Thursday, 6 November 2008

Vice Interview: Alexander Tucker

Here is an interview with Alexander Tucker that I did for Vice v6n11 which happened to be the 'No Photos Issue' aka 'The Drawings Issue' so it mainly concerns Alexander's illustrations and art work. His music is very good to though.

Alexander Tucker

Alexander Tucker is an illustrator and musician who lives and works alone in the same dark nook of the Kentish countryside he grew up in. After graduating from The Slade with a BA in Fine Art and playing in a bunch of bands like Suction, Unhome and Fuxa that people who read Pitchfork still get semis about and collaborating with dudes like Jackie O Motherfucker, Stephen O’Malley and Duke Garwood he decided doing things with other people was overrated and sunk back into illustrating alone and recording as a solo artist.

Both Alexander’s art and music seem to come from a twisted, scary world that probably only exists in his own head. His ink drawings are filled with beasts, multiple headed monsters, and lumbering goliaths eating each other while his records tend to be all bleak drones and guitar loops that sound a bit like Sunn being played backwards. A barrel of laughs Alexander’s stuff aint but we love everything he does anyway.

We spoke to Alex on a line that kept cutting out because they don’t have reception in bumfuck, nowhere Kent. This made transcribing this interview a nightmare but Alex has one of those nice soothing voices that only career stoners who never grew up can pull off so it was all ok in the end.

Vice: You started playing in Suction before most kids had started studying for their GCSE’s. Precocious youth?
Alexander Tucker:
Well I guess I was lucky in that my dad had a great recollection. No crap, just stuff like Duke Ellington and Hendrix but the guy who really switched me on to more leftfield music was my art teacher at school. He gave me all these Cardiacs and Residents records and that was that.

What kind of stuff were you drawing at that point? Guys with eyes for heads?
Quite possibly. I’ve been drawing since zero really. It’s just something that I’ve always done. My dad is an artist and his stuff was an early influence. Maybe more in terms of just making it acceptable to do stuff like draw all day than in terms of what I was drawing. He does all these weird found object pieces and assemblages. Back then I was really into a lot of Alan Moore’s comic work, stuff like The Watchmen and specifically Swamp Thing so there were a lot of monsters knocking around in my stuff. They’ve never really disappeared actually. A little later I became a bit obsessed with Bosch and Bacon so they were a big influence as well.

How big an effect did attending The Slade have on your work? I know people that have gone there and felt it improved their work to the power of a gajillion and others who reckon it robbed any enjoyment they ever had for creating things.
Hmm, well after I finished there I was really disillusioned and pissed off with the whole narrow mindedness of the art scene. It was just rank. Really disgusting, stilted and just fucking awful. The whole thing seemed like this myth controlled by a small band of critics and collectors who decide what’s in and what’s out which inevitably shapes peoples output. I could just never really abide that.

So… Not much fun at college then?
Well I just kind of opted out of that whole scene after I finished and it got me playing music. I’ve always found musicians far more open to experimentation and just accepting things. In terms of art I ended up really focusing on comics. All I wanted do was draw monsters kicking the shit out of each other and not be told whether that was what I should or shouldn’t be doing. My ex-wife and I put out this anthology of comics called Sturgeon White Moss that was very much of that period.

What made you finally decide to start playing music solo after so long playing in bands?
I think that all of my life I’ve just been discovering ways of not involving other people. It just complicates things, You have to allow certain things to happen that become out of your control. I had always been messing around on my own with feedback and loops plus I never felt I could play as well as my friends. On your own there is no one to disappoint but yourself. The band stuff always came naturally and unthinkingly despite whatever limitations I felt I had whereas on my own I had to stop and consider which was interesting. I remember this Unhome track we were working on and I’d pushed for it to be this long, open, feedbacky, improvised mess and all the parts that I liked they would either leave really low in the mix or cut in and out and they were the bits I wanted to make the whole song. That kind of inspired me to strike out and start making all this DIY sound and feedback. I didn’t really know where I was going but it was liberating. It was a strange mix of making these tentative sounds that were coming out exactly as I expected but somehow at the same time were totally startling.

Did all the startling sounds influence what you were drawing?
Looking at them from the outside it seems that the music and the art very much come from the same world and that world seems fairly dark. A lot of the darker stuff is from a period in my life where I was really struggling though. I definitely wasn’t very happy for quite a long time and both the music and the drawings reflect that. It all definitely helped see me through and deal with it all. A lot of the drawings from that time seemed so automatic and while the music was slightly more considered the drawings could definitely illustrate the music and the music could soundtrack the drawings. If you look at the sleeve of “Old Fog” with that dark little cave and the floating clod of earth levitating on the back it definitely belongs in that slightly twisted, twilight world.

Do you draw at night? None of your stuff is exactly sunshine and blue skies.
Drawing in the morning makes me feel really strange. I feel weird all day if I do that. Nighttime is definitely the best. It just feels like it all fits. But I tend to either be doing music or drawing. I’ll focus on one, get it out and then fall back on the other one. They are both always there though. I am pretty lazy about pushing my art. Maybe I shouldn’t be?


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