Kool Kat of the Week: Dan Dixon Invites You to PLS PLS Get JET BLACK and Out to The Earl on Saturday April 15!

Posted on: Apr 12th, 2017 By:

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

Atlanta-based band PLS PLS have a brand new record out called JET BLACK and finish up their latest tour this Saturday April 15 at The Earl (Get tickets here). Frontman Dan Dixon has been on the Atlanta music scene for a long time, best known for a decade of Dropsonic.

So Dan has no reason to beg and we probably owe him an apology that we didn’t make him Kool Kat of the Week sooner.

ATLRetro: You’re playing The Earl on Saturday. Are you on the road right now?

Dan Dixon: We leave this Friday [April 7] – we’re doing a cozy little run of eight shows. I’m looking forward to finishing up in Atlanta on the 15th. We’ve been rehearsing a set where we just play the new album front to back – by the time we get through the first seven shows, we ought to have it sounding pretty good.

You’re from Atlanta originally, right?

I grew in the suburbs of Cobb County. It’s a notoriously conservative area, the flip side of which is that my high school was a breeding ground for quite a few musicians. The Black Crowes, Robin Finck (NIN, Guns N’ Roses) and the great Jerry Fuchs (Maserati), to name a few – all of them went there.

Do you think that had anything to do with the musician you became?

Definitely. I was a skulking, long-haired, greasy-faced, goony teen who smoked weed and played guitar in his bedroom. When that kid is surrounded by doughy, future fraternity brothers, one tends to find outlets to express one’s… let’s say, dissatisfaction with the world around him. That sort of thing got me into music that was more “indie” I guess. Back then it was just what they didn’t play on the radio – Fugazi, Jawbox, Jesus Lizard, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, all kinds of shit. Needless to say, my tastes have expanded a bit since I was 17, but I can still hear some of that stuff in what we’re doing now.

PLS PLS with Dan Dixon in center. Provided by PLS PLS and used with permission.

Were you always in bands growing up? Any particularly noteworthy or ridiculous in retrospect?

Dave Chase, the bassist in PLS PLS, and I started our first band around eighth or ninth grade. We loved GN’R and Metallica and Public Enemy and Primus and it all came together to make something particularly awful. We got into cooler music at some point, thanks to our older, more savvy friends, and eventually formed Dropsonic, which we did for 10 years and six albums.

Which artists do you consider your influences? Have they changed over the years?

There’s too many to try to list here. I go through phases, like everyone else. I’ve always had a hard time reconciling all the different things I’m into with the music I create. I don’t ever want it to sound like I’m in my “Dylan” phase or my “electronic” phase or some bullshit like that. I, at least, can always hear me, as well as my influences, loud and clear in the records I’ve made. That said, there are clear examples of me trying to incorporate stuff outside of the genre that PLS PLS is a part of into PLS PLS songs. “60’s Love Song” (from EP EP) was me listening to a bunch of Roy Orbison. “Fast as Light” from LP LP has a super obvious nod to Jesus Lizard in the bass line, but the guitars and synth are ’80s New Wave. “Exes” has an Iggy Pop vibe. I’m not saying I’m as good as any of these folks, just that I can hear it in what I’m doing. I was listening to a lot of Kate Bush and Genesis during the making of the new record, if that tells you anything.

Many of our readers are fans of your former band of more than a decade, Dropsonic, and likely consider PLS PLS your “new band,” though it’s been around for several years now. How and why did PLS PLS come about? How are the two bands different?

PLS PLS started as a home demo kind of project where I wasn’t sure it would even become a live band or that I would do shows under that name. Just me, in a room, making stuff. Dropsonic was a proper band. It was three individuals whose styles and ideas were all represented – sometimes for the betterment of a song, sometimes not. It was mostly democratic. A lot people don’t realize how much stuff Dave wrote. Most of the songs on our last record were based off of Dave’s ideas, and it’s probably our best record. PLS PLS is my songs and my production, so everyone’s parts are written to serve the song. I can still hear Mike, Dre, Dave and Derek’s personalities in their playing, but it’s all there to support a melody, a lyric, or create a specific atmosphere – no one plays any bullshit just for the sake of playing some bullshit, which is something I was pretty guilty of in Dropsonic. Though sometimes that can be cool too.

Is it pronounced “Please Please?” Why not spell it that way? Am I an asshole for asking? (Be honest)

Yeah, it’s pronounced “Please Please.”  I chose to spell it without vowels so that it reads like a mournful robot. Pleading, yet soulless.

PLS PLS with Dan Dixon in center. Provided by PLS PLS and used with permission.

I’m always interested in whether a musician finds more satisfaction in creating or in performing. Would you rather write your best song or have your best show?

I still love both of those things. Just because you write a decent song, it doesn’t matter until you lay it out in front of people and let them love it or hate it or feel indifferent. I can’t move on to the next record or batch of songs I’m going write until the one in front of me has been judged. And as for the second part of your question, I don’t know which I’d rather, but I hope neither of those things has happened yet.

You’ve been doing this successfully for quite awhile. What advice would you give any young musicians interested in longevity?

Don’t be precious about it. Make music. Release it. Play shows. Tour. Rinse. Repeat. I’ve worked with people who can’t finish an album or keep re-recording the same songs – it’s a band killer. You can’t get any better without moving forward and you can’t move forward without finishing your current thought. Put a fucking period on the sentence and move on. Also, if they offer you money, take it. It probably won’t happen twice.

Working on anything at the moment? Anything coming out soon?

Well, our new record, JET BLACK, is out this week. Otherwise, I’ve got half a dozen new songs that are in various states of disrepair. We’ll see what makes it to the finish line.

Who came up with the idea for the awesome COCAINE video?! Was it as fun to make as it looks?

I’m not sure if it was the director, Video Rahim, or myself who had the idea of doing a MIAMI VICE thing, but he definitely wrote the script and storyline. It was a lot fun to make. I got to drive a boat and shoot people and get interrogated. Pretty cool. He definitely makes some of the best videos out of Atlanta and has developed his own style and a whole scene around what he’s doing.

Where’s the best place to check out your music? What’s the best PLS PLS song for the uninitiated?

The best way to experience PLS PLS is either to come to a show or listen to the vinyl. But for someone who wants to stick a toe in the icy waters of plaintive robot rock, all three releases are available on all the digital streaming platforms and through iTunes etc. I can’t name one song to rule them all, but just put on JET BLACK and see if it doesn’t make you feel some kind of way.

Thanks again! Anything else you want to mention?

Nah, that’s all I got.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Author and Filmmaker Frank Perry’s Official Biographer Justin Bozung Dishes on Atlanta’s Frank Perry Retrospective Presented by Videodrome

Posted on: Mar 28th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Justin Bozung, Atlanta author and transplant from the far reaches of the north is working closely with Videodrome staff as they present their Frank Perry Retrospective via their JavaDrome film portal, which kicked off in January 2017. The most recent in the series, THE SWIMMER (1968) screens Friday, March 31, at 8:30pm, and will include an introduction and Q&A with Bozung, as Frank Perry’s official biographer. Prior films in the series included MOMMIE DEAREST (1981); PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (1972) [never released on home video]. The series’ finale will be Perry’s LAST SUMMER (1969) screening in late April 2017 [yet to be released beyond its ‘80s VHS release].

Bozung has an expansive resume delving deep into the retro fantastic! He’s assisted in book projects documenting and analyzing Stanley Kubrick, has conducted over 400 interviews for several book projects, documentaries and magazines including Fangoria, Paracinema, Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope and more. ATLRetro caught up with Justin Bozung for a quick interview about his work as the official biographer for Frank Perry, his extensive knowledge of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING and Norman Mailer, and the importance of preserving film history.

ATLRetro: While we are a bit biased here at ATLRetro about this wacky little city of ours, what is it about Atlanta that drew you to our neck of the woods?

Justin Bozung: My wife! She received a job opportunity that was too good to pass up.   So we sold our house and packed up in Ann Arbor, Michigan in late 2014 and drove toward Atlanta. As a freelancer, I’m pretty open-ended and am able to work from anywhere so it made sense for us to leave the cold and snow behind. And I’ve always been fond of Georgia; having spent some time here over the years during various travels and vacations in the south. I’m a big soul, funk, and jazz music fan. So being able to come and live where Curtis Mayfield had his own record label, but also, be within driving proximity of where James Brown was born and lived many years of his professional life and owned his own radio station is great. Central Georgia also owns The Allman Brothers and Otis Redding—so living in the South is really a soul music lover’s dream come true! Memphis, the home of the great Stax Records, isn’t too far away either. And I’m completely fine–I’m not ashamed–in saying that as a Michigan-born guy, I’ll take Memphis and Stax Records any day of the week over anything produced at Detroit’s Motown. There’s something about the water down here that gives the music a special quality, something that Motown doesn’t have that Stax does... And let’s not even get started on the subject of Athens, Georgia and R.E.M.–

As Frank Perry’s official biographer, can you tell our readers a little about why you think he is one of the many undervalued and underappreciated filmmakers and why you wanted to spread the Frank Perry love via Videodrome’s JavaDrome film events?

Well, there’s a pretty easy answer to that. The internet is interested in Frank Perry.   Fortunately, today, with the rise of social media and bloggers pulling active duty–interest in Perry and his films has really grown in recent years. He made some really wonderful films, and it’s important to note that Perry was the first independent filmmaker to be nominated for an Academy Award. He was nominated in 1963 for his independently-financed and produced DAVID AND LISA (1962), which shot for approximately $200,000 in Pennsylvania. Perry was nominated for Best Director but he lost out to David Lean, who won for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)! Perry’s little film went up against LAWRENCE! Jean Renoir, said “I feel that this film represents a turning point in the history of film.”

Prior to Perry, where there had certainly been others producing independent films on the East Coast– John Cassavetes‘s SHADOWS (1959) being the touchstone–others like Russ Meyer and his THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS (1959), and H.G. Lewis in Chicago with his “nudie cuties” were also bringing independent film to attention. Perry was the first to make a “respectable” independent film and to be noticed by the mainstream. In his way, he changed things. Even with someone like Cassavetes, who by 1959 was a well-known and very established Hollywood film actor–his film SHADOWS still didn’t afford the average guy the idea that maybe he himself could just go out and raise the money and make his own film as a profiteer. Perry had no experience as a filmmaker, really. On the first day of shooting DAVID & LISA, he couldn’t figure out how to turn the camera on. And in pre-production he read several books about film directing. His film school was the library.  It really makes one remember what was going on in independent film in the late 80s or early 1990s with directors starting out like Robert Rodriguez. While Perry had come from the Actors Studio and done some Second Unit work for hire prior, he had not really directed anything on that scale before. His gift was in working with actors. I consider him a conscious, classical director. He worked very much like George Cukor who loved working with actresses and literary adaptations. Frank set the wheels on fire and got indie film some important notice in Hollywood. DAVID & LISA made the studio system, although on the verge of completely crumbling, sit up and take notice that things were shifting culturally.

