures I got actively involved in were comics fandom and RPGs.
Did you get into art and music at the same time or did one come before the other?
I’ve literally had a pen in my hand since I was a baby and always responded to art. Musically though, I’m a bit of a late developer. I didn’t really have much of a personal relationship with music until I was a teenager.
|Jason Atomic (photo: Manko)|
Actually it was love of comics, fantasy art and literature that led me to the music. Marvel Comics (& The Muppet Show) led me to Alice Cooper, Michael Moorcock novels led me to Hawkwind, 2000 AD & Heavy Metal comics led me to punk & heavy metal... It was quite a natural flow for an inquisitive kid. It all seemed to be part of an expanding mythology.
How would you describe your evolution as an artist through the various underground eras you’ve lived through? (I’m thinking punk, post-punk, goth, industrial, metal)
I’ve always been interested in make-up and cross-dressing. My first make-up set was a Dick Smith Horror kit, so as I got into my teens I naturally lent towards the scenes that would accept me dressing how I wanted! So after a brief flirtation with the metal scene, I started hanging with punks and New Romantics. There wasn’t even a word for the goth scene at the time, but with my transvestite leanings, my love of horror films and the occult I naturally lent in that direction.
I later became obsessed with futurism so when my goth peers were getting into the goth- based psychedelic revival of the mid 80's, I was dressing in leggings and knee pads, high heels and circuit boards like some Mega-City ‘spug’ from a Judge Dredd strip.
That doesn’t really explain my artistic development, but I didn’t really get serious about creating art until I’d gone through this process of self-discovery. I’ve always carried a sketchbook with me and have a collection dating back to the mid 80's. But I was busy trying to get stoned for much or that time and didn’t really get my shit together until later.
Punk rock was taking off as you were coming into an impressionable age. What was your first point of contact with it and how active were you in that scene as you got older?
I do remember queueing up for my Marvel comic in the newsagent’s on the way to school one morning behind a pair of old bags who were gossiping about “That disgusting pop group on the telly last night.” That was after the notorious Sex Pistols appearance on the Bill Grundy show.
I didn’t really get active on the scene until I moved to London (in the summer of 1985) to become a squatter. That was an amazing time, there were hundreds of young punks, hippies and indie kids in my age group from all over the world occupying empty flats and houses all over London.
But even though there was a thriving punk scene I always shied away from joining in. I liked the ethos of punk but found the hordes of kids in the same uniform to be the antithesis of that. I enjoyed a lot of the people, the music and fashion but kept it at arm’s length.
What really fascinates me is the largely unrecognized ‘freak scene’ that has always been there, the bubbling up of something new before it gets streamlined into a commodity. Hawkwind were freaks between hippy & punk, Leigh Bowery was a freak before club kids was a thing. When I was preforming with the band Fist Fuck Deluxe we made sure our music and image was ‘non-genre-specific’ our spirit may have been punk but the sound combined elements of ballet, disco, rap, pop, reggae… Our reasoning was simple, the original punks didn’t have punk they had to frankenstein it together from the remains of what went before.
As you came of age, what was the mindset or style that defined your attitude or helped you to express your young feelings?
I think my love of horror & Alice Cooper naturally established a perfect foundation for my later involvement with goth (despite it not having been named at the time). I loved Bauhaus, especially after seeing them in The Hunger, and as a comics geek I was a huge Alan Moore fan and knew all about his collaborations with them.
Visually it was more Alien Sex Fiend and The Specimen that I really connected with, they wore their Alice influence on their (ironically cut-off) sleeves and combined a punk DIY ethic, comedy, horror, a love of comics and a dark sexuality.
Knowing about that early goth scene, which was focused around ‘The Batcave’ night club, gave me the push I needed to really dress and act how I wanted.
I have heard it said by many different artists, writers and occultists – there was something surreal about the 1970’s. What was that period like from your perspective and why do you think it turned out so many occultists thereafter?
I fucking loved the 70's! I think maybe I took it for granted at the time but that was an incredible period. In the 50's & 60's you had the emergence of teenage culture for the first time: Rock’n’Roll, the hippy scene, etc., but by the 70's that was just spinning off in so many directions at once, mutating and growing.
