Shop Around: Horror In Clay Puts the Lovecraft into Tiki Mugs and Merchandise

Posted on: Feb 27th, 2014 By:

The prototype for the Innsmouth Fogcutter mug, unglazed.

Trader Vic’s meets H.P. Lovecraft in the wonderfully weird tiki mug and accessory line of Atlanta-based Horror in Clay. Their fine-crafted ceramic green Cthulhu mugs have been raising tentacles among Lovecraft and Retro Hawaiiana fans alike, and if you’ve been to an Atlanta area con, chances are you walked away with a complimentary tentacled Pickman’s Cove cocktail stirrer. Their newest creation is the Innsmouth Fogcutter mug, which already has made its funding goal in another blockbuster Kickstarter campaign. There are plenty more stretch and social goals to unlock, and preorders are sure to be filled with all sorts of fun extras at different levels.

To find out more about the obscure origins of Horror in Clay, the Innsmouth Fogcutter, the Kickstarter campaign, and what terrifying tiki creations are down the dark road, we caught up recently with Jonathan Chaffin, mad mastermind of  the eldritch enterprise along with his lovely wife Allison.

ATLRetro: How did you personally discover H.P. Lovecraft?

Jonathan:  I wrote a term paper on Lovecraft in ’95. Pretty sure it was a combination of three things: #1  I read all the time, particularly short horror fiction – and when I don’t read I listen to audio podcasts like www.pseudopod.org. I have a particular fondness for Poe, Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson, so early horror and weird tales and those who write them are an easy sell for me. Love of literature and details – check.  I think that’s why I knew the name.

#2 Do you remember the cartoon THE INHUMANOIDS?  It came on alongside  JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS and BIGFOOT AND THE MUSCLE MACHINES  on Saturday mornings. I loved that show. One of the monsters was a giant tentacled beastie from the Earth’s mantle named Tendril.  Tendril was a big shambling green thing bedecked with tentacles, and unlike most of the other toys at the time, the Inhumanoids toy line was to scale; the monsters TOWERED over the good guys.  Giant tentacle monster toy beloved and embedded in my brain – check.  That’s why I wanted to learn more about Cthulhu.

#3 When I was on a bus-tour in England, I ran out of books, so I ran into a shop to get one – and what I found was HP LOVECRAFT OMNIBUS 3: HAUNTER OF THE DARK with a giant monster snacking on people on the cover. Giant monster, giant book of horror short stories, bus tour through the land of fens and lochs – good times and a lifeline affinity for old Anglophilic HP Lovecraft.

Cthulu-Elvis, Jonathan Chaffin, and the Horror in Clay'd Cthulhu mug.

How did you and Allison get the idea to design and market a Cthulhu Tiki mug?

I’m an avid collector of, well, everything, but especially of horror movie ephemera and Tiki stuff. Allison and I had a Tiki-themed wedding and have a lot of affinity for Trader Vic’s, the Mai-Kai [in Fort Lauderdale] and theme restaurants in general. Well, the thing about collecting a lot of Tiki stuff and horror autographs and such is it needs somewhere to live. In our old apartment we had a sort of Addams Family vibe in one room that was also our dry bar – artifacts and totems and monsters, oh my!  When you are a graphic designer, everything is a design problem to be solved, so for me the process went something like: This is a Tiki bar -> Tiki bars have signature cocktails and mugs -> What kind of mug should go here?  Given that Cthulhu sleeps his death away in sunken R’yleh in the South Pacific, that seemed a fun subject for a mug.

Were you surprised by its runaway success?

Surprised by the success doesn’t begin to cover it.  I probably wouldn’t have even attempted it except for a push from my friend Pauli [Vauxhall Garden Variety Players], who basically loaned me some of the money to have a prototype made and said, “Meh. Go see what happens.”  I was told we’d probably have hundreds of them living in our basement forever, but I decided to try anyway.

Since Tiki mugs generally come from somewhere, I decided to tell a story with ours; the Cthulhu Tiki mug is an artifact from the fictional Pickman’s Cove bar in Boston, run by Benjamin Upton and decorated with curios and painting inherited from his uncle. Ol’ Ben was eventually presumed dead – due to the amount of blood strewn about [but] there was no body). I created coasters, matchbooks, swizzles, and a nautiloid bar set to help tell the story of Pickman’s Cove. Then I learned about Kickstarter and figured it couldn’t hurt to try and get a production mug made. And life went a little crazy.
The first few days the first Kickstarter launched, pledges were coming in constantly.  We got picked up by Boingboing.net, IO9 and Laughing Squid, and all manner of places and backers jumped on the tentacled bandwagon.  We funded in 74 hours and had to scramble to come up with stretch goals and similar. It was nerve wracking, because what was going to be a small run of 500 became a run of 2000 – that’s three pallets of Tiki mugs! Fortunately, logistics are my wife’s strong point and she was able to get everything settled, but for a while there it was, quite daunting!  It’s been successful enough to become an ongoing thing, and we vend at a few events during the year, which is a whole new dimension we quite enjoy! ConCarolinas in Charlotte is our next outing as Horror In Clay.

Tell us about the Innsmouth Fogcutter Mug from the story to the craftsmanship behind it.

The Innsmouth Fogcutter mug started as an in-joke on the Cthulhu Tiki mug. If you look, dread Cthulhu has his own little fogcutter mug clenched in one tentacle, complete with umbrella and bendy straw. I wanted it to be a Fogcutter as an homage to Trader Vic’s Atlanta and to the long-defunct Atlanta Luau restaurant.  When the Cthulhu mug was blowing up and people were asking me what was next, I told myself I wanted to make that Fogcutter mug.

 

As mentioned, I try and create a total picture of the environment one of my mugs is from; much like a clothing line, each mug has complimentary artifacts that tell its story. I even have a “bible” like you would find for a stage play that lists facts and details I want the mug and artifacts to reference or adhere to.  The Innsmouth Fogcutter is intended to be from the Gilman House hotel, a locale made famous in Lovecraft’s THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, but also has an original backstory I created that is revealed through digital artifacts and other physical pieces – some of which are available as rewards through the Kickstarter. The back story for the Innsmouth Fogcutter has to do with expectations and changes. As you rotate the mug you realize that what looks like a creepy monster hand reaching up for a beauty on a dock is actually the beauty herself changing into a hybrid, then monstrous form. Similarly, I refer to the mug’s backstory as a romantic tragedy. Really, what else would expect from benighted, ill-reputed Innsmouth?

 

Horror in Clay's bar line including Cthulhu mugs, tentacled double jigger, bar spoons, coasters and Pickman's Cove stirrers.

The concept for the design on the mug came about because I adore practical special effects. Any werewolf transformation sequence is a special treat to me, and I wondered what a transition to a Deep One would look like. Or perhaps I just played too much Altered Beast.  Also, the final form of our Deep One on the mug is inspired by Froggacuda and Sharkoss from the ARCO Other World toy line. What can I say?! I love me some toys.

 

Production mugs are awesome things; much like a sonnet they are all the more amazing for the structural limitations imposed by the process. That said, as a collector I will always love limited editions. For this mug the wonderous Wendy Cevola will be creating a mold from the production master and then producing a very limited number of hand-retouched and glazed variations from the basic design. She has done some amazing work. You should check out her Tiki Bob series of variations

 

You’ve made your Kickstarter goal, but there are more wonders to unlock. Can you tell folks why they should still throw in some money?

 

First off, because the mug is amazing, everyone needs at least two in case they want to drink out of it more than once. Also, it’s funded, so it is going to happen, and I’ve done this before with a high rate of satisfaction, so I’m pretty sure I can do it again. Additionally, I designed way more than I needed for this Kickstarter, and if we get enough funding, we can add some neat stuff to every level and bounce some other ideas into production sooner.  Things that I think will be awesome – like a shade parasol printed with still more backstory elements, or like the Horror Infused bitters we’ve had formulated.

 

Horror in Clay doesn’t just make mugs. What are some of your other products, including those high-quality fezzes?

 

Glad you like em! An IMPORTANT note about the fezzes!  We don’t make ‘em! They are the brainchild and product of Jason Rodgers and www.fezorama.com. He’s been doing this whole artist/creator thing much longer than I. His work is amazing, and I’m really pleased he was game for collaborating on a design to match the Innsmouth Fogcutter Tiki mug.  Since the story features the Esoteric Order of Dagon, I thought that having a fez as part of our Innsmouth collection was a great thing – plus I collect Fez-o-rama fezzes. We are an authorized reseller of a limited selection of Fez-o-rama designs only at conventions, as he is an authorized reseller of Horror In Clay mugs.

 

With that out of the way, we make all sorts of things, because I’m trying to make each collection tell a story using whatever makes sense.  Some things besides the mug that we’ve made that have gotten a lot of attention are our tentacled double jigger and bar spoon. People love the tentacle. Fun fact, the tentacled bar set is missing an icepick because it was used as a murder weapon. Since I have different stories to tell, I’m going to be developing different supporting artifacts to flesh out each story. The locale-based Tiki mug has been working out for us, and I have some more ideas in that vein, so I’d expect to see more of that.

 

What’s next for Horror in Clay?

 

Our next two drawing-board projects are the shade parasol and bitters to help fill in the gap while the next mug is developed. The idea for the next mug is already around. How quickly it sees life as a prototype depends on how the Kickstarter for the Innsmouth Fogcutter does. It was two years between the Cthulhu Tiki Mug and the Innsmouth Fogcutter.

 

What do you do when you aren’t crafting Horror in Clay?

 

Designing things and doing a little freelance, monitoring the media streams and watching movies. Just lately I’ve also been writing a little. I have some essays in “Monster Serials: Morbid Love Letters to Horror Cinema” from www.thecollinsporthistoricalsociety.com.  Ever more frequently I seem to be shipping orders, which is a great thing. Oh, and I love supporting my local tiki bars and theme restaurants!

 

Horror on Clay can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/horrorinclay and on twitter @CthulhuMug.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Destroy All Wrestlers: The Epic Adventures of Johnny Danger, Rising Star of Platinum and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling

Posted on: Jan 3rd, 2013 By:

Steve Johnson, aka Johnny Danger of the PCW.

