INTERVIEW BY SARAH STEINBERG
Vice: I imagine the inside of your brain looking like your drawings, but more Canadian.
Keith Jones: Yeah, sometimes it’s daunting. It’s like, “Oh no, it’s going to be darker this time than it was last time.” I get into weird themes of obsession.
What are you obsessed with lately?
Last month I was obsessed with the world ending, failure, all that stuff. Also comic books.
Whose comics have you been looking at?
There’s one artist I like named Fletcher Hanks. He’s from the 1930s and no one knows what happened to him. The stories are really weird. Someone found his son and he said that his father was a crazy drunk who left home and that he hated him.
Yeah, I just googled it and they found his frozen dead body on a New York City park bench in 1976. So you move around a lot, right?
Yeah, for a while I kept my things in Victoria but I was never there. I rode bikes across half of America and hopped freight trains for a couple of years. Me and my friends met this one guy whose girlfriend got cut in half by a train while trying to save their dog, and he watched them both die in front of him.
I guess he was planning to go up to Alaska and jump in front of a train. But we got into the idea of going on freights, so we went down to Washington state first. Along the way we got picked up by a guy who thought we were runaways. He was a truck driver and he wanted to take us in, but he made us sleep in the back cab. We had to sit in a black box for, like, 15 hours.
It was sort of scary! We left him in the middle of the night and got picked up by a guy with a hook hand. He was on his way home for the first time in 20 years. Everyone loved him when he was a kid because he’d been a champion knife thrower, but he had no hand anymore and he didn’t know how to tell them that. So he was scared.
Do you think he might’ve been spinning a yarn?
I don’t think so. He was pretty old and bummed out.
This is depressing. Let’s play the animal game.
Imagine you’re dead, and you go up to heaven, and God’s like, “Hey Keith, we’re gonna send you back to earth, but not as a human, so you need to choose another animal that you’d want to be.”
I think I would be a cat.
Ok, so I need three cat attributes. Or cattributes.
Well, they just hang out all day, and they get fed—
Those aren’t attributes.
Do you mean characteristics? I think I’d rather be a dog then. They’re happy and careless and they like to stay active.
Fair enough. So then God says, “I’ll put your name on the dog list, but just in case all the spots are filled up, can you give me a second choice?”
A monkey. They’re agile. They’re social. And they have hands and can throw crap—they’re dexterous.
And just in case the dog and monkey spots are full. A third choice, last one.
A bird. They’re amazing and free and they’re scavengers and they sort of remind me of cats because they seem thoughtful.
OK, I’ve analyzed the results. The first one is all the things you want to be, the second one is what you project to the world, and the third one is supposed to be what you really are. Is it right?
Yeah, totally! It’s funny how at first I wanted to be a cat because they don’t do anything.
Keith’s second book, Catland Empire, a science-fiction comic about cats in Universe City, will be published next September by Drawn and Quarterly.
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