Ginger Nuts of Horror
Tim Dry is what might be called a true 'Renaissance Man'. His work spans a multitude of disciplines and outlets, from his acting work on such high profile genre films as Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi and XTRO, to his musical and mime endeavours with the 80s group Shock and the duo Tik and Tok. He is an award-winning photographer, has written two autobiographies offering insights into his film work and his upbringing and life so far and of course, he has written and published a number of short horror stories in various anthologies. With the recent release of the novella Ricochet through Theatrum Mundi at Spectral Press, he joins an impressive array of genre writers to grace that prestigious small press' roster.
GNOH: Phew! That's a lot of experience/creative output Tim. Have I covered everything there?
TIM: Pretty much! We can also mention the poetic techno music that I made with Georg Kajanus (from 70s group Sailor) under the name Noir in the 1990s. I returned briefly to making music from 2008 to 2010 with acoustic guitarist Mo Blackford under the name Timandmo. We christened it ‘Esoteric Pop’. We’ll gloss over earlier abortive careers as a graphic designer and a teacher of mime to cats!
GNOH: Tell us a little bit more about your background and how you progressed from film and music work, to the wonderful world of horror writing. Was it something you had always harboured a desire to do?
TIM: To be honest I don’t see myself as a horror writer per se but more as a creator of dark fiction. There are horrific elements to what I currently write certainly but I wouldn’t want to be ‘Genrelized’ (?) at this early stage of a new career journey. I was very good at art, English and English literature when I was at grammar school and I was always writing little stories, poems, thoughts etc and occasionally I’d attempt to illustrate them too. I started writing more and more prose pieces (calling them poetry gives them a status that they really didn’t deserve) throughout the 70s and ‘80s. Not for any specific usage but as a way of expressing visions and emotions that I couldn’t quite capture visually.
I already had the notion of a novel (or was it a stage play?) called Ricochet in my head by the early ‘90s but it was unformed and in retrospect also naïve and ill-defined but a seed was sown. Having been an art student I was drawn to the visual from my late teens and although graphic design was a wrong choice for me creatively I was nonetheless imbued with a latent sense of the possibility of being able to tell stories without recourse to the written word or dialogue. That’s why I became attracted to the art of mime. Back then, in the mid 70s, it was still a virtually unknown art form and to be honest nearly every good thing that has happened to me career wise stems from my training in mime and physical theatre - TV Commercials, my roles in Return Of The Jedi and Xtro, popularizing robotic movement with Tik & Tok and of course meeting Barbie Wilde at mime class back in 1977 and embarking on a journey together. It was through her that I was introduced to editor Dean M Drinkel a couple of years back. Who, having read some bits and pieces from what would become Ricochet, invited me to contribute to an anthology he was putting together called Demonology. That started the ball rolling and as my days of mime and music were receding writing seemed a very inviting way to express my creativity. I have stories out in three anthologies from Western Legends Press, namely N is for Nostophobia in Phobophobias, A is for Annis in The Grimorium Verum and O is for Onokentaura in The Bestiarum Vocabulum. My story FragileSkin Interview with Nybbas will be published in Demonology by Lycopolis Press this coming July. I shall be eternally grateful to Dean M Drinkel for his encouragement and for enabling me to be accepted as a writer of dark fiction.
GNOH: Do you have any weird and wonderful behind the scenes stories from the films you've worked on that you can share with us?
TIM: Having my whole body cast in plaster in a crab position for my role as the Alien in Xtro was an unforgettably horrible experience I can tell you! As indeed was the filming. The director seemed to be making it up as he went along with no real care and consideration for his cast. Which was a real contrast to the consummate professionalism of all those working on Return Of The Jedi only 2 or so months earlier. That was like being a cog in a vast, well-oiled machine and it was a joy to be a part of it, however hot, claustrophobic and uncomfortable it was on set.
GNOH: Did you find that your previous genre credentials carried some authority when submitting work to publishers?
TIM: My autobiography Falling Upwards – Scenes From A Life was republished by Bear Claw Books in October 2013 and this is how it happened. I was co-hosting a fortnightly film club in a designer hotel in Soho and one night this guy approached me afterwards and said that he owed me a favour. As I’d never met him I was confused and asked him to explain. His name was Paul Sutton and way back in 1983 he was a young lad of fourteen years and was a huge fan of Gary Numan and came to several of the gigs on Numan’s comeback Warriors tour. Tik and Tok were his well-loved support act. After one gig Paul realized that he had nowhere to sleep and so he bedded down in a ladies public toilet. He got arrested some time during the night and when asked for his name he told them that it was Tim Dry! Cheeky git! Nothing ever came of it luckily but thirty years later as an independent publisher he came out with a way to alleviate his guilt.
