Xan Marcelles is a musician. And a vampire. He plays bass in Crooked Fang, the house band at the Pale Rider tavern located in the backwoods of Pinecliffe, Colorado. And, he says, life “is set to become a little more complicated when he gets entangled with a feisty, blue-haired damsel and her abusive soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. To add to his woes, he’s gone from hunter to hunted, and his past returns to haunt him when a phone call draws him back to New Mexico. With the help of friends from his living past, he must get to the bottom of a murder, and figure out where he stands with his lover and his band, all while keeping one step ahead of his enemies. Hiding won’t be easy for him, especially with a mysterious woman dogging him every step of the way.”
Hah. If I had a nickel for every time I got entangled with a feisty, blue-haired damsel — oh, who am I kidding? It’s the green-haired ones that always do me in. Anyway, I’m pleased [and proud] to welcome Xan to otoh today. He graciously consented to a brief interview in conjunction with the release of Crooked Fang, the latest book from Carrie Clevenger. Xan’s answers are in bold.
Welcome, Xan, and thanks for talking to us tonight. Is it fair to describe your book Crooked Fang as a collaboration between you and Carrie Clevenger? Can you tell us a little about the logistics of how it was written?
How does a story get written, really? Entertainment for you or for a bunch of fans, it doesn’t really matter. Yeah, I talk to Carrie, pulling out the and thens sending her either in a screaming fit over being woken up or running for a notepad. I got lots of stuff to tell. I’m not done yet.
I imagine that yours is a voice that’s not easy to ignore. I should ask Carrie about the collaboration, but that can wait for another day.
You’ve said, “I’d like to think that most musicians have songs running through their heads, and I’m no exception. There’s nights I jot down some lyrics, or work out some chords, so yeah. To be honest with you, I’d love to develop my own stuff and get a label and shit, but I’ve got this slight problem of being a vampire, so fame is not my friend, if you know what I mean.” Can you make any comparisons between writing music and writing your book?
Well, let’s look at writing a story in general. You start out with an idea, maybe somebody talking in your brain, in this case me, and you figure out whether you’re gonna let it out or you’re gonna do something about shutting it up. You’re a writer too. I imagine you get calls for the creative use at odd hours. But even if you sit down and write nonstop for like, two months and it’s done, it’s not done. Layers have to get thrown in. You forget to add in what somebody looked like. What temperature it was. How fast you were driving. Same goes for music. A riff can thread through your subconsciousness and send you to the keyboard, guitar or whatever the hell you play, sing, or use but it’s not usually done at that point. It’s a seed, and seeds gotta be nurtured. You make them grow. You prune off the shit that doesn’t make sense or adds discord. You edit out the bad, and keep building on the good. And if you’re lucky, you get a little help from your friends.
Story-writing is a lonelier exercise than writing music, I’m thinking, but I’m in a band. I imagine there’s some artists out there that fiddle with chords and slides and get to smile in secret but never tell another living soul about it, but in a band it’s different. It’s a presentation of okay, so I got this, and you play what you already know. You either get the light bulb look or the what the hell were you thinking look. From there, it’s up to you to polish, share, or trash the piece.
Story-writing certainly can be a lonely exercise. I spent many years scribbling in notebooks and on odd scraps of paper with no intention of ever showing them to anybody. It was easier to let the voices out than to shut them up, as you put it. After I started posting things online, I met other people afflicted with writing and, while we’re not a band, we can offer each other those light bulb and what the hell were you thinking looks. As a result, we get better at it.
I realize the answer to this next question might change from day to day, if not every few minutes. And, no, I’m not going to ask what your favorite band or favorite song is, although this may be just as bad. If you could spend a day jamming with any artist [or band], either current or long dead and gone, who would it be? What would you hope to learn from them or gain from the experience?
Only one? You’re tearing me up, man. I’d go with Jimi Hendrix or Peter Steele, both of which were geniuses in their own ways. Could I hope for a little magic to rub off on me or to learn an alt tuning or maybe just a whole different set up I hadn’t thought of yet? Yeah. Possibly to want to have a drink and shoot the shit and just hear about their lives in general. How they learned themselves and the answer is usually, I just did it. Slash. Amazing guitarist. Johnny Cash. Mainly the drinking and fucking around on a jam part. Slayer. Just let me do set up and I’d learn something. They all got something to teach and the ones that are gone are our biggest loss, but you can’t fully pump any one person for all they’re worth. A lot of the ingenuity comes from up here, not from just the fingers.
Well [laughing], I did warn you that it was a bad question. I guessed that you might say Hendrix because he always seems to top your list of artists that influenced you. I like that you have a wide range of influences. And I have to say, even though I’m no musician I think it would be amazing to just be a fly on the wall when Johnny Cash was jamming. He seemed like he learned something from every other musician he ever met.
You’ve said, “I hate being a vampire. I’d do anything to get my life back, but what’s done is done. I just have to find ways to live with myself.” At the risk of sounding macabre, do you ever think of ending it all? If you could die and stay dead, would you? Or, since things seem to be going pretty well for you at present, is that a choice you think you might make in the future?
I know I have a long road ahead of me, and right now, I’m just a baby as far as the scheme of the bigger picture is concerned. I see others like me, alive for several hundred years, maybe a thousand, and don’t get how they do it. How they find the courage to reinvent themselves over and over and drift from life to life. I’ve been here on this earth a total of fifty-three years, going on fifty-four. I still feel I got stuff to learn, shit to lose. But after all you’ve ever known is dead and dusted what then?
Can you just pick up a new thread; keep sucking on a vein, pretending to be something you aren’t? Would I want to live past my natural lifetime? I’m not there yet. I don’t even know what I’m capable of, to tell you the truth. When I do find out something new about myself, it usually serves to remind that I’m just not goddamned human anymore.
I carry memories of when I was alive. I look at people through eyes now that find their most vulnerable spot. I smell them, and sometimes, I taste them but I really am not looking to kill. It’s kind of illegal and once I decided to strike out on my own, it was assumed that convenient little umbrella of protection that’d been held over my head to shield me from the shit hitting the fan had been closed. In ways, it has. But there’s proof they still watch and they still correct.
Yeah, I still make mistakes, but long story short and to finally answer your question, I’m not suicidal.
Well, I’m glad you intend to hang around for a while, that you still have things to learn [isn't that what makes life interesting after all?], and that you still have stories to tell. I look forward to reading those stories. Thanks for stopping by tonight.