Dennis Villelmi: Hello, Mr. Vince, and welcome to The Bees Are Dead. How have you been doing, and was the past year in terms of projects?
Nicholas Vince: Well, last year I finished my first short film as writer and director – The Night Whispered. That meant doing a lot of post production, creating a website, attending screenings and basically learning a whole lot about independent film making. And, of course, I was putting together my weekly YouTube show, ‘Chattering with Nicholas Vince’ and turning that into a podcast which launched on iTunes at the end of the year. The London Horror Festival invited me to be their patron, which was a delight as I got to see 18 shows. I did some acting and was honoured with the London Horror Society Award for Outstanding Contribution to UK Independent Horror.
DV: So it’s 2017 now, which means it’s been exactly thirty years since the release of “Hellraiser.” How will the original Infernal Fab Four mark the occasion?
NV: We’re hoping to do quite a few conventions and perhaps other events. So far, I’ve confirmed 25th and 26th February at Terror Con, RI, USA along with Barbie Wilde and Simon Bamford. Saturday 4th March, lunch time, I’m at Geek Con, The Ship Pub, Croydon, UK.
DV: As most know, you were The Chatterer Cenobite; this was due to a collaboration with Clive Barker dating back to your days just after theatre school. At the time, did it feel like you were a part of something that was going to change the trajectory of the horror genre?
NV: I think we all knew Hellraiser was something special. Clive had already published the ‘Books of Blood’, which are extraordinary, and Stephen King had said the ‘I have seen the future of horror. His name is Clive Barker,’ so it was clear Clive had this extraordinary imagination and talent. Also, we were working with talented artists in Image Animation, who sculpted and created the Cenobites. So, yes, I think everyone knew this was an original horror movie. Did I know I’d be talking about it 30 years later? Hell, no.
DV: What’s your fondest memory of “Hellraiser’s” production?
NV: It was working with all these amazing people, some of whom are still my friends. Learning about the whole prosthetic process from life cast, through sculpting and having the makeup applied – that was fascinating. Mostly, I remember laughing a lot. In fact, I got told off by the sound guy on the first film, as we were working in a very small studio and my voice was spoiling some of the shots.
DV: Before “Hellraiser,” had you long been fascinated by the proverbial dark side?
NV: Oh, yes. I was a very strange teenager. I had some Aurora glow in the dark model kits at the end of my bed. I also watched the Universal monster movies and the Roger Corman / E. A. Poe / Vincent Price films with my Mum on a Friday night and loved them. Before that, when I got a junior library card around the age of 10, I sought out collections of ghost stories. Later I read a lot of short horror stories and the novels by Dennis Wheatley.
DV: Since “Hellraiser,” its immediate sequel “Hellbound,” and “Nightbreed,” you’ve embarked on your unique journey of the macabre. What’s been the most rewarding aspect of that?
NV: It’s always the people; the actors and crew, the guests on the YouTube show and the enthusiasts for the work who I’ve met at conventions and signings. I mean, it’s great to read good reviews by people on amazon for the collections of short stories, or to meet people who’ve watched the films and hear about how they’ve effected their lives.
One of my favourite moments was talking to a young woman at a convention, who said she’d told a friend at school that Chatterer lived in the local woods. That story grew and apparently, there’s now a local legend told by the children today that he’s still in the woods and they might hear him.
That said, receiving the London Horror Society Award and being patron of the London Horror Festival, those were really special to me.
DV: Aside from your film credits, you’re also known for your anthologies of horror stories; all of which, I’ll say, are riveting and wonderfully caliginous. When you’re telling a story, are there specific themes you like to deal with and why?
NV: Thank you. Glad you enjoyed them. It’s funny. Many of the readers I spoke to after the first book, ‘What Monsters Do’, was published asked if I have a really difficult family, which stunned me, as they’re all lovely. So, I guess people had picked up the theme of the first book – ‘It is not our flesh, but our acts which make us monsters.’ It comes back to people. We’re all prone to greed, anger and stupidity and that leads to all sorts of nastiness. The root cause of those emotions, I believe is fear. People are scared they’re not doing as well as others, so they have to have more than they need to prove they’re successful. Anger is often a reaction to a threat to ourselves or someone we love – think of a mother angry at a child for playing with matches.
By stupidity, I mean the belief we’re separate from others. There’s a new show here, which is a televised spelling bee for 10 year olds. I find it sickening. Rather than teaching children they’re ‘special’ as they’re gifted, better than another child, as they have a good memory; I’d love to see a show where children are challenged to work together, displaying the qualities of courage, wisdom and compassion.
DV: One of my personal favorites is, “Other People’s Darkness” [also, the title of the book]. As a resident of the Appalachian region, where the story ends, I really got the sense that you’d been here. As Herodotus said, “we travel to know,” and so, would you say the best stories an author could write result from traveling?
