Born in 1990, in Perth, Westrn Australia; Nev Dawn aka Never X Never releases comics and music inspired by his love for literature, and his immersion in the punk, goth and queer scenes.
With the comics of Jhonen Vasquez, the fiction of Terry Pratchett and the music of both Skinny Puppy and The Cure being some key influences.
Growing up, Nev initially develop his creative skills via studying arts at high school. Later going on to formally study English literature at university – With a defining moment in Nev’s creative and personal life being an extended stay in Wales, in his mid 20s.
With Nev noting,
“At 25… I moved to the UK and lived in Cardiff for a while.
It’s a beautiful place with some very grounded, funny, creative people in it. While I was there I wrote for God Is In The TV Zine and had the opportunity to interview some wonderful Welsh and English musicians, and the local scene in Cardiff was – and by all means has always been – flush with great music. This was and is in spite of a dearth of places to perform; it’s a very challenging place to start a music career, as was/is my hometown.
It was also in this period that I started to take my art semi-seriously…”
Wanting to get to know Nev better, we sent him some questions to answer over email – Which you can read below…
Name + D.O.B?
Nev Dawn, 1990.
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Naarm, Wurrundjeri Woi Wurrung Country (so-called Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.)
City, State and Country you’re from?
Boorloo, Whajuk Noongar Country (so-called Perth, Western Australia.)
Please describe some memories – such as writing, music, relationships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, crime, religion… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Age 5 – beginnings:
I am not one for childhood nostalgia, personally. It was a confusing and alienating time. I always drew and I always played make-believe, although I didn’t learn to read until quite late – struggled with that – and had a stutter I eventually grew out of.
Well, I’m sure there were some good things.
Music did not become a part of my life until much later.
* Age 10 – continuations:
What would that be, Year 3? We had to do THRASS at that point, which should be banned by the UN. Cruel and unusual form of torture.
I was a weird kid and had few friends, frightened easily. Did piano lessons.
I liked horses, but only in theory.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
If you are getting serious at 15, you have a very different life to mine. I struggled to fit in at school and to study, though I was good at tests.
I studied TEE Art, but had an argument with my art teacher who told me I was not allowed to draw cartoons which incensed me and only motivated me to do it more.
I also got into music for the first time – namely Green Day’s American Idiot, which was very counter-culture from where I was sitting. Gorillaz, Panic! At The Disco.
Spent a lot of time on the internet.
I was very into Terry Pratchett and by the end of university had read 32 of his novels. It would be easier for me to name the ones I haven’t read than those I have.
By this point I had decided I wanted to be an author and had begun writing my own stories, although rest assured they were terrible. What they lacked in skill they made up for in wordcount, however, and with enough practice you can get anywhere…
* Age 20 – young adult:
I was at university studying English Literature. I don’t want to talk about this period much. Shout out to my honours supervisor, Dr Shalmalee Palekar, who was the first person I came out to.
Other things: the death of a distant friend, the death of a close friend, the death of a family member, a lot of self-loathing.
It’s possible to crawl out of that hole, but it does take time.
It was around this time that I got into a lot of other alternative media – Johnny the Homicidal Maniac was a revelation, as were webcomics like Subnormality! which remains underappreciated.
I read Camus and Sartre and all those foundational things best enjoyed as an adolescent.
I was extremely into the Cure for a while, Bauhaus, the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, PIL, X-ray Spex, Einsturzende Neubauten. Skinny Puppy were a revelation I still adore, and still hold out that I’ll get to see them one day.
I became goth – ten years strong baby.
Shalmalee introduced me to Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing and Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded, and my honours dissertation focused on grunge literature. It was a revelatory period for me in general. I started a novel, abandoned it, started another, abandoned it, so on for quite a while, although I think I’ve got one to stick with now.
I made my first proper comic in this time starring Sidney Grace, which I painted unscripted while working behind the counter at a petrol station near a hospital on the almost-dead nightshifts.
This song by the Super Furry Animals always reminds me of that time: Hermann <3s Pauline.
Down the 24 hour garage or any service station
I lead my life in a quest for information
Sensurrounded by pies and books
Middle-aged drivers and deranged cooks.
And I also learned cigarettes are very expensive, and nurses love menthols.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
At 25, I had finally had the opportunity to transition.
I had a bad falling out with part of my family after I came out. I moved to the UK and lived in Cardiff for a while, until the poverty, isolation, and despair of working a minimum wage, nightshift job over winter finally got to me.
