An Interview with Jim Goforth, Author of Sinister Cavan

Posted: June 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
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This was an interview originally done for a press kit for Axes of Evil. A series of unfortunate circumstances means that is unlikely to go ahead, but since I think it’s a pretty cool interview, rather than waste it, I will post it up here for folks to peruse if they like. A bit of an insight into my story in Axes, my metal background and why I have an appreciation for almost all forms of music.


AXES OF EVIL: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How and when did you start writing? What was the first thing you published?


JIM GOFORTH: I’m happily married with two children. My wife Elle is an artist/poet/ex-metal promoter and events manager among many other things, I have one four year old daughter Abigail and a two and a half year old son Felix, and a cat commonly known around the house as Eury (he is named after two ex-members from a classic line-up of the band Mayhem).
I’m a horror fanatic (in every medium-film, book, music, art), an extreme metal aficionado and a wrestling fan.
I write horror fiction and have been writing almost as long as I have been able to read. From a young age I was into crafting stories of all varieties in a massive cross-section of genres, but horror, my chief writing love won out. I essentially started writing, almost as soon as I could read. Creating stories of all sorts of phantasmagorical beasts, worlds, and settings was something I was into very early. I loved to read and I loved to conjure up things from my own imagination, I was always the kid in class who wrote the kind of things the teacher would choose to read out to the class. No doubt some of those kids went home and had nightmares about the creepy stuff being relayed to them, but to me it was great fun and that fun I first discovered in writing and bringing forth my various creations is something that has always remained for me. I used to write in a variety of different genres and dabble with an assortment of things of no specific boundary, although once I got hooked on reading horror fiction, I knew that was precisely where I wanted to concentrate my own writing on. I wrote two books more than twenty years ago, the first which was probably a little derivative of the horror authors I was reading-which I will probably never seek to have published-and the second which I wrote after discovering the work of the late, great Richard Laymon, the man who remains my chief influence to this day. Without much of an idea where to start in getting this one published I was sending unsolicited manuscripts off left, right and centre, so I ended up with a nice little collection of polite rejection letters. This of course, was back in the day before social media made things a lot easier to connect with the right market.
For a long time after minimal success finding the right spot to house the book, I put all horror writing on a lengthy hiatus while I went into different avenues, namely the creation and operation of Black Belle Music.
It has only been relatively recently that I have returned to writing horror and the very first thing I’ve had published is my debut novel Plebs.


My works so far


AOE: Axes of Evil is Diabolus In Musica’s homage to heavy metal music and horror fiction. What is your connection to heavy metal? Why did being in this book interest you?

JG: My lifelong passion for heavy metal is pretty much comparable with my obsession with all things horror, I grew up being a fond aficionado of both. In just about every interview I’ve done, I persistently make reference to the fact that horror and heavy metal go hand in hand and I’ll continue to do so, as it is most applicable to me and my writing. Music has always been an important part of my life and it’s always been around me, and growing up, I naturally gravitated towards the heavier end of the spectrum, starting with classic pioneers like Sabbath and Deep Purple. Ultimately this led me into all the genres, traditional, thrash, industrial, doom, you name it, culminating in the genres I revere most, black and death metal. I grew up as these genres were born, developed and evolved and for some casual metal fans who might like to say they went through a ‘metal phase’, for me, these forms of music are still the kinds of things I listen to today.
In that period where I was not writing, my wife and I created Black Belle Music, which was born as an entity to support, promote and bring attention to extreme metal, not just locally, but on a global scale. This initially was done in the way of interviews, articles and reviews for underground acts, unknown bands and up and coming outfits, as well as the occasional bigger name, the idea mostly being to steer away from the same names every mainstream media wanted to jump on and write about, in order to highlight all the other great metal artists that were out there plying their trade with little acknowledgement. Eventually that then moved into some distro and selling merch for bands on our site and putting on gigs and shows for local bands, often just a four band line up for evening or afternoon concerts, but more often than not it became ten to twelve band all day festivals. We reached the point where we had annual events that managed to run for several years before we finally called it a day on Black Belle Music. Over the period it was in existence several hundred reviews and interviews were posted, multitudes of bands performed at our shows and many a band actually got their live start through us, some of whom have certainly gone places or had members move on to form other bands that have certainly garnered a measure of success.
The reason I wanted to be part of Axes of Evil is simple. It is a twisted marriage of two of my greatest endearing loves, heavy metal and horror fiction, and when I became aware of its existence I was beyond keen to be involved. The concept is right up my alley, and though I did not specifically write my story that appears in it for the anthology, I already had it written and figured it would fit the bill.

