Lemuria Rising: An Interview with Daniele Santagiuliana (Testing Vault)

 

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Musician, painter and filmmaker Daniele Santagiuliana is one of most intriguing and original underground artists working today.

Ever since he first emerged on the Italian music scene in 2003 with Testing Vault’s the self-released “L’Umor Finstere” he has recorded and released over a dozen albums with both TV and several collaborations including Pariah with Allan Zane and “Music for Lemurians” with Corrado Altieri based on an unused David Lynch project about a fictional pre-Atlantian continent called Lemuria.

With Testing Vault taking a break Dani is back in 2014 with two new releases. His first acoustic solo record “Jeremiad” as well as a new project “The Anguish”.

“Jeremiad” is already now a high contender for my favourite album of the year, it was Dani who reminded me just how much pain, doom, emotion, sex and beauty lurks in every string and he continues to amaze me with the music he puts out.

Over several discussions I got to pick Dani’s brains on his creative process, serial killers, abandoned art, magick and the state of underground music today.

Salem Kapsaski: What are the origins of The Anguish?

Daniele Santagiuliana: The Anguish is a brand new project I created in December 2013/January 2014 after ten years of Testing Vault, my most well known project which I took ahead for ten years – I did “Fungoid”, an album in which I used Ira Cohen’s readings with the permission of his wonderfully kind family, that was a high point for one young underground artist! It was surely a great honor for me, I mean, I didn’t grew up in NY, I am in Italy, so it was quite a big honor to have the permission to pay tribute to one of the greatest poets ever to me! I thought it was a nice and symbolic point for Testing Vault to stop and rest for some years.

I was listening then to a lot of early KMFDM and Raymond Watts’ material at the time (I’m a longtime PIG fan), and I was just blown away from how rhythmic was the stuff, but it wasn’t necessarily “dancey”, it was really fucked up – and I wanted to pay homage to that kind of early industrial metal period, as the early NIN demos for “The Downward Spiral”, they weren’t THAT catchy or groovy as the release, they were mechanical and raw as a punch in the face – so I choose to record my own music in that way, having fun in creating song after years of sound and concept abstractions… for this I call The Anguish “an undanceable disaster and a deliberate train wreck”. I can’t wait for the record to be printed and out for sale… it’s exciting to start all over again.

I already had other projects, but I’m treating The Anguish as a Queen – as I did with Testing Vault, making people understanding that this is my most important project for me right now…

SK: How would you describe the creative process behind the new album?

DS: I broke a relationship of almost eleven years with a girl that was nothing but a real strong psychic vampire disguised as a false ill person in need of help, a really horrible person who led me to self-destruction, driving me crazy, and making me nothing but worries and giving to me so many fears and playing with my mind so much I was driven to having horrible panic attacks and a state of severe apathy towards the final month of my relationship. I’m sorry to say I was in need for violence, and at the same time I didn’t move a finger, almost as being in a mental ward waiting room all the time. It is a terrible state as you feel almost a cold blooded killer in the death row… if you reach the borderline, your mental sanity is really in danger. And I was in that state. Damaged. Totally. I created The Anguish making really strong stuff, rhythmic, programmed, well arranged and produced quite well for a zero budget based new project – and the songs are all aggressive, but they are at the same time very apathetic – they tell you horrible things and they are visionary and violent, but they are not attacking you screaming – they are telling you basically “I would beat you to death”, but with such a desperate insensitivity that makes you understand – I think – that your mind is gone and you could care less about the consequences of the person you are menacing, and to your own persona as well – you’re constantly dying in grudge… and I find this quite one hell of bad vibe I had to exploit. Now my life has been saved literally, by my fiance – we are together from the day we met… one year almost, and I will never thank her enough.

SK: You once called Ed Gein an artist and he is also included in your list of influences, can you elaborate on that, and how did your fascination with him begin? You have studied Criminology; was this solely out of personal interest or were you pursuing a career in this field?

DS: I will never stop to study criminology, psychology and the effects of drugs, medicinal, and how other esoteric and esoteric substances and/or behaviours may change the mind and/or the body.

I always been interested in serial killers, but in Italy is almost impossible to pursue a career in that field, you can be mostly an “aficionado” of this “genre” of literature, as criminology it’s not really well developed here… I am an art teacher for elementary school, but I’m trying to live as an artist… I did all the possible works. Of course I’d love to be a profiler, but it’s just a dream…

Ed Gein was an influence for many reasons, I was fascinated from him since my teen years… I think he was a fine craftsman if he was able to do the things he did with the bodies, and was incredible that he learned by himself anything, from the treatment to the preparation of the skin and how to cut and preserve certain bodies’ parts… treating the skin is quite a difficult work, and I can just imagine how the human skin could be delicate in various stages of decomposition… I think if Gein would have been raised in a different environment and in another era a little more open-minded, he would have never killed nor committed anything. I read several books and journals about him, and if he would not have been surrounded by such a crazy oppressive mother and an ignorant little country of old rednecks, he could have found his road, maybe becoming a transsexual (as he wished to became a woman after all, his fetishes were to become and to adore the women’s body) – I may say he is an inspiration as I picture him as an unconventional and smart person, he emerged in his own way despite being raised up in total ignorance, abuse and surrounded by a barbaric world which didn’t accept even a little, slight difference. He got ruined by mankind, not by his crimes and I think many people should owe him more than an apology. I always thought his crimes were desperate attempts to find his own humanity and identity.

