Confessions
February 22, 2002




Clive: Hello Craig.
Lost Souls: Hello.
Clive: So what shall we talk about?
LS: I've got a bunch of questions here from the web. First off: did you really like "Jeepers Creepers that much?
CB: I did. I actually did like "Jeepers Creepers." I was thrown into the director's hands without knowing anything about it, and having no expectations. And I had a great time, it was a really cool B-movie, and I hadn't seen like a real B-horror movie with a cool little monster and a simple little story in a long time. So yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The two horror movies I liked last year were that and "The Others." And when you compare them to the likes of "Stigmata" and "Lost Souls," which were both really pretentious horror movies with lots of liturgical music and high metaphysical aspirations--I like the ones about the monsters and about the ghosts, which go back to the basic principles.
LS: I saw it ["Jeepers Creepers"] and thought: "that was good, it was different."
CB: Yeah. It's not "The Exorcist," I agree. I've actually seen a couple of others which are really cool which I'd like to recommend to folks. There's a German movie called "Anatomy," which is on DVD, which is very cool and scary as hell. Especially the first ten minutes. The first ten minutes are probably some of the scariest shit I ever saw in a movie--just really unsettling. And there's another one, a French movie which has a kind of dubious look about it, but has some really excessive stuff in it, called "Deep In The Woods." Unfortunately it is rather badly dubbed, but also on DVD. It is like five people being killed in various ways except they're French people. Sort of a fun variation, they're not the usual Californians. (laughs)

LS: What are you working on now?
CB: Well, I just delivered the last paintings for the first "Abarat" book, and right now I am checking the proofs, getting them ready to go to the printer, because the printing is being done in a foreign country because of the big color: 130 illustrations. So it's a big thing. It has to go off soon, and even though the book isn't being bound till September, we are going to have to check over color proofs for a long time. So the book will go to the printer very soon. I'm signing off on that actually today.
I started the second book of the "Abarat."
I'm also preparing the treatment for the movie "Ectokid," which will be an adaptation of a comic I did for Marvel a long time ago, which I'm now doing for Nickelodeon. So, a whole bunch of stuff is going on. I'm producing ["Ectokid"] with John Murphy who produced "From Hell," the Jack the Ripper movie of last year, which was based on Alan Moore's comic book. So John and I are gonna do "Ectokid" together over at Nickelodeon, it will be fun I think: it's gonna be a big ghost movie.

LS: Very cool. We covered the next question, "how's "Abarat" coming along?" [laughs]
CB: I was just speaking to my agent just five minutes ago and she is just overly excited, she feels we have something really special.
LS: Is there going to be a limited edition of "The Abarat"?
CB: B.E. Trice will do it. And it will be pretty severely limited again.
LS: Is "The Abarat" going to be published in larger format?
CB: It is a larger format. I don't have the size right in front of me.

LS: From Kelly Shaw: Now that Barry Hoffman at Gauntlet has canceled "Tar Babies," is there any chance that it will ever see print?
CB: Well, actually yes. What's happening is that Rizzoli are actually now doing a book of David Armstrong's work. "Tar Babies" was going to be a book of my other half's photographs, and there were some questions whether Gauntlet was going to do it or if Rizzoli was gonna do it. And it turned out to be Rizzoli. So they're doing a book in which is in preparation right now.
LS: But it's not going to be called "Tar Babies"?
CB: It won't be called "Tar Babies" what it will contain many of the images from "Tar Babies."

LS: How has the audience and critical reaction to "Coldheart Canyon" been? And how do you feel about the book now?
CB: The audience has been great. The feedback has been great, the reviews have been...either loved it or hated it. I've been surprised with people who liked it, Maslin for The New York Times liked it, which was a little surprising [laugh]. Movie reviewers have tended to have fun with it because it's about the movies, and not very pleasant things about the movies. People who liked it have tended to be people who liked the older Clive actually: the Clive of "The Books of Blood" and "The Damnation Game," when the sex was very graphic and the violence was very graphic. The people who haven't liked it have been people who perhaps have gotten used to the gentler Clive. They're used to the fantasy Clive or the romance Clive. They've found this book too strong and too violent and too thoroughly disgusting. In fact there was a review I just read a couple days ago, where there was this guy who just tearing it apart: "Oh my gosh, the ghosts having sex, and oh!" It was really a rant at how much sex there was in the book, and I thought: "Oh, I must've done something right." There is a lot of sex in the book. Now I look back and think, "God, why, what was I thinking?" There's a lot of sex. I must of been in heat for a year. I don't remember writing it in a state of high arousal, but I think I must have been. And there's a shitload of sex. And it's strange sex too. The interesting thing is, when you write, or I should say when I write, I don't know what other people do, but when I write, I am so close to the material that I just let it pour out. I never write it for myself, I never think to myself, "Oh, I mustn't do that." So it pretty much comes out and I just let it be. And in this particular case it was some pretty dark, strange stuff that came out. And I think I'd been holding in a lot of anger and resentment towards this town seeing that I've been here for 10 years, and it poured out in this allegorical form--not allegorical, but in some sort of encoded form I should say.

