Wyrd Daze Six: An interview with Maxim Peter-Griffin

Cover and interior artworks taken from
the British Library Flickr Commons
remixed by The Ephemeral Man

Wyrd Daze Six
(the 26th issue overall)
released on Wyrd Daze’s sixth Birthday
(The Ephemeral Man’s seventh)
6.6.19

Access the PDF zine for the full
Wyrd Daze experience

An Interview with
Maxim Peter Griffin

Drawing + writing about the territory – Travelling on foot –
Field Notes in progress – Psychedelic Geologist

Field Notes will be 128 full colour pages of paintings and words;
a beautifully designed and bound hardback printed on art paper.

What does a Psychedelic Geologist do?

I like to listen to Tago Mago and think about flint very hard.

I gather you had a passion for drawing from an early age –
what were your inspirations?

Asterix – Victor Ambrus – The Bayeaux Tapestry – Ladybird stuff – Commando comics – etc etc anything that was laying around I would absorb – being the youngest of six of a bookish family meant there was no shortage of reference material.

We used to get taken to interesting places a fair bit – prehistoric sites, castles, stately homes – I loved all that stuff – anywhere with a brown sign –

English Heritage gift shops used to have cut out and colour knights – I loved those dearly.

Films too – My brothers were very educational – I saw loads of stuff at a young age – BBC were doing Moviedrome with Alex Cox when I was about 8 – Excalibur ! Seven Samurai ! Mad Max 2 ! – the cultural importance of Moviedrome is huge to me – I still reckon that Mad Max 2 is the greatest piece of pure cinema.

Later I found Herzog movies in the dead of night on Channel 4.

All this stuff brews together – landscape, history, time.

What is it about the history of place that compels you?

History is like having bullet points across time – this happened then, then this happened and so on – I try to feel between the bullet points – a big inky smear of spaces

You’ve described your more recent artistic method as wilder. What prompted this shift, and how has it affected your outlook?

We’d gone away – a little place in the country, an old youth hostel. Family from the four corners, big meals, plenty of beer. Halloween 2016. Maximum autumnal. It was a wake of sorts. My brother Paddy had died earlier in the year, Dad the year before, and before that Mum and aunts and uncles, a business had exploded in there as well – it had been a few years in the trenches. We were sore, battered, but not broken.

I was leaning on the gate – a big V of geese, ploughed earth, the sound of children and dogs capering – another meal being slowly fashioned ( my other brother, Eamonn, and I were on cooking duty – the fat we were using to make the roast potatoes smelt like Christmas, a Christmas from my own past – 1980’s, pudding bowl haircuts, lego castles… )

I’m not saying I was at a low ebb, just empty perhaps – shell shock finally surfacing. Anyway – I was leaning on this gate and something popped into my head – Ken Campbell ! the late shaman ! he said something like “it’s got to be heroic, it’s got to be wilder” he might have said this to Bill Drummond I think. And that was it. Wilder. Heroic. No more wound licking – onwards – forward – no fucks given. And so it was and so it is.

So. from that weekend, 31st of October 2016, I’ve made 1000 + drawings – they are stronger, more direct, riding an attitude. It’s a good place to start from – I’m just warming up, playing the long game – these drawings are the life’s work, I know that.

You keep extensive notebooks, creating your own strata. How does notebooking feed into your art and life?

Well, notebooks are essential – it’s the kind of practice that everyone should had drilled into them from birth – my notebooks are unremarkable enough. Times woken, times slept, who went where, meals had, weather conditions, useful quotes as they occur that sort of thing – because I also work nights, keeping an accurate notebook is essential for not losing track of time, space + place. I can’t tell you much about the night work but it is vital, patience bending, thankless and strange. Kind of suits me.

One thing – I see it on the internet – stunt notebooks. Notebooks for show.
They can fuck off.

You live in Louth, on the cusp of the Lincolnshire Wolds and not far from the coast: how would you describe your relationship with the Lincolnshire landscape?

Love/Hate

The territory around here is heavy agriculture – massive fields, farmers dominion – not enough footpaths – the towns are small, inward looking, middle class aspirations and grinding poverty – cheese shops and crack.

But – I am, for various reasons and responsibilities, bound to this place – at least for the next ten years or so – That means I have to use that which is in front of me.

I love the coast here dearly – it is vast and remote – flat – spirit level and east – the sun rises out of the North Sea. I have seen it every shade.

Do you have any favourite/interesting moments of Lincolnshire history to share with us?

