IFP: Can you tell our residents a bit about yourself?
SL: I am a musician, artist and publisher, and together with John B. Ford and Clive Jones, have been running Rainfall Records & Books since late 1992. We have produced over forty books and CDs and published over one hundred chapbooks, many of which are Lovecraftian in nature, including Lovecraft’s Disciples, E’ch Pi El and Cthulhu’s Creatures. Through the years, I have done artwork for hundreds of fanzines and magazines, and have also illustrated many books, CDs and record sleeves.
IFP: How did you get your start as an illustrator?
SL: I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pen. I first discovered fanzines and the small press way back in the early 70s, through the pages of a magazine called ‘Science Fiction Monthly‘, and it wasn’t long before I was contributing my own artwork. My first published piece of art was in a magazine called ‘News From Bree‘ in November 1974 and I’ve been contributing to small press magazines ever since.
IFP: What draws you to horror?
SL: I am a big fan of all ‘Psychotronic’ movies, but, having just organised my video and DVD collection, I have realised that over 70% of it is horror. I think what draws most people to horror is, in the words of the Bob Calvert song, We like to be frightened.” Whether it’s Christopher Lee rising from his tomb in an old Hammer classic, zombies gnawing on human body parts in a Romero film, or angry Asian ghosts lurking in the shadows, we love to watch movies about that which lurks in the darkness without, or the darkness within. Basically, I just love a good monster movie!
IFP: What scares you?
SL: I saw The Exorcist back in the 70s. It was my first visit to the cinema to see a horror movie and, thanks to all the fuss and hype surrounding it, I was already scared before the movie had even started. For the first half hour, I sat there in nervous anticipation, dreading the horrors to come, but when all the demonic possession began, I found it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been expecting. Still, for whatever reason, the film scared me. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another movie that scared me. It manages to keep you on the edge of your seat and on the edge of your nerves throughout. Although there is little actual gore, your imagination fills in the gaps and, as I learned from watching The Exorcist, your imagination is far more potent than any on-screen splatter. The soundtrack is excellent, as well, and the horrible screeching and screaming add to the horror of the situation. More recently, I have been watching some of the Asian horror movies, such as Ring, A Tale of Two Sisters and The Curse, and these are extremely creepy and disturbing and far more interesting than the uninspiring stuff Hollywood is making these days.
IFP: How did you discover Lovecraft?
SL: I first discovered Lovecraft back in the early 70s, when I was a teenager. This was a great time for buying books, as the shelves of the High Street bookshops were filled with titles by such authors as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur Machen, Frank Belknap Long, Lin Carter, Michael Moorcock, L. Sprague De Camp, Fritz Leiber, John Jakes, and many others, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I collected all the Lovecraft and Derleth paperbacks issued by Panther – many of which had cover illustrations by my favourite artist Bruce Pennington, who also did the wonderful covers for Panther’s Clark Ashton Smith collections: Lost Worlds, The Abominations of Yondo and Genius Loci. I still read all these authors today and still collect Bruce Pennington cover art.
IFP: What keeps you coming back to Lovecraft?
SL: I just love these tales of cosmic horror, where mankind is just an insignificant mote in the universe and alien creatures dwell in the spaces ‘inbetween’. These creatures aren’t so much evil as uncaring. Lovecraft’s vision of the Mythos was far more bleak than the one Derleth created with his notions of Good and Evil. I also enjoy the gradual unfolding of the story as (the doomed) narrator slowly pieces together the awful truth before invariably confronting the eldritch horror and going mad or dying. It’s become a well-worn cliché now, but I still find these type of stories enjoyable. It’s a wonderful time to be a fan of the Mythos, as well, as there are some great writers working in the genre and countless books and anthologies being published all the time. Even so, it’s still good to go back to the source occasionally and read some H.P. Lovecraft!
IFP: You’ve got something of a musical side. Can you tell us about that?
SL: I have been playing in bands since the late 70s. My main band is Stormclouds and was formed in 1986 and has had three female vocalists to date. We have released five albums. I also produced the Strange Aeons and The King in Yellow CDs. Strange Aeons was a double CD album of music and poetry inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. The King in Yellow was an album based on Robert Chamber’s King in Yellow stories and the mythos which has grown up around them. I also wrote a number of songs (as well as providing all the cover art) for two albums by Childe Roland titled ‘At The Mountains of Madness & Other Weird Songs‘ and ‘Underground‘. I still play the occasional gig with my punk band The Chaos Brothers and an acoustic version of The Doctor’s Pond does occasional gigs also.
IFP: Do you listen to music when you draw?
SL: Yes, I always listen to music when I draw or paint. It is always music I am very familiar with, and I usually pick one artist and play their albums in chronological order. That way, there is no decision to make on what CD to play next. Generally, it’s Bob Dylan or Neil Young, but can be T. Rex, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Cramps, Hawkwind, or any other of my favourite bands.
IFP: What are you working on right now?
SL: I am always working on several different projects at once. Artistically, I am working on illustrations for a forthcoming Rainfall Book titled ‘The Night Eternal‘. This is a W.H. Hodgson/Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy and should be published in the late summer, and is written by myself and John B. Ford. When completed, it will have over thirty full-page illustrations. I’m also working on cover artwork for the chapbooks Sorceries Gnydron #1 and Three Shrill Notes the Pipe Uttered, and the CD art for the new album by The Doctor’s Pond. I have just completed the cover art to Strange Detective Stories #1. Musically, I am working on material for the second album by The Doctor’s Pond, called ‘Swampadelic‘, and I’ve also started work on songs for a new Stormclouds album titled ‘Waiting For Oblivion‘.
IFP: If you could be a Lovecraftian creature or character who would you be and why?
SL: I’ve always held a fascination for the sea and its mysteries, so I’d probably like to be some sort of Deep One. I’d say Cthulhu, but he spends most of his time dreaming and sleeping (which actually doesn’t sound too bad, now I think about it!). Perhaps it would be Cthulhu, though, as the themes of death, dreaming, sleep, and the ocean recur again and again in my songs for Stormclouds. So, Cthulhu it is, then! Or maybe Dagon….