Presented by the unholy alliance of WrestlingwithPopCulture.com and the Silver Scream Spookshow, Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW) takes over the Asylum East Atlanta on Friday Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. featuring such scary stars as Dragula, Papa Marko, Cru Jones and Stryknyn, as well as live music by Bigfoot. Then on Saturday Jan, 5 at 6 p.m., the entire slate of Platinum Championship Wrestling (PCW) fighters will spar for the Platinum Royal, while Shane Marx battles Supernatural, the Undead Luchador for their league title in their new HQ at 2001 Main Street in Porterdale, GA. PCW now has bouts on every first and third Saturday of the month there.

Everyone has a dream, but Steve Johnson, aka Johnny Danger, has scored the rare opportunity to live it, combining his twin passions for classic monsters and wrestling. In just a little over a year, Johnny has gone from a horror movie-loving geek and Silver Scream Spookshow/Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse performer with a special love for Godzilla to a regular with both Platinum Championship Wrestling and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling. Back in November, we caught up with regular MCW/PCW announcer and fellow monster fan Chuck Porterfield, but since both leagues have major bouts this weekend, we thought it would be the perfect time to revisit the growing world of Atlanta wrestling and get to know another of its most colorful characters as Kool Kat of the Week.

ATLRetro: You’re relatively new to wrestling. When/why did you decide to throw yourself into the ring?

Johnny Danger: It was something I always wanted to do ever since I was a kid, which I’ll talk more about later. I made the mistake of pretty much “phoning it in” during my high school years, getting pretty lackluster grades. I paid no attention to career counseling, had no hopes of going to college. I only wanted one thing in life. – the answer was always the same: “I’m gonna be a wrestler.” Well, when I graduated high school at 6’0 and 155 pounds, it was pretty obvious that my genetics did not agree with my plans, so, I put my dream aside and went to work.

Fast forward to 2011, and I’m planning to marry the woman I’d been with for the better part of the past 10 years. The traditional “bachelor party” held no appeal to me; women had been teasing me and taking my money ever since high school, so I’m not a fan of strip clubs! So I got the crazy idea to get trained to wrestle and have ONE professional match as my “last hurrah” before I settled down and became a responsible married man. Over a year later, I’m still knockin’ heads in the ring and loving it, baby!

Professor Morte officiates at the wedding of Johnny and Divine Danger, with bride and groom in wardrobe inspired by Mothra and wrestling superstar Randy Savage respectively.

I reached out to my various friends and contacts in the local entertainment industry, I think it was actually Sadie Hawkins, a burlesque performer [in Blast-Off Burlesque], who mentioned the name Stephen Platinum, the owner of a wrestling promotion in Georgia called Platinum Championship Wrestling. At the time, Steve was running shows every week at the Academy Theater in Avondale Estates. We contacted him, and he invited me out to see a show and to speak with him after the card. I was impressed by the wide range of talent and characters that wrestled that night, and even more so by Platinum himself; he was not at all the shady, bitter type you hear about running wrestling shows. He was into what I was trying to do and agreed to train me. When my plans changed from “wrestling one show with my friends” to “becoming a full-time wrestler,” he agreed to take a chance on an out of shape, out-of-practice nearly 30-year-old nobody, and try to make him into a star.

As for getting accepted, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. From the first time I hit that ring in my first training class with Steve, I knew I was in for the fight of my LIFE. Just from a couple hours, my first class, I couldn’t walk normally for two weeks. I started at over 220 pounds, fat and slow. I couldn’t get through a single class without running to the restroom to vomit. I’d just roll to the floor and lay there, embarrassed, unable to finish a drill. Little by little, though, things started to click, and I got just a little bit better. Steve started to see improvement in my wrestling abilities, but I think what really impressed him was my talking ability. You have a lot of people in wrestling who are great, natural athletes, amazingly put together, but they can’t connect with the crowd emotionally; they can’t captivate them on the microphone. I’m not the most physically impressive guy, but I can grab ahold of you and make you believe.

As for being accepted in the ring with the other wrestlers, I had to prove myself, something I’m still doing. I changed my entire life for this. I’m in the gym most of the week, and the evenings I’m not there, I’m at PCW’s new home base in Porterdale, working in the ring with WCW veteran Fred Avery, who’s battled everybody in this industry from Sting to Cactus Jack to the British Bulldog. I’ve changed my diet, I’m down to about 170 pounds today. It’s all about holding up your end in the ring and proving you can go, to the fans and to the other wrestlers. To show that I have respect for the business, and for the people who got me into it – Mr. Platinum, the other wrestlers and the fans – I’m just always trying to get better.

Why Johnny Danger?

Why not? It’s a name I used for myself when I wrestled with my friends in high school and when I created myself in various wrestling video games. At his heart, Johnny Danger is a kid with a dream. He wants to be a superstar, a rock star, [and] more than that, a superhero. He wants to beat up the bad guy, get the girl, and fly off into the sunset, only to do it all again next week. I thrive on danger, the challenge that forces me onward. I can literally say Danger is my last name! That’s evident every time I step into the ring. I gained a reputation as a guy who’d charge into battle no matter the odds. There were literally nights I would fight three other guys, all of ‘em bigger than me, all of ‘em hating me, at the same time. And, as you’d expect, I got pretty beat up. But I never made it easy for ‘em. Being the embodiment of danger means never backing down, using your entire body as a living weapon. I may destroy myself in the process, but if I have anything to say about it I’m taking you with me!!

Costumes can be a big part of wrestling. Can you talk a little bit about your look.

Sure. When I first started, I had a pair of shiny vinyl pants made, black with blue flames – which is kind of my signature look, inspired by Godzilla‘s blue atomic breath ray – with Godzilla’s face on one leg and “DANGER” down the other. I’d pair that with a T-shirt representing my various interests, everything from the Silver Scream Spookshow to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles accompanied me into battle. It was a cool, grungy look fit for a brawler, but I didn’t quite look like a pro wrestler.

Well, the pants got pretty beat up during my wars, and as I started shedding the pounds I decided to drop the T-shirt to become quicker and harder to hang on to in the ring. I went to fellow wrestler Rick Michaels, who’s made gear for several huge names in the game; he actually once worked with the WWE making ring attire for their top stars. I pretty much just told him: “Make me something that’s black, with blue flames and kinda looks like an Elvis jumpsuit,” and he came up with my current look. I think he knocked it out of the park. I’ve got a lot of positive feedback on it, and I love it. I’ve also been wearing facepaint recently to show solidarity with my current biggest ally, the pound-for-pound Toughest Woman in Wrestling, Pandora, who always wears the war paint into battle herself. But perhaps what I’m most known for is my signature long black hair. It can be a liability in the ring, but Johnny Danger can’t rock out with a buzzcut, ya know?!

OK, there’s a lot of showmanship, but it’s got to hurt, right? Have you had any major injuries and do you ever question your sanity for getting into this crazy sport?

Constantly. Like I said before, the training process alone was a nightmare. My elbows and knees are constantly skinned up, lumpy and bruised from the rigors of the ring. My back, which was bad to begin with, hurts constantly. As I approach my one-year anniversary as an active competitor, my list of injuries reads something like this: bruised/cracked ribs; various cuts, scrapes and bruises; broken fingers; broken nose (twice); bruised throat; jaw knocked out of place; a concussion; and worst of all, in a battle royal on September 29 at our big show Sacred Ground Chapter III, I was thrown clear out of the ring to the floor – and keep in mind we don’t use mats at ringside, so I splattered on the damn floor – breaking a finger on impact and far worse, wrecked my back. It gave me two bulging discs and caused leakage of spinal fluid; the injury put me out of action for over two months.

I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to wrestle again. The first month was pure screaming agony. As for my sanity, honestly, I think you have to be a little bit nuts to be in this business. In football, you load up on protective gear and if you don’t want to take the hit, you can take a knee or run out of bounds. Boxers wear gloves. Now, all the respect in the world for those who partake in those forms of competition, but in pro wrestling, you have no choice but to take the hit, to get slammed down on that ring – and for those wondering, a pro wrestling ring is nothing but steel, wood, and just enough padding to keep you from being broken the first time you fall down – and then get up and do it again about 30 more times a night. You tell me what normal person thinks that sounds like a good idea?! Who looks at these guys beating the HELL out of each other and goes “That’s for me”?! But when I’m out there doing what I do, and I hear the people chanting my name or cursing it depending on what the situation is, it’s all worth it. It’s the greatest, most natural “high” in the world, and I don’t feel that pain until hours later when I finally come down.

What’s your most memorable bout so far and why?

I’ve had surprisingly many in my short time in the sport. I’ve battled Supernatural, the Undead Luchador, all over the state. We pretty much beat the crap out of each other till we became friends. We still do it from time to time for old time’s sake. I was part of the first steel cage match in Porterdale, GA, in 30 years. I was in a 12-man Revolutionary War Games match on July 4th that had hundreds of fans in attendance and took two rings and two cages to contain us all. I’ve had wars with my former allies, Marko Polo, Quasi Mandisco and Nina Monet. I was a half second away from winning the EMPIRE Title from Shane Marx in only my FOURTH pro match.

But I’ve got to go with a match I came up with, an I Quit Singapore Cane Match where I took on Dynomite Soul Eric Walker. Just to set the stage, I had been on a seven-month losing streak in PCW. Think about that. Every Friday for seven months, I ended up with my back on the mat, counting the lights. I started to doubt myself, if I should even get into the ring. Then it finally happened. Along with my partner in a team called The Surrealists, De La Vega, we joined up with the Washington Bullets to take on four members of The EMPIRE, the evil group that was attempting to take over PCW – attempting, hell, they DID take over and basically called the shots from November 2011 until they were finally defeated at Sacred Ground Chapter III. During the final moments of that match, Vega and myself hit a double team maneuver on Eric Walker, and I dove on top for the pin. I got that win I’d been chasing since January. Then the following week, Walker challenged me one on one, and I beat him again, all by myself.

Something inside Walker and the EMPIRE snapped. A bunch of EMPIRE members, including their 300+ pound monster bodyguard Antioch, charged the ring and beat the hell out of me for several minutes. Antioch injured my ribs with repeated big splashes. Walker bruised my back with repeated strikes from his singapore cane. They tried to put me out of wrestling, plain and simple. But the one thing Johnny Danger doesn’t do is quit. You may beat me, you may break me, but I will come back, I will get up. I didn’t take kindly to the attempt to put me out of the sport I love. So I came back with my own cane, and I challenged Walker to one last war to settle the score. Both our canes would be legal; hell, EVERYTHING would be legal, and the only way to win the match would be to get your opponent to say two words I’ve never said: “I Quit.” We beat the HELL out of each other that night. I hit that bastard with everything I could get my hands on – the ring bell, a fan’s soda can, a steel chain and, of course, my cane. Walker did the same to me. He assaulted my body. He knew where I was hurt, and he zeroed in like a rabid dog.