SK: Alejandro Jodorowsky once said that art is either a medicine for society or a poison. Do you believe this statement to be true, and if so would you describe your art as healing or as a destructive energy?

DS: I love Jodorowsky, he’s one of the greatest “modern shamans” of our times… one of those figures that is almost supernatural in his talent, vision and vital energy… I studied his work for more than half of my life, and I think it’s impressive – and I think he’s 100% right. And I can describe my art as an exorcism most of the times, it is healing through destruction, it touches both the points… like the monks must go a certain state of “suffering” in meditation for reaching a higher state of conscience during their trance, it’s almost the same… I’m very visceral, and even if I’m a happy person now, when I create I get into a sort of lunacy… which drives me towards certain sounds and subjects.

SK: You are also a painter, photographer and writer where do your priorities as an artist lie and how do you balance the various artistic mediums?

DS: I did the Art School – so painting came first, since I was a little – but music was there as well as I have an older brother… so it was a natural thing to me to be the graphic and to be the musician of my own projects… plus, yes, I am writing a lot honestly now… so my priorities now are to release The Anguish album and to spread it as a contagious disease… and to write a horror novella I had in mind about Lewis Carroll as a protagonist, mixed with some elements of some real spirits I saw in my life to create my own “Wonderland” around that shady and dark character he was to me…

After this, I’d like to start to release some Jandek/Michael Gira acoustic influenced music I am recording lately… a lo-fi no-wave preaching nocturnal music which is based on the dreams I have…

About the painting is useful for the graphic but people tend to don’t buy paintings by young artists unless they’re in an Art Gallery… I sold some pieces, yes, almost one hundred, for low prices, but it’s not much… so I’m doing it more for my own pleasure, music became slowly by itself the most big part of the cake with writing. It’s like painting with your ears.

SK: What is the current state of the Italian underground music scene?

DS: I think it’s pitiful. Underground music once was considered to be challenging and smart, and people were supporting the good bands which were emerging from the underground… now there’s almost no support, and the interest is dead as well as most of the music this third world country is producing. There are some great projects, bands and musicians I admire and with which I am friend with, but they are, just like me, “cult figures” in Italy – and if we sell, we sell mostly outside from our country. UK, USA, Germany, these are our families of adoption. But aside from sales, the Italian creativity and culture level in underground music scene is for the most part pretty low and embarrassing.

SK: Are there any young artists out there you feel are kindred spirits?

DS: … uhm, very few young artists… I always looked at other ones which inspired me directly or not… but not many young artists… I’m 30 and they’re all older usually!

SK: You collaborated with Corrado Altieri for “Music for Lemurians” From an abandoned concept by David Lynch and Mark Frost. How did the project first come about?

DS: I always admired the work of Corrado Altieri, he is one of the greatest Italian names in noise from years, first with TH26, and aftyer with MONOSONIK and now with his best project ever, UNCODIFIED, which I recommend to everyone… I was reading some interviews by Lynch and the label was born from one month, I was more and more spaced out with my mind due to the lunacy that the apathy was giving to me… and I get into this concept, drawing the concept of the booklet weeks before the music existed. Corrado is a dear friend and respected what I am doing as an artist, so I asked him if he wanted to work with me and this is pretty much what happened. A really edgy session for me, I was recording outside the window of a 3rd plane apartment the silence of the snow falling, and me just screaming to this silent nocturnal environment. I basically barked like a rabid dog – then I edited, reversed and messed up with the audio, which I passed to Corrado, and after that, we just printed it. It took us two weeks for anything. I am very proud of that release, it should be sold out by now… you’re lucky to have it!

SK: Talking of abandoned concepts, what about your own dead babies; are there any projects from the past you would like to resurrect or abandoned projects you wish had happened?

