THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . OUT NOW . . . THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . CLICK HERE . . .

CURRENT : RED SPARROW WRITERS : storytelling, workshops, book signings : RSPB Conwy : booking now for 29 October 2019
THIS (parts 1 & 2) : OUT NOW from The Red Sparrow Press : paperback & e-book editions

FUTURE : Folklore & Fairy Tales of North Wales : Mixed Exhibition at Oriel Ty Meirion Gallery, Dyffryn Ardudwy : 22 October 2019 - 5 January 2020
THIS (Kindle Editions parts 3 & 4 of THIS, THAT & the OTHER Book 1) : Publication Dates TBA

Friday, 16 December 2016

Bill Hicks - A Life of Danger


I recently realised that Bill Hicks and my father had some things in common. They shared much wit and wisdom. Both had keen intellects and deep feelings. They could see, more clearly than most, the wrongs in this world and wanted to do their parts in putting them to rights. From the archive, here is my 1992 interview with Bill Hicks and today seems like an ideal opportunity to share it again... Happy birthday Bill and Barrie.


Bill Hicks is, in the words of the New York Times, ''the most brilliant comic of his generation," and his recent tour of major UK theatre venues was a sell-out. Jeremy Dean risks a trip backstage to meet the Man with the Horns.

Integrity is not a word that immediately springs to mind when speaking of stand-up comedy. Bill Hicks is scathingly honest in his viewpoint, and directs his wit like a smoking magnum at many serious subjects and social problems: free will, drug abuse, the homeless, care for the infirm and elderly, world famine, war, bigotry, - hey, wake up! Read on! This may sound like a rather tedious right-on hit list - but these things are funny. Ha-ha and peculiar.

But, 'smoking magnum'? Well, witnessing Hicks' act is rather like playing Russian roulette with your prejudices and complacencies. Bill Hicks surfs the crest of a wave between laughter and discomforting personal revelation, which always (almost always) breaks onto the Bondai Beach of laughter. Just leave those taboos at home.

... and we'll dream, won't we? Of Bill Hicks blue. All in blue.
Since I caught his act during his previous British tour, there has been one question burning in my mind... So, I took this opportunity to confront Bill an hour or so before he went on stage to face a Glasgow audience. There was no tactful way to approach the subject, so with no frills I just blurted, "Bill, what's all this 'Goat Boy' stuff about?"

He laughs, then chuckles like the Horned One himself, "The Goat Boy thing sort of emerged there and then - and it's gonna stay - it's a nod toward our darker desires. You can get people to nod, but they don't like to look too long."

And that's it? When pursued about his darker desires, he evades the subject, probably for the best, I imagine. After all, Bill thinks Playboy is a magazine for gay men! He is taking this meteoric rise to success and critical recognition, with modesty and he admits that he is, "flattered by all the attention."

As for the pressures of touring, he shrugs them off, "It can get a bit out of hand with driving half the day between shows, but no - I'm coping."

So, it's not up to the private jet yet...

"They got me a toy one to play with in the back of the car, to keep me quiet, 'Are we there yet? Shut up, Bill, play with your little plane! Aww gee... '"

But even with critical acclaim and a vast audience, I can't see how he gets the bulk of his material past the Americans, after the trouble that music stirs up among the fanatical right-wing minority, the moral majority and the Washington Wives brigade.

"Well, they haven't put me on prime time yet..." he admits with a demonic laugh. "Religious jokes go down stellar here [in the UK], whereas in America you can feel them draw back a little. The Great American Brow furrows: 'He can't say that, can he?' and political jokes - over here they seem to understand where I'm coming from. Across the board the British audiences give me a better reception."

Political jokes - is there a danger that by laughing at serious matters they become trivialised and that action gets diffused?

“That's a very good question. I don't know if I'm preaching to the already converted, just highlighting the problems. Making a joke about it is my way of grabbing them by the throat and shaking them - the people who legitimise all that kind of thing - the politicians, capitalists. The humour comes from initial anger."

Is Bill just a frustrated politician?

