photo : Amanda Robertson-Hebert
interview : Jennifer Link
Dylan Madeley is the copy editor for Auxiliary Magazine and a frequent contributor. He conducts interviews and writes articles for Auxiliary as well as contributing his writing talents to additional copy and introductions throughout each issue. He brings several years of experience covering the Toronto dark alternative scene with toronto-goth.com and reviewing books for Morbid Outlook. He also makes a hobby of travel and concert photography. Having participated fruitfully in National Novel Writing Month for five consecutive years, he spends some of his efforts attempting to transform novelism from a hobby to a career.
What do you do at Auxiliary Magazine?
I am a copy editor and also a writer.
How did you join the magazine?
I found an Auxiliary Magazine table at the Bazaar of the Bizarre, a seasonal indoor alternative marketplace in Toronto. I gave them my business card. It actually took a couple of tries, because I recall later on being reintroduced to the editors by a mutual friend while at [FAT] Fashion Alternative Week in Toronto and having another go at joining. They were interested in my skills as an interviewer, and I had plenty of samples to give them. It all went pleasantly from there.
With a passion for travel and concert photography and a passion for writing, if you had to choose, which method do you prefer as a means of expression?
I feel much more serious as a writer and I feel more likely to communicate an intended message using words. I have a more complete skill set when it comes to writing, while at this point in my life photography is something I do mostly for fun and experience.
Do you think that the written word is just as important as an image?
I like the written word because I readily took to it as a form of expression in my youth, whereas I had a frustrating time with visual arts until I tried photography. I also place a great value on writing when it comes to keeping histories and traditions. For example, I have been challenged while researching some ancient European cultures for a novel idea because these particular cultures did not develop literacy until much later in history. What I have found instead are conflicting accounts from two different Roman writers, each of whom sought political gains from the opposite portrayals they were making. If you don’t write about your thoughts, thought processes, or values, you leave it to others to interpret how you live. They may not be as interested in how you see your world, or accuracy in general. In contrast, we not only have plenty of visual art to give us ideas about how Ancient Greece or Rome looked, and how people looked and dressed. We have surviving texts, like preserved thoughts. They help us understand the mindset and the values of the time.
What skills and experience from your background do you use as a copy editor and contributor for Auxiliary?
I graduated from York University with a degree in Professional Writing. When my degree came to an end, I started writing interviews and event reviews for toronto-goth.com, a gig which lasted up until the recent closing of the site. During that same post-degree time span I further honed my interview skills with Morbid Outlook, a long-running goth zine. On the editing side, I started freelancing in my past life as a martial arts instructor; one of my adult students spoke English as a second language, and we built a working relationship on fixing the grammar and syntax in his professional reports.
What led you to where you are as a writer today?
There’s nothing like a solid foundation. I was strongly encouraged to start writing in elementary school, and if I am anywhere today then it is because I never really stopped. Even when I doubted whether this was the smartest career path (I tried to learn programming and even accounting at different points of high school), I kept losing interest in other things and coming back to the craft. This seems to be an important part of my identity, and I wish I had accepted that sooner.
You are working on a novel, can you tell us a bit more about it and your personal goals and plans for the future as a writer?
