On January 31, Titan Books re-releases “One Model Nation,” Dandy Warhols lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s graphic novel detailing the journey of an industrial/electric band by the same name in 1977 Germany, the time of the infamous Baader-Meinhof Gang. Originally published in 2009 by Image Comics (with Taylor-Taylor going by the name “C. Allbritton Taylor”) with art by Jim Rugg, Titan has remastered “One Model Nation” as a hardcover, featuring an introduction by Mike Allred and commentary by Taylor-Taylor on the creation and development of the book. The comic follows the band One Model Nation during a time of upheaval and revolution in Germany, telling a tale that encompasses music, revolution and the story of the band that encircles both.
According to Taylor-Taylor, the concept for “One Model Nation” came about when he realized there was no piece of popular fiction that portrayed bands correctly. “I did a lot of graphic design in the studio with Matt Wagner in the ’90s,” the writer told CBR News. “Graphic novels were going fucking bananas. It was amazing. I saw tons of stuff coming through there. My guy that I did work with also did shit for Oni Press, so you can imagine how many stacks of graphic novels [there were.] I saw a lot of what was disappointing and what was — it seemed like nobody ever got bands right, you know what I mean? In a lot of ways, I just needed to see the thing live.”
Helping bring “One Model Nation” to life was artist Jim Rugg, who came onto the project after Mike Allred was unable to fit the book into his schedule. “I had seen ‘Afrodisiac.’ It was Jim Rugg doing basically the American look of what Manga and Japanese comics — smooth line and futuristic, but more inky but less kewpie doll or ‘Street Angel,'” Taylor-Taylor recalled. “That book is amazing — it’s one of the coolest looking books I’ve ever seen in my life.
“I loved Jim Rugg’s stuff, he was the perfect guy for it,” The Warhols’ frontman continued. “I’m also friends with David Cho, but he was going bananas apparently at that time and was so hard to pin down for three or four months to do an entire book. Rugg has a similar amount of ink to Cho and Rugg’s just a real pro. He’s a master of the comic book form — storytelling and still images. He’s probably one of the best in history. The guy tells clear, super-fun stories. They rock really hard. He’s the best. It was amazing that I got to get him to do it.”
Taylor-Taylor continued assembling his team, adding colorist Jon Fell to the mix, a bandmate from Taylor-Taylor teen years. “Jon Fell, who was in one of my first bands when we were 19, was a colorist for Dark Horse,” he said. “He ended up coloring ‘Jonny Quest.’ He’s just that kind of colorist, he has that amazingly classy palette. I knew what I wanted [‘One Model Nation’] to look like and I had him do it. He happened to be the guy that I based the Ralph character on. You’re looking at drawings of, basically, Jon Fell, who is a pretty odd looking cat.”
Basing characters on friends and acquaintances, particularly musicians, was a big part of Taylor-Taylor’s writing process. “Because I’m not really a great writer and I’ve never tried it before, I tried to build in as many safety nets as I could,” he said. “I chose people that are friends of mine that behaved like the characters I needed. Sebastian is my friend Elliott Barnes, who is the Dandy Warhols’ guitar tech and has been for years. When he read the thing, he was like, “Dude, that’s kind of weird, man.” It is the kind of thing he does, he just disappears for days at a time like there’s something in his head and he has to deal with it and he would just disappear.”
The fact that many of the characters in “One Model Nation” are based on real musicians spawned a new project: an album featuring music by the fictitious band. “I realized they’re all musicians, because all my friends are. So why don’t we just get together two years later and make the record of what those guys did between ’62 and ’77?” he said. “It was super fun to make that record. Jon’s the colorist, a character in the book and a musician in the band! He’s like a key player.”
And “One Model Nation’s” enhanced reality doesn’t stop with the album. The official website of the book includes a number of historical references to the band including an old Volkswagon commercial featuring the music of One Model Nation. Taylor-Taylor said this was partially based on the ideas of mixing reality present in “Tasty Bullet.”
“The Pander Bros. put out, right before I was about to put this thing out with Rugg, they did ‘Tasty Bullet.’ They had all these great ideas about mixing reality,” he said. “It’s not history, so they couldn’t quite do it. I got to be way more over the top with it. It’s fun. There are other things tickling my brain to keep it going. It’s a band that disappeared in ’78, so I don’t have to go on tour, I don’t have to work. It’s just really surprising that I’m doing so many interviews about it now. All of a sudden, now that the record and the book are coming out together. Titan did such an amazing job on the redesign of the extra materials and doing ’60s KGB lettering. The Image version was like the indy version, and the Titan version is the pro version. I love it, man. It’s so great.”