Boundaries were being tested & then almost immediately pushed to their limit. I think that social fluidity was very magickal, people were realizing that the nature of ‘reality’ was actually up for debate and things were changing almost overnight. The establishment couldn’t keep up. It was solvé & ‘coagula in action.
Magickally speaking I think the current climate is very similar, only now it’s the liberal veneer that is breaking apart and all the bigoted bullshit that has been suppressed since the 70's that is bursting forth like pus from a lanced boil.
While reality is in this fluid state we can re-shape it as we wish.
What was your impression of America growing up? What parts of American culture most fascinated you or inspired you?
As a pre-teen America seemed like the promised land. I watched every horror or sci-fi B- movie I could and blew all my pocket-money on Marvel Comics.
Even more than the stories, I think, it was the adverts that really fascinated me and shaped my understanding of American culture.
All the amazing stuff, toys, t-shirts, TV shows etc... it seemed like a pop cultural hydra. For every one cool thing we had in the U.K. they had 2 more, 4 more, 8 more, 16 more!!! It was exciting and frustrating in equal measure.
Care to comment on early or profound sexual or drug related experiences?
I think my personal experiences with sex, drugs, or magick for that matter, should remain private. They have directly influenced my work though, especially my stories in Satanic Mojo Comix, so I’d say read those and make of it what you will.
Did you have to work hard to see sexual images in your day? Has a certain innocence been lost?When sexual imagery is more forbidden in culture, is the impact greater later on when you finally breakthrough that barrier? Or are we better off with it more out in the open?
Today kids can get on the Internet and see any sort of pornography they like. Yes, it was hard to see ‘real’ porn when I was young. But I think the occult nature of it created a mystique that was superior to the actuality.
As the “Disney Kills Kids’ Kreativity” campaign pointed out, the stimulated imagination (gained from, say, reading a book) is better for a growing mind than a cartoon which is really little more than a glorified advert.
Imagination, fantasy and fetishes are deeply personal. But knowing too much too soon doesn’t give them time to develop and grow. People’s emotional range becomes standardized and homogeneous. The standardized brutality of modern porn is a bit like being shown a boxing match when what you need is ballet.
I’m definitely not against porn, or the sex industry in general, but I do feel we all lose something special through the dumbed-down conformity and industrialization of it. I’d rather see real sex treated as natural and featured freely in all forms of art and literature, than ghettoized and left in the hands of thugs.
But having said all that, the Scandinavians have this attitude of openness about sex but as a result can be so blasé about it that it becomes boring, whereas people from Catholic countries who keep it all bottled up can be amazing in the sack.
In terms of literary influences, we share a common love for HP Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Hunter S. Thompson and William Burroughs. When did you first encounter these works and what about them tickles your fancy?
I was always fascinated by altered states of consciousness. In anthropology books I read about shamans, spirit-guides, dreamtime, etc.
When I discovered weird fiction, the counter-culture and beat writers, it was like that kind of thing suddenly became relevant in my own world. I think Alice In Wonderland was probably the ‘gateway drug’!
When I was around seven years old my teacher called my parents in to school because she though I couldn’t read. She showed them the insipid, monosyllabic Peter and Jane go to the Fair book that I’d been struggling with.
“But he narrates Edgar Rice Burroughs novels to us at home,” they replied. The answer was apparent, I could read perfectly well, I just wasn’t into the tedious shit the school were pushing on me. After that she let me set my own reading comprehension projects.
Conan followed Tarzan, and it wasn’t long before I traced the clues to HP Lovecraft. I was a little older when I inherited a Michael Moorcock collection from a family friend, and between the ages of 11 & 15 I read everything by him I could get my paws on. That of course led to an appreciation of the more druggy side of the counter-culture and (spurred on by my love of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations) Hunter S. Thompson.
I actually resisted reading Burroughs until the 90's. I kept coming across pretentious dickheads who couldn’t stop spouting on about how cool WSB was, and really put me off checking him out.
