Tuesday, January 06, 2009

SØREN MOSDAL : Comix, Illustrations, music

I discovered the work of Soren Mosdal with Gash in a comics shop in Nottingham. I've been impressed by the intensity of it and by Soren’s very personal edgy line. With the rest of his work I've realised that it contains loads of nifty graphic representations, especially when he describe the human form. He tried his hand at doing many narratives: true stories, absurd and raw short comics, satirical moral tales, silly fictions, children books… etc. You will find many illustrations and comics on his web site. Have a look at it, it is worth it.

A: In Gash your name is written Soren G Mosdal. What does the G stands for?

S: G stands for Glosimodt, which is my middle name. Its Norwegian.

A: What are you currently working on?

S: I’m working on a comic about Hank Williams, the famous country star, and the night he died.

A: Why did you choose to work on this subject?

S: Well, I've been a fan of Hank for a long time, and then I found out Paul Shrader, the guy who wrote tai driver did a manuscript about the life of Hank Williams, that never got filmed, because it was too dark, apparently. So I found the script, and though, hey, maybe I can do that as a comic. I realized pretty quickly though, that it would be too much of a mouthful, to do a comic about his entire life, which was what the script was.
So, anyway, my girlfriend is from Tennessee, so she took me to Nashville, I bought a book about Hank Williams, and then I found out that his death was like a big mystery, and I decided there and then, just to do a comic about that, the night of his death. And since my girlfriend lives in Knoxville where some say he actually died (it’s a mystery) I just took it from there.

A: So basically Paul Shrader is your script writer...

S: No, not after all, because I wrote my own script instead. I did steal bits from his script though.

A: Did you find a publisher?

S: I have one here in Denmark, Fahrenheit, if you know that?

A: Nope. I'll have a look on the internet.

S: Also, I’m pretty much finished with the comic, I just colored the last page last week, so all I need to do is text it.

A: Will it be in English?

S: I’m doing an English version, to send around to foreign publishers

A: Is it a drawing of Hank Williams which is visible in your comics about a couple arguing in NY?

S: Yeah, it’s funny, I forgot about that, until you mentioned it (when you showed me the questions), but yeah, that’s him. The first Hank Drawing.

A: There use to be a country singer on the first page of your web site as well…

S: yes, that was him too... He's good. Do you know his music?

A: Some, but not that much... What do you enjoy in his music?

S: I do like country in general, but I guess he's the quintessential country star, and in a way he's the first rock star. Also, his life is a little easier to do a comic about than the other guys, because it was pretty dramatic.
And his music is very simple and basic, and I like that quality in music.

A: It’s not the first time you’re drawing a musician: there’s a page about Lou Reed in Gash…

S: yeah. Also, there’s The Fucking Chimps in rockworld.

A: Who are they?

S: The fucking Chimps is just a parody on, like young rock bands that’ll do anything to get famous.

A: And what about Uli Van Bator whom Charley is listening to at the beginning Rock World… Is he a real musician or is he a fictional character?

S: Although the singer is based on a guy from Saybia, a real shitty band from Denmark. Uli van Bator is fictional too. Ulan Bator is the capital of Mongolia, I just learned. Ulan Bator, or Ulaanbaatar (Mongolian: Улаанбаатар), is the capital and largest city of Mongolia.

A: And who is Charley? Does his opinion about music matters?

S: Charley is based on jacob ørsted, the writer guy, and I think I'm Mickey. How do you mean if his opinion matters?

A: I just wanted to know if it was yours.

S: No, I don’t agree with Charley’s views n music. He's a big snob!

A: How do you work with Jacob? Does he send you the scripts or do you do them together?

S: All right. Erhm, usually I and Jacob come up with a storyline, then I do a primitive storyboard, show it to Jacob, then I do the real drawings, then we meet and look at them and come up with the text (and usually get real drunk too)

A: Are most of your comics autobiographical then?

S: Well, some of them to a certain extent. Like the one about the couple in NY, you mentioned earlier, but I usually change stuff around a lot, and the character is drawn from pictures of a friend of mine, instead of myself. I wouldn’t be comfortable doing a straight autobiographic story.