On March 31, JavaDrome will screen Perry’s The Swimmer (1968). Were there any particular reasons you chose the films that are slated for screening?

Well, the guys at Videodrome split the selections down the middle for this retrospective on Perry’s films. I hand-picked two and Matt Owensby picked the others. THE SWIMMER was a film that Matt really wanted to show as part of this retrospective. It should be stated that this retrospective on Perry’s films here in Atlanta marks the first multi-film retrospective of his work in the USA since the mid 1980s. In fact, I can’t help but suggest that the recent Los Angeles retrospective of his work last month, put on by Quentin Tarantino at his New Beverly, was directly inspired by our own little retrospective here in Atlanta–knowing how Tarantino seemingly likes to monitor video stores all around the United States and see what they’re up to.

Videodrome is our little purveyor of the forbidden fruits of the video and film world and are avid supporters of film preservation, which of course is why they hold a sweet spot in our hearts. As a historian, can you tell our readers a little bit about why you think film preservation is important and how important businesses like Videodrome are to the preservation of film?

I’m just starting to get acquainted with a few of the guys that work at Videodrome. The fun part about going into the store is that they really have a massive selection of titles, but more importantly, Matt and John and the rest of the crew really embrace you. And they’re not elitist or snobs either. They care about and endorse the films of Truffaut just as much as they love and admire the films of Greydon Clark. The latter–preservation, is important as well, certainly. I’ve been struggling with that myself working with Frank Perry’s Estate. Frank made two films that are impossible to see.  The first, I recently discovered the master materials for in an archive in California. We’re talking with some film preservation folks now about financing the restoration of one of these, his JFK: ONE MAN SHOW (1984)–which was made and shown on PBS twice before vanishing off the face of the earth, it seemed until I located it. And then there’s his 1968 documentary that Perry fans aren’t even aware of that he made about political unrest in the Middle East, because it’s mysteriously not listed on his IMDb page. The Estate has access to the last print that is known to exist. Just to use these two instances as an example, if there weren’t people “out there” tracking down films or storing prints or whatever–archiving cinema–we may all lose out in the future.  So it’s the key to film studies, really.

You also collaborated with Colorado’s Centipede Press in putting together a large volume entitled Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film. Can you tell our readers what role you played in the process? Did you learn anything enticing with this publication that isn’t common knowledge about Kubrick or The Shining?

The book came out in the early spring of 2015 and sadly, it’s already out of print, I believe. It was a massive 750-page book on the making of the film. I was involved with the book, as a project, very early on, researching and getting clearances for many of the previously-published essays and interviews that are included. I also dug up some visual ephemera, and conducted about 45 hours of interviews with most of the cast and the crew from the film itself—which are all included in the book. I interviewed or was in touch with the entire crew and most of the living actors that starred in the film. The book was edited by Danel Olson, but, 350-400 or so of those 750 pages are my contributions to the volume. The book is filled to the brim with new information about Kubrick–things that people didn’t know about him and the film itself including line items about his attention to detail, his admiration for baseball, his love of driving cars fast and more.  There’s information in the book about what went on behind-the-scenes of the film that has never come to light prior and addresses his notorious reputation, but also looks at his craftsmanship. It’s page-after-page with new information on Kubrick.   I tried to debunk many rumors that have been swirling around in the zeitgeist for many years about Kubrick and I used the interviews in an attempt to give readers a doorway onto the set in England for 13-months back in 1978/79. When it came out, ROOM 237 was really on everyone’s lips–so there’s a lot of talk in the book about that documentary as well. It’s a great book, though.  I’d suggest that it’s an essential addition to any film lover’s library. Michael Dirda of The Washington Post called the book “a major advancement in film studies,” or something like that.

We see that you’re also involved with author Norman Mailer’s estate and that you work on several projects dedicated to him. What can you tell us about those projects?

I become involved with Norman Mailer in early 2014 and made a 12-hour audio documentary about his much-maligned 1987 film, TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, my favorite film. I interviewed most of the crew members and some of the actors and visited some of the shooting locations in Provincetown, MA. My interest in the film came out of my friendship with TOUGH GUYS actor, Wings Hauser. He first introduced me to the film in 2011, when I was about to interview him for a magazine.   The documentary was released online, and the Norman Mailer Society invited me to talk about the film in the fall of 2014 at Wilkes University. Shortly after that, they asked me to become involved in several projects that they were working on. One was Project Mailer, and another was archival search-related. I created a Mailer podcast for them, which runs bi-monthly on ProjectMailer.net. Basically, I just present audio from the Mailer Archives ala podcast format ala the old Grateful Dead Hour with David Gans.    In early 2015, I started putting together a dense, academic study on Mailer’s films.

He made 6 films from 1947-1987.  I love his films, even though, most of the Criterion Collection audience doesn’t. Criterion released Mailer’s 1960s films through their Eclipse series in 2013. They scratch their heads as to why CC would put out such “awful” films. They’re very important works of art that not only comment and inform on Mailer’s influential texts of the 1960s, but also, in their way, influenced his writing in the process of crafting them. They also have historical context in relationship to the direct cinema movement of the mid 60s with films by D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers. There, likely, may never have been an ARMIES OF THE NIGHT without WILD 90 (1968), for example. Mailer wrote himself into that book as a character–in the third person–directly out of the influence that the editing of his first film, WILD 90, had upon him while he was writing that Pulitzer Prize-winning “novel as history, history as novel”–to use Mailer’s description. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I was looking at myself as a character,” during the editing of his own movie.

His film MAIDSTONE (1971) is a obvious pre-cursor to reality television. I certainly do not lay the blame on reality television on Mailer, but he was creating that type of aesthetic tension and propaganda–and recording it–on film, some thirty years before reality television came along. Cinema was in Norman Mailer’s blood. He had a keen interest in cinema, and a fine grasp of cinema aesthetics very early on in his life–before he became the writer enfant terrible of the 1960s that many remember him as today.   He was a frequent guest at Amos Vogel‘s legendary Cinema 16 in New York City. He saw the films of Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Warhol, Mekas there. He helped to fund the films of Robert Downey Sr. and Ron Rice. Mailer’s writing is profoundly cinematic, and the cinema is one of his strongest and most-used metaphors in his writing and it’s throughout his texts. His ideas on film are really in sync with filmmakers that would be his peers of the era. My book, The Cinema of Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death comes out this September via Bloomsbury.  It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now. And this September I’m starting work and collaborating with the Mailer Estate on another book on Mailer, but this time around, it’s about the writer, not Mailer: The filmmaker.

As a film buff and historian, what was your gateway drug into the land of cult film, or film in general?

I’ve always been interested in film, for as long as I can remember. I grew up as a classic, indoor-type of kid. I grew up in the VHS and pay cable era of the 1980s.  My parents gifted me with HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime. I recorded everything off and watched it over-and-over. Film has always been very important to me as an art form. I love all film. I don’t pay attention to genres or labels. Film is film. There aren’t any “good” or “bad” films, just films. I love Larry Buchanan, Michael Bay just as much as I do Delbert Mann, King Vidor and Jerry Lewis.

You’ve also published several articles and interviews in magazines such as “Fangoria,” “Paracinema,” “Shock Cinema” and “Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope.” If you had to choose a favorite interview and/or article that you contributed, which would it be and why?

I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years. I think around 400 or so. I may be the only person you’ll meet who has done over 75 interviews with various crew and cast members from several Stanley Kubrick movies, hundreds of hours logged, and all on tape. I imagine myself as being in the Guinness Book of Work Records under “Most Interviews Done Associated with Stanley Kubrick.” My favorite though….I have two.   The first was with actor Wings Hauser, because we became great friends out of the experience. The other is with comedy legend and screenwriter Bill Richmond. Richmond wrote almost all of the Jerry Lewis solo movies like THE PATSY (1964) and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). He wrote for TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show, Bewitched, All in the Family, Welcome Back, Kotter, Blossom etc… He was a mad genius of comedy. It was just one of those great one-in-a-lifetime experiences, where, consequently, we stayed friendly with each other after it was over.  Bill sent me the best birthday present the year after even…and when he passed away last year—that was really sad for me.

Can you tell our readers a little about your Frank Perry biography and any other current projects your working on, and where our readers get their hands on your published works?

The biography on Frank will be published mid-2018 and is a full-scale biography blended with some analysis. I’m finishing it up now. I’ve been working on it since early 2015, but there was a full year where I didn’t work on it at all, due to some legal tangle with his Estate and an outside party. It is the first book, first study on Perry. I’ve been working closely with Perry’s family and estate on the project and I worked closely with his wife, Barbara, before her recent passing. But also, Tom Folino, Perry’s long-time friend, assistant-turned producer. I’m in touch with his surviving family members and as with all of my projects, I’ve got about 200-hours of interviews in the can with various crew members and actors, family friends in support of the work itself. The book looks at Perry’s life and his films, but also looks closely at the projects that slipped through the cracks–like his near adaptation of Terry Southern‘s naughty-satire novel Candy which looked like it was going to be made as early as 1964 into a film.  This, of course, lead to Perry making of THE SWIMMER, but I’ll talk about how that all happened this Friday at the screening with Videodrome. Your readers can find all of my work on Amazon here. This year I also expect to finish up an academic volume on Michael Bay, called Michael Bay: High Art / Low Culture.

Do you have any advice for those writers just starting out?

Quit wasting time on Facebook. Write every day. Research and research. When you think you’ve found everything. Stop. Then wait 2 weeks and research some more. You’ll always find something extra. If you say you’re going to write tomorrow, then you better do that. Don’t put it off, because it damages your unconscious, and that’s where all the words come from–from inside of you. Don’t piss off your unconscious. Don’t write anything for free. Your time is valuable. Writers should say something new; they need to formulate new and profound ideas. So do that. And last but not least, opinions are so very rarely ideas.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be reading, watching or listening to right now—past or present, well-known or obscure?

Well, I’m more of a reader than I am anything else these days. I read one magazine currently–Philosophy Now. It’s my favorite. Some things I’ve enjoyed tremendously this year so far would be Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story by Carlos Baker. It was published in 1968 and it’s probably the greatest biography ever written; Free Fall by William Golding –a classic, but undervalued work of existential literature; Jurgen by James Branch Cabell — one of Margaret Mitchell‘s favorite novels published in 1919; Margaret Mitchell: Reporter reprints Mitchell’s pre-Gone with The Wind Atlanta journalism; Claire Vaye Watkins‘s Battleborn–a fresh, newer voice in short fiction with family ties to The Manson Family; Altamont, Joel Selvin‘s incredible recounting of the dark, metaphysical Rolling Stones 1969 Atlamont music festival; and Manly Health and Training by Walt Whitman.  As far as music goes I’m really a jazz and soul guy, so anything by John Coltrane. My favorite Coltrane record is GIANT STEPS although I’m very attracted to his metaphysical explorations like ASCENSION. Anything Sun Ra. Sonny’s album NUCLEAR WAR is relevant with today’s political climate. His writings are wonderful as well.  James Brown‘s REVOLUTIONS OF THE MIND, the new Otis Redding: The Complete Whiskey A Go Go Shows Box Set is always on my stereo or phone!  Films I’m currently into are Michael Bay’s Director’s Cut of PEARL HARBOR (1999) shows Bay in his Abel Gance-meets-John Ford glory. Vincente Minnelli’s TEA AND SYMPATHY (1955), Paul Morrissey‘s 1980s trifecta: FORTY DEUCE (1982), MADAME WANG’S (1981), and MIXED BLOOD (1984) are important works. Morrissey is the last great absurdist of the 20th century. Paul and I have talked some over the last couple years about doing a book together, and I would love to do a book on Morrissey, but he’s too cantankerous. Melvin Van PeeblesTHE STORY OF A THREE-DAY PASS (1968), James BridgesMIKE’S MURDER (1984) are masterpieces, and PICASSO: MAGIC, SEX & DEATH, a 4-hour 2001 documentary is a must-see!

