Interview: Krent Able
Our incorrigible comics maestro has a book coming out. But who is this sick, slippery artist intent upon ‘stabbing you in the brain’ with his strips of mischief?
The image of a comic artist letting his eight-year-old daughter help him colour in his illustrations is, we’re sure you’ll agree, fairly heart-warming. Now substitute ‘comic artist’ with Krent Able, a man who has spent untold hours sketching the decayed genitals and dismembered body parts of the music biz’s great and good, and you’ll get something of the full horror of what this man is about.
“Sometimes I’ll put my hand over some of the panels,” says Krent, a man whose neighbours seem destined to utter the phrase “he seemed like such a quiet guy” to the national press at some point or another. “Plus if you’re only seven or eight you don’t really get it, whereas if she was 12 or 13 it might be more of a problem. But I just cackle when I’m drawing, I think it’s funny.”
Krent has set about his unsavoury work for The Stool Pigeon with disturbing zeal over the past few years; so much so that publishers Knockabout — whose other clients include such comic book giants as Robert Crumb and Alan Moore — are compiling his oeuvre for a new tome, Krent Able’s Big Book Of Mischief, out on Friday November 2.
Some of Krent’s more memorable characters to date include Doctor Cave, a GP of dubious credentials and a habit of sprouting erections at the most inappropriate of junctures, a sag-titted, cave-dwelling Courtney Love and, perhaps most indelibly of all, a terrifying Alison Goldfrapp who invites perspiring Mute boss Daniel Miller to “taste the felt mountain… lick the flap of ’Frapp”, in ‘Don’t Fuck With The ’Frapp’.
So, it’s somewhat of a surprise to learn that Krent was actually signed with Mute in the early-nineties, with an unnamed outfit pedalling “Ministry, Stooges, freaky noise kinda shit”, before going on to other musical ventures which he again declines to identify here, slippery bugger that he is.
Other creative endeavours for Krent, whose first comics were inked for a local newspaper in Grimsby when he was just 15, include erotic artworks for a friend’s textile company, drawing pictures of “ladies whipping each other and stuff” for a range of pillows, bedspreads and the like.
But back to the comics, for which Krent cites inspirations as far-flung as Hans Bellmer, Ghost World author Dan Clowes, Chester Brown and The Evil Dead. Krent, what’s your rationale for choosing which musicians to depict?
“It depends, really,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll think of a character and try and fit a story around it, and other times I’ll have an idea and try different people.”
Nick Cave has, of course, been Krent’s most faithful muse over the years, a fact he attributes to the Bad Seeds singer’s larger-than-life persona: “He’s a rock star with a proper personality, plus he’s developed this persona around himself — he’s just ripe for those stories. He’s like an actor, the way he just puts on his Nick Cave outfit — I’ve seen pictures of him out in puffa jacket and jeans, it’s funny. But I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy.”
What’s more, Krent seems in no doubt as to whether Cave would be above a good chuckle at his comics.
“I think it’s obvious from his music he’s got a good sense of humour,” he says. “I mean, the guy wanted to put a statue of himself in his hometown. He was trying to get people to put a life-size statue of him riding a big stallion!”
One thing that will be familiar to fans of Krent’s work is the exacting levels of anatomical detail he puts into his grisliest frames; a trait he tells us is an enormous source of pride and well-being.
“I don’t want people saying I haven’t got the spine in the right place,” he says, glowing. “When you’re drawing the genitals or the inside bits, that’s when you hone in, just to freak people out. Whereas a lamppost you can do really quickly. It’s nice to let people think they’re reading something nice, and then sort of stab them in the brain.”
In fact, the whole process is a time-consuming one for Krent, and he often has to still the voices in his head that tell him he’s “wasting his time”.
“If I’m doing a two-page comic that would take non-stop two weeks of nine-to-five work, so it’s pretty slow,” he says. “You can spend one day on one person’s expression, because if you don’t get it right, it ain’t funny.”
Before we let Krent scarper back to his hovel, there’s one detail we can’t let slide. In one early caper, ‘Untitled: Starring Brian Wilson’, a man punches the ageing Beach Boy in the face, only to find it collapses on account of his unfeasibly soft head…
“Soft like a melon!”
Er, yes. Why’s that, though?
“That’s just the kind of head you’d expect him to have, isn’t it? The way he talks and stuff. He’s… not there, is he?”