But I wouldn’t quit. Walker’s manager, Marty Freeman, produced a pair of handcuffs, and I was handcuffed to the top turnbuckle. Dynomite went NUTS with the singapore cane, he split my forehead wide open. You can see the scars to this day. He plastered me across the back of the head. I had a fist-sized lump at the base of my skull for over a week, but I would not quit. My wife and mother were in attendance for this match, and they couldn’t stand seeing me assaulted any longer. They KNEW I wouldn’t quit. My wife stood up and screamed for Dynomite to stop, and he set his sights on her. My vision was blurred from the head trauma I suffered and the blood in my eyes, but I saw him slide to the floor and grab my wife by the hair. I heard her scream. I grabbed the microphone from the referee, and I finally said the words he couldn’t beat out of me. I quit the match to save the woman I love. Classic, right? I wonder why Clubber Lang didn’t think of that?  Just beat Adrian retarded, maybe then Rocky would’ve quit? Hate to say it, but he outsmarted me. And after I’d received medical attention and calmed down a LONG time later, despite the mutual hate we have for each other, Walker and myself both admitted it was the best match of our respective careers.

Who will you be up against at the PCW match on Jan. 5, and what can you tell us in general about that night?

I’m up against the entire locker room! Seriously! It’s the return of the match that put me out of the sport with a back injury – the Platinum Royal. Every PCW wrestler is invited to participate. It starts out as a normal battle royal where you throw wrestlers to the floor to eliminate them. The last wrestler left standing at the end then faces the wrestler who threw out the most people to determine the ultimate winner, who is then guaranteed a title shot against the current champion, Shane Marx. Now, I won the battle royal portion of this match back on March 30,  2012, but came up short in the final battle. I’m tougher, I’m smarter, and I’m hungrier than ever now. And I’m putting the entire locker room on notice.

Now Pandora’s been watching my back since I came back, and I’m going to watch hers too. In a perfect world, it’ll come down to the two of us, and then one of us WILL get that shot against Shane Marx. But ANYBODY else who crosses my path in that match, friend or foe, I’m not going to risk injury again – and I’m not going to miss out on this championship opportunity – you’re likely to find yourself Danger-kicked out to the floor. This is the time to come out and see a Platinum Championship Wrestling event if you’ve been putting it off. You’ll see every top star in the company in the ring at the same time, except two.

The champion, Shane Marx, is putting his belt on the line against Supernatural. I’ll be very interested in that match as well, because if I win that Platinum Royal, I’ll be the first to challenge whoever the champion is after January 5. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve got history with both men. Shane Marx is big, strong and possibly the very best wrestler in the locker room. Supernatural is lightning fast and hits harder pound for pound than anyone else I’ve been in the ring with. Either one of them makes a tremendous champion, but I think PCW could use a leader who’s a little more DANGERous, if ya catch my meaning.

Johnny Danger as Santa checks out the glamorous Ghouls of Silver Scream Spookshow to see who's been naughty and nice.

You’re also heavily into monster movies, especially Godzilla and kaiju eiga, and perform in the Silver Scream Spookshow. Thinking back to growing up, what were your first experiences with both, and do you see a connection between your love of monsters and your love of wrestling?

Oh, no doubt. Thanks to television growing up in Atlanta, watching Godzilla movies with Grampa Munster on Super Scary Saturday on TBS, and watching pro wrestling, are two of my earliest, most treasured memories. Ever since I could talk, I’d stand in front of my bathroom mirror, pose, and imitate the interview stylings of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. I used to push the couches together in the living room, load them up with all my stuffed animals and have battle royals, throwing them out one by one. It always came down to me as Hulk Hogan facing off with an enormous teddy bear stand-in for Andre the Giant. And yeah I always won. Come on, I was Hogan!

There’s definitely a connection. Some of the best Godzilla movies are pro wrestling storylines at heart. Take GHIDOROAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964). This new, evil, terribly powerful space monster, Ghidorah, attacks the Earth. In the previous film, MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (1964), another monster, Mothra, is the only thing that could stop Godzilla’s rampage. Godzilla actually kills the adult Mothra only to be driven away by her larval offspring. So when Ghidorah attacks, the people are powerless, and Mothra has to appeal to Godzilla and Rodan to team up with her to save the Earth. Godzilla and Rodan don’t care, humanity has always despised them, so Mothra goes to fight Ghidorah alone. Godzilla and Rodan are impressed by her bravery and run in to save her, turning “good” and driving off the evil space monster. That’s classic pro wrestling! I was a despised villain in Porterdale till I’d seen enough of my former team mates, The Priority Males, assaulting Pandora, and I stormed the ring to save her. Like I mentioned earlier, I had Godzilla’s face on my old wrestling pants, a Godzilla roar plays at the beginning of my entrance music, and I’ve dubbed my finishing move “Godzilla’s Revenge. You mentioned the Spookshow, that’s the perfect environment for me as well! I’ve played everything from giant monsters to Santa Claus in the show, and look forward to working with them again soon once renovations at the Plaza Theatre are complete and Professor Morte rises from his crypt once more!

Why Godzilla and how big a Big G collection do you have? Any tips on Godzilla collecting today?

Why not? What little kid wouldn’t love Godzilla growing up? NOBODY could tell him what to do; he didn’t have a room to clean, he’d wreck Tokyo, beat up another giant monster or two, and leave the poor saps of Japan to clean up the mess! And seeing as how I never stopped being a kid, it’s a love from my childhood I’ll never grow out of. The emotion of the monsters, the heart of the hand-made effects, you don’t get that in movies today. As for my collection, the only one I know that can compete with it is Professor Morte‘s alter-ego Shane Morton. I’ve got hundreds of toys, movie posters dating back to 1965, two Godzilla-related tattoos and plans for many more.

As for today’s collectors, the market is way different than it was in the ’90s when I started my collection. I have toys I paid $200 for that I struggle to sell for $80 today. You’ve got to realize, eBay wasn’t a thing back then. You had to find specialized dealers to get these things from. My only tip is to only pay what you personally feel something is worth. The “value” of these things fluctuates so much; just be smart and patient. There’s a few groups on Facebook devoted to Godzilla collectors, just look around!

Given that, I’m guessing Monstrosity Championship Wrestling represents the best of both worlds to you. Can you talk a little bit about what makes a MCW match different from a traditional one and what’s your favorite experience with MCW so far?

MCW is wild. We’ve got flamboyant vampires and intolerant redneck misanthrope lycanthropes. It lets a lot of us to expose our dark sides. The Zombie King, Papa Marko has managed to temporarily “zombify” PCW stars like the Washington Bullets and Worse Case Scenerio. He’s even allegedly resurrected deceased wrestling stars like members of the Von Erich family! Casey Kincaid, one of the toughest wrestlers in PCW history, lets his well-documented darkness consume him to become The Phantom once more, an alter-ego we thought he put behind him. We thought it was safe; we were wrong. Then you’ve got guys like Supernatural who fit right in with MCW as is! Not only that, word of mouth is spreading, and we’ve got even more of the top stars in Georgia coming out to be a part of the carnage at MCW’s next show on January 4. Me, I’ve actually struggled to find my place in MCW, which is kind of surprising. I spent a brief period of time as a Frankenstein Monster. I think my fondest memory was wrestling in front of a HUGE crowd at this past Rock ‘N Roll MonsterBash at the Starlight Drive-In. It was blazingly hot, as usual, but all the freaks and misfits and punks and everyone else that came out for the movies, music and mayhem surrounded the ring to see me as part of a team known as The Greasy Bastards take on Supernatural and some ridiculous Leprechaun he found lurking in the bowels of the drive-in.

Event organizer Jonathan Williams, of WrestlingwithPopCulture.com, told me that you’re going to reveal a big surprise at this Friday’s bout. Without giving away any secrets, can you tell us a bit about the overall festivities?

I’ll say this, when I was out injured earlier this year, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I had to find something to get my mind off wrestling. I didn’t know if I could EVER compete again. I thought I’d wasted the last year of my life and permanently crippled myself. I did some research into my family tree of all things. I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d found – didn’t think there was ANY way it could be true. I’ve got extensive knowledge of monster fiction I knew what I’d found, but didn’t think it could be real. But as we all know, truth can be stranger than fiction. It turns out a branch of my family once had a different name than the one we carry today. It also turns out I’m the last one from that family line – a heritage that I will reveal upon MCW’s return on January 4th at the Asylum. A pedigree that spells doom for each and every one of MCW’s nightmarish combatants – a bloodline I cannot deny.

You even got married in the costume of your favorite wrestler and your lovely wife Samantha wore a wicked awesome Mothra wedding gown at the Plaza Theatre. Can you say a few words about it for folks who weren’t there and how you had the dream wedding of all time?

Oh man, it was wild, and I have so many people to thank for being a part of it: Professor Morte for allowing us to be married by a monster; Gayle and Jonny Rej, who allowed us into the Plaza Theatre under their run as owners. If I was going to get married, it was going to have to be an event. I don’t do the whole church thing. I wanted to break tradition and do something memorable. Well, the Plaza has become our church. All the joy in my life over the past five years, the Spookshow, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, even becoming a PCW wrestler, all possible through people I’ve met at the Plaza. I had someone make me a replica of the outfit Randy Savage wore for his pay-per-view wedding to Miss Elizabeth from SummerSlam 1991, and entered to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the tune that signaled Macho’s arrival for his matches. My four best men came down the aisle to the entrance theme of The Four Horsemen. We exited the ceremony to AC/DC‘s “Highway to Hell.” Instead of a boring reception with dancing and embarrassing speeches, those who stayed after the ceremonies were treated to a big screen viewing of KING KONG VS GODZILLA (1962). Instead of a fancy catered lunch, we ate the best popcorn in the world from the Plaza’s snack bar.

What’s next for Johnny Danger?

Heh, even I don’t know. I’ve accomplished so much in my first year of wrestling. I’ve fought the best in the locker room. I’ve bled, sweat and cried in that ring. I’ve wrestled in a steel cage in front of 500 people, and I wrestled a match at 1:30 in the morning in front of five or six people. Tag team matches, street fights, battle royals, I’ve done ‘em all. Even spent some time behind the announce table doing color commentary during my recovery. The only thing I haven’t done is win championship gold. Anybody who ever gets in the ring, they dream of one day holding a belt [and] I’m no different. 2013 is the year I show I’m for real. Yeah, at heart, I’m still a kid with a dream. But I want to show I have the ability to back up that dream. I’ll never be the toughest, the biggest, the fastest or the strongest.

