It's not often one gets to speak with one of their childhood idols much less full-out pick their brain in an interview, but I am getting to do just that today. The amazing and iconic Craig Spector made the time to chat with me about his life, career, and where he's headed. So whether you're a fan of The Book of the Dead (greatest Zombie anthology ever!), his other groundbreaking work like The Light at the End, his new movie Animals, or his music, you should enjoy this interview!
What's it like to be an icon in the world of horror? I mean seriously folks credit you (along with Skipp) as creating a whole new genre (Splatterpunk).
CS: In a word? Gratifying. Fun. The folks who credit us thusly are correct in that we did: along with, independently and simultaneously, David J. Schow (LA), Richard Christian Matheson (LA), Clive Barker (UK).... others were of course heavily catalytic to what was then first called, "The New Horror" -- Joe Landsdale, Ray Garton. But once "Splatterpunk" took off as a word-slash-marketing hook and became a "movement", it was slightly different. It would be good, some 25 years later, to correct the historical record: i.e., Schow has been marketed as "inventing" Splatterpunk. He did not: he came up with the word in a conversation we were all having over drinks at a convention, to the great delight of us all. But in the end, Schow created Schow, which is plenty. He did not invent Skipp & Spector.
Now of course the word has a life all its own -- like Frankenstein's monster busting out of the lab and rampaging the countryside. I've seen links to skatepunks in Germany who call themselves "Splatterpunks", and I'd bet five Euros they never even HEARD of the books. Such is life, ha! It's a mutable term. Designed to instigate. And apparently, doing quite well with it, even a generation later.
What got you into horror in the first place and what writers inspired you?
CS: I was weird from birth. I just somehow managed to convert my own strangeness into a career skill. I mean, really, do I LOOK like a guy who was destined to work in a cubicle? The writers who inspired me as a child were Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles), Kurt Vonnegut (Welcome to the Monkey House) and Edgar Allen Poe (The Complete Works of...) I read them all the summer I was eight years old.
Later, in teen years -- Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Robert Anton Wilson (the Illuminati Chronciles)... but then also, Hugh Prather, the ENTIRE Time-Life Science series (upon which I taught myself to read when I was four....)
Other inspirations -- since I was arguably the amongst the first purely post literate generation -- TV, Movies, Rock and Roll... spent a LOT fo hours stoned and reading liner notes to Prog Rock LPs.... Creepy and Eerie comix, UNDERGROUND comix -- Crumb, Rodriguez, etc..... and just being generally rebellious and weird. Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Night Gallery on TV. The movie The Fearless Vampire Killers (Polanski) i saw when I was 8, by myself, along with Logan's Run and Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. You do the math.
CS: So many. There are moments that define your life -- some very large, some very very small... but they all resonate within you. Some are "public" -- oooh wow, sold my first book! My first movie! My first best-seller! Others -- at least with me, as I am wired -- are very private. The moment a woman touches your heart so deeply you suddenly realize, My God the world is a better place simply because she is in it. Falling in love. Having your heart broken and shredded. Rising up, to love again. Your first moment of true, real violence. Your first moment of true, real sacrifice. The moment, ever coming, of your death. The death -- natural and otherwise -- of people dear to you. This is NOT just shit you see on TV, kids. This is your life, your death, your fucking soul. Make the most of it.
At this juncture, I live by a very simple -- note, I said simple, not 'easy' -- credo: Work hard. Love harder. Take no prisoners. Leave it better than you found it.
If you read that last bit and feel me, perhaps we are tribe. If not, what can I say? Have a nice day. Go to the mall or something.
Does it ever bother you how much some fans go crazy over The Book of the Dead anthology you edited and cite you as part of their inspiration for becoming writers themselves?
CS: Are you high??? Bothered?????? It's my JOB and MISSION in life to poison young minds, of ALL ages. You're NEVER too late to be infected by the insidious seductive toxin that is ME. People tell me that, I'm like, HA! GOTCHA! Now go use this power only for good....
And one more Book of the Dead question, can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the concept and the story of how it all fell into place?
CS: Actually, there's a GREAT John Skipp interview link up on YouTube and also at Crossroad Press http://splatterpunk.crossroadpress.com/. He tells the story beautifully. You're online. Go listen. It's cool. Oh, and then: BUY an eBook! Support the Arts, ya buncha wankers!
OH -- and if you're STEALING shit online? Music, movies, books, whatever? KNOCK IT OFF!!! You're stealing bread from the mouths of the artists you love so much. Grow a conscience. Karma and gravity are not just good ideas, they're the fucking LAW. SUPPORT the artists you love. Quit downloading freebies and fucking STEALING.
To those of you who don't? My thanks and admiration.
If you could change any one thing in your career, what would it be?
CS: There are a few dumb moves I made that I wish I could un-ring that bell... but mostly, I've been pretty happy amidst the insantiy intrinsic to this line of work and BEING. I am who I am. I live my own life on my own terms. I'd like more money, success, etc., but to me that's simply a measure of how deep an IMPACT I'm making on the culture. I just want more. Of everything.
You do SO much more than write. Could you share with us about your passion for music and other talents?
CS: I began life as an artist. My mom was a kinda famous artist in VA and my dad was a college professor at Old Dominion University when I was growing up, so I grew up amongst intellectuals, artists, and assorted creatives. I became a musician at the age of 13 -- tried guitar when i was 8, but saw The Who play on Ed Sullivan and the next day put on a mock performance in the backyard on the picnic table and concluded the finale of the show by SMASHING my cheap-o Sears guitar into splinters.
Got serious about it at 14, and it grew from there; by 16 i was playing with Skipp in a band in PA, The Philadelphia Children's Orchestra (PCO), which you can still find a Fans of PCO page on FB and even HEAR old tracks on reverbnation! I went on to get a degree in music from the Berklee College of Music -- which I got INTO with no formal musical education and completed the four year program in three years, thank you very much.:)
My final semester at Berkley I came up with this odd idea: what if there a vampire in the subways? The rest, as they say, is an odd bit of cultural history.
I still do music, still do art -- my solo CD, SPECTOR: RAW, is coming out in the next few months, and art-wise I've formed an collaborative venture called LexSpex studios with my girlfriend and art partner, Lexia Marie, based out of Germany but with US contacts opening.
But my real, true life goal. A cult. I want a cult. No Kool-Aid, but cool. Memberships currently being considered. If you are an atheist, I WILL buy your soul, if you're selling... let's haggle.
And finally, what are you currently working on?
CS: Good lord.... okay. I just finished a new screenplay for The Light At The End, which is out Oct 31 2010 in eBook, everywhere. Author/screewriter Philip Nutman (Wet Work, the screenplay for The Girl Next Door) are at work on "Project X"; we'll finish tomorrow. I have a new novel and screenplay, TURNAROUND, which is not horror but "meta": a dark twisted romantic black comedy cum meta thriller set in Hollywood, which I'm working on now. More coming all the time. "The Writer's Cut" of ANIMALS, currently out on DVD on Netflix, Redbox, and wherever fine family entertainment is sold... if you're the Manson Family.
Go to www.craigspector.com and scratch beneath the flash page and you'll find plenty; friend me on Facebook and you'll find more. I hope you do.
Or, alternately? Don't. Go to the mall or something....