DS: I make such a big amount of music that you have to sacrifice something every single time, for releasing something else… having also a little label of my own doesn’t help me since I must pay for the whole process of printing and dispatching… I had different good releases, some of them were also quite good – I wouldn’t listen to them now too much, I started to be much more selective and to not save a bad recording day (a thing I was doing since 3 years ago)… I became my worst enemy and critic, nobody destroys me as much as I do. I would have loved to see published “Pariah” a 2012 album by Testing Vault you can find for 1 dollar at Bandcamp – it was the tying chapter between “Cities Of The Red Lights” of 2011 and “The Smile Of A Chain” of 2013 – I was gonna be published for a German label but it went in bankrupt. So now it’s out as only a digital release and I am sorry for that as I love that release… and I would love to print it someday. I also regret to haven’t being able in this time to did something I have in mind for years… I can say just it would have been a boxset.

SK: You mentioned that your your film “The Complete Shit Exorcism” was a real self-exorcism, can you elaborate on that and the experience of making the film. A lot of your work strikes me to have elements of magick rituals. Are there any upcoming film or audio visual projects you are working on and do you have visual project or video planned for the Anguish?

DS: It took two years to film anything, it was a Kenneth Anger and Rozz Williams’ visually influenced movie… it was horrible to re-act what I basically did for staying alive. The movie was based on a bad nervous breakdown I lived in 2007. I woke up and I was beyond hallucinating and on thin ice – my mental sanity was compromised at the time… I took a pigface mask I modified and which I took and used adhesive tape on my face because i wanted to blow it with a gun… quite an extreme experience. In many thought the movie was well done for being done with a normal video camera and zero budget, locations or post-production of any kind. I kinda “like” it as well – as an artwork and a documentary of what I was, but from then I find that directing movies, even short ones, is like killing myself. Mentally, physically, it drives me insane. It’s just too much – I don’t know why. Maybe painting and doing music is already enough and my mind can’t stand to create demons on film as well?

For The Anguish there will be three videoclips, of which i wrote the scripts, and they will be directed by three different artists… In this way the visual component will be very heavy. And the concept is very wide, it embraces all the “wrong America”, the one made by deranged preachers and believers, guns, incest, serial killers, nationalism and “The Wyoming Incident”, fake or not. all this will be focused and covered in some way the album…

SK: If you could chose one piece of music for people to remember you for, which piece would you be contempt with if it were to define you?

DS: I really think that “Cities Of The Red Lights” describe what I am able to doing best… extremely lo-fi yet peculiar music and sound shaping, all tied up with readings, cut-ups, and vivid and detailed visions, influenced by Coil, Rozz Williams and William S. Burroughs, but honest and original. I received compliments for that album, now only available as a digital release as the cd is sold out (any label which would want to reprint it would be welcome anyway!), by many of my idols, Kevin Tomkins of Sutcliffe Jugend and Ace Farren Ford of LAFMS/Smegma for mention just two… it’s a proof of how delicate, cerebral and multi-faceted certain intelligent and creative lo-fi music can be. It could be the new real classical music I think. I also hope my next first solo acoustic album will be that good… it has the same vibe and I’m impressed of this.

SK: You mentioned the possibility of bringing out limited art editions and records through Looney-Tick Productions, Including a limited CD release in memory of Rozz Williams.

DS: I truly love what Rozz was and what he did – such an amazing body of work, and he was so young, it’s hard to believe that was all just in one head. It’s true, I wanted to pay my respects to him, and I had different options in mind… I was lucky enough to know amazing friends and artists as Ryan Wildstar, Ace Farren Ford, Doriandra Smith (which she sang a song for me in “Cities of The Red Lights”), and I wanted to work with them using certain vynils that Rozz bought at a thrift store thinking to use them as soundfonts for an upcoming Heltir album which never came unfortunately. These vinyls are children’s stories, or other cheap silly audio I would have loved to morph into a weird, gigantic beast of a triple album made in collaboration with Ace, Ryan and Doriandra (the core of what EXP were basically), mixing spoken words, noise and melancholia. But it did not happened – but one day, who knows… I’d like to remember him in a way that would reflect what his true artistic self was towards the voluntary end of his earthly time…

SK: What is next for Daniele Santagiuliana?

DS: Hopefully some relax and the possibility to release my first solo acoustic record by this year as well aside from The Anguish – I’d love to show my true self – this is the first project in which I am my own influence… and I’d love to see if people would like it.

How can people buy your records and art?

Well, they can go to Discogs, googling “Looney-Tick Productions” or to write directly to me at danielesantagiuliana@hotmail.com – and I can show to them whatever they want, paintings, records, I am quite a friendly person which does not sell his art or music at unreasonable prices!

Lemuria Rising: An Interview with Daniele Santagiuliana By Salem Kapsaski was first published in Issue 2 of Art Decades in 2014.

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Welcome to Jonestown: An Interview with G.B. Jones

Welcome to Jonestown: Southern Ontario Gothic

An Interview with G.B. Jones By Salem Kapsaski

G. B. Jones is an artist, filmmaker, musician and publisher of zines based in Toronto, Canada. Her most recent project is Opera Arcana with Minus Smile.

