Garth Jones first caught our attention when a story he wrote about Santa being brutally tortured landed in our inbox at Nightmare Fuel. 666-odd words later and we were hooked; written with a kind of perverse glee and pace that matched the heartbeat of its victim, it was one of the standout stories from our Violent Night collection in 2022.
Growing up in Broken Hill but now based in Meanjin (Brisbane), Jones may be Australia’s answer to Hunter S. Thompson, if Hunter actually knuckled down and got serious about drugs, drink and depravity.
An ‘occult rock ‘n roll black comedy that cruises outback highways, dive pub toilets and the scabby upper echelons of society in the Republic of Australia’, Jones’ most recent work Home Brewed, Vampire Bullets Vol. 2 is a 116-page meticulous lesson in the art of wordplay. It’s slick, switchblade sharp and smutty enough to make you blush – and just when society thinks they have a moment to unclench their pearls, he goes and tells us he’s about to unleash Volume 3.
We had a chat with Jones to find out more about Home Brewed, Vampire Bullets series and his quest to spread the mongrel punk gospel.
When we read Volume 1 & 2 of Home Brewed, Vampire Bullets, we were left wondering two things: a) what just happened? and b) can you do it again? For our readers, can you give us a run down of what this series is about and what you wanted to achieve with it?
Remember when Aussies could take the piss out of ourselves? I decided we needed to get a decent laugh out of the Apocalypse, whatever form it eventually takes, and here we are.
Home Brewed, Vampire Bullets is nominally the story of Ed Von Satán, a burnt out pub rocker zombified by a bunyip – he’s essentially the Barry McKenzie of Aussie rock ’n roll. Ed hits the road for a mysterious gig with riot girl band BABALÖN, encountering a bonkers gallery of reprobates from all tiers of Aussie society en route.
I’m not giving much away with the reveal that the gig is More Than It Seems.
Home Brewed is a black comedic romp that speaks to our current predicaments – we’re led by dickheads and assailed by existential crises in every direction – the fate of everything’s at stake and this project was custom-made to milk my bile duct into something that hopefully entertains as much as it seethes at The State of Things.
I’m definitely an acquired taste, but I also reckon there are loads of readers out there who’ll empathise and find catharsis amidst the drugs, random bodily fluids and off-the-hook semi-autobiographical chaos contained within.
Can you give us a teaser of Volume 3? What can we expect?
Volume Three sees the cast of the lunatics, scoundrels and outright bastards you’ve come to know and be horrified by converge at the mysterious Harvest Festival, which is sort of like the Falls Festival run by Raelians.
En route you’re going to cop a twisted, Agatha Christie style drawing room murder mystery, a dose of political biography, my trademark tory-bashing, some Very Metal body horror and the beginnings of an interdimensional war for the fate of reality.
I’ve really leaned into the various lyrics in this one, too – just don’t play them backwards, okay?
Your work has been compared to a Hunter S Thompson-esque ‘gonzo fever dream’ and the ‘grotty larrikin smut’ of Australia’s John Birmingham, and yet you bring something uniquely Garth Jones to your stories. Tell us a bit about your writing influences and how you’ve developed your style over time.
I was a pretty standard Steve ‘n Clive devotee as a teen, with the occasional dip into your John Sauls, your Ramsey Campbells and James Herberts.
Broken Hill City Library was evidently attempting to mold me into an Antipodean version of my namesake, Garth Marenghi.
Thankfully, there were hefty doses of Bolshy comedy in the mix thanks to the old man – think Python, think Ben Elton when he was good, think The Big Gig onwards into the D-Gen and The Late Show in terms of good Aussie gear.
Growing up around old school Union types also flavoured the bolshy voice – my great uncle’s front room is decorated with wall hangings of Stalin, Lenin and the assassinated Socialist legend Percy Brookfield to this very day.
In terms of vernacular, I’ve recently resigned myself to the fact I was reading Picture Magazine for the articles. Kudos to all those hopped-up lunatics in the copy department at Bauer Media Group – your horny, scabbily hyperbolic Strayan patois informed my prose style profoundly, leading to early pitch attempts like
IT’S DOGS IN SPACE SHELVING A HEROIC DOSE OF HOWLING 3: THE MARSUPIALS IN THE METER OF MID ’90S PICTURE MAGAZINE – A BLACK OUT DRUNK BENDER OF COMPLETELY MENTAL DIMENSIONS!
(and I probably shouldn’t be admitting that on the internet in 2023).
Later on I definitely pinned Hunter S’ Better Than Sex to the mood board, got stuck into Jim Goad’s Redneck Manifesto before said scribe had found his absolute final-fuckwit form, mainlined pretty much every ghost written hair metal bio on the shelves and marinated in the works of Mark Manning (Zodiac Mindwarp) and Bill Drummond (The KLF).
