Goblin Magazine: Did you check out our website?
Reverend Ivan Stang: I sure did. I just stole two pictures off it from the Slymenstra Hymen interview. We went on tour with Gwar, Slymenstra is a friend of ours. I got fucked by Odorous Urungus and passed around the room like a groupie. I just couldn't handle the drugs those guys had, like mace mixed with PCP.
GM: Their schlong's are enormous.
IS: God damn! If I didn't have powers and immunity to some of that stuff I would have been killed for sure. We did some shows opening for their Rag Na Ršk tour. Looks like you have some good stuff up there, half the people are friends of mine. Anybody who covers Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary is A-okay with me. He is one of the unsung heroes of comics. When I was eighteen years old (I'm a filmmaker by trade) I thought I could make a sixteen millimeter version of this damn thing. I thought I'd write to him, but do I dare? He's probably rich and famous. He's in a comic book. So I put on these real pompous airs and wrote this long letter about how I was this really wonderful filmmaker who could do it great justice, and he wrote back this short note that said something like, "Due to the presumptuous tone of your letter I doubt seriously if we can work together." I've actually used that exact line on people a couple of times. GM: You could have cast the young Ron Howard as Binky.
IS: I think now they want Macauley Culkin.
GM: For readers who haven't yet heard of the Church, is it possible to sum it up in a nutshell?
IS: If I could do that I'd be the richest man on earth. If I could explain the Church Of The Subgenius in a nutshell I'd be as rich as the Sultan of Brunei. And if I could do it in a paragraph I'd be as rich as Ross Perot. The best expression of it is the main portrait of Bob which we call the classic Dobbshead. First you should see Bob and then somewhere later in life find out what it's about. Otherwise it seems like it would scare you away. It's creepy as hell, even I'll admit that and I'm the one running it. Actually I don't really run the Church Of the Subgenius, nobody does. "Bob" probably could, but I do run the authorized P.R. outreach. We're just hard-assed business people. We just work here.
GM: I got the feeling Dobbs was kind of like Timothy Leary. He'd done his thing and he was ...
IS: He's probably out fishing with the greatest fisherman in the world and swiping the guy's tricks, or he's playing cards with the greatest card shark in the world. He doesn't seem to pay very much attention to his Church or his followers, which makes him the ideal messiah.
GM: Like Mr. Natural.
IS: But Mr. Natural was sort of conscious of his holy man hood, and was also a charlatan at heart. While Bob actually is the living avatar of Slack on this planet. But he doesn't really know it -- that's how much Slack he has. God is in heaven and Bob is very far away.
GM: How much Zen is mixed in with this?
IS: Bob was a Beatnik in the 50's and he actually studied in Tibet, but that wasn't a Buddhist thing.
GM: The book describes Slack as coming in waves. Is jumping on the Slack wave similar to going with the Tao?
IS: It's hard for me to even talk on that level because most of my cultural background is Marvel comics. It depends on how close to "Bob" you are and how fast you're spinning. I have a more scientific than philosophical view of this kind of thing, more doctrinaire. "Bob" has it down to atoms and molecules when it comes to Slack waves and particles. The closer you get to "Bob" the faster you're spinning. If you're somebody like me you're really trying to keep away from the edge, because if you go over the edge or go over the wall of the vortex, sooner or later all of your Slack is going to go into "Bob." You'll practically cease to exist.
GM: That sounds like William Burroughs and Heroin. Like what happened to the Beatniks with seeing how far they can go with drugs.
IS: "Bob" has always said, "Too much is always better than not enough." But only in the last couple of weeks did we unearth the torn off bottom half of that memo that said "but it's almost as bad." I hate to think how many dumb-ass SubGenius teenagers drank too much and had car wrecks just because we only had the top half of that admonition. It probably made us some money ... and I'm sorry all those kids had to die for a few extra bucks in Dobbs' pocket.
GM: It is like Timothy Leary! Do you feel guilty you might have led people to become self destructive?
IS: We're not leading people to be self-destructive. We want to lead people away from False Slack and to be outwardly destructive. But only destructive of the Conspiracy. In most cases we mean the Conspiracy in their own hearts, that terrible evil and finality of the force of Normalcy. But no, we don't want SubGeniuses to be fucked-up losers.