G.B. Jones joined her first band Bunny & the Lakers in the early 80’s before co-fouding the experimental post-punk band/ art collective Fifth Column playing drums, guitar and background vocals. Until the late 90’s members of Fifth Column would released albums, zines, videos and various art projects together. The band’s debut album, “To Sir With Hate” was released in 1985 and is regarded as one of the biggest influences on the Grrl Riot movement. Fifth Column would release two more albums “All-Time Queen of the World” in 1990 and 36-C which included their controversial song “All Women Are Bitches”. Which was also released as a single by K Records in 1992.

A documentary about Fifth Column entitled “She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column” directed by Kevin Hegge was released in 2012.

As an artist her work has been featured at galleries around the world as well as in books and zines, such as “Discontents” edited by Dennis Cooper and the book G.B. Jones edited by Steve LaFreniere which was published by a New York City gallery in 1996.

I was first introduced to Jones’ film “The Yo-Yo Gang” in my late teens. The film would forever leave an impact on my life and fuel my own desire to make movies. It was raw, beautiful, playful, angry and honest punk film-making the likes I had never witnessed before. To me it represented all underground film was supposed to be. Shot on Super 8mm film, “The Yo-Yo Gang” follows two girl gangs, the Yo-Yo Gang and the Skateboard Bitches, as a gangwar erupts between them. After “The Yo-Yo Gang”, she directed the feature film “The Lollipop Generation”, released in 2008.

I first started to have contact with Jones in 2011 and she has since become a dear friend. I am extremely honored that Opera Arcana have agreed to compose the score for my upcoming experimental short film “Mephisto’s House of Ill Repute” to be included in the Anthology film “Films Confiscated from a French Brothel”.

I interviewed Jones about her career as well as her upcoming film and new single with Opera Arcana.

SK: You and Minus Smile are currently working on musical project called Opera Arcana, when did you first meet and how did this collaboration come about?

G.B. Jones: In 1983, Minus came to see a show happening in a church with musical acts, movies and slide shows. I was playing drums with Fifth Column, who were one of the musical acts performing that night, and I was also playing drums in March of Values, one of twenty people performing a 15 minute noise assault on the audience. Minus asked both outfits to be on a cassette compilation he was putting out called “Urban Scorch”, which also included his own experimental industrial band called The Party’s Over. After that, Fifth Column and The Party’s Over began playing together all the time until they broke up, and then we played with his later bands, Believer’s Voice of Victory, Violence and the Sacred, The Polkaholix, and others. But when Fifth Column broke up in the 1990s, I lost touch with people in the music scene.

Then, about 5 years ago, Minus called me up and we arranged to meet and he asked me if I’d be interested in working on a project called Opera Arcana together. He surmised from the drawings I was doing at that time for Hex Magazine that I wasn’t particularly happy in the little slot people had put me in and that I was moving in different direction, which coincided with the direction he was interested in exploring, and suggested we do it together.

SK: Minus cited Jan Švankmajer as an inspiration for Opera Arcana, what different influences did you both bring to the project and what other mediums and art-forms have inspired what you are doing?

G.B. Jones: We have so many inspirations it might be trying your readers’ patience to try to list them all, but I think what we’d like to do is to expand upon the existing genre of Southern Ontario Gothic, which in the past has strictly been a literary movement, to encompass music and film and art, an entire aesthetic. I mean, to us it really already is an aesthetic, one we are now giving form to.

SK: What can you tell us about Opera Arcana’s Multimedia performance “The Bruised Spirits of Ontario” with Caroline Azar?

G.B. Jones: It was very exciting to be able to work again with Caroline Azar, who wrote and directed “The Bruised Spirits of Southern Ontario”. In one sense it was a continuation of an installation that Caroline and I did two years ago called “The Bruised Garden”, but fused with the Opera Arcana sensibility and songs and an entirely original script by Caroline. We perform three songs during the play, which is the story of a Hexenmeister, played by Minus Smile, who is determined to rid the land of paganism and tree worship – unfortunately for him, nature fights back assisted by Sianteuse, who played ‘The Medium’, and Jonathan Culp, who played ‘The Elemental’. There are also films and interactive elements both inside and outside the venue.

SK: You appear very involved in the preservation of the historical culture and architecture of Toronto, To what extent has Ontario influenced and shaped your own artistic output?

G.B. Jones: The fabulous Southern Ontario Gothic writer Alice Munro published a collection of short stories in 1978 called “Who Do You Think You Are?” and I think the title alone sums up Ontario and the pervasive attitude here. The phrase functions as an admonition to remain in ones designated station in life, but I think it works as a sincere question as well, because Ontario is a place that hasn’t had an identity of its own. For example, in many American movies and television productions that are filmed here, it will stand in for various different cities in the U.S.A. It’s kind of like a theatre stage that’s always waiting to find out what location it will represent next. Nothing is as it seems.

