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A Psychedelic Guide To Monsterism island

Artist Pete Fowler Talks About The Sights And Sounds of Monsterism

A Psychedelic Guide To Monsterism Island is the second compilation by Pete Fowler – the artist behind the Monsterism range of designer toys and the man who created the LSD-drenched visual image of the Welsh psych-rockers Super Furry Animals. Suffice to say that it's a strangely beguiling moog-soaked sonic trip around Monsterism Island, with tracks supplied by the likes of Circulus, Gruff Rhys and Jonny Trunk (whose contribution is streamed below), not to mention some uniquely twisted tour-guide narration from one of its strange inhabitants. Here, on the eve of the album's release, Pete talks exclusively to Dazed Digital about monsters, owl men and starting his own religion... 

Dazed Digital: What’s so satisfying about creating an alternate universe?
Pete Fowler:
 I think it’s about having control really, it’s a place where I can just go crazy and throw in all the things I’m interested in, which is kind of the antidote to working to a brief on commercial projects.

DD: When did you first become interested in monsters?
 I remember reading a book about monster hunters when I was a kid, people who were looking for the Loch Ness monster and that kind of thing. I was always into ghosts and the supernatural – creatures that perhaps didn’t exist or that were rumoured to exist. Everything has been kind of a knock on from that.

DD: What’s your favourite mythological creature?
 I like really local and quite recent things, like the Owl Man of Mawgan in Cornwall. That whole myth was started when an enormous owl startled a young girl. From that point on, loads of people started saying that they had seen this enormous owl creature, too. Apparently, as it turned out, it was an Eagle Owl. I like that though, I like that even though you know what it was, this whole story about this enormous owl gets created that then goes down in lineage and winds up as myth.

DD: That’s pretty much what Scientologists are up to with their stories of ghost-harvesting aliens isn’t?
PF: (Laughs) Yeah. I find it kind of amazing that people have actually gone for Scientology; I mean Scientology is basically the film Battlefield Earth. That’s not been exaggerated by Hollywood – that’s actually what they believe in!

DD: Is that the one with the giant insects?
 No. That’s Starship Troopers, which is a top film, but it’s on the same level as that. In fact, Starship Troopers is probably a documentary compared to Battlefield Earth!

DD: Do think there would be a religion on Monsterism Island?
Recently, I ‘ve started thinking, kind of half seriously, about starting up my own religion – because you kind of can can’t you?  Like The Church of Subgenius – where they created the world of Bob and predicted the end of the world. When the world didn’t end they stuck to their guns and said it had ended, because the world of Bob had ended. I love that.

DD: So, how did you go about choosing the artists for the album?
Certain artists on the album are friends of mine and we share sort of similar attitudes, people like The Super Furries, and that extended to a lot of artists on the compilation. The psychedelic tag is a bit of an umbrella one, I mean sometimes the best psychedelic music comes when easy-listening artists have a moment when they go, ‘Let’s go psychedelic!”  

DD: Who is the narrator?
Paul Litchfield, who is part of a comedy trio called The Trap. He is actually one of the writers on an animation we are working on at the moment. Because this album is about a place we thought it was nice to have a narrator hinting at certain things, without saying too much.

DD: It’s a little like Ogden’s Nutgone Flake…
PF: Yeah, Stanley Unwin – what a genius, and it was real genius of The Smallfaces to get him involved, That’s an album that still sounds great. There’s a lot of psyche that hasn’t dated so well.

DD: So, there may one day be a Monsterism film?
I’ve always wanted to do my own cartoon series and we are talking to a big broadcaster to make a kids TV show, but I can’t say too much because I don’t want to jinx it. But everything I do – from the music project to the illustrations – all of it goes into this cartoon, although it’s not going to be a Monsterism thing, I want to keep that for an older crowd.

DD: Well Monsterism is pretty trippy...
Well, people say that, but I think that for me, it’s more about creating a sense of wonder and childlike play.

DD: Is there a yearning for a sort of innocence in there then?
 Yeah, I think there probably is a yearning for perhaps a simpler and different world, I think the world of Monsterism Island is a kind of reaction to the way the world is. It’s like a way to filter the things in the real world, not by taking out the bad things, but maybe by having them dealt with. There’s a sort of balance there of cute and evil, and perhaps the cute is a stronger element in there to overcome the evil. 

DD: And finally, you must be happy to be working with The Super Furries again?
I’m really happy, I can have crap going on my life but as soon as I am working with SFA it makes me really happy. Tanaami did the last record and that was totally cool. I mean, it was never a given that I would do every album… we never wanted to turn into Iron Maiden and have our own Eddie on every cover! Whenever I do something with SFA, I always want to do something new, and this time round they said what about collaboration with Tanaami. That was amazing because he’s a really big hero of mine. Once the communication was up and running from here to Japan it became a really cool thing to be involved in, and we have come up with two quite different sets of images that have blended together. There is talk at the moment of an exhibition of them at Paul  Smith in Tokyo, which is really exciting.

DD: Was it strange to collaborate, given that you spoke before of control?
 It’s is quite challenging collaboration, because you have to leave a lot of stuff at the door, but I’m just starting to get my head round the fact that to push your work in a new direction you need to work with others… with a different creative voice that can kind of harmonise with what you are doing. Tanaami and I were singing from the same hymn sheet, even if it was in a different language!