Eventually, while I was living in Japan, a copy of Cities Of The Red Night was the last foreign book I hadn’t read at the Kinokuniya bookshop in Kobe.
I had been keeping a diary of my dreams & magical experiences, and it seemed instantly apparent Burroughs was basically doing the same thing. That really inspired me to write more myself and to investigate new literature, art or music - especially if the fans pissed me off.
Another mutual fascination we have is with the 70’s cult, the Process Church of the Final Judgment. For me, it’s the combination of the writing of Robert DeGrimston, the art and design work that Timothy Wylie created and the fashion and jewelry. There’s a lot for a creative person to be drawn into. What elements do you connect with? Do you feel like the teachings are something that can be worked with today and be revitalized?
Timothy Wylie’s design work is outstanding, his layouts for Process magazine are superb! I doubt any of us would even be aware of them now if those graphics had not lured us in...
As people get more polarized I think we can benefit a lot from looking into their ideas about archetypes, duality and their willingness to debate ideas.
Modern politics is (to paraphrase Bukowski) the choice between a hot shit sandwich and a cold shit sandwich. People are vehemently adamant that their preferred fecal preparation is the superior one, but I think the Process would encourage them to ask “Why are you eating shit?”
|Poster for a screening of the Process doc, Sympathy for the Devil|
Are there other cults that you find fascinating?
The rise of Scientology fascinates me, I find strong similarities between L. Ron Hubbard and Mormon founder Joseph Smith - especially the way that they managed to pull off complicated confidence tricks, lie, cheat and keep on getting away with it until even the authorities feared them. I thought they were the ultimate James Bond baddies until I discovered the Japanese Apocalypse cult Aum Shinrikyo!
I’d been living in Kobe when the great Hanshin Daishinsai earthquake hit and, as the town was pretty much flattened, relocated to Tokyo. I arrived there just in time for the infamous sarin Gas attack on the Tokyo Metro. Incredibly, Aum’s gift shop was still up and running weeks after the attack! I went in and purchased Aum Comix #1, a t-shirt and some other souvenirs - enough to get me a store loyalty card! I didn’t really understandwhat they stood for, it simply amazed me that a terrorist cult could still be operating a business.
Reading up about them later really blew my mind, though. They are the ultimate doomsday cult. They weren’t just preparing for the Apocalypse - they were attempting to trigger it!
They expanded the Buddhist concept of Poa (“the practice of conscious dying”) into a justification for mercy killing, which escalated into murder and, eventually, attempted genocide.
Nobody knows how many people they killed because so many of their victims were literally reduced to dust in the giant microwave tubes hidden under their compound, they attempted to kill politicians and judges in repeated chemical and bacteriological attacks, they were manufacturing poisonous gasses and firearms on an industrial scale and were preparing to build an atomic device that they hoped would trigger seismic and volcanic devastation.
The main reason they failed was that cult leader Shoko Asahara had no patience and would barely allow his minions to eat or sleep. They manufactured vast quantities of speed to keep them working all hours, which of course led to paranoia and mistakes that ultimately threw a spanner in the works.
Even today you can find punks and rockabilly speed freaks in Tokyo who will reminisce about the quality of Aum produced speed.
How would you describe the subcultures of London today? From the size of your events it appears that the occult scene is healthy there.
We have been and continue to be surprised about the popularity of our events. The Satanic flea markets, talks, exhibitions, etc are all incredibly well attended. We get an eclectic crowd of hippies, witches, goths, headbangers, comic geeks, punks, fashionistas, academics, art collectors, their kids and dogs!
I’m not sure about the club scene as most of the good music venues are being closed down, and the smoking ban really fragmented things. There are still well attended goth, metal, punk, fetish nights, but I’m not picking up on a street level buzz about anything exciting or new.
Comix and zines are having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. The post-Brexit crash of the pound & related price hikes on imported comics has meant that shops are giving way more attention and support to local talent.
In terms of what we might refer to as “spirituality,” you are obviously immersed in LaVeyan Satanism. How serious are you about his philosophy in terms of a practice or ritual devotions? Is it all merely intellectual philosophy or do you have a supernatural connection with it?
