James Kerr AKA “Scorpion Dagger” is known for his creation of wildly popular medieval gifs which you’ve probably been linked to or scrolled past on Instagram. For the last few years he’s been working with fellow creatives The Goggles and Closer Productions, on The Book of Darryl, the story of a teenage boy – told in words and animated gifs – in ancient times dealing with the trials and tribulations of adolescence. In this feature, we speak to young Darryl about creative aspirations and life as a teenage boy in Roman-occupied Nazareth.
The Book of Darryl is now available to buy at MCD Books.
Gifs are the online equivalent of the family dog: a fun, loving part of life that breathe enjoyment into an otherwise potentially negative situation. James Kerr has been brightening up the internet with gifs since 2012, at a time when he was experimenting with animation. He’s since developed not just a talent, but has basically found his calling in life. Since discovering his natural predilection for creating hilarious moving pictures, he’s blessed us with his Instagram account @Scorpiondagger: a collection of googly-eyed, medieval-style gifs that would delight even the coldest, darkest of souls.
James was approached by The Goggles and Closer to “illuminate” their upcoming book, The Book of Darryl. His collection of gifs – brought to life through augmented reality – illustrate the life of a teenage boy called Darryl who lives in ancient, Roman-occupied Nazareth. It’s a little Life of Brian and a little Dazed and Confused, with a pinch of South Park. A perfect dose of silliness in our ever-darkening world.
“I can tell you, when done right, is the thing that I'm most attracted to,” says James. “I've always liked the Oscar Wilde quote that ‘Imagination is a quality that was given to man to compensate him from what’s not. The sense of humor was given to console him from what is.’ There's plenty of humor on the internet, but I’m not sure if there's a lot of imagination, and think perhaps that that may be the problem.”
On that note, it’s best to say here that we were going to interview James about animating and gifs, but thought it would be funnier and slightly more interesting to interview Darryl: the teenage boy from Nazareth that he created. “Suburban Naz in 16 A.D may be a flyblown little borough, centered around the refuse pits from the neighboring metropolis that give it it’s distinctive scent, and ringed with mounds of sand that obscure the remnants of abandoned strip malls,” says James, “but it’s where Iron Messiah, one of the world’s most electrifying teen bands, was born, and where Darryl, its least-well-known member, was also born, and still lives.”
WePresent: Can you please introduce yourself, and tell us a little about who you are, and what life looks like for you at the moment?
Darryl: My name is Darryl. It’s the year 16, and coincidentally, I’m 16 too! Makes it easier for people to remember something about me, which is good because most people don’t remember things about me. I live in Nazareth, but not even actual Nazareth but in Sandy Forest. It's a housing development outside of town. It’s me and my mom, and my pet scorpion. We’ve got crap WiFi that gets slightly better when the wind blows just right, and that’s about it. It sucks. Hard. I’ve got a skateboard, my mom gave me for my Sweet 16th. There’s a lot of sandy roads here, so it was not a great present. There are abandoned malls, schools, cars. That maybe explains the town motto, “Please...Stay.” There are abandoned houses too, which is what my new BFF Jay moved into. Now things are, well, kind of amazing... I don’t know if that’s the right word? I’ve never had anything amazing happen to me, so I can’t be sure. It seems right.
WP: What’s your idea of the perfect day?
D: Sitting with Jay in our tree (we call it Rooty! Although that’s a name that we only use in secret, like our handshakes. You won’t print that, right?) writing our songs together. Maybe some light texting when Jay’s at the top of the tree, and I’m at the bottom. I also spend a lot of time waiting for sandstorms. I love sandstorms: the grit in my teeth, the grit in my eyes, all of it.
WP: Tell us about your band Iron Messiah: why did you form, who are your bandmates and how did you meet, and what are some of your influences?
D: I had my own band once. It was cool. I was writing songs about how lame suburban life is. Then Mary (a girl I’d known since forever but had barely talked to because she frightened me) asked if she could join and I thought that might be cooler. We were very serious. Slightly experimental. We called ourselves “The Diffrents.” We recorded a demo, called Delete_this. It was kind of out there. Jude overheard us doing an atonal jam in the dark one day, came in, flicked the lights on, plugged his keyboard in and then basically never left. Soon after we switched things up and changed the band’s name to “Just Jude.” So yeah. Then once Jay came along that changed everything. Now we write songs in our favorite tree. I say something, and he says something better, then I say something not as good, and pretty soon, it’s a song. We wrote one called Tree of Life, which is about our lives. It’s pretty incredible. Yeah, I guess that’s when we became Iron Messiah.
Influences… hmm...I used to be really into the Eunuch Brothers, I loved their Watermelon Pie album. And of course downtown Nazareth. Naz changed everything for us, and influences all of our lyrics to this day. Life on the streets of Naz. Getting hassled by the cops, life on the edge, the grossness, all of it. We try and keep it real.
WP: What’s the music scene like in Nazareth?
D: Naz is something else…totally different from Sandy Forests. One night we found this store called the Sound Sack that sells only music! They have all kinds of albums from the whole noise scene: donkey braying played at half-speed, slaves groaning with percussion whipping. Or the album 45-Minute Scream. It’s powerful. Not just the flutes and lutes we’re used to, but the music of the streets of Naz. Even though we don’t live right in Naz, and only visited the one time, it was VERY influential.
WP: What do you think is the definition of a true artist?
D: Someone who doesn’t care. And also cares a lot. And isn’t a dick to you.
WP: What’s life like in Roman-occupied ancient Nazareth? What kinds of things do you and your friends get up to in your spare time?
D: Before Jay, it sucked. I played solo b-ball sometimes. People kept stealing the hoop for scrap metal, so I’d just throw the ball in the air and make the swoosh sound. My friends Mary and Jude (who were more like kinda-friends? Like, what do you call people who mock you and send you humblebraggy messages? Acquaintances?) kept me on my toes. I spent a lot of time writing things in my binder; you know, deep thoughts and poetry and stuff. Since meeting Jay, it’s been way better. We go to the mall and pretend to shoplift stuff. Sometimes the Roman mall centurions chase us. We go swimming. Come up with handshakes. Hang out. Just us two. It’s cool.
WP: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
D: In Rome, with Jay. The band’s taking off, and we’re writing some siiiiiiiick new material. I don’t imagine we’ll ever run out of stuff to sing about, and there’s no reason why a band as hot as ours would ever break up, right?