AOE: Do you have a favorite band? Song? What was your first concert? Tell us about it.

JG: I have a vast array of favourite bands, predominantly in the black and death metal genres, though not exclusively. The likes of Satyricon, Mayhem, Darkthrone, December Wolves, Dissection, Emperor, Carpathian Forest, Dodheimsgard and those kinds of outfits are ultimates for me, but I don’t limit myself just to strictly metal. I’m also a massive fan of The Cult, Mortiis, Corporate Avenger, The Animals, The Doors, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains. I don’t have any one particular favourite song, but for the purposes of the question we’ll run with ‘In The Mist By The Hills’ from Satyricon’s classic ‘The Shadowthrone’ album. One of the greatest songs ever written. My first concert would have been many many years ago, I saw quite a few when I was pretty young, old Aussie band Goanna springs to mind. Can’t recall a great deal about most of these concerts when I was really young aside from the fact that I was into loud music from an early age and loved seeing it performed. I’ve attended loads of concerts over the years, and though it isn’t actually part of the question, the most memorable concerts for me have been Satyricon, Celtic Frost and Dismember, with an honourable mention to Mudvayne.

AOE: Was music an important part of your life growing up? What kind of music did your family listen to?

JG: Music was extremely important when I was growing up. It was virtually playing all the time, either on the radio, or my parents were playing vinyls on their record player, and later on we all had cassette players and eventually CD players. This is where I gained an appreciation for all forms of music and plenty of those things I was listening to as a kid, I’m still a fan of. My parents had a broad range of tastes and records, and there would be anything from Johnny Cash to the Animals and CCR, through things like the Drifters to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. My parents are both from the States so when they relocated to Australia they brought all the records they’d picked up over the years along with them and every single one of those vinyls was played multiple times in our household. There was fifties and sixties music playing, there was blues, rock, later on there was metal, just about any type of music got a spin and while extreme metal ended up being my prime passion for musical choice, all of these things I grew up listening to and enjoying shaped my enormous appreciation for music in general, irrespective of what genre or type it is.
Every member of my family had eclectic and diverse tastes with the likes of Kiss, Billy Joel, The Sex Pistols, John Rowles, The Smashing Pumpkins, Guns n’ Roses and countless others all having their own impact on each member. My love for music stems from these days and I consider myself supremely fortunate to have been exposed to so many types of music in a household that adored so much variety.


AOE: Your story dealt heavily with the concept of censorship and the rights of one person being more valid than the rights of another person. Your character Malcolm Miller was a classic “suer”. He was the kind of guy who knew how to manipulate the system to his meet his own agenda. We see a lot of that going on in the religious right wing. Your story is a scathing exposé of people like Miller. Tell us more about how that idea came into play in your story. Was there any particular incident that inspired you? What are your thoughts on censorship and individual rights?