Can’t stand John Birmingham, though. I started earnestly thinking about the project that became Home Brewed in the late ‘00s, and I’m not ashamed to admit to the pungent nature of my pompous, edge-lord prose stylings at that point, meaning I held fire for another few years.
It wasn’t until I started writing regularly for a church newspaper – g’day resident Atheist controversy magnet – that I feel like I found the correct pitch between breakneck flights of purple prose, bile-soaked social commentary and sweary Ozploitation inspired setpieces.
Home Brewed was eventually bashed out while working for a regional newspaper in a nameless Victorian National Party stronghold – I reckon alt-tabbing between Nats-approved puff pieces and draft one gave the project precisely the frenzied, punchdrunk energy it craved.
HOME BREWED, VAMPIRE BULLETS, VOL THREE will be available for purchase in print and digital editions from Pass The Amyl Press on April 30, 2023, and will feature a unique QR-code driven score from that Seattle-based prince of the patch cable, Half Majesty.
The Home Brewed, Vampire Bullets series is a brilliant curation of words, art and sound; with accompanying soundtracks, limited edition covers and illustrations within. Tell us a bit about your thinking behind this, and what can we expect with Volume 3?
I’ve got a background in film, telly, graphic design and advertising, and have always been into the idea of creating an immersive universe through the intersection of prose, design, audio, motion, illustration and the web.
Home Brewed’s storytelling style is rooted in the convergence of flicks, music, and comic books, and in my initial pitch sessions with publishers it quickly became apparent that no upstart author from the bush was going to get away with dictating terms when it came to their overall vision for the project.
Around the time of these pitches, my mate Justin recommended Rian Hughes’ staggering sci-fi tome XX, which is a heady combination of typogaphy, interactive elements, music cues and loopy, pulpy graphic design.Emboldened, it was pretty obvious that if I was going to do the vision justice I’d need to do it myself, because I could (with the help of Seattle’s prince of the patch cable, Mr John Schork AKA Half Majesty, whose QR-driven score is absolutely essential).
Pass The Amyl Press had a pretty hasty gestation and here we are, eighteen months later, with Volume 3, which is essentially Side D of a double-vinyl concept album that’s been slowly cranking up to, dare I say it… eleven.
You write without mercy; taking on cultural cringe, taboos and the anachronistic ideas that permeate Australian society without hesitation. Why is it important / what drives you to make socio/political commentary in your work?
It’s frustrating that there aren’t many writers, nay creatives driving in this particular left hand lane.
Australian satire has been in a timid state for decades – where are the polemicists, the truth bomb lobbers, the provocateurs throwing up two middle fingers to the pricks in charge?
The LNP’s brought the ABC to heel, our print media’s owned by their private school chums, our so-called lit-scene is wholly focussed on navel lint and we’re cowed into thinking that sharing the odd Betoota grab in our Insta stories is sticking it to the man.
I know we’re all about our brands these days, the personal is deeply political and rocking the boat is probably going to irrevocably diminish your clout.
The journalist Richard Cooke called Home Brewed “grotesque Australiana”. Our knockabout larrikin self-image masks our true boot-licking, xenophobic, culturally conservative nature, and I’ve nominated myself as the idiot who’s going to lampoon our very worst nature through a lens of abject disgust (hopefully convincing a few punters to imbibe the Kool Aid along the way).
In a nutshell, cathartic spleen venting in the key of whatever I find hilarious on a given day – usually smutty low culture trash derived – is the preferred delivery mechanism for my loftier idea(l)s.
Your story Renditioned grabbed us by the throat instantly and left us thoroughly rattled (in the best way). What advice would you give emerging writers about crafting flash fiction with maximum impact?
Pick your battles.It’s tempting to get stuck in a loop of throwing shit against the proverbial to see what sticks, what with all those prompts piling up in your in-tray, but even the thickest skinned of submission hounds eventually gets worn down by rejections.
I’d recommend sticking to the submission calls that leave you absolutely frothing, the premises that keep you awake buzzing with ideas – like ‘violent night’ – and lean into those. It’s not a perfect approach, but I guarantee you’ll have loads more fun with it.
Short of approaching a man in a trench coat in a dark alley, where can readers get their hands on the Home Brewed Vampire Bullets series?
Well, you certainly can’t approach one Jeff Bezos.
Nailing my anti-Amazon colours fool hardily to the mast, you can score Home Brewed in print and digital form via my site, and can grab the soundtrack over at John’s. Keep an eye on the Twitter – insert ‘if it still exists’ here – and Insta for updates on physical stockists as they sign on. I’m sporadically on Substack, too.
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Winner will be drawn 1st May 2023.