I’m not the best technical wrestler in the locker room. But I’ve got the biggest heart, I’ve proved that time and time again. There is no better “feel-good story.” If I can win that title to sit atop the mountain, even just for ONE NIGHT, it’s a victory for everyone in the crowd that’s ever believed. There’s nowhere else on the planet where any fan that buys a ticket can be so intimately connected to an experience. And that’s something I’d love to share with all my fans. Wherever I go, PCW will always be my home, where it all started. I love that company and our fans; they are a second family to me. We give you our all, twice a month, the first and third Saturday in Porterdale, Georgia. Please come out and see us!

Note: All photographs are courtesy and copyright of Johnny Danger.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Joel Burkhart Plans on Doing Something With It; AM Gold Throws a CD Release Party at the Star Bar

Posted on: Sep 27th, 2012 By:

AM Gold at Oakland Cemetary. Photo credit: David Batterman.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

My radio was my best friend from grade school all through college. I knew every word to every song and spent my teen years trying to stretch my tiny hands across the frets to eke out “Smoke on the Water” like the rest of my artsy friends. An Atlanta band has emerged called AM Gold that speaks to the growed-up heart looking for that “me and my radio” feeling. They will celebrate the release of their first CD, PLANNING ON DOING SOMETHING WITH IT, this Friday September 28 at the Star Bar with Higher Choir and My Rebel Episode.  A dream-team of an outfit, they’re fronted by this week’s Kool Kat guitarist Joel Burkhart, who was good enough to give ATLRetro the back-story on growing up in the glory days of AM radio, his past bands and Star Bar shenanigans.

Torchy/ATLRetro: Tell me about AM Gold.

Joel Burkhart: AM Gold started as a dream. Several nights in a row I had this dream of a band playing on the top of a hill. There was sunlight behind them so all I could see were the long shadows of the band cascading down the hill. The golden rays of the sun eclipsing any details other then the shadows of the people playing. The sound was a chorus of voices, not heavenly like a choir but more earthly and gritty. I heard them singing these lines:

“These are the songs we like to sing
Makes us forget most everything
This is the way that I want to feel
Soft as love and strong as steel.”

After the third or fourth night of this dream, I picked up the guitar and wrote that song. Then I started putting together the band. I knew it would possibly be the last band I ever put together so it had to be amazing. It had to have great players but this time it also had to have great singers. This was going to be all about the words and the melodies. If I wanted them to shine I had to get the right people to be in the chorus.

I have played with Jim [Stacy], Eric [Young] and Jeff [Langston] for years and knew what they were capable of. Jim Stacy has been a lead singer/frontman for many years with Greasepaint, LaBrea Stompers and Little Women and sings with me in The Downers. He was first on the list, but I asked him last because I didn’t think he’d want to be in another band with me. Jeff plays with me in Bully but has also fronted his own bands (Ledfoot Messiah, Ritual, Flathead Fuel) for years. He is quite possibly the best male vocalist in Atlanta that no one knows about. Eric has been my drummer through Mulberry Street, Bully, The Downer Brothers and now AM Gold. Along the way he started singing back-ups and is one of the best singing drummers around. He also makes playing drums look as easy as breathing. Musically I have never played with a better drummer. I have a hard time imagining my songs with anyone else playing drums on them.

When it came time to complete the rhythm section, there has always been a combination that I wanted to hear together. I had Eric and now I was lucky enough to get Blake [Parris] to say yes also. Blake is this town’s hidden treasure. Someday someone who can pay him properly for his services is going to come and take him on the road and we won’t ever see him again. Blake is an amazing bass player and singer – probably one of the best -but he can play almost anything: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lead, rhythm, banjo, lap steel, pedal steel, keys… I really bet that you could give him a trombone, and in 15 minutes he would have a proper part written for a song. There is nothing that I can play or sing that won’t be made significantly better with Blake. He could just sit onstage with anyone and make then sound better. Seriously.

The final piece to the puzzel was a keyboard player. The only person that even crossed my mind was Jett [Bryant]. While he is not one given to the art of practice, he is one of the best damn singers in the game of rock and roll. He knocked’em dead in the Rock City Dropouts and kills it every night with Bigfoot. With AM Gold, he is pitch perfect and brings the pretty. I am sure that this is the most professional band I have ever played with. Practices and rehearsals are exciting and fun. We always have fun playing shows and hell, on top of all of that, we like each other. We all genuinely like being in the same room and shooting the shit. When the 6 of us are playing and singing together it is magic. There is no other word for it.

Joel, where are you from? Did you grow up listening to AM radio?

Joel: I am originally from Detroit. Lived there until the age of 5. Lived in farm country – Tecumseh,MI – for a few years before moving to Brighton, Michigan. I spent the 1980s as a mall rat in the suburbs. I moved to Atlanta when I turned 19 [in 1989].

Totally grew up listening to AM radio early on in Detroit – WJBK, WXYZ and CKLW. Later listened to commercial FM Radio – WRIF, WLLZ – and the college stations from University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Joel Burkhart. Photo Credit: John McNicholas.

Do you write much aside from lyrics and when did you first start writing songs?

You know, I used to write all the time. I have notebooks and notebooks of stuff. Poems, short stories, essays, laundry lists – actual and metaphysical – good, bad, everything,  As I have gotten older, I write less but the quality seems to be higher. I think that comes with being married and having kids, but also realizing who I am and what I want to say. When I do put pen to paper these days, there is probably a song there.

I started writing songs pretty late, I think. I was in my mid-teens when I first learned enough chords to have two different parts to a song. Unfortunately the first one sounds a lot like “Under The Milky Way Tonight” by The Church and the second one sounds a lot like “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure. It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to think I was writing my own songs that sounded like me. I think that’s part of the process: writing and writing and writing until you find your own voice.

Who were your earliest musical influences that stuck with you?

I think like most kids you listen to what is around you at the time, and my earliest influences were from my relatives. Whether it was my cousins listening to Elvis, Chicago, Kiss or Steve Miller; my grandfather listening to hits from the ’40s and ’50s; my grandmother playing WWII ballads on her Wurlitzer; or my uncle’s Rare Earth, Kansas and Yes records, it all influenced me. Some of the best memories I have are driving around singing “Afternoon Delight” [Starland Vocal Band] or “What’s Going On” [Marvin Gaye] along with my mother. Detroit radio was some of the best in the country in the ’70s, and my mother, in particular, was pretty influential in my early years. She loved music and loved singing; whether it was rock, soul or country, she listened to it all. Our record collection had Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Paul Williams, Barbra Streisand and the Bee Gees. Another big record that stuck with me was Tom T. Hall record SONGS OF FOX HOLLOW – For Children of All Ages. My grandmother gave that to me. I wore that thing out.

Who’d you listen to that makes you ask, “What was I thinking?  and how’d you ‘take their sad song ‘n make it betta’? Even the questionable influences of childhood can positively shape budding creativity, right?

When I was a young child, we had one of those small Imperial portable record players and I would go from room to room when my parents had parties putting on my “show.” I would carry my record player, my yardstick – which doubled as microphone and guitar – and my favorite record, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” b\w “Delta Dawn.” I would sing through side one, take my break and then sing through side two. Man, I could rock that shit.

While there was some questionable hair metal that I listened to in the ’80s – TnT, Krokus, Helix anyone? – I can’t really disavow it in good conscience. They are all colors in my crayon box so to speak. Some people are great at painting with one color; I’m not. All of the music that I have listened to tends to find its place in the songs that I write for my different bands.

Before the Star Bar sound booth days, what was your worst day job, and did I hear the residue of that angst in your band Bully?

I did death scene clean up for almost two years. It was miserable work, didn’t pay very well, boss was a dick. That was very influential in the Bully songwriting process. “Quitter,” “Spit,” “I Don’t Feel Well,” “2nd Drawer Down.” All from that period of time. I’d come home pissed off and beat, fire up the bong, hit the Jaeger and let it all out. Thankfully my work life is less stressful now, but I think that was what life is supposed to be like in your 20s, living hard and carefree.

What was it like working sound at the Star Bar? Favor us with a story of your days in the booth.

So much to tell - Jim Stacy and I once spent 30 minutes trying to get a G string on Hasil Adkins’ guitar while a nearly sold-out house waited impatiently. He had a box of old guitar strings he carried with him, every one of them old and rusty. Just looking at the box gave me tetanus. For some reason, none of them were the right one.

Once we had a kid who was trying to promote some shows – this particular one with Har Mar Superstar – have a breakdown on stage. He started calling out the booker of the club, the owners, the bartenders and finally me. He told the room filled with people I had stolen his guitar and amplifier – which I believe he had left in a friend’s car or sold for meth – and that he wasn’t a “fat, jaded motherfucker” like me. I, for sure, took the brunt of it, I guess because he was on stage staring right at me. I think most everyone thought I was going to kill his mic (or him), but I just let him keep going until he tuckered himself out. He ended up going to a mental hospital a week or so later. Pretty weird.

But I also had some great, amazing memories there. The Ex-Husbands blowing everyone away with an out of left field, dead-on cover of “War Pigs” [Black Sabbath], followed by “Beating around the Bush” by AC\DC.

I remember that!

Alejandro Escovedo bringing over 200 people to complete silence with the breathtaking-ness of his songs; The Drive-By Truckers playing an Atlantis Music Conference and just weeping over the song “Heathens,” knowing things would never be the same for them after that night. That stage is magic.

AM Gold. Photo credit: David Batterman.

As I was on the road last year, I heard a lot of BS about how listening to Johnny Cash was a hipster trait and therefore passe. What would you say to that labeling?

One of the bonuses of being older is that I don’t know if it’s hipster or not. I’ve been listening [to Cash] since the ’70s when I was a kid and never stopped. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

With The Downer Bros, you and Jim Stacy pay homage to some of Johnny Cash’s most, for the lack of a better word,  “fierce” recordings. You recently rattled the walls at the 12th Annual Cash Bash at the Star Bar [Sept. 22]. How’d the idea for the Downer Bros come about?

