"Revert is an absurdist with dirty hands and a dirty mind, willing to take words to weird places to make you laugh when you shouldn't - and yet still do."
Kris Saknussemm, author of Zanesville, Private Midnight and Enigmatic Pilot
By Matthew Revert
Praise for A Million Versions of Right:
"Reflecting on these stories, I’m reminded of the enjoyment I take from thinking about literature. As I read through this book, I kept chuckling to myself over the content, but for quite a while considered the ideas or concepts Revert was trying to communicate. I’ve come to the conclusion that Revert has successfully found the recipe for a great read: fun, thought-provoking, and relevant."
"The stories in Matthew Revert’s A Million Version of Right lurch along at a gravitas-defying rate. From the Freudian psychosis of the title story to the dystopically self-reflexive “Bookmark That Didn’t Work,” Revert’s Antipodean styling is a shot in the arm to weird writing everywhere."
"My favourite story (The great headphone wank) involves a couple addicted to the sexual noises emanating from a set of headphones purchased by her for him to help him sleep while listing to music, providing her with her much-needed silence. This is a brilliant study in nihilism and even addiction of sorts and the lovers have to come to grips with events that have taken them over, somehow never letting go of their dominating ennui in the process. I can honestly say I loved this story. It reminded me of Martin Amis’ Let me count the Times, one of my all time favourite short stories. High praise in my world."
"Australian writer Matthew Revert purposely disregards the boring limits of consensus reality in favor of a better experiential flow for author and audience."
Interview conducted by R. Frederick Hamilton:
Greetings Matthew and thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
Who is this? Why won’t you tell me your name? I can only assume Chesterfield Bloom put you up to this…
Firstly, let us discuss your influences. Though this is a topic covered with much greater depth in Kevin Braxton’s seminal biography of your early years (Mathew Revert: Growing to fill my tights?) can you give us an overview now? What was it that first inspired you to start writing? And who are some of the artists and other creative types that you’ve drawn inspiration from over the years?
I want to say from the offset that I don’t advocate Braxton’s biography as strongly as I used to. His observations regarding my influences don’t take into account the general palsy I suffered from at the time. His elucidation of my many influences were confined to garden bands (which, it should be noted, I had no idea even existed as a style until this biography was released). This led to me penning the famous “RACE CARD LETTER” that became the cornerstone of Diestrus Munich’s lesser known biography (Matthew Revert: In Spite of Tights, One Prospers). It upsets me greatly that this biography is out of print as I believe it covers my ‘seldom years’ with great insight and warmth.
Other than Len (which I will talk about at great length later on), my influences are exhausting in their number. I am enthusiastic about far too much and lack the ability to filter out potentially interesting avenues of creative expression. I started out immersed in the world of film and music and my first creative drive was toward music. I tried valiantly to record music and was almost always disappointed by the results. So, it was usually during moments of musical ennui that I’d write. I didn’t really take this seriously – maybe because I didn’t want to be good at writing. I wanted to excel at music, but the undeniably poor results wouldn’t allow this. So when I started writing, it wasn’t with the desire to get published. I had a few friends (of which you, sire, were one) that I’d send my stories to for shits and giggles. It was only with the formation of LegumeMan that the possibility of being published forced me to rethink my priorities. I had to concede that writing came to me much more naturally than music.
To continue that idea, who are some of your contemporaries that continue to impress and why?
There are many writer’s I’m in awe of, but I tend to focus more now on writers who have become part of my creative community. It’s one thing to venerate Thomas Pynchon, but the odds of me ever discussing writing with him are low. I’ve been very lucky to meet some fantastic writers in the last couple of years who have gone on to become great friends and mentors. It’s these writers who I feel compelled to talk about. Great authors like Kris Saknussemm, Jordan Krall, William Pauley III, Sébastien Doubinsky, Garrett Cook, Jason Wuchenich, Tabish Khasir and your good self have all been very important to that sense of community.
Writing process? How’s it work for Matthew Revert? Scribbler or typer? Planner or fly by the seat of the pantser? Any special rituals or superstitions involved in your writing process?
In the Lindsay Short’s confusing biography (Matthew Revert: Tight Writing), my purported writing methods are documented in excruciating detail. Short suggests that I can only write while being abused by rural Methodists. This isn’t true. Nor must I listen to THE PEATBOG FAERIES in order to achieve punctuation. The sad reality is, I write in a very standard environment. The only thing I really require is silence. I’m not a pantser, however I don’t plan my work in any traditional sense. I tend to obsess over what I’m writing and develop a pretty detailed version of the story and symbolism in my mind before I can really start writing. So I’ll typically jot down a rudimentary idea and then let that idea form within until I really start to write. I can definitely see my writing process evolving though. I wouldn’t be surprised if when I respond to this interview next month (and each following month until time gets bored of being) my methods will have changed (like my opinion of fjords).
