Saturday, May 4, 2013

Interview with Graham Rae Of Deep Red


Graham & Makeup artist Greg Nicotero
Ok TOG readers it's that time again, time when I skin the carcass of Mike Wallace and do my guerrilla journalist schtick! Today I'm interviewing Graham Rae, who is an accomplished author currently working on a career retrospective of the films of Jorg Buttgereit. Graham is featured in John Szpunar's book Xerox Ferox (read his interview here). He writes for www.realitystudio.org, the world's top William S Burroughs website, and has written for the likes of Film Threat and 3:am magazine.com, but most important of all, he had an adolescence I'd gouge out my eyeballs for,writing his genius ramblings in the pages of Deep Red!

1. How did you meet Chas Balun
Convoluted story. When I was 17 I first read The Gore Score, his chapbook of capsule reviews of 80s splatter movies. I think I read about it in Fangoria, which I used to read as a teen. I liked it a lot and wrote to him, asking him if I could be a foreign correspondent for him, because he had Deep Red. He said he liked the idea. So in August 1988 I went down to London from my old Scottish home town of Falkirk to the sadly-now-defunct grindhouse the Scala Cinema, and saw Nekromantik, in its first UK screening (there have been very few of these, because I think it may still even be banned in the UK, though I'm not certain) at Shock Around the Clock, an all-night festerville (my word), and wrote the first American review of it. This was published in Deep Red 6, though before that, in issue 5, I had published an article entitled 'All Cut Up' (about censorship in the UK which I was, well, all cut up about!), my first ever USA publication, in 1988. The next year I went down to Shock Around the Clock 3 and a young guy came up to me (I was only 19-going-on 20 myself) and asked me if I was Graham Rae. Ready for a fight, I confessed that I was. He said his name was (and still is!) Justin Stanley and he wanted to do a horror fest like SATC!, "SplatterFest 90". He asked me if I would like to help organize it, and I gave him Chas Balun's phone number, who gave him some other numbers of Hollywood luminaries like Scott 'Intruder' SpiegelOther numbers Justin got by himself - he basically organized 99% of the thing himself, with me just doing talking stints during the fest between films at the event. But we went across to the USA in December 1989 to meet some of the guests. We stopped off in Pittsburgh, where we were going to meet Tom Savini, but it never happened. Still, we visited Monroeville Mall, where (as you and your readers will no doubt know) Romero shot Dawn of the Dead. Then we flew on to LA and stayed at Chas's house for a couple of days. He made us huge cheeseburgers and we had free reign of his video collection of the weird and obscure splatter shit we had breathlessly read about in Deep Red. He was a very talented artist and there were beautiful paintings of monkeys and such he had done on his walls. He also had splatter props lying around, as evidenced by my picture!
Then from there we went to Hollywood and stayed in a motel and visited Scott Spiegel, who took us to the KNB studios (lot of dead buffalo lying around from Dances With Wolves!), where we were shown around by the inimitable FX genius Greg Nicotero, and took us over to his old Michigan buddy Sam Raimi's house in Silverlake to get drunk with him on vodka and orange! Incredible experience for two young guys, and I can still hardly believe it ever happened! But that's how I first met Chas, plus with a wee bit of waffle thrown in as well.
Lester Bangs hits the beach