Like most of our great ideas, it started off with drinking. During the rockabilly\country revival in the 1990s, there were a lot of bands that would throw in a Johnny Cash or George Jones [song] and do it in whatever style they played. There was no one really doing the slower, lost love, murder ballad stuff, and definitely no one doing it stripped down and acoustic. Jim and I loved that kind of stuff. So when we were waiting for bands to show up or when the night was over, we would play songs, just me and him. Acoustic guitar, harmonica and our two voices, harmonizing and trading songs. It was magic. The name came from trying to describe the music to our good friend Andy McDaniel. He asked what kind of music we were doing and we said “country music, but you know, the ‘downer’ stuff.” It stuck.

I’ve been paying attention and coming to see your bands for a bit now. Do I detect a progression of a happier and more fulfilled man through your musical timeline, having made so many people weep openly, inviting us to be healed and happy – or am I waxing fanciful?

I think there is a definite evolution. Mulberry Street was me getting my feet wet playing and performing but quickly became a little darker then I thought it would become. With Bully, I totally embraced that darkness and anger. When you are more or less penniless, living from day to day, broken-hearted and feeling alone, it is hard to find the light. The Downer Brothers are similar to Bully in that there is some frustration and  loneliness, but instead of being loud and in your face and angry, it was quiet and more thought-out and reserved.

AM Gold it is next logical extension of the realization that there is goodness all around you. Goodness in the things you do, the places you go and the people you meet. The trick, I think, is being open to it, being willing to let it chase away the darkness that has comforted you for so long. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a meanness out there, thriving and consuming, but you have the choice. You can live in fear with the darkness or live in the happiness of the light. Mostly now I choose the light. Some days it is really hard work to find it, but I think it is worth the struggle.

As a performer, what show stands out in your memory?

Probably one of the highlights for me personally was playing in Greasepaint and opening for Tenacious D. It was a sold-out crowd at The Tabernacle here in Atlanta. For AM Gold, it has to be playing The Dogwood Festival earlier this year. A few thousand people on a beautiful day in Piedmont Park. Nobody knew who we were or our songs, but they seemed to really appreciated them and we had a great response.

Honestly though every show is great in its own way. Any time I get to get on stage with my friends and we get to play our original songs, the ones we have practiced a hundred times, the ones we put our time and effort into writing and arranging and performing. That’s a good day.

Worst gig ever has to be the Chili Cook-Off at Stone Mountain last year.  It was the first time in over 20 years I set foot on stage for the sole purpose of making money by playing covers. While we had fun playing our Steve Miller Greatest Hits set at the Star Bar a couple months earlier, when it came to doing those songs again, there was no love for them. While I admire people that can get on stage and play three or four sets of somebody else’s material and are able to support a family doing it, I am not cut from that same cloth. I suppose that’s why I am not able to support a family doing that.

I’ve been the annoying fan begging for CDs forever. What was the AM Gold studio experience, was it documented on film and when will PLANNING ON DOING SOMETHING WITH IT be available? Joshin’, but seriously does being recorded affect your perspective? And by the way, thanks and eager to hear both the Bully and AM Gold disks!

The recording process was really fantastic. We recorded with a great guy named Jimmy Ether at his studio called Headphone Treats. For this recording we were all in the same room, playing together. We set up in the morning, recorded seven songs, and were pretty much done that night. We came back a couple times and overdubbed a few guitar parts, percussion and some vocals, but for the most part, what you hear is what we did that first day. It is a really great way to record. All of the recordings I have ever done previously were all with the drummer in his own room and the guitar amps in their own rooms and the rest of the band usually in the control room listening back through small, tiny speakers. It has always been frustrating for me. I like being able to feel the kick drum and bass, feeling the air move in the room with the music, the rise and fall of the conversation we are all having with one another through our instruments. There is no replacing it.

As for the Bully stuff, we’ve got over 40 songs that had very limited – me handing a homemade CDR to someone – release. I’m hoping to change that later this year. I think we are going to put out three EPs, each having five to seven studio cuts and two to three live recordings. I’m not really sure. We also started re-recording some Bully stuff a couple of years ago that has yet to see the light of day. When your bass player is in one of the biggest metal bands in the world, it gets hard to get everyone together in the same room and on the same page, but hopefully while Troy [Sanders] is home for a little bit between records, we can get some Bully time out of him.

What aspirations does the band muse about for the foreseeable future? Just sheerly hypothetically speaking, what’s next for you creatively?

The thing about us being in our 40s and doing this is that we don’t have the free time and lack of obligations that being 20 something has. Jett [Bryant, keyboards] has Bigfoot and a budding movie career [he was the star of DEAR GOD! NO! and is going to be in the follow up], Blake [Parrish, bass] and Eric [Young, percussion] are both in several bands and are in high demand as players, Jeff [Langston, guitars] has Ledfoot Messiah (they are doing the Kiss Kruise later this year) and he is in DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA (ED note: Watch out for a Retro Review soon) at 7 Stages and Jim [Stacy, harmonica] has the Starlight Six Drive-In and Palookaville to run, as well as a successful TV show and the possibility of a opening a restaurant fairly soon.

And me, I’m not getting any younger. The thought of getting in a van and blowing with the wind down the road trying to find my rock and roll fortunes has long passed me by. The music I write and play isn’t fashionable. I have no hipster cred; my waist size has expanded. I’m not much to look at;  my head is shaped funny. At the end of the day I’m a 43-year-old IT nerd scraping by at a job I don’t care about, working for people who don’t care about me so I can earn money which is spent before I get it so I can keep a roof over my family’s heads and food and clothes in and on our bodies. I have a beautiful wife and family and a life like most people: spectacularly wonderful and exceedingly average. It just depends on what day of the week and how close we are to the next paycheck. Sometimes we have a little more than others, sometimes a little less. In my mind I’m doing all of this for them, hoping for the big pay-off someday. Rational Joel knows that is probably never going to happen.

But still, I have this need to make this music. I tell these stories and dream these dreams. That’s all good music really is. Stories and dreams. I’m going to keep writing and playing every chance I get for whoever will listen. When I have new stories, I write new songs. When I have new dreams, I write new songs.

It’s what I do, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Look for me up front and center.

AM Gold. Photo credit: David Batterman.

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

In Search of Bigfoot at Rock n Roll Monster Bash 2012 and the DEAR GOD! NO! DVD Release Party!

Posted on: Jun 2nd, 2012 By:

We can’t say where you’ll find a Sasquatch in the actual woods, but we’re damned sure that you can spot BIGFOOT, one of Atlanta’s most badass and hard-edged rock bands, twice in the next few days right here. First they’ll be grinding their guitars at Sunday June 3 at the 10th annual Rock n Roll Monster Bash 2012 at the Starlight Drive-In (gates open at 10 a.m.). Then Tuesday June 5, BIGFOOT headlines the DVD release party for DEAR GOD NO!, the home-grown grindhouse film that’s been turning heads and stomaches all across the nation and stars BIGFOOT front-man Jett Bryant.

In case you’re living under a rock and haven’t heard about the Rock n Roll Monster Bash. It’s an all-day, all-night horror festival featuring Dames, Bands, Ghouls, Food, Creeps, Hot Rods, Hearses, Flicks, Freaks, Vendors Werewolf Style Parking Lot Partying and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling hosted by the Silver Scream Spookshow‘s Professor Morte. Other bands playing include X-Impossibles and one of them now rare but always unforgettable performances by Atlanta punk legends Dead Elvis, including ATLRetro logo artist Derek Yaniger. And damn you, dirty ape, but after dusk, lucky attendees get to see 35mm prints of the incomparable, original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) and zombie comedy RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985), on the big Drive-In screen! If you haven’t already read Gene Kannenberg‘s awesome remembrance of growing up with the Apes and making ape masks with paper and crayons, check it out here.

When DEAR GOD NO! launched its world premiere at the Plaza Theatre last fall, the Star Bar must’ve been empty. Indeed, the number is legion when it comes to talented folks from Atlanta’s alt-garage, Redneck underground and horror scenes who worked on the movie. Familiar faces in the cast and crew including Shane Morton (Silver Scream SpookshowGargantuaAtlanta Zombie Apocalypse)Nik Morgan (Splatter Cinema), Billy Ratliff (Truckadelic), Madeline Brumby (check out our Kool Kat on Madeline here), Jas. M. Stacy (Starlight Drive-InPalookaville, Get Delicious!AM Gold) and many more. Since then, Director Jimmy Bickert‘s “unapologetic homage to classic grindhouse cinema” (DailyGrindhouse.com) has taken the festival circuit by storm and hauling in reverent reviews from lovers of exploitation films. The Big World Pictures release will finally be available on DVD on Tues. June 5, with a ton of bonus features, and to celebrate, the public is invited to the FREE party and screening that night at The Masquerade (doors at 8 p.m.).

Shot in 16mm with ’70s period-authentic effects, DEAR GOD NO! follows outlaw motorcycle gang The Impalers, led by Jett Bryant (yup, that’s his character’s name, too), on a tri-state rape and murder spree which culminates in a bloody massacre with rival club Satan’s Own in a dive bar (actually Tucker Saloon) with the added bonus of topless strippers in Richard Nixon masks with machine guns. Still keen to continue their rampage, the survivors invade a mountain cabin occupied by a scientist and his geeky/sexy daughter. And that’s when the depravity really begins as the bikers realize the scientist is mad, his wife is madder, and the monster that lurks in the wilderness outside is maddest of all.

So it just seemed kinda natural (or should we say, supernatural?) to catch up with Jett, who also plays in AM Gold and has played Jesus on stage in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, for a down and dirty little talk about Bigfoot and why  hard rockers, drinkers and monster movie lovers alike need to get out of the house both Sunday and Tuesday! Dear God! Yes! That’s why we’re proud to say that we live in the city with America’s finest Retro horror scene!

First off, let’s talk BIGFOOT. How did the band get started and what’s your sound like for the uninitiated?

BIGFOOT was started by Jimmy Hall and Evil Jim Wright, two of the most badass guitarists you can imagine. Together with Micheal Faulkner (bass), Kevin Watford (drums) and myself, you get the rowdy and raunchy BIGFOOT—a very loud and heavy southern rock with high energy.

Do you have any special plans for your gig at Rock n Roll Monsterbash 2012?

My biggest plan is not to be too drunk when I get onstage.

What’s your favorite part of this year’s Monster Bash, other than BIGFOOT, of course?

