Scheduled on February 17, 2019
Val Denham has been active since at least the early 70s, as a visual artist and musician. Her artwork has graced the covers of albums by Marc Almond, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Black Sun Productions, Cyclobe, and Merzbow, but my favorite of her cover art is probably If You Can't Please Yourself, You Can't Please Your Soul, a classic compilation featuring Foetus, Coil, Einsturzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, and more. More recently, she has had extensive art books published, most notably TRANART, released by Timeless. As a musician, her work dating back to 1982 with The Death and Beauty Foundation has been reissued by the deluxe box set specialist label Vinyl-on-Demand, and her prolific work with various projects seems to only increase as time goes on.
Personally, I would be remiss not to note that I find Denham's personal facebook page to be a relief, as it is rife with the quirks of an evermore rarefied and robust, youthfully humorous, yet witty soul. I feel as if I know how Val laughs solely by seeing her posts of odd record covers and cultural abnormalities.
1. What types of things have you been getting into lately?
I'm just in negotiations with my record label as to the running order of the 12 tracks for my
forthcoming vinyl and CD album entitled The Devil Knows Your Name Now;. This will be the third
album that I have done on Vanity Case Records. This is really the final part of a trilogy that started
with Dysphoria; and I Saw Myself in Your Dreams Last Night. After this album I will do something
very different. I'm also finalizing the artwork for a box set of my earlier work for Yuen K Wah,
entitled Fabulux This will be a coloured vinyl LP and 4 double album CDs, a T shirt and an original artwork in a box. Plus, I am always doing my painting and writing.
2. What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby? If you don't like that question, what do
you have to say about true art (vs. "entertainment")?
I am a total artist. I collect vintage monster / horror film magazines as a hobby, but my art is my life.
3. How would you describe what you do?
I create stuff compulsively. I do it for my mental well-being. I am considered an outsider artist,
because I don't need anyone else to see my work. Don't get me wrong, I do like other people to see
and hear my stuff, but it really isn't essential. I don't create art or music with the intention of making
money or pleasing/impressing other people, I do it because it is important to me. If there was a big
war and we all went back to cave man times, I would have to draw on the cave walls.
4. How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
I've come to realize that my creative output is a symptom of my mental health issues, namely severe
obsessive compulsive disorder. My work is totally about my own psychology. Every work that I
produce is a self-portrait, either literally or on a subconscious level. Obviously the older you get, the
more your painting technique improves as indeed so does your musical abilities. You really can't help
improving with time. I also have absolute faith in my intuition now that I am more mature as an
artist. However, for me to be truly mature I believe that I must completely embrace the child inside
myself. I want to have lots of fun.
5. How would you describe your philosophy?
Go with the river. Everything is perfect. To be angry, unhappy or uncreative is a negation of the
divine gift of life. We will be dead sooner than we think, so try to enjoy every second. Love is the
greatest energy in the universe. Do not live your life as other people think you should live it. Be who
you are. If anyone has a problem with that, drop them. I mean it. Whether they are family, friends,
employers, if they are negative you must X them out of your life. You must be ruthless and without
fear. Fear is the enemy. Destroy all monsters.
6. Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods? If no, then maybe you'll share your favourite conspiracy theory (whether you believe it or not).
I believe in the unknown physical world. There is so much weird shit that has happened to me over
the years. Maybe this is because I'm open to it. I am a Deist. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the
moon became a Deist. I believe in God. But I now think that "God" could be a whole race of beings.
As for conspiracy theories, these conspiracy believers should read “Voodoo Histories” by David
Aaronovitch. Certain people need to believe in something to fill the void left by the fanatical
onslaught of atheism that is so prevalent these days. Now these individuals will believe literally
anything, no matter how ridiculous. It is simply paranoia. Someone must be behind it all? But, guess
what David Icke, people such as you are the ones behind it all. The moon is hollow and run by lizard
aliens? The Royal Family are in fact alien lizards? These people are insane! The CIA bombed the Twin Towers so that they could blame it on the Muslims. Fuck off.