I have three novels, actually, but they are a series so I spend most of my time polishing and pitching the first of them. It’s a light fantasy in a world of my creation, and at a sort of Medieval technology level, and the story revolves around two primary protagonists whose ancestors were bitter enemies of each other. A trained warrior with stalled job prospects during a peaceful time and a burdensome family history finds himself, as per the traditions of his land, called to the ceremonial guard of a newly crowned ruler. The problem is, this ruler is the lone successor of the people who killed his last famous ancestor and pitched his once-noble family into disrepute, and a series of happenings along his journey make him wonder if he’s in peril the moment he arrives at his supposed new home; and if he should turn the tables somehow. The other protagonist is that lone successor, who wasn’t expecting this job at all, having been pushed on to the throne by a technicality. She finds herself not taken seriously by courtiers who don’t think she deserves the job, or who think she worked some form of dark sorcery in order to get the former king and queen out of the way, and all at a time when the monarchy is increasingly unpopular among a public that yearns for a more representative government. She has a steep learning curve ahead if she wants to outwit some powerful conspirators, prevent a civil war and the untold deaths that would come with it, and preserve her own life in the process. And that’s just what happens before the first protagonist arrives having decided what he must do, because the outcome of his efforts will shape the rest of the book and the series. Having put a lot of time, effort and love into this series, one goal is getting this story and series out there and read. But another important goal that I have is to come up with different worlds and stories, and to keep improving my skills so that I can better do justice to my passion.
What photographers/artists/authors out there (dead or alive) influence you the most and why?
In terms of writing, the first book that I read in my spare time and that made me think was Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. From then on, I was interested in reading for me, because I was interested in paying attention to the ideas and words, not because a class had assigned me a book report (admittedly the prime motivator before then). Stylistically, I will never forget the sometimes-pulp, sometimes-formal, always cerebral Michael Moorcock. I occasionally swap messages with him on his forum. He champions the importance of the idea, whether you’re taking your time or pumping out multiple books in a fortnight. What I try to take from his work is a cool balance between exposition and dialogue, ideas and action, so that even if I want to write a high-energy adventure for you, I prefer the adventure to have a brain. The most influential photographer in my life has been my mom. She was adamant about the family traveling at least once a year, and from the earliest time that I remember, she always had an SLR and used it constantly. Later on, just after I had a discouraging experience with a photography course, mom was the inspiration to keep doing it and enjoying it anyway. She didn’t give any pep talk. She inspired by example, always trying different shots for different effects, and I wanted to see how I would fare if left entirely to my own devices.
In your opinion, how much does the health of local scenes impact the health of scenes as a whole?
The relationships between scenes do matter a lot, but I feel like a local scene is where it begins. It’s where I am and where I can make the most immediate contributions. What the inter-scene connections do is enrich local scenes and spread ideas around, but it’s important for something to be there first. And each local scene seems to do things a little bit differently, forming a unique identity that enriches the overarching scene. I think it would be challenging to have the overall scene stay healthy and vibrant if too many local scenes are not doing well.
What important impacts do you think Auxiliary has had on alternative subculture?
I think that Auxiliary is such an important resource. It gives readers an important look at what is happening right now, today, without forgetting key influences that brought about the present. That last part matters so much, because unless you want a full disconnect between generations of people entering the scene, it helps to catch some people up to important cultural references. That first part matters so much, because this alternative scene is alive and things are happening now which deserve to be acknowledged. So it does two important things to bring all kinds of people into the conversation.
Do you think the fashion drives the music or the music drives the fashion?
This is a real head scratcher because each of those things can function as the subject or the object; they take turns at influencing each other. If ever there was a time when they worked completely independent of each other, I don’t feel that could be true today. Every designer I know personally is deep into music, and I don’t know any musicians who refuse to care how they look, live music often being a highly visual experience. Yet I also believe both would persist in absence of the other if they had to, even though I don’t enjoy imagining a world without both. I believe they are better with each other for sure.
You have the power of time travel, what one live performance past or future would you attend?
I’m going with my first impulse here, otherwise I would never be able to decide. My taste in alternative and underground music has psychedelic roots. Space Ritual, a live album by Hawkwind, was recorded at two different shows: Liverpool Stadium, December 22, 1972, and Brixton Sundown (London), December 30, 1972. I would want to witness one of those, and either one would be great. The overall concept was a uniquely theatrical rock and roll experience for the era. Lemmy Kilmister was singing and playing bass at the time years prior to forming Motorhead, and he brought a new and different energy into this group of wild anarchic people who loved to play with noise generators and danceable 2/2 rhythms.