Looking back at the book’s creation, Taylor-Taylor mentioned the oddity of inventing a German art noise band and the original inception of the idea — which goes as far back as the “Saturday Night Live” sketch, “Sprockets.” “It’s interesting how weird it is to invent a German art noise band that disappeared in ’77. What’s the last thing you’d think of? I guess how the whole thing started was Donovan [Leitch] and I were geeking out in ’99 or 2000 when there was really nothing cool going on,” he said. “The Strokes and the White Stripes hadn’t happened yet, so we were just geeking out on how when we were teenagers, we just loved that German thing. We thought [the ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch] ‘Sprockets’ was not funny — we thought they were really cool. If you can get onto YouTube and find it, ‘Sprockets’ made a black and white art film. It’s so fucking hip. They’re really good at making black and white ’20s art films. No joke, it’s really cool. I should probably slip it into the ‘One Model Nation’ milieu somewhere and see if anyone notices.”
The musician also expounded on the main problem of the depiction of bands in popular culture media. “Here’s the fundamental problem: real bands don’t sit down and go, ‘You guys! Listen man, we gotta show them! We’ve gotta stick together! We’re not going to make it if we don’t stick together! We gotta get it on, we gotta rock it tonight!’ You know? Bands don’t talk like that,” he said. “They don’t even fucking think like that. It’s ridiculous. That is a fundamental problem. Then you get to the only really accurate depiction — [and it] was a fucking comedy — ‘Spinal Tap!’ That’s the only truly realistic [depiction], and that’s just about a really different thing because it’s funny. When you’re a 13-year-old boy, you don’t want to be like that band. You don’t really want to be Spinal Tap.
“So, I figured I was probably the guy that could do it bone dry,” Taylot-Taylor continued. “The band happened to be a band. They go about their business being cooks in a kitchen running a restaurant or making sweatpants or being a German art noise band. They’re just going about their business. That’s how bands really, actually feel in the real world. It’s a lot more exciting than making track suits, and it’s certainly more gratifying. You probably meet a greater percentage of interesting people, but it’s about going about being an artist. Who cares if they’re going to ‘make it’ or not? You’re in an immediate situation all the time where you’re making immediate gratification and you’re with your friends and you’re all listening to music that really gets you off. It thrills you, and now your music has to thrill all of you, too. It has to thrill yourself because you can’t know how to [know] really what a person will truly like or dislike. You can’t know that ahead of time. You can only really go about your business of what you need to have happen. That’s ultimately why the biggest threat that why I could actually follow through with this thing because I just…
“I want ‘Star Wars,’ but I want those guys to be a rock band. I want shit blowing up, I want blasters, I want the evil Empire, I want the Rebellion against the Empire, but I want it to be a fucking rock band, dude. It’s like a science fiction setting, it’s amazing. I wish a really great writer had written it. I wish William Gibson would just take this thing and just fucking make a novel out of it. Neal Stephenson? Those guys are real writers. It’s just about getting the fucking way out of the story. I’m reading ‘REAMDE,” Neil Stephenson’s new 1000+ pager. It is just awesome. It’s just so good. It’s an impossibly well-written Clive Cussler novel. It’s impossibly well-written. I can’t believe this guy can — it’s funny and intense and it rocks like AC/DC live. It’s really, really good. He’s so good with words, it’s outrageous. This guy’s level of communication is just unbelievable. His so-so day is a major achievement for me. That’s my red letter day.”
The Dandy Warhols frontman continued, explaining that he hopes his love of the story comes through, despite “One Model Nation” being his first effort at writing graphic novels. “The story’s the amazing part, not my writing skills,” he emphasized. “That’s leaving yourself open to it. It’s not like I’m going to sit down and write this amazing deep story where all this crazy shit happens. A story that involves gluing together real parts of history is going to, by nature, be more deep and complex than what a person like myself is going to be capable of thinking up. In that regard, that’s what I mean when I say I’m learning to be a writer. What I learned first was to stay the fuck out of the way of the story and what’s going on — and out of the way of Jim Rugg. Don’t start crowding up Jim Rugg’s art. He’s got to fit it into these ’70s boxes and make it look like a beautiful move.”
While Taylor-Taylor doesn’t currently have any plans for a follow-up to “One Model Nation,” he did mention there were some interesting historical periods where One Model Nation could appear. “If I did another story, I’d have to do exactly what I’ve been saying I’m not that good at doing, which is thinking up an entire story,” he said. “I was looking into South America, the politics at the end of the ’70s, early ’80s, where there’s a bunch of German war criminals. I could get them involved in that, which would be super badass. Maybe in some sort of other national military coup takes over while they’re playing PETO or whatever. There’s some interesting cool stuff that happened down there. They could show up in New York City, they could end up meeting aliens, they could go back in time, they could end up in the Civil War trying to keep it together — they could end up actually playing with Nero! Guess who backed him up while he fiddled and Rome burned? Guess who was his backing band? That’s right!”
“One Model Nation” is available January 31 from Titan Books.
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