GM: Is that why you came out with Revelation X, to refine your original ideas?
IS: That takes everything quite a bit further. There are some things about "Bob" that if he told them everything right up front in the first book we'd never have gotten all those thirty dollar memberships. They'd be scared to death. But now that you love "Bob" and you've proved your love by parting with that which has enslaved you and giving it unto him, letting him take on your burden; now we'll let you in on, 'well, here's the bad news.' There is a Hell and I suppose Bob could screw up, but probably everything is going to be fine. Some of the stuff in Revelation X I knew when we started on the same pamphlet, but some of it was new even to me and I've been sorting through Dobbs garbage for fifteen years.
GM: We just talked to Mavrides and he said the concept was a demented Seventh Day Adventists pamphlet in terms of a visual style.
IS: Yes, our first pamphlet was very much designed to look as absolutely insane as it could be because that's the kind of people whose souls we're trying to save. If you didn't look twice at it it was exactly what it was making fun of in some of the design. When I finished putting it together we mailed it to all the underground comic book publishers first, then I mailed it to every publisher in the U.S. Even the underground comic book guys who I now deal with all the time like Rip Off, said, "Oh God, more kook stuff," maybe Mavrides will like this stuff. Mavrides said, "Wow, these guys hate Jesus as much as I do." Which actually is not true, in fact Jesus is working for us. Any problems with, Elvis, Jesus, any of those guys, it's always been their over-zealous fans. I know most of those Christians aren't talking to Jesus because Jesus is right across the room from me now.
GM: As I pointed out to Mavrides, everything that's described that Jesus did, changing water to wine, feeding all those people with just a iraculous virgin birth, isn't that far from what "Bob" has done.
IS: People will believe absolutely anything. I'd like to believe that it's all true. Every one of those supernatural gods and demons and space men are all welcome in my pantheon. As we say we don't serve the devil but we certainly do business with him.
GM: Seventy-five percent of the American people believe in flying saucers and we don't know anything about them really. Where do you go from there?
IS: Ninety-five percent of them believe in God. You have to have a better looking God and faster flying saucers. It's all image, sex, sell, sell, sell. We like to act like this is the sexiest church in the world.
GM: Why haven't more religions tried to make money by offering safety and salvation from alien invasions?
IS: There are plenty of them doing that. Half of the new age UFO contacts are people doing that. The sad thing is I don't think most of them are doing it for the bucks, I think they're in it for the belief. They're not money crazed, they don't make that much money. I know how that works, I'm a professional crack-pot cult owner myself. It's really hard, the only way to make the real big bucks in religion is to do it the L. Ron Hubbard style. In this case this is a religion based on Slack. Who would want to go to that much trouble?
GM: Are you the final 'buck stops here' in terms of the word?
IS: In terms of the official releases of the word, that are official enough to have the trademark of the Dobbshead. I'm sort of possessive about that because I'm not quite David Letterman or Walt Disney company, or just any corporate organization that would abuse it severely. I'd rather keep it to where only these four struggling SubGenius loners can abuse it. Hell, we're the original Thirteen Apostles. Well, we're not sure who the thirteenth is, could be you.
GM: I think so. Is the Church an extension of 60's consciousness, about paranoia over government restrictions on personal freedoms?
IS: No, no. We invented that. Not, "we" I was a little kid. But "Bob" helped invent the 60's, unfortunately he was working for the CIA at the time.
GM: With the CIA's acid? We asked Mavrides if the 60's could have been the 60's without the acid?
IS: Well, sure the colors just wouldn't have been as bright, and the guitar players wouldn't have turned up the amps quite as loud and used the wah-wah petal. Maybe Art Linkletter's daughter would still be alive. Maybe sheep would have invented the cure for cancer. I wasn't that sad when Timothy Leary died. I thought he died with tremendous grace, I was real impressed. Not many people have the balls to die online and be so cheerful about it.
GM: The quality of the chat on those on-line websites is just horrible.
IS: Plus you're talking about the Leary website and news group, let's face it man, sure, it's going to be half really intelligent stuff but it's going to be swamped with retardation. I've read the fan mail at the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers (laughs), and I'll tell you I'm proud of the SubGenius fan mail. I was ashamed of our audiences until I went on that Gwar tour. They made ours look like a bunch of bikers.