I’m looking forward to seeing PLANET OF THE APES and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD on the big screen. I love me a zombie movie. I like the goofy punk rock situation in the graveyard, and Linnea Quigley gettg all naked and eaten by zombies is pretty cool, too. It’s always been a favorite movie of mine. And apes taking over the world, what’s not to love about that?! It’s always a pleasure to see a movie at the drive-in. That’s the best way to see a movie as far as I am concerned. You can bring your own beer. I love it.

How do you feel about all the positive buzz DEAR GOD! NO! has been getting on the festival circuit?

I’m excited about it. I think it’s great. I always wanted to be famous or infamous. However,  the f–k you look at it. Jimmy did a really great job with that movie. I wasn’t surprised that it was such a big hit just because I’ve known Jimmy Bickert forever and he put all his attention into it. I haven’t seen him do that in years. It’s about time.

Is it just coincidental that you’re in a band called BIGFOOT and a Bigfoot is the monster in DEAR GOD! NO!?

It’s total coincidence that the band is called BIGFOOT and the movie contains a raging sasquatch.The band name came about while we were tossing ideas back and forth and our buddy Ted got impatient waiting for us to figure it out because he needed to make a flyer. So he just dubbed us BIGFOOT

Did you ever feel like the movie was going too far in pushing the limits with the sex, violence, gore and general disgustingness? What do you say to people who are offended?

DEAR GOD NO! is a pretty brutal film, but it’s all in good fun. However, I will not let my mama see this picture

Your character in DEAR GOD! NO! bears your name. What’s the difference between you and him, and are you ever uncomfortable with that—given the crazy, sick things he does in the movie?

As far as playing the character Jett in DEAR GOD! NO! I really just played myself, took out all the good parts and replaced it with the DNA of a honey badger.

I can just imagine how much fun you had recording the commentary track for the DVD with Madelaine Brumby and Shane Morton. Can you talk a little about how you guys approached that and maybe share one favorite behind-the-scenes story? 

We all just sat around with microphones and watched the picture. They got wine-drunk and I got beer-drunk. Shane and I have been friends for a long time so it wasn’t even like work. It was just like hanging out with my buddy. As for a story, [shooting the film] was all pretty long days, but John Collins (Collins in DEAR GOD! NO!) was always making it pretty loose and funny. He made a habit of sending us pictures of his turds when taking a shit. It is not on the commentary track, but it is on blooper reel, a little Easter egg they have in there.

You die in DEAR GOD! NO! but everyone knows that never stopped a character from coming back in a sequel. Will we see Jett Bryant again in the sequel, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, or can you tell us?

My character will return in the sequel, probably more pissed off considering he’s been woke from the dead.

Anything you want to add about Bigfoot’s performance at the DVD release party next Tuesday?

We’re excited about it, but it’s just going to be another badass BIGFOOT show, you know!

What about what you’re up to with AM Gold, any other acting plans and what’s next for BIGFOOT?

BIGFOOT’s going to keep stomping like they do, we’re going to keep make movies, and AM Gold’s going to keep playing festivals!

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PLANET OF THE APES-piration: Or Why You’re a Damn Dirty Idiot If You Don’t Make It to Rock N Roll Monster Bash 2012 at the Starlight Drive-In

Posted on: Jun 1st, 2012 By:

by Gene Kannenberg, Jr.
Guest Contributing Writer

PLANET OF THE APES (1968); Dir: Franklin J. Schaffner; Writer: Michael Wilson and Rod Serling; Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans; 10th annual Rock N Roll Monster Bash 2012, Starlight Drive-In, Sun. June 3; gates at 10 a.m. and movies at dusk; trailer herean all-day, all-night horror festival featuring Monstrosity Championship Wrestling hosted by the Silver Scream Spookshow‘s Professor Morte. Bands include X-ImpossiblesBigfootDead Elvisand more. Also playing: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)

I can barely remember a time when I did not know about PLANET OF THE APES (1968).

Watching the PLANET OF THE APES movies was a ritual for me when I was a boy in the early-to-mid 1970s. WVTV Channel 18, Milwaukee’s independent TV station, used to run POTA marathons at least once a year, it seemed; every Friday for five weeks in a row we’d get another installment, and I was always riveted to the screen, beginning, of course, with the original film directed by Franklin Schaffner and originally released in 1968.

After all, the idea of astronauts from Earth discovering a world ruled by talking animals is tailor-made for a child who has outgrown (for the time being) fairy tales but is fascinated by (1) the space program (we were still going the moon back then) and (2) dinosaurs and other monsters. The action was intense, the apes looked wonderful (some noble, others menacing), and the ideas were mind-expanding, thanks in no small part to script work by Rod Serling of THE TWILIGHT ZONE fame.

Was there ever a more effective introduction of menace into a film than the attack by the gorillas in the cornfield? The mute fear of the humans; the shots of the whips above the corn; Jerry Goldsmith’s harsh, urgent soundtrack; and the ultimate reveal of the gorillas on horseback, with the zoom-in on a gorilla’s face? It was breathtaking at the time, and it’s still a powerful moment today.

The famous Statue of Liberty scene in PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox, 1968).

I wish I could tell you how shocked and stunned I was the first time that I, along with Taylor (Charlton Heston), discovered the half-buried Statue of Liberty and realized that the Planet of the Apes was, in fictional-fact, our own planet Earth. I wish I could, but I can’t; because I can’t remember ever not knowing this fact. I’m sure I was awestruck the first time around—how could a child not have been, after witnessing such a brutal, unfamiliar world? All I can remember is enjoying the ride each and every time I watched the movie—any of the movies, even the less-than-stellar BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973). (And that Statue of Liberty moment has, rightly, become one of the most famous in movie history – in fact, it was even included in a film better-known as being an adaptation of HAMLET )

Taylor (Charlton Heston), Zira (Kim Hunter) and the body of dead astronaut Stewart (Diane Stanley). PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox, 1968)

I must admit that, to my young mind, one of the most mysterious and terrifying parts of the the movie came early on with the death of Stewart (an uncredited Diane Stanley), the female astronaut who doesn’t survive suspended animation. When Taylor discovers her corpse, it all happens so fast that I was never sure what was going on. In hindsight, it’s clear that her cryogenic capsule failed, and that her body mummified during the other astronauts’ long sleep. But when I was a child, I couldn’t understand why she looked the way she did. We only see her corpse for a second, so that added to the mystery. For the longest time, I thought that perhaps she had somehow been turned into an ape as some sort of warning. Now, I realize that doesn’t make any sense; but when you’re eight years old, sense is a precious, elusive quantity. Seeing her corpse as a warning of what was to come made perfect, terrible sense to me back then.

Watching these movies on TV also gave me my first taste of behind-the-scenes promotional films. Sometimes Channel 18 would pad out the movies to three hours, but even with commercials there would still be time left over before the 10 o’clock news. So they occasionally filled the extra minutes with “making-of” documentaries about either the POTA films or the short-lived live-action PLANET OF THE APES television series (1974). Here was my first glimpse into “movie magic,” and in particular, the fascinating world of prosthetic makeups. Nerdy kid that I was, I found myself amazed at the skill and ingenuity that makeup creator John Chambers and his crew demonstrated in slowly, slowly building up appliances onto the actors’ faces, transforming them into incredibly believable simians.

Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius in PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox, 1968)

I was so taken with the makeup process that I decided to try it myself. However, being eight years old (or so) and without access to latex and yak fur, I made do with what I had available: paper, crayons, scissors, and tape. Building upon what I’d seen in the documentaries, I made articulate ape masks for my younger brother John and myself. (I got to be a chimpanzee, natch; my brother became an orangutan. And when a cousin would visit, he or she’d have to settle with being a gorilla.)

First I’d create a somewhat triangular piece that surrounded the eyes and came down to create a nose. That was the easy part. The hard part was the mouth. I wanted it to look like the muzzles the apes had in the movies: That meant a mouth in two pieces, top and bottom, each a sort of quarter-sphere. I’d color a piece of paper “ape flesh” color (depending upon the type of ape) and then cut notches along the edges so that I could mold it into the proper hollow shape, securing the seams with tape, until they were (approximately) the right shape.

Finally came the miles of tape needed to attach the paper appliances to our faces. The only way to allow the mouths to open and close as we spoke was to affix the two pieces separately to our skin. This took a lot of tape (and made the eventual removal of the masks a little uncomfortable – but hey, this was art). Once the mouths were in place, then came the eye/nose pieces, with the descending noses laid atop the upper mouthpiece. (I remember that one time when I was feeling particularly ambitious, I added a third piece to the mouths: A piece of paper crayoned as black as I could make it, to cover our real mouths behind the muzzles; this way, when we spoke, you couldn’t see our real mouths inside the masks.)

The hair was trickier, but I had a solution. We had winter hats that covered our whole heads, with just a hole cut out in the front for our faces. Perfect! The fact that my hat was blue and my brother’s was green kind of spoiled the verisimilitude, but hey, that’s what imagination was for. The final touch was a triangular piece of paper on each side of our faces to approximate the facial cheek-hair that crept under the eyes and wrapped around the muzzles.

Taylor (Charlton Heston) and Zira (Kim Hunter) exchange a kiss in PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox,1968).

Lord, how I wish I had photos of us in these masks. I’m sure they looked mostly ridiculous, but we loved them, and we would jump around the house, howling like apes.

But anyway, the Apes movies made a huge impression on me as a child. They instilled in me a love of science fiction, a love of movies, and a healthy dose of cynicism with regards to official structures of power. They were all “of their time,” that time being the late 1960s/early 1970s, and issues of discrimination were inescapable cultural touchstones, even for a young child. And the Apes films were, in their way, statements against discrimination and pleas for tolerance and understanding. (For more on this topic, see Eric Greene’s book PLANET OF THE APES AS AMERICAN MYTH: RACE, POLITICS, AND POPULAR CULTURE.)

Of course, the apes movies are also a whole lot of fun. Some of it might seem a bit campy nowadays, and of course, some of the lines have become cultural touchstones in their own right (“Get your stinking paws off me, you damned, dirty ape!”). But the films, the first in particular, still represent some of the best movie-making magic there ever was. I envy you Atlantans the chance to experience it on the big drive-in screen. Now, watch like Apes!