A: What about “Ghosts”. Is it a true story?

S: Yes, most of it is true, but again I changed some stuff around, I think I put two “true” stories together, and the character doesn’t look like me at all.


A: You made illustrations for magazines, didn’t you? What was your strategy to find people who wanted to start working with you?

S: Phoning them up!

A: Ahahah! OK! I’m not that familiar with your work as an illustrator as I’ve never read any text you worked on. But I saw somewhere that Carsten Jensen and Morten Sabroe are committed authors…

S: Yeah, those two guys are both famous authors and commentators here in Denmark.

A: Are your illustrations expressing ideas you believe in?

S: Sometimes, if I’m lucky, and sometimes not, but I like to think of myself as a professional illustartor, so you have to accommodate to the authors of the articles.
On the other hand, I never had to draw something I completely opposed to.

A: Did you add some personal statements or did you stick to the text?

S: Well, I will often try and squeeze something personal in the drawing,
But not too much, if you want them to call you again…

A: I have followed your work for years and I clearly see the different steps. I mean your line stays very characteristic. But now when you draw your gesture seems to be freer or faster than it was. Does this correspond to a personal and social evolution?

S: it's probably more to do with working for newspapers, and having tight deadlines, which has forced me to draw faster and freer.

A: I guess it had an influence on the way you approach and draw comics.

S: Yeah. I was always a pretty fast drawer though.

A: Did you try other medium… Painting, digital art, collage?

S: A little bit, yes, when I was younger. It’s a little bit of a shame, actually, because after a few years, I actually began to know what I was doing with watercolors, gouaches and that sort of things, but then the computer came, and ever since I’ve been using photoshop for colors.

A: There are two versions of Hundedgod which correspond to two different graphic styles… The texts are almost identical. Why? Could it correspond to a transition in your approach?

S: Maybe I have became faster and freer, personally over the years, but I'm not sure. Do you mean if we changed the text because the drawing style is different?

A: I don’t know for the text (Danish). I saw there was a difference concerning the cigarette. Why did you do a second one actually?

S: Good question. I’m not sure. One reason was it was done for a book, with a deadline, and I didn’t have a new story, so I decided to re-do hundegott instead. I guess I liked the story too, and didn’t feel like it was properly done the first time…

A: The first one was brilliant.

S: thanks.

A: What about the other hundegod? (There is a third hundegott which is a big interrogation because it is part of Fremok’s catalogue but it has never been on sale; the story is totally different) I emailed Fremok and they said to me may be some day they will put it out. But this project has been delayed for more than three years. Gosh! It would be cool to find another publisher to make it available for your “fans”!

S: Yeah, I don’t know what happened with Fremok there. They printed out the covers for the book 3 years ago. But I don’t know, I’m not sure it’s that great, the other hundegod. I don’t know that it deserves to be published. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, if Fremok reads it... but having said that, I haven’t looked at it myself for 3 years, who knows, maybe it’s stood the test of time after all.

A: Probably!

S: Actually, I will take a look at it one of these days. I’m pretty sure its crap though.


A: And the drones as well… We can read fragments of these comics in Gash. I’m sure there was a lot more in the first print. It was a small edition; they are just impossible to find. Do you plan to reprint them someday? Would you like to?

S: I would love to collect a bunch of that stuff, and some of the comics we have on the web some day. But actually most of the Drone things are in that gash book.

A: That would be great. Will you make this anthology with Smittekilde?

S: All right. Yeah, Smittekilde would be great, but I never talked to him about it I don’t think he has the money for that kind of book, maybe.

A: Are Daniel Milan and Zven friends of yours?

S: yeah. Me and Zven go way back, we had the same studio together 10 years ago. We have a band too. Mok Nok, have you heard about them? (listen to Mok Nok here)

A: Yes I have. Adrien told me about it. Do you remember Adrien Fregosi? I'm sure he met you.

S: Wait, that little fellah who sometimes visits Zven? Yeah, I met him. You know him too?

A: Yes I went to a concert (kind of static noise core)... I just behaved like a punk. I wanted to pogo and the public was kind of "eclectic". He was there to sell some books of Cotoreich and Smittekilde. It was crazy to meet someone like him in Grenoble!

