The GQ+A: Russell Brand Talks Fairy Tales and Edward Snowden
BY Jen Ortiz
GQ: Why fairy tales?
Russell Brand: I think they’re the best kind of story. There’s deep information in them, and I really just get on with the kids, and I wanted to write a story that gets into the kind of territories that are kind of under-addressed, culturally, at the moment. Sort of spirituality and transcendence.
So why’d you start with the story of the Pied Piper?
I think there’s a bit of that strange ambiguity—the Piper’s a weird character, isn’t he? Why I like it is because it’s not clear what we’re supposed to learn from that story. We live in a time where everything is very materialistic, measured, individualized, so a story like that is inherently mystical because there’s no reason why, in a way, that the Pied Piper would take all the village’s children. Because they knocked him on his pest control bill, really? It’s a massive overreaction, but yet somehow it makes sense to us, but I that’s because we know that it’s about transcendence—and important things that are not easy to express.
Favorite story as a kid?
I liked a lot of Roald Dahl. A lot of Oscar Wilde’s stories, like The Selfish Giant and The Nightingale and the Rose. A lot of fairy stories because I thought there was something weird about that. I remember thinking, This doesn’t make sense. This is odd. What it’s trying to tell me? I found them powerful.
Was there a character that you identified with?
Um, no—but I was obsessed with Pinocchio, actually. He was a weird little guy, Pinocchio, telling them lies, wanted to be real boy. Perfect.
What makes your spin on these classic fairy tales different?
It’s to make them relevant, to make them fun, and accessible. Chris Riddell’s drawings really do that. And, for me, to remember children are capable of vacillating between serenity and nastiness, towards spiritual and sublime ideas, so that’s what I tried to do, is to make it fun and also to make it obvious that I was commenting, that it’s allegorical. It’s a comment on the way that we’re living now, in some ways Hamelin is just like the contemporary capitalist consumer culture and the Piper is the transcendent message that’s being lost, and it’s children that we seem to treasure most, that we lose if we don’t hear the message, if we don’t hear the music.