And last, but not least, care to share anything that our little world of Atlantans don’t know about you already?

I don’t want to share anything else about myself, but I would like to suggest this little hiding spot out in Smyrna, Georgia that I visited recently. A restaurant called Vittles.  It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that still allows patrons to smoke inside while you sit there eating. Not that I’m standing up for smoker’s rights here, but it’s cancerously-nostalgic. It’s like stepping into a small-town diner in the early 1980s. You can get 4 massive buttermilk pancakes covered in butter, two huge deep-fried pork chops in corn flake crust, and two eggs scrambled all for $6.99. Their claim to fame is their gift shop, which is basically a garage sale that is going on every day concurrently while food is being served. You can buy cement statues of dogs and “Man with No Name” poncho sweaters.  It’s a pretty awesome place that I highly suggest visiting for the delicious food and the bargains. You can fill up and then spend a few hours huffing it over on the Silver Comet Trail which runs from Smyrna to well into Alabama. Forget about Krog Market or Ponce, Vittles is where you need to go!

Photos courtesy of Justin Bozung and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Atlanta Author Michael Wehunt Dishes on the Grotesquery That is Humanness and Ventures Out into The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, Saturday March 25

Posted on: Mar 21st, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Catch up with our Kool Kat of the Week, Michael Wehunt, and a plethora of other Weird and speculative fiction writers at the inaugural The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, crash-landing at Decatur CoWorks on Saturday, March 25, and proudly sponsored by ATLRetro. And eat, drink and exchange oddities with the writers during The Outer Dark Symposium Pre-Party at My Parents’ Basement, Friday, March 24, 8-11 pm, where you also can gather ‘round for readings by Michael Wehunt, our own publisher and bloggeress in charge Anya Martin (“The Un-Bride or No Gods & Marxists,” Eternal Frankenstein) and Selena Chambers (World Fantasy Award nominee for “The Neurastheniac,” Cassilda’s Song).

The Outer Dark Symposium is brought to you by The Outer Dark podcast and its host This Is Horror! and features eight hours of panels, readings and signings centered around Weird and speculative fiction. Admission will be limited to 50 attendees, but all programming will be featured on The Outer Dark. Other confirmed guests include Daniel Braum (Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales), Gerald Coleman (When Night Falls: Book One of The Three Gifts), Milton Davis (From Here to Timbuktu), Kristi DeMeester (read her ATLRetro feature here where she discusses her upcoming novel Beneath), John C. Foster (Mister White), Craig L. Gidney (Sea, Swallow Me and Other Stories), Orrin Grey (Painted Monsters and Other Strange Beasts), Valjeanne Jeffers (Immortal), Nicole Givens Kurtz (The Cybil Lewis Series), Edward Austin Hall (co-editor of Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond), Scott Nicolay (World Fantasy Award winner for “Do You Like To Look At Monsters?”), Kool Kat Balogun Ojetade (The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman: Freedonia), Eric Schaller (Meet Me in the Middle of the Air), Grafton Tanner (Babbling Corpse: Vaporwave and the Commodification of Ghosts), and Damien Angelica Walters (Sing Me Your Scars).

Wehunt, a transplant from North Georgia (just a stone’s throw from the Appalachians), has set up roots in the lovely urban weirdness that is Atlanta. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, The Dark, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, among others. His debut fiction collection, Greener Pastures, was published in 2016, and he’s currently working on his first novel, which is sure to please the maniacal masses. ATLRetro caught up with Wehunt for a quick rundown on what inspires him to put pen to paper, his admiration for the truly bizarre and why you should always follow your dreams, no matter how weird.

(l-r) Gerald Coleman, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Anya Martin, Michael Wehunt

ATLRETRO: It’s the usual state of things for a writer, or any artist to be honest, to be pigeonholed into clear-cut tried-and-true genres. Your work has been described as horror, weird horror, sci-fi, all wrapped up in a bizarre Southern Gothic blanket filled with the strange and bizarre. What are the pros and cons of being classified in such a way? And do you feel it’s better to not quite fit in any specific genre?

Michael Wehunt: I definitely prefer not fitting into any one tidy box. It really depends on an author’s ultimate goal, however. Sometimes the best way to make a name for oneself and become commercially successful—often a pipe dream, but what else are dreams for?— is to willingly climb into that single genre box. Your brand, so to speak, can be conveniently labeled. In my opinion, the label on the box is for the readers, not the author. But mixing genres is wonderful, too, and can have its own rewards. I likely won’t ever be a chameleon type of writer, using a wholly different form each time out. Instead, I’m more focused on that section of the Venn diagram where all these different areas overlap and exploring what’s there. The convergence could be subtle here or it could be stark there. Ultimately, these elements all serve the same purpose.

We see that you’ve had a long (and hopefully torrid!) love affair with Flannery O’Connor, the mother of grotesque discomfort. What is it about her tales and her writing that inspires you the most?

Flannery O’Connor was my third literary love. I discovered Stephen King when I was 8 years old, then Poe shortly after. It wasn’t until early in high school that I was introduced to O’Connor—and later still to Southern Gothic in general— and all these years later I’ve yet to read an author who could find that seam between ugliness and transcendence so perfectly. There are other authors who write beautifully in a Southern voice—Carson McCullers!— but none like she did. She mined the deep-running spiritual power of the South and smelted it with the grotesquery of petty humanness, and horror, black humor, and great beauty emerged in her work. Much later—only a handful of years ago, in fact—I would immerse myself in weird fiction and discover another love of my life. Robert Aickman and Algernon Blackwood, alongside contemporary authors such as Lynda E. Rucker and Laird Barron, showed me that O’Connor had been frequently writing a sort of weird fiction, though she was never credited with such. The only difference was that the spirituality in her work was the sort that America embraces, and it was all the more powerful to show what was under its rock while still remaining devout. The same cosmic strangeness is often right there in her books—why would we think our minds can fathom God with a capital G, after all—and this only deepened my love for her…and, yes, made it more torrid.

Stereotypically, the south, or “southerners” to be exact, is known the world over for its ability to bury deep dark secrets while flaunting its ignorance with a discomforting ease. How important would you say is the written word when it comes to exposing societal atrocities and do you think it is a writer’s duty to bring about change through their published works?

The South has a large closet filled with skeletons, to be sure, and the metaphor is uglier than it would be in most other cases. Not only have slavery and the foul mistreatment of Native Americans been largely papered over in our history books—not ignored, of course, but spruced up to look less unattractive—but poverty and the machine that perpetuates poverty bring out the worst in people sometimes, and a fierce sense of piety and Southern pride can sweep these things under the rug with a defiant pride. The word “demure” comes to mind. That rug has been peeled back even more in recent years. Not just in the rural South but in other analogous areas of the country. And things are squirming in the light. Fiction can be escapism, pure and simple. It can be socio-political in a direct way or in an indirect way. It can focus on philosophy and ideas. It can examine what it means to be human, with all a human’s transcendence and trappings. It can be one of these things or it can be all of these things at the same time. The best of it makes you think about the world without really letting you know it’s doing so, and in that way, change can come simply by engaging the reader with the self and then with the world around them. I know that much of my worldview (and self-view) came from reading dark fiction, and it’s no coincidence that compassion and kindness are the things I seek out in a political candidate or organization or friend.

Your debut collection, GREENER PASTURES, was published in 2016. Can you tell our readers a little about the collection and what inspired you to put together these particular tales in one grouping?

Greener Pastures contains 11 of my favorite short stories as of late 2015; those I felt worked the best together to carry a general theme while also providing just enough variety in subject matter and tone. When they were all together, I realized how prominently trees figure into my work, something I’d never truly noticed before. They’re everywhere, either in the foreground or background, but this was mostly accidental. Less accidental was the theme of loss. There are a lot of stories here that deal with various shades and types of loss, and how people cope with it. Write what you fear, they say, and that’s exactly what I fear. But I wanted a variety of moods and voices to bear these losses and keep things interesting for the reader. And, of course, a variety of darkness, including some good old-fashioned terror. In the end, I would say most of these stories speak from and of the human heart. There’s nothing suppler and earthier than humanity. I plan to dig in that dirt as long as people will let me. I’ll do my best to scare and unsettle them while I’m at it.

We’re also excited to see that your story, “October Film Haunt: Under the House” is featured in THE YEAR’S BEST DARK FANTASY & HORROR 2017 collection. Can you tell us a little about what inspired you to write this story and what it means to you to be a part of this collection?

Thank you! This will be my second time in Paula Guran’s yearly best-of-the-dark-stuff anthology, and I feel very grateful and fortunate for that. “October Film Haunt: Under the House” is an interesting and special story for me. It has two origins: The first is that I wanted to write a love letter of sorts to horror and weird fiction fandom. Four guys from different walks of life who met at a fan convention and found a common passion for horror films take a road trip once a year to the setting of a famous scary movie, documenting their findings and sensations. Since I’m a sucker for the found-footage genre of horror (à la THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), I wanted to try my hand at translating this medium into the written word, only switching into video camera mode when the story earned it. But I also wrote it specifically as a reaction to the majority of my work dealing with, as alluded to above, emotion, grief, and the joys and pains of being a regular person. I wanted no complex back-story, no real character development…just pure, unadulterated terror and craziness. It was a lot of fun to write, and I think it really did turn out to be a love letter.

You’ve made it very clear that “flesh and blood” characters are of utmost importance in your writing. What do you mean when say you write these types of characters and why are they important to you and your writing?

It’s crucial to have relatable characters that the reader—and the author—can easily imagine off the page. Even in the story I just discussed, “October Film Haunt,” in which I consciously stayed away from the importance of character arcs, the reader still has to care about the characters, what they do, and what they gain or lose. Antagonists, antiheroes and even the henchmen who die in the second scene should feel like real people…except, since this is horror we’re talking about, when they’re not actually people at all. When a story focuses on character and seeks a “depth,” that flesh and blood is all the more important. There’s no point in hanging curtains if there’s no window.

Short fiction and short fiction collections seem to be taking the stage and leading the charge, especially within the realm of Weird fiction. What do you think is it about the short story or novella that draws the Weird writing crowd?

