01/25/2012 12:47 pm ET Updated Mar 26, 2012

One Model Nation: The Book, The Band, The Story

Here's a basic overview of how this rather complicated project came about and how it happened one fairly simple or seemingly obvious step at a time:

The thing started about twelve or more years ago before The White Stripes. Before Interpol. Seems to me now before anything but rap rock. Rap rock, boyband/girlband, and hip hop movies where musicians and bands got to have AK47s and Glock 9s and big drug busts and gang warfare and talk real tough to The Man. Donovan [Leitch] and I decided that we needed to invent a band of ubergeeks that could have that kind of wowzy wow insanity surrounding them but then make music that we actually liked. Since we knew each other to have been teenage art-rock Germanophiles we landed on the style and ideology of Kraftwerk.

We worked on this crazy story for a couple years during which time I was actually in Germany quite a bit so I began interviewing middle aged Germans who could tell me something about the art scene of the mid to late 70s. Meanwhile Donovan had been unearthing fact after fact about the Baader-Meinhof gang so we were starting to get the picture: everything that happened to anyone in Germany in the 70s has some kind of Baader-Meinhof thing hanging over their heads or refers to time and place by referencing a Baader-Meinhof event of some tragic deaths and horror.

I began weaving our band into this tapestry in earnest, without the hip hop smack downs or the over the top drug busts. With the urging of Karl Bartos I began to condense the history and even the two parts of the country and began melding the band into other bands I admired from that era. Thus it became historical fiction.

Writing is not easy. Actually doing it well is nearly impossible. One needs to get one's real meaning across without any possibility of being misread, miscounted or misinterpreted. Basically make it reader-proof. In order to get this story across to other people I had to learn how to do this. I don't think I really ever did but what I did learn to do was to minimalize the writing so as to stay out of the way of the story. For 10 years I had the phrase "brevity is the soul of wit" ringing in my head like a particularly catchy advertising jingle. The story is part fact and thus more amazing than anything I could think up on my own so, witty or not I used the brevity part to guide my writing.

In the book I had Jim draw friends of mine whose behavior and style I had modeled the characters after. Both of these things I had decided to do since as a beginning writer I knew I wouldn't be good enough to simply create whole, real people. Also, people tend to be what they look like more or less. This worked out brilliantly again two years later when we realized that all four of us were musicians and we could actually get together and make music.

Each Monday, Jon Fell and I would get to the studio and get Jim Rugg on the speakerphone to go over the thumbnail sketches of the next eight pages for him to draw. This is where we could work out all the actions and feelings and shape of things. Then the amazing stupendous spectacular part: we would open up the eight pages of final artwork that Jim had done from the previous week's thumbnails. Oh man, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Those were some of the best days of my life. Slowly this thing was coming to life seemingly by itself with me just sitting in back doing some occasional steering. It was like Christmas to an eight-year-old every Monday at noon. (Note regarding Jon Fell: he is the Ralf character in the book as well as the colorist. He is also one of my oldest friends and a serious contender for coolest guy ever.)

Well here are a bunch of the thumbnail sketches for your perusal. Hope you enjoy them.


All images were reprinted from "One Model Nation" © 2009-2012 Courtney Taylor-Taylor