INTERVIEW: JUNE 2012
Atheist’s Point of View (APOV): When did your love of all-things noir start?
Bergen: I grew up on the cinematic version of the genre. My parents and their friends were always watching it, and I think I saw The Third Man for the first time when I was in primary school. Reading-wise, I really started to enjoy books by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in my 20s, which was the time I explored a more international take on noir by filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa. I’ve always had this affinity. I think I’ve seen the Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon at least a hundred times. Really.
APOV: You’ve mentioned Akira Kurosawa twice. And you’ve lived in Japan, right? Tell us a little more about Akira Kurosawa. Which of his films most influenced you and what other oriental influences can a reader expect to see in your work?
Bergen: I’m still in Japan, actually – I’ve been here since 2001. One of my first jobs was freelancing with The Daily Yomiuri, a local English language newspaper, and my focus was music and cinema, most of it Japanese since that was an area I’d specialized in. I’ve been a huge Kurosawa fan since my teens, and his films that probably most influenced me through the course of the first two novels would be Stray Dog, Seven Samurai, Drunken Angel, The Bad Sleep Well and Hidden Fortress. I also grew up on Hong Kong action cinema and comedy, but the Japanese side of things definitely has had the most effect.
APOV: The story in Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat centers around the main character Floyd Maquina. He is, essentially, a drunk that searches out Deviants and brings them in for Hospitalization. Before the events of the book starts, he’s had a good run of managing to not kill any Deviant, but slips up, sending him on a drinking binge that pretty much doesn’t let up for the entire book. With the mind-trips that the control agency uses to train and test their Seekers, the reader enters a surreal world where nothing can be trusted, especially the big guy at the top. Were you trying to make a statement with that about gods, corporations, or both?
Bergen: I grew up in a Labor Party household in Australia. Labor was basically the left-leaning workers’ party then – they’ve changed since! – and my family, especially my dad, had a general distrust about “The Boss” and the powers-that-be. My dad still campaigns against these forces at the age of 82. I think corporations are a dangerous breed, and people are more aware of this now with the banking fiasco and the ways in which the heads of corporations continue to enjoy excessive benefits while unemployment hits around 20 percent in places like Spain. Then there’s the current demise of the middle class that worries me, and is related to the greed of these organizations. Gods? Hmm. I tend not to go there. I’m an atheist, and I’m always mocking Christians – a terrible trait, I know, but at uni I studied the Christianization of Europe, and it scarred me. The Catholic Church was probably the first major global corporation. Then again, I’m not saying there isn’t anything out there deity-wise. I have no idea. But corporations are an easy physical target, and they deserve the punches. I’m sure they’ll weather trivial attacks like my own, and make a buck out of it in the process.
APOV: I’ve seen other folks equate the Catholic church with corporations. I generally don’t, but I see your point. Why do you consider your attacks trivial? I think fiction has the power to make people think about broader themes in real life, and I thought you made the point clear in your book about corporations and media having an undue influence on our self-image. But even Maquina got sucked up into the machine, even though he didn’t want to. Do you feel helpless against corporations?
Bergen: I’m always down-playing myself. It’s an old habit – even after 18 years working on and off as a DJ, I still call myself a hack. I think it’s an important part of me not to take myself too seriously. That’s why I called my first music production project “Little Nobody”. I think it’s going to be hard, in this day and age of a glut of publications, to reach out to a lot of people and effectively pass on any beliefs and/or messages I may have. I also don’t like ramming these down other people’s throats – hopefully they get the message about the current state of things, and the danger of corporations, without me soap-boxing too much. Honestly? I don’t feel helpless – I feel annoyed, but otherwise couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the corporate world. Better to keep above water in our own minor worlds away from them.
APOV: Readers do not get to meet the star of your great cover, the goat, until the end of the movie. He had way too little “screen” time, in my opinion. Will we be seeing him again?
Bergen: Ha Ha Ha – the goat? Actually, he/she is incidental – the title of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat really comes courtesy of the great George Sanders, owner of one of the smoothest, drollest set of tonsils in old Hollywood. But the goat almost made a token appearance in the new novel, but then was cut. I’m sure it will reappear at some stage – I love recycling characters.
READ MORE OF THIS INTERVIEW HERE.Andrez Bergen