To say you enjoy music is an understatement. Thirty four chapters were devoted to this passion in Marty Flent’s overlong, 1994 biography covering the subject (Matthew Revert: Bodycount’s in the house?) What is some of the music that has influenced you and does any of this influence spill over into your written work?
This is an enormously difficult question and I’m offended that you asked it. Flent’s biography was problematic and not least of all for its emphasis on debunking Wittgenstein’s philosophies (it should be noted that in 2002, Flent admitted to never having read Wittgenstein, or even knowing who he was). When Flent actually found the time to discuss my musical interests, he accused me of being Boney M. I had my lawyer, Flent’s mother, Pastel, confront him about this, but his answer was an amalgam of non-sensical similes. For a more factual account of my musical proclivities, I’d direct readers toward Bernhard Wentworth’s under-rated, VOODOO BEATS AND MILTARY WALTZES: MATTHEW REVERT, TIGHTS AND THE MUSICAL PERSONA IN MODERN PERSIA (2005, Humpduff Press).
So what can I really say about my obsession with music? It really is what you’d term an obsession and occupies all facets of my life. I have a theory that the best examples of every style of music is worth hearing and as a result, I guess you could say that I like all music. I understand that can come across as a cop out answer, but if I were to answer in an appropriate way, this portion of the interview would run into many thousands of words. I don’t listen to music when I write, so I can’t claim that certain albums or musicians have inspired certain stories. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of early electronic music and have been blown away and inspired by Denis Smalley, Thomas Hamilton, Vaclav Nelhybel, Josef Anton Riedl, Ruth White and Lusi de Pablo (among many others). I can’t tell you how or if this will spill over into my writing. If it occurs, it will be unconscious.
Your fascination with the band Len has been termed “unhealthy” by Sandra Krenshaw in her unauthorised biography, Matthew Revert: A life sans tights and even your one authorised biography, Matthew Revert: Look at my arse in these tights, muthafucka! (also by Sandra Krenshaw) hints at the struggle you’ve led against this dark influence in you life. What is it like to fight this particular addiction on a daily basis? And can you still appreciate the irony of this battle (considering their one true hit was Steal my
So we arrive at the meat of this interview… Many people write Len off as a one hit wonder as a result of their seminal hit, ‘Steal My Sunshine’ which, as I’m sure you already know, can be found on their 1999 album, ‘You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush’. What many people don’t know is Len had two albums before and two albums after this. Their last album, ‘The Diary of a Madman’ was released as recently as 2005. I blame the lack of support for Len on a general prejudice towardCanada. This plight hasn’t been helped by Krenshaw’s scandalous claims that the term ‘Len’ is a euphemism for urethra fisting. After consulting the national urethral archives (NUA), I can confidently say that Krenshaw’s claim is untrue. My rebuke has been published in full and can be found in Margaret York’s biography, REDUNDANT FIGHT: HOW MATTHEW REVERT MISSED MANY OPPORTUNITES (2008, Casper van Dien Press).
I really don’t understand why Krenshaw termed my Len appreciation as unhealthy. It has been responsible for more happiness than I can even begin to describe. It was during my stint as president for the International Len Appreciation Group that I met my mentor and grandchild, Silly Craig. So if anything, Len have only ever gifted me sunshine. The irony ultimately falls on Krenshaw, as I took it upon myself to shit on her desk and, in the process, stole her sunshine.
Rumour has it that you’ve started making your own music too. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Do you find a similar creative satisfaction between writing and making music?
Yes… as touched upon earlier, music is very important to me and I have always tried to record my own with mixed results. I have embarked upon several musical projects in the past (half of which were with your good self), but ultimately had to concede that I wasn’t a very gifted musician. I spent a few years in the noise scene and released quite a few albums under the moniker THE FEEDER. A few of these albums were released by micro presses. I enjoyed this, but I never felt as though what I was recording was good enough to warrant adding to the already cluttered noise scene. The noise gave way to a more electro-acoustic approach, but I was never happy with the results. It’s only been recently that I’ve found a musical voice I’m happy with. I recently recorded a series of songs under the moniker DREGS OF THE BASTARD which draws upon Gothic Americana, No Wave and Free Folk. I compiled these tracks and recently released an album called MANSION CROONING, which has been doing much better than I expected. People have really taken to it, which has forced me to re-examine my musical ejaculations. Writing will remain my primary focus, but I’ll definitely explore these musical developments and see where they take me. And yes, the satisfaction I get from writing a story I’m happy with is very similar to finishing a song I dig. It’s that sense of creative satisfaction that I imagine accompanies the creation of all art.