S: So you bonded over static noise and pogoing? That’s how you found Smittekilde?

A: No I had known Smittekilde before. That's probably the reason why I trusted Adrien and respected him. Well… Also the Cotoreich book was really nice.

S: That’s cool. Smittekilde gets people together. I used to be co-editor on Smittekilde and they fired me, because I never did anything.

A: Ah really? Do you still have good relations with them?

S: yeah yeah, it wasn’t a problem. Zven fired me in front of everybody, at a dinner party. "You’re fired" was his words, it was just like Donald trump.

A: Ahahah! The night I met Adrien was good: inside this very serious anarchist crowd, And this sort of both trendy and austere noise core public. Well I must say I like this music, just the organizers were very stressed and afraid.

S: Yeah, we have the same problem here, a lot of people involved in that kind of scene can be pretty self-serious.
Self-serious, is that a word?

A: Why not? I understand what you mean.

S: Yeah. We were actually going to do a rockworld comic, with Charley exploring and making fun of the noise scene, we even did the storyboard and everything.

A: I'm looking forwards to it.

S: yeah, I don’t know if we will ever finish it. I never started on the real drawings, but I think it was because the story was a little too weak. But I would love to do a rockworld comic about "Noise" some day.

A: May be we could talk again about your band Mok Nok… What do the two words Mok Nok stand for?

S: It’s a constellation of sorts of the names of two of our favorite bands at the time, Mogwai and Smog, and Zven not being able to pronounce any of them correct.

When did you create this band?

S: In 1999, so we have our ten year jubilee next year.

What instrument do you play?

S: I try my best at drums, bass and random keyboards, but we do switch around a lot too.

A: I have a question about your first comics… You only made one copy, didn’t you?

S: The very first one? From 1982 or whenever?

A: I read a page of yours about it where someone is talking to a girl.


S: hm, that can’t be it. The one I’m talking about I did when I was like 8, and it has Jean Paul Belmondo as the hero. But it’s 21 pages long, with a nice colorcover and everything.

A: Wow!

S: yeah, you like Belmondo, don’t you?

A: I'm French you know he is a celebrity. I enjoyed some of his characters when I was a kid. He is both a joker and a macho. Funny.

S: yeah, me too. I lived in France when I was kid, for a couple of years, so I saw all that stuff. Flic ou voyou!

A: I don't share his political opinions.

S: What’s his political opinion? Is he like Brigitte Bardot or something?

A: Not as bad.

S: Well, she's pretty extreme

A: But you know it doesn't matter; actors are spoilt people.

S: Spoilt cattle. That’s why comics are easier to do. Don’t have to deal with Belmondo the real one, I mean. When you do comics, you decide, you don’t have to deal with actors. You do what you want! Right?

A: Yes you’re alone in front of your drawings!

S: I’m not a hermit, but you know it’s in comics’ nature; you do them on your own. I've been in a studio the last 10-12 years with friends, and the few times I've gone away to Berlin or something, and worked totally alone for a month, I've been going crazy after a week. But then you DO get a lot of work done, like that, so maybe it’s worth it. I don’t think I'd do it again though.

A: It's good to have the feeling that you've achieved something…

S: Alright. Well, the last time I isolated myself for a month, I ended up throwing everything out I did though, so.

A: Arch. You shouldn't have. I wish I had been there to search inside you dust bean.

S: Well, I didn’t literally throw it out, I never actually throw anything out, but I sat and re-did the same pages like 7 times, like a crazy nerd, and in the end I just gave up the entire comic.

A: I'm pretty sure they are interesting though. It depends on the way you feel when you draw. Sometime I hate what I've done just because I felt shit and people like it. Well sometime it is the other way round.

S: Yeah, I’m sure some of it was all right, but I couldn’t see it at the time

A: Drone gives me the impression that you are very keen on damned writers… Burroughs, Kerouac…

S: yeah, that’s the embarrassing question. It’s just, those things I don’t read anymore at all, I feel like it’s just something all kids do, you know read Kerouac and do stupid stuff and pretend to die young and all that. The whole romantic idea about the doomed artist. I mean, I can’t work if I’m depressed or something, I work much better, if I had a nice sleep and no worries, and some cigarettes

A: Yes I do agree. The stuff I made when I had loads of troubles please people and I do like it. But there are loads of mistakes from the graphic point of view.