I do miss Wales. It’s a beautiful place with some very grounded, funny, creative people in it. While I was there I wrote for God Is In The TV Zine and had the opportunity to interview some wonderful Welsh and English musicians, and the local scene in Cardiff was – and by all means has always been – flush with great music. This was and is in spite of a dearth of places to perform; it’s a very challenging place to start a music career, as was/is my hometown.
When I returned to so-called Australia, I faced various personal challenges but also started the first incarnation of my band, The Cars That Ate Paris.
I continued to perform solo as Beast Daughter after we dissolved. I’m thankful for the opportunities and the music scene in Boorloo, which, like Cardiff, is very creative and lively despite the challenges.
It was also in this period that I started to take my art semi-seriously, when I started my Instagram account, and when I started considering making comics again, although that wouldn’t come to fruition until I moved to Naarm in 2019.
* Age 30 – meanderings:
How cruel of you to call it that.
I have only just turned 30 and only recently feel at peace with my truth; call it ‘manifestations’ or something.
Here I am in lockdown in Naarm, watching the world dissolve while the people in charge seem to do nothing to help. Deckchairs on the Titanic, etc etc. It’s very frustrating.
I’m not sure what we can do about it, but I am an advocate for community change where possible, getting involved locally however you can and putting pressure on those in charge. Fact is, even if the apocalypse comes to pass, we’re all still going to be living in it. Might as well make the best for everyone out of it.
I do finally feel okay. I still have dips but I know how to deal with them, and was privileged to see a lot of threads I had picked up over my life coalesce over the last few years. I’m surrounded by incredible people, artists and peers, both locally and worldwide, and I’m often overcome by how lucky I am in that regard.
Since that first Sidney comic I’ve had my sights on doing a graphic novel, but felt that my ability wasn’t developed enough to execute it. The answer there of course is to just do it anyway. Instead I’ve taken the tact of creating smaller comics which feed into a larger project – strands from that world which will eventually come together, and which have improved my ability in the process. These are Sidney Grace Must Say Yes!, Mack the Knife, I Think We’re Alone Now, and Glad to be Gay, all of which you can read online.
(Some pages from Sidney Grace Must Say Yes! by Nev.)
I’ve been rewarded by an audience who are genuinely excited for what I’m creating, and I can’t be thankful enough for that.
The next stage is to finish my novel, then move on to a longer webcomic I have planned, and then finally we’re onto the graphic novel.
Oh, and to record that EP at last.
I try to keep in mind this one quote from Trainspotting as a safeguard against regrets.
Not its intention but it helps:
“Well, let’s face it – it could have been wonderful.”
This, from Zora Neale Hurston:
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
And I used to have this piece from Naked Lunch pinned to my bedroom office wall:
‘”What Are You Doing Here? Who Are You?”
And I don’t know what I am doing here nor who I am. I decide to play it cool and maybe I will get the orientation before the Owner shows… so instead of yelling “Where Am I?” cool it and look around and you will find out approximately…
You were not there for The Beginning. You will not be there for The End… Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative….”
The planet drifts to random insect doom.
Boy, I’m a downer! I do find these things reassuring.
Art, Music and Comics Questions
When and why did you first become interested in art, music and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
I am finding this hard to respond to without repeating the above, but let me take a moment to focus in on a few things…
My black and white style often draws comparison to Raymond Pettibon, but I am here to address that rumour and put it to rest – never been an influence.
I’ve never been particularly interested in US hardcore either. Just not my style – I guess I like it camp.
My biggest cartooning influences are Jhonen Vasquesz (particularly in Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, I Feel Sick and Squee!), Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl, Gorillaz), Ed Luce (Wuvable Oaf), and Atsuko Shima (8 Beat Gag).
I love the dynamism of Vasquesz’s figures – and he has an uncanny sense of form and contrast, making even the busiest panels easy to parse and united in a way most artists can only dream of.
I deeply admire Hewlett’s ability to draw electric, realistic and yet stylised characters that just smack of his hand, his attention to details on the body, and his experiments – and mastery – of mixed media in his artwork, be it collage, watercolours, 3D, all sorts.
Ed Luce is a brilliant comic writer and artist, and his character designs perfectly bring out his characters the moment you see them. His panels are complex and studied – again, that attention to detail – and he effortlessly transitions to colour.
When I read his comics, I can sense his love of the humans (and cats) in his life.
Atsuko Shima is the illustrator for 8 Beat Gag, a series of comic strips that ran alongside music media in Japan in the 80s and 90s (and she is still printing and cartooning now). I was introduced to her comics through her illustrations of the Cure, and was blown away by her ability to distil the essence of a person – in most cases, a pop star – into a simplified cartoon.
Even in genres where many artists looked similar, her cartoons are still instantly recognisable.