You’re quite the film nut too (Chapter 12, Matthew Revert: it ain’t all about the tights! by Sally Mcphee, 2002). Is this another medium from which you draw a lot of inspiration for your writing? If so, who are some of the filmmakers that have influenced you and why?
Sally McPhee’s biography definitely overstated my fondness for THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES. My attraction to this film was purely the result of a belief I briefly held that Kurt Russell was my father. Upon learning he was not, the film was immediately relegated to the realm of mild whimsy. A full account of this can be found in Dean Wheeler’s biography, SORRY KURT: THE SPURIOUS TIGHTS OF MATTHEW REVERT (1999, Piss Press).
Film has been enormously important to me. There was a moment in my life (I’m embarrassed to say it coincided with the debut ofDawson’s Creek on television) that I aspired to be a filmmaker. This isn’t something I’ve followed, although I would love to work with film one day. I watch film voraciously and continue to be inspired by it. In terms of my writing, much of my inspiration comes from absurdistUKtelevision and radio shows. One of my heroes is Chris Morris who was responsible for such shows as THE DAY TODAY, BRASS EYE, JAM, BLUE JAM, NO KNOWN CURE and ON THE HOUR. In terms of what I’d call genuine absurdity, the British do it the best. I’ve been watching a lot of Czech New Wave cinema of late, which has been a revelation to me! I’d highly recommend people seek out films like DAISIES, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS, THE CREAMTOR, THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS among many others. In the scheme of cinematic history, here were a handful of people living under a fairly oppressive regime who channelled their anger and frustration into pure art. It’s a moment in history I am so deeply inspired by. A more modern version of the same thing has emerged in what people have labelled the ‘Romanian New Wave’.
You’re also quite the retro pop culture maven (Chapter 17 of Greg Sayo’s clumsily titled Matthew Revert: Cunts! Tights don’t by necessity mean fop!) Do you think this love has crept into your writing? And what is it about original Sega and NES games and 80s film, television and other accoutrements that you find so endearing?
I didn’t even realise I was as obsessed with retro pop culture until people started pointing it out. It’s true… I am in love with my childhood obsessions. Despite the crude title of Sayo’s biography, he does a great job of accurately detailing how this obsession developed. More so than Linda Dern’s, RETRO COCK: MATTHEW REVERT STOLE ALEX THE KIDD’S TIGHTS, which as a biography, relied too heavily on recipes outright stolen from Jamie Oliver cookbooks.
There’s something enormously compelling about retro videogames on an aesthetic level, but it’s more than that. The fascination depends on the here and now rather than merely clutching onto my childhood. This technology and aesthetic is trapped in a glorious stasis, unaffected by the way the world around it changes. With each new iteration of technology, those before it become less relevant and can therefore be appreciated on different levels. I admire the simplicity of old videogames, yet I acknowledge that this simplicity is purely a retroactive abstraction. It can’t be forgotten that the NES was a piece of technological wizardry in the early 80s. As a child, I viewed it as I imagine children today view the Playstation 3. It’s a devolution from complexity to simplicity and my love toward it is a means of fighting progress. So when I play and old videogame, or watch an old cartoon or sitcom, I’m taken to this amazing place that relies very heavily on the here and now having no real place for it.
Just in case the above isn’t enough, you’re also quite the talented book designer (not to mention you also did all the internal illustrations for A Million Versions Of Right). You’ve designed all of LegumeMan’s catalogue and I believe been involved with the design of a few Copeland Valley Press books as well. Firstly, do you ever tire of being the renaissance? And following on from that, what are some of your design influences? What would be your favourite design you’ve completed at the moment? Any more future work in the pipeline? And are you excited by the imminent release of Chad Slade’s biography on yourself that early reviews suggest has a large slant towards this subject?
I’m not going to assume anything about Slade’s upcoming biography. Slade conducted many interviews with me over a 5 year period in preparation and he struck me as a warm, honest fellow. But I’ve been fooled before. Many will recall Valerie Dixon’s biography that came out in 1995, MATTHEW REVERT: PROBABLE RAPIST IN TIGHTS.Dixonhad spent many years getting to know me and my family and we came to view her as a close friend. My sister even knitted her a book. I was told that the biography was going to focus on my Jew’s harp technique and I had no reason to doubt this. To say that I was a little upset and offended when the book came out would be an understatement. It tore our family apart, because the resulting biography somehow implicated my father in a string of baby thefts inSpain.
