We have never welcomed a writer on the blog. Until now.
We’re glad to have Darren Detoni with us to speak about his new audiobook, recently released with a beautiful soundtrack on Lazerdiscs Records.
Check out the interview!
Headphones For Robots: Hello Darren. How are you, and where in the world are you from?
Darren deToni: Hello! I’m very well, in fact I’m high, high from having my first set of short stories released! Thank you for having me round. And where I hail from is Birmingham, England, where the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Edward Burns-Jones (Pre-Raphaelite artist), JRR Tolkien, Duran Duran, Roland Gift (Fine Young Cannibals), John Wyndham (‘Day of The Triffids’), Richard Hammond (Top Gear), Toni Iommi, Joan Armatrading (Musician), Steve Winwood (‘Call on meeeee, Valerie!’), Barbara Cartland (Romantic novelist), Alan Napier (Batman’s… batman), Jeff Lynne (ELO) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) hail from, too.
We have a huge musical and art heritage here that unfortunately isn’t celebrated by the city, the city loves shops and people shopping in them. But once you’re on your feet there is plenty to find. Favourite part of the city is Bournville, I love the architecture, history and it is alive with greenery. Not the Cyprus Hill-type greenery, mind.
HFR: How did you start writing and can you tell us about your influences and background?
DdT: I started writing as a way out of poverty. The recession of 2009 cost me my job and my, then, relationship. When I forced myself back on my feet I got back into the working world I discovered a writing competition advertised in my local library and took part. My story got into the top 15, I was shocked but though there must be something in it, and not long after I discovered Drive Radio, as was just getting into the retro-vibe going on. I noticed they were after English language writers, for reviews. I applied and was asked to review a synth-based track I was into, from the ‘80s onward.
This was in 2012 and as Lazerhawk’s ‘Theme’ had helped me discover Synthwave and then Drive Radio I wrote about how it made me feel. They liked it and I began writing reviews, web content and, soon after, their social media pages.
I was heavily into SciFi at that time and Arthur C. Clarke was the author whose books you could find me rubbing myself on – 2001, A Fall of Moondust, The City and the Stars, Childhoods End and the book that got me into SciFi in the first place: Rendevous with Rama.
Thereafter, the Lazerdiscs Records offer came along and Monolith Pubilshers got in touch. Mark Melero (the big gun at Monolith) approached me and asked if I’d write a short story for the annual ‘Corrogatio’ horror anthology. I’d barely read horror let-alone written it! But after watching ‘An American Werewolf in London’ for both fun and inspiration I suddenly thought I could write something shit-scary, and the idea of being trapped in a building with a werewolf just came to me. I wrote ‘Ravensbank House’ off the back of this idea, I pitched it, Mark dug the story and it was in the anthology.
The year after, it was released as a stand-alone and a soundtrack was created to accompany it, which was pretty amazing as I’d delved into a genre I’d no clue about! I threw myself into the genre soon after and have read many graphic and well-written stories.
Horror was given a bad name in the ‘80s so like most my parents hadn’t let me go near it, even if the section in my then local video shop (Active Video’s) always attempted to draw me in with its magnetic artwork forces! Don’t worry, I’ve made up for it since… Freddy is a regular in my dreams!
In regard to books, my favourite horror author has become Clive Barker. The ‘Books of Blood’ (6) are all incredible collections of stories from his imagination, and if you haven’t read ‘Cabal’ (Nightbreed) then please do as it is one of the best books I’ve ever experienced. If you wan’t horrific though, you won’t beat ‘120 Days of Sodom’ by the Marquis de Sade. Deliciously disgusting and filled with depravity but a cracking read! I thoroughly recommend it. My favourite author from all genres also wrote my favourite book, and it isn’t horror, well not in the traditional sense… the names Burroughs! ’Naked Lunch’ by William S. Burroughs has everything and is everything. His surreal style and dry whit all add to a very special book, and one that made sure we can write whatever we want, today… A close 2nd is ‘Crash’ by J. G. Ballard.
HFR: What do you think is interesting about writing horror and surreal stories? We see you’ve written SciFi, too, so how do you find covering various genres?
DdT: Getting these tales down on paper is the fun part as when you open your mind you can be taken on some pretty amazing trips. Horror interests me because I write things I personally wouldn’t perform, but I satisfy the part of my mind that creates scenarios it would no doubt like to witness or act out. I find it all very humorous when I finish a story and read what is on the pages. I get a kick out of it, and this is important as if I didn’t then what is the point?