JG: Malcolm Miller is a caricature, an overblown representation of those that condone censorship of various arts (Be it music, cinema, literature) and those that take it to extreme measures to ensure their actions silence those their ideals clash with. He stands as the most fervent of those driven blindly by a faith that his ideals are right and everything that doesn’t line up with that must be wrong. Obviously he isn’t a representation of all morals crusaders, more an exemplification of the most fanatical end of the spectrum and while Miller himself is just a fictional character, there are extremists out there willing to go to similar lengths to eradicate things that they don’t understand or can’t be boxed into their neat little pigeonholes.
No one single incident acted as catalyst for the story, but rather a whole bunch of things combined which led to its creation. I used to write song lyrics back when I was younger and I occasionally used the same themes that crop up here, the notion of one faction attempting to censor or destroy another’s work simply because it wasn’t aligned with their own beliefs and I long toyed with the idea of writing a story revolving around this.
Heavy metal music has been widely demonized and made a scapegoat, because it is an easy target for both political and religious groups to take aim at, and that’s been going on for a long time with the likes of Deicide, Slayer, even classics like Judas Priest, Twisted Sister and especially Marilyn Manson coming under fire from these groups for all manner of things. Newspapers and various media outlets are as guilty as any of those who jump on the bandwagon, pointing fingers and starting up a witch-hunt with heavy metal in their sights any time something happens with that form of music as even the most feeble connection. Condemning, persecuting and stereotyping metal music is not just an easy option for those who do it, but more so a lazy one, a reluctance to look beyond what they perceive as ‘the root of the evil’, the same as Malcom Miller does and discover that some other real issues might be at play.
With regards to censorship, it does have a place and a benefit; it would be illogical to expect that certain forms of it don’t exist for the better, but when it is done to extremes or to demonise something else and to suppress various things for the sake of appeasing one group, denomination or faction I don’t condone it, and when people such as Malcolm Miller appoint themselves as a medium to carry it out through outlandish measures, that’s when it can become a dangerous thing. The story itself was written relatively quickly, it was one I basically had entirely written in my head beforehand, unlike a lot of my work where I just start writing and often let the characters run with the ideas and see where they end up.

AOE: Nietzche once said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it in the process, he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Did that quote cross your mind when writing this? Miller became a monster. He let hate consume him. And yet in the end, he was willing to bargain for his life by renouncing his faith. But, the fact is that the band did become evil creatures. If Miller had not tried to kill them, would they have become evil? Or did his relentless pursuit make them that way? Even the gentlest animal is capable of violence if backed into a corner.

JG: This question actually contains spoilers, so for the benefit of those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the story I will mostly skirt around parts of it.
No, that quote didn’t once occur to me, not on any conscious level in any event, but it certainly is a most applicable one in the case of our mighty morals crusader Malcom Miller. Those he perceived to be monsters, or impure entities he was certain were responsible for all things evil in his society, and his unswerving unfaltering desire to crush them and obliterate the threat he’s built in his own mind has made him the real monster of the piece and it becomes irrelevant what shape or form the targets of his hatred take. They in fact choose to show him what he is looking for, what he thinks lurks behind human facades of those he hunts and it proves to be a catalyst in his mental unravelling. He has chased down many alleged monsters in terms of music and film and various mediums, conducted many a witch hunt with successful results for him and finally he runs into something that defies the boundaries of his beliefs and ideals, and he is in no way prepared for it to eventuate as it does, hence what ensues.

AOE: The editor of this book, Alex S. Johnson has spoken about you in terms of being one of his inspirations when it comes to writing. What advice have you given him? What advice would you have for a novice just trying to get started? What advice was given to you and who inspired you?