2.I've read that one of your influences besides other greats like (Bukowski, JG. Ballard and Burroughs) is Lester Bangs do you see a kindred connection between Lester Bangs and Chas Balun?
 I can definitely see a correlation between Lester and Chas, and it's ironic that they would both wind up being such major headspinfluences in my own life, with regard to music and music writing, and films and film writing, respectively. Both were born the same year, 1948. They obviously grew up with a lot of the same cultural influences and loves. They were both first and foremost extremely intelligent fans of their chosen milieus, would write on a street level for their fans, no bullshit, no hype, no hassle, and you knew they were just like you and you could trust them. They were both pretty wild writers, with Chas having a liking for the more extreme splatter films, and Lester having a love of extreme, trashy music. They were both great conversational writers too, and both came out of the 60s; it was just that Lester died very young. If he had still been alive I would assume, or like to think at least, that his level of enjoyment of, and commitment to, his art and the art he wrote about, would have been just as durable as Chas's was. Chas was also an old hippie, so he was very music-based - and they both would write about drug experiences sometimes! Both were also very irreverent when it called for it, with regards to some of the utter shit they had to sit through in reviewing stuff or writing articles about it. They were just free spirits, neither of whom truly made a living from writing (Lester did so more than Chas, though not a great living at that), and whose gutter-level views and musings in the venues they chose meant that they could write about what they wanted in whatever way they wanted without fear of censorship. They were excellent salesman, very productively seductive writers, and they could make you buy into the world of any good or bad or ugly piece of art they wanted to with their cynicism or extreme humor - they were both hilarious - or rude or erudite examinations of whatever it was that was under discussion. They both seemed incredibly generous to young people - I will always thank Chas for giving me my start in writing - and nurturing of youthful talents. I mean, shit, man, I was a fucking teenager writing for him! And Lester helped people like Cameron Crowe and would write for any old obscure fanzine that asked him. And they just ultimately loved with all their hearts the stuff they wrote about, and that enthusiasm came through loud and clear to the reader. Both changed my life as a teen. And both are still sorely missed.
Graham & Chas in the green inferno

3.One of your greatest reviews in Deep Red Alert is Meet The Feebles, when I read that, after I immediately ordered it from Balun, talk about early Pete Jackson as opposed to now.
Thanks for the compliment, though I'm not sure the review was all that great! I first saw Bad Taste in a black-and-white French-language bootleg before it even came out in the UK - a friend and I were part of the bootleg trading circuit by that point, after I was given a trading list at Shock Around the Clock 2 as I waited in the line outside, and we started trading with a guy from London, then with others from the back pages of fanzines like Samhain, whom I also wrote for. I had first heard of it in Gorezone 2 (an offshoot of Fangoria) and remember clearly a two-page spread of an exploding head in the mag that I thought was amazing. A friend and I, Davey Blair, became HUGE Pete fans and we loved his first three movies - Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, and Braindead (aka Dead Alive in the USA, but that's a stupid fucking title so I can never call it that - plus it has dialogue cuts too, which is shitty) and would sit and get wasted and sing along to the songs from MTF. We got a round of applause for drunkenly singing the Sodomy Song at a fest in Edinburgh one time!
Trevor the Fox singing Sodomy!

I still love those three films, and think the fan ghetto mentality, where they deride Jackson for becoming one of the biggest directors in the world and leaving their beloved genre, to be complete horseshit. He made incredibly gory and funny splatter movies a la Monty Python - how far can you go with that splatstick schtick? Good luck to the man, he's a self-made, self-taught genius, and anybody who would mock that is just small-minded or jealous or stupid. Or any combination thereof. And I'll tell you a funny true story. In 1996 I was in LA and went to a signing in a sci-fi bookstore that Pete was doing (along with Jeffrey Combs) for The Frighteners, which is not a good movie, particularly. I went down there with Justin Stanley, David E Williams of Film Threat Video Guide, and Jim VanBebber, director of The Manson Family. I got a Frighteners poster for Davey back in Falkirk, but nothing for myself, cos I didn't really care - the Scots affect a cool detached cynicism much of the time towards famous people, a trait that has gotten me into trouble a few times! But I got to the front of the line and asked Pete to sign the poster "To Davey - the best singer in the Feebles chorus." He looked at me and smiled and said, in his excellent New Zealand accent, "I'll sign it - as long as you'll tell me you're not Scottish!" There is a lot of Scottish blood in New Zealand, and his parents are English, but he was just fucking around. (An ironic aside - he co-directed Forgotten Silver, a mockumentary about a Scottish-roots 'lost' filmmaker, the next year! Maybe our meeting gave him some ideas!)
another drunken horror convention

 I jokingly said to him "Don't gimme any of that shite, pal, or I'll take you outside and kick your fucking arse!" He said "Oh, alright!" and signed my poster, and was asking me if I was there on holiday or what. I confirmed this, and when we got outside Dave Williams was pissed off that I had sworn in front of Pete and was grumbling about it! I am chuckling here. But yeah. Pete was an only child who taught himself how to make films and ended up making the biggest films in the history of the world. How can you fault that? I thought Heavenly Creatures was great, though I didn't like King Kong - thought it was way too long and bloated, a vanity project run awry - and have never seen The Lovely Bones. Nor do I have any wish to. I thought the Lord of the Rings films were great, for what they were. I was the only person in the cinema in Falkirk to cheer when they mentioned a 'Wynyard' wine in the first film - it's the name of the junkie knifethrower frog from Meet the Feebles! Pete's just such a terrific talent and I will always support him - shit, man, I have been watching his films for 26 years now, and I still quote them occasionally!
Deep Red 5 1988, Graham's first ever writing publication