"No. I do a lot of political material. I also do a lot of drug material, and I'm not a frustrated drug user - I found drugs very satisfying… " He muses for a moment, perhaps a pang of nostalgia, “The War on Drugs - the President said, 'We're losing the War on Drugs'. Do you realise what this implies? There are people fighting a war, and they're on drugs, and they're winning! There's no war on drugs, it’s a war on free will.

"I don't do drugs ...any more ...not so far today! I'm talking to you now completely sober and chemical-free. And from this point of view, looking back, I can fully recommend experimenting with drugs!" He laughs insanely and thinks forward to the end of tonight's show: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Bill Hicks has now left his body."

One drug that is indelibly linked with Hicks is the cigarette in his hand for nearly every publicity shot. During his act the man-in-black was swathed with a cloud of tobacco smoke, when asked how many he got through in a day, his reply would be, "Just two." Cigarettes or packs? "No, lighters." But not any more. Hicks has dropped his partner from the act, on stage and off. The smokers in his audiences, who had seen him as some kind of champion messiah, have taken this badly. In Leeds, lighted cigarettes were thrown onto the stage during his act to tempt him.

"My Manager said, 'Bill - you're giving up smoking? What about the act?' Well, I guess I get to do it for seven years longer... And on stage there's the adrenaline. When something comes to you spontaneously on stage, in front of an audience and they share in that - then there's a real rush."

The clock is ticking. Is Bill nervous and psyched up?

"Well, before you disturbed me, I was just taking a nap, so that's how nervous and psyched up I am right now."

So, what does Bill dream of in his pre-show naps?

"I had a vision... Even though this is a world where good men are murdered in their prime and media hacks thrive and proliferate, I've gotta share this with you, because I love you, and you feel that... You know all the money we spend on nuclear weapons and defence every year - trillions of dollars, TRILL-I-ONS – instead… if we spent that money feeding and clothing the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded - not ONE - we could, as one race, explore outer space in peace. Forever."

Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Hicks has now left his body…

This interview was first published in the
Winter Term edition of Student Outlook, 1992.

More info at the official Bill Hicks website

For a reminder of how scathingly funny he was, check-out the Bill Hicks YouTube channel 

Monday, 24 October 2016


THIS, the new novel from Remy Dean with Zel Cariad

The Epic Fantasy Adventure Begins...

They say, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” right? Well, of course that’s not really true. They also say, “Knowledge is power.” Well that’s not always true either… because, somewhere between not knowing and knowing, there lies imagination. That’s the key… the key that unlocks secrets.

It did, once upon a time, and it still does today…

This is the first in a new epic fairy-tale trilogy: This, That and the Other, and is published by The Red Sparrow Press.

The first book will be split into four and released as a part-work, with part one (of book one) set for a Halloween launch to coincide with The Book Trust's Children's Book Week (31 October - 4 November), and will be available FREE for those five days, as an exclusive amazon kindle edition (which can easily be read on PCs, tablets, smartphones, etc. Find out how to read Kindle books without a Kindle-reader HERE). Parts two, three and four of This will follow on a quarterly schedule.

GET This - HERE and be there from the beginning...

It began a long time ago, but for Rietta, it really began when she met Carla, another very special and extraordinary person, and realised that they shared the same dreams. Or perhaps it all started when Rietta and Carla found the severely injured dog in the woods, becoming firm friends as they tried to nurse it back to health and happiness. Then there was the thing that they glimpsed watching them from the shadows, and the mystery of the missing standing-stone… but when they find the key to another realm, well, then things really start happening!

This That and the Other is imaginative fantasy, on an epic scale. The story follows the special friendship between two girls who embark on a magical adventure together, across the three realms. It is a modern fable inspired by Welsh fairy tales and folklore, in the tradition of The Neverending Story, The Box of Delights, The Chronicles of Narnia

Here is a recent interview I did for The Scrawl (along side Zel Cariad and Kim Vertue) in which I mention This and talk about some of my all-time favourite books...

...and another interview about This for PJ Roscoe - The Story Lady website.

