The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Terence Hannum
Alyson – Hi Terence and welcome to the Horror Tree. Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your creative origins as it were?
Terence – Thanks, I live in Baltimore and am a visual artist, musician and writer. My visual art uses collages of cassette tapes to make decaying abstracted patterns. I play in the experimental-metal band Locrian, they’re on Relapse Records, as well as in the shoegaze-synthpop band The Holy Circle, and my solo material is more ambient. And I write fiction and about visual art.
My creative origins, really I was always making music and art, I wrote a lot when I was young and did theatre. I went to college for Religion and Philosophy with the plan to be a pastor but realized it wasn’t for me, and focused a lot on visual art. Then I went to graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for painting and drawing and started writing art criticism, exhibiting my art, making music and teaching. I hadn’t really thought about writing fiction until maybe 7-8 years ago when I had this potent dream that became my first novella “Beneath the Remains.”
Alyson – How much does living in Baltimore, USA influence/inspire your work?
Terence – Depends on the story really, only a few pieces of short fiction have been published about the area, like short story “Vanish on the Instant”. I’m probably more influenced by suburbia and sprawl than say the city. That said, it’s a great city, Atomic Books is a refuge of a bookshop. I have a novel, “Lower Heaven”, I’m editing to get ready to submit that deals a lot with suburban living near Baltimore, it’s more about surveillance and religion that was really inspired by this giant surveillance blimp that was in a county nearby to Baltimore. And a few more stories percolating.
Alyson – Is there a book that changed your life? Which book do you wish you’d written?
Terence – Oh for sure, two actually. One is when I was young I told my mom that I liked horror movies and we watched the James Whale Frankenstein and my mother encouraged me to read Mary Shelley’s novel. I was probably in fifth grade and I just saw it as a monster story, I think she asked me a question about it, and I didn’t know what she was talking about so she told me to read it again. I reluctantly did and started to see other things emerge from it and as I grew up it became so much bigger with all these layers. Second, in high-school in Florida, I had to read Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and I remember just being floored and thinking it was so visual and evocative. It made me probably more intimidated to write, I held it up as a standard.
I think about Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God” as one I wish I wrote, it’s so simple, it has its own vocabulary, it’s terrifying and has these layers of meaning.
Alyson – Which horror/ sci-fi writers have influenced your work?
Terence – JG Ballard was a massive influence on me, to think of our society and find meaning in banal things like the shopping mall, cars, or highways, to use them as lenses to say something larger. Samuel Delaney had a huge effect on me, sexuality as a territory for science fiction, or to blur those lines of sci-fi. In horror, writers like T.E.D. Klein, Shirley Jackson, Henry James, Jeremias Gotthelf’s “The Black Spider” really influenced me.
Alyson – Writing is only one of your creative outlets; I’m struck by how diverse the outlets are for your creativity- you’re a visual artist, a musician/performer, a D.J. Do these threads overlap? Feed into each other?
Terence – For sure, or one can act as a reprieve while another idea gestates. I try and divide up my time to think and work on projects but sometimes a deadline demands more focus, but often times I’ll be playing music and think of a weird scenario and realize it’s a good beginning for a story. Or be writing and think about something for my visual art.
Alyson – Is your music more dominant than your visual art or than your writing? Or do you juggle them all evenly? How do you prioritize?
Terence – I try and have a certain schedule just in case. Days of writing, or being in the studio, or recording. But I let it be flexible unless I’m recording a record or have an editing deadline. I work well with deadlines.
Alyson – Do you have a dedicated space you create in?
Terence – Yes, I have a studio that is where most of my art gets made and music too, it’s pretty evenly divided. I tend to write anywhere though, typically at night, but all day I take notes about characters or settings, little things that at about midnight will bug me enough to dive in and work on a story.
Alyson – How much research do you do for your (writing) projects?
Terence – Quite a bit initially, I save a lot of articles, find books, videos online, interviews, and then start taking what I need to hang on to, to make some portions real. I read a lot of non-fiction and journalism. But when I write all that is just background. I tend to know what I want, but it helps. Also, I just talk to people, cops, reporters, whoever, I ask them questions and listen. Maybe take some notes, I like vocabulary, so hearing certain words can clue you into class, or professions and really help anchor what you need.
