Neil Jackson & Post-Nearly Press…*How to Stab-Staple Alan Moore
Welcome to Emporium Purgatorio’s Artist’s Edition. Here we are exploring Neil Jackson’s imprint, Post-Nearly Press, particularly through the lens of his most recent work with Alan Moore, ‘Cometh the Moment, Cometh the Mandrill’.
We’ve all got our apocalypses in our heads haven’t we? And in times of a political vacuum, that’s when you get monsters emerging. Tyrants. Dictators ~ Alan Moore
Neil Jackson is an artist. Viewing any of the Post-Nearly Press conversations/collaborations in printed form it is hard to deny that. The art on his latest book with Alan Moore?
This phenomenal Alan Moore pencil?
Beautiful and eclectic art, yes?
However, if you were focusing solely on the pencils or lines themselves, you missed most of Neil Jackson…
But did you see the stab-staples? The simple color palette that is beautifully applied across the covers? Feel the texture and the ‘life’ of the paper those beautiful images are on? Those are Neil Jackson. The depth of thought and care taken with the words/inquires posed to the artists within the Post-Nearly Press catalog? Those are Neil Jackson. The gestalt from the combined tactility of these books with the conversations presented is truly a work of Art, on par with the artists he is speaking with.
Attempting to remain within the spirit of what Neil is presenting with the ‘Conversation Series’, Emporium Purgatorio is segmenting this Artist’s Edition into two parts:
- Part 1 presented here is an interview conducted with Neil Jackson via email that he was gracious enough to allow us pre-publication, in straight Q&A format in homage to Neil’s ‘Conversation Series’.
- Part 2 will follow up on many of the topics raised here, along with a more in-depth look at ‘Cometh the Moment, Cometh the Mandrill’, ‘Improving the Image of Destruction’ by Iain Sinclair, and the path Neil is traveling with his Post-Nearly Press imprint.
Neil Jackson was born in 1970 in Newcastle upon Tyne. That he still lives at his birthplace is yet another commonality he has with Alan Moore, along with their fantastic art. While Neil has a ‘day job’, you would be wholly unaware when reading his collaboration here with Alan. The conversation ranges from Maxwell the Magic Cat, to Jerusalem, to Moorcock and The Boroughs. It is fascinating, rewarding, and motivating in the best sense by striking some chords way down deep in the moral well.
Neil relates that Post-Nearly Press was begun in 2014 with no end goal other than a love of the process. I believe that this ‘purity’ of motivation for this and his others books can be seen and felt. With this being book 4 in an initially intended run of 5, I can only hope that Neil’s math is completely sub-par to his art, and there may be some more interviews forthcoming…
*With my writers’ need to write edified for the moment, I digress until Part 2 and will let Neil talk to you in his own, more soothing, voice…
EmpPurg: Neil, did you begin Post-Nearly Press with an end goal of transitioning away from your current full-time work?
Neil Jackson: I didn’t start [it] with an end goal, but I never thought of it as something that could earn me a salary. It might lead to something else, who knows, and that could be interesting . But I’m happy with Post-Nearly Press staying the way it is.
EmpPurg: With the two facets of work you do differing so much, are you ‘where you want to be’ putting energy into both?
Neil Jackson: I made a deal with myself, for now anyway, that it’s okay to have the day job as long as it doesn’t rule my life and I can do certain creative things outside it. Ideally I’d want to be in publishing or writing full-time. Even a small press like Post-Nearly takes up a lot of time. Not just activity-time, but thought-time. It surprised me.
EmpPurg: Did you ‘launch’ then seek Ian for your first book, or did collaboration come first?
Neil Jackson: Iain Sinclair is the major influence on the press coming into being. It was launched after I met Iain in Hackney in East London. A magazine I write for, Albion Magazine Online, had arranged for me to interview him. When that came about, I recognised it as an opportunity to do something more than just the required interview. I didn’t know what that thing would be. So when I met Iain, I tried to get as much material as I could – and I did get a significant amount. Later, I asked about the possibility of using this additional material. Iain said why not do a small, independent printed item. It was his way of saying “don’t just stick it on a blog”, I think! So the germ for Post-Nearly Press started there. The intention was to produce something for an event at the Barbican in London, the Iain Sinclair 70×70 finale. I went there, met Iain again, Chris Petit and a few others, but the book was late. It finally appeared about two weeks later.
EmpPurg: What is the relation of Psychogeography to deciding to be an Independent publisher?
Neil Jackson: It’s connected in the sense of me being interested in the subject, and so a lot of the culture and people that I’m into tend to be in that area. Psychogeography is a slightly ill-defined genre. Generally speaking I’d be happy to publish other things that had nothing to do with it. The thing is, with psychogeography, you tend to reach the point where everything has something to do with it!