Everyone likes to comment on how clean Toronto is – well, you know how in movies there’ll be a disturbed character who washes his hands so frequently and vigorously in a deluded effort to keep them clean that the hands are reduced to raw, bleeding skin? That character is Toronto. I remember when I was going to school, taking the bus home late at night, Paul Bernardo was driving around at the same time looking for victims. The stage that is Ontario is filled with characters like Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, Colonel Russell Williams, Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic, Saul David Betesh, Josef Woods and Robert Kribs, and probably Dellen Millard, the millionaire murderer. Western University professor Michael Arntfield has written a book naming London, Ontario, the ‘serial killer capital of the world’. Then you’ve got a Mayor who is a drunk and a crackhead, and a popular radio host who enjoys choking women. It’s a shadowland, with a very thin veil between the everyday world and a nightmare existence.

And then there are the fires. There are constantly fires in Toronto occurring in beautiful older buildings that mysteriously burn down to be replaced by more condos. Almost all of the buildings that you can see in my movies are gone, along with the Toronto I grew up in, and I recently realized that I’ve inadvertently preserved on film a historical record of an Ontario that once was. Consequently, I’m very interested in Ontario architecture. Gothic Revival architecture was built in Ontario long after its popularity waned in other locations, and it’s so prevalent here that it’s sometimes referred to as ‘Ontario Gothic’ . One of the first things I wanted to do was to wed this style of architecture to the Southern Ontario Gothic sensibility, and so the first photo session Opera Arcana did was at the site of a small Gothic Revival cottage, a style also called “Carpenter’s Gothic”, the poor peoples’ Gothic.

For the most part, the majority of people here have no interest at all in the history or culture of this place they live in. Ontario can’t recognize itself in the mirror but I think once you put all the existing elements together – the Southern Ontario Gothic fiction, the Ontario Gothic architecture, television shows like “Strange Paradise”, the horror movies made here, along with all the real life horror and scandal, you begin to see a culture. It’s just not a culture that the people in Ontario are comfortable with, even as it’s staring them in the face.

SK: You are working on a new film project? What was the first film project you worked on?

G.B. Jones: Coincidently, the new film project I’m working on is also the first film project I worked on. It’s called “Unionville” and it was made on Super 8 so long ago that the soundtrack was on a cassette tape that was supposed to be played at the same time the film was run through a projector. I decided I wanted to get the movie digitized so I could screen it again and found that the cassette tape had been ruined in one of the many floods I had, so I’m redoing the soundtrack and I’ve shot some new footage. Now it’s both a new and an old film, and I hope to release it in 2015. It’s the story of a murder that was committed by some one I knew long ago in a small town in Ontario called Unionville.

SK: There has been very strict censorship regulations in Canada, how did this affect your work over the years?

G.B. Jones: In the 1990s my drawings were being shown at Feature Inc. gallery in New York City, run by the late Hudson, and he published a collection of my work in a book edited by Steve Lafreniere, a compilation of drawings, posters, graphics from zines, record and tape covers, film stills, and writing about my work by Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, Dennis Cooper, Caroline Azar, Vaginal Davis and Jena von Brucker, among others. Once it was released, Hudson mailed me some copies and it was promptly seized at the Canadian border and burned. So of course that affected my career in Canada. I’ve had people tell me they won’t buy my work because if my drawings were to be included in their collection, and they later were to to donate this collection to a university or college, it wouldn’t be accepted. It’s the ripple effect of censorship, the fear it inspires, that’s deadlier than the censorship itself. You have to live with the consequences and not let it affect your work at all.

SK: What was the first zine you published?

G.B. Jones: The first zine I worked on was “Hide”, which Caroline Azar was publishing with Candy Parker. They asked me to join them and since I loved what they were doing, I was very happy to help. Caroline did incredible photocopy art and design for that zine utilizing everything from chicken wire to lace, and it was so inspiring and influential for me.

SK: There has been a lot more interest again in zines, with books like “Xerox Ferox” coming out and copies of several zines having become very sought after and valuable. Do you think xerox zines will make a new come back and do underground zines and in- print magazines still have an own voice and place in the day of online-mags and blogs?

G.B. Jones: From what I can tell zines haven’t disappeared, but they have gone back underground and that’s probably good. That’s where the editors are free to create whatever they want. Zines and in-print magazines absolutely have a place today and will still have a place tomorrow, and I prefer to publish my own work in this format. Having had a personal computer now since the 1990s, I’ve seen so many websites disappear into thin air and all of the content along with it; at the same time, I’ve seen printed publications become collectable, and gain new generations of readers. In the end they are simply two different mediums, each with their own virtues.