Alyson – As I’m a keen fan of horror films (modern and Golden Age) I want to ask you about your Dead Air column for the Horror Writers Association newsletter, which focuses on horror movie soundtracks and the radio show you broadcast at Halloween? How did this link up come about? Which are your favourite soundtracks?
Terence – Well I am a horror movie obsessive since I was young, but in all my bands I play synthesizers and realized my instrument was really inspired by John Carpenter scores and Goblin and their scores for Argento films like Deep Red and Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Wendy Carlos Williams score for The Shining. So, I was inspired by that era from the 70s to 80s and the use of synthesizers. Before the whole vinyl reissue craze on Death Waltz/Mondo, Waxworks, etc. I used to collect these import CDs and get obsessed about Fabio Frizzi and what not, so I started DJ-ing soundtracks for an annual radio show, now on WLOY, and people seem to enjoy it. I mix it up with classics; Halloween to more obscure like Brad Fiedel’s score for Just Before Dawn and new pieces like Michael Abel’s score for Get Out.
My favorite soundtracks; Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper is essential, it has never been released as a record either, Fabio Frizzi’s score for Fulci’s The Beyond is great, Klaus Schulze’s score for Angst, and The Shining, Dawn of the Dead, and Coil’s original score for Hellraiser.
Alyson – Do you watch many horror films? Indie or mainstream? Can you tell us some of your faves?
Terence – I do, I watch a lot, all over the map from quality and era. That said, I think we’ve entered a neat period where you have films like Get Out, It Follows, Under the Skin, Babadook, It Comes at Night that to me really are reviving good, smart horror. But this allows us to rediscover things like The Innocents, The Burning or Angst. So my favorites are Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Angst, The Innocents, The Shining, Carnival of Souls, The Beyond, Suspiria, Last House on Dead End Street, The Babadook, The Vanishing, The Thing from Another World, Halloween, I could go on.
Alyson – In 2016 your novella ‘Beneath the Remains’ was published by Anathemata; (available to buy on Amazon) Is it noir? Or horror? Of a mix of both?
Terence – I like blurred boundaries when I started writing, Beneath the Remains was more a coming-of-age story, but dark. It took on the noir and mystery elements as it went on through the landscape of south-west Florida in the early 1990s. And the outside character of death metal, I really wanted to juxtapose this sunny paradise with brutal gory lyrics and a kind of pathetic loss. So I let it be, I think its horror with a lower case “h” and a mix of southern-noir. But at its core, it is about a missing brother and this younger brother trying to figure out who he is after his brother disappears – so it has that coming-of-age part at its core with details in those other genres.
The physical book of “Beneath the Remains” is still available too;
Alyson – Can you tell us about your new novella “All Internal” which is available to pre-order in April from Dynatox Ministries?
Terence – “All Internal” really evolved out of my background in philosophy and this idea of the mind-body-problem, which is about the relationship between the mind and consciousness and the body. Is the only one? Which one? Is there communication between the two? Do other minds exist? Anyway, I have this love of horror sci-fi films like Inseminoid and Forbidden World, The Brood, and I wanted to make a critique of the mind-body-problem in philosophy by way of a body-horror story. It involves a woman in the amateur porn industry around south Florida as a parasitic entity takes over her body, and eventually the narrative, driving her body to replicate and exterminate.
Alyson – What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Terence – It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Take time to listen to the people who read what you create. Reading isn’t like looking at art or listening to music, or watching a film, it takes more time, and, if you are actually saying something, people may want to think about it. So be patient and write well. I’m a big fan of the Surrealists and they were right to keep track of their dreams, to use automatic writing, to collage a story from newspapers, use these tools to find new roads. Don’t be afraid to edit. Ask a lot of questions, and, most importantly, write well.
Alyson – Where can readers follow you online?
@TerenceHannum / www.terencehannum.com
Here are 2 links to short stories by Terence Hannum to read online:-
You can pre-order the upcoming novella ‘All Internal’ right here!