By Patrick R. McDonough
Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Thank you for giving us your time, Andrew. I’ve followed you and Sinister Horror Company for a few years now. I’m so happy you have a collection through them. Tell us about My Dead And Blackened Heart.
Andrew Freudenberg (AF): Thanks for talking to me! Well… it’s a collection of some of my dark tales, ranging from a gentler weird to full on splatterpunk. We wanted it to showcase a variety of styles, as I tend to write across the full spectrum of horror. There’s an emergent theme of parenthood, which largely happened by accident, but there it is. It’s by no means the only topic within, but I think its one of the main ones.
DHR: The parenthood theme totally works, though. What’s it like working with Justin Park (the man behind Sinister Horror Company)?
AF: I can’t speak highly enough of Justin. This collection certainly wouldn’t exist if it was not for him. He approached me with the idea, helped me with story choice and editing, worked with me on the cover, and did all the technical hard graft that goes into putting something like this together. He gets things done and makes up for my slightly unfocused nature! He’s also been a great friend and sounding board through the stresses of this project. Actually, were I religious man, I’d like to nominate him for Sainthood!
DHR: Ha…to Saint Justin Parks! You were born in France, that much I know. Were you raised there as well?
AF: No, my parents are English, and were just working in Europe at the time. I was only about three months or so old when we came back to the UK.
DHR: I know a lot of writers have their spouse be their beta reader. That isn’t the case for you and I. Do you have a few constant beta readers?
AF: I have a few good friends that I’ve been leaning on for a while, but it’s not necessarily always a part of my process to use any one particular person. I’m fairly erratic in that respect.
DHR: You often refer to your wife as your Ninja Wife. Is an interesting or funny story attached with the origin of her nickname?
AF: I can’t remember when I started calling her that. It may have had some origins in the fact that she used to do kickboxing, but really it’s just a comment on her ridiculous ability to do almost anything. When she’s not flying off to deliver a keynote on neuro-diversity, climate change or collaborative software development, she’s marching down the Strand banging a drum with Extinction Rebellion or negotiating a high figure software company sale. She also used to be a diving instructor. In between all that we are raising three boys, so yeah… she just is a Ninja!
DHR: In the ABOUT THE AUTHOR section it says you dabbled in the global techno scene during your twenties. Care to expand on that?
AF: Sure. I have always dabbled with music. In my teens it was more band style, writing and recording a bunch of songs. We weren’t a live act but actually put together quite a few songs. I sang, with my brother on guitar and cousin on bass, and various other friends on drums and more guitars! Unfortunately life got in the way, as it does, and we all went in separate directions. When I discovered sequencing, the dance scene and the associated hedonism, I just wanted to get involved.
I started a
record label and we put out about 15 12” singles, on vinyl, by ourselves and
various other people. Back then it was a lot more complicated than it is now,
as you couldn’t run virtual instruments, so needed an actual studio, and it was
pre-internet, so you actually had to ship physical media around. We made some
pretty well received tunes.
I also got involved with Tribal Energy, an underground party organization, and ended up co-promoting their monthly party night, ‘Club Alien’, for about 1000 people in various locations in London. We also toured it around the UK and did a few things overseas. One of the highlights for me was DJing in the New State Circus building in Moscow, where we provided the soundtrack for a big event promoted by a rather shady ‘business collective’.
We had a lot of great experiences, got to be on bizarre things like MTV news and The Big Breakfast, be in various publications ranging from MixMag to the Sunday Times, and meet a lot of interesting people. It was a fun time.
DHR: Oh wow! Sounds like something you could use as writing material for a story. We both share a love for metal. Who are your favorite groups (new and old)? By the way, I’m jealous of all the bands you’ve seen live.
AF: Oh, don’t get me started! OK, I’ll try and be brief. Deep Purple was my first love, perhaps because it was the first metal, (not sure it gets called that now), that I was introduced to. Of the old school though, Black Sabbath are definitely on the top of my list. When Metallica, Slayer and the thrash wave came along, I was also a fan. I saw Metallica with Cliff Burton three times, the last just before he died. They were such a great live act at that point. Slayer’s ‘South of Heaven’ tour at the Hammersmith Odeon was immense, Faith No More at the Brixton Academy was amazing. The eighties were a great time for me gig wise, not that I’ve stopped! Other bands I adore include Slipknot, Rammstein and System of a Down. Gojiira are in my top ten right now. I saw them at the Academy earlier this year and they were amazing.
DHR: You’ve definitely seem some legends. Black Sabbath is on the top of my list as well (praise Ozzy!). You’re in a group full of writers (Adam Neville being one of them) that you occasionally hang out with. Who makes up the group and what do you all tend to discuss?
AF: I’m not sure that we are a ‘group’, as such, just a bunch of horror loving British writers who are lucky enough to get to hang out from time to time! When Adam and I get together, which is actually quite often at the Download metal festival, music tends to dominate the conversation! Some of the others that I consider friends and see from time to time, with apologies to those I forget to list, include Justin, of course, Tracey Fahey, Duncan Bradshaw, Steve Shaw of Black Shuck, Kit Power, Rich Hawkins, Priya Sharma, Penny Jones, Laura Mauro, Georgina Bruce, Paul Feeney, Rob Shearman, Kitty Kane, Matt Shaw, Ben Jones, Phil Sloman, Jonathon Butcher, Steve Harris, Alison Littlewood… the list of amazingly nice people just goes on and on. It’s an embarrassment of talent! We talk about all kinds of things, but it would be fair to say that the conversation is dominated by books! Again, I have to apologize for leaving people out of this list. I’ve genuinely never known such a large group of amazing people.
DHR: I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to quite a few of those authors. All stand up people! My Dead and Blackened Heart is your first collection. Where did the title come from?