If you hear chatter behind me it's my Christmas present from David. It's an amazon green parrot. And she is called Malingo. Malingo is one of the main characters from Abarat. She's just learning to talk so she's everywhere with me. She sits on a little perch beside me when I shave in the morning. She sits on a perch beside my writing desk. And she has her cage in the kitchen, so she is with us all the time. She's learned songs from Moulin Rouge. The females can get a vocabulary up to 400 words.
LS: Just wait till she starts to put words together on her own.
CB: Well we have a child in the house so we done allow the language to get to ripe.
LS: I know you have dogs. I had a parakeet that started to bark like a dog, because he was alone when we were a school and picked up the dog's bark.
CB: She doesn't bark, but she calls them, which really annoys them. She calls them imitating our voices. She'll call and the dog will come. Because we are here all the time, our dogs only bark when someone comes to the house. Then because there are four dogs it is a cacophony. I think it would be impossible for a parrot however clever it was to imitate that! But she is so smart and sweet. I was watching a movie last night and she was lying in my arm lying on her back having her belly stroked and her head was craned around so she could watch the movie (laughs).

LS: On with questions. Vera Chazen wrote in. She said that she saw a documentary about Alla Nazimova, a silent screen star and Broadway actress as well...
CB: Oh oh oh. What she's gonna say? Is she? Yeah.
LS: She owned a house in Hollywood and in the thirties she converted it into a hotel called the Garden of Alla.
CB: She was involved with Nijinksy and she was involved with Valentino and she had a lesbian lover and she was an extraordinary lady. And, yes, yes, that lady is exactly like Katya.
LS: The question continues: it was notorious for the patrons, the intelligentsia, and the artists of the day, and all sorts of behavior.
CB: It was drugs, sex and rock n' roll for the thirties. Who was it who wrote that in?
LS: Vera Chazen
CB: Well she is exactly right!
LS: Vera asks if this is the real life place that inspired "Coldheart Canyon"?
CB: No, the real life place is the house I'm sitting in right now. And the canyon is my canyon. I mean the canyon I'm looking out on past the parrot. My gym is at the highest point of my house. I came out of this gym late at night and the canyon was completely dark, it smelled of jasmine, there were coyotes barking over the hills, which were completely dark. And actually Ricky Arnez JR lives there, and his house is often not lit because he's usually in Palm Springs. So that's why the canyon was completely dark. And lots of coyotes yapping and yelping and squealing. I sat there at the top of my spiral staircase, thinking it's time to write about this. Vera is completely right. I went and investigated the people, the people who were most extreme in terms of their behavior of the silent stars and Alla Nazimova was one of them, Valentino was another, Ramon Norvarro was another. They all had these sort of big fanciful names, some of them were there real names. But not always. Some of them had much more commonplace names, which they'd simply thrown away when they became movie stars. It was a quite a world that I uncovered when I started to investigate these people. These people were living very extreme lives; sexually and in terms of their drug and alcohol intake. That's why many of them didn't live long. Or else if they lived a long time, their life in the public eye would be very short. They shone briefly for a moment and then they were gone.

LS: Any news on the "Nightbreed" Special Edition DVD?
CB: Ahh, I need to get another deal done first. As soon as that happens I'm gonna say, "Alright, where's my special edition"? What I can tell you, is that the Sci-Fi channel green-lit the movie of "Saint Sinner," which is a movie based upon a story I wrote. A horror movie for the Sci-Fi channel which will now be made starting in nine weeks--they green-lit the project two days ago. Very exciting. Very fun. But we gotta have this movie on the screen for September.
LS: Are you writing the screenplay for that?
CB: No, it's already been written. What I've been doing of late, which has been a good process for me, is I've been writing treatments, often very detailed treatments, like the treatment for "Ektokid" will be 15,000 words, so it's not a small thing, then I'm giving that treatment to the studio and hiring a writer to come in and write the screenplay. Which means I get to have control of the narrative shape, but somebody else can come in and do the many draftings and re-draftings and meetings and things. Which frankly in a year where I am writing a book is virtually impossible. So I've done that for "Ektokid," I've done it for "Tortured Souls," the movie we're doing for Tortured Souls over at Universal, I did it for "Saint Sinner," I've done it for the Harry D'amour television series which we're doing with MGM. So, at last these four projects will all come from very detailed treatments.