GM: Was William Burroughs an influence on the conspiracy themes? He was talking about the insects invading from the Crab Nebula.
IS: That common imagery came from that same common truth that "Bob" saw in his visions. In our books we have comic book artists trying to draw the undrawable. We're not trying to make people believe it too literally. Along with Bill Burroughs the SubGenius artist that we owe a gigantic debt of gratitude to Jack Kirby, the guy who drew the monster comics for Marvel years ago. And that guy's hideous monsters all look like they're all carved out of something. You'll notice that a lot of SubGenius preachers talk like Jack Kirby villains or heroes.
GM: Have you actually seen Mescalito?
GM: That book is rich. I had a nightmare someone hands me the book of the SubGenius and says, "digest this in an hour." And I'm desperately trying to race through that book. IS: That's why you buy the video, Arise, for it. That's the easy to digest twenty buck tape distributed by Polygram. It's literally banned by Blockbuster, that's why nothing much ever happened with it. They're a Christian corporation. They knew about Arise even before Polygram picked it up. Originally Island Video had it and then it was subsumed by Polygram and then Sound Warehouse which had bought a whole bunch. Then Polygram was taken over by Blockbuster and I got a statement from Polygram saying 800 returns.
GM: Do you get a lot of hate mail? We want to get some but we don't.
IS: I know exactly how you feel. This country is going to hell, nobody gives a shit. First, the Christians that would hate you never hear about you and if they do they get it so wrong they just think 'oh, it's more of that Satanic garbage.' They just don't know how bad it is. It's so much worse than Satanism, so much more threatening -- we would hope. Satanism is in sorry shape. You have to believe in Jesus and all that stuff first to believe in Satan.
GM: When a SubGenius uses sales knowledge of how to take advantage of people's programming, to con pinks out of Money, Sex, and Slack, are they being as bad as the Conspiracy?
IS: Well you have to fight fire with fire. Actually you're supposed to fight fire with water but water is often hard to come by. Listen, hopefully before 1998 gets here you won't just see a SubGenius ad here and there, it won't just be one or a hundred SubGenius billboards in the city, every billboard will be a picture of Bob. When you turn on the TV it won't just be some MTV thing produced by SubGeniuses. It will be that one minute thing running over and over again. Then there's going to be amateur SubGenius shit. The Conspiracy is so powerful that the only way to defeat it is to buy it.
GM: Who has enough money?
IS: What we're trying to do is to get it to buy itself from itself. We sell the Conspiracy on the concept that there is actually a Conspiracy. We're still kind of vague about this but it seems to be the direction Dobbs is going in. He used to work specifically for all aspects of the Conspiracy, the Circle of Ten ...
GM: Have you?
IS: Hell, I edited a few business films, I haven't had a real job in a long time.
GM: Is that where your anger is coming from, that you had to do this bullshit in the name of the Conspiracy?
IS: Hell yes. It's terrible. I feel like I'm owed a living. I'm a SubGenius, I'm supposed to get a million bucks at birth. What happened? How come I have to go out here and trudge around. Some people love to do the shit work I'm doing right now. I happen to actually hate it, so I'm bitchin' to see what happens. It got me hired.
GM: It's like if you happen to be an oppressed worker the most incredible thought you could have is: I'll start my own religion.
IS: Get this, this is how many loops it can go through. We're now talking to America Online about getting paid by them, and getting a cut at the door to do something that proves they're not the Conspiracy.
GM: That's the ultimate sellout!
IS: It will be a SubGenius show called "Bob's" Sick X-Rated Cult Religion and Porno Show. This will be a website with chat lines on an America Online area. I'm not sure if you are familiar with how they do things but it's all a matter of keeping people online as long as possible. And they have this terrible reputation of being censorious prudes and fascists. Which they are if you're on the level which is being policed with their little hirelings. Up on the top they're saying, "How can we get around this? How can we present controlled subversion? So it's still subversive, but it's not going to get us in trouble, the kids can look at it late at night." Actually if you look at America online late at night it gets bizarre. They do all these shows that are essentially like radio talk shows. They admitted it to me right over the phone; I was talking to them on this level right over the phone, "But you guys are the ultimate smarmy bullshit and you're the Conspiracy." And they said, "yes of course but we want to prove that we're not that bad."
GM: It's demonic how they try to take your integrity from you.