I don’t follow any particular cult or belief system so I can’t claim to have have a supernatural connection to LaVeyan Satanism - for me it is very much of the mundane, a visceral celebration of earthbound carnality.
I have a great respect for the work of LaVey. I love his brand of atheism with attitude and basic common sense. His astute observation of the human condition is inspiring and informative, and I appreciate his unpretentious, no-nonsense approach. As far as magick and ritual are concerned, my practice is more personal.
In America the new Satanic Temple seems to be nothing more than an atheist club using the imagery of Satanism to shock Christians. I mean, it just seems a little tired at this stage. After Marilyn Manson’s run in the 90’s the whole concept seems a bit stale. Are you at all dismayed or bored by these newer, seemingly shallower iterations of the Satanist philosophy?
That’s quite a leading question, but I rather like the Satanic Temple. The folks that I have had contact with have been nothing but positive and supportive, and as much as it boggles my mind that this is the case, now (maybe more than ever) there is a real need for their brand of political activism.
The way they are challenging the hypocrisy surrounding religious rights and ‘the religious right’ is quite inspired, and I do see it as a fitting tribute to the groundwork laid down by LaVey.
They have been deliberately using shock tactics to get them press but I do get the impression that their long term goals are a bit deeper and better thought out. On the other hand the Church of Satan really seem to have really dropped the ball since the passing of their glorious founder.
When I first started Satanic Mojo Comix I reached out to CoS for support but was basically told to fuck off because I was referencing the 60's counter-culture and “LaVey hated hippies.” I respected that and left them alone, but a few years later I find them biting my style! Their latest Psychedelic Satanism art show/book follows my original Satanic Mojo brief to a tee!
No disrespect to any of the amazing artists involved (many of whom are patch wearing members of my ‘Satanist Cartoonist’ coven) and I’ll admit it’s probably my own fault for approaching them unbidden in the first place, but I’d have more respect if they’d stuck to their guns on the ‘LaVey hated hippies’ front, rather than jumping on the bandwagon because the psychedelic revival is trendy now.
Do you have a connection to other forms of ceremonial magic like Thelema or the Golden Dawn traditions? Is the occult just a creative vehicle for you to work with or do you incorporate real magic and ritual as a source of spiritual inspiration?
I’m not really looking for anything spiritually, I’m not afraid of death, I can get pretty much anything I want when I want it and am happy with my life, so generally when I practice magick it is more in relation to my work.
Several of my friends and acquaintances have been involved in the OTO. I have a mild curiosity about that stuff but I’m really not a joiner.
The imagery and regalia appeals to me, but no more so than that of the Catholic church or the Nazis.
I have recently met Maxine Sanders and some of her Alexandrian witches. I enjoy their company greatly and find their more ‘sympathetic', nature-based rites easier to relate to on a personal level.
What I love about the way you incorporate Satanic iconography and symbolism is your visual throwback to the 70’s B-movie vibe. I feel like the early art of Rob Zombie really nailed that aesthetic as well. How do you maintain the cool factor in a genre that has a lengthy history?
I’m not familiar with Zombie’s early work but I get the impression we are mining the same seam.
It’s really tricky though to find that subtle balance between cliché & iconography. What I do is make a list of themes and images that I want to feature in a particular image or tale. For example I might decide that the cover will need a goat’s head, shadows & boobies, and the interior story must feature an orgy, sigil magic, a church burning and a psychedelic freak-out with spirals & skulls. I’ll sketch up these key scenes then try to fill in the gaps between them as smoothly as possible.
I was recently blown away by The Brotherhood of Satan flick. Do you have a list of favorite Satanic films you can share?
I really dig the Manson-esque hippy Satanists of I Drink Your Blood & The Deathmaster. They were a big influence on my characters in Satanic Mojo Comix. Similarly Johnny Alucard’s gang in Dracula AD 1972 and the un-dead bikers of Psychomania.
It’s not specifically ‘Satanic’ but I keep coming back to Spider Baby (watch it next to House of 1000 Corpses, and Zombie’s film almost seems to be a remake). I love Rock & Rule, an adult cartoon rock opera. My favourite character is Mok (voiced by Iggy Pop & Lou Reed) who attempts to call up a demon.