7. What would you say was your most definitive experience?
It was in 2001 when I was 44 and meeting up again with my first girlfriend that I went out with when
I was 17. A couple of years later we got married. She is my soul mate. I have never been happier in
my life. I'm now 61 and at last I have some kind of contentment. I quite like growing older together.
8. Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people
to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?
I spend more time cleaning and putting things in order than I do artwork due to my OCD. I like to
drink lots of alcohol. I like to do exercises as I watch "Pointless" on TV. I have two security blankets
and I sometimes get panic attacks for no reason. I use an inhaler every morning and before I go to
bed. I'm a big collector as I said, with the magazines which I have in perfect order in Mylar bags in
acid free boxes, but I also collect everything that I can by my favourite band "The Residents". I have a huge collection! I’m a bit of a hoarder of books, vases, and various other things. I love collecting. I
9. Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you
think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?
"Walk on By" by Dionne Warwick is perfect. I've seen her sing it live in Bradford. But, albums?
Hmmmm.....my favourite album has to be "Third Reich'n'Roll" by The Residents. I also love David
Bowie. I have all his albums. I listen to all this music on an Ipod when I am in bed. "The Dreaming" by Kate Bush is a big favourite. The Stooges, Chrome, Faust, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, mostly old 60's, 70's and 80's music, But I do like some new stuff too. I also listen to my own releases quite a lot!
10. What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall?
My Dad blowing cigarette smoke in my ear, seemingly to cure earache. However I couldn’t speak as I
was only a baby, so how did they know that it was earache that was bothering me? I also remember
as a child watching two televisions on at the same time, in the same room next to each other with
the room lights out. This was because my Dad liked his own TV programmes and my mother liked
hers! I asked my mother a few years ago, if this was a false memory or a dream, but she said "No, it
was true. I didn't like his sport and war rubbish, so got my own television so that I could watch my
things." I said to her "But, mam, you had them both next to each other, with the same volume on
and me sat right in the middle!" Yes, she said you were watching one then the other like watching a
ball at a tennis match. No wonder, I ended up weird.
11. Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal
shortcomings or inherent flaws? To what extent?
I love practically everything. I was watching a documentary on TV the other night about cave art and
it was presented by the British sculptor Anthony Gormley. I was really shocked that he said "I don't
like Picasso's work, because he was a predator and wasn't nice to women." I thought WTF! How can
you not appreciate someone’s work because you don't like their personality"!? I love Henry Darger
and let's face it; the guy was a raving paedophile. You just need to look at his work. I adore
Caravaggio and he was a murderer. Eric Gill, absolutely superb graphics and he was something of a
kiddy fiddler. He even shagged his dog. The work is all that matters! A few of Hitler's paintings are pretty good! And when people say that all his artistic output is facile crap, then, I’m afraid to say that
they delude themselves.
12. Do you have any heroes or heroines? Who are they? Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.
So many........Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, Gilbert & George, Pierre Molinier, Andy Warhol,
Salvador Dali, Alfred Jarry, Picasso, Van Gogh, The Beatles, The Residents, Kate Bush, Stravinsky,
Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Stanley KubricK, Jean Vigo, Jean Genet, Orson Welles, Samuel Beckett. Alan Turin, Winston Churchill, Jesus Christ, James Whale, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, WH Auden, HG Wells, Joseph Beuys, Henry Matisse,William Blake, Austin Osman Spare, William Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, Genesis Breyer P Orridge, Sebastian Horesly, Caligula, Leigh Bowery, Oscar Wilde, David Bowie, Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat,Howard Hodgkins, Edward D. Wood Jnr, Vampira,The Rocky Horror Show, The Outer Limits, The Twighlight Zone, The Munsters, The Addams Family, In the Night Garden, Frank Sinatra, Burt Bacharach, Stephen Sondheim, Tiny Tim,Pierre et Gilles,Vermeer,Gustav Klimt,Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Durer,Count Arthur Strong. GOD. Too many.
13. What would you like to have on your epitaph? Or what is your favourite quote?
My first wife said that if I died, it should say on my grave stone "At least he wasn't boring". However
now it would have to say "At least she wasn't boring". Perhaps if I chose an epitaph for myself it
would be “Don’t grow up! It’s a trap!”