William Control is a busy man. Not only is he working on a new album and rounding out his third book, but he’s also making his first foray into film.
Revelator, Control’s three-part novella series, was recently picked up by Dark City Media Group to translate to the screen. Revelator: The Neuromancer—based on the first of the books—is in the early stages of production.
As filming looms (possibly this summer in Montreal), we spoke to Control about what it’s like to see his art come to life in a new way.
How did you add filmmaking to your existing compendium of work? When did this process start?
CONTROL: A little more than a year ago, I was introduced to Jacob Johnson by our mutual friend Kyle [Kore] who works at Fearless. He contacted me and said, “Hey, you know I have this friend who works at Marvel Studios. He’s a big fan of yours and interested in maybe doing something with you. You guys should talk.” And so I went down there, and I had a meeting with him. He originally was interested in doing some kind of film project, perhaps based on the William Control music, like Hate Culture and Noir. I told him, “Hey, I have these books I’ve written and they’re about the whole series, the whole concept of all the albums I’ve done.” I gave him the first couple of books, and he immediately wrote a script and we started working with a media company shortly after that, trying to figure out how to get the movie funded.
Who else is involved? Do you have anyone else on your crew already, or is it still pretty early in development?
We have a line producer, Byron Martin. He’s a Canadian guy who worked on X-Men and the American Pie movies way back when. He’s done a bunch of stuff. But he’s the line producing. Jacob Johnson is the director/he wrote the screenplay. Jonathan Garrison is our producer on the film, [and he] produced Southpaw with Jake Gyllenhaal. Archer from Dark City Media Group, and a casting agent. Rising Phoenix Jaycees, who is in charge of casting.
I know that people are going to ask about the casting because you have played this character onstage. Are you going to act in the movie?
Oh no, definitely not. I am definitely not beautiful enough for the movies.
Oh, shut your mouth.
I am too ugly for the film screen. [Laughs.] I don’t know. I’ll probably take some kind of Irvine Welsh approach and do just some kind of cameo appearance maybe, if Jacob decides he wants to put me in it somewhere.
Hitchcock it? Just a shadow in the background.
I saw on the Dark City Media Group website that you were listed as a partner for music. Is that for the overall company?
Yeah. I’m just going to jump into scoring films with my Revelator. I guess that’s where I have to start. I mean, I’ve done some songs for some movie soundtracks, and I’ve watched enough films in my life to where I know, you need some violence here and some fucking explosions here and some dance music here. I know what to do. I’ve never done it, but I know what to do. Fuck it.
I’m not an artist because I want to make spreadsheets. I just want to make art.
Did you ever picture your books or your music being adapted to film?
I’m a realist/pessimist, and I always want to have low expectations, especially in the entertainment industry because a lot of people are full of shit and you really can’t count on anything coming to fruition unless there’s a fucking paycheck in their bank account. I have kind of always desired to see it made into a movie, but I wrote the book because I was inspired to write it. I’m a musician and that’s what I do. The movie world isn’t my world, but it’s kind of crazy to think that someone else—a bunch of other people—are interested in seeing it on the screen.
Do you see this as another medium to present the same story? Or do you see the film as more of an extension of the story to fit that particular medium?
The thing about the book is that it’s written from the protagonist’s viewpoint, and it’s omnipresent. It’s his thoughts. There’s a lot of description. In that first book, there’s not really a lot of dialogue between characters. There are a couple of conversations between him and Lucifer, but for the most part, it’s him describing his experience and his feelings—his madness in this world that he’s gotten himself into. And so to have Jacob come along, take that and turn it into something that’s watchable on screen because you couldn’t just watch two hours of a guy thinking, you know? Unless it was narrated by fucking Morgan Freeman.
You recently brought all your art in-house. Everything that you do, you’re doing for yourself now. You can take your work and turn it into a film now. What other freedoms has regaining all of the control of your entire body of work afforded you? If the sky’s the limit, what would follow a film?
