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Interviews with Grant MorrisonBarbelith Interviews » Interview with an Umpire
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BY: We'll maybe change tack now. I was reading an interview - I just kinda dug out all my Grant Morrison stuff - God, that must sound really strange! - (laughs) - and there was a Fantasy Advertiser Interview -
GM: Remember that - it would come through the post; 'Fantasy Advertiser - what's this yer getting son?'
BY: Yeah I know - this is it! It's absolutely awful, the embarrassment!
GM: (laughs)
BY: My dad still has this disgust for comics - 'he said to me yesterday, cos I was down at my parents' house picking up these comics to read for this interview, and he said, 'I noticed you've started buying comics again' and I was like, 'Yeah, for research'. Y'know I've still got this incredibly immature relationship with my dad when it comes to comics.
GM: (laughs)
BY: I suddenly go all sort of teenagery.
GM: 'It was this other guy, he gave me them. He's ill, he's ill!'
BY: Aye!(laughs) Fantasy Advertiser, it was an interview with Mark Millar.
GM: (Turning to Kristan) Fantasy Advertiser - it was a wonderful paper!
BY: It was really quite a funny interview. It ended with you talking about your school days and that being fertile ground for a comic and I thought, okay, X-Men's veering in that direction, you've often talked about IF (film by Lydsey Anderson) being a big influence, I mean do you see it as an area you'd like to tackle outside the mainstream, X-Men or whatever? Actually tackle schooling as a subject?
GM: I just don't think anyone would believe it. It's become ridiculous now, it's like 'The War' when you try to explain to people what went on at school because it doesn't happen now. If the teacher wants to punish you they just have to send a letter to your parents - keep quiet or else - but back in those days we had guys who'd make us push the physics bench - these enormous 15 foot long benches - they'd just make the guy push it and push it he was exhausted and fell to his knees! (laughs)
BY: The teacher would do this?
GM: Yeah! The teacher would do that or they made another boy hold his hand over a bunsen burner flame because he couldn't answer a question and repeatedly punched him in the head until some kind of answer came out and then he just collapsed.
BY: It'd kinda changed by the time I started school.
GM: Exactly. Nobody believes that stuff - I mean our school went over from being a boys school to being a comprehensive when they disposed of all the old public schools, and half the teachers left, the sodomites, instantly disappeared out the door - just vanished completely. Disappeared into a rathouse somewhere.
BY: So it was really that bad?
GM: Yeah - it was like IF. That's why we loved that film so much. At the same time we were up to things like that, we sent two guys off with nervous breakdowns so it was pitched war.
BY: Yeah.
GM: And there was a time when there was actual war in the playground, a boy got his bollocks (laughs) ripped off with a chisel, a teacher was battered on the head with coal, everybody was just fighting in the playground - I've got that in the X-Men, a riot at Xavier's school.
BY: Do you see the riot as being influenced by your own experiences at school?
GM: The riot at Xavier's is just my memories of this pitched battle in the playground, the scholarship boys vs. the City Public kids, teachers were flinging themselves into the fray, everyone was caught up in the bloodlust - I remember seeing Mister Kelly the French teacher diving and bringing down a boy...(laughs) So it was terrible; you'd climb out the window and down the drainpipes and run away from school and go mental in the town...school was in the town.
BY: So this was Allan Glens...I read that in the Mark Millar interview...Allan Glens, does that not have a place in Glasgow's history, with a few famous graduates?
GM: (laughs) Dirk Bogarde.
BY: Seriously?
GM: Yeah, yeah, he was probably twisted into his bizarre shape by Allan Glens
BY: Initiated...
GM: (laughs) it was mostly people to do with science apart from Dirk Bogarde - I don't know if it did him any good. But it was a laugh y'know, it was just going home at night that was terrible.
BY: What, getting jumped on your way through town?
GM: No - just that it was boring - there was nothing to do - all my friends came from all over town into school so we'd only meet up during he day and cause trouble then and go home at night.
BY: Whereabouts were you going back to?
GM: Back to Anniesland. Above the Fine Fare!
