A couple of my co-workers warned me that I wouldn’t like Joe R. Lansdale’s The Drive In. They were worried about my delicate sensibilities. They were mistaken. As someone who grew up on The X-Files every Friday night and Mystery Science Theater 3000 every Saturday, this book was right up my pop cultural alley.
This novel takes place at a drive-in theater in the middle of Texas. Every Friday night, the theater plays a horror film marathon – six screens, each playing a different classic horror or B-movie. The protagonists are a group of teenage boys who make the trek out every Friday night to escape into some mindless gore and bad dialogue, and are joined by an acquaintance on this particular fateful trip to the drive in. During the screenings, something strange and unexplained happens. A meteor (possibly) passes, and suddenly the world outside of the drive in ceases to exist. The how and why of the transformation matters far less than the specifics of the world that remains within the drive in’s grounds. Early efforts to escape are futile, and a new society springs up within the massive parking lots and around the concession stands. Things get dark early, and remain that way. Don’t be scared off though, things are also pretty funny all along, at least for the reader who isn’t being persecuted by biker gangs or Christian cults or a Popcorn King, vomiting out what may be popcorn, or may be eyeballs (or may be both, simultaneously).
Lansdale plays with the tropes of the B-movies I was raised on (and raised to make fun of), and creates a send up that is both a strict adherent of the form and a loving, knowing satire at the same time. This precedes Shaun of the Dead and Cabin in the Woods, and their other spiritual brethren, but is part of the same horror-fandom family. I’ll be hunting down the sequels now, because I want to go on another strange adventure with Lansdale.
ZACHARIAH JONES with Katie Orphan
I sat down with my friend Zachariah Jones to do this interview, and a few of our friends joined us, offering occasional questions and insights… but mostly distractions.
“I Can Answer All Smart and Shit, It’s Cool”: An Interview with Zachariah Jones
Katie: Let’s start by talking about your work. Can you describe your technique? What are your materials? I saw the detail you posted on Instagram, and I noticed you’re using a black background, are you inking that in yourself?
Zach: Materials, I used pen on paper. Pen and ink, that’s all it is. And a lot of stippling.
K: That tends to be your favorite way to work from what I’ve seen.
Z: I can’t really render without stippling, because I’m not a great artist. Stippling is way easier to control than rendering any other way. It’s slower, and I can’t think fast enough to render something really fast.
Next question, or was that it?
K: Did the choice of literature influence your decisions? It sounds like that’s the way you go naturally.
Z: I honestly chose The Drive In because [Last Bookstore employee] Allan had told me about Joe Lansdale. The book on the list was Bubba Ho-Tep, but Bubba Ho-Tep is not actually really horror. I emailed Larkin [D+G Editor], and asked him to do The Drive In. I chose The Drive In because I really love ‘80s B movies, and that was written in the ‘80s as an homage to B movies.
K: On the list of possible questions, it actually says, ‘We assume that horror isn’t your go to for inspiration,’ but I feel like, for you, that’s not the case. For you, horror, darker sci-fi, punk themes do tend to be part of what you do. What inspires you in general, beyond what I think I’ve seen in your work?
K: Trash? You know what, I feel like that’s a totally accurate word, based on conversations. I like your work, I’m not calling your work trash, but I think that is part of your aesthetic.
Z: Like, John Waters is probably one of the biggest influences I have. That’s what I mean when I say ‘trash.’ It’s just like anything that makes people uncomfortable a little bit. A lot of what I do does push the envelope. Trash is my main influence.
(We pause to discuss Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Summer with our friends before returning to the interview at hand)
K: Do you have any book recommendations for artists? Stuff that either taught you how to work, or just stuff you like.
Z: It doesn’t have to be fiction, right? I stopped reading. I know it’s disappointing. The last book I read was The Drive In. I haven’t read since then. I didn’t want anything else to get in my head. I wanted it to just be that that’s the last thing I read, that’s the only thing I can remember.
Our friend [LBS employee] Lindsay chipped in, “Follow up: Have you been rereading the book to get more inspiration?”
Z: I’ve been rereading parts, yeah. Just to remember scenes. The whole drawing I did is all based off one little passage from the book where the main character is just describing the Popcorn King walking out of the concession stand for the first time. You see him walk out, and the way that he (Lansdale) describes it, it’s like a god walking out. It’s great.
(Lindsay asked if she should read the book, Zach & I both told her she should.)
K: Let’s talk about why you picked that passage. What about it interested you? Did you have a strong visual for that scene when you read it?
Z: Actually I read an interview with Lansdale, where he said that the whole book is just about people who are looking for something to believe in, and trying hard to believe in something. That whole passage is pretty much about how this guy, the Popcorn King, is godlike. Before that, it was just some dude riding on another dude’s shoulders, but in this passage is when it finally becomes elevated.
K: Do you want to talk about Halloween, since this is a Halloween-themed event? What are you going to dress up as for Halloween?
Z: Oh, that.
K: I mean, I know what I’d like for you to dress up as.
Z: (referring to Allan) He’s going to dress up as Black Han, and I’m going to be White Lando. Everyone wants me to be a war boy from Mad Max.
K: Yes, I want you to be Nux, that’s the truth.
Z: But for like the past five years, I just want to be the Fly from Vincent Price’s The Fly, just with like the fly head and the fly hand, but no one will get it.
K: What is your spookiest experience? Have you encountered ghosts? It’s okay if you haven’t.
Z: Never encountered ghosts really. This one time there was a UFO that chased my friend Max and me. We were driving from Tehachapi to Bakersfield; you have to go over this big hill. This light showed up behind us. We thought it was a motorcycle, like a mile behind us because it was a really small light. It kept getting closer and closer as we were climbing this hill. When we got to the top of the hill, it was right on top of us, maybe a couple feet from the windshield. Once we start going down the hill, it disappeared; just like went up into the sky.
K: This is a thing that came up. You mention John Waters as an influence, and just talked about Bakersfield, and describing your influence, the word ‘trash’ came up. How do you feel that your hometown has influenced your work?
Z: This is funny. It’s only when people are from Bakersfield that Bakersfield comes up in interviews. Like with Korn; you’ll never see an interview where Bakersfield doesn’t come up. It always comes up. Even Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Bakersfield comes up. But yeah, I guess Bakersfield is influential like that. It’s really hard to be on the left-side in Bakersfield. Everything is conservative, super right-wing. I guess it had a lot to do with it. You have to learn how to be a decent person, but also, like offensive at the same time. You have to learn how to balance the two. Bakersfield has a lot to do with my philosophy on art and things.
(I told Zach that I was about to ask the last question and he was disappointed it was ending, so I came up with another question to keep the conversation going a little longer)
K: Why do you love pizza? What’s so great about it?
Z: I honestly love pizza because for thousands of years, it’s been the food for poor people. Because I grew up poor, it makes sense more than any other food. It’s bread with toppings on it. It’s just the perfect food.
K: This is my last question. Where can we see more of your work, Zachariah Jones?
Z: You can’t see it anywhere. Most of the stuff I post is just doodles. I don’t show most of my work. I am planning on doing more things after this show.
I’m planning on doing Inktober – one-off ink illustrations every day for the month of October. And it has to be ink.
(these doodles can be seen on Instagram from @noose)