In conversation with Natasha Grey:
How did it begin ?
“I was given a sketchbook as a gift… about 300 pages thick and a little larger than A5. I didn’t really know what to do with it. I’ve never been much good at sketchbooks… I tend to work in a very focused manner, project by project with a fixed goal or set of outcomes, usually for a commercial purpose. I had rarely drawn for the sake of it and I always admired those who did.
I had just come off a run of practical art books and was very much entrenched in commercial life, living in Italy and commuting to London to work in order to support my family.
Janette, (my partner for most of my adult life), encouraged me to use the sketchbook to just enjoy myself… so I did. I wanted to take the same approach to drawing as I did to music, to make it emotional, visceral, in the moment, from the heart. So I started doing these crude drawings, working rapidly in pencil then attacking them with inkliners and marker pens.
But I immediately reverted to form and tried to structure it. I tried to create an outcome but Janette kept interrupting me, “Stop thinking, just do it and see where it goes”… so I did.
I was travelling, spending a lot of time in airports and before long I was knocking out these drawings in departure lounges, trains, even standing in queues or waiting for buses, they just flowed out one after another, it was a book created on the move. After a short while I drifted towards using my song lyrics, songs that had been evolving for years, and it turned out to be the perfect match. So, as I wandered around London between meetings, or inhabited that strange netherworld of solo travel portrayed in movies like ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Up In the Air’ the book took form and Subway Slim was born, or rather, came back into my life because when I looked back I noticed he had been around in one form or another for quite some time, waiting, watching, listening.
Convergence put itself together naturally, over time, it was an organic process. After that the question remained: where would Slim go next? The answer came to me in a dream and that dream led to the second book ‘The Ghost In Me’ with Subway Slim, once again, deciding for me where it would go”.
What would you say is the main theme of the book ?
“Disconnection. Calling it ‘Convergence’ sounds ironic but it shows these disparate people who cross paths but they all seem to end up disconnecting. Slim himself is an observer, rarely actually involved, so he too is disconnected. This theme emerged from a mixture of observations and songs that were developing in parallel and proved to be a foundation for the next development.
‘Convergence’ was an essential prelude to the trilogy that follows, it sets the world of Subway Slim firmly in reality – an every day life that we would all recognise and that’s important because Slim’s understanding of what ‘reality’ means is challenged in the stories that follow.
It was really important to me that we see Slim as a person who lives and functions in our present day world just like everyone else and it was also important that we should see how disconnected he has become because his detachment from life is one of the key things that he is forced to deal with in the next book, ‘The Ghost In Me’”.
The music and the songs are an important part of convergence ?
“Yes, the songs are really the narrative in Convergence, the story started without them but they soon found their way in and took over the thing, so it makes sense to talk about how the songs came together. When Convergence finishes at the end of issue to I move to a traditional graphic novel style narrative for the next book”.
Track: 01 Intro
“We have a lot of freedom working on the Subway Slim albums because we are not working to the pressure of writing and recording an album and putting it out straight away This is because it takes a long time to research, write, draw and format the videobooks and the printed books so the music has a long time to develop. There is a swing back and forth between the two mediums and over a period of years we’ve had the time to work on a lot of music and let it find its way into the project in the place that suits it. We don’t actually spend long periods of time working on the music because our other commitments, the process is actually very quick, but it is spread out over a long period of time with short bursts of intense activity. But it allows us to think of ideas and let influences and ideas seep gradually in. In the case of the Intro, the music had been recorded a long time ago, the voiceover was added right at the start and, much later, when the album was finished we went back and re-recorded the voiceover because, in the interim, Wes had learned so much more about my voice and how to record it so the whole process had gone full circle and we finished where we had started”
to be continued