4.What was it like as a young writer contributing to such a vital and important zine like Deep Red?
It was an utterly incredible experience from start to finish. I used to get some lager on a Friday night and rent some shit out of the local shop and get drunk and watch the films and write reviews for it. It was an incredible kick to see my writing in print as a teen. I still get a kick out of seeing my stuff in print now, but back then it was so new and vital and fun. You felt part of an elect select club, the Deep Red crew, and every time another issue came out it was a joyous thing. Funnily enough, when Deep Red 4 came out, with a letter I wrote to the mag asking for a George A Romero interview (I was a huge Romero fan and ended up being a zombie in Land of the Dead, and that story can be found here: http://www.filmthreat.com/features/1596/), Davey Blair was living and working in London - we hadn't seen each other since high school, where we were not friends - Davey saw it and he brought it up to me a couple of years later in Falkirk when we were in our mad movie phase! I felt part of a scene for a while, an underground scene defying the bullshit Tory government and their worthless video nasties censorshit nonsense - and it was much more fun to get a poor-quality bootleg of a censored-or-banned-or-unreleased film because you were doing something taboo and illicit. Literally illicit - people's lives were ruined with the stigma of being prosecuted and persecuted just for watching horror movies! My first ever American newsprint mention, in the editorial of Fango 72, was me angrily railing about the British Board of Film Classification and how they had cut Day of the Dead and such! But Deep Red will always hold a special place in my heart purely for the time that it comes from - my teen years and very early 20s - and the camaraderie of the horror scene in the UK, with fans visiting each other and getting drunk and going to fests and just having a great fucking time applauding the messy deaths and such madness! Writing for Deep Red led to some other writing gigs for me, on stuff like Film Threat Video Guide and American Cinematographer and Cinefantastique (those three all due to David E Williams, who would drag me along to each new rag he edited or whatever), so I will always value it for that too. If Chas had not given me the confidence to put my teenage belly-rumbling grumblings and ramblings out there, which he did simply by publishing them, my life would have been a very different, poorer place. The last ever email I got from him was in 2004 when I told him I was going to the Land of the Dead set (I didn't know at that point I was going to be in the film!) and he told me to 'make the beast of it,' and I realized then that he had obviously been hugely inspired in his puns by Forrest J Ackerman. His youthful love of horror movies and things that go hump and bump and jump and thump in the night had never left him, and never did until the sudden, unexpected-to-me day he died. All of this 80s horror zine stuff is super-comprehensively documented by John Walter Szpunar in his new excellent book Xerox Ferox, (which comes out in September at the Fantacon in New York. I am going to be on a Deep Red panel discussing the mag, and, sadly, it looks more or less like Chas will be the only main writer-cum-editor-cum-film-champion missing. Be there or be elsewhere!
Order Tickets here: Link

Pick # 1 Cat In The Brain/ Nightmare Concert

5.what are your top 5 favorite Fulci movies?
I can't say I was ever a huge Fulci fan, to be perfectly honest, though I had a pal back in Falkirk, Stevie, who was a Fulci obsessive and would take great pleasure in tracking down Lucio obscurities like A Lizard in a Woman's Skin or The Naples Connection (a film I remember talking about with the sadly-deceased Sage Stallone, a huge Fulci fan, whom I met on the same 1996 LA trip mentioned earlier - Justin knew Bob Murawski, Stallone's friend and partner in Grindhouse Releasing; Bob ended up winning the Oscar for The Hurt Locker - and we went to a private screening of Andrea Bianchi's trashy 1981 zombie trash epic Burial Ground at the Hard Rock CafĂ© in Beverly Hills) or Don't Torture a Duckling or Beatrice Cenci, even newer shite like Aenigma and such. Personally, I would have to say:

1) Cat in the Brain (just for the sheer trashy overload of it all!)
2) Zombie (aka Zombie Flesheaters in the USA, but the UK title is way better)
3) The Beyond ("ATTACK, DICKY! ATTACK!")
4) House by the Cemetery (Freudstein, one of the best character names ever! "NOT THE CHILDREN!")
5) City of the Living Dead (the classy Italian aristocrat Giovanni Lombardo Radice getting the drill through the skull!)