I’m partial to the really old stuff – early stone age – the land was very different then – no sea to the east – just marshes and deltas until you hit the European side -all that got flooded 6000 odd years ago – the Lincolnshire coast was formed – now, there’s an interesting thing – imagine, mesolithic immigrants heading inland as the lands became waterlogged – now look – the present day – the coastal towns survive  because of another kind of migrant population – holiday makers and those who retire there ( who are many ) I really like this. Two differing, nomadic tribes thousands of years apart – all ending up in Skegness or Mablethorpe.

What I’m really interested in at the end of the day, is the space between things. People. Places. Time. I can see the space out of my window – across the road are bushes, then a greenhouse, behind that a washing line, then an apple tree and a wall – beyond that are ash trees on the road to the school my sons go to – livid bright green, it’s a lovely day outside – above that are swifts, they just returned yesterday – beyond them, a jet liner many miles to the south west ( I checked – it’s going from Dubai to New York City ), beyond that – infinite space

Is there a spiritual yearning in your work?

I don’t know.

Have you ever met people who describe themselves as “a very spiritual person”? …. I bet they have a stunt notebook.

What I do know is that I am on the quest – I do not know what for – but I am questing for it none the less. Perhaps the drawings and writing are an aid to my navigation, or at least – evidence that I have attempted to navigate.

Tell ya what I do know – I fear no man and I don’t fear death – that is a good start, I reckon

Sometimes I look at the sun while it rises, while my eyes can focus on it.

Turner was right. The Sun is God.

( a god which serves our microscopic portion of the universe – look to the night sky – other gods are available )

You embody your art and method, and thus have become an avatar of the land. Discuss. 

I’m just trying to be the best Maxim Peter Griffin I can. Hopefully my presence on the territory is fleeting – I’m a passing show, nothing more.

It’s a tricky business – I’ve always been wary of people who introduce themselves as an Artist ( note the capital ) and I’m not strictly a writer or a poet or an illustrator.

I’m a firm believer that titles should be given – earned – I’m not allowed to call myself and artist or anything else – that is for other people to bestow upon me.

One time, a fellow said I was “ The Napalm Death of rural experimentalism “ which is perhaps the greatest thing that has been said about my practices – certainly one to go on the headstone..

What is a typical inventory of your walking kitbag?

Minimal. Water. Something to eat.

If I intend to camp then things get heavy – a sleeping bag, a Polish poncho, a tiny stove – I don’t like to be seen as a hiker or a rambler – I try to be inconspicuous. Lighter travel is best. I don’t like waterproofs – too loud – Leather is best.

I get through a pair of boots every six months or so – I buy them second hand – the leather is better broken in – I wore new boots crossing the Wash – they filled with blood.

Do you use anything other than your notebooks to record your experiences when you are out and about?

No. Notebooks and memory – a few photos on the telephone maybe – Memory is best – drawing from memory is a good exercise – Sometimes I paint outside – I’ve long held the opinion that Johnny Nice is one of the great and underrated British landscape artists.

How often do you walk with music or other audio accompaniment?
Does this inform your work in any way?

I never have music when I walk – only the songs that get stuck in my head – usually pop stuff that gets in – once, walking across the Peak District I had George Michael going “JITTERBUG” in my imagination for 3 days.

However – I do draw with music on – most of the drawing happens at home anyway – German stuff, Roedelius and the like, Eno, Fela Kuti, sometimes ancient blues – mainly ambient things – droney stuff – On Land is a biggy and my wife is having a massive Dylan thing. Idiot Wind, ten times a day. Steve Reich in the afternoon, there’s a Flying Saucer Attack bootleg that is just feedback – sounds like hills growing. Or all those Sardinian choirs.
Field recordings of wind turbines. Popol Vuh. Birds.

Is the content of the Field Notes book established, or will you compile the book once it is funded?

Yes/No

Field Notes is nothing until it is funded.
An idea only.

However – I’ve a huge archive of stuff to pull from but I don’t want it to be a greatest hits – the guts of the thing will manifest in my attitude during it’s making.

There’s going to be a written piece running all the way through it – 15000 wordsish – I can’t write the end though – that’ll be the last thing –
I have the opening quote and first sentence – here – for you:

“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept,
for there were no more worlds to conquer”

Hans Gruber –
Los Angeles, Christmas Eve 1988

Look.

When Field Notes is published, will that signal the end of this project
or will it manifest in other ways?

The quest is not confined to the book.

 I proceed until death.

Onward.

Champion Maxim’s Field Notes

Maxim on Twitter

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