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Bikers, Bigfoot & Buxom Babes in Nixon Masks With Machine Guns – DEAR GOD NO! Pushes the Limits of ’70s Exploitation at the Plaza Theatre All Week Long

Posted on: Oct 20th, 2011 By:

When DEAR GOD NO! launched its world premiere at the Plaza Theatre last month, the Star Bar must’ve been empty. But while cast, crew and Kickstarter contributors filled many seats, the enthusiastic crowd also included plenty of curiosity-seekers, wondering if this homegrown homage to ’70s exploitation movies could deliver the over-the-top shocks it promised. From the enthusiastic audience response, it did and then some, making even this blogger, who has a high tolerance for cult flick violence, want to shout “DEAR GOD NO! they didn’t go there!” Now those who didn’t make it out will another chance to see it on the big screen when it starts a one-week run at the Plaza Theatre this Friday Oct. 21 through Thursday Oct. 27.

Shot in 16mm with ’70s period-authentic effects, DEAR GOD NO! follows outlaw motorcycle gang The Impalers on a tri-state rape and murder spree which culminates in a bloody massacre with rival club Satan’s Own in a dive bar (actually Tucker Saloon) with the added bonus of strippers in Richard Nixon masks with machine guns. Still keen to continue their rampage, the survivors invade a mountain cabin occupied by a scientist and his geeky daughter. And that’s when the depravity really begins as the bikers realize the scientist is mad, his wife is madder and the monster that lurks in the wilderness outside is maddest of all. Those who’ve been around the Atlanta alt-garage, Redneck underground and horror movie scene for a while will recognize plenty of familiar faces in the cast and crew including Shane Morton (Silver Scream Spookshow, Gargantua, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse), Jett Bryant (Bigfoot), Nick Morgan (Splatter Cinema), Bill Ratliff (Truckadelic), Madeline Brumby (if you missed last week’s Kool Kat on Madeline, which includes her DEAR GOD NO! experience, read it here), Jim Stacy (Starlight Drive-In, Palookaville, Get Delicious!, AM Gold) and many more.

For the uninitiated, B-movies date back to the beginnings of film-making, but the ’60s/’70s variety – also called “grindhouse” movies thanks to the seedy cinemas they often played (when they weren’t at the dying drive-ins) – pushed the limits of onscreen sex and violence in such an audacious way that they gained a cult following and a new generation of contemporary imitators from Quentin Tarantino, who, with Robert Rodriguez, even produced a double-feature called GRINDHOUSE, to the makers of last year’s HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. It may be tempting to dismiss DEAR GOD NO! as just the latest in that subgenre, but the level of affection, craftsmanship and fun (yes, strange words perhaps to be paired with an ultraviolent flick) elevate it – that is, if you have a strong stomach and buy into the filmmakers’ sense of humor. Yup, this movie is NOT for everyone.

Since last month’s opening, director/screenwriter/executive producer James “Jimmy” Bickert has taken DEAR GOD NO! out on the road to two festivals and it’s won at least one award.  We caught up with Jimmy recently to find out more about how DEAR GOD NO! is exploding Atlanta onto the underground film map, go behind-the-scenes during production and find out what’s next for the movie and its makers.

ATLRetro: Since the sold-out world premiere in Atlanta on Sept. 9, you’ve taken DEAR GOD NO! to two film festivals. What’s been the reaction there?

Insane. I knew a party would break out with the home team, but the reaction in Tucson & Las Vegas was equally outrageous. People were sneaking in cocktails, yelling, laughing, cheering, applauding and even giving me free beer and shots in appreciation. We picked up an award for Best Exploitation Film at the Arizona Underground Film Festival. I received so many handshakes and pats on the back in Vegas [Pollygrind 2011] it felt like we were running for office. Haven’t heard if we won anything there yet. I just got back. It’s starting to gain momentum as an ultimate party movie. Film festivals are rescheduling us at midnight, and that’s perfect for an exploitation film.

Let’s start in the beginning, what’s the story behind how you came up with the idea for DEAR GOD NO! and got it off the ground?

Shane Morton, Nick Morgan and I were tossing around some ideas and came up with the idea of a Bigfoot vs. Biker crossover exploitation film. Something you would see at the end of a genres cycle. Originally we were going to attempt to make a lost film from the ‘70s that had somehow resurfaced on DVD, but as I began writing it, the pacing was too fast for a ruse. It almost becomes an action film. I’ve always been a big fan of ‘70s exploitation trailers so I tried to create something that would incorporate the fun ballyhoo they delivered and sustain it for a feature-length running time. DEAR GOD NO! gives you bikers, horror, sexploitation, cool cars, blood, laughs, gross outs, explosions, boobs, Nazis, Bigfoot, lofty themes, crazy dialoguw and incestual lesbian rape! Never seen that one before? Well, we got it. According to the reviews, it all works. Whew!

What classic exploitation and horror films served as inspirations for DEAR GOD NO!?

It’s hard to pinpoint all of them because many are subconscious. The ones I’ve noticed the most coming through are DEATH WEEKEND (a.k.a. HOUSE BY THE LAKE) and I DRINK YOUR BLOOD. But there are some moments from Something Weird Video collections of stag loops, SAVAGE SEVEN, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS and NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST. We even rip on SCHINDLER’S LIST. The film is packed with obscure exploitation references, but they only enhance the script. If you don’t catch a reference, it won’t hinder the experience. Visually there are many pop culture influences like E.C. Comics and Men’s Adventure pulp magazines.

With DEAR GOD NO!, you push the limits for onscreen violence, nudity and gore. What were your parameters for what was too extreme, does anything in the movie make you uncomfortable, and is there anything you filmed that went on the cutting room floor because it was too much even for you?

I don’t feel anything is off limits if it fits the story. DEAR GOD NO! has ‘60-‘70s style nudity and gore so it may push the boundaries for what some people expect from that time period, but it never enters the realm of what critics currently call the torture porn genre. We crossed over into that realm with one scene involving a pregnant character. I kept enough in to give the audience a good jolt but most of it hit the cutting room floor. There has to be a good balance to keep things fun for the crowd and it was starting to push into nausea. The genre is packed with that stuff now and it’s not what DEAR GOD NO! is about. We’re more John Waters than HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2. It’s suds cinema for drunken friends and not porn for loners in raincoats.

OK, bikers and Nazis are classic ingredients for exploitation movies, but why Bigfoot?

Bigfoot is a staple of the Southern drive-in, and I wanted to cast him in a good movie for a change. He has been getting crappy roles since NIGHT OF THE DEMON. Atlanta has the ultimate Sasquatch/Yeti in Jim Stacy, so we had to exploit him.

What was your favorite scene in the movie to shoot and why?

The squibs were the most fun to shoot because the extras love it. There is such a look of shock when it goes off and everyone on set breaks into applause. I could shoot squibs all day. It doesn’t get old. My favorite scene in the film is when the inebriated biker gang runs across a hillbilly kid who has them completely perplexed. Even after seeing it 100 times, I cannot watch a festival screening without laughing out loud.

Why did you decide to shoot DEAR GOD NO! all in Super 16mm with equipment from the ‘70s? Were there any specific effects which you’re particularly proud to have accomplished in the traditional way, versus CGI?

I wanted it to be authentic as possible, and we really immersed ourselves in things from the era. There were props that didn’t make it on screen from the ‘70s, but it helped create the illusion that we were making a film in 1973. I want to go back as soon as possible. We were all pretty proud of our van explosion. That’s a classic practical effect that Hollywood has been getting away from by using computer overlays in After Effects. There’s a poorly [executed] CGI explosion in MACHETE when a car blows up but doesn’t move or fall apart. We couldn’t have that, and what good Southern film doesn’t have an explosion in it? Not much that I want to see.

The cast and crew boasts a who’s who of Atlanta grassroots indie scene of actors and artists including many of the same folks behind the Silver Scream Spookshow, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Splatter Cinema, Starlight Drive-In, etc. You’re the writer/director/exec producer, but are you proud to share the credit with a homegrown team, especially as DEAR GOD NO! gets screened across the country and around the globe?  

When we show up at a festival, people know we are from the ATL. We ran up such a large tab at the gay bar next door to PollyGrind 2011, the owner said he should change his theme by replacing the rainbow flag with an Atlanta Falcons banner. Shane Morton and I drank a torture porn crew from L.A. under the table in Tucson. We even had an 8-hour start on them. Yeah, they know where we are from and we’re proud of it.

There are a ton of talented people in this town. I’m still amazed we got them all together. One of the aspects of DEAR GOD NO! that I’m most asked about is the music by The Forty Fives and the score from Richard Davis of Gargantua. There is a whole cast of musicians like Johnny McGowan, The Biters, The Booze, Adam McIntyre and Kris Dale involved that essentially come from The Star Bar including our lead actor Jett Bryant from the band Bigfoot and actor Billy Ratliff from Truckadelic. Just about everyone from Dusty Booze and The Baby Haters was involved. You will see a ton of Atlanta musicians as extras and Gargantua’s Creepy Kenny even built us a flame wand now in use at The Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. There is a very big Star Bar connection with this film.

Seems like typical movie investors might get squeamish funding something this extreme, so it’s not surprising that to hear you used Kickstarter to raise some of the money and pulled some out of your own pocket. What was the budget and how was it funded?

You’re right. We had cast and crew drop out because they didn’t understand what we were attempting. Many people thought we were making porn or God knows what. It’s hard to convey that you are making a unique exploitation film when they don’t understand any of the references. Even worse if you’re asking someone to invest money.

It’s hard to really gauge the budget because so many talented people contributed time for free. Jonny Rej (Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse /The Plaza) gave us some free film and equipment, Slopes BBQ fed us, Fuji North America gave us ½ off on film stock for shooting a feature. It went on and on. It was a very quick shoot with a massive amount of preplanning between A.D. Michelle McCall, cinematographer Jonathan Hilton and I which helped keep cost, time and favors down. We didn’t wear out our welcome too bad. I do have a budget number, but I save that information for when someone buys me a beer.

After the Plaza limited engagement, what’s next for DEAR GOD NO! More festivals? Is there a distribution deal and when will it be commercially available on DVD/download? Is it true there’s going to be a sequel?

We currently have a quite a few distributors interested from all over the world. At the end of our festival run, we’ll sit down and start seriously negotiating which rights and territories we want to part with. We currently have festivals lined up in Raleigh, Erie, Mobile and Bogotá, Colombia. Theatrical screenings (mostly midnight) are booked in Portland, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Las Vegas and London. We’re adding screenings every week, and people can keep up to date by liking our Facebook page or checking the website at www.deargodnomovie.com. If you live in a town that shows midnight movies, ask for us or send me information about the theater.