I don’t think my past held sway over a publisher’s interest in my writing but I think that my creative past goes some way to help gain interest in my work in terms of promotion. After all, it doesn’t matter a jot if you were in a few movies and sold some records in the past if your writing sucks.
GNOH: So, you've just released your first novella, Ricochet, through Spectral Press' Theatrum Mundi impression. How did that come about? Did you approach Simon Marshall-Jones (editor and owner of Spectral Press), or was it the other way around?
TIM: I only sent Ricochet to one other publisher and although interested he didn’t have the time to devote to it then. So I sent it to Simon Marshall-Jones as I liked what he’d published so far through Spectral Press and I’d met him briefly at a British Fantasy Society open night a while back. Simon got back to me only a few days later saying that he wanted it and as he’d just set up Theatrum Mundi as an imprint of Spectral he felt that my novella would fit perfectly. That was a very encouraging moment! Having spent so much frustrating time in the 80s and 90s trying to get positive interest from Record Companies and publishers for music that I’d made this was a breath of new and exciting air. Honest enthusiasm and respect for something that one has created is a very gratifying thing believe me. Thank you Simon.
GNOH: And can you tell us a little bit about the story? Is it pure fiction or is there an element of autobiography in there?
TIM: It’s 99% fiction but it is not one story. A fair amount of it is based on disturbing dreams that I’ve had that have woken me up with the fear or with baffled amazement. Ricochet is not a linear story that goes from A right through to Z. It careers from different time zones and locations with reckless abandonment! It’s a collection of vignettes from a world in decline or maybe one that is about to shift into a new state of being for better or for worse. The tagline is ‘Reality is just a fragment of your imagination’ and I’ll leave that here for you to think about! Some segments are short and some are long and in many ways it could be seen as a compilation of short stories but that somehow seems too conventional. It has already been compared by some to the works of William Burroughs and Hunter S Thompson, which is enormously flattering of course. I have not relied upon a Burroughsian cut-up technique anywhere but there’s a fair amount of stream of consciousness stuff in there alongside the dream-based content. It’s very much in the style of a book that I like to read myself, where nothing out stays its welcome and you can just dip in and out at your leisure without having to constantly remember where you were last time you closed it. If it was a movie (and who knows, maybe it could be one day?) it would ideally be directed by early Nic Roeg or Alejandro Jodorowsky or David Lynch.
GNOH: Ricochet has been described a 'stream of consciousness' story. Is this how you would describe your writing process, or are you more meticulous? Do you plan or just go for it?
TIM: Ricochet originally started off as something entirely different in structure. It was an audacious (well, to me anyway) idea for a novel about a portal, a man with OCD and two dead poets a century apart who hang out in a café in a mythical Paris. It started off ok but fairly soon I found myself getting bogged down with logistics and striving to create a satisfactory narrative arc and a conclusion to the tale. I think to be honest I was somewhat scared of the enormity of the task and so I decided to fragment it into bite-sized pieces and that freed me up to add in anything I wanted without explanation. That became the novella Ricochet. I’m pretty far from being meticulous in the things that I do to be honest but I do feel that I’m instinctive if not consistent. I’m not the sort of guy that can sit down and plan out his next venture in great detail before pen has been put to paper or hand placed upon mouse. I’m hoping that at some stage there will be a full length novel bursting out from my imagination like the face hugger from John Hurt’s chest in Alien but until then Simon and I are talking about a series of maybe 6 Ricochets which would enlarge upon some of Vol.1’s elements and mix in new ones.
GNOH: Do you feel that writing is your true calling now, or are you still pursuing your other creative endeavours?
TIM: To be totally honest my true calling is whatever I’m passionate about and excited by at any particular time. In the 70s it was painting and mime, in the 80s it was rock ‘n’ roll, performance and music and in the 90s it was photographic art, acting and more music. Now I find that writing is the sole medium that does stimulate and inspire me. One of the reasons is that I don’t need anyone else to help me create something. Everything comes from the right side of my brain onto the page and if all technology went tits up tomorrow I could still do it! Now, I have been lucky enough to be invited to participate as an actor in three cinematic projects in the last year and a bit. Two have come to fruition and I’m really hoping that the third will come to pass this year if they can get the funding. A lot of fans of the Sci Fi genre have asked me if I shall be involved in Star Wars Episode VII. Oh, I wish! Sadly it won’t be the case I know. I’m too old and too out of the loop now to be considered and to be honest, my Rubber Suit Days are long gone!
GNOH: Going back to your other talents, I notice that you have credits for photographing the likes of Mick Jagger and Joan Collins! How did those amazing opportunities come about?
TIM: I had a friend back in the 90s named Janice who ended up being Mick Jagger’s PR lady. Her boyfriend at the time was a playwright and I went along to see a Fringe production of one of his plays somewhere in South London in 1993. Janice knew that I had developed a skill as a photographer and so when I light-heartedly said to her that I’d love to photograph Mick sometime she said: “What are you doing next week?” So I was thus commissioned to take shots of him whilst he was filming a promo video for an early solo single in a disused gas works in the depths of East London. It was a nerve-wracking experience meeting and photographing someone whose career and persona I’d been obsessed by since I first saw the Rolling Stones way back in 1964 when I was 12 years old, but all the shots turned out satisfactorily (Ha!)
Also in 1993 I auditioned for a small role in the then upcoming film version of Steven Berkoff’s extraordinary play Decadence. I got the job as the result of presenting to him a quite spectacularly over the top audition piece of mine, which pleased me enormously as I’d long been a fan of his linguistic and physical theatre skills. We filmed for three weeks on and off in Luxembourg for tax reasons. Joan Collins was his co-star and so I took the opportunity in a lull between set ups to ask to take her picture and she willingly complied. What a natural beauty that gracious lady is and quite probably the very last of Britain’s Rank starlets too. I discovered that people are flattered if you are genuine in your desire to capture them photographically and if you’re charming, witty and aware of their needs you will invariably get a good result.
GNOH: Having worked on the other side of the film camera, do you feel that your knowledge of the process of filmmaking has diminished the magic of movies at all? Or do you still get carried away with a good film?
TIM: My modest involvement in the movie business absolutely does not preclude my love of a good film, however hard they may be to find in these days of reboots, Super Heroes and sequels etc! I LOVE to be carried away by movies. The most recent ones that did that for me were Interstellar, Grand Budapest Hotel, Under The Skin, Hugo, Paul, Birdman, Lucy and Nightcrawler. Maybe there’ll be more by the time this is read?
GNOH: And an obvious question I suppose, but what are some of your favourite horror films? What was the last movie that truly scared you?
TIM: To be totally honest (and this probably won’t be a popular point of view) I’m not a huge fan of horror movies as they have become. To me personally horror is not really some malcontent with issues wearing a mask and slashing squealing teenies to bits or torture porn taking place in a hostel/deserted and dank factory in Eastern Europe or people being turned into human centipedes. No, for me horror is more psychological, sociological and maybe metaphysical and to that extent I’d say that my favourite ‘Horror’ movies are (again in no particular order) Psycho, Se7en, The Exorcist, Sinister, Hellraiser 1 & II, Under The Skin, The Omen, The Ring, American Mary, Silence Of The Lambs, American Psycho, Devil, The 9th Gate, Lords Of Salem, Misery, 30 Days Of Night, Wolf Creek. The last time that I watched any one of those would be the last movie that scared me. Each for different reasons.
GNOH: And how about some of your favourite horror writers/books? Who inspires you, who do you admire?
TIM: Stephen King and Clive Barker in the main. Mr King is so good at creating real characters who speak with a real voice let alone the horror elements unleashed in his tales and Mr Barker has such a fevered, perverse and seductive imagination that his work is a joy to behold. There are several others too but those two gents are the main men for me.
GNOH: What was the last book you read that you loved?
TIM: I’m going to have to say books, as I can’t confine it to just one. Is that ok? [GNOH: Of course it is!] In no order of preference I’d say recently Paul Kane’s Ghosts, Barbie Wilde’s The Venus Complex, Stephen Volk’s Whitstable and Leytonstone, Sarah Pinborough’s Mayhem, The End Of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas, John Lydon’s Anger Is An Energy.
GNOH: And what was the last book you read that you hated?
TIM: I have never finished a book that I’ve hated so I’m afraid I can’t really answer that!
GNOH: Finally, what's next for Tim Dry? Do you have more forthcoming works and what are you working on just now, that we can expect from you in the future?
TIM: More Ricochets and other writings, some more filmic work maybe, selling some more photographic art, attending a few more Star Wars /Horror autograph conventions hopefully and above all earning some money!
GNOH: Massive thanks to Tim for taking the time to answer these questions (my very first interview!). It's been a truly illuminating and fascinating insight into someone who, I'm sure, will become a huge name within the genre community. And please take a look at my review of Tim's debut novella Ricochet here.