More info at The Red Sparrow Press website.

add THIS to your Goodreads shelf

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Stars, At Our Feet - The Plas Tan y Bwlch Journals (part 2)

Iron : made in the stars, gifted to the universe upon their deaths. More plentiful than any other metal. It is in our blood. It is in the land. The acid waters from the high, peated moorland carried the iron down to deposit it as pans of bog-iron in the extensive marshlands that once surrounded the village of Maentwrog. This iron was discovered and worked by the ancient smiths of the Bronze Age, ushering in a new Age of : Iron.

Left: bisected lump of 'bog-iron' displayed at Plas Tan y Bwlch (photograph by Remy Dean, 2016)
Right: galaxy Pictor A - when the light we see left this distant galaxy, 500 million years ago,
what is now the slate of the Cwmorthin quarries was still sediment and ashes...
(image courtesy of 
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and NASA, 2016)
Nebulae of rust stain the starscapes of tiny pits and scratches left by the footsteps of quarriers. Slate, once above their head, now at their feet reflecting the infinite night above. Of the land, of the stars.

The Stars, At Our Feet (i) photograph by Remy Dean, 2016
In December 2015, the Snowdonia National Park was officially designated the world's tenth International Dark Sky Reserve. This news, and the poetic image of slate miners returning to their barracks on a rare, clear night, their heavy work-boots splashing in the puddles and mixing the reflection of the stars with their own, were the seeds for an on-going series of images I have titled, The Stars, At Our Feet...

The Stars, At Our Feet (ii) photograph by Remy Dean, 2016
I took the title for this series of photographs from a poem by an anonymous Cwmorthin miner, found written on the back of a shipping slip, dated 1889.
You can read the News Release about Snowdonia becoming a Dark Skies Reserve HERE.

Find more about the Cwmorthin Quarries HERE.

Read about Peter Crew's archaeological excavations at Bryn y Castell hillfort and subsequent findings related to bog iron and the Iron Age significance of the Maentwrog area HERE.

Work produced during this Residency will be on show in the Stable Block,
Plas Tan y Bwlch, over this Yuletide, and through Spring 2017...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Plas People Past Present - The Plas Tan y Bwlch Journals (Part 1)

Approaching the house where it sits upon high, overlooking the perfected bend in the river Dwyryd, I walk a steep winding path sided by ancient trees. The leaves are beginning to tan. After this dull muggy summer, when it rained enough to drown cars and wash away the chrysalides from their sheltering soil into rampant rivers and the eternal seize, it cannot be the tanning of the sunshine but the brush of autumn that is bronzing the leaves with its subtle signal to fall. The branches and trunks record the sodden summer in new rings, hold a sample of our air within their grain, breathe in what we exhale.

So to the house. My hand upon handles turned by Lady Mary, whose skill also turned wood and carved church rails. My feet step on stairs ascended and descended daily by her maids and footmen. I touch the ever present past and walk the corridors of time that measures its steps with mine, second for second into a share of the future. The past remains mine as much as yours, though what we know of it is told in the coded marks they left us. Stone upon stone, word after word, the scratches left by rings on the age-polished door handles and the smooth stone of steps bowed by thousands of footfalls, to which I add my own.

For Helfa Gelf 2016, I am delighted to be Writer in Residence at Plas Tan y Bwlch, and have already started exploring the rich heritage of this great house and the land that surrounds it. I will be using combinations of text, artefact and images to document my findings and responses, which will be recorded here in this on-line journal.

I will be in residence at Plas Tan y Bwlch on Saturdays and Sundays until the end of September.
Those dates are 10th & 11th, 17th & 18th, 24th & 25th.

You will find me in the ground floor Bar, where you will be able to see some examples of my work, take part in creative workshops, listen to readings, and buy books.

I will host the Creative Writing workshops each morning from 11:00 to 12:00, and there will be readings and storytelling beginning at 14:00 each afternoon. Readings will include a special preview from my forthcoming fairy-tale-fantasy, This (recommended for age groups of 9+, though suitable for all). There will also be short-form creative writing activities at any time you 'drop-in'.

