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Welcome again fellow Vagabonds. I have here with me today author and artist, Kent Evans. He is on tour for his new book A Crash Course on the Anatomy of Robots, his new Evans will talk about his new book, his love of music and more. There will also be a giveaway to one lucky winner. That lucky winner gets a Kindle copy of A Crash Course on the Anatomy of Robots and the album that accompanies the book. So let's get this started.
OBVB: Welcome to Offbeat Vagabond! To start things off, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
KE: I’m a young Asian punk poet rock star wannabe living abroad and caging my demons in paper cages to be unleashed on the brain-dead masses (laughs). Well that wasn’t at all douchey… Sorry, those answer the question?
OBVB: Which love came first; music or writing? And how long did you want to do both?
KE: Writing - by just a hair. I started constructing poems when I was around 12 or so, and started playing guitar and singing when I was 14. After that, it just seemed natural to try and combine the two when I could. I would say I had started experimenting with versions of poetry with music probably around the time I turned 19 or so.
OBVB: What artist or artists influenced you to start making music?
KE: When I was young Roger Waters, the Misfits, Metallica, the Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails had a huge musical influence on me. The first time I really got into Bob Dylan and heard Lou Reed New York was when I started to realize that I could find a way to incorporate my poetry not just as lyrics but as two different art forms that can complement one another. I sadly realize the irony in two of my younger heroes, Lou Reed and Metallica, having just collaborated to create what is perhaps the worst example of attempting this.
OBVB: What authors inspired you to write?
KE: I was a voracious reader at a very young age. I had plowed through all of Dickens, Stephen King, and a ton of classic Sci-Fi before I even got to high school. Once I got to prep school (Fairfield), I went through the equivalent of a Liberal Arts degree worth of the classics. All of this was great and really gave me the background to write traditional fiction and poetry, but it wasn’t really till University where I discovered writers like Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, and Hunter S. Thomson, that I really realized that I didn’t want to write staid literary exercises or stories about Satanic Alien Vampires for the rest of my life. Even now I am still finding writers I hugely admire. David Mitchell would be my current favorite. That guy can write his ass off.
OBVB: If you could write any genre besides your own, what would it be and why?
KE: Well, the fact is I have, and do write in many genres. I started with a lot of sci-fi and horror when I was in my teens, and in my twenties did everything from pop-culture pieces to corporate and academic. I guess I wouldn’t mind going back to writing something more fantasy laden, I was just so determined not to get pigeonholed back then. Genre fiction doesn’t give you much street cred. It pays the bills, but the literary community basically tries to ostracize you; which is totally unfair. Ray Bradbury was a great writer and a poet in any genre. They gave McCartney a Pulitzer for straying into the apocalyptic field. I don’t understand why they’re so rough on anyone that tries to do the opposite.
OBVB: What was the most challenging thing you had to face when getting publishing?
KE: Well, beyond the stock answer of nightmare endless agent queries and the brutal process of editing, I would just say time. I have a hard time letting go of a project till it takes flight or sinks. Because of that, until a work is out there or dead in the water, I find it very hard to move on to the next project and this drives me nuts. Throw in edits and waiting ages for a release date and by the time the book actually comes out you are your own worst critic and biggest detractor of the book. I actually read reviews and focus on the negatives nodding and cursing “YES, why the hell didn’t I fix THAT?!”
OBVB: A Crash Course on the Anatomy of Robots just released, can you tell us what it is about?
KE: The book is sort of a love song to being an artist, travel, the death of my parents, and disastrous relationships. The Crash Course bit comes from how the novel is arranged, which is thematically, rather than the more traditional chronologically. The robot bit refers to a perceptual anomaly in robotics. The uncanny valley is a statistically valley that occurs with certain humanoid objects. Basically up to a certain point, non-human things are more and more endearing the more human they appear (think the Smurfs, Yoda). Then right around when they are practically human there’s this mathematical nosedive where everyone just gets creeped out and disgusted by these things cause they are so close that all you see if how they’re not human (think that weird human Barbie chick). In the book, this is used as a metaphor for social interaction and a sense of loss in traumatized people – like Damien.
OBVB: What gave you the idea to tell Damien's story?