SK: All members of Fifth Column seem to have been tied in several artistic projects at the time; and you have collaborated in several independent projects such as with Hide zine, as well as film work and videos. Did you view Fifth Column more of an art collective than a band in the tradition sense and what were your personal ambitions for Fifth Column?

G.B. Jones: From the beginning of Fifth Column, we had no intention of having a typical band. At least, Caroline Azar and myself always viewed it as an art collective, although I don’t know about all the other members. We were just very interested in trying lots of different ideas such as integrating other mediums like film with the band, doing soundtracks, working in a theatrical setting, utilizing print media and photography, and crossing lots of genre boundaries.

SK: You once said the Punk world was very straight when Fifth Column started out, to what extend did the scene evolve to catch up with Fifth Column or did the band always remain an island of your own?

G.B. Jones: Working in different mediums as Fifth Column did was not at all common in the 1980s and 1990s, and there were very few other bands who were even interested in considering these possibilities. I don’t think it was until the changes occurred in technology that musicians were forced to evolve. At different times we’d connect with like minded bands, but they’d disappear or break up and then we’d be on our own again.

SK: How did get involved with the Italian ambient music project Mariae Nascenti?

G.B. Jones: Mariae Nascenti is Ango The Meek Dead’s project, and I just fell in love with his music and wrote to him. I really wanted to have one of his songs on the soundtrack of “The Lollipop Generation”, and he sent me the beautiful “A Lollipop to Solve My Nephophobia”. And then we just decided to collaborate on a song together, which turned out to be “Remember to Forget”, which was on the album, “Raise Your Paw To The Sky And Break The Truce”. He was originally based in Italy when we collaborated, and is now based in Berlin.

SK: What was your introduction to Underground Film?

G.B. Jones: I was so young when I first found out about Underground films that I can’t really remember if I heard about the Velvet Underground and Nico first, and through them found out about Andy Warhol and his movies, or if it was the other way around. Anyway, that was the gateway drug through which I discovered the wonderful world of underground movies that I quickly became addicted to.

SK: One film in your filmography I’m intrigued with is “Home Movies” by Bruce LaBruce and Candy Parker. I have not been able to find much information about the film apart from a short synopsis, what can you tell us about it and does it still exist?

G.B. Jones: It was shown here in Toronto in 2010 at The 8 Fest, an annual film festival devoted to 8mm films, so it definitely still exists. The scene I was in was made one day when I went over just to visit Candy and Bruce at their apartment, and they started filming me and Joe the Ho. I didn’t even know the scene was going to be in this movie – it wasn’t till later that I was told I was in it, and that it was called “Bruce and Pepper Wayne Gacy’s Home Movies”, and the concept was that a series of scenes would be the home movies of the two children of John Wayne Gacy. Which I thought was kind of brilliant. Dave-Id, Dave Dictor, Bruce, and Spike the Pug dog are also in it. Watching it is probably more disturbing for the cast than it might be for other viewers, since it’s closer to real life than one might like to imagine.

SK: “The Lollipop Generation” was made over the period of 15 years. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while making the film? -Is the final version of “The Lollipop Generation” the film you set out to do when you started out, or how did the experiences alter the heart of the film?

G.B. Jones: Actually, it only took a mere 13 years! First I had to deal with a cast member leaving after we’d been shooting for a year and had a significant amount of scenes done. We’d also been filming at his house, so that also meant that either all that footage would have to be scrapped or I’d have to figure a way around that, and of course I didn’t want to waste all that work so I had to totally change the plot of the movie and rewrite the script, incorporating whatever I could of the scenes we’d already done. Then another actor didn’t like her character and decided she didn’t want to be in the movie anymore, and so we had to plot and plan with a different actor, who she had a crush on, to convince her to finish the movie, and do more rewriting to accommodate her reluctance to film – basically, I had to figure out the bare minimum I’d need to film with her to keep the story intact because by this time I think 7 years had passed, and I had no intention of completely rewriting the entire film again for the second time! Then I moved, and we had two floods in the basement where I was editing, so we moved again and in the new place I had 5 floods, which created extensive interruptions in the editing process, as you might imagine! But what happened during all this time was quite amazing – I was able to shoot new scenes with people who hadn’t even been around when the first part was filmed, so that “The Lollipop Generation” spanned two generations of musicians and actors and zine editors and artists and writers, and Joel Gibb wrote the beautiful song “Lollipop” for the theme. So, it wasn’t the film I set out to do, but I think it ended up being much more interesting.

SK: You have embraced both Super 8 and VHS for it’s aesthetics, what first attracted you to these mediums and what do you feel are the biggest short-comings of digital film-making?