I am looking forward to lots of fascinating chats about art and writing, local history and folklore... Bring it!

Follow my twitter feed for up-dates.

more info about the Residency at my Helfa Gelf page
and find out more about Plas Tan y Bwlch at their website

Nick Cave – The Funniest Man in Europe


With the feature film and album, Skeleton Tree, debuting in a couple of days' time, I was reminded of this blast from the past. So, 25 years on... and Nick Cave is still at the height of his creative powers!

“I’m very paranoid. I just don't like this situation. I don't like what it's doing to me, what it's doing to my life outside the interview situation. Whatever I say in an interview ultimately becomes public property, and becomes a kind of Nick Cave cliché…”

This is probably the only time you'll hear the name Nick Cave and the word cliché in the same sentence. Since the demise of The Birthday Party and the forming of The Bad Seeds in 1983, Cave has established himself as one of the most influential and original song-writers, as well as an accomplished novelist and actor of promise.

Nick Cave does not sing in lounges!
I met Nick Cave in a quiet West London pub, between The Good Son and Henry's Dream, before he jetted off back to Berlin, where he lived for some time after leaving Australia. Had Berlin changed for better or worse since the Wall came down?

"The last time I was in Berlin was when the Wall actually came down, so I've yet to see the repercussions of that. In a way I grieve for Berlin - simply because it was, for me the most, unique city in Europe. I wonder what will happen now that it's sucked into the rest of Germany.”

Wim Wenders, director of the film Wings Of Desire, in which Cave appears and contributes two songs to the soundtrack, commented that he could never imagine him living in any other city.

"Well I don't know how well Wim knows me, really. I must say, the moment I got to Berlin, I felt like I was home in some way. When I first left Australia and came to Britain, I felt quite crippled by London, in many ways. Berlin just seemed such a natural place to be for me."

The angel, Cassiel (Otto Sander), stands at Nick's shoulder
in Wim Wender's 1987 film, Der Himmel über Berlin
 (The Sky Over Berlin) aka Wings of Desire
Nick Cave seems unable to settle in one place, flitting from London to Berlin, to Brazil, where the The Good Son album was recorded. Where do his roots lie?

"I am an Australian. When I see other Australians overseas, no matter how gross they may be acting, I feel a definite kinship with them. I find them funny, I understand their sense of humour. Australia has a very strange sense. of humour, something that I've been trying to put across for many years.

"I was always trying to be the funniest man in Europe - but it never really worked - I don't think the rest of the World is really ready for the Australian sense of humour;"

He then tells a couple of quick-fire jokes, one vintage English sexist and one tasteless Australian jibe at the Tasmanians. I quickly interrupt to divert a possible stand-up routine by asking about his critically acclaimed novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, which drew inspirations from sources like Faulkner and The Bible.

He tells me, "It's essentially a comic novel."

There are rumours about a film being made of the book…

"Yes there's talk about it, but all that's out of my hands. If someone wants to put my book to film then I'd be really happy about that. But I’m not really prepared to get involved with it. That book took up five years of my life and it's out of me, now. I'm really happy with the way it turned out, but I can't get involved with it any more."

Nick was involved with the screenplay for the harshly brutal film, Ghosts Of The Civil Dead a kind of documentary fiction set in a top-security prison, in which he made his noteworthy acting debut as a psychotic maniac, and for which The Bad Seeds provided the soundtrack.

"I was heavily involved in the writing of the first and third draft - it went through eight drafts and by the time the, script was completed, it was a very different story. I was responsible for inventing certain characters.”

It's hard to imagine Nick Cave fitting easily into someone else's creative process, how did he feel about it?

"I liked it a lot. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but I enjoy the different forms of creativity. I very much like working in a solitary way writing a novel, even though it's very much the hardest thing to do. I also like working with a small unit of people where everyone's very much bound to each other in the form of making a record. And it's also interesting to work with a massive film team where there's all these different people with different jobs and the director entrusting his ideas to make-up people, art directors, cameramen, lighting people, script writers, and so on - and I'd like to do more film music in that way."