Phantom Of The Paradise, a 70's retelling of the Faust myth is another favorite.
Getting onto your underground comic series, Satanic Mojo. What was the birth of his project?
Anagrams have been an important aspect of the dark arts in pop culture: From Rosemary realizing that ‘Roman Castevet' is really ‘Steven Marcato' in Rosemary’s Baby to the revelation that ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’ = ‘I Am Lord Voldemort’ in Harry Potter. So when I realized that an anagram of Jason Atomic is Satanic Mojo, my fate was sealed! As an artist one finds it impossible to take such a discovery onboard and remain unaffected.
The title inspired fashion collaborations with Milkboy in Tokyo (who made a collection of Satanic Mojo hoodies and shirts back in 2008) and Charles Of London who commissioned me to design a Satanic Mojo fabric, from which they created all manner of garments.
Once I decided that it would be an on-going project, the first official act I committed was to contact Jinx Dawson (of classic occult rock band Coven) and commission a Satanic Mojo sigil (as well as being a singer Jinx is a practicing witch and sells sigils and spells online).
|Jinx Dawson Sigil Patch|
Each issue is a collaborative effort among many different artists and writers. Even with the different styles of drawing there’s a very cohesive feel to the books. Are all the artists people you have meet personally through other venues?
The old underground comix that inspired me like Zap, Skull and Slow Death were all anthologies, so when I started on Satanic Mojo I knew it should be too. I approached artists I had met through my association with Orbital Comics, like 2000AD/ Deadline veterans Garry Leach & Shaky Kane, and to my surprise they both said yes.
I had painted Savage Pencil in my ‘Favourite Artists’ portrait series (he declined to contribute to #1 saying he was finished with comics and would now concentrate on performance art, however once he saw the printed thing he exclaimed “I should have been in here!” and has been with us ever since). And then there were friends and acquaintances I wanted to feature. Some, like Dennis Franklin and Billy Chainsaw, I knew in the flesh and had featured in group shows, others such as Gunsho & Labanaris I’ve only met online. Everyone published in Satanic Mojo Comix gets to wear an exclusive gang patch, so we feel connected physically even if our acquaintance is virtual.
Each story in the comics is just totally off the wall, offensive, provocative and totally irreverent. The comic is easily X-Rated. Are there any taboos left to challenge these days? Do you get a sense that people still look aghast at your work?
I’m honestly surprised that no one has ever complained about the content in SM Comix! But every comic is clearly marked ‘Open Minded Adult Intellectuals Only’ - so to take issue you’d basically be outing yourself as a close minded ignoramus. The biggest taboos these days seems to be facts and honesty, so I’m cramming as much of that into the comic as I can.
Can you give the readers a little synopsis of two of your own contributions to Satanic Mojo, Luke Paradise: New Christian Scientist and The Origin of Lester Starbeard?
When I was a kid my mum had a copy of a book called Native Funk and Flash which featured several Cockettes and other artists and designers from the Bay Area.As my Sex Slaves Of Satan strip was set in late 60's San Francisco, it seemed imperative that I reference that part of the scene.
And so Lester Starbeard was born! He’s a long-haired bearded freak, drag queen and occultist, originally designed as a supporting character referencing Cockettes. After I’d drawn him a couple of times, however, the character came to life in my head, and it got to the point where I was kept awake at nights with his life story playing out in my mind. His story combines a patchwork of real-life occult references to Alex Sanders, LaVey, L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons and others... that sense of authenticity seems to be one thing that the readers really appreciate.
Luke Paradise was inspired by a hippy I saw cycling down a Lithuanian city street a few years back. He had a home-made pushbike with super long extended forks and big studded panniers over the back wheel. He had long hair, a beard, and was dressed in flowing white robes belted with a rope, and strappy leather sandals. I had recently designed a t-shirt for UK punks Damidge for their song Christ On A Bike, and lo and behold I was looking at a Christ on a bike!