Since Weird fiction relies primarily on the unknown intruding upon the known world—to simplify things—it can be difficult to sustain that sense of uncanny dread across the length of, say, a 90,000-word novel. Ambiguity is often the bread and butter of the Weird; that sense of awe and uncertainty is important to carry the fiction’s effect beyond reading. This isn’t to say there are no Weird fiction novels. It’s just that the ratio is skewed more toward its effectiveness as a short form. Horror typically works better than Weird fiction in novel form because its monsters are most often explained. There’s a clear path and intent: figure out the monster so that you can survive it. In Weird fiction, the “monster” is sometimes so inscrutable and vast (the universe itself or something so alien that the human mind can’t truly process it) that over the course of a novel, it becomes difficult to get away with that inscrutability. I also feel that short fiction is making a comeback in its own right, which is a wonderful thing. The novel is important, but there’s absolutely no reason for it to claim such a vast majority of the reading public. Short fiction can paint moods and tones and use forms and structures the novel simply cannot.

Speaking of the Weird writing crowd, you are scheduled to be a guest at the inaugural The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird this weekend (March 25). Anything special planned for this event?

My plans are essentially the same as with any other convention: go and have fun. We’re having a dinner with readings the night before the Symposium. It’s at 8:00 p.m. at My Parents’ Basement in Decatur, and though there is limited seating, it’s open to the public. And we are looking for weird and creepy things to do on Sunday, too, before everyone ships out. The best part of any convention is meeting and hanging out with people I usually only know on social media. They’re like family.

Any interesting stories on how you discovered Weird fiction and what specifically drew you to this particular group of writers?

It’s interesting to me—and a little embarrassing—how late I came to Weird fiction. I read horror as a kid but for some reason never explored it much beyond Stephen King. I have no idea how different I would have turned out if I’d stuck with it beyond my teenage years. But the darkness never left. I found it in other things. And when I finally, too many years later, decided I couldn’t put off trying to write fiction anymore, I reread some Stephen King stories and bought a copy of Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Volume Three just based on Amazon browsing. The latter book was a revelation to me. I discovered Laird Barron, John Langan, Tanith Lee, Stephen Graham Jones…it was a door opening, and soon I was an addict. These people thought about fiction the way I did, and I had no idea! I wrote my first story soon thereafter, and ever since I’ve been trying to pretend I knew about this stuff all along, even after admitting in interviews that I didn’t.

Do you have any advice for those writers just starting out?

There’s a post on my blog called “On Turning Five.” I wrote it last year to share my thoughts about what I felt was the first chapter in my career. It goes into more detail than I can here, but I shared six bullet points that I think are important for a beginning writer: talent (you gotta have some of that); time (use what you have and don’t worry if others have more of it); wisdom (rely on your own, seek others’); kindness (support other authors, pay it forward); persistence (keep doing it, keep fueling the fire of your passion to write in any way you can think of); and resiliency (there will be a lot of rejection—it’s as important a part of the reality as success is).

Can you fill us in on what you’re currently working on? And where can our readers get their hands on your published works?

I’m currently in the middle of my first novel. There’s some weird fiction, some horror, some literary sensibilities, and some ore from other mines. I have that Venn diagram taped over my desk with a thumbtack pressed into the center. As for my published works, my novella, “The Tired Sounds, A Wake,” has sold out forever, sadly, as it was a limited-edition pressing, though it will live again down the road in my next collection. Greener Pastures is available through Apex Book Company or Amazon and other online retailers. My blog has links to all my stories that aren’t in the collection as well.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be reading, watching or listening to right now—past or present, well-known or obscure?

Reading: Julian Barnes’ novel The Sense of an Ending. I’m reading it for the third time right now. It’s a very short literary novel that takes an uncomfortable look at memory and its reliability, both intentional and unintentional. Beautiful and unsettling. There’s a film version coming out soon, so now would be a good time to discover the book. Watching: I’m terribly behind on films. These days my partner and I are watching The Golden Girls in its entirety, and I’ve been having fun reliving my childhood—it was the last show my grandmother and I watched regularly together— and coming up with fake occult theories about Sophia and the girls. Listening: Mica Levi’s film scores. I listen to a lot of ambient, drone, and classical, and Levi’s work for recent films is wonderful to write to. UNDER THE SKIN and JACKIE are both great and very different from each other.

And last, but not least, care to share anything weird and bizarre we don’t know about you already?

This isn’t particularly weird, but I used to have a fairly profound fear of public speaking. For some reason, back in 2010 I got it into my head that I wanted to try amateur standup comedy, which is pretty much the opposite of what I do now. I did it three open-mic performances. It was utterly terrifying but fun—I can clearly remember the swelling panic in my chest—and I’m convinced it was the first step toward writing fiction, which was my other big fear. And while I still have that old fear of public performance in me, it did wonders for it, and it made me an advocate for those scared to put themselves out there: Just do it. Follow your dreams no matter what shape they ultimately take. You’ll be glad you did.

ATLRetro is proud to be a sponsor of The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird on Saturday March 25.  Attending memberships to the symposium are $25 and limited to 50. A few are still available at press-time. Contact atlretro@gmail.com. There’s also a pre-party with author readings on Friday March 24 at My Parents’ Basement in Avondale Estates from 8-11 pm.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Bret Wood Extinguishes Bloodlines and Thrills Us Yet Again With His Latest Cinematic Venture, THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE

Posted on: Feb 22nd, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The last time we caught up with the ever-busy Atlanta filmmaker Bret Wood was before the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival screening of THE UNWANTED, his contemporary take on Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampire novella “Carmilla.”  Bret is at it again with his current independent cinematic endeavor, THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE (TWD2D), a loose modern-day adaptation of Thomas de Quincey’s novella “The Avenger.” Fueled by visions of ‘60s gialli.” TWD2D is a thriller that “subverts the formula of the revenge film,” following its “hero” as he seeks gruesome justice. According to its official description: “Goaded by the cold-hearted spirit of his undead 10-year-old sister Berenice, Jonathan wades into ever-deepening, ethically muddier water—for their plan is to not just punish the guilty, but extinguish their bloodlines entirely.” The film stars Joe Sykes [V/H/S (2012); THE LITTLE DEATH (2010)], Alice Lewis (first starring role) and Rachel Frawley. While Bret has personally funded all of his prior film projects, this ghastly twist of a revenge story is being partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign chock full of enticing perks, including copies of the film upon its release to video (Fall 2018). Be a part of bloody fantastic film history and snatch up a killer perk or two via the crowd-sourcing campaign available through February 25! Check out the full range of rewards here!

A rare and obscure film connoisseur, Bret regularly digs deep into the historic cinematic landscape through his enviable day-job as Vice President of Special Projects with Kino Lorber. On the heels of receiving the 2016 Film Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics for his PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA (2016) collection, he dove right into his next restoration project, PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS, promising to expose viewers to lesser known, yet significant female film pioneers.

ATLRetro caught up with Bret for a quick rundown on THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE, his devotion to film history’s weirdest and wackiest; and why going with crowd-funding made sense for this project! While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a sinister peek at the teaser trailer for TWD2D here.

ATLRetro: The last time ATLRETRO caught up with you was with your take on “Carmilla,” THE UNWANTED (2014). And now we see you’re diving head first into Thomas de Quincey’s novella “The Avenger” with your newest film adventure, THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE. Why “The Avenger” and why adaptations of classic literature?

Bret Wood: I’m a voracious reader, and I usually follow some thread of ideas from one book to another rather than just randomly choosing books from a shelf. It’s a great way of discovering writers I wasn’t previously familiar with. At the time I discovered The Avenger, I had been reading a lot of Gothic novels — specifically pseudo-memoirs from a skewed perspective — things like de Quincey’s CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM EATER, Charles Maturin’s MELMOTH THE WANDERER and James Hogg’s THE PRIVATE MEMOIRS AND CONFESSIONS OF A JUSTIFIED SINNER. I think it was Joris-Karl Huysmans’s THE DAMNED (LA-BAS) that started me on this whole journey. I like this era of literature because it’s the kind of thing not many other people are reading, and it’s all in the public domain, so if I do find a story that would work well as a film, it’s mine for the taking. There’s nothing worse than discovering a story that would make an incredible film, but knowing it would be impossible to clear the rights (there’s a William Lindsay Gresham [NIGHTMARE ALLEY] story I’m dying to adapt.)

And with pre-1900 books like these, I’m really adapting the spirit of the work, not the plot. As THE UNWANTED bears little physical resemblance to “Carmilla,” THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE does not replicate the plot of The Avenger. But hopefully both of them capture the emotional essence of what makes both of those stories so compelling, and so troubling.

(l-r) Bret Wood, Rachel Frawley

Why a Kickstarter for THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE? What are the advantages of taking the crowd-sourcing route?

Previously I’ve self-funded all my films, but the cost of indie filmmaking in Atlanta has risen considerably since the arrival of Hollywood productions. It’s become more difficult to secure locations, and we have to compete with major studio productions for crew. Just a few years ago, when filmmaking opportunities were limited, there was an abundance of crew who were eager to take on labors of love in order to get experience and make the kind of connections they could build careers on. Now, everyone’s busy on well-paying projects, and it’s not fair for us to ask them to show up on their days off and work 10 to 12-hour days for the love of the art. Over the course of making TWD2D, we’ve assembled a terrific, very dedicated core crew, but I want to treat them fairly and not burn them out on independent production. We want to leave them willing to support the next grassroots project – to insure that this kind of filmmaking can continue in Atlanta.

There are several great things about crowd-funding. One is that it allows anyone to participate. And the size of the donation is less important than the knowledge that someone out there likes the idea of what you’re doing and wants you to see it through to completion. Another attribute of Kickstarter is that when people make a contribution, there are no strings attached. They are supporting the creation of your work without imposing conditions or restrictions upon the donation. As soon as artists accept money from an investor, they can’t help but begin to think of the film as a business and bear the responsibility of shaping the film into something that will become profitable. You can’t help it. That Hollywood mentality starts to creep in.

Joe Sykes as Jonathan

I’m not saying my vision is “pure” or that profitable films are somehow corrupt. But I am trying to make films from the gut – that evolve and find their own form through the process of collaborating with other artists. THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE is a film that emerges from the process of making a film. Just last week, two of the actors (Joe Sykes and Keith Brooks) helped me re-conceptualize a scene that was problematic, and we shot that sequence over the weekend. Likewise, we try to make sure the set is a place where new ideas are welcome, and we’re not just banging a punch list of predetermined shots.

You’ve put together some great bonuses for investors, ranging from special DVDs and Blu-rays to pass codes to stream your past films to posters and private screenings (Exciting!). What can folks looking to invest via Kickstarter expect to get when they back your film?

I think most people want to get a copy of the finished film, but for those who don’t want to wait the year-and-a-half it will probably take for TWD2D to be completed and then released on video, they can join us for the cast-and-crew screening, get copies of my previous work, two different styles of T-shirt, and I’ve dragged out a few things from my memorabilia closet, including a key prop from THE UNWANTED [Millarca’s severed head] and an original print by David Lynch for any big-money donors out there. Of course the greatest reward of all is the satisfaction of keeping truly independent film alive and well in Atlanta – and you get that even at the $5 pledge level.