G.B. Jones: When I was a teenager I read everything I could about experimental films but most of those filmmakers were using 16mm. But in the 1980s I started regularly going to The Funnel, which was an amazing experimental film theatre here in Toronto, where I watched lots of great films, met lots of people, and discovered a new generation of filmmakers who were all using Super 8, which was affordable even for me! At the same time I was reading about experimental films, I’d also taken a class about video in high school – we were using a Portapak, that’s how long ago it was. It was out of my range financially, but I had a great interest in the pioneering video makers like Shirley Clarke and Michel Auder and the collectives like Videofreex, and others. It wasn’t till years later that I actually got to see some of the pioneering artists’ videos, and by then VHS was in use and everyone was getting a video camera. Luckily I knew people with video cameras, and I was able to easily find Super 8 cameras at thrift stores. I think what attracted me to both mediums is that they were being used by people to express a range of ideas about film and video and it’s use, and aesthetically it’s beautiful. Everything looks good in Super 8 and video.

I know digital is cheap and easy to access, but unlike film and video, I don’t think everything looks good on digital – you have to work really hard to make it look good. That’s the hidden cost of digital. However, everything looks great on cell phones, so I recommend people start making their movies on cell phones.

SK: Three of your films were screened here in England as part of Girl Gang Film Season. How did this event come about and what challenges do you face in setting up screenings and exhibitions of your work abroad?

G.B. Jones: The people at The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle Upon Tyne got in touch with me and organized it through V Tape, who are my distributors.

SK: One of the films shown was “The Troublemakers”, a movie which seems rarely screened, what can you tell us about the film?

G.B. Jones: Well, it’s about juvenile delinguency in the surveillance state age. It was made in the 1980s when all the stores were just getting cameras, and I thought it would be interesting to imagine a new generation of young people who had to be conscious of performing for these cameras, and media in general, while they commit their crimes. The media creates one kind of image of these people, and I thought it would be interesting to see what it would be like if we created our own image, and look at the contrast between the two.

SK: Your next and perhaps best known film was “The Yo-Yo Gang”. What was your fondest memory of making the film?

G.B. Jones: It was so easy to make. Almost everyone in the movie was in a punk band or an industrial band, and so it wasn’t hard to get them to do the kind of crazy stuff that so many people are scared of doing. It wasn’t until years later when I began to work with other people that I really appreciated how fearless all these women were. Not one of them was worried about what people might think of them! It was amazing to work with them.

SK: When can we expect future releases of your film work on DVD?

G.B. Jones: I don’t know if I’ll ever do that. At a certain point I had to decide if I wanted to be GB Joneses’ secretary, answering all the mail and getting dubs of movies made and sending them out, and doing all that sort of work, or did I want to be GB Jones and make the art and movies and music, and I decided I didn’t want to be the secretary anymore, I wanted to be GB Jones.

SK: How different is your approach to the world you create in your films compared to your drawings?

G.B. Jones: I think there are connections, although they might not be the obvious ones people would assume.

SK: When it comes to drawing what subjects and themes most inspire you at the moment?

G.B. Jones: Buildings. Buildings, buildings and more buildings. What I love about Dario Argento’s movies is that each film is really about a building. There are lots of horrible things going on all around the building, inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs, all so that we’ll look at the building and think about it.

SK: You have inspired artists in so many different fields, are there any young artists out there that inspire you in return?

G.B. Jones: There’s really so many, I wouldn’t know where to begin, and I wouldn’t want to leave any one out.

SK: The vinyl version of the album “AGE” included a pencil portrait you did of PVT Chelsea Manning. what made you chose Manning as the subject for this?

G.B. Jones: I’m glad you asked about this, because some reviewers seem to think it’s a photograph. It is a pencil drawing, done entirely by hand. Joel Gibb asked me to do the drawing of Pvt. Chelsea Manning for the album because he views her as the quintessential symbol of our age, and the concept of ‘age’ is what the entire album revolves around.

It’s always amazing to work with The Hidden Cameras because Joel is a visionary, and I’m very proud to have had a small part in all the projects I’ve been involved with.

SK: What are we to anticipate next from G.B. Jones and Opera Arcana?

G.B. Jones: Opera Arcana are planning to release our first single in 2015, as well as some videos. We’ve also done some singing for the new “Nick Hudson and The Academy of Sun” album which will hopefully be coming out soon, and we’re working on the soundtracks for two movies, one is a short film called “End of the Road” by Kelly Wydryk, and one is an anthology film called “Films Confiscated from a French Brothel” by you, Salem Kapsaski!

This interview  first appeared in Issue 3 of Art Decades in 2015.
Photos by Caroline Azar taken at 99 Gloucester St., former headquarters for The Process Church of the Final Judgement in Toronto.

That’s Just Wrong! An Interview with Filmmaker Joe Christ (2007)

This interview with my late friend Joe Christ first appeared in 2007 in Scene 4 Magazine under the title “Meet Joe Christ”. I conducted it shortly after Joe moved to the Philippines.