The same advice I give to most people, which revolves around the whole idea of never giving up, never becoming disillusioned with things. If you love to write, you will write. Things such as rejection, critical assessments both good and bad are going to come your way, it’s all part of the game and it is how you respond or react to all these things that will shape you. Though I have been writing for what seems like forever, in terms of published output I am really only a newcomer, so I’m always open to input and advice as well and by the same token I’m prepared to assist anybody who wants to have a listen to what I might have to say. Alex is a wonderful writer and I’m extremely flattered to be considered in any way an inspiration. I’m one of those writers who doesn’t overthink or agonise over my writing too much, I just write what I want to write and though it might not be ideal for everybody, it seems to run pretty well for me. I have learned plenty of things along the way through various editing processes about streamlining, restructuring sentences to make a story flow better, but for the most part I write and rarely tinker with something once I’ve completed it. Prior to actually having my debut novel accepted for publishing I hadn’t ever sought any advice or had any words from anybody in particular to point me in any sort of direction with how to write, I just wrote because I love it. That’s still the number one reason I write. For some it might become a task, a chore or a burden, for me, it is sheer pleasure. Again, it is like listening to heavy metal to me, I love it and I don’t see that changing any time at all.
Who inspired me to write, that’s an easy one. The late great king Richard Laymon. He wasn’t the first author that make me pick up a pen and try my hand at writing horror, since I had that book written which was a bit of a mashed up conglomeration of ideas derived from others I read, as I mentioned earlier, before I discovered his body of work, but he sure as hell was the one who altered and honed the way I wrote. He remains my greatest influence and inspiration in writing to this day.

AOE: There are plans for Axes 2 and 3. Do you have plans for participating? Have you come up with any ideas yet?

JG: I do indeed have plans to submit and potentially participate in both Axes 2 and 3. Being in Axes 1 was awesome, and the ensuing news that there were going to be further anthologies following the epic themes of horror and heavy metal combined, means, for sure I want to be involved in them all as well. I always have ideas churning, sometimes so many that I barely get the time to get them all out. Metal is something which is a regularly recurring facet in much of my writing, either as music referred to in the background, or the choice of listening for various characters, or in fact as a principal theme in a story, so I shouldn’t have much trouble melding metal with horror any time.

AOE: What are you working on now? When will we see it in print? Who is publishing?

JG: In terms of what will next be out on the market from me, there is a collaborative novel written by six authors (one of whom is me) entitled Feral Hearts which will be out in a couple of months. This will be published by J. Ellington Ashton Press who are also my publisher for Plebs. I also have a collection of short stories/novellas with them which will be out some time later in the year I would imagine; it is currently waiting to go into first round of edits.

As for what I’m working on at the moment, I am currently in the midst of writing two full length novels, one which is at 180k words and being only partially done will most likely need to be broken into two books. The original plan for this story was to have it in two parts anyway, but I hadn’t anticipated on it spanning out over two separate books. The other book I’m working on is around 100k and is the one I’m focusing most of my energies on to complete first. This is my first foray (bar a short story in my upcoming collection) into the realm of the undead, surprisingly I haven’t dedicated much time to the big business these days that is writing about zombies. Referring back to my previous answer where I mentioned that heavy metal often plays a part in a lot of my work, it is integral in this book considering the whole thing revolves around black and death metal scenes.
When these will see the light of day or which press they come out with has yet to be ascertained, but I plan to have the extreme metal undead-fest wrapped up very shortly. Among working on novels I’m constantly bombarded with an abundance of other ideas which don’t essentially fit anywhere in these works so I’m knocking out a few shorts as well.


AOE: If you could be any metal/rock star for one day, who would it be? (You can tell us why if you want to, but most likely it has something to do with getting laid a lot.)

JG: Layne Staley. So I can say to myself, no Layne, don’t do it!
In actual fact though, nobody in particular. After years of involvement in the metal scenes on various levels, I don’t really subscribe to any starstruck notions. They’re all just people, a whole lot of whom are down to earth wonderful people and a few who balance out the other end of the scale.

AOE: Do you have a favorite quote about music? Tell us and explain it to us.

JG: There are so many that I could fill pages upon pages, so rather than do that, we’ll take one from a guy in the business who isn’t just a shrewd musician, but a goldmine of classic quotes. Marilyn Manson. “Music is the strongest form of magic.”
Short, to the point and self-explanatory, and undeniably true, though I’d enhance it to add that writing is an equally powerful of magic.



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