Uncharted

28 03 2013

As you may or may not already know, I am currently at university doing journalism. One of the classes that I am doing requires me to write a profile of someone from the community. Unfortunately, because in my idea pitch I referred to Leigh Blackmore as a friend, I am no longer allowed to submit a profile on him, as the criteria requires us to write about a ‘stranger’. C’mon, I’ve only met Leigh three times: when I first met him, when I bought a book of him last year and when I did this interview. That’s it! But because I said ‘friend’, I’m screwed. But I didn’t want all this time and effort going to waste, so here it is for your reading pleasure. Please bear in mind though that this is my first attempt at a feature length profile, so the ending, with which I am having most trouble, may seem a little dodgy. Feedback is welcome, and highly recommended.

Leigh Blackmore and I

Leigh Blackmore and I

According to the Oxford Concise Australian Dictionary, ‘celebrity’ is simply defined as a “well known person”. So does this mean that my sister is a celebrity because she has over 4000 friends on Facebook? What even defines well known? Does this mean a politician can be considered a celebrity then? According to this definition, Paris Hilton is a celebrity, but in all seriousness, what has she done that is noteworthy?

Someone who is more deserving of the title of a ‘celebrity’ though is Leigh Blackmore. He might not be a name that you know, but one that you should. In a Hodder & Stoughton press release in 1993, Leigh was said to be “to horror what Glenn A. Baker is to rock and roll”. Leigh has even dabbled in rock and roll himself at various times of his life.

But here’s the catch: if you were to walk past him or even have a conversation with Leigh on the bus, you would walk away from the experience none the wiser as to whom you were just conversing with. That’s how it was with this writer for quite a long time anyway.

Given the field of his profession and some of the practices he undertakes, Leigh gives away no hints in relation to all this.He has no visible tattoos, no unusual piercings, but what he does have is blue, blue eyes; and this mixed with a soft voice acts as the best form of deception that you could ask for.

Leigh Blackmore, first and foremost, is one of the leading horror writers in Australia, twice being nominated for the ‘Ditmar’ awards, once in 2004 then again in 2010. He was also a musician whose then band, ‘Worm Technology’, scored some studio time back in the late ‘70s. “We never released a single or anything like that, so that was disappointing. But none of us ever had any money”, he recollects unable to suppress a slight hint of regret.

Leigh’s obsession with reading and writing all started at a young age. “Dad used to go to the library and bring home all different sorts of books and I guess I would have read hundreds of different books when I was young”.

This exposure to, and enjoyment of many different stories naturally lead Leigh to writing his own material. “I’d been scribbling for a few years, ever since high school. I’d even sent things overseas to little fanzines. Then the fanzines would fold and you’d never see your work in print. The first one I had [published], was a bit unusual because it was illustrated by a friend of mine. It just so happened that I had friends in the comic scene at that time”.

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By 1988, Leigh had his dream come true. He was co-editor of Terror Australis: The Australian Horror and Fantasy magazine along with Bryce J. Stevens and Chris G. C. Sequeira. “I always had aspirations to be an editor. A lot of books I read when I was young were collections of stories and I always had it in the back of my mind ‘oh, I want to do that one day’”, he says a smile creeping over his face. Leigh was also fortunate to be chosen to edit a book version of the same magazine in 1993.

“When I was young, I crawled out the window”

Literature wasn’t the only thing that Leigh has been around his whole life. Music plays another big part that he is still involved with today. Currently the bass player/singer of covers band ‘The Third Road’, Leigh has been playing music since his young years. “Mum and Dad sent us, I’ve got a brother and a sister, and they sent us for piano lessons, but I only got to about 3rd or 4th grade piano. What I really wanted to do was play in a rock band”. In 1977 Leigh was doing just that in a band called Worm Technology.

Playing drums in his new band, it wasn’t all enjoyment and happy days ahead for Leigh. “When I was young, I was incredibly shy. I can remember one of our first gigs, which was at the North Sydney Leisure Centre, I was so embarrassed by my performance on the drums that I crawled out the window rather than face the audience after the gig”, Leigh recalls with a laugh. “[But] the more we played the more confident I got”.

(Fun Fact: Despite not getting any recordings out to the public, one of Worm Technology’s most noted numbers was a cover of the ‘Rolling Stones’ song Satisfaction which was later also covered by DEVO in the ‘80s.)

Leigh’s enjoyment of reading and learning also set him on course to discovering occultism. Occultism is the study and belief of the supernatural. “I was one of those people that from a young age I wanted to know what life was all about. I investigated religion and I was sent to church when I was young. But I started studying comparative religion really early. That led to me going to Sydney University and studying to become a bible translator. From there it was only natural for me to start looking into alternative religions”.

Midnight_Echo_1_Cover

While it is all well and good for one to proclaim that they are a practicing occultist, this won’t help anyone unfamiliar with occultism. A quick Google search will reveal many different forms of occultism in which one can associate.“I’m a ceremonial magician, and within that there are several different traditions as well. I follow ‘Thelema’ which means ‘will’ in Greek and that stems from the teachings of Aleister Crowley. ‘Thelema’ is largely a philosophy. The central book says ‘every man and woman is a star’. It’s about finding out what your own true will is and fulfilling your potential”.

These days, Leigh resides in Wollongong where he has been situated for 8 years. One of the ongoing projects that occupies Leigh’s time is owning and operating ‘Proof Perfect’ editorial services. ‘Proof Perfect’ has been in operation since 2011 and was nominated for the ‘Outstanding New Business’ award in the Illawarra Local Business Awards the same year.

“How it came about was that I did a government program called ‘NEIS’ (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme). They train you in small business management. I decided to start an editing business as I’ve always been involved with books and publishing and writing. I offer services to writers and authors who do any sort of writing, so it can be really diverse.”

Much like his days as drummer for ‘Worm Technology’ though, not every day spent editing is enjoyable. “I did a book on makes and models of cars for somebody at one stage and that really didn’t grab me at all. But I still did the work professionally.” But, as we’re taught from a young age, persistence pays. “I also did a job for a guy in Singapore. It was all about the philosophy of the Tao. That was an interesting one to work on because I’m interested in all that sort of thing too”.

With the title of ‘celebrity’ usually comes the tag of being a ‘role model’ for society as well. So while Leigh Blackmore might never scale the publicity heights of Stephen King, he is an admirable man. From the humble beginnings in Newcastle, Leigh has achieved many things.

By setting himself goals and then following through and fulfilling them, Leigh is one ‘celebrity’ that we should all look up to.

Proof Perfect Editorial Services

Blackmausoleum: some of Leigh’s works.

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