I bumped into him again at a flea market, his panniers turned out to be 12” record boxes decorated with Christian fishes and Assassin’s Creed logos. His bike parts were all scrawled with a marker pen and I made out something like “Lukas Palanga” which looked, to me, like Luke Paradise...
Anyway, I combined his visual with my long-held belief that so called Christians, especially the ‘religious right,’ so full of greed, hatred and hypocrisy, do not deserve Jesus. The way they celebrate pornographic depictions of his mutilated, tortured corpse I find obscene.
In the story Luke Paradise comes to the revelation that Christ was never a Christian, that the church was built by his murderers, and sets out to free Jesus from it.
What sorts of comics were you doing before Satanic Mojo?
I was into doing small-run A5 photocopied comix. There was one called Technotribe, a fantasy where the jungles had been paved over but the natives had managed to retain their nomadic lifestyle and connection to the spirit world. This was drawn in and, I guess, inspired by the London squat scene.
Wongo Batonga was a response to those dreams collectors have where they discover marvelously exaggerated versions of their objects of desire.
In my case I kept having sexy dreams about a weird bootleg batgirl type character, or finding a stash of silver/bronze age comics full of amazing tales by my favorite artists churned up from my subconscious. This is something I bounded with Shaky Kane about, The Bulletproof Coffin stories he created with David Hine touch on this idea too. In fact some of my Coffin Fly fan-art makes a cameo in that book. Issue 2 of Wongo Batonga was reprinted by Fantagraphics in their Treasury Of Mini Comics vol 2.
Wongo Boy was an erotic SD manga version of Wongo Batonga created in response to my disappointment in discovering that, despite a proud tradition of graphic depictions of sex in art and literature, late 80's Japanese pop culture was heavily censored. Initial copies of Temple Records Godzilla:Volume feature a Wongo Boy comic strip in the CD booklet.
You say that Satanic Mojo takes a “tongue-in-cheek look at the influences of the Dark Arts on pop culture.” Obviously there are people out there that want to make Satan and occultism all foreboding and frightening. Your approach feels fun, light and humorous. How critical is having the right levity when dealing with these topics?
It’s easier to tell the truth when people think you’re joking. I think that’s the trouble with organisations like CoS & OTO - they were established by pranksters like LaVey & Crowley but now seem to be increasingly full of people who didn’t get the joke.
I think it is imperative to accept all sides of one’s personality, light and dark. If you try to be all dark and heavy all the time you are basically just cosplaying, and are heading for a fall.
There’s a deep history of underground comix in the US and in the UK. What does that movement represent to you in terms of creativity, freedom of expression and speech as well as artist independence?
Underground comix are incredibly honest, they make no compromises or concessions. It’s of vital importance to know one’s place in history.
The freedoms were hard fought for, like freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality, etc are now sadly being taken for granted. The bottom line is that if we don’t use our freedoms we will have them taken away from us. This erosion of our liberty is taking place as we speak - for our safety and security, through misguided PC nonsense online etc...
I think UG comix are needed now more than they have been in the last half a century.
In the States we are in a period if intense political correctness. Much of which comes from the Left which I find quite odd. The tension can be cut with a knife, especially on college campuses where people want to be shielded from controversial perspectives. Do you see that in London and what are you broad thoughts on the power of offensive language, symbols, ideas, etc.?
People do tend to go in the opposite direction from certain orders. For example I think the ‘death, death, death’ tobacco packaging that is supposed to stop kids smoking is actually attracting them by appealing to the subconscious death wish we all share. In recent years smoking has become super uncool, but I have a feeling this new development will start to make it cool for youngsters again.
Similarly, the ‘loony left,’ ‘P.C gone mad’ clichés have gone a long way towards creating an atmosphere where the more frightening fascist ideals have become attractive and acceptable to a general pubic that previously would have shunned them.
Laws and regulations designed to make things fair for everyone have instead alienated and confused vast swathes of the people, creating a violent knee-jerk swing to the right.Whichever direction it is coming from though, I find nothing more offensive than censorship. The idea that someone else thinks they have the right to control what I am allowed to see, hear or think about disgusts and enrages me.