Looks like many of your cast and crew are Atlantans or from the surrounding area, including yourself. What can you tell us about your cast/crew and why do you think it’s important to work with local talent?

With Atlanta being overwhelmed with studio production, I think it’s more important than ever that indie film projects ORIGINATE locally. The studios have come here for the tax breaks but quickly discovered what a rich and deep pool of filmmaking talent resides here. I don’t think anyone expected the Georgia film industry to expand the way it has — and you can’t chalk that all up to tax incentives. The problem is that the writers/directors/leading actors of these projects are still almost exclusively brought in from the West Coast. The studios and networks don’t see this as a place where ideas are originated and projects germinated. The most successful content-originators in Atlanta are self-starters — people like Will Packer and Tyler Perry. And we need more filmmakers like that — who are crafting their own unique work, and not asking some corporate entity for permission to make films.

You’re a well-known local film historian, as Vice President of Special Projects with Kino Lorber, and have produced Blu-ray releases for the films of legendary directors Mario Bava, Stanley Kubrick, Jess Franco, D.W. Griffith and more! Which project was the most intriguing? In the grand scheme of things, why do you feel it is important to not only preserve film, but to share these works of art with the masses?

Just as I read books from another era, I’ve always loved watching films from the past. Part of it is my distaste for all things contemporary, but mostly it is the thrill of discovering something new. If you love cinema, then there is a whole universe out there waiting to be explored. And you can’t do it from the convenient portal of Netflix. You’ve got to get up off the couch and look for it yourself. And it’s exciting to go on a quest to track down obscure works by obscure filmmakers that only YOU truly understand and appreciate (or so it seems, until you discover there are others who share your passion for the odd and eclectic). And that process opens up social opportunities and enables you to create new friendships (both real and virtual). Go over to Videodrome and strike up a conversation with whoever’s on duty — you’ll see what I mean. That’s really a snapshot of who I am and how I defined myself during my youth.

Alice Lewis

I try to hold on to that sense of discovery in my day job, as I ferret out lesser-known films and give them the best possible presentation so that they’ll be out there for other cineastes to discover. I produce DVDs/Blu-rays of the classics, but I’m also allowed to slip into the release schedule some truly strange and fascinating films that aren’t on most people’s cultural radar; things like the silent-era drug film THE DEVIL’S NEEDLE, the satanic soft-core film THE LAST STEP DOWN, the 3-D film A*P*E, the oddball noir THE CHASE. I’ve got a full plate for 2017 and look forward to introducing some strange new flavors to people’s cinematic palate.

On the heels of receiving the 2016 Film Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics for your PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA (2016) collection, you’ve jumped right into PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS. Can you tell our readers a little about this project?

PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA succeeded beyond our expectations, and I really felt as though I had helped consolidate and publish a hugely important chapter of American film history. It was unique in that it wasn’t just a “greatest hits” of early black cinema; it explored both the cornerstones of the movement and the virtually unknown work. We included lesser-known films. We included incomplete films. We included films so eroded by nitrate decomposition that they are almost incomprehensible. But these films are important nonetheless. They are the mortar that fills in the cracks of the bricks of black film history. And they would never be released under ordinary economic circumstances. PIONEERS was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and the $50,000+ that we raised afforded me an unprecedented amount of creative freedom — resulting in a collection of films that would otherwise have been impossible, or at least commercially unviable.

Fortunately, I was able to maintain the momentum, launch a second KS campaign, and am now knee-deep in producing PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERS, which focuses specifically on women directors of the American film industry in the silent era. Our aim is specific because, as with the first PIONEERS, we didn’t want to make this a “greatest hits” collection [Lois Weber, Alice Guy-Blaché]. We want to show you the works you’ve never seen, and expose you to the filmmakers you’ve never heard of [Gene Gauntier, Angela Murray Gibson, Julia Crawford Ivers, Ida May Park, Marion E. Wong]. And by focusing on American silents, we’re able to tell a fascinating – and ultimately depressing – story of how women were pushed out of the director’s chair and into support roles within the Hollywood studio system.

Can you tell our readers how you got into film preservation and filmmaking?

After meeting film historian Dennis Doros when he came to speak at a screening at the University of Tennessee (where I was a student), I was offered a job at the film/video distributor Kino International (now Kino Lorber) in 1987. I started out doing telephone sales for near-poverty wages but was just happy to be working for a company with impeccable taste in its library of films. As the years passed, I migrated away from sales – which I was never very good at – into design work, eventually becoming the Art Director. I gradually accumulated a knowledge of post-production, film mastering, digital restoration, editing, and became Kino’s primary producer of archival projects. Today, the company is much larger, and I’m one of several producers, but I’m still the archival classics guy. And while I have more freedom in acquiring films and negotiating with the archives and licensors, I’m still a very hands-on producer, writing liner notes, designing packaging, supervising film restorations, cutting trailers. Every day is something different (today I get to work on the Republic serial DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE and Josef von Sternberg’s ANATAHAN) and that’s what I love about the job.

You seem to be drawn to exploitation films, with your preservation projects, your documentaries [HELL’S HIGHWAY] and your writing projects [“FORBIDDEN FRUIT: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE EXPLOITATION FILM” and “MARIHUANA, MOTHERHOOD, AND MADNESS”]. What is the magnetizing power of exploitation flicks? And which exploitation film is a definite must-see for our readers?  Yes, we’re forcing you to choose just one.

(l-r) Alice Lewis, Joe Sykes

Funny you should bring these up. I’m just about to close a deal with Something Weird Video for Kino Lorber to revive their “Roadshow Rarities” collection and carry on the tradition that Mike Vraney began with his VHS releases of the early 1990s. We’re going to perform 2K restorations, launch theatrical re-releases of certain titles, and eventually release them on Blu-ray. What I love is that these films, routinely dismissed a kitschy and naive – that was the whole gist of New Line’s marketing of REEFER MADNESS on the midnight movie circuit in the 1970s – are actually much smarter than we give them credit for. They are playful films made by clever filmmakers who figured out a way to game the system, bypassing the censor boards, defying the studio distribution system, and lining their pockets with cash. They pretended to make films to educate the masses on the dangers of drug addiction, venereal diseases, bestiality, polygamy, and other social problems, but were actually making outrageous films that indulged America’s appetites for these forbidden vices. We don’t think of the 1930s and 1940s as a heyday of indie cinema, but it was, and there is still much to be learned from these films.

A favorite? Definitely MANIAC (1934). It is a psychological horror film made by self-taught husband-and-wife filmmakers Dwain Esper and Hildagarde Stadie Esper that plays like a true crime surrealist art film with dashes of Edgar Allan Poe.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching right now—directors or movies, past or present, well-known or obscure.

I don’t want others to rush out and discover them — these are MY current fascinations: 1) the novels of Peter Ackroyd;  2) the music of Jacques Brel; 3) any film by Michael Haneke; 4) Bill Gunn’s 1973 film GANJA AND HESS; and 5) Rouben Mamoulian’s APPLAUSE (1929). If you are determined to watch a recent film, I recommend THE LOBSTER and UNDER THE SKIN.

Getting back to why we’re here chatting you up, THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE and the film’s Kickstarter campaign! Without giving too much away, what can you tell our readers about the film and when they can expect to catch it on the big screen?

THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE is a revenge story with a supernatural twist. It follows a war hero [Joe Sykes] who returns to his home town to avenge the death of his family guided and goaded by the spirit of his dead sister, played by Alice Lewis. When he meets a social worker [Rachel Frawley] who treats PTSD and war-related “moral injury,” the character begins to question the purpose of this campaign of gruesome violence, and his whole quest for justice begins to unravel into chaos. We hope to finish photography in late spring, and have a cast-and-crew screening around the end of the year. Festival screenings should begin happening in Spring 2018, with a home video release in Fall 2018.

The Kickstarter campaign ends Saturday February 25, so it’s not too late to score a T-shirt or give us that welcome boost of confidence that comes with ANY donation to the cause! Check it out here!

All photos courtesy of Bret Wood and are used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Louie Louie?! Me Gotta Go! Emily Robb Invites You Out for Some Organic Garage Soul Tuesday Feb. 21 at the Earl!

Posted on: Feb 17th, 2017 By:

Louie Louie, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. Photo credit: Cassie Cummins. Used with permission.

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

Philadelphia foursome Louie Louie bring their rocking mix of throwback vocal harmonies and glorious post punk weirdness to The Earl on Tuesday Feb. 21.

Not too long ago, Emily Robb recruited two work friends and her sister (all three were first-time musicians) and formed Louie Louie. Their sound owes plenty to classic soul and garage rock bands of the ’60s, but the organ and layered production give the music an otherworldly delicacy that is something different. And those harmonies!

We caught up with Robb just before Louie Louie started the current tour that will bring them to Atlanta on Tuesday. (Click here for ticket info)

ATLRetro: Thanks for taking the time to chat with ATLRetro. It looks like Louie Louie just started a pretty serious East Coast tour. Are you on the road a lot?

Emily Robb: We haven’t done any significant touring for over a year, but we’ll be on the road a little this spring and probably summer.

Where are you originally from? Where’s home now?

My sister Jenna [drummer] and I are both originally from an island in Maine. Leslie [organist] is from Arizona and Emily E (bassist) is from outside of Philadelphia. We currently live within a few blocks of each other in Philly.

How long have you been playing music? What did you do before? Still have a day job?

When I was around 21, I started teaching myself guitar. My first experience being in a band – that wasn’t my grade school band – was in Montreal. Later I played in a band called Lantern for quite a while, as well as Myrrias which I’m currently still in. I wouldn’t call it a day job, but yes, I have to work other jobs still. I try to be very part-time at several different jobs so that it’s not difficult to take time off for touring.

How did Louie Louie come together? What inspired you to start a band?

I always wanted to form my own band, so about three years ago I asked my fellow waitresses and my sister if they wanted to start something with me. Originally I wanted lots of harmonies which is why I was excited to start the band with these women.

I know some folks get testy when asked how they settled upon a band’s name. I hope you are not one of them. I’d assume it comes from The Kingsman song (or maybe the Hot Chocolate song), but what do I know? Only that it is hard to Google you. So, why is your band named “Louie Louie”?

Yeah ,we’ve gotten many complaints about how difficult it is to Google us. I thought Richard Berry‘s song “Louie Louie was the perfect song – incredibly simple, three chords, the progression doesn’t even change between verse and chorus, it’s very open so you can do anything with it, and it’s not at all boring even though it’s repetitive. Also I liked the plurality of the name and the fact that it’s not gender-specific.  

I take it you don’t mind the comparisons to the classic all-female groups of the ’60s, as that is among the best pop music ever recorded. Are there any in particular you consider your favorites?

Of the ’60s groups, I think The Shangri-Las and Martha and the Vandellas might be my favorites. But I enjoy them all. 