It really comes down to money. If I had a lot of money, I would have all my records on vinyl, I would have box sets, but I’d have to print all that, and it costs a lot of money to make vinyl. I got that stuff back from Victory for two reasons. One, to preserve the legacy of what I do as an artist for, most likely, my son to someday control. But for two, having the control to be able to take songs off those first albums and re-record them or put them in a film or make vinyl records or any of the stuff. Do you want to know what I’ve learned doing the record label on my own? I’m not bound to any timeline for anyone. I can do anything I want at any time, and when I was on a record label, it was, “Okay, we need a new record. Okay, make the new record. Okay, tour with the record, do that for two years, and then we’ll do it again.” Times are just different. That shit’s over. I want to be able to release a single when I want, or put out a video, or do whatever the fuck I want whenever the fuck I want.
It’s less about what you could do potentially if money were there, but that you could do whatever and whenever?
Exactly. And not having to beg somebody to either release it or give me money to release it. Or submit a fucking an Excel file with a breakdown of all the costs it’s going to take to make a fucking record or video or any of the stuff you have to make as an artist. I remember having to fill out these Excel sheets that were like: “How much do you spend on gas going to and from the studio?” And it’s like, “‘The fuck? Are you kidding me? Just give me the money and I’ll make the record for you.” I’m not an artist because I want to make spreadsheets. I just want to make art.
Line item No. 62: broke a plate to create a sound effect. $5.
Exactly. Oh my God, it’s the most ridiculous shit. “Cigarettes, line item No. 47. Box of cigarettes.” Coffee budget. You know? You don’t need to know what I’m spending money on. Just give me the money and I’ll give you the fucking songs. That was always my biggest pet peeve about Victory Records. All the shit I had to submit. They’d be like, “Hey, what’s this?” What do you mean, “What’s that?” I don’t know, man. I got some coke for the fucking drummer, like who cares? You got the song, man, what are you fucking thinking?
Having said all that, it’s pretty clear that you’re not going to do anything that you don’t want to do anymore.
That’s exactly right.
I wonder how the film process will go because you are working with a team. What’s the process been like with them that still gives you that sense of control and freedom?
The good thing about this project is that the director and I are on the same page. We’re not fighting. We’re not nitpicking over shit in the script. We’re not fighting over what this scene is going to look like or what this actor is going to do or any of that stuff. For me, I wrote a novel that was inspired by some shit in my life and I put it out. Some people read it, and some people are into it. He took this, making it his own vision, and I’m not trying to give him any direction. I think he should be doing it because he’s the director. He’s an artist too, so he’s got this idea for what it should be, and I think it’ll be great. To have the creator of the content and the writer of the screenplay to be on the same page rather than to fight one another is a pretty special thing.
Are there any scenes from the book in particular you can’t wait to see brought to life in film?
There are quite a few I can’t wait to see. I think probably the scene with the protagonist, and St. Peter is something that I’m really looking forward to watching. Any one of the club scenes will be pretty awesome. There’s a few of them. I’m excited to see what the cast and what the production designers and costumers and the director and the cinematographer all what their collaboration will make, what kind of vision this will create. Because I have this vision in my head for what it looks like, but I’m really excited to see what it’s going to look like with someone else’s vision.
Obviously, the book is pretty graphic. And I don’t know if you’ve read it or not, but for a sense of commercial appeal, obviously we can’t make the movie exactly the same way the book is because we don’t want an X or NC-17 rating. Although, I wouldn’t give a fuck.
Is there anything else that you wanted to say about the movies, the books or what bearing this might have on future music?
I don’t know if this will have much effect on future music. I’m working on a new record right now that’s a little bit different, even from what I’ve done in the past. I’ve got all new studio equipment, new instruments. I racked up my fucking credit card a couple months ago and bought a whole bunch of new shit to make this new album. So, it’s going to be a little different because we’ve been using the same stuff to make the William Control records since 2008, and I’ve just upgraded everything. But what impact will it have? I don’t have any idea. I mean, it could never get made. We could make it, and no one will ever see it. Who fucking knows? Either way, I’m not really that concerned. I think it’s pretty cool that some people are totally interested in making this shit and I’m pretty grateful for the experience this far. So, if it goes any further, bonus. If not, I’ll just keep releasing books and music and some vinyl records and that’ll be that. Get ready for, book number three is coming out in a couple of months.
So in summation: You’re going to do whatever the hell you want and this is one thing you want to give a try.
That’s exactly right. I do what I want. alt
Stay tuned within the coming months for updates from the set of the film.