Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Interview with Bobby Campbell

Mr. Campbell

Philadelphia area artist Bobby Campbell has lately taken over the job of doing the covers for New Falcon book titles and reissues, including  titles by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. 

Here is a fun fact about Bobby Campbell: He actually is known to his friends as Bob Campbell. "Bobby Campbell" is his name in the RAW community and the name that goes on his art. He explains, "I go by Bob, but like to use Bobby as a pen name for art stuff.

"It actually stems from taking classes w/ RAW. I didn't want to take my usual username: "Bob" because I thought it might seem rude and/or create confusion during discussions in the forums, but I also don't like using screen names, 'Sunflower69' or whatever, so I became Bobby. When I started making Maybe Logic based art/comix the name carried over and just sort of stuck."

I asked Bob/Bobby if he would answer a few questions for readers who want to know more about the man behind the artwork and comix, and he agreed. For more on Mr. Campbell, please see the official Web site and follow him on Twitter.

Would you mind telling the folks who read this blog a little bit about yourself?

I'd be delighted! I'm Bobby Campbell, a 33 year old Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Cartoonist. I work out of my home studio in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I have 2 spectacular sons w/ a lovely lesbian couple, and have a rather extraordinary extended family/friends amalgamation.

How did you get interested in Robert Anton Wilson? 

My sophomore year at University of Delaware I encountered one of those life changing teachers, who come along at precisely the right moment, a Professor of Asian and Comparative Philosophy, who was a fan of RAW, Leary, Watts, etc.

My first exposure to RAW was a worksheet handout from "Quantum Psychology" outlining the 8 circuit model, which was used to help elucidate Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga, in an Indian Religion and Philosophy course.

Then in the best university course I ever took anywhere, "Death and Dying," he used Leary's "Design For Dying" as a course text, which sent me further down the rabbit hole. Finally, he recommended The Illuminatus! Trilogy to one of my housemates, who dropped it off in my room after he was finished. Six days later I had finished the entire trilogy and was absolutely hooked. The UD library must have had a super hip librarian at some point, because they have almost everything RAW every wrote, and I binge read their whole collection.

I think a lot of people who really get into RAW have that weird experience where the books seem to be dealing with exactly what you're going through, in a way that nothing else seems able to, and I remember actually losing my temper at one point, because he wasn't around for me to talk to about all this stuff, and it seemed profoundly unfair. 2 years later I'm sitting in his living room smoking a joint. Indeed do many things come to pass!

How did you become a cover artist for New Falcon? Do you have "artistic freedom" to do those covers the way you like? 

My New Falcon work is all due to the entirely wonderful Eric Wagner, who very kindly recommended me for the gig. I had just recently taken his "Chapel Perilous" class, wherein I had ranted about the poor quality of the covers for the most recent editions of the Cosmic Trigger books, and next thing I know I get an email from New Falcon offering me the cover to "Wilhelm Reich in Hell."

New Falcon has been really great about giving me artistic freedom. So far I've been allowed to run with whatever I dream up.  There's been a few tweaks here and there, but nothing major, and in each case I think they've only helped to improve my art.  Which is not usually the case when dealing with design notes.

You are active on Twitter. What do  you think are the "must follow" Twitter accounts for people interested in RAW?

Coincidentally enough I would say you are at the tippy top of the list, @JacksonTom!
As sombunal know I run the @RAWilson23 twitter account and try to give a signal boost to any novel RAW tweets.

So far as finding the others goes here's 23 shining beacons:

@johnhiggs • @DaisyEris • @AdamGorightly • @TimothyLeary8 • @Rushkoff • @StealThisSingul • @erik_davis • @notjessewalker • @Frauenfelder • @ChasingEris • @FW_WOTD • @PQuadrino • @BogusMagus • FLYAGARIC2019 • @Zenjew • @t3dy • @catvincent • @amoebadesign • @gacord • @lordfanny1723 • @rockinajar • @advantardeodus • @iamcaroline

(I would say @Robert_A_Wilson, which was the most highly followed RAW relevant account, but it appears to have been deleted.)

Also, me! @RGC777

Do you make your living as an artist?

I make my living more so as a graphic designer, digital distributor, and web developer for a few independent record labels. There is some creativity to it, but I don't think I'd call it art.

Though more and more the genuinely artsy-fartsy stuff is beginning to take off.

Would you like to tell me a little bit more about the independent record labels you work for? What kind of music  do you personally like?

Most of the day job stuff is pretty boring, but the label I got my start with, Madison Underground Records, is well worth mentioning.