Are there any projects that he has in mind?

"Well I wouldn’t mind writing the music for some Jim Thomson adaptations, for example. I've read all the books and the woman (Maggie Greenwald) who made The Kill Off is now making Savage Night… and we’ll contribute a song to Wim Wenders' next film..."

Cave's lyrics are always filmic, theatrical and brimming with rich imagery, a kind of poeticism that seems to go with Australian singer songwriters, such as The Triffids, Go-Betweens, Dave Graney...

"It could be the heavy influence of country music on the kind of wise young sector of Australia. Maybe, being Australian, we have a little more to say than people in other countries, a little more need to say something. "

Then would he prefer to be acknowledged as a novelist or a songwriter?

"I don't distinguish between the two, I see the difference between the two but I don't place any more importance on one or the other. My work is the sum of my worth as a human being - so it's very important."

Revenge and extremes of emotion are omnipresent themes in the lyrics of Cave’s songs and prominently feature in his prose…

"In my songs I create characters and allow then to live out fantasies or certain emotions that taken to their logical conclusions I’m not prepared to act out in real life. So if I have a character who’s stabbing a woman to death - then it may be something that I'd like to do but am not prepared to do.

"A great deal of my songs are about revenge and there are certain people who know what those songs are about, and possibly those people are glad I'm writing songs and not actually ... (thumps table) Y'know." He grins dangerously.

"I think I'm able to express my emotions far better on vinyl than in real life, and maybe because I have the outlet of doing that creatively, it constipates me in other ways, in more real terms."

The Good Son is a very romantic, beautiful, vulnerable and honest record, filled with atmosphere that begs comparison with such greats as Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen. A very different Nick Cave to the screaming demon of The Birthday Party. How does he reconcile this image, as a suited lounge singer bordering on sex symbol?

"I don't think I’m a lounge singer, at all - a lounge singer suggests that there isn't a lot of emotion going on there and... I don't like it, I'm not a lounge singer! I don't sing in lounges - you know, fuck man! I’m no fucking lounge singer… You think that Leonard Cohen is a lounge singer!? You think Leonard Cohen could actually go into a lounge and sing and not be thrown out on his ear half way through the first song? I don't think so!"

…well, maybe Australians aren't ready for the British sense of humour?

"My image is what you're dealing with, not what I’m dealing with. I try my best to be honest with what I’m doing. I try my best to be honest on stage... in the recording process. I don't try my best to be honest in interviews, I admit! But the whole building up of my image is your business. So, do me a favour, don't quote the jokes."

OK, Nick...

This interview was conducted in 1990, when Nick’s relationship with the UK press was openly strained and, I think, it was one of only four interviews he made time for that year... I am very grateful that he was kind enough to spend his time on this one, during which he was most charming and attentive. Parts of it appeared in a feature for the June 1990 issue of Outlook, and later in the Crumblin’ Rock 1992-1993 Yearbook. It was also grounding for research that led to my critique-cum-biography, Hellfire: Life According to Nick Cave, published in 1995 with an introduction by Mark Radcliffe (The Dunce Directive ISBN 09522068 5 4).

For current info, check out the Official Nick Cave website

Monday, 18 July 2016

Summer of '16

This summer promises to be very 'British', but regardless of the climate - both political and atmospheric - and whether we have a proper summer this year at all, here are some dates for the diary:

I have recently been working on a final version of This. This is my new novel, and first of the This, That and the Other series of three... Hey, that would be a trilogy! The books are my first for children and young adults and I am writing them in consultation with Zel Cariad, my resident expert on all things fairy and dragon related. So with Zel's invaluable help, and by channeling the veteran child within myself, I have written a fairy-tale fantasy that winds its epic yarn between the world of the 'Fair Ones' and that world where we now dwell...