Berry Gordy or Phil Spector?

That’s not a fair question! Recording/production-wise, I take a lot from both.

Who are some influences that may be less obvious?

I love Yoko Ono. I love Neil Young. Some of those cool Kinks songs like “Fancy and “Everybody Felt the Rain.” I love the Byrds. I’ve definitely taken a lot from all these bands even if it’s not obvious.

Photo credit: Kelly Kurteson. Used with permission.

Do you ever suspect that some of your younger fans may not be familiar with these groups? Does it matter?

I suppose a lot of them wouldn’t be, but in the end I don’t honestly think it matters. I teach music workshops for youths and I’ve introduced them to some of this ’60s soul and they’ve loved it! One of my classes chose to cover “Come See About Me” by Diana Ross and the Supremes after I played it for them.

Have you recorded anything? How can we hear it?

Louie Louie has a single out that was released on Hidden Volume Records and we just released our first full length on Born Losers Records. You can stream them on our bandcamp as well as all the normal streaming sights and you can order the vinyl LP from bornlosersrecords.bigcartel.com

What are you listening to these days?

To be honest, so much Neil Young lately.

I read in your bio that your drummer makes your stage outfits – They are pretty damn sharp, by the way! How important is this to the band’s style?

Yeah! It’s awesome to look sharp and weird and whatever else we look in our outfits! Also the fact that she makes them all by hand and they don’t exist anywhere else in the world makes me so happy.

Anything else I should be sure to mention?

We’ll have our records for sale at the show!

Thanks for your time, and we’ll see you Tuesday at The Earl.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Getting Horny with Adam Lowe: Krampus Is Coming to Town at 7 Stages

Posted on: Dec 8th, 2016 By:

krampus2Forget being nice, it’s Krampus X-Mas time again Dec. 8-17 at 7 Stages. The acclaimed Atlanta theater group brings back its twisted holiday tradition in a brand-new variety show featuring Santa/Satan,Japanese monsters, giant robots, spectacular make-up and costumes, heavy metal music, and Hellish hilarity. After 10 years of Krampus, 7 Stages says it’s the last year for to enjoy them deck the halls with debauchery, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t their unique take on the German anti-Claus. Check out the campy trailer and purchase tickets here.

ATLRetro caught up with the Krampus himself, or rather his human manifestation Adam Lowe, to find out more about this year’s fear-tivities, as well as what else is up with 7 Stages and his own acting career.

ATLRetro: You’re playing the most iconic character of Christmas next to Santa, literally the anti-Santa, at the culmination of a years-long tradition. Does that place a certain pressure on you to get it right?

Adam: Thankfully the most pressure I feel during the production is the weight of the horns, although I’m told we are getting new, lighter ones this year, so that’s a relief. I’ve been fortunate to work with the scriptwriter and the director before, and that relationship has done a lot to mitigate any performance anxiety I might otherwise feel.

How are you preparing to get into character?

Satan and I have been Facebook messaging a lot.

Tell us a bit about this year’s Krampus Christmas. How will it preserve past 7 Stages traditions and is it a challenge to stay fresh?

Krampus Christmas has always been a celebration of heavy metal, PBR, and community, and this year is no different. Many of the same people are involved each year. We really are like a tight-knit—if dysfunctional—family, and that familial energy and enthusiasm carries over to the production. This year is significant because the theme of the show tackles an issue that is hotly debated in Atlanta in recent years: gentrification.

Adam Lowe.

Adam Lowe.

Always been curious how much of Krampus is scripted vs. improv. Can you talk a little about how the production evolved?

Every year is a little different, but I would say generally the cast attempts to stick to the script. Of course, the joy of live performance, especially raucous, irreverent live performance like Krampus, is that anything can happen.

How long does it take for you to get into make-up and costume for the Krampus? And out of it?

About an hour and a half to get in, given our test runs! Maybe 30 minutes to get out of everything.

Without spoilering too much, do you have a favorite part or scene in this year’s production, and why?

There is a fight between Krampus and several demons. The scale of the fight is impressive, and involves a industrial scissor lift.

You played two key and very different roles in THE THREEPENNY OPERA (read our Retro Review here), which congrats, was extended after good reviews and box office. Brecht wrote it in the twilight years of the Weimar Republic. After the results of the presidential election, did you feel anything eerie about performing it this fall? Anything else you’d like to say about doing THREEPENNY?

I wish I could claim a sense of foreboding during THE THREEPENNY OPERA run, but I ended up every bit as flabbergasted by the election results as everyone else. Honestly, THREEPENNY was simply a fantastic show. For me, it was a great escape from the election-related talking heads and other political noise. The cast was incredible, and I met a lot of very talented, kind people.

7 Stages always strikes us for its daring and its quality—like Off Broadway in Atlanta. What’s it like to work with this phenomenal theater company and are you going to be in any more productions in the 2016-2017 season?

I’m always thrilled to get a call from 7 Stages. They dare to do theatre that few others will. I don’t have any specific plans for the upcoming season as of yet, but those guys have my number.

Anything else you’d like to share about Krampus, 7 Stages or what’s next for you?

I’m excited to have recently joined the Humorology Atlanta team as a hospital clown, and will be working with them a lot this upcoming year.  Check us out at the Humorology Atlanta Facebook page here. I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year holds!

krampussadie5version

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Kool Kat of the Week: Cult-Film Fanatic and Queen of the TCM Underground Millie De Chirico Bloodies it Up with the Buried Alive Film Festival Family at 7 Stages

Posted on: Nov 14th, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crewuse
Managing Editor

Millie De Chirico, co-creator and exclusive Programmer for Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) weekly late-night cult movie showcase, “TCM Underground,” returns to Buried Alive Film Festival’s (BAFF) bloody ranks as a hand-picked and well-sought after  juror for BAFF’s Sinema Challenge, a horrorific and spooktacular extra added to this year’s festival! Competitors’ films for the 13-day filmmaking competition will screen Nov. 16 at 7 Stages (7 p.m./ 9 p.m.), kicking off the 11th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival (Thursday, November 17, 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Friday, November 18, 6:00 p.m. – 2:05 a.m.; Saturday, November 19, 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.; Sunday, November 20, 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.;  7 Stages; Tickets $12 per screening block / $120 all access pass [includes film blocks and special events]; Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here)!

De Chirico, a Georgia State University (GSU) film major and cult-classic connoisseur has been a member of TCM’s Programming Department for over a decade. While TCM Underground is her cult-film love-child, she’s also spearheaded several successful TCM initiatives, including TCM’s Summer of Darkness featuring films of the noir persuasion; Condemned, “A festival of films Condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency”; and the TCM Imports Showcase. De Chirico is no fledgling when it comes to independent film, as she’s sat on juries for Austin’s Fantastic Fest and Buried Alive. Recently, she held a week-long programming residency at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. And in 2016, De Chirico was given an enviable opportunity to be involved with programming content for TCM/Criterion Collection’s new streaming service, FilmStruck!

ATLRetro caught up with Millie De Chirico for a quick interview about her cult cinema obsession, especially obscure films showcasing girl gangs and basically ladies who kick ass; being a part of the Buried Alive Film BAFF Film Challenge LogoFestival family; and exposing rare and bizarre films to the masses via “TCM Underground”!

ATLRetro: “Queen of the TCM Underground”! What a killer title! Can you tell our readers how you earned such a moniker and how you helped create TCM’s late-night cult movie franchise, “TCM Underground” in 2006, originally hosted by Rob Zombie?

Millie De Chirico: Well, becoming the “Queen” was incredibly easy because I’m the only person who works on it! There was another person involved in the very first year, a guy named Eric Weber who no longer works at TCM. We worked on it together at first. After he moved to another department at Turner, I was the only one left to do it, and that’s how it’s been for the past 10 years.

Stanley Kubrick was sort of your gateway drug into the land of cult film at the tender age of nine, with his 1971 classic, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Besides Kubrick, who influenced you the most in your love of cult cinema? And why?

Russ Meyer‘s FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!  was probably the biggest influence on me. It totally blew my mind when I first saw it. I can’t tell you how amazed I was to see Tura Satana, a half-Asian woman just like me, being such a dynamic badass. I’d never seen anything like that before. After that I really fell into the rabbit hole. John Waters and Herschell Gordon Lewis movies were also my early cult cinema education. They are canon at this point, but will always be influential to me.FasterPussycatKillKillFeb2014LCS

Your job is a dream come true for cinephiles the world over. As a kid, did you ever imagine you’d get the opportunity to educate the masses on the wonders of the most obscure films? What’s a day in the life of Millie De Chirico like?

As a kid I had no idea you could even have a job doing something like this. When I was a kid, jobs were like firefighters and whatever you learned in elementary school, and women were always secretaries. Every day I go into work and get to talk about and think about movies, so I’m very fortunate. I see what I do less about educating and more just about sharing movies with people. Anyone that gets paid to share what they love with others is a very lucky person.

Do viewers get to request films to be screened for “TCM Underground”? If so, what is the most bizarre request for programming you’ve received?

I love to hear ideas from viewers. I think everyone in the Programming Department at TCM does. I don’t know if I’ve gotten a single bizarre film request; it’s more that the people making the requests are the interesting thing. For example, I learned recently that TCM Underground has a pretty big following among prisoners. They’ve sent a lot of letters and I have to say, the requests are really interesting and a lot of times actually underground, like DEEP stuff. Also, I sat down with John Carpenter once a few years ago and he mentioned he’d seen Underground, and image1then rattled off a bunch of movies he wanted to see. My brain pretty much exploded after that.

How exciting to be a part of TCM/Criterion Collection’s new streaming service, FILMSTRUCK. Can you tell us a little about the service what it means to you to have opportunity to help with the programming and content?

I think I’m most glad I get the opportunity to flex a different programming muscle with FilmStruck. A lot of people assume I just like cult movies and that’s it. I’m actually a fan of lots of different types of films. I still program for the network and love classic Hollywood movies. With FilmStruck I get to program foreign, art house, and indie, which are all genres I greatly enjoy. Plus I get to work really closely with the folks at Criterion Collection, a company that I’ve had a crush on since I was in college when they were only making laserdiscs — it’s basically a dream come true.

You’ve been a juror for several film festivals across the country, including Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX and Atlanta’s own home-grown horror film festival, Buried Alive Film Fest (BAFF). I’m going to assume it’s nerve-wracking, but what’s it like getting to judge the creative harvest of filmmakers across the world?

It’s pretty thrilling to get to see really new movies, by people who’ve never made one before a lot of the time. You’re kind of there at the creative gun blast, which is very cool! The year I did Fantastic Fest I was on a jury that got to watch IT FOLLOWS and SPRING and a bunch of other movies that were unknown, but ended up being big hits.

What is your favorite American cult film? Foreign cult film? Favorite cult film genre?

You should know better than to ask film people about a single favorite movie! Admittedly I have about fifty and they change daily. But if I must choose, my favorite American cult film would be the aforementioned FASTER Switchblade SistersPUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is a very close second); foreign cult film would be THE ROAD WARRIOR. Favorite cult genre would be anything involving girl gangs, like SWITCHBLADE SISTERS or DARKTOWN STRUTTERS. What can I say; I love ladies who kick ass.