KE: Well, as I say in the book I am not Damien, but I suppose Damien is me. By that I mean he’s definitely got more than a little bit of me in there, but he’s more self-absorbed and aggressive – hard to believe I know. It’s fiction, but more than a few events of my own life have made it into the novel, though it would be a mistake to think that you’re reading a novel about me. It’s more like more the novel was inspired by certain events in my life.You could say my mother’s death in 2003 from cancer right before Malas Ondas came out, my fucked up relationships following it, and fleeing to Southeast Asia in 2006 would be the prime motivators. Damien’s struggle in the book was part of my way of piecing together what was happening to me. I came back from Asia sane again (the same can’t quite be said for Damien), and started compiling all my writing and notes from the time. Jillian Medoff, a fantastic writer and former professor of mine at NYU, helped me get through the initial attempts at forming the novel. Then I spent a good deal of time with my editor Carolyn Fireside battling away at drafts till we finally had something I think is pretty unique.
OBVB: You have a soundtrack that goes with the book, can you tell us what is on the album? What kind of music can we expect?
KE: I started writing the music with my experimental drum and bass progressive funk metal collective We’re Not Vampires. Me, Moises Ruiz and Benjamin Santana from Quantum, messed around with some riffs I wrote, and eventually started throwing a lot of spoken word into our shows. When we started talking about Robots coming out later this year I was already in the studio working on a soundtrack for Bermudan director Antoine Hunt. I had recruited Ramon Hernandez from Barro Negro and Mike Severens (Guanajuato Symphony and Tom Petty, among others) to bring in drums, bass and cello respectively. Moi provided some additional production, as did my best bro and longtime collaborator Kienyo (DJ Sujihno from Nossa).Once we started playing it just fell into place and seemed like a perfect fit for the Kindle version to best utilize both the technology and showcase myself as a multi-platform artist. When you buy certain versions of the novel electronically it gives you the option to hear those pieces narrated/performed with musical accompaniment. More traditionally if you buy a physical copy you can either download the album from all major distributors, or order a physical CD from Amazon. For a novel with Robots in the title it only seemed natural to embrace the benefits that come with new technology.
OBVB: You also have another book out, Malas Ondas: Lime, Sand, Sex, and Salsa in the Land of Conquistadors, what is it about? Is it a lot like Crash Course?
KE: Malas Ondas was about recovering from a relationship whilst discovering and self-destructing across Mexico. It’s similar in the sense that it is somewhat Autobiographical (much more than Crash Course in fact), and the story is told using multiple techniques (narrative poetry, email updates, and journal entries). Malas Ondas however is written as a chronological travel memoir relying heavily on narrative verse and covering roughly 4 months of time in one country. Crash Course, on the other hand, is structurally experimental and written in everything from 3rd person fiction to direct conversations with the reader and jumps back in forth in time over decades and several continents. I would say Malas is a good quick read on the plane or the beach, though hopefully not as insubstantial as the stuff you would usually bring on such trips. I would like to think Crash Course is something you might spend a bit more time mulling over, something more reactionary.
OBVB: We have seen plenty of confessional fiction books become a movie, can you see your book in that same category sometime in the future?
KE: Ha, well I suppose that I could in the right hands. I’m actually a huge film buff, and would love to be involved in something to that end. My fear of course is the fear of many writers, in how ones words are translated to the screen without employing some silly narration device, or simply losing the heart of the novel. I can already see myself getting all control freaky and wanted to act in, score, and direct the thing.
OBVB: Last but not least, do you have any of other projects in the works that we should be keeping our eyes open for?
KE: Well, the Original Soundtrack is out and available everywhere and we’re really proud of it. Not only along with the book, but on its own, I really think it came out pretty dope. Also, I’m touring continuously for the next two months throughout the Northeast, South, Texas, and West Coast so I would say come catch me at a signing. I’m going to be playing with music at a good deal of my readings for the tour starting September 18th in New York. I’ve got some great musicians like Carl Restivo (Tom Morello’s Freedom Fighter Orchestra, Rhianna), Drew Trudeau and Anthony Valenzisi (Lions of Judah, Sicboy), Laura Wilson (Gypsy Fiddler extraordinaire), along with some surprise guests who are gonna help me recreate and re-interpret the album. It gonna be a blast, be sure to catch us.
OBVB: Thank you for visiting Offbeat Vagabond. Hope to have you here again.
KE: Thank you, it was my pleasure.
Kent Evans Bio:
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