"She did not know that before the next day dawned, she would have seen things that she never thought she would ever see, and that soon she would change forever. She would be changed from being a fairly normal little girl into being a very special and extraordinary person. It began a long time ago… but for Rietta, it all started when she met another very special and extraordinary person."
- taken from 'This', by Remy Dean with Zel Cariad 

The book is set for publication late this Autumn, but I will be reading preview extracts from This at these following events (click listings for more info and directions):

'The Legendary Llangollen Faery Festival' : 13 and 14 August 2016

'Sci-Fi Wales', Llandudno : 3 September 2016

...and I will also be

Writer in Residence at Plas Tan y Bwlch, Maentwrog, during September 2016.

I will be responding to the house and its environs using texts, images and artefacts... producing new work, signing copies of my books (Final Bough and The Race Glass) and reading from This on the second, third, and fourth weekends (those dates are 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25 of September)

Plas Tan y Bwlch ...steeped in history and seeping with stories

Plas Tan y Bwlch overlooks the village of Maentwrog, named after Twrog's Stone, the ancient stone supposedly hurled there by a giant to smash a pagan altar, and now sited in the Mediaeval graveyard of a church surrounded by a grove of ancient yews. The site is mentioned in the Mabinogion as the place where king Pryderi was defeated in magical combat by Gwydion, and is where, centuries later, the Bible was translated into Welsh-language, and more recently where iron age dwellings and unique bog-iron foundries have been excavated. So, the place and the Plas, are seeping with stories, both ancient and modern.

Hope you get chance to drop in and have a chat!

You can read all about my previous Writing Residency at last year's Haus Of Helfa here...


Recently, I have 'bravely' delved into the haphazard chaos of boxes that is my writer's archive and have already been reminded of some old, though still relevant features and interviews that have never been digitised. So, in my 'spare time', I intend to rescue some choice examples from their dusty obscurity and put them to work again, by uploading them to this weblog. So watch this space for occasional blasts from the past related to film, cult-television, mainstream rock and alternative music...

Monday, 11 July 2016

Behold, The Beast - remembering 'Shadow Raiders'


I recently re-watched the entire run of Mainframe's Shadow Raiders. It was as exciting and inventive as I remembered and, 18 years after its debut, is re-confirmed as one of my all-time favourite SF TV series. Mainframe was a Canadian computer graphics and animation production company, responsible for the ground-breaking video for the 1985 Dire Straits single, Money For Nothing, and for the first fully CGI television series, ReBoot. They were also responsible for bringing the series of far-better-than-they-have-to-be Barbie movies to the screen - Island Princess being a favourite of mine - and later developed into what is now Rainmaker Entertainment Inc.

Shadow Raiders the fantastic, yet underrated, SF TV classic (1998 - 1999)
War Planets: Shadow Raiders - a show for kids right? If being a kid means enjoying imaginative and inventive stories, serious plot developments, convincing characterisation, gorgeous CGI art, dynamic action sequences and an on-going and involving arc - well, yeah, it's kid stuff...

Shadow Raiders is just one of an array of spectacular series created entirely from computer animation by Mainframe, its multi-award winning makers. What marks it aside from the other Mainframe shows, such as ReBoot, and the new Transformers, is its particularly well structured plots and some intense moments capable of bringing a tear to the eye, or instigating a jump from the sofa with a fist in the air as our heroes triumph over insurmountable odds... Such is its power to immerse the viewer in its fantastical reality populated by sympathetic and convincing characters. Even though the regular cast consists of a giant blue insect, a boy whose head is on fire, a shiny robot babe, a short fat lizard and a couple of hefty stone people, it is surprisingly easy to forget that what you are watching is CGI!

Of course, the awe inspiring talents of the CGI animators have much to do with this suspension of disbelief, as do the excellent voice actors, but it is within the writing that the real strength resides. The stable of writers includes Christy Marx, who has also written for Babylon 5. Some elements may seem reminiscent of Babylon 5, such as the shadowy beast drones, the world-killing beast planet, the great machines of the world engines concealed deep within planets, remnants of some ancient alien technology... But there, any similarities end. Shadow Raiders is 'proper grown up SF' and takes its story-telling just as seriously, but is not averse to going for all-out laser battles and exciting starfighter sequences. Plus, it seems highly unlikely that the Beast's minions would ever 'get the hell out of our universe' just because we told 'em to. No, they enjoy consuming planets and extinguishing all life far too much! The only way they will go out is with a humongous bang and plenty of drama, never a whimper or an anti-climax...