S: Yeah, people love stuff you do when you have problems. Fuck em

A: Well as long as they are ready to look at the rest of your work I think it is OK. Just it's good to have the courage to show all sort of stuff, isn’t it? Mmmm… Anyway… Did you write novels, poetry or something?

S: No, but like everyone else, one day I’m going to sit down and write The Great Novel of my generation.

A: Do you consider any comics author to have had an influence on your work?

S: Yes so, actually I haven’t read a comic or almost a year, since I started working on the Hank comic, because I tend to get impressed by something in a comic, and that makes me want to start all over with what I’m doing, and that’s why I used to restart on my comics ALL the time. I mean, I haven’t read a comic in almost a year but I like a lot of the French guys a lot, like Christophe Blain and Sfarr and those people. You too?

A: I read Sfarr.

S: yeah. I think I prefer Blain, storywise though.

A: I’ve never read him. I will.

S: The one with the big warship is a good one. Actually "les orgres" is his best, I think.

A: Do you speak French?

S: A little, yeah, I used to be very good, but I don’t practice it. I can read French all right, though.

A: Danish French English German... You know a lot of languages I can see it in your work… You studied in Germany, didn't you?

S: Well, my German isn’t too hot...I never studied there, but I've been there a lot, I was in a comics studio in Berlin.

A: I must have been mistaken. From your opinion, what are the recurrent themes in your work?

S: I think my recurrent theme is girls.

A: I didn’t realize it.

S: No? If you think about it, they’re all about girls. Or in the case of the old ones, lack of girls…

A: Yea, There are this femme fatal and the countess in Gash … and the exotic dancer. And the girl with a silver space gun in Smittekilde 10… I guess I could go on. “Lack of girls”… I can relate to what you mean. That’s right, the main character in “the mud puppy” in Gash seems to be very lonely, kind of insecure and betrayed…

S: Maybe I would say instead of girls, what I mean a lot of the comics are concerned with the relationship between men and women, something you’ll never get to the bottom of, and so it can keep providing ideas for comics and little stories.
Mudpuppy, that was done at a time,where I was really mad at my girlfriend, because she left me by myself in London, where we lived together at the time – I mean, she didn’t leave me, she just went home a month before me, and loking at Mudpuppy, I must have felt very betrayed and lonely at the time, yes. But its kind of funny, when I think about it now -
that I felt so betrayed just because she went home a little earlier than me, I mean.

A: A last word?

S: All right, I like all animals, I hate humans, and I like black metal. Yeah, how’s that for values? Also, I really like Italian futurism and violence.

Pages of Soren‘s next comics about Hank Williams :



zeke said...

Crickey, real epic innerview this! Been enjoying reading it in instalments.
Perhaps Paul O' Connell's music inspired strips would be of innarest:

jacob ø+ said...

Nice interview with some cool links. I feel like I know the artist a little bit better now.

Human Mollusk said...

Cool interview. I love this guy's comic pages, especially the b/w ones in the middle.

Gaspard Pitiot said...

What a surprise Jacob O! Nice to meet you.

Fufu, The B/W images are from Smittekilde #8, Feurwerk (Fremok) and Gash. Gash is still availible on the Internet. It’s a good one to have. It’s a pain in the arse to get Smittekilde #8 but if you go on Daniel Milan’s web site you can order it.

Anonymous said...

hell yeah, sören is a brilliant drawer, 'n both his stuff for smittekilde & "gash(slab-o-concrete) is really worth checking out!
btw, mok nok=rawk...primitive RAWK!
"slugstorm" is essential listening material!

Gaspard Pitiot said...

Thank you Jacob for the link on your bolg.

Paleo said...

Wow, thanks for the great interview Agaühin, i loved the B& W comics pages.

and hey, does Mosdal's book mentions that Hank Williams died next to a pile of comic books?

the guy loved Little Lulu!

Anonymous said...