She does the most gorgeous drapery and clothing illustration too.
What a star!
If you had to explain your art and music to some recently crash-landed aliens… What would you tell them?
I doubt aliens have the cultural reference points to understand ‘post-punk revival’, so let’s just say the band is moody, melodic, grungy music with some hectic screechy guitar.
For my art: pictures of people having a bad time. Sometimes a very good time.
Usually in bands.
It all depends.
Please describe your usual creative process – From initial idea, to creation and eventual completion?
• Inspiration strikes.
• Main character forms, like a magnet attracting filings.
• Throwing things at them to see if they stick.
• As further situations are explored, more characters coalesce around them.
• The plot forms out of the potential interactions between characters, and the context (be it historical or projected, but my stuff is heavily informed by research and I love to twist with the punches.)
• Lots of sketches, graphs, charts, lists.
• Write a long and sloppy outline.
• Music is a MUST for writing, the process involves lots of playlists.
• If comic: write a script; if prose: jump straight in – I like to write chronologically, but don’t always.
• If I get stuck, I move to a different part.
• Make my darling friends read my progress.
• For comics – sketched pages, then detailed sketches, then lineart, then colour/shading, then speech bubbles.
I have become fond of doing each page in totality before moving on to the next as it gives me a greater sense of achievement at the end of the day, and I need that to keep momentum.
In general, this is a very laborious form of art and any one page of a comic, in total, can take me upwards of six hours work. This is on top of my day job and other responsibilities.
So, for example, Mack the Knife, which was 25 pages, took me approximately 150 hours. I remember working on it every day for all of September, which would often entail finishing an 8 hour shift at work (on a computer), coming home and immediately doing another 6+ hours on the comic blasting acid house in my headphones before going straight to sleep.
A great deal of getting “better at comics” has been simply finding ways to reduce that time spent on each page. For my next project, which has several “issues”, I am going to try working on it in stages like a wave that flows through the project – I finish the script for issue 1, I start laying out issue 1 and writing issue 2.
I really need the variety when it comes to longer projects, and that’s part of why I have so many projects – it lets me bounce around them.
With prose, I write like a demon, then send it to people to proofread, then edit and tweak a few times, then try pitching it out. Pitching/submitting is the most laborious part of that process, as even for the most successful writers it’s a miserable road of rejection and silence. I remain optimistic, but I do struggle to even remember to look for places to send my stuff. I’d much rather be writing.
I have about three short stories on the backburner still looking for a home.
When it comes to music, my other main pursuit with The Cars That Ate Paris, I usually write chords and progression for a song then take it to my band, who hash out further details and for the most part write their own parts. It’s collaborative and changes depending on who’s in the band; I like that it’s a kind of changing beast that way.
Later on, I write the lyrics (eventually) and I find the melody comes quite naturally.
If people wanted to work with you or buy some of your wares – How should they get in touch and where should they visit?
I’d direct you to my website, neverxnever.com. There’s a contact section there with all my details.
I love to collaborate and I love doing band posters and artwork so please!
Pricing very flexible depending on what you have to spend – I’m in a band too, I know how flat broke we are always!
You can get to all my published comics here, and I run a quick and dirty Gumroad here where you can grab physical copies of some of my comics.
I’ve been thinking of doing prints soon, but you’ll hear about that when it happens.
For the band, find us on Instagram and Facebook for when we all get gigs going again! We have a Bandcamp if you want to give it a follow, but nothing on it right now.
We hope to have a recording out soon (the fates have been messing with us somewhat on that one).
Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
I’m currently working on finishing my (first?!?) novel and beloved child, Cutty Wren, a panic attack of a book focusing on the doomed relationship of two men, reunited years after their shared trauma only to begin spiralling into star-crossed disaster once again.
It’s equal parts brutalist and psychedelic, bleak and hopeful, cold and opulent.
My only hope is it finds a good home.
My other main project is a prospective webcomic tentatively entitled Chien Andalou, named after the band at its centre.
It’s about this queer synthpunk band rising to fame in the late 1970s, early 1980s in Thatcherite Britain, exploiting controversy for attention, and the soaring hopes of the two young musicians pitted against their bitter, conniving band managers.
Hopefully coming to a screen near you in 2022.
Odds and Ends
Who are some of your favorite artists, musicians and writers?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
I have a bad case of too many words disease at the moment, so I’ll try and keep this short.
Some favourite artists: Nan Goldin, Jenny Holzer, Derek Ridgers, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele.
In all of them there is this wonderful poise between rawness and artifice. I admire that deeply.