What are they afraid of? that ideas might be contagious like diseases? In one way that could be true but the only way we can discover which ones are good or bad is through open dialogue and debate. The alternative leads to the creation of an intellectual apartheid.
Offensive language is at least something that we are comfortable with in the UK. We generally reserve the really vile stuff for close friends as a form of affection. We revel in our swearing and are constantly bemused by American ‘radio edits.’ We enjoy naming body parts and functions and make a game of it, and, fun as they are, I’m not sure I approve in principle.
It seems very wrong that ‘the rudest word’ is something like ‘cunt’. I always get offended when some vile, ugly old politician is called a ‘cunt’ because cunts are beautiful and useful. Calling someone like that a cunt denigrates the word. Our gateway into this life is our own mother’s cunt. Surely that should be the most sacred word?
Can you talk about the creation of the Festival Of Dark Arts? How do you approach your role as curator? What is the energy like with so many exciting artists coming together?
My initial concept with Satanic Mojo was to look at my own time-line (1967-present) and create artifacts to represent elements of popular culture that had been derided as Satanic. Comix, exploitation cinema, heavy metal music, etc... The first Festival Of Dark Arts was inspired by that. To start with I created a couple of immersive environments to give people a more direct connection to the subject matter.
These were the ‘Black Light/Black Acid’ room of giant satanic psychedelic black light paintings, complete with burning joss-sticks and a curtained off Burroughs/Gysin dream machine in the corner. At the far end of that, through heavy black curtains, was ‘Kid’s Room’: a Satanic Panic era teenage metal fan’s bedroom with vinyl on the record player and white noise on a B/W portable TV.
This was dedicated to my dead friend Kid Banano who was infamous around Europe as the cover model for the Christian Death Sex & Drugs & Jesus Christ album. The room was full of comix, records, old newspapers, porn mags and several mannequins wearing patched ‘battle jackets’. On the bed was a memorial quilt for Kid made from his old t-shirts and scarves arranged in a giant swastika and covered in heavy metal patches.
There were two other rooms, one with the artwork from Satanic Mojo Comix and the other housing a group exhibition. For this I approached artists with a magickal influence on their work such as Barry William Hale & Steven Johnson Leyba. I also borrowed some pieces by a Belgian surrealist Felix Labisse whose practice was very much inspired by his interest in Demonology and the occult.
As I had a Graham Humphrey's Nightmare On Elm Street poster in the Kid’s Room installation, I approached Graham to design the poster for the festival. It was very important to have threads of continuity and authenticity running through every aspect of the show.
It was the most popular and successful enterprise I had been involved with to date, the buzz was incredible.
(The short film, THE HAXAN TWIST Directed by VOn CobrA is a companion film to the "Come to the Sabbat" exhibition.)
How did the Art Model Collective get started? Can you give us a glimpse of what one of the events is like?
My muse Manko has been working as a life model as long as I’ve know her. She has always been passionate about her role in the artistic process. When indie burlesque life drawing events started to proliferate it was an inspiring new scene, but tutors and organizers were making increasing demands on the models not only to model but to provide costumes, styling and props. It turns out the ‘standard’ model rates have barely risen in the last 15 years, and yet models were now expected to do the job of three people for this paltry pittance while organizers took the lion’s share.
We struck on the idea of seeing if we could arrange the sessions ourselves in a non- exploitative way, sharing responsibilities and profits equally, and skip on the organizers altogether.
Thus Art Model Collective was born, with models organizing exciting themed life drawing sessions, designing, styling and posing, and proving that models can provide a superior life drawing experience and get a great pay rate. We now run regular events at Orbital, Resistance Gallery & Underdog Gallery.
What’s your connection to Japan and how has your art crossed-over there?
When I broke up with my first wife in the early 90's I wanted to get as far away from London as I could. Japan was the furthest away place that I had wanted to visit. When I got there I felt really at home, the food suited me, as did the weather, light and general pace of life.