Can you tell us how you got involved with Buried Alive Film Festival and the killer Kool Kats running the show?

I went to film school at GSU with Blake, one of the founders, and I’m friends with most of the people who run it. Atlanta’s film community is fairly tight knit and I’m always happy when we get to work together in any way.

As one of the judges for BAFF’s Sinema Challenge, how does the competition look? Anything horrific and exciting you can tell us at this time without giving anything important away before the BAFF opening screenings on Nov. 16?

I actually haven’t seen them yet. I have no idea what to expect but I know I’m super excited!

What are you looking forward to most at BAFF 2016? Anything fangtastic we should know about?

I think everyone should see the shorts. They are always a blast and the BAFF folks always put together really great shorts programming. I’m also really looking forward to seeing SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, the documentary about the Process Church of the Final Judgment (I will basically watch any documentary about cults or religion). And they’re doing a screening of CARRIE, an all-time favorite of mine, which I’m sure will be super fun.

image4What exciting and cinematically cultish things do you have planned in the near future?

I’d really love to do screenings in Atlanta. I’m always jealous when I go to cities like L.A. or Austin that have really cool, interesting cult or repertory film scenes, partially due to the fact that they have so many theaters that will do them. I’ve been talking to folks in town about this for a long time, so maybe something will finally happen…

What obscure piece of cult cinematic history can our readers look forward to in upcoming “TCM Underground” programming?

I’m really excited to be playing TERMINAL ISLAND by the great Stephanie Rothman, one of the only women who directed cult films and worked for Roger Corman for many years. I got the chance to meet and hang out with her last year and she is unbelievably nice with amazing stories to tell.

And last but not least, what question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Question: Who my favorite cult actor or actress? My very quick answer is: Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s and 1970s. She made some really bizarre movies during this period and I’m kind of on a quest to get everyone I know to watch them.

Photos courtesy of Millie De Chirico and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Tease, Tempt and Toga: Vivien Laye Pledges at ROXIE ROZ’S BURLY-Q HOUSE

Posted on: Nov 1st, 2016 By:
Vivien Laye Atomic Housewife

Vivien Laye, Atomic Housewife. Used with Permission.

Let us tell you about some crazy friends we know…we think you’ll dig their show. Roxie Roz invites you to pledge to the worst fraternity on campus BURLY-Q HOUSE Friday Nov. 4 at the Star Bar. This sure-to-be-outrageous show (doors 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m.) is themed around National Lampoon’s ANIMAL HOUSE (1978), hosted by the sensational Shellie Schmals, one of our first Kool Kats, features a bevy of Atlanta’s best burlesque performers and live music by Andrew + the Disapyramids. There’s a dance party after, and it’s just a guess, but we predict TOGAS!

So for this week’s Kool Kat, get set for detention with Ms. Vivien Laye, Atlantas’s own Sashaying Saucepot and one of the lovely ladies paying temptatious tribute to Delta House this weekend.

ATLRetro: When did you start performing burlesque and what inspired you?

Vivien Laye: I first started performing burlesque back in 2009. A good friend of mine was starting the troupe Ginger Collins and the Garter Girls and was looking for classically trained dancers. She had no idea I had a dance background and I had no idea she was starting a burlesque troupe until I randomly danced a jig for her one day. I had never considered burlesque until she asked me to join the troupe. It seemed like fun, but I had no idea just how much it would come to mean to me.

Do you have a favorite classic burlesque performer whom you look up to? Why does she in particular inspire you?

She may be one of the most recognizable and oft-mentioned names of classic burlesque, but Gypsy Rose Lee was my introduction to the art form through the various film portrayals of her. I think what I find most inspiring is that in a time when more traditional shimmy & shake or bump & grind were the norm, she made her intelligence, humor and wit the key elements of her performance style. She employed full artistic control and called the shots—not just in terms of what the audience would receive from her, but when and how they received it as well.

RR BQ House SquareYou recently returned to the Atlanta burlesque stage. Where did you go and are you excited about performing again in Atlanta? 

The original troupe I was in was only around for about seven months before disbanding. At that time in my life I was in a relationship that was not very supportive of me taking my clothes off for strangers and there were other artistic pursuits that became priorities for me. I decided to step away from performing, but honestly, I always missed it. Years later, I found myself living in Washington state and in a relationship that was loving and supportive in all ways, and I had the chance to attend some really amazing burlesque shows in Seattle. I decided then to give it another shot if the opportunity presented itself, and when my husband and I relocated to Atlanta in late 2015, I reached out to a friend who runs a local troupe and who had also been involved with Ginger Collins. I’m now an independent performer and this time around is very exciting because I’m making my own decisions—from music selection and choreography, to costume construction and character portrayal. It has opened up a new world of artistic expression and offered me a really fulfilling creative outlet.

ANIMAL HOUSE. Do you have any special memories of ANIMAL HOUSE? Why do you think its popularity has endured for so long?

I honestly had only seen bits and pieces of the film over the years and just recently watched it all the way through, but I think it’s had lasting popularity because the National Lampoon brand of humor has been so hugely influential to American comedy.

Animal House is an unexpected theme for a burlesque show, and yet as a classic movie with a cult following, it’s also potentially an inspired choice. Without giving it all away, can you give a tease as to your performance?

I agree with it being a potentially inspired choice. I think any time a show has a theme with a cult following, there is a built-in opportunity to connect with the audience. I will be portraying the role of Babs Jansen, the conniving Southern Belle with a huge crush on Greg, and I’m looking forward to donning a ridiculous bouffant wig!

Vivien Laye - Lowres - Action Shot

Vivien Laye. Used with permission.

We hear you’ll be performing at The Great Southern Exposure in December. That’s major cool. Anything about that you can share?

I’m very excited that my first time performing out of state will be at GSE! I’ll be rocking my Banana Boat number at the Friday Night Flash. It’s a relatively new, comedic number. Think Carmen Miranda meets Carol Burnett.

What else is new and next for you?

The month of November is busy. I’ll be attending my very first Burlycon in Seattle and performing for the November edition of the Speakeasy Electro Swing [Nov. 18] and Sadie HawkinsCheap Thrills [Nov. 19]. The holidays are going to offer a welcome break and a chance to regroup.

What do you do when you are not performing burlesque?

In muggle life I’m a photographer, and I also run the office for a graphic design studio in town. I stay pretty busy, but these days I really enjoy a little Netflix & Chill with my husband and our fur baby, Ruby.

Vivien Laye_Richard Caywood Photo

Vivien Laye. Photo credit: Richard Caywood. Used with permission.

Finally, what’s your top tip to a gal who’s just getting her start in burlesque?

If she’s in Atlanta, she should definitely check out the new and fabulous Metropolitan Studios, which is run by the ladies of the Candybox Revue and the Atlanta School of Burlesque. There is also a monthly [Burlesque Atlanta Society] meet-up for existing or prospective members of the community on the first Thursday evening of every month at Elliott Street Pub. If she’s not in Atlanta, she should look into any local classes that might be available to her.

What’s the most surprising thing about you that no one would guess?

I’ve been to 46 different countries at last count and I’m double-jointed in my elbows. Sounds simple enough, but it looks like my arm is broken if you’re not prepared for it.

Tickets to Roxy Roz Presents: Burly-Q House are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. VIP tables available. Purchase here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Something Bizarre This Way Comes as TWIN PEAKS Alum, James Marshall, a.k.a. “James Hurley” Joins the Monstrous Mischief at MONSTERAMA 2016

Posted on: Oct 4th, 2016 By:

by Melanie CrewJMarshall
Managing Editor

James Marshall, TWIN PEAKS alum and jack of all artistic trades (actor, writer, musician, artist) will be hangin’ with the monsters at the 3rd Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION, founded by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend and ATLRetro contributing writer, Anthony Taylor! MONSTERAMA creeps into town at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center this weekend, Oct. 7-9!

Marshall will be joined by a guest list filled to the blood-curdling brim with old-school horror connoisseurs like Zach Galligan (GREMLINS; WAXWORK); Caroline Munro (AT THE EARTH’S CORE; STARCRASH); Suzanna Leigh (LUST FOR A VAMPIRE); Trina Parks (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER; THE BLUES BROTHERS); Kool Kat and monster artist extraordinaire Mark Maddox; horror novelist and filmmaker John Farris (THE FURY); horror history expert and documentarian, Kool Kat Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and so much more! So, get wicked and haunt on down to MONSTERAMA this weekend and prepare for a ghastly weekend of maniacal proportions!

44197_frontATLRetro caught up with James Marshall for a quick interview about his experience working on TWIN PEAKS; working alongside the granddaddy surrealist, David Lynch; and what he’s up to now, including the much-anticipated continuation of the series that catapulted him into the bizarro world of cult-television fandom, a phenomenon he was not expecting when the series aired, but is ever thankful.

Marshall, well-known as the secret moody biker boyfriend, “James Hurley” of “Laura Palmer” in the infamous and wickedly bizarre ‘90-‘91 television series, TWIN PEAKS, will be resurfacing, along with a long list of original cast members, in the continuation of the original series, which airs in 2017 on Showtime. Although sadly (for us) stifled with a gag order about the new series, Marshall insisted that his preparations for the upcoming series did not actually include him revisiting the original series, even though nearly three decades have zoomed by. We of course do not hold this against him, as forgetting an experience such as TWIN PEAKS would be nearly impossible.

Always interested in acting, it’s no surprise that Marshall’s top three influences when he broke into the industry, and even now, are Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and James Dean; fellas who portrayed moody, sensitive bad boys themselves. Brilliantly cast as the brooding lover in TWIN PEAKS, by award-winning Casting Director Johanna Ray (MULHOLLAND DRIVE; WILD AT HEART; INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, etc.), Marshall explained that, “She insisted David see me,” and that was that! On working with David Lynch, Marshall describes experiencing Lynch’s hands-off inspired approach by saying, “David walked up to give me direction. He looked down, didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes, then looked up at me and said, “Go for it,” and walked away.”

GLADIATOR (1992)

GLADIATOR (1992)

Post-TWIN PEAKS, Marshall’s career exploded with the release of Rob Reiner’s military classic, A FEW GOOD MEN (1992) [Marshall’s favorite role outside of James Hurley]; Rowdy Herrington’s boxing flick, GLADIATOR (1992); and back to Lynch with the TWIN PEAKS prequel film, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992), which Marshall feels had a similar feel to the original series, but had a different rhythm. His career has spanned nearly three decades and continues to grow. When asked what he’s up to now (besides the TWIN PEAKS continuation) he explained that he’s working on his music and writing at the moment. We are always interested to learn what an actor’s favorite films are, so we couldn’t help but ask. Marshall explained that his top five favorite films, in no particular order, are Terry Gilliam’s THE FISHER KING (1991), Lynch’s ERASERHEAD (1977); Francis Ford Coppola’s RUMBLEFISH (1983); John G. Avildsen’s ROCKY (1976); and Francis Ford Copppola’s THE GODFATHER (1972).