IS: They haven't tried nothing yet. Their big scheme was to get Traci Lords involved. She would be the co-host with me. Hell, we'll whore to anybody. "Bob" Dobbs commissioned us to take over the world in his name. Now how do you do that? "Well, we're only going to let our stuff be xeroxed, happily, in college basements and our radio show can only be on college stations that are under 50,000 watts. Otherwise they might come beat me up like they beat up Jello Biafra for owning a house."
GM: Is it essential for a SubGenius to be a networking entrepreneur?
IS: Of course. A SubGenius can do anything it wants. You might have to take the consequences of it, and if you fuck up another SubGenius would really be mad. That's what you get for your thirty dollars. We just sold you the right to do that. Every once in a while someone will write in and ask, "Reverend Stang, I wanted to declare myself a pope, but um, a pope such and such of the Doctor Who fan club, blah, blah. I paid the thirty bucks how much do I have to pay to be pope?" Obviously this person is going to need a lot of training. They're going to have to read the book again and let it sink in, or get put into the canisters along with the other pinks.
GM: With all the blanketing commercialism and every city looking like the same mall is it really the average person's fault that they've been turned pink? Should we have mercy?
IS: It doesn't matter whose fault it is, the simple fact of the matter is that they are human filth and must be stomped out by the Xists! They do not bear the genetic code of the sons and daughters of the Yeti. That's all there is to it! They cannot be saved, they are doomed! They can be tricked into thinking they're SubGeniuses, that's where a frightening number of our donations come from. The hierarchy of the church doesn't judge who's pink, that vengeance is "Bob's." Although we do tease them pretty bad. The initiations are getting pretty bad. We're going to get sued one of these days. We've got a big camp-out, which is a huge SubGenius apocalyptic gathering in New York every July 5 until Xist day, only two more years ...
GM: Are you going to have a problem when X-day comes and they don't come?
IS: I have perfect faith X-day will happen just as "Bob" prophesied, well, possibly with a few variations, and one of those variations might be that they didn't like the quality of the souls we had for 'em and they're just going to go ahead and trash it all and lie to us, or maybe they'll give us another year to build up a little more collateral.
GM: But if they're lying to us how do we know you're not lying to us also?
IS: Well that's part of the point now, ain't it? Bob said the aliens lied, oh dear, we were such suckers to believe that, damn. The worst thing that could happen is they'd just put it off for another year.
The camp grounds are in far western rural New York. I found out about this when I was invited to speak at this big Pagan event. Very much like the Burning Man festival. It's a real nice atmosphere. You make horrible noises all night, can run around nekid, but hopefully most of the SubGenius have enough sense to keep their clothes on ...
GM: Because they're fat.
IS: They could get sunburned for one thing. There's this stereotype of the typical SubGenius being this pasty nervous bookworm of some kind. I would sort of fit into that description myself, but actually if you go to a devival you'd say, Jesus, they really are all kinds. There's these hideous defaced bikers standing next to this sweet little old lady and this normal looking family with their kids; all watching a man up on stage driving a screwdriver in his head, while another man is screaming about the end of the world, with videos showing unspeakable imagery all over the place. The whole audience is in some kind of chanting tribal mode, it's no wonder we didn't fit into the rave scene.
GM: It seems like the seed of dada has reached full fruition and there's a whole scene of dada, including little old ladies doing their thing.
IS: There always have been but not consciously. If it were conscious it wouldn't be very good dada now would it?
GM: Is Bulldada the sacred art of the SubGenius or just something observed by "Bob?"
IS: Bulldada is unconsciously weird. Bulldada often falls into the kitsch category for sure, but it's much broader and it can also includes the Sisteen Chapel.
GM: But that's like Bach and Shakespeare ...
IS: Shakespeare did fantastic Bulldada. I don't know how Bulldada it was in its time but the language is so complex and alien it renders it terribly weird for people now. Most people don't read that shit for fun. I do because it's Bulldada.
GM: But you're putting that in the same category as Ed Wood movies?
IS: Yeah, Aliens from outer space and Macbeth. They're different forms but ... I'm speechless thinking about all the cool weird stuff there is out there. I wish I had more time.
GM: Was it traumatic for you witnessing "Bob's" murder?
