The Sword's J.D. Cronise is just a regular dude who listens to R. Kelly and Michael Jackson
That connects in a way with the song on Apocryphon called "The Hidden Masters." Is that a reference in any way to Helena Blavatsky's ideas of theosophy as outlined in Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine?
It is a bit. It's the idea of these superior beings that taught humanity. That humanity has basically had contact with some sort of other life forms, or higher life forms or alien life forms or some sort of other beings that have kind of guided us and taught us some things along the way.
How did you get interested in that sort of thing?
I'm interested in esoteric topics like that. Originally I don't really recall. It's one of those things that kind of came up and I ended up looking into.
You also have a song called "Dying Earth" on the new album. Is that a nod to Jack Vance's The Dying Earth series?
Oh yeah. Absolutely. One hundred percent. Even the language of the lyrics is meant to kind of be an homage to his prose in those books.
What about his prose resonates for you?
The Dying Earth books you basically need a dictionary to get through a page, and you'll be using it at least three times. He uses the most kind of arcane, baroque, weird terms, or he'll just use some antiquated French term for some object that he could have just said "cup" or "chair," but instead, he chooses to call it this Fifteenth Century French word for chair, or something. It's kind of showing off his prose virtuosity in a way, and I'm a fan of clever use of language.
Have you read Gene Wolfe at all?
He does something similar in his writing, and the The Book of the New Sun series shows Jack Vance's artistic fingerprints of influence.
Yes. I believe he has said as much.
Why did you approach J.H. Williams III to do the cover art?
Just been a fan of his for a long time. He's an amazing artist in general. Even though he's known mostly for working in comics, his artwork really surpasses the normal level of comic book art. He's very talented.
Which of his comics do you read or had you read?
I read Batwoman, which he does now. His work on Promethea is more along the lines of what he brought to the artwork in terms of the kind of esoteric and metaphysical aspects, like using [Austin Osman Spare's] "the alphabet of desire" in the album artwork. And various kinds of magical symbols and things like that. We're very pleased he was willing to do it.