HATTIE O’DONNELL had a chat with writer and performer, Briohny Doyle (aka Dr. Apocalypse). A PhD candidate in representations of the post-apocalyptic, Briohny has a fascination with David Bowie, The Bangles, and the end of the world.


What’s it like to be a scholar of the apocalypse?

I really enjoy science fiction that centres on catastrophe, transmogrification, small scenarios in which relationships are put under intense external pressures. I also grew up loving the aesthetic of Mad Max, and anime like Akira and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I was obsessed with big spectacle apocalypse/disaster movies, and where our spectacularisation of the end of the world would lead. That became the inspiration for a fiction manuscript, and I started to read about the history of apocalypse— what it’s for, its status as a protest literature, how it’s been used in the mobilisation of social movements as well as making normative claims about how people should be.

Then I went to Japan and became obsessed with how apocalypse is used to work through the shock of the nuclear bombings. By that point I had so many related yet disparate interests that I decided to use a PhD thesis to investigate the postapocalypse as a contemporary modification of apocalyptic traditions.


What’s the most climactic piece of music you know?

Mr Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). It is a song that should be playing under a big decision. Like a wake-up-in-the-morning-and-take-control kind of song. But of course there are all kinds of climaxes. We are a multiply climaxing species.


What do you listen to while you write?

I never listen to music while I write. I can’t handle that sort of distraction. When I edit or proofread my own work I sometimes listen to music, but it can’t have any lyrics, or too much narrative. The Necks is good and some Sun Ra, soundtracks if I don’t know the movie too well, and post-rock type bands like Godspeed, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai. But even then sometimes I can’t hack it.


What is so appealing about the end of the world?

I think in film and literature it’s a good ‘what if’ scenario, one that lends itself to interesting relationships and high spectacle. In terms of the work I do on the apocalypse, it’s interesting to see it as a catastrophic transformation from which something else might emerge, or in which we can launch some critique on our present predicaments.


What’s the most earth-shakingly good album you’ve ever listened to?

David Bowie’s Let’s Dance is unfuckwithable. But the first album I bought was The BanglesDifferent Light. That REALLY blew my mind at seven. I was expecting it to just be ‘Manic Monday’ and ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’, which were cute, kid-friendly songs, but actually, it’s a really great, nuanced and hook-filled pop album and it sort of introduced me to the concept of ‘a band’ rather than just ‘songs’. And they covered a Big Star song on it, which led me, decades later, to listen to Big Star’s #1 Record, which is earthshakingly good.


What are five songs you would choose for the soundtrack of an apocalypse movie?

  1. Le Tigre –‘Phanta’
  2. Black Mountain –‘Wucan’
  3. The Beatles –‘A Day In The Life’
  4. L7 –‘You And Me Till The Wheels Fall Off’
  5. Nina Simone –‘Wild is the Wind’



More at briohnydoyle.com and @BriohnyDoyle on Twitter.