Our readers mostly know Alex CF as a frontman and songwriter for his bands, such as Fall Of Efrafa, Light Bearer, Momentum, Carnist, Anopheli, Morrow, etc. However, he is also an accomplished author and illustrator who published books like Seek The Throat From Which We Sing, The Orata, and Wretched Is The Husk. I sat down with Alex CF to discuss his latest book, Punks In The Willows, which is coming out soon via Earth Island Books. You can pre-order the book HERE
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. How have you been?
Alex: Hi! I am well thank you, minus the cold from hell!
Many people know you as an author, illustrator, and musician. As far as I am familiar with your work, you always put 100% into everything you do. Can you explain to our readers how hard it is to maintain as a freelancer artist in modern society?
Alex: I think I am lucky as I tend to find work, or creating things as a means to deal with anxiety. I feel you are either stalled by it, or you push through. I was ill for much of my early twenties, and I spent the next 15 years making up for lost time. But sure, being self employed, or indeed, self sufficient is difficult. You have to fight your own feelings of inadequacy, but also project a positive image of yourself and your work. I love drawing and writing, so neither are ever a chore, self employed tax returns though. Never fun!
We’re living in a world where many don’t appreciate or can’t manage their time to appreciate art. However, you have a big fanbase. How much has your involvement in bands and music projects helped you to gain such recognition?
Alex: I wouldn’t say I have a big fan base, but I have a very lovely modest group of folks who like what I do, and much of them come from my bands, which are a shared endeavour. I think that you never escape the shadow of a band that, for one reason or another captured something, so I have learned to embrace that, and love it, and expand beyond that into other creative outlets, and if people like that, they can come along for the ride. If they just like the music, that’s totally cool too. I am incredibly fortunate regardless.
You were involved in Fall Of Efrafa, Light Bearer, Momentum, Carnist, Morrow, Anopheli, Archivist, and Eleleth. Are there any new music projects you’ve been working on lately?
Alex: I have a few other bands, or musical projects! I have Median Rot, which is myself and my good friend Bryan Lothian, who was the front person in Bostons ‘A Global Threat, a band that was a formative experience in my own musical upbringing. We have two eps out, ‘Exit? And a split with Rot//woven out of Eugene Oregon called the Mutual Decay EP. I am also in a doom metal band called Urskek, which is a love letter to The Dark Crystal, with the lovely Erik and Oskar Karlsson and David Flood. I am also in Wreathe, which features members of Morrow, playing scream/emo crust and I am just about to start an anarcho punk band called Ancient Lights.
I was always curious how you developed such a unique style. What art movements and artists have inspired you the most?
Alex: I was a child of HR Giger, but my main artistic influences were Brian Froud, Arthur Rackham, Gustave Dore and Roger Dean. I was introduced to science fiction and fantasy art at a young age. I am very much into self contained universes, I love world building, from the ground up, creating natural histories. It’s what I do in bands, but also in my novels.
The anarcho/d-beat/crust punk scene usually relied upon pointillism (dotwork) style. Have you had any difficulties ‘infiltrating’ your artworks on the DIY scene in the beginning?
Alex: I started off as a comic book artist, I then created a museum of monsters, so did a lot of sculptural work. I started creating artwork for my bands, and periodically I create artwork for other bands, but I can’t say I ever really succeeded in infiltrating the scene -I just ended up starting way too many bands of a similar genre, did all of the artwork for them. I guess as a result of that I DIYed my way into DIY!
The main reason why we’re talking today is your new book. What’s the title, and can you tell me more details about it?
Alex: The new book is something of a departure from my other work! It’s called Punks in the willows, a rather lazy play on ‘Wind in the willows’ by Kenneth Grahame. It is my attempt to encapsulate my thoughts on punk rock. It was inspired by a commissioned illustration of a fox dressed as a punk, and also a rather myopic documentary about punk that seemed to have decided punk died in 1979, and whatever came after was little more than a footnote – which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Punk, for me, has become a vital incubator for social justice ideas, for radical politics and ideologies that have created a lot of very positive, creative achievements. It’s not perfect, but it allows for discourse, education and a safe space for all. Punks in the willows is a celebration of DIY punk.
You’re an already experienced author with very successful titles like Seek The Throat From Which We Sing, The Orata, and Wretched Is The Husk in your bibliography. Is the new book somehow related to your previous works?
Alex: In as much as it’s about animals! But no not really. I guess where Fall of Efrafa was the result of my passion for Watership down, that in turn allowed me to explore my own animal mythology universe, this is a homage to punk, through that lens. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a fox in a battle jacket?
You developed a lore based on animals portraying human behaviour, and your works are also related to nature, paganism, animal rights, veganism, vegan lifestyle, etc. You’ve been a passionate animal rights activist for years. Can we expect some of these topics in your new book?
Alex: In regards to the Books of Orata, my animal mythology novels, I wouldn’t say human behaviour, more their own behaviour, or identities that humans ignore, to ‘other’ them and justify are abuse of animals. Punks in the willows is a very different animal (pun intended!) and in many ways they are avatars for what punk is, but yes, most of what you mentioned above is in there! It’s a poem, a very simple verse -picture affair, but it addresses what I feel is the essence of punk.
Since Punk In The Willows is a fully illustrated book that depicts animals as punk rockers, do you think a global punk rock community could learn more about respect, tolerance, mutualism and collectivism from the animals?
Alex: At the end of the day, punk, like any social movement, is marred by the fact that it is a human movement, and humans tend to fuck stuff up, but, all we can do is try, and focus on bettering ourselves, in an out of punk. I wanted Punks in the willows to focus on the positive. We are living in a very difficult time, and sometimes we need to shed a little light, when all other lights go out.
That’s it. Thank you for your time. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Alex: Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoy my books if you read them! A big thanks to you for the interview, and to Earth Island Books for having faith in my work!