The surreal aspects come from the music I listen to, and it isn’t always Synthwave believe it or not. I adore both the Psych and Prog eras and warped ‘30s music that an artist called The Caretaker has gotten his hands on. Both surreal music, Wurlitzer covers of popular hits front the ‘50s, and literature, ‘the Skeletons Holiday’ by Leanora Carrington for example, are thrown into the mix giving me all the nutritious ammunition I need.
The films I watch help, even though I’ll only put one on occasionally (I grew up without a TV so never caught the bug) as what I watch is mainly horror. But even if it isn’t horror, what I watch always seem to have a dreamlike or otherworldly feel. David Cronenberg is the best at this for me, as he can create a world on screen that is never what it seems, keeps you guessing. ‘Videodrome’ is a wonderful example of this. Mixing genres isn’t a problem as I really like blending space with spit. SciFi and horror go together very well, so I’d never get tired of extracting from both. I’ve used this blend in ‘Thank You, Mr. President’, except swapped spittle for sperm. Lots of it.
HFR: You have just released ‘Thank you, Mr. President’, a horror novel dealing with the end of the world. Was it inspired by what we’re living today with the coronavirus?
DdT: I wrote the story back in October (first appeared in ‘Corrogatio 5’) so the virus had no baring on the story. The story is a reboot of Earth and humanity, not the end, even if it feels like it heads that way.
I wanted to mess with religion, portals, megalomania, croissants, the obsession of self, and death by sex in extreme ways as we must experience pain before truly feeling release, or ecstasy of being saved.
Reading the story you may see a lot of the present presented within it but it is coincidental. I had a lot of fun writing it, and like the end of the story, I hope we are given a second chance at being good to the planet and all people soon.
HFR: In the story the devil appears as a character named Neville. What sets him apart from humans, and do you believe in God?
DdT: Well, Neville is a bit of a Victorian at heart, I feel, and probably harks back to those times and remembers the horror behind the facade that the bourgeois revelled in. Neville is a devil, in many ways, and revels in pain, misery, and hardcore sex, but he also worries about Earth and humanities effects on it. Neville would probably be a Friends of the Earth activist by-day! When Neville gives us a 2nd chance he really does mean that we cannot fuck it up another time, as he will loose the planet he enjoys the most. Plus, he’s got one over God and Jesus by saving the world.
The religious references are all down to bits of fiction I have read. I couldn’t believe in anything that could create something so special as the Earth and its inhabitants and then just leave it, so I just look at religion as another subject where I can draw material from.
I understand that a lot of people need or live with belief so I keep my opinions to myself, and ask them to keep theirs, if they’d be so kind. It is a life choice and you have to make that decision, like with everything in life, by yourself. Nothing should be forced on anybody. And look, If I am wrong in the end then it would be a bonus, as I’d quite like to spend more time with the people I have known and to catch up lost time over a hot cup of tea, more-than-likely in hell.
HFR:The novel is out as an Audiobook with a fully-loaded soundtrack released by Lazerdiscs Records to back it up. What can you tell us about the concept?
DdT: It all goes back to my passion for words and music, I couldn’t live without these very important mediums. To have them together is like a wet dream come true! Being part of Lazerdiscs Records has given me the chance to put this superb soundtrack together. Each artist I asked to take part said they would without a second thought and created pieces of music that went hand-in-hand with the story. A lot of the time people will just ask you what you want and they’ll go off and create it, but all involved listened to the Audiobook and then went and performed magic with their tracks… they bought into the project and delivered!
To have Powernerd, Nicky Nine, Z6B3R, Aeronexus, Baldocaster, Francci, Until Ben (3 tracks!), the Audiobook and track from John Michael Lowe, and a masterclass in mastering and high-quality track, from Absolute Valentine, really made this a project to savour.
HFR: What are your projects from now on?
DdT: Well, Lazerdiscs Records is a project that I work on everyday, and I will do until I am either not needed, my fingers get glued together, or something waltzes along and takes me away from it. With my own work I am constantly speaking with the publisher and Mark is keen for me to come up with my own ideas, like ‘TYMP’, and he backs me. Mark also has plenty of ideas in those biceps of his so we’ll see.
I’ve recently been invited to be involved in a ‘Brumology’ collection of short stories that will come out in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games that are coming to Birmingham in 2022. And as a project that I’d never say ever to, I would love to get one of my stories translated into film, no matter how long, so if you know anyone who likes weird horror or can at least teach me how to write then please put them in touch with me!
HFR: Last words?
DdT: Tangerine Dream are the best! Then my children. Stay synth!