Apologies to Paul Naschy

6.I loved your article in The Deep Red Horror Handbook on "Trans Atlantic Terror Trends" what do you think are the most ridiculous films that ended up on the Video Nasty List?
Thanks. I just liked the fact I got to swear a lot and mock the BBFC! Ah, simple teenage agendas, eh? But without sounding too glib about your question, all of the films on the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) list. The whole fucking thing was ridiculous, and Thatcher's government was a sack of dogshit that sent society-destroying waves through the UK in general that are still being felt decades on. It was fun to laugh at the old Nazi cunt's funeral a few weeks ago, or would have been if it had not cost so much. But for the sake of more serious argument, maybe Blood Feast (utter cheesy shite that nobody could ever take seriously) and The Werewolf and the Yeti (ditto). Driller Killer deserved to be banned just for being shite! Who knows what arbitrary criteria they used to make up that stupid fucking list! But this is such old news, now, this whole tiresome Video Nasty clusterfuck, and it seems now only to be young American horror fans who are obsessed with it and want to talk about it. People who lived through it just want to forget about it and let it die and lie in the dustbin of worthless shitstorm history where it rightfully belongs.


7.I've asked this from all DR alumni and I have to ask you the same question since you've written for FilmThreat! What's you perspective on the Chas Balun trash piece?
Yes, I wrote for both, but I never felt there was a conflict of interest, or that I should take one side or the other in that matter, because I had stopped writing for Deep Red before I ever wrote for Film Threat, and I very much enjoyed writing for them both in similar, but also slightly different, ways. They both gave me good things. They were both coming from a similar place in different ways. I'm not avoiding the question, I'm just telling you what I think of the whole thing. It never meant that much to me, because I was never at the epicenter of it. As I recall, and it's 20+ years ago now, the Film Threat Video Guide took Chas to task for duping $20 bootlegs of Nekromantik, which they were legally selling, and a few letters flew between them and Chas, and between Jorg Buttgereit and Manfred Jelinksi, the director and producer of Nekromantik. I think Chas offered to fight Chris Gore or Dave Williams at some convention one time. I could see why no-budget, hard-working filmmakers would object to having their sales bitten into by the same guy who, ironically, published the first ever USA review of Nekromantik that I wrote! Also ironically, Film Threat used a Chas Balun quote on the back of their video box to help sell it! I am writing a book about Jorg's career, having taken him to Ed Gein's grave last year in Wisconsin, with John Szpunar, and maybe I should bring it up to him for his take on it. But, once again, this is 20+ years ago, and controversies and details fade and, ultimately, who really gives a fuck anymore? I know there was bad blood there because Chris Gore ratted Chas out for providing a bootleg of Guinea Pig that Charlie Sheen took to the FBI as he thought it was real, but it's all ancient history now. Deep Red and Film Threat had a lot in common - they were both underdog upstart zines-cum-mags with attitude, covering obscure and weird shit, with similar spiky, punky, no-bullshit attitudes. It's just that Gore was a lot younger and liked viciously needling people a lot more than Chas did, though he could have his own needling moments too. Many years later Gore would rip Chas off again by calling a section of a show he was in The Gore Score. I guess they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Chas may have changed 'imitation' to 'irritation,' but the concept holds the same!

OK thank you Graham! and TOG readers you heard the man, be sure and check out Fantacon 2013, which will have a Deep Red alumni reunion and the Xerox Ferox and other books will be available to buy, a must for all gorehounds.

Graham hiding behind a prop from Bride Of ReAnimator

     

1 comment:

  1. jimmie t. murakamiMay 4, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    I was watching some of the behind-the-scenes footage that Tom Savini (and others) shot with a camcorder on the set of "Day of the Dead" in 1984 on YouTube the other day, fascinating stuff.

    ReplyDelete

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