NV: Funnily enough, I’ve not travelled to that part of the world. My research would have been watching movies. So, I’d say the best stories result from curiosity – which I think is the core of Herodotus’s statement. Through curiosity we learn about history, other people, science and so on. It’s possible to travel without curiosity, to insulate yourself. I always prefer to stay with people, rather than hotels when travelling, as you can learn so much about people’s customs and culture, the way they live.
DV: Where do the ideas for your writing generally come from?
NV: Ideas come from all sorts of places. I was thinking about Clive’s inspiration for his play ‘Secret Life of Cartoons’ – which was that Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny and many others) was played tapes of the cartoons when he was in a coma, to help him recover. I wondered what it would be like if someone wanted to torture a coma patient by reading horror stories to them. Another story came from playing with the phrase ‘story teller’, to make ‘story taker’. The story ‘Family Tree’ was inspired by the original Universal movie ‘The Wolfman’, where Larry Talbot can only be killed by someone who loves him.
And basically, I’ve a dark and disturbed imagination.
DV: What advice would you give to one trying to make a mark in the horror genre?
NV: Ask, ‘What scares me?’
If the idea scares you, then you’re writing from truth.
Or, ask ‘What scared that person?’
‘What made them behave like that?’
‘Could I do that?’
DV: As if the current zeitgeist were of a demonic nature, we see more real-life horror reported by the media. Would you say we’re heading towards a collective damnation? As a horror writer, are you more dismayed, or intrigued by this?
NV: People can be really, really stupid. (See earlier answer for what I mean by ‘stupid’.)
I was listening to a phone-in during the week after the demonstrations against Trump’s … pick a policy, any policy. A few callers spoke about why they marched, but one caller was supporting Trump, outraged that people had likened him to Hitler. “He’s only doing what he promised to do!” he said. Well, yes. He is. No-one should be surprised. But then, so did Hitler. He did exactly what he promised when he blamed the Jews for the economic disaster of the Weimar Republic.
Trump basically blamed the Mexicans for (can’t bear to repeat it) and Muslims for all terrorism. His assertions weren’t and aren’t supported by facts, but that doesn’t matter because people want easy answers. They want someone to blame, to be assured, it’s not their fault. It’s a lot easier to blame the person of a different colour, who worships at a different building than it is to understand the economics of the crash. It is laughable to think of Trump as the ‘people’s champion’, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t like that women should be in charge of their own body, as your book of fairytales says they shouldn’t? No problem, abortion outlawed. You need someone to blame for a lack of education or work, because successive governments haven’t invested in teachers and education? We’ll build a wall. We’ll leave those lazy, nasty Europeans, because we’ve got 23 miles of water between ‘them and us’.
Dismayed? I’m fucking furious.
And yet, I see hope. I see people march. I see a many young people who supported Sanders. I fundamentally believe every human being on the planet possesses, courage, wisdom and compassion. But I’m conscious of Bill Nye, the Science Guy saying it takes 2 years for someone to stop believing in astrology and accepting the scientific principles of astronomy, due to ‘cognitive dissonance’. So, we’re in a for a long haul.
I remember Ghandi, a man dressed in a loin cloth who inspired millions to civil disobedience and overcame the British Empire; and his saying, “Be the change you want to see.”
Well, you did ask.
DV: Another story of yours that I absolutely loved is, “Z Is For Zizuph,” from the “Demonolgia Biblica” anthology. I’ll quote this one passage: ‘The teachings of one side break on the disbelief of the other. Teachings are like vapor. Sometimes these things feel like empty air, but the winds of belief howl and the cost is human flesh and pain.” That’s very Lovecraftian in it’s implication. Do you think that religious conviction is the most fertile soil for horror?
NV: I’m glad you like that story. The closing section wrote itself as I was trying to get to sleep one night, and so I had to get up and write notes. Hate it when that happens.
I think many human beings generally loathe uncertainty, particularly the uncertainties of death and the night – so they came up with gods and religion. Then smart men, fewer women, realised how much power and riches they could possess by telling people they have the answer. Much like some politicians.
Beware the person who says your spiritual or material salvation lies through the suffering of others.
DV: Alluding to the aforementioned story: you’ve passed on, but then your soul is ‘incorporated;’ which would you prefer, Cenobite, Nightbreed? What would Nicholas Vince be the second time around?
NV: I’d like to be re-incarnated on a different planet. It’s an awfully big universe and death, an awfully big adventure.
Speaking of death, you mentioned ‘Other People’s Darkness’ earlier. Inspired by two real events. An accident I witnessed in Streatham and an operation I underwent when I was nineteen, and the minute or so when I stopped breathing, because I was very, very tired.
DV: What can we look forward to from you over the course of 2017?
NV: Apart from the weekly Chattering with Nicholas Vince podcast and the live YouTube show, I’m in pre-production on two short fioms I’ve written and will direct, plus some more acting.
DV: Nicholas Vince, thank you for speaking with The Bees Are Dead. Perhaps we can chat with the Chatterer again.
NV: That would be fun.
The Night Whispered (short film)
Chattering with Nicholas Vince on YouTube:
Books available on amazon: