Turns out, being a rock star and a being a comic book writer aren’t that different… At least where The Dandy Warhols’ lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor is concerned. The alt-rock superstar has spent years working on his graphic novel opus One Model Nation, and after fits and starts, his collaboration with alt-comics superstar Jim Rugg is finally available in unabridged form.
The comic tells the story of One Model Nation, a band somewhat accidentally swept up in the massive social change happening in Germany during the late ‘70s. In a greater sense, though, the book is about exactly what happens to artists in tumultuous nations all the time, including, you know, America. Right now.
We chatted with Taylor-Taylor about the book, how he became a Germanophile, and also, just a little bit of what’s going on with the next Dandy Warhols album. Plus, if you read to the end there’s a special message from Taylor-Taylor to you, the fans! Don’t skip ahead, though, that wouldn’t be fair:
MTV Geek: It’s been a long road for One Model Nation... What’s it like to see it back in print now?
Courtney Taylor-Taylor: I got to "fix" a lot of little things that have been hard for me to get my head around on it so that's always an amazing feeling. Also getting the all the "making of" and commentary out there is nice as well. All in all it’s like great.
Geek: What was the first germ of the idea?
CTT: I’m gonna have to go with pot, chuck. Just spending a Thanksgiving weekend together in Woodstock will lead to all sorts of ideas and things. Of that and many other weekends ideas together this was the one had enough substance to actually compel us into a ten-year journey to completion. It started with, "why are all the cool music movies about hip hop?" And somehow ended up in....um, 1977 Berlin?
Geek: This is my own ignorance, but it seemed like beyond the celeb cameos, there were probably some analogue characters here in the book, and I have no idea who. Any hints?
CTT: Oh there are just a shit ton of my friends in it. Besides Zia who has one page before she gets blown up you wouldn’t know any of them. The guys in the band are actually the guys who made the record and their personalities in the book are actually how they feel and act. I’m not a good enough writer to fake that kind of thing so that was kind of a character believability safety net.
Geek: It seems like a fair amount of research went into getting the time period right; is this something you’ve always been interested in, or did it just crop up with the project?
CTT: Donovan and I were both teenage Germanophiles. Bowie and Iggy were too so we were at an impressionable age when Kraftwerk and Nina Hagen were on fire. Cable TV was new so there was a need for content so really cool stuff showed up at 2 in the morning. Google an early cable show called "nightflight". Anyway. Neither of us had really thought bout it since then so it was pretty fresh to us again.
Geek: Do you see any parallels with the setting in OMN to the current day situation?
CTT: Well sure. Politics are always the crappiest mess and people get pissed off when they find out just how crappy it really is. The difference with OCCUPY seems that we now know that blowing people up just makes it worse so we're starting out this round with non-violence. We’ll see how it goes since this first round has played out.
Geek: One of the... I don’t want to say funnier ideas, but that comes close, in the book was that all the band wants to do is play their music, and aren’t really overtly political. Is that how you feel about your music? Or is that totally off base?
CTT: Yeah that’s how I feel about everything. Politics are so out of the league of reality that I don’t know where to start. Nobody does. I have to make decisions that affect like 7 people in their real lives and I’m frozen with fear of being wrong and seriously fugging up their lives. What kind of sociopath thinks they can make decisions for whole states or nations? And then add to it that the oil companies are most likely our real political decision makers. Fuggit. Make music or film or dental fixtures or whatever you can do to benefit real people's REAL LIVES but don’t let that strata of douchebaggery affect YOUR real life unless you are a player in it.
Geek: I’m always curious about how you approach music in a graphic medium like comics because, you know, you can’t hear it. How do you think it works in OMN? What’s your approach?
CTT: Oh, it just needed to look powerful but understated. I let Jim geek out only in a couple frames, the rest is about lighting and making it clear that these guys are going about their artwork and don’t need to be entertainers. I certainly wasn’t gonna have "blang kabonnnnggggg" and that silliness all over Jim’s beautiful ink.
Geek: Without spoiling too much, you leave things a little ambiguous in the ending. I have a pretty clear idea in my head as to what I think happens, but do you have a definitive answer? Or is it up to the reader?
CTT: Not tellin. Yet.
Geek: Hm, mysterious… Having tackled comics once, is it something you’d want to do again?
CTT: I’d actually like to take this story and adapt it to Roman times, the Civil War, and The War of the Roses and the Battle of Troy. Oh yeah and Hamlet. But we'll see. I just really needed to get this one off my chest and that’s about it.
Geek: Not too ambitious, right? Okay, totally unrelated... How cool was it to do the new Mythbusters theme? Totally cool, or extremely cool?
CTT: It was totally cool until we actually heard it on the show...HOLYSHIIIIIZZZZZZIIIIITTTTT!!!!!! Then it was EXTREMELY cool.
Geek: Lastly, can you tell us what’s going on with “This Machine”? Is it still coming out in February? Any teases about the album you can give us?
CTT: Looks like April will be the release date. Got alotta work to do between now and then. Make some films and remixes and b-sides (read bonus tracks) but I can’t wait. We keep getting told this is our best record since...blah blah blah. Its very guitar centric and it is my favorite record. It slays.
Thanks so much for checking in on OMN. Love and peaces, C.TT
One Model Nation is now available in bookstores and comic book stores everywhere from Titan Books. Oh, and a bonus for reading all the way to the end, here’s a special message to you, the reader, from Courtney Taylor-Taylor:
‘CHECKITOUT if you cut and paste these words: “ONE MODEL NATION ANIMATIC" into YouTube, there's a two minute-ish scene that really delivers what the vibe of the book is.’