EmpPurg: Do you see Post-Nearly growing and branching out with other collaborators, or even something unrelated?
Neil Jackson: I’ve realized I’d like to keep publishing in a printed form, and ideally to have some of my writing published by others. Some of it has been already, which is great and also a privilege. So I’d love to continue collaborating in that way. With the press, I’d like to reach five editions of the ‘conversations’ series and go from there. Alan Moore is number four. After that I’ve been thinking about an idea for a small, inexpensive literary mag called DRIFT. Mainly to use up the paper. That’s a half-joke. But it would be good to use some of the leftover paper!
EmpPurg: Did you treat Post-Nearly Press as a business, with full plan, research, etc?
Neil Jackson: I approached it in wide-eyed innocence and blundered through with no real plan whatsoever. At the beginning, anyway. I’m not for a second suggesting it’s a great method, but one thing it does do is get you moving. There was a feeling, in the early discussions about the press with Iain Sinclair, that it was going to be a case of learning why I’m doing it, and how I’m going to do it, by the act of doing it, and this is a theme that grew as time went by. Early on I didn’t have much of an idea why it had to be print-only, for example. Now I can think of several very good reasons. There’s a vague plan now, at least.
EmpPurg: Was there a specific area of getting the books to the end readers you wished you had given more thought in hindsight?
Neil Jackson: I spent too little time on the logistics of distribution – but Sarah, my wife, stepped in to save the day on that score, and has been as much a part of the press as I am.
EmpPurg: How did you approach and execute the launch of your first book in the series, ‘Improving the Image of Destruction’?
Neil Jackson: It was originally going to be sold at the Barbican, as I mentioned before, but it was late. I’m not sure it would have worked out that well at the Barbican to be honest. The first book has no mailing list of course. Now, I have a pretty good mailing list and most of those people will be interested in what’s coming out. At first, there was nothing like that. Iain suggested putting something up on his website, which is run by a couple of guys who admire his work. The response was good. That was the ‘launch’ I suppose. Then word of mouth starts happening; customers tweeting; posting etc; it goes from there. But to begin with, I had this pile of books and nobody in the world knew they existed. I do Twitter now, which has been a positive experience, and there’s the blog for Post-Nearly Press. So people can find it that way. I’ve been quite low-key on it with friends – I don’t want to seem pushy. Some have collected the books though. I’d quite like to do something at the London small press fair, or a book fair. The books have been in six or seven bookshops, but it’s a bit of a hassle dealing with shops. And they expect quite big discounts of about 40%. On the ego-side, it’s nice to walk into a bookshop and see your book on the shelf.
EmpPurg: Would you encourage others to follow your path so far, or a similar one?
Neil Jackson: Yes, of course. I’d encourage it massively. I feel there is a growing interest in small press printed items; possibly a backlash against the social media age. We might be witnessing the first depression of the digital age, and physical books – especially small press ones – are an antidote to that. I’d say to any prospective indie publisher: whatever you’re doing, there is an audience out there. It’s just a matter of numbers. Fifty people; two thousand; it just depends, but there will be people interested. I would definitely have collected the Post-Nearly Press books if they’d been someone else’s idea – that’s probably a useful test. The people who inhabit the print-publishing world are quite special, I’ve found, both producers and collectors. It’s not the shark pool that the internet can turn into.
EmpPurg: Was there an overriding motivation for publishing as an Independent? Such as the rumored pitfalls of larger publishers, or having complete artistic freedom/control?
Neil Jackson: I’m sure that other, larger presses, including major ones in the UK like Penguin, could run with the type of material I produce. Indeed, they do produce it. But it’s done in a more commercial way, with everything that entails. I was into the idea of being totally independent. You do have the artistic control, which is a nice advantage. I wanted to be free of commercial interests and advertising, even to the level of not seeking Arts Council (a UK organisation that awards grants) funding and having to display their logo everywhere, and meet their demands about what the press could and could not be associated with. When you accept backing, there’s usually a price. I wanted to avoid something where the reader finds out years later that it was connected to some larger, dubious organisation. I feel let down by superficially independent things that, it turns out, were under the control of The Man all along. I’d rather be smaller and cleaner, even if it means certain aspects (such as customer orders) are a little clunky. A lot of the reasons for doing the press are discussed in the books – especially the Chris Petit and Andrew Kotting ones.
EmpPurg: How have you/do you decide who you wish to collaborate with on a book?
Neil Jackson: It self-generates. The conversations series has become a kind of linked list, with each element containing a coded pointer to the next. Iain Sinclair led to Chris Petit and so on. I couldn’t do a book for this series on someone I didn’t admire a great deal, though. It would show through. I don’t want to pick one up in ten years and think: oh dear, that didn’t work.