It's a DIY punk rock label run by my friends and features several of my favorite bands: The Headies, Power of IV, Tit Patrol, Endless Mike Jambox.  You'll find their records available all over the internet, and I'm quite proud to have played a role in that

I should like to encourage everyone everywhere to listen to the latest record by The Headies - Meta-Pop.

I seem to mostly like music along the spectrum of indie sub genres - garage rock, punk, dream pop, alt hip hop, et al.

Most of my favorite musicians are also bartenders, cooks, school teachers, etc.

Though I'm not really all that much of a music guy. I'm way more likely to listen to podcasts, audio books, lectures, etc

When you met RAW, what was he like, and how was he different from how you pictured him after reading his books?

I thought he was going to be this larger-than-life super intimidating figure, the rich and powerful iconoclast: ROBERT ANTON WILSON! And was extremely delighted to instead meet a very nice old man named Bob, who seemed genuinely baffled why anyone would fly across the country just to meet him.

He somehow seemed like both a regular working class dude and also the archetypal wise old man. The Joycean everyman.

It was really great to get to meet my hero and for him to surpass my expectations.

How did it come about that you flew across the country to meet RAW?

When the Maybe Logic Academy first opened up they offered a package deal where you could sign up for weekly email correspondence w/ RAW in addition to course enrollment. Just the week before I became his pen pal & student I'd had a tremendously ecstatic visionary experience in the Amazon jungle, on that famous shamanic medicine Ayahuasca, and consequently brought an excessive amount of enthusiasm to the proceedings. I was extraordinarily lucky to have direct contact w/ RAW while processing that experience. We got acquainted over an "8 Dimensions of 'Mind'" course and several months of regular correspondence, after which I felt comfortable enough to ask if I could pop over and attend one of his weekly movie nights w/ his friends.

Do you remember something interesting that he told you when you met him? Did you ask him questions?

I actually made it a point to keep my visit almost entirely social. I left my camera in the car and didn't ask any big questions. All that heavy lifting had already been done via Internet anyways.  Pretty much we just joked around, got stoned, ate pizza, and watched "Son of Frankenstein." It was fun!

The only time he really put on his Bodhisattva character was when he paused the movie after a character said "Everything is under control!" looked over, smiled, and said "everything really is under control." He said it like both a dire warning and a joyous reassurance. A perfect coincidentia oppositorum.

(The full story of our meeting is a bit more complex and just as infused w/ cosmic coincidence as one would hope meeting RAW would be, but it's a bit much to get into just now!)

Did you ever meet Robert Shea?

Unfortunately I did not.

What are you favorite Robert Anton Wilson books, and why? Have you read any of Robert Shea's "solo novels"?

My favs out of the non-fiction books are "Quantum Psychology" & "Prometheus Rising" and out of the fiction books "The Widow's Son" & "Masks of the Illuminati."  I've enjoyed all of his books, and tend to think of them all as parts of a larger work, but these stand out as high water marks to me. The 80's seem to have been his golden age, where he had full control over the material, and a comfortable enough set & setting that he could really concentrate on turning out great work.

I haven't read any of Robert Shea's solo novels yet, but recently got sent hard copies of his Shike books, which I did the covers for, and so those are at the top of my reading stack.

What is your role at Maybe Logic Academy? Do you know why they have stopped offering online classes?

I don't know that I really have an official role at Maybe Logic Academy. I've been hanging around there off & on since they first opened in 2004. I took a bunch of classes, assisted w/ a few others, and even taught one of my own. It was tremendously beneficial experience for me. I don't really know why they stopped offering online classes, but would guess it has something to do with the general decline in interest after RAW passed away. There were also intermittent technical difficulties w/ the website that contributed to the dwindling of the community. It's still there though! And there's even occasional activity in the forums. You never know!

Are there any questions that you have been waiting for me to ask?

Not that I can think of! Though I'll gladly throw out there that I've got some cool secret projects in the works for this year, and encourage everyone to stay tuned!


gacord said...

Wonderful interview, Tom!

And, shucks, Bob... humbled to be in your top 23 list there.

PQ said...

Great guy, great interview.

I'm also quite humbled to be in the company of those other "shining beacons".

phodecidus said...

As I said somewhere before, Bobby is a cool mofo and has always been nice to me. His cover art has tempted me re-purchase my old New Falcon copies. I have to renew my collection every few years, I give a lot of books away for free, so I'll probably own books with his art eventually!

Eric Wagner said...

Thanks for the kinds words, "Bob". You've helped to create a visual reality for readers of Robert Anton Wilson, a set of images which corresponds with the thoughts and images of his books.

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