My design work started off as necessity. LegumeMan needed their books to have cover designs and I knew how to open Photoshop. But it’s something I really enjoy doing and I think I’ve become a fair bit better. I love design. I love being able to influence the aesthetic and feel of a book. It’s quite rewarding to hold the end result of a book you’ve designed.
CopelandValley are a new press that recently got in touch with me about writing a story for an upcoming anthology. Somehow that led to designing for them.CopelandValleyhave a real slant toward all things retro and wanted that reflected in their book design. This is pretty much a dream scenario for me because it allows me to really focus my love of retro design toward a source that actually warrants it. For a detailed account of what I mean, I suggest reading Margaret Stern’s book, ‘Unwarranted Design: Matthew Revert and the Death of Diversity’.
As for a favourite design, I would have to egotistically say that I’m most proud of the design to my upcoming book, ‘The Tumours Made Me Interesting’. Typically I’m involved in lengthy conversations with authors about the design of their book and it often comes down to compromise, but being my own book I was designing, I was able to really just do exactly what I wanted. Recent designs I’ve been particularly proud of include Brett McBean’s ‘Tales of Sin and Madness’ due to how it integrated Andrew Gallacher’s amazing painting in a conceptual way. I’m also very fond of the design for Jordan Krall’s upcoming ‘Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys’. William Pauley III provided the illustration for that one and it just looks hot as hell.
Now onto your written work. (For a more in depth view seek out the Anonymous Matthew Revert: I write both in and out of tights!) Your first collection of stories, A Million Versions of Right, is a difficult work to summarise. How do you personally categorise your work? When it was first released the term “Pubic Fiction” was bandied around a bit (primarily by biographers between 2007-2009). But since then you’ve had work go on to appear in one of the Bizarro starter kits put out by Eraserhead Press and the term absurdist frequently pops up in biographies dating post 2010. How do you describe your work?
The only reason I’m even going to bother answering this question is to refute the claims Chad Lindsey made in ‘The Anonymous Matthew Revert’. He shamelessly claimed that all my writing had been stolen from Inuit archival documentation. This is an out an out lie. My full rebuttal can be found in Grover Percy’s alarmingly titled, ‘Cock Breath: School is for Cock Breath’. But for the sake of those who don’t want to spend $180 on this book, the gist is thus: for a brief period in 2006, I was in charge of the national centre for Inuit growth. However, due to a poor sense of direction, I never successfully found the centre and instead, spent my days in a milk bar at the opposite side of town where I befriended a former dancer called Misty. Together we had adventures and I lost my job at the NCFIG. I never once saw ANY information concerning Inuit history!
When I started writing the material that would eventually find its way into a Million Versions of Right, I hadn’t yet heard of Bizarro. I was already a big fan of classical absurdist literature and UKcomedy, which served as my main sources of inspiration. When I first discovered Bizarro, I wasn’t sure if my work was a natural fit, but that had more to do with my lack of knowledge than anything else. I now know that absurdism has a very natural home within the Bizarro movement and those already involved with Bizarro have been very good to me and my work. It was an honour to be included in the Bizarro Starter Kit and I certainly didn’t expect to get asked. ‘Pubic Fiction’ was something I created for fun. Unsurprisingly it didn’t take off. A full account of this can be found in Therese Livingston’s “The Demise of Pubic Fiction’.
What are some of the themes you wanted to explore in A Million Versions of Right? Was there any overarching ideas that tied the collection together? Any particular inspiration behind some of the stories?
I guess the main thread running throughout the stories in A Million Versions is the nature of masculinity. I’m incredibly fascinated by what it means to be a man in the modern world. The traditional structures that helped define men of generation past have, to a large extent, waned and it’s as if the current generation of young men are in the process of re-defining exactly what masculinity means. It’s an interesting period because the baggage of the past still insinuates itself and it’s as if there’s an internal struggle. The men in my stories are typically involved in existential struggles and lack a true identity. They grapple with their sexuality and are often at the mercy of their bodies. The whole notion of the body turning against you is one that intrigues me enormously. This is all wrapped up in absurdism. Absurdity is a great tool to symbolically probe aspects of who we are. The human condition is, at its heart, an absurd one and logic is often derived arbitrarily. It’s the nihilistic sense that order is an illusion. The title of the book is essentially an assertion that nothing is ultimately wrong. There are as many versions of right as there are people and the trick to achieving order is to align as many individual versions of right as closely as possible.