EmpPurg: Is there a current artist you are speaking to or hoping to speak with soon?
Neil Jackson: Just an idea at the moment. It’s still a bit early to get things moving because I’m busy (and a bit exhausted) with the Alan edition. Readers could probably have a good guess at who the next one might be! Timing has to be considered as well. I like to have a decent gap between books – it seems in better taste to do that, and respectful to the people taking part.
EmpPurg: Is there a theme you carry throughout these four volumes so far? Have the interactions with each individual subject changed that thread or starting point at all?
Neil Jackson: There are definite threads that run through the whole series. After four books it’s become like a mini-universe of names and references that keep going round in orbit. Certain people keep cropping up, like J G Ballard; and psychogeography is always there, either directly or otherwise; the nature of written and visual content today; work and methods; these are all recurring themes. The four subjects all share a lot of common ground artistically, so it’s no surprise.
EmpPurg: Do you then relate the materials used to make the books to the individual artist?
Neil Jackson: I relate the covers and the colors to the artist, and usually these just come to me during the process, or after I’ve met them and recorded the conversation. The Alan Moore was always going to be green for some reason, but the title came after meeting him. The type of paper is greatly important to me – I like to change it slightly every time, to make the items a bit more interesting as a collection. I’m aware that these books will hang around on people’s shelves or tables, often as a complete set – I wanted a coherent image. That’s why the format stays the same, even though the cover images are very different. I’ll not keep the same format for DRIFT, however.
EmpPurg: Is there a general dynamic from which your books and interviews spring, or you wish to take the interview/collaboration?
Do you steer the topics towards that dynamic, or let it stray even if it’s far from original thoughts?
Neil Jackson: I always go in with an ‘anything can happen’ attitude. Dynamics emerge on the day and you just have to roll with it. Thankfully nobody has ever turned up in a really foul mood! Quite the opposite – I’ve been fortunate. It’s always done on the understanding that the person in question can take the conversation wherever they want, but I prepare notes and have an idea of what I might discuss. Everyone’s a bit different. Iain and Chris tended to answer questions directly. Andrew and Alan were inclined to take things off on a tangent. One isn’t better than the other – it’s all fascinating. I’m always amazed by how generous they are, but these guys are authentic artists; they see the worth in a project like this.
EmpPurg: Juxtaposing the many commonalities of the artists you may have already been aware of, are there others you may have found or found surprising?
Neil Jackson: Iain Sinclair described the series as becoming like a novel, which is an interesting way of viewing it. There are characters and stories; the characters are interwoven; the tales emerge. I thought the Andrew Kotting book was very like that on its own, but I hadn’t applied the idea to the series as a whole until recently. Iain himself is very much there in terms of commonality: like a cultural lodestone for the other three.
‘Cometh the Moment, Cometh the Mandrill’ & Alan Moore
EmpPurg: How did you decide you wanted to work with Alan?
Neil Jackson: Alan was on the radar from the first book onwards. It was only ever going to be a question of: would he do it? As it turned out, he’d acquired all of the Post-Nearly Press books by the time I asked. I wrote a letter and he phoned unexpectedly one day – a Saturday lunchtime – saying he’d like to do an edition of the series, and on that call he told me, in that extraordinary voice: I’m a sucker for anything stapled.
EmpPurg: Did you feel you were covering new ground?
Neil Jackson: Jerusalem was just about to come out, so yes, that was new ground. And the Arts Lab stuff and Alan’s return to locality and poetry is a fairly new direction. I hope we covered something new – I like to think we did – but you can’t always know whether someone got there first. This is part of the reason why these books come from long, face-to-face conversations. A conversation is unique; it’s a thing of its time; on a particular day, during those exact hours. With an email interview, things are asynchronous. It could be started on Tuesday and finished off on Sunday, then on the next Wednesday the first three answers could be changed. The Post-Nearly Press conversations books are, as much as they can be, as-live. And they’re going to be up there alongside the longest interviews these people have ever given.
EmpPurg: Were you consciously approaching new topics with a different perspective?
Neil Jackson: One of the most inspiring perspectives for me was Alan’s take on his early years as an artist and how he conquered a fear of rejection. Also, his take on the success that came his way was illuminating. Moore on people like J G Ballard and Chris Petit is not something you read every day, so it was great to get some good material there.
EmpPurg: What were the actual logistics of getting together with Alan?
Neil Jackson: A couple of people (Andrew; Iain) had sounded Alan out about doing the book, and I’d had encouraging feedback. I was given his address and home phone number. Alan, as I’m sure everyone knows, doesn’t ‘do’ email or mobile phones. I wrote him a letter and about a week later he called me. We arranged a day to meet in Northampton; I phoned him a few weeks later to confirm; that was it really. I guess it all comes down to a simple yes or no.