It’s true there is a sequel in the works called FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS. It will have your jaw on the floor….again.

All art and photos courtesy of Big World Pictures.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Madeline Brumby Battles the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Scares at the Spookshow and Braves Bikers ‘n’ Bigfoot in DEAR GOD NO!

Posted on: Oct 12th, 2011 By:

As Halloween creeps close and THE WALKING DEAD returns to TV next Sunday, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (AZA) arises for its own second season with new sets and a new storyline at Safety Wolf, the vast paintball combat complex off Moreland Avenue, just south of I-285 (open Thurs.-Sun. nights through Oct. 31). Set in and around a two-story abandoned motel, this approximately 100,000-square-foot attraction was nightmared up by the maniacal minds of local horror Renaissance man/make-up artist Shane Morton (Silver Scream Spookshow, Gargantua, etc.) and Jonny Rej (Plaza Theatre). Not just your traditional walk-through haunts with jump-out monsters, AZA delivers a total immersion “experience” with a distinct plotline that lands visitors right in the middle of the zombie plague, interacting along the way with a variety of human characters from scientists and bureaucrats at the Center for Disease Development (CDD) (but can you trust them?) to commandos fighting the zombies with automatic weaponry (reminiscent of last year’s Mack and Johnson) to a twisted carnival of human scum who thrive in the chaos, reminiscent of John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.  It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust but if someone says “run,” let’s just say you can be sure zombies are around and if you don’t, you may get bitten and infected with the plague yourself or worse eaten for your brains!

To get the scary scoop, ATLRetro caught up with Madeline Brumby, a brunette with a machine gun who is no mere scream queen but a key cast-member and also this year’s pinup girl for the “hero” side of the AZA. But that’s not the only place you can see this monster-loving maiden this October. She’ll also be acting in the 5th Anniversary Silver Scream Spookshow this Saturday Oct. 15 at the Plaza Theatre – and you know Prof. Morte and Co. will be pulling out all the tricks and treats given that it’s their Halloween show and the movie is a rare 35mm print of the Vincent Price/Lon Chaney Jr. (not to mention H.P. Lovecraft) 1963 classic HAUNTED PALACE (Read our Retro Review here). Then she’ll be taking to the streets for this Sunday’s Zombie Walk Atlanta, organized by Luke Godfrey (Splatter Cinema, Chamber of Horrors) and cosponsored by AZA, and again with the AZA group at the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade on Sat. Oct. 22. Finally Madeline also will be up on the Plaza’s big screen later this month (Oct. 22-27) as one of the stars of DEAR GOD NO!, a hard-edged/no-holds-barred homage to ‘70s grindhouse features about a hellraising motorcycle gang, a mad scientist and a sasquatch on the rampage. Yeah, the name makes total sense when you see the movie!

All of this sounds like horror heaven to us, so we had to make Madeline Kool Kat of the Week

AZA 2011 T-short design by Dave Cook.

ATLRetro: This year’s AZA has the same basic concept but a totally new pathway and set of characters—loved the R.I.P. Mack and Johnson graffiti on the back wall. Without giving too much away, what’s new and different?

Madeline Brumby: We are all extremely excited about the new format. Of course, I’m sad to see Mack and Johnson go, but this year’s show is the sequel to the Mack and Johnson story. The versatility of the AZA to create and continue an apocalyptic scenario is really what gives the unique feel to the experience this year. And for years to come!

One of the cool things about AZA is every character seems to have a back story. Who do you play, and what’s yours?

Definitely! We had a patron come through the other night who was totally impressed that we had “real” actors with “real” stories. I’m a resistance paramilitary character. My troopers and I are rebels fighting for the survival of the uninfected and the destruction of the Center for Disease Development.

Some of the zombies have pretty intense make-up—i.e. they’re not freshly dead. How long does it take the zombies to get into make-up and how many make-up artists are on the team?

As much as we try to make the apocalypse real, the AZA is still a show. With not much light, our zombies have to be highly detailed for a spine-chilling scare. The process is down to a fine science—taking about 7 minutes per zombie. We have a team of about eight artists, myself included, headed by Shane Morton. First they are outfitted and receive a prosthetic. Once the prosthetic is dry, they are base-coated, detailed with additional colors, blood-splattered and hungry for BRAINS!

What zombie movies and books were most influential in planning AZA, and did a certain TV show set in Atlanta and featuring the CDC influence AZA at all in this year’s planning?

Haha! That’s funny. Last night Shane and I watched THE WALKING DEAD for the first time, and I thought it was pretty weak. CGI blood is a NO-NO! Our blood gags are far more realistic and they’re LIVE! And I’m pretty sure we were using the CDC gimmick first(?) as our show opened before the first episode aired. As far as most influential, WORLD WAR Z, I AM LEGEND [Ed. note: original Richard Matheson novel, not Will Smith move], LAST MAN STANDING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK provide the main inspirations.

Were you involved in any of the planning and construction? What can you tell us about that – how does AZA come together and who are some of the key behind-the-scenes masterminds, whom readers might not know about?

I’ve been out on builds from January to October and helped with some big scares in the courtyard. The primary innovators are Jonny Rej (co-owner of the Plaza Theatre) and Shane, with the major help of Dusty Booze in the construction department.

What’s a cool piece of trivia about AZA that isn’t widely known?

It is HAUNTED!

Professor Morte (Shane Morton) and Madeline Brumby in Silver Scream Spookshow.

Can you share any history about the AZA site? It was an abandoned motel, wasn’t it?

It used to be one of the busiest trucks stops ofAtlanta. At some point the owners ran into financial trouble and it shut down. Pirates ransacked the place and absconded with all the copper! When the property was purchased by Safety Wolf, I think they found EIGHT dead bodies during clean-up in the motel.  Shane and Jonny sure found some scary stuff when they were cleaning…

In addition to the main AZA experience, there’s a photo op, the opportunity to shoot zombies with paintball weaponry and some tasty food vendors, aren’t there? What might readers want to know in advance about what else is going on?

What better way to remember your apocalyptic experience than a photo with a zombie and a weapon of choice! The Zombie Shoot is even better this year and don’t let your taste buds miss out on Jim Stacy‘s famous Palookaville eats! His pickle is amazing! (insert joke here)

You’ve also become a regular in the Silver Scream Spookshow. Can you give us a little sneak peek into this week’s stage show and what makes HAUNTED PALACE such a special treat?

We definitely have some comedy gold in store for this week’s show! It’s the 5th year anniversary, so we’ve got some of the older characters like Persephone (Plaza co-owner Gayle Rej) and some of the new ones like Quozzy mixing it up for a spooktacular monster mash with more onstage illusions than ever. The score of HAUNTED PALACE is what makes the movie special to me, so I’m excited to see and HEAR it in the wonderful Plaza Theatre.

Will AZA be in the L5P Halloween Parade this year? Just zombies or how does one decorate an undead float?

We’ll be there! Undead and Alive! I think the only “float” we’ll have is a blood-splattered car.

You’re also starring in DEAR GOD NO!, an over-the-top neo-‘70s exploitation film featuring tons of local talent and playing at the Plaza Oct. 22-27. Can you tell us a little bit about that movie and the part you play?

Jimmy Bickert‘s DEAR GOD NO! is the ultimate grindhouse film. It is disturbing, offensive, hilarious, horrifying and amazing. You can’t even call it a tribute. It was shot on super 16mm film and all the effects are practical. I play Edna Marco who is the daughter of the mad scientist that has created something terrible. She transforms from submissive to empowered. Developing her went beyond all expectations. I channeled some deep dark emotions into my character and it has definitely been one of my proudest roles.

DEAR GOD NO! pushed a lot of boundaries and isn’t for everyone. What advice do you have for who should see it, especially the gals?

Take it for the art that it is and expect to be offended.

You also are acting as one of Dracula’s wives in Rob Thompson’s highly anticipated DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, which premieres next April at 7 Stages. Do you have anything you’d like to share about that role and experience?

Well, it’s definitely a musical that isn’t lame. My poor brother didn’t realize that Dracula’s wives were semi-nude and felt a little weird seeing that much of his sister. Haha! But, I don’t think it bothered anybody else too much. From musicians, score, and performers, the show is oozing talent and potential. I hope we do play in Prague this summer.

Any other acting roles or creative endeavors that you’d like to share with ATLRetro readers?

I hear there’s going to be a sequel to DEAR GOD NO! Hopefully we start shooting in the Spring.

Finally, you lived in England and have a science degree from Georgia Tech. Not that it wouldn’t be our dream/nightmare job, but how did you end up being a B-monster attraction/spookshow/movie actress?

Life’s a journey, right?

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Metal Memories: Skid Row Will Rock Your Face at Wild Bill’s This Friday Just as Hard as They Ever Did

Posted on: Sep 15th, 2011 By:

By Angelica Bakhsh
Contributing Blogger

This Friday night (Sept. 16) at Wild Bill’s in Duluth, Skid Row will take to the stage just as they have for the last 25 years. In spite of several line-up changes, Rachel Bolan, Dave “Snake” Sabo and Scotti Hill have hung in strong. These three, along with singer of 12 years Johnny Solinger and their new-ish drummer, Rob Hammersmith, will no doubt rock our faces just as hard, if not harder, than we have come to expect. I hear the guys plan to play a set of songs from each of their albums, so you will get to experience all of your favorites from the span of their five full-length releases. This is no doubt a perfect show for long-time and new fans alike.

Left to Right: Hill, Bolan, Solinger, Hammersmith, Sabo. Photo credit: Fran Strine.

Bassist Rachel Bolan says we are in for a few surprises. The guys will be sharing the stage with local favorites Bigfoot which happens to include Jimmy Write. Jimmy, one of Atlanta’s finest guitar players, is in Rachel’s and Rob’s other band The Quazimotors. I’m crossing my fingers that this means we may get to hear a few of those songs. Dangerous New Machine are also playing in the opening slot.

Seeing Skid Row play at Wild Bill’s is always worth the trek. The crowd there is really into the music and it shows. When people drive to see a band in Duluth, they go because they want to, not because it’s convenient. There is something extra nice about seeing a band you love with likeminded people. No one acts as if they are too cool to be there, as tends to happen often here inside the perimeter and that’s refreshing. Rachel and Rob are both Atlanta residents, so you also get that feeling of hometown love from the fans. Top that with this being a make-up show from a cancelled date this last June and you know the event will be nothing short of kick-ass.

At press time, tickets were still available. Buy them here.

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