INTERVIEW: MATT WEBB (JACKALOPE STUDIOS & THE NIGHT IN QUESTION)
par Father Sebastiaan,
8 min temps de lecture
Everything has a beginning, even immortal beings. What was your introduction to Vampires?
I remember watching a rented copy of the Lost Boys when I was about 12. It was the first serious vampire film I watched. I've always been attracted to the more punk and gutter vampire films. Then I watched From Dusk Til Dawn, and a video store clerk recommended Near Dark. I loved it all. I came into the more romantic and gothic vampires later. Where I started, vampires were dangerous outsiders and looked the part. By my 20s, I had discovered Vampire: the Masquerade and fell deep into that fandom. I've been there ever since.
I don't think watching Monster Squad or Duckula as a kid is the same kind of introduction. I do have a Duckula shirt, though. I enjoy the irony.
What is it, in particular, that draws you to Vampires?
I'm not a member of the Vampire community. I'm a writer, so I'm going to talk about fictional vampires here.
As a creator, I'm drawn to vampire characters because they are capable of being and doing so many things. They can be from any time in history. They can embody fear and passion equally. They are dangerous while also being human. They allow us to create characters that cross every taboo and embody every part of the subconscious. They are primordial while also being intelligent and refined. You don't get the sheer monstrosity of cthulhoid horrors or the animal mind of a werewolf.
A vampire is a character which is a trangressor, a monster, but never sheds one bit of their mind and their emotions. Even at their worst, they remain fully defined as a thinking creature, who doesn't feel less but more because of their status. That's almost unique.
Do you have a favourite Vampire? Or a Vampire Mythos?
Count Von Count. He's punctual, rocks a monocle, and has a great sense of style.
I'm kidding. That's a hard question for me. My favorite vampires are always the ones that lean more outsider than aristocrat. And I love some good snark. As a character, Spike is excellent. Unapologetic, enjoys what he is, has great lines. I enjoyed Cassidy from the Preacher comics for the same reason. But if I had to pick, Severen from Near Dark played by Bill Paxton. One of my LARP costume pieces is an homage to his amazing biker jacket from that film.
One really underappreciated vampire is Henry Rollins in He Never Died. I love that character, and just how cynical he is.
But vampire mythos, it has to be Vampire: the Masquerade. I love the lore. I love the community around the game. It has this great fleshed out world, and it is a fun game. I like that vampires in VtM are forever haunted by thousands of years of history. It really embodies this idea in vampire stories that history is this nightmare you can never wake up from, that your past is a stalking monster that will always follow you. I think that leads to really powerful stories and a great dynamic world.
You organize some of the best-received LARPs in the country. What is it about roleplay, and specifically, Live-Action Roleplay that you think attracts people?
It's the most amazing form of performance, I really do think that, when it is done correctly. Can you name any other art form where there is no audience except the performers? The goal of so much art is to transport the audience to another place as another person. With live-action roleplaying and immersive performances, we can do that. We can do our own little slice of Westworld, our own stab toward the Holodeck. We can just shed who we are and have the freedom to be someone completely different.
I love creating these stages with the Jackalope team for people to become someone else for a night or a weekend. It's great to create these worlds and see them just teem with life. How would you like to be in a blood rave with vicious vampires, or walk the back alleys of a cyberpunk city? I love giving people that once in a lifetime experience.
And it is the community. Good LARP communities are really something special. It's a space of trust and controlled transgression. You are sharing the experience of being someone you aren't supposed to be with hundreds of other people. It's amazing to watch the friendships and relationships that bloom from that. It's part of why I'm so passionate about fostering and protecting our players as a community.
Do you have any tips or wisdom to pass along to people who might be interested in LARPing but might not know much about it?
You don't have to be a great actor. You don't need to know much at all, especially with the Jackalope games. We want to share our hobby with others, and LARPers are some of the kindest and most welcoming people you've ever met. So, don't let that discourage you. LARP is just play-acting, and when you are surrounded by this shared fantasy supported by an entire crowd of people, it is easier than you'll ever think. And we watch out for each other, especially at our games.
And the events that Jackalope runs, they are theatrical productions. If you are used to the old vampire LARPs, we aren't that. This isn't just playing rock-paper-scissors in a student union parking lot anymore. We set a building on fire at the end of the night. We rain down blood on the dance floor. We have this huge rockabilly rave site we take over and make into something really special.
"The Night in Question" is a vampire LARP, taking place in the world of Vampire: The Masquerade. Specifically, it focuses on the more wild, debauched and pseudo-religious sect: The Sabbat. Is there any particular reason you focus on them?
Because they are so much fun! There's some real joy in playing characters who just are bad, not in a nasty cringey way, but who just really really like being monstrous vampires and refuse to apologize for it. But on top of that, it allows us to lean heavily into the splatterpunk horror aspects of vampires which is hard to do in any other way. It takes advantage of the space and the talent we have, to make the game into a haunted house that chases you down and makes you one of them.
The Night in Question tells the story of a rave in the late 1990s that is taken over by this sect of vicious vampires, to embrace the mortals in mass to use as soldiers in their war against their rivals. Almost everyone is a vampire by the end of the night, and they get to go through this transformation and story of being unleashed. It's a great experience.
V:tM divides its vampires into Clans. Bloodlines of vampires that loosely correlate to various vampire archetypes from over the years. Do you have a favourite clan? Whether it's to play, read about, or see played?
I've been partial to the Toreador, the clan of artists and degenerates. But specifically the Sabbat Toreador. They are called Toreador Antitribu. They are great artists and creators, like their more humane brethren. Except they take it to monstrous extremes, and I think that kind of inhuman and extreme expression of what is thought to be a good thing - art and beauty - to be great creative ground to plant seeds in.
Is there anyone, either in the Vampire Community or out of it that you'd like to work with and haven't gotten a chance to?
I've had several cast members from LA By Night come to the Night in Question, but I'd love to get all of them to come. Jason Carl and Alexander Ward came to our 2019 event, and it was absolutely fantastic. It's not surprising they were fantastic, but it was a joy to see. But there are too many great creators, actors, models, everything in the Vampire community. I wouldn't know where to start in a wish list of who to work with.
Do you have any new or upcoming projects you want to talk about?
The pandemic has put a major dent in the LARPing world. We are just getting back on our fate. But we have already announced our next wave of events for the Vampire: the Masquerade universe. The Elysium Chronicles will be the utterly other end of the spectrum from The Night in Question, and I will focus on powerful elders playing politics, looking good, and being bad in the halls of power. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more details as they come.