EmpPurg: Is the title, ‘Cometh the Moment, Cometh the Mandrill’, wholly your thought, or was Alan involved?
Neil Jackson: I chose it, but it came from something Alan recited in the conversation. I always run the title past whoever is the subject, and they also have approval on the content. Iain changed his title slightly. So did Andrew. Alan and Chris were fine with my suggestion. In this case it’s from Alan’s performance with the Northampton Arts Lab people, playing a fascist mandrill dictator.
EmpPurg: There seems to be two main camps when Alan’s name is broached: sycophantic or animosity. You seem to have an appreciation for Alan and his work without picking a side?
Neil Jackson: Of course. I don’t go in for superlatives too much, but Alan’s work is amazing. And as a person, I really can’t speak highly enough of Alan Moore. He’s a great man.
EmpPurg: Did you at all evaluate your questions within that paradigm of angel or devil? Meaning, was there conscious thought into whether your dialogue with Alan was ‘appropriately deferential’ to the subject of your book, or whether you may have treaded more carefully than if it were not him?
Neil Jackson: I didn’t evaluate the questions other than trying to make them interesting and relevant. My aim was to not make Alan go over the same old ground all day. Huge respect to him for doing it, and indeed for anybody who gives up their time to see me, but Alan wouldn’t want people fawning over him, and I wouldn’t be minded to do it anyway. I already knew from other people that Alan was a grounded guy – he’s also really funny in person and extremely witty and quick, as you’d expect. What came across in the conversation, and it’s in the book, was just how careful Alan has been to not become the kind of person who expects or requires sycophantic reactions. He has something to say on that.
…if it’s a cultural vacuum, maybe you can have some sort of totalitarian art fascist emerge. And it would probably be a mandrill. The mandrill is the most beautiful and terrifying thing in creation… ~ Alan Moore
*the following is an excerpt directly from Neil Jackson & the Post-Nearly Press site
“The range of work covered by Alan is vast and utterly compelling, from St Pancras Panda to Jerusalem via topics as diverse as Mark E Smith; Ballard; Moorcock; a journey from the Arts Lab to Apollo, by way of The Boroughs. Huge thanks to all those who have taken such a great interest in the series so far. Below is a brief, slightly edited extract from this new edition, with Alan discussing a recent performance as our titular mandrill…” ~ Neil Jackson
“We’ve all got our apocalypses in our heads haven’t we? And in times of a political vacuum, that’s when you get monsters emerging. Tyrants. Dictators. So if it’s a cultural vacuum, maybe you can have some sort of totalitarian art fascist emerge. And it would probably be a mandrill. The mandrill is the most beautiful and terrifying thing in creation; a baboon with a devil mask. I saw some footage of a leopard stalking in the long grass, creeping up on a mandrill that was sitting with its back to camera. The leopard must have made a noise. The mandrill suddenly turned round, and you could see the moment when the leopard realised it had made a really huge mistake. The mandrill was after it, with those beautiful blue flashes on its face, the teeth bared. So the dictator I imagined would be a mandrill. At the end of the gig, the compere is about to introduce the next act when a bunch of black-clad paramilitaries get onto the stage, cut the throat of the presenter, and announce we are now under mandrill law. At which point a siren goes off; the lights flash, and I enter – I’ve been hiding upstairs the entire gig – wearing a beautiful three-quarter length satin frock coat, with golden boots with wings on the heel. My strategy was to have different costumes and eventually accumulate a brilliant wardrobe. So I took to the stage as a mandrill. Fully made up. It worked pretty well, I have to say. I was a pretty good mandrill.“ ~ Alan Moore
Joe Brown & Alan Moore on Soundcloud.
The light of burning corporations will repaint the sky in grenadine.
There’ll be billions of banners and Art Nouveau butterfly bombers like this world has never seen before.
We’ll march on ugliness and stupidity.
We’ll make loveliness compulsory. ~ Alan Moore, Joe Brown & Arts Lab Northampton
This feels like the appropriate time to step away from our talk for the time being, with Neil telling us that “Alan has something to say”. Because Alan does have something to say. And so does Neil. So I respectfully request that you seek out what that something may be, and see if there are still copies of ‘Cometh the Moment, Cometh the Mandrill’ at Post-Nearly Press before Part 2 of this incredibly enjoyable conversation with Neil is published. In this follow up, Neil and I explore the actual mechanics responsible for the physical creation of these books, i.e., Indie Publishing, along with coloring in more of the Post-Nearly history to date and the amazing artists involved…and certainly more Moore.