Come on down and get mischievous with James Marshall at MONSTERAMA 2016 with photo-ops on Saturday (Oct. 8) (11:30am – 12pm; 5:30-5:45pm) and Sunday (Oct. 9) from 1-1:30pm, and catch him participating on panels throughout the convention. On Saturday, he’ll also be participating in the “When You See Me Again, It Won’t Be Me,” panel at 4pm, and the “You Can’t Handle the Truth” panel on Sunday discussing his work with Jack Nicholson, David Lynch, Aaron Sorkin and so much more!

MV5BMjI4MzU0NTUzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzQ2NDMwMjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1334,1000_AL_

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Kool Kat of the Week: Derek Yaniger, King of Killer Kitsch and the Daddy-O’est of ‘Em All Slings His Ink and Gets to Creepin’ with NETHERWORLD this Season of Haints, Haunts and Horror!

Posted on: Sep 27th, 2016 By:

by Melanie CrewMonsters!
Managing Editor

Perpetual Kool Kat and Daddy-O extraordinaire, Derek Yaniger, now officially official (Finally. He did create our retro-tastic logo after all!) helps dish out the terror this season of haints, haunts and horror with one of our favorite local haunted attractions, NETHERWORLD! Beginning this Friday, Sept. 30, you can feed the maniacal monster inside nightly, through Oct. 31, with a bloody encore weekend, Nov. 4-5! Get out, get scared, and spook it up!

Consistently ranked as the nation’s best Halloween attraction, our very own fangtastic homegrown haunt, NETHERWORLD delivers a terrifying 20th season, which kicked off this killer season on Sept. 23! Founders Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong and a dedicated team of designers, painters, sculptors and other artists, including Yaniger and his classic monster art created specifically for NETHERWORLD, deserve every kudo imaginable for crafting a Gothic wonderland in a Norcross commercial space. Every year it gets bigger and more creative and this year’s MONSTERS theme is no exception. Chock full of nightmare-inducing creatures, horrorific special effects and a sinister atmosphere, NETHERWORLD does not disappoint! NETHERWORLD also always features a second haunt, VAULT13: MELTDOWN that is more slasher/contemporary horror in its bent–read toxic waste, laboratories gone awry and chainsaws.

Yaniger, former artist for Marvel Comics and Cartoon Network has made a groovy name for himself locally and worldwide in the land of all things retro-culture (rockabilly, burlesque, beatnik, etc.) and has been the purveyor of ‘50s/’60s-style art since 2000. Yaniger has slung his brushes and gathered a gaggle of giddy fans at many a retro-culture event: Tiki Oasis (San Diego), Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, Tales of the Cocktail (New Orleans), Spain Wild Weekend, DragonCon and more! And of course our brothers and sisters across the globe dig his work as much as we do, with pieces Gargoylehanging at Italy’s famed MondoPop, Australia’s Outre, Mexico’s Vertigo, the UK’s Castor & Pollux, just to name a few!

ATLRetro gabbed it up with Yaniger and dished about his ‘50s/’60s kitschy art-style, his love of all things retro and spookin’ it up with one of our favorite neighborhood haunts, NETHERWORLD . While you’re eyeballing our little Q&A, why not take a gander and grab a piece or two of Yaniger’s rockin’ art here!

ATLRetro: We are huge fans of your art (obviously) and of Atlanta’s own spooktacular haunt, Netherworld, celebrating 20 ghoulish years this season of haints, haunts and horrors. Tell us about your partnership with Netherworld and what you bring to their terrifying table?

Derek Yaniger: I do dig me some spooktacular haunts! And Netherworld is claws down the best of the best! I am lucky enough to have a nice relationship with Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong (the cats what founded Netherworld ) and they are kind enough to invite me every year to create a few pieces of art for ’em! Just like me, they have been monster fans since their early days so they seem to dig my retro-inspired take on creepy stuff.

Atlanta’s fangtastic classic horror scene seems to grow larger every year, which keeps local haunts, such as our pals over at Netherworld alive (so to speak!) and kicking. In the spirit of Halloween, is there anything in particular about this season, about the idea of getting spooked that keeps you coming back?

DRACULA

The Halloween season has been my favorite time of year ever since I was a crumbsnatchin’ lil’ creepster! Those first autumn days when the steamy summer temperatures begin to drop and the leaves begin to fall instantly transports me back to my trickin’ or treatin’ days! Memories of my old CREEPY and EERIE magazines and my Aurora Monster Models flood my brain bucket and I can’t wait to head to Netherworld to see it all come to life!

Which classic monster would you say is your favorite?

It’s got to be the original Boris Karloff FRANKENSTEIN! That cat is the ding dong daddy of ‘em all! King of the Monsters! For some reason that film as well as the follow-up, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN really started it all off for me! I used all my lawn-mowin’ money back in my youth to purchase anything and everything Frankenstein…FAMOUS MONSTERS mags, Don Post Franky masks, Frankenstein model kits…Much to the disappointment of my Mom, I would wear that damn Frankenstein mask EVERYWHERE….even tried to wear it to church once!

You create some killer images, with just the right amount of kitsch, which we of course can’t get enough of, and neither can your fans. Can you tell us a little about your style, and how it differs from the work you did with Marvel Comics and Cartoon Network in the ‘90s?

My current style is deeply rooted in the cartoon art of the ‘50s and early ‘60s….all the stuff that flipped my switches as a child! When I worked for Marvel the requirement was to draw the “Marvel Way,” but after 5 years of that I decided I would rather draw the “Derek Way“. I transitioned into working for Cartoon Network which was closer to my natural cartoon style, but still not me dancin’ to the beat of my own bongos. After about 5 years of that I decided I wanted to commit fully to my first love, the mid-century modern cartoon.

Take Me To Your LiterWhat drew you to a life of creating art? Any riotous tales of your artistic journey?

Honestly, art is the ONLY thing I’m good at, and I really believe I was born to doodle! My life-long obsession with visual images, even before I actually started scribbling, made it clear to me at a young age that a life creating art was the only way to fly! I don’t know how “riotous” my journey has been, as it was mostly working for fat cats n’ bigwigs that micro-managed me to the point where I wasn’t really proud of the work I was creating. One example of the drag that was advertising art: I was commissioned by Kroger to create a deli-chicken waitress character. After the committee of ad cats had their say, I was forced to add big red lips to the beak and red fingernails to the feathered hands! It was uglier and creepier than anything I ever created for Netherworld!

Who would you consider to be your top three favorite retro artists? Where did you draw your inspiration from and how did they inspire you?

My all favorite would have to be the great Jim Flora! Such a great mixture of modern art, humor and weirdness! His album cover art for Columbia, RCA and Camden is so damned great it kinda makes my stomach hurt! Second on the list would be Ward Kimball. He was the Disney director/animator responsible for the majority of experimentally fantastic art seen in the early ‘50s Disney shorts. I sometimes watch those on super-slo-mo and have to repeatedly dab the drool from my dropped jaw! Last, but NEVER least would have to be Georgia-born, UGA-educated illustrator extraordinaire…Jack Davis. His work for EC Comics and Mad Magazine was the first real exposure I had to art as a wee one. Although my style doesn’t really borrow too much from Jack’s, he will always be an inspiration!

Which pop-culture artist would you say is the most neglected and what do you think makes him/her worthy of attention?Witchy Poo

If we’re talkin’ present day here, I would say Mitch O’Connell. I dig his work the MOST! He uses heaps of vintage-inspired imagery in his work and as a technician, his skills are insane! AND he’s one of the nicest cats in the kingdom! He was a big inspiration for me when I finally decided to make the big dive into the retro art pool. If we’re talkin’ back in the day, I would have to say Cliff Roberts….kinda hard to find examples of his work. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of THE FIRST BOOK OF JAZZ off EBAY a while back. His B&W illustrations throughout the book swing like a well-greased gate! Who are your favorite local artists? Dave Cook is a local cat who is a very good friend and an even better artist. This Clyde can do it ALL! He’s known for his work on RollerGirls art and his “Cadavitures” (zombie caricatures that he scribbles at DragonCon), but I think he’s mostly known for all the Netherworld tees he’s created over the years. If you own a favorite Netherworld tee, Dave probably scribbled it!

Can you tell our readers how you got involved with Tiki Oasis, Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, and our very own DragonCon?

Around the year 2000, When I decided to put all my eggs in the retro art basket, I burned CDs (remember CDs?) of all the retro art I created in my spare hours and sent them to anyone who published a retro-themed magazine (Atomic, Barracuda ) or held retro culture events. (Tiki Oasis, Viva Las Vegas, Hukilau) Otto Von Stroheim, the Grand Poobah of the Tiki Oasis in San Diego was the first to respond, and I’ve scribbled art for that gig every year for the past 15 years! Crazy! Thankfully I am now known as the retro art guy all over the world and have created art for heaps of events celebrating rockabilly, burlesque, cocktail culture, beatnik, etc. The DragonCon connection happened about 8 or so years ago. They were starting the Cat and MousePop Artist’s Alley to give some attention to artists that don’t make with the comic book bit (more underground Lowbrow kinda stuff). At the time, I was growing in popularity in the Lowbrow world so it was a natural fit!

Your art spans the globe, being housed in galleries across the world, including Italy’s MondoPop, Australia’s Outre, Mexico’s Vertigo and the UK’s Castor and Pollux. What’s it like to know that your art inspires people the world over and what do you want your fans to take away from your work?

Yeah, the international response to my work was a coo coo nutty surprise to me! Them cats overseas seem to really dig the whole American kitschy ‘50s art scene. Just last May I had a sold out show at the La Fiambrera Gallery in Madrid! It was amazing how many people attended the opening and how damn nice they were to me! It was a solid gas! It is so rewarding to know that all this silly crap that pours from my coconut can be an inspiration to so many other artists around the globe. I seem to have a nice following among young artists who may just be discovering retro. I just want my art to make cats ‘n’ kittens smile….I love seeing people eyeball my work for the first time and get a nice wide grin goin!

What are you currently working on? Anything exciting in the pipeline?

I have a couple of gallery shows that I need to start slingin’ paint for. I’m working on a design for a Mai Tai decanter set for Tiki Farm, I’m going to be designing some fabric for Pinup Girl Clothing and I’m REALLY excited to be in discussions with a company to create some high-end 3-D collectible figures of my work! These days I’m jumpin’ like a Mexican bean on a trampoline!

How can our readers get their hands on your art?Ghost Collector

Bop on over to https://www.misterretro.com/merchandise and snag somethin’ for your good self!

Anything exciting planned with Netherworld this year?

I created a new piece for Netherworld a couple of months ago. It’s my most favorite yet! Not sure how those cats are planning to use it, but it should show up in the Netherworld gift shop in some creepy form or fashion! Other than that, I’m just planning on falling by the haunts in early October with my good friend Dave Cook. Netherworld always delivers the CREEPS….and I do love it so!

All images provided by Derek Yaniger and used with permission.

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