BY: This is ridiculous! When I read that interview recently, the Sequential Tart one, you mentioned the flat above Fine Fare (a now defunct supermarket chain), and I was thinking about the Animal Man series you did, and the sequences up near Anniesland and I thought, 'I bet it was that Fine Fare in Anniesland....' (laughs)
GM: That's the one.
BY: Cos I used to live up next to the canal on Braeside Street and I used to walk along the canal quite a lot and it was really quite strange because I'd see all these landmarks from this local area of Glasgow in Animal Man!
GM: It's like Taggart! (laughs)
BY: (laughs)That was it! I could even hear the guitar chords from the intro!
GM: (laughs)
BY: Moving onto Glasgow now, I just wonder where you think Glasgow is-
GM: To Kristan: DO you want to get something to drink? What do you want? What is there?
Kristan: Tea.
GM: Apart from tea?
Kristan: Orange Juice?
BY: Do you not fancy tea?
GM: Not for me. They're evil.
BY: After reading the Hitler strip, what with all the tea-drinking going on, I thought-
GM: Nah, I'll never drink tea, or coffee. I'm really Straight Edge.
BY: Does Straight Edge take in tea as well?
GM: (laughs) - its does yeah; it's very rigorous!
BY: I smoke a lot and I heard these vague rumours that tea has cancer fighting properties
GM: You're safe there then!
BY: (laughs) I know! Smoke half an ounce a week and drink 10 litres of tea a week.
GM: As long as you balance it out - what's the cake? Yeah I'll have some cake.
Kristan: What are you having?
BY: It's this kinda Turkish pastry with loads of syrup and nuts.
BY: I was thinking of Glasgow as a Filthy city - I mean I love Glasgow, I'm from Helensburgh but Glasgow to me has always been-
GM: that's like Billy Connolly, 'I love Glasgow!..it's like a wee jobbie! -(laughs)
BY: I always thought of Glasgow as a very fictional city, it kind of mythologizes its events very, very quickly, its buildings become icons very quickly and are given nicknames. There seems to be a fictional aura about the city - a lot has been written about it - I just wondered - the track I was thinking along - y'know, Glasgow's got a history of dirt basically, it was a very high density city up until 1900 or so, people were living on top of each other, shitting on top of each other-
GM: You're painting a pretty picture! (laughs)
BY: Yeah (laughs) and it's reflected in the humour. We've had E-Coli, crypto-speridium-
GM: (laughs)
BY: Y'know, superbugs are born in the Royal Infirmary - this is the dirty city of Europe - I just wondered if any of this grime culture was an influence that fed into The Filth?
GM: Well of course. The Filth is just the final crushing acceptance of living here, in the dirt. (laughs)
BY: What? On Earth? Or-
GM: (laughs) - particularly in Glasgow, that part of the material world called Glasgow. And then we realised it is not quite as dirty as we thought cos we came back from being in Tokyo and Glasgow's really nice because there's so many trees here. When we came off the plane there was this surging oceanic breeze coming in from the west and suddenly Glasgow didn't seem so bad so I think its been overrated as a dirty city. It wants to be seen as dirty when in actual fact it's quite virginal, quite tremulous. Glasgow's very idealistic - See, we were talking about this, the sense of identity is immensely strong, no matter what happens to people, it's weird, there's no more industry.
BY: An identity, which is stronger than what there actually is!
GM: (laughs) Of course, it's way out of proportion to the number of people there are, or the actual appalling conditions of the place.
BY: Glasgow, is like, well, if we do a little diagram (a pie-chart), that's reality and it's surrounded by fiction - it's just a tiny slice embedded within all the fiction!
GM: That's why we can survive here. All the bands think they're living in New York and they know Andy Warhol.
BY: Aye! (laughs)
GM: And all the artists think they're from somewhere else. Everyone imagines they live in America. There was a big base up the road outside which my dad was always campaigning.
BY: Faslane - just outside Helensburgh?
GM: Yeah - there was a huge American influence here which people forget, which is why comics were immense here - they were accepted in my family - my parents really liked them. So everyone here is always bullshitting - that's what its all about. Bullshit - taking drugs and bullshit . All my friends don't have work. They're all talented, brilliant people but they don't work.

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