AF: It’s a story that I had published a few years ago. As a title, I just felt it expressed the protagonist’s internal state, and when this collection came along I thought it was worth reviving. The story itself is in the hardback version of the collection.
DHR: I absolutely see that being a sort of driven theme throughout the fourteen stories. Why did you publish through Sinister Horror Company?
AF: They’ve been friends for years and I’ve watched them go from strength to strength. There was something that felt a little pre-ordained about working with them, and when Justin asked, I bit his hand off! They take their place as a small press seriously and their releases just get better and better.
DHR: I couldn’t agree more. A lot of these stories seem to be centered on fatherhood. The front cover and interior illustrations were by one of your boys, Xavier. Did you intentional go in focused on the fatherhood angle?
AF: Not really. It’s been an emergent theme over time. It’s no coincidence that I started taking this writing business more seriously while the boys were all small, and certainly parenthood is part of my everyday existence. It took a while before I realized that I was clearly harboring some pretty extreme concerns! It made sense to put some focus on that in this collection, and Xavier’s cover was just the icing on the cake.
DHR: This collection has a range of horror sub-genres: dark sci-fi, zombies, and I believe you could make an argument that at least two of these stories qualify as splatterpunk. Were there other stories that didn’t make it out of the cutting room?
AF: Yes. There were a few more undead stories that could have been included, but would have taken a toll on the variety I think. Other things didn’t quite fit or go well in the running order. There’s plenty more in the drawer!
DHR: Everything I’ve read by you makes me only want to see anything you have to offer. So I’m all in! What sub-genres do you tend to gravitate towards?
AF: I genuinely like a variety of horror, as long as it’s well done. I like more cerebral slower weird, I like the Mythos, I like some extreme horror… I’m pretty open-minded in that respect, both as a reader and a writer.
DHR: What active writers in the horror community influence your work?
AF: It’s more, which active writers do I hope are influencing me subconsciously to some extent?! I love Adam Nevill’s work. It’s smart and well written, and the darkness seems to come from a genuine place of dread. It’s relentlessly dark too. I’ve always admired Rich Hawkins for similar reasons. He maintains an absolutely grim tone that I love. He’s also a genius at describing monstrous beings, something which I’m really yet to attempt to the same extent. Priya Sharma, Tracey Fahey and Laura Mauro, are all friends whose work I admire for their ability to bring the darkness with a lightness of touch that in no way lessens the shadows lurking beneath the surface. Really, there’s so much good work out there.
DHR: There certainly is a lot of good work out there. We’re all lucky to be living during this time to enjoy so many great stories. My two favorite stories in this book are Milkshake and Meat Sweets. That particular world had a lot of tones and emotions: anxiety-fueled-bat-shit-crazy insanity, disturbing, and after reading Meat Sweets I said, “That’s a fucking story!” Will you write a story in that same world again?
AF: I’d like to. It’s such a fun and horrible world to write. They are both stories that just gushed onto the page, so being in that almost channeling state would be nice! I’ve given some thought to a prequel and your question has me wondering what’s next for Moses, so watch this space!
DHR: Oh man…please do! One of the stories, The Cardiac Ordeal, involves a child going missing. It’s any parent’s worst nightmare. Was it hard to write or did you reflect on your kids and kind of compartmentalize reality from your fiction?
AF: I tend to dive in and wallow in the darkness when I’m writing, and its only later that I realize just what a hard lot in life I’ve given my characters. A lot of the things that I draw from real life insert themselves subconsciously as detail, and those are usually the hardest to go back to. I don’t find them hard to write though, perhaps because of some kind of compartmentalization, as you mention.
DHR: You have a few stories about gangsters as well as soldiers. What is it about those two topics that draw you in?
AF: The gangster in question had what was coming to him. That’s all I can say! I said recently that when you write in a war setting, you come with a horror bonus built in. War is horror and it doesn’t take much to push that into an interesting dimension. I think soldiers, because of the experiences they have, can be quite damaged, and I take some inspiration from that. I tend towards historical wars and enjoy writing in that world. Having said that I do have a half written Gulf war story that I may have to get back to…
DHR: I’d be very interested to read that. I believe this was in Hope Eternal, but you mention people in Massachusetts and then specify people in Boston. What gives, man? You got a problem with my tribe? Ha, I kid, of course.
AF: Ha! No, it was The Last Patrol. I don’t really know. I’ve been to America at least 20 times, but never Boston! I’m not sure if I was watching ‘The Wire’ at the time, or if the character’s medical background seemed to fit in with Boston somehow. No offence intended!
DHR: Ha-ha! I’d love to be your friendly tour guide if you end up in my old stomping grounds. Your last story, Beyond The Book, it isn’t a long story so I’ll do my best to keep it spoil-free, but what it offered was a look into a crystal ball that I NEVER even thought about. It never really hit me until I read that story. It made me stop and wonder if any of this shit—Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media platforms—will matter when I’m an old man? Or if they’ll exist when I’m old and gray.
AF: I don’t think we’ll ever be rid of it now, which is unfortunate in a sense. I think that today’s platforms may well exist when we are old and grey, but beyond that it’s very difficult to anticipate what curveballs technology and society will throw at us. We may end up connected in quite different and increasingly bizarre ways.
DHR: That’s true. It’s pretty tough to make an accurate prediction of future technological advances. Before you go, would you care to make a shout out to anyone?
AF: So many people, but I’ll keep it simple. My family for always supporting me in what I want to do, my writer friends for their continued support and community, Justin Park for making this all happen and last but not least, Jim and the Ginger Nuts of Horror for being a cornerstone of the UK horror scene.
DHR: Andrew, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you!
AF: Thanks for having me! I look forwards to our next encounter!
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