Vodou and Vagueness
Now and then people will ask me where my name comes from. My vague but honest answer is 'Voodoo'. Ray is of course short for Raymond and that is indeed the handle my folks gave me but the surname is a little less obvious.
Around ten years ago I found myself at that point in life of being post-education (Cumbria Institute of the Arts, Carlisle in my case) and quite sure of what I wanted to do in life (paint and be a rock star, easy!) but I was also broke, stuck in a small town and really lacking in the kind of self-motivated ability that feels unreasonably archaic in our post-Youtube and Linked In world. I had no contacts, the nearest proper city was 40 miles away...a kind of comfortable ennui set in or a good while. I worked in the local Waterstones bookstore which was great, basically! I watched Apocalypse Now and Lawrence of Arabia at least once a month, I stayed out late drinking and wrote a bunch of songs. Life was great because I felt that I was on the edge of a great dive into wonder and experience. Well, part of me thought that. The other part felt lost and useless and that everything I did was a phoney bunch of shit.
Through a drummer friend called Judge Hardy I began checking out Dr John's music. It was a far cry from my staple diet of Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins but some of his work had a really beguiling authenticity, certainly his first few albums. I was hooked. I read his autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon, and dreamed of visiting 'Nawlins. I read the non fiction anthropology book by Wade Davis, The Serpent and the Rainbow, about the zombifying plant Datura. I got into the notion of exotic relious iconograpy, the charms and alters of Santeria, also linked to one of my all time favourite bands, Jane's Addiction. I was soaking it up.
The 1980s voodoo theme continued with Alan Parker's sweaty paranoid thriller Angel Heart with Mickey Rourke as a Private Dick who 'had a thing about chickens' and Bobby DeNiro as a relatively placid Satan. I highly recommend it for various reasons including the humid, sticky 1960s production design (like the inside of Tom Waits' head), some genuine menace in the overall tone and a great performance from Rourke. His PI is sent out on a vague mission to locate a pre-WWII crooner named...Johnny Favourite! Hoo ha!
There was little to no point in knicking the name wholesale since I figured I would never really get used to people calling me Johnny so I kept my original first name. I never thought about Google-ability in those far off days but I knew it was catchy and memorable. If you can say it ten times and it doesn't sound hugely sucky then you are on to a winner!
The painting above represents something of those feelings. It's never too far away really.