homage to s. beckett i

RIP HR Giger

Today it was announced that Swiss surrealist HR Giger, who designed the monster and sets for Alien, has died at the age of 74. Back in 2009, VICE paid him a visit in his house in Zurich and talked to him about his life, inspiration, and work. You can read the interview below.

HR Giger, regardless of how many museum or galleries he fills with volumes of his other work, will almost certainly go down in history as that strange Swiss guy behind the Alienmovie. During the 1970s, Giger produced a book called Necronomicon, which established him as the foremost fantastical artist at the time. Salvador Dali was so impressed by his work that he invited him over to Spain for a visit and stole Giger’s girlfriend in the process.

In the 1980s, Giger got involved in the movies and got an Oscar for his work on Alien, but after a couple of awful cinematic collaborations in the 1990s he pretty much disappeared to everyone except the goths and metalheads raiding his back catalogue for tattoos.

He’s 69 now. Loathed by feminists and obscenity sticklers, Giger, the one-time king of darkness and the person Ridley Scott confessed to being petrified of meeting, is now no more scary than a grumpy old neighbor. He wears Crocs. He potters around the garden, mumbles to the cat, drops himself in front of the tube for the afternoon, and cracks open a bottle whenever he feels like it. His wife Carmen lives next door. Giger punched a hole through the wall to join the buildings. Giger’s side is painted black from floor to ceiling; Carmen’s, one assumes, ain’t so bad.

He divides his time between a castle in the Alps and his house in Zurich where he has a little train track running round the garden and right through the kitchen. When he sketches, he still likes to draw strange alien figures with hefty packages pinning fragile looking ladies to the floor, but his days of nightmarish visions and brutal hallucinations are over. He goes to bed at 5 AM and wakes at noon. The night before the interview, Giger had overdone it at the dinner table.

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How was your fondue last night? 
Heavy. Oh so heavy. After, I always say, “Oh my God, why have I done that?” But it’s so good.

What are you doing with yourself these days?
You know I haven’t painted since the 90s? I’m quiet now. I like watching television. I like theWire, and the Sopranos is so good.

Yesterday we met your good friend Walter Wegmüller, who helped Timothy Leary when he was on the run. He spoke about the “freaky times” back in Switzerland in the 1970s. What were they like? 
Ah, the freaky times. When Timothy Leary was in Switzerland, he was hoping to get asylum so he could stay here and not go back to prison in America. I was collecting signatures for him. My father was a pharmacist, you know? “What are you doing with this guy?” he asked me. It was funny. Timothy Leary was a very nice man. I didn’t meet him back then in Switzerland, but I met him later in Los Angeles when he wrote two articles for my books. They were very good and he was a very fine person.

Did you exchange ideas?
Oh not much. What could I say? He was a very intelligent man with a lot of knowledge and I’m, well, I’m just an artist.

Did you ever take LSD with him?
Ah, you know you can’t talk about that on record. LSD is still forbidden, so it’s not good to talk about those things.

You’ve said before that much of the inspiration for your art comes from dreams, and more specifically nightmares?
Everyone always wants to know about my dreams. The inspiration is mostly from literature actually. I have read so many things that have inspired me. Beckett was very much an inspiration for me. His theater, especially. I made paintings as a homage to Samuel Beckett [Homage to S. Beckett I,II,III]. They were some of the very few colored paintings I’ve done.