WATCH: The Exclusive Premiere of 'Ink, Cocks and Rock 'n' Roll'

We spoke to director Matt Harlock and the subject of the film and VICE illustrator, Krent Able.

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Jun 20 2017, 11:39am

Steve Martin, as Krent Able, in 'Inks, Cocks & Rock 'n' Roll'

Krent Able is one of the UK's most hilarious, vicious, unsettling illustrators. He also does't exist.

Krent – the acerbic, sharp-eared menace – is the alter-ego of Steve Martin, the London-based artist whose brilliant work we've published on VICE numerous times. In fact, our website is where director Matt Harlock – of American: The Bill Hicks Story – first came across his illustrations, sparking a relationship that would eventually lead to Ink, Cocks & Rock 'n' Roll, a documentary that we're premiering on vice.com today.

Watch the film and read our interview with Steve and Matt below.

(This interview had been edited for length and clarity.)

VICE: Do you want to explain the character of Krent and why it is you have that alter ego?
Steve Martin: Yeah – it's a way to express the fucked up shit in my comics and not take the blame for it, basically; to take myself out of the equation and not worry about my own morals or whatever. Just do anything and say that somebody else did it.

Was it always that way, or were you Steve for a while first?
Steve: I think it was the slight worry that I was making comics about a lot of famous celebrities and musicians, and I didn't really want to get sued. It's kind of cowardice, some kind of artistic mechanism to try and avoid worrying about things

How did you come across Krent, Matt?
Matt Harlock: I actually saw his work first on VICE, in the story "How We Finally Turned Into a Nation of Paedophile Hunters", which featured three illustrations Steve had done which I thought were great. Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Max Clifford, but as Batman villains – referencing The Killing Joke, one of the famous Batman novels. I just thought, 'I really want to get to work with that guy,' so I sneakily bought a piece of art off his website as a way of introducing myself. I went and had coffee with him. I think he thought I wanted to commission a poster from him; I said, "No, I want to make a film with you in it," and you weren't quite expecting that, were you?
Steve: No, no – I was well chuffed.


WATCH: Inks, Cocks & Rock 'n' Roll


Did you have any interest in doing that before?
Steve: In making a film? Yeah, I've always wanted to get into films, totally. I love horror films and monsters and all that stuff.

You just didn't expect the film was going to be about you.
Steve: No, but I was a monster – well, Krent Able's a monster, so it makes kind of logical sense.
Matt: That was the thing I was most interested in. I'd only seen two or three pictures of him online dressed up as Krent, at a signing, and I thought, 'Fucking hell, look at him dressed up like that, this is amazing.' And obviously, coming from a film and documentary background, I was like, 'Well, that's a little story there.' So that was was my interest, really – that alter ego, how that duality works, and also how you're more anonymous when you're masked. You hear stories about football fans en masse wearing the same shirt feeling that their behaviour – that they're not just accountable for themselves. And I thought there was maybe an element of that in it – that displacing of intention to some other form

Matt Harlock (left) and Steve Martin (right)

In terms of the actual making of the film, did it take a long time for you both to develop a rapport?
Steve: We just kind of jumped in and made it up as we went along, really.
Matt: It was quite quick, too. It wasn't quick to finish the film, but to actually do all the shooting and stuff was quite fast. The thing I was concerned with is he didn't know who I was, so obviously I had to do some work in terms of convincing him I was a normal person and that it was worth his time and effort to hang around [with me].
Steve: You're not normal.
Matt: And thank you.
Steve: Well, meeting him – for me, I'm quite quiet, and he's like a motormouth, so standing next to him was like being next to a tornado. But yeah, he's a good guy – ish
Matt: You're doing me a lot of favours, man, thanks. The edit took a fair bit of time, as getting that "turn" – without giving away how the film works, without giving too much of it away – the way the film turns from a documentary into something else, I knew that was something I wanted to do, but to figure out how was quite a difficult thing. It was an editing issue, not structural or in terms of what we had shot. It took a while to crack, but yeah, it was a really good experience.

And how does it feel exposing yourself after having this alter-ego for so long? I say exposing yourself – you know what I mean.
Steve: [Laughs] Any chance to expose myself. No, I'm a shy guy, but I'm also a show-off at the same time.
Matt: Yeah, you are, aren't you! That's very interesting.
Steve: I used to be in a band [Rancho Diablo], so I'm very happy to do that, kind of – be a dick, basically.
Matt: He showed me an amazing video [the band had made] themselves. He directed it.
Steve: Oh that was a different one – I was in Rancho Diablo, then I went solo and was in a fake band called El Destructo, which was just me, and I made a video for it.
Matt: The video was hilarious. They were werewolves with Nazi outfits on – from, like, An American Werewolf in London – and kind of came out and chainsawed people's heads off. I was like, 'Wow, OK, this is great.' So we have small bits of Steve's rock and roll career, like in the start of the film, hence one part of the title is "Rock 'n' Roll".

Krent at a book signing

Yeah, let's talk about the title. "Cocks" – where did that come from?
Steve: Some people say there's a lot of cocks in my work. I don't know. You came up with the title.
Matt: We did have a very funny day down at Safari Festival. We were interviewing a bunch of Steve's mates, who are all graphic designers as well, and I was trying to goad them into slagging him off – not very successfully, as he's nice and well liked.
Steve: Totally.
Matt: but we did manage to get a couple of them – like Julian Hanshaw, for example, who Steve works with – to give us the inside loop on what he felt was going on in Steve's mind, and why he was drawn to drawing phalluses regularly and repeatedly.

Is that something you've been doing since childhood?
Steve: Probably, yeah – just anything to wind people up. It's just a really quick way to niggle people, drawing cocks; anything sexual – just anything where you can just get in someone's nerves and poke them.
Matt: That does remind me, actually – Bill Hicks' famous show at the end of his tour, "Revelations", he had a very liberal, Guardian-reading audience there, and he was doing all this stuff about George Bush, and they were going "oh yes" and applauding him. It's like, "Well, this is boring," so he went into that very long Goat Boy piece, which a lot of people found very explicit and over the top. Charles Brand – a guy at [production company] Tiger Aspect] – said it went on for 20 minutes longer than that; they cut a load out. And he had, I think, that same kind of attitude, which is where, if you have an audience who are kind of going, "Oh yeah, we love your work," then you really need to throw something in there to get some electricity going.

Some of the concept art for 'Deep Clean'

Yeah, otherwise it's just loads of people agreeing with each other. Tell me about the next project the two of you are working on together.
Steve: We were kind of brainstorming ideas for the next film we were going to make. I was going through some of my comic ideas – I had a very rough idea for a comic called Deep Clean, about these very ordinary road crew guys, who battle demons from under the ground instead of fixing the road.
Matt: Yeah, so the idea is you've got these guys who cause traffic jams and piss people off and you wonder why they're never doing anything – they're just sitting there, smoking – and the reason is they're there to block up demon portals. We have this kid, called Alex, who's a bit of a troubled kid, and he has to do work experience with them to avoid juvenile detention, and doesn't know that this crew battles inter-dimensional entities, so what happens is he comes face-to-face with some nasties.

Is it all going to be animated?
Matt: No, all live action. Steve came up with the original concept, I've been working on it on the story and narrative side, and Steve's just been working on this amazing artwork. Every time he sends an email with some new artwork on it, I'm just like, 'It's great.'

Well I look forward to seeing it. Cheers, guys.

Donate to the Kickstarter for 'Deep Clean' here. It'll be well worth it, and there are some good perks for donations.

@jamie_clifton

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