It’s impossible to discuss the book without the mention of the scatological humour that permeates a lot of the stories. Why are farts so funny? And were you concerned that the coarse surface layer may lead to some people putting the book down before they’d fully absorbed what you were trying to get across?
This is an interesting question and I actually do have something resembling a philosophy regarding my scatological inclinations. It should be noted that part of scatological obsession was merely a lack of confidence in my writing. In some ways I was afraid of letting my psyche scream too loudly from the page so I obfuscated it with scatology. So it’s an interesting artefact of my early writing and an important one. It’s interesting to see the way my fear manifested. It’s the written equivalent of the guy who tells a fart joke to mask the fact he’s crying.
That said, the scatological aspects of my writing do serve a purpose. We spend so much of our lives dealing with out own filth, yet most of us try to ignore this reality. Each of us, on a daily basis, need to manage the waste that comes out of our body. Shit, piss, blood, cum, snot, pus, sweat, vomit… we create this stuff. Why are we so disgusted by it? It strikes me as dishonesty. Why is it that many of us are too afraid to look in the toilet after we shit? Why is it we are so repulsed by who we are? This is a big deal to me. Future writing won’t use scatology to obfuscate, but it is, for better or worse, an important part of my writing.
For a full account of my thoughts regarding this, please read the great biography, “Matthew Revert has lunch with Veronica Moser” by Louise Hunter.
You have a new book to be released soon from LegumeMan, The Tumours Made Me Interesting. Care to give us teaser as to what that is about?
Last year I was diagnoses with Crohns disease. The months leading up to my diagnosis were perhaps some of the worst of my life. The symptoms of Crohns are very similar to bowel cancer. I became distressingly convinced that I had cancer and was going to die. I’m not normally one to succumb to psychosomatic maladies, but this was one occasion where my paranoia got the better of me. I reflected upon what it meant to die and really studied how it felt to be convinced of the inevitability. This ultimately led to The Tumours Made Me Interesting. I figured that if I was going to die, I needed to create something from it. So this book is a study of life through the eyes of someone who won’t have it for very long. The main protagonist of the book has bowel cancer and is told that his death is a certainty. It turns out that he is exceptionally good at growing tumours and he gains a form of popularity and personal meaning from this ability. The disease killing him becomes his reason to stay alive. The tumours eventually evolve to the point where they develop consciousness and want to leave his body. Despite the subject matter, it’s actually pretty funny… I promise (hope).
I believe there are a few more works currently in the pipeline for you too. Any that you are at liberty to discuss?
Coming out soon, a couple of my shorts will be in The Copeland Valley Sampler, which looks set to be great. I’ve just had a story of mine accepted for inclusion in the first print edition of The New Flesh, which started out life as a great online lit journal operated my William Pauley III. After Tumours, my next book will most likely be Stealing Fred Savage, which is slated to come out via CopelandValley. I also wrote a lengthy afterword for Jordan Krall’s upcoming ‘Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys’, which is probably the most enjoyably thing I’ve ever written.
With something like (at last count anyway!) five more biographies slated to appear in 2011 alone, are you at all concerned about the sheer quantity of your life that is now on public record? Are you concerned that you may be giving too much of yourself away? Or that the bulk of conjecture (let’s be honest about the content of most of these volumes) will distract from your actual creative output? Or do you think the balance is as it should be?
I’m much more concerned about the sheer quantity of my life not yet on public record. I have many untapped wells, Robert. Did you know I was once a mime thief? You don’t. And the reason you don’t is because nobody has thought to document it. It should also be noted that I garner great personal satisfaction from the endless task of rebutting the fusillade of scandalous rumours the majority of these biographies expunge. Some of us are born with the gift of dance, others have an uncanny knack for impersonating Tom Sizemore… I excel at attracting biographers. I will never take this for granted.
What is a book that everyone should read and why?
‘Should Have Killed the Kid’ by R. Frederick Hamilton, because the author is my best friend and it’s a brilliant book that deserves support.
What is a film everyone should see and why?
Celine and Julie Go Boating by Jacques Rivette. It’s one of the most amazing films ever made, yet so few people have seen it. In the annals of the French New Wave, Rivette is both the best and the most unwatched.
What is a song everyone should hear and why?
‘Steal my Sunshine’ by Len. Because life is worth living.
Which of your biographies would you suggest as a starting point for readers interested in what makes you really tick?
“A Tawdry Encounter at Buckshot’s Home for Fledgling Miscreants: How Matthew Revert tried to understand Bolivian politics and, in the process, broke it” by C.E Michaelthwarp. It’s the only biography that takes into account the seminal load that contained me.
Thank you, Matthew.
End of interview dock???