IS: Yeah, the first time. It became rather dull by the third time, we're like, why are we even trying? He comes back to life but he's hovering over a bonfire and he falls in and burns up. But he was the one who set the policy: "If you see me on the highway, kill me." And we've since learned why he said that. There have been people who claimed to be "Bob" Dobbs. There was even a guy who put a CD out under the name of "Bob" Dobbs. That's why if you see someone who claims to be "Bob" you kill him! If it comes back to life it was "Bob" if he doesn't then good riddance. It makes sense. I thought it was some vague Zen thing but "Bob" meant that point literally.
Dobbs used to be good friends with Lobsang Rampa who lived a dual life, while he was a Tibetan master he was also this unassuming little British charlatan. Honest to God I think that is where "Bob" picked up most of his Zen.
GM: In the book it says Convenience is a drug worse than Heroin. I was wondering where you draw the line between where convenience gives you Slack and where it turns you pink?
IS: I think that came from the G. Gordon Gordon spout. I transcribed that off a tape and worked it in. He was talking about how the convenience of modern culture was turning it all into one vast homogeneous culture all over the place. It's really sad the regionalities are breaking down. Within a few years there'll hardly be anything left of the Indians in South America. It'll be watered down to the point where it'll be irretrievable like here. I think the Navajos have been the only ones able to keep any serious vestige of their original lifestyle together at all. Not to mention Texas, you can't find a true Texan anymore. I'm not even one, I wasn't born here.
GM: They do that line dancing thing.
IS: That's a terrible Conspiracy ... although I've never been to one of those places. When you think about it it's not that different from a bunch of kids jumping over and over again at a rave. It's a cheap urban redneck way of achieving cosmic consciousness. I certainly would not take away anyone's right to comfort themselves. Come X-Day there'll be a line dancing planet and a planet of Doctor Who fans.
But there's probably a lot going on behind closed doors. I'm only speculating but there's a lot of rich people in Dallas and I know they do a lot of strange things, and the poor people, they do a lot of strange things too. But the middle class people don't really have much time for that.
GM: But isn't that the basic point -- that we can't live our lives anymore because we're totally fucked by the Conspiracy, that makes us work for very little money.
IS: Yeah, of course. But it's the most pointless complaint in the world. Only intervention from the stars will change it now. The way we figure the only way to totally and utterly destroy the concept of money it's going to take a shitload of money!
GM: Have you studied the Wagnerian Theology about how the gold and the Rhine were destroyed by the dwarf, Alberich, because he renounced love? Then he used that gold to create magical things he could destroy other people with but it led to the destruction of the Gods ultimately. To what extent do you think that model has the power to destroy society and civilization?
GM: Well Gold ... that will build civilization. That's why we must be changed into Overman and †berwomen because otherwise that territorial thing that is part of ape behavior; that's coded in, that's not going to change. It's the biggest meanest silver back that's going to run the ape tribe. The medium sized ones will probably pound the shit out of the shrimpy ones. It's a damn shame and you can't just turn the other cheek, and you also can't blow up federal buildings.
GM: You're a model of sobriety.
IS: What else can you do but win hearts and minds, back to that same old bunch of crap. But that's showbiz and can be sort of fun too.
GM: You have to put out this colossal effort to make people think you're sincere and you have a good idea, and they couldn't have thought of it themselves because they didn't put out all the energy and creativity -- and maybe they'll send in their thirty dollars.
IS: Well they do all the time. But it's still a pathetic trickle, we still should have far more cars in the parking lot.
GM: At least like the Scientologists with their fleets of yachts.
IS: Yeah, I like that fleet idea 'cause they were being constantly chased. Listen, I won't tangle with the Scientologists. On the All Slack website there was an incredible amount of bleed over from the Scientology internet wars. There were plenty of All Slack regulars who were very involved in all of that. I collected a lot of hilarious and really damning Scientology documents. Amazing reasoned arguments against it.
GM: Isn't their whole point is that we're derived from 60,000 Thetans from some planet in Venus somewhere and they all left because a volcano blew up?
IS: Yeah, it was the same comic books I grew up with when I was a kid. The difference between them and us is that L. Ron Hubbard kept a straight face. There's no way that a SubGenius could bear to be surrounded by the kind of people who . . .
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Note: All artwork subject to individual copyrights of the artists.