It was strange how things played out, though. I was hoping my experience in self- produced comix could lead to a job in Manga. However once I visited a couple of publishers and discovered the inhumane working conditions in that industry I realized it was not for me, and started concentrating on drawing and painting from life. This developed my skills at quick portrait sketching & life drawing performance but led to a break from drawing comix that lasted over 20 years.
You have a very strong fashion and accessory look. Have you always been creative that way? How does your art translate into apparel?
My mum was into patchwork & dressmaking when I was a kid so I’d always hang out with her when she was sewing.
If my favourite t-shirt wore out, for example, she’d cut out the image and sew it onto something else. Naturally this awareness of comfort around and proximity to sewing equipment led to me making customizing and making my own clothes. It’s a practice I’ve kept up to this day.
|Jason Atomic x Milk Boy collaboration|
How did you get involved with customizing a prosthetic limb?
I was invited to join in for the London leg of a travelling group show called Spare Parts which was designed to raise awareness of prosthesis. Various artists from around the world were given a prosthetic limb each, to do with as they wilt.
I customized mine and then practiced wearing and drawing with it. The reason this concept appealed to me was because or a very stupid yet life changing incident that took place back in August 2009.
As an artist I often worry about losing the use of my hands, so when I ended up sticking one into a whirring blender at the end of a drunken spree and spending the next few weeks in bandages, I had a chance to see how life would be without a functioning drawing hand.
I had suffered ‘superficial’, but very painful and scary damage to my finger tips that required my hand be bandaged and tied up in a sling. This was the first time I had grown a beard - my current look is a direct result of that experience as is my relationship with Orbital Comics and possibly by way of that Satanic Mojo Comix & Art Model Collective.
Up until that point, I think, I had been taking my art a bit too seriously, I was focusing on portraiture and dismissing all the impulses I had towards comics & pop art.
However, while my mangled paw was out of action I kept imagining all the things I wished I’d made. Top of the list was a big painting of Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur.All I wanted was a painted version of one of his illustrations to hang on my wall. It was something I’d thought about on and off for ages but held off from doing because I felt it to be at odds with my artistic practice.
As soon as I was healed enough to hold a brush I whipped out my projector, traced up one of Kirby’s epic monster designs onto a large canvas and then lost myself in the colours for a couple of days.
It was a cathartic experience, painting just for me instead of worrying about impressing anyone else, it was incredibly liberating. Eventually I started to come across other artists who had re-interpreted Kirby’s designs and in the run-up to the release of Disney’s Avengers movie (in 2011) and the controversy surrounding Marvel’s treatment of Kirby and the lack of proper credit for his contributions to the Marvel universe, we teamed-up to create Hail To The King - a show which celebrated and recognized the legacy of The King Of Comics.
This initially ran at Resistance Gallery and went on to show at Orbital Comics.I approached Orbital because their building had previously been a gallery and I knew there was plenty of wall space.
The manager Karl said yes immediately. He heard the concept of paying Kirby the tribute and respect he deserved. This let to us collaborating an extensive series of exhibitions and events that continue to this date.
What are some future ambitions you have or projects that you’d like to accomplish in the next year?
I am currently putting issue 5 of Satanic Mojo Comix together, but what I really want to do is raise some money for the S. Clay Wilson Special Needs Trust.
S. Clay Wilson is the ultimate Underground cartoonist, he is the guy who Robert Crumb and co. were in awe of for his brutal honesty about the human condition and uncompromising bravery in depicting it. He inspired me and artists like me to proudly fly the freak flag.
Wilson was found collapsed in the street in a pool of blood... Nobody knows what happened to him but he spent the next year in a coma and is now in constant need of medical supervision for his severe brain damage.
It shook me to see a hero of mine looking so frail, and I’m currently reaching out to all the underground cartoonists and publishers I can find, and asking them to help me put together an art-jam poster paying tribute to Wilson and his work.
Only that I didn’t do more. That I was lazy, humble or patient when I should have been working and pushing harder. That I tolerated fools or wasted time making ‘projects’ out of back-stabbing ingrates.
Issues of Satanic Mojo are available now on Etsy. Follow Jason's site and Facebook fan page to learn more about his work. The Satanic Mojo blog is great fun as well.