LS: Bringing up the "Tortured Souls." The new "Tortured Souls 2: The Fallen," is there going to be a short novella with all of those?
CB: There won't be. I put my efforts into creating these wild things and then with writing the treatment for the movie, I thought, "what would people prefer to see, more novella, or me getting on with the movie"? And I figured that people would prefer me getting on with the movie.
LS: Are "Tortured Souls 2" possible characters that are going to be in the movie?
CB: They won't be in the first of the movies. What we're planning with Universal is a series, hopefully. And, I put pretty much everybody from the first series of figures into the first movie, and my hope is that if we do have a successful picture, then the second movie will contain the characters from the second series.

LS: From Kelly Shaw: In the past interview you mentioned a series of short stories called, "The Mercy and the Jackal."
CB: Yes.
LS: What is the status of these?
CB: Well, they are like 2/3 finished. And if "Abarat" hadn't become this huge thing, and you'll see how huge it is when you see the book. I mean it's become this massive endeavor. I'd probably have them finished by now. But it will go, "The Mercy and Jackal," into the collection of short stories, which I intend to publish at some point in the next...few years [laughs].
LS: "The Scarlet Gospels"?
CB: Right. Exactly. One thing that happens with me, in a weird way, is that ideas, worlds, and characters lie and wait for me sometimes. And I just don't know they're there. And so I'm thinking, "OK I know what the mixture is going to look like. I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that." And then "Abarat" comes along. I start to paint these pictures, and before you know it I have a lot of pictures. And the world that has come into existence through these paintings is huge. And I hadn't realized how huge this endeavor would be until we started to put this first book together. It's over 100,000 words and it's over 100 color images, some of those paintings are enormous, the biggest being 23 feet long.
LS: Wow!

At this point Malingo decided to jump off her perch and get hold of Clive's shoe.
CB: Once these things go on and demand the kind of attention that "Abarat" demands, you've just got to face its demands.

I no longer completely understand my creative process. I thought I did--it's become much more of a mystery to me. There are laws of what should happen. As you go through life you should try to understand better about how your creative process works, but mine has become more of a mystery to me as I go on. I feel like I have to just let my instincts teach me.
LS: How many paintings are you up to now for the "Abarat"?
CB: 320. And...counting. The house that I have, I mean my writing house is filled with paintings and life is great. I'm surrounded by paintings which is wonderful.

LS: This is from Phil and Sarah from England. Were you disappointed or delighted that McFarlane found it necessary to cover Moribundi at this month's toy fair?
CB: Oh my God, I did not know that!
LS: Apparently they covered it.
CB: My God, it was too much? Oh shit. Moribundi is one of the new characters. That's fantastic, that's great. Thanks for sharing that with me, I knew nothing about that.
[Laughs all around] No, I'm delighted.

LS: This is from David. He'd like to know if you can give us any more information of the series or movie your doing on HBO with Francis Ford Coppola?
CB: Well, it's being written by David Goyer who wrote both "Blade" movies--a great guy. And it's pretty much under wraps right now because we're finishing up the deal. But it's going to go, we're gonna do this. And it is one of the highlights of my life to have Coppola here, to sit down and talk to him about doing this series together was wonderful. And he brought wine from owns his own vineyard. It was wonderful.

LS: Immaculata writes, what intimidates you as an artist/writer?
CB: Showing the stuff for the first time always is difficult for me. The period between knowing whether it is or whether it is not. Showing the work and getting a response from them. Showing paintings for the first time is always difficult--you know, judgment. I think any artist who says they don't care about what other people think is either arrogant or lying. I mean you're doing this for other people. And so any artist wants his work to be liked, I think. Like is the wrong word, I'm sure Kurt Cobain didn't expect to be liked, he expected to be understood or partially understood. To be appreciated. Artists don't care to be liked but they care to be appreciated. Do you see what I mean by the difference?
LS: Yeah.
CB: You know, there are lots of elements in my work that are very difficult for people, so difficult at times I look back and I think this is hard stuff. I'm getting the script for Damnation Game today. Warner Bros. is making the movie Damnation Game, And John Hessman who wrote the script that we're turning in today says it is very very dark. So I went back and read the book and I thought shit, this is a very grim book. And this comes out of my psyche the same way the colourful paintings for Abarat come out of my psyche. It's all a part of Clive Barker. It would be hard to say that I like Damnation game I don't know that I do. Even though I'm the author of it. It's way grim, you know.