The Vice President in charge of Operations at Mainframe is British-born Phil Mitchell, whose job involves running all aspects of production and development for TV. Phil is also one of the original developers of the seminal series, ReBoot. Remy Dean caught up with Phil to ask him a little bit about Shadow Raiders - how the show came to be and what may yet become of it...

Press shots of some of the 'synthespian' cast of Shadow Raiders
RD: The 'acting' in Shadow Raiders is often very effective, and sometimes poignant, and the characters can convey real emotional depth. As these 'synthespians' only live inside the circuits of the computers, how is this achieved? Are the scenes first acted by a human cast?

PM: No - that would be using a method called 'motion-capture' in which real actors don a suit covered in sensors and their movements are fed into the computer to provide a basic set of motions which the animators then refine. What we do is called 'keyframe animation' and there are no real actors involved - except the voices. We do encourage the use of 'real-world' reference - animation is all about observation. So, by self-observation, watching movies, et cetera, on tape, the animators see how real actors behave, and put this knowledge into their own work.

Are the characters actually based on real people? Julia reminded me of Louise Brooks.

Not deliberately, but we draw our inspiration from many sources. It's possible that Louise Brooks was in there somewhere!

Could a member of the 'synthespian' cast interact in real time?

Given enough money and computing power anything is possible - but we are not equipped to do that sort of thing at the moment.

What comes first, the ability to render a visual idea or an artist’s concept? In other words, do the concept designers and directors set real challenges, or does everyone work within the parameters of what is known to be possible?

Both. We like to push the bounds of what is accepted as 'possible', but at the same time must bear in mind the constraints of production. Often concepts that work on paper are just too involved from a logistics, time, resources, and manpower point of view. But we like the problems that these situations pose - they demand creative solutions, and push everyone's creativity.

It also depends on where the idea came from. A children's book? A comic? A story treatment? Is there original art or not? Do we have to follow it thematically, or are we free to take it in another direction? The production designers are the creators of the visual look of any project. They do illustrations, then from that we create models inside the computer. We sometimes try lots of different looks before the final character or set designs are arrived at.

How closely do the animators and the writers work together?

Not very: The writers work closely with the Producer and Creative Director of each series.

Shadow Raiders was initially based on a line of toys and games. How detailed were the guidelines from Trendmasters, the toy manufacturers, as to the show's content?

It was a collaborative process really because the original toy line didn't have many characters and we had to develop some new ones to give the series an interesting cast.

The scope of Shadow Raiders is certainly on an epic scale and has been likened to Star Wars. It reminded me a little of other golden age science fiction, like Flash Gordon, too. What do you perceive as being the show's major influences, on both its look and content? 

Good question. I guess everything from those 50s Hollywood epics to the science fiction cornerstones of 70s TV. Basically, we took a whole bunch of stuff and distilled it down to what seemed appropriate to the subject matter.

How rigid is the main story arc and how long is it planned to last?

Shadow Raiders was two seasons long – twenty-six episodes. It is now finished.

But, can we expect more from the War Planets universe in the future? Any more seasons on the way?

The series finished production earlier this year (1999). We are certainly looking for a new broadcaster-home for the series as we'd like to do more. There are plenty of storylines yet to be explored. We understand the series was very popular in the UK and Europe so we're talking to those broadcasters to see if we can find a way to fund further seasons for those audiences.

Thank you Phil Mitchell, and may you have every success in finding further outlets for more Shadow Raiders - it would certainly be welcome on UK screens, particularly mine!

Phil Mitchell was talking to Remy Dean.

For cast details, episode list and more, see the 

This interview from 1999 with Mainframe's Phil Mitchell first appeared 
in the UK science and science fiction 'fanzine', The 5 Times, issue 20.