I also want to mention Skai Ind, who is a smaller artist but has been my art crush and dream cover illustrator for ages, Kit Mills, an artist I encountered through Instagram whom I adore, and H. Falloon, another local comic artist I’ve really enjoyed the work of.
Some favourite musicians: Patrick Wolf, Future of the Left, The Cure, Super Furry Animals, Placebo, Hole, Tropical Fuck Storm, the KLF, Manic Street Preachers, Deftones, Strapping Young Lad, Sparks, Childish Gambino, Regurgitator, Skinny Puppy, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, The Book of Knots.
I mostly like terrible hard to listen to weird music, and I appreciate it when a musician doesn’t compromise… or take themselves too seriously.
Also Nicki Minaj.
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
Now is as good as any time. As a trans person, history has not been a kind place, and the now presents infinite opportunity for positive change. For who I am and the position I hold in society in all its forms, I sincerely doubt I would have any better opportunity in the past.
All this said, give me a time warp and there are a dozen 90s bands I’d kill to see.
So maybe London New Years 1990 and a chance to wipe my mind out at Glasto and the raves for a decade in their glory days.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Why’d you not ask me the drugs question? Scared of something, boyo?
Toys were toys, I used them to tell stories, play make-believe mostly.
Still have a few. It’s hard to throw them out!
Who was your 1st crush?
…and why were you so infatuated with them?
Oh, I think his name was Lee; he was a sweet boy from my class in one of my early grades – Grade 3, I think.
I made him a bowl shaped like a fish out of clay for Valentines, but that was (sadly) the end of it. It was a childhood thing; he was simply kind and sweet, and I was taken with that.
Does sex change everything?
What are the top 3 items you own?
[Please include photos or drawings of them!]
Jeez, I dunno. Objects aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
1) A gorgeous tarot card deck from Slow Holler.
I don’t believe in interventionist magic or precognition, but tarot reading is a great tool for self-perception. It can be very revealing. I enjoy what I can give people by reading their tarot, and it’s good for introspection in confusing times.
This deck is gorgeous, made by a collective of queer and Southern USA artists, and the art direction has tied the whole thing together perfectly. The symbols resonate better.
I keep it wrapped in the reading cloth; really only bust it out for New Years and special occasions.
2) My orchids.
I garden, especially plants native to the Naarm region. It’s important to bring these plants back into our suburbs, provide for the environment which still remains around the damage.
A genius friend in Boorloo introduced me to the alien beauty of our native orchids. You’re not allowed to cultivate them in WA, but it’s all right in Victoria and these are my first successful ones – Pterostylis nutans and Pterostylis pedunculata. They’re both called guling in the Wurrundjeri Woi Wurrung language – I’m trying to learn more Indigenous words for my plants, so that’s why there’s a label on it.
The tubers are edible. The P. nutens are flowering at the moment. They can be hard to spot, since they’re very small and the flowers are green (they’re commonly called “Greenhoods” in English).
Aren’t they beautiful?
3) My grandmother’s typewriter.
It’s an Olivetti Lettera 32, portable typewriter. I just love its style with that one red button. As above I’m a bit of a Burroughs fan, and if memory serves in Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, the Lettera is his second typewriter (the mugwump typewriter).
It’s a fun little machine too.
I don’t use it as much as I used to. I used to write a lot more letters. But you know, they have character, these machines; their own little personalities, and this one’s an eccentric.
In a fight between the following Queer icons: Darby Crash (from punk band ‘The Germs’) Vs. Alison Bechdel (cartoonist and comic maker) – Who would win?
…and why would they be victorious?
[Please draw the battle in all its violent beauty!]
Oh, I’m not doing that. I’ve nothing but sympathy for Darby Crash. A troubled kid who never escaped the grief that swallowed up his whole life and which ultimately took him from it.
Bechdel’s Fun Home is a testament to her own experiences with death in the family and suicide.
It at least implies she’d be sympathetic to that too, and I imagine, as an older member of the LGBTQI+ community, she would feel as I do a great sadness and understanding for people like Crash, for whom the world failed and left to die.
Ironic, of course, is that while Crash took his life at age 22, were he alive today he would have been two years older than Bechdel. I’m sure they’d have had a lot in common.
So instead of fighting, I’ve drawn her checking up on him with a cup of coffee.
Maybe she could have a brief chat to him about handling grief.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
I usually dream quite vividly and remember them well, but I don’t remember any of my recent ones, sorry.
Of everything you have done, what would you most like to be remembered for?
Ah, for who I am, my friendship, support and activism, I suppose.
I would like to be able to say some great work but I’m still carving my place out there.
Check back in a few years for the novel, graphic or otherwise.