LS: Here's another one from Immaculata, what do you do when you feel you can't get over that hill, like when you feel so overwhelmed or down about an idea that you just cannot go on, how do you get past your own insecurities?
CB: I go and do something different. I go and paint a picture or write a poem. If I cannot write and I'm having real difficulties writing, I'll often turn to poetry, and if all else fails I'll go and play with the dogs.
It's a great lesson having dogs or of the parrot that is biting my finger right now, oh shit! It's one of the reasons in life for two obsessive people like David and myself, both primarily preoccupied with our work, to be surrounded by animals. The animals are constantly telling us, "hey wait a second, we're here. We live in our own universe; you need to come into our universe once in a while." My going into a dog's world or my going into a parrot's world is a wonderful way to unhook yourself from your own world.

LS: Here's another one form Phil and Sarah. They say: The interviews from early 2000 that are included in the final chapters of "The Dark Fantastic," appear to have caught you at a creative crossroads and actually leave us feeling rather downbeat and concerned. We've talked before about how "Imajica" was born from the ashes of the "Nightbreed" experience, and "The Dark Fantastic" is fascinating in describing how "Chiliad" and some powerful paintings of "Abarat" were born from hard times.
CB: Right, from depression.
LS: Is the relaunch of Clive Barker just a marketing tool, or does it capture the feeling of a new creative high?
CB: I think it is the latter. I think the proof of it is the book of "Abarat." I think when you find this book in your hands you'll go, "wait a second, I didn't know Barker had it in him." Hell, I didn't even know I had it in me. So it's a whole another me, and you guys are relatively familiar with me as a painter, but most people haven't got a clue I do this stuff. So this book is a completely new idea of how to take Clive Barker out into the marketplace
I think if we have this conversation in two years with Phil and Sarah on the line, they'll see just how different things will be. A lot of stuff is gonna be coming out, films will be made, and the Disney deals moving a long very swiftly. I think it's a whole different phase of who I am. And I think probably when we get to the end of my career in probably thirty years time and look back, there'll be a number of those times. Phil and Sarah are completely right. I've gone through these dark times where light plugs through at the end of a very dark time. The period after my Dad's death was extremely dark.
I seem to have in my life periods of great darkness followed by sudden periods of lucidity. Some of that is to do with the fact that I am a dark person in many regards. It's a fact of life. I mean you lose a parent and you are going to go into the dark times. There's no way of avoiding that. The only way to avoid it is not to love. There isn't a day that passes where my fathers, heh um shall I share?
Yes I will share.
I was sitting in this chair I am sitting in right now, two minutes ago and I was listening to some music, and I suddenly looked down at my right hand. And my right hand was quietly conducting the music in exactly the way my father used to. I looked at my hand and thought look at you. My eyes filled with tears, and I missed him, but ya know he's there in me. And he's here with me. And there was the complete proof of it. He was just sort of dictating my physical behaviour. I mean lord! There I was doing exactly what he had done. We disagreed about ten thousand things, but he shaped me. And his ability to argue and debate is hugely important to me still. His great rationalness, his great calm, and great kindness, all these things I hope I have in some measure. I think if Dark Fantastic had not ended on a downbeat it would not have been fair to my fathers memory.

LS: And last question: Douglas Winter's biography is the first to trace your artistic obsessions from childhood to manhood. How much interaction did you have with the writer and how pleased are you with the results?
CB: I had a huge amount of interaction, over many years. Doug has known me a long time, he's known my parents--he knew my dad - he's knows my brother, he's gone and interviewed people I didn't even know were still alive. The job that he did I think is amazing. Have you read the book?
LS: I haven't' had the chance yet.
CB: You should check it out, it's very rich and very layered, because Doug comes at it as both a critic and a friend. So there are portions of the book that are as if he were reviewing my life as a book. Those portions given over to reviewing the book are in sort of one language, a writerly language. And the other is Doug as my friend, analyzing how I got from where I was to where I am and trying to project where I will be. My journey with Doug has been a fascinating one and I look forward to it continuing.

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