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Joe Christ was one of the most controversial, innovative and original voices of Underground film. With his unique blend of dark humour and images of the grotesque he managed to equally shock and enchant audiences for almost two decades. His films infamously even offended John Waters, though Waters would later call Joe on the phone after he re-staged Kennedy’s assassination on the streets of Dallas to congratulate him for his “Bad Taste”.

After a music career in the 1980’s as Joe Danger; now Joe Christ directed his first short film, ‘Communion in Room 410’ in which a 400-pound Goth cuts herself while another woman drinks her blood. He went on to write, produce and direct a great number of underground classics in which he also starred. His most famous films include ‘Crippled’, ‘Amy Strangled a Small Child’ and his most shocking film/documentary, ‘Sex, Blood and Mutilation’ (Co-starring Genesis P Orridge). It contains everything from piercing, tattooing, scarification, genital mutilation and just about every form of body modification imaginable.

In 2005 he made his first and only feature film, ‘That’s Just Wrong!’

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Joe also once ran for governor of Texas in 1986 with the slogan ‘Christ is the Answer in ’86’. He continued to make music with his band ‘Bigger than God’, reformed his old band ‘Los Reactors’ for a few shows in 2005 and released a best-of entitled ‘Essential Christ’.

Joe Christ passed away on the 21st of June 2009.

Salem Kapsaski: You’ve initiated your own special genre; what were your personal reasons to create this very individual type of film?

Joe Christ: Primarily there was the issue of budget. I’ve always had certain sensibities, like my warped sense of humour and a cruel streak, but have been faced with budgetary limitations. So, I would always plan around them, thinking to myself…”what CAN I do, with the small amount of funding that I have?”

SK: Where you always fascinated by the rather dark side of life?

JC: Oh yes, for sure. I grew up reading and looking at the groovy pictures in my dad’s medical books, strictly for entertainment purposes. I never had any aspirations to become a doctor; I just enjoyed the pics of diseases and deformities, and reading about the suffering involved! In school, I was known as “Gross Joe”, because I enjoyed getting a reaction out of people, after I would present them with some disgusting mental image.

SK: It’s been over 10 years since “Sex, Blood, and Mutilation, Part 1”. Are there still many people that seek you out in hope to be featured in your films?

JC: Even after 10 years, “Sex Blood & Mutilation” is still one of my top-selling flicks. But, as far as people wanting to take part in any potential future “body-modification” documentaries I might make, well that kind of died out as people realized that I was making fun of that whole scene and not treating it with the “seriousness” that some people felt it deserved. Face it…I make comedies, albeit “dark” comedies…so, if I am shooting something in documentary form, it will be treated with my type of humour.

SK: Has anybody ever managed to shock you?

JC: Well, for sure I was somewhat shocked when I met Billy Walker, the guy who had cut off his penis, as seen in “Sex Blood & Mutilation”. But, now that I have seen literally hundreds of pics and videos of that type of self-mutilation, it no longer fazes me in any way. When I first saw the “Uncle Goddamn” tapes by Dale Elmore, I was a little startled by the overall malevolence and cruelty of the video content, but was laughing pretty hard before it was all over. No, I guess I don’t get shocked very easily.

SK: Can you tell us about your latest movie “That’s just wrong!”?

JC: “That’s Just Wrong” was my first feature-length movie…up until then everything I had done was a short subject. It’s the story of a young woman who is stalked by a creepy guy, who then moves into her home. A relationship of sorts develops, they become romantically involved, in a sick sort of way, and of course, things end very badly for her…but, not the criminal stalker, everything works out just fine for him. It’s narrated by a talking Boston terrier; Scrapple, the little pup from “Sex Blood & Mutilation” and managing that “special effect” took up most of my editing time, and a big chunk of the budget! There are a few minor celebrities in the flick, besides me, of course!…the infamous prostitute and author Dolores French plays a bar-owner, and horror-writer Nancy A Collins is seen as a door-to-door preacher.

SK: I’ve heard you ran for Governor of Texas in 1986, could you tell us about this?

JC: It was strictly done as a publicity stunt, which worked very well. I ran on a platform with various pranks that were calculated to offend as many people as possible…like sterilizing people who receive welfare payments…and when people would ask me if I were “Pro-choice”, I would tell them “Absolutely not! Abortion should be MANDATORY!” I stayed in the Dallas area newspapers regularly for several months, as a result of this gubernatorial “campaign”

SK: Are you still playing with Los Reactors or have any other music projects lined up?

JC: I’ve performed with Los Reactors 3 times for reunion shows, in the past 2 years. The first of those, in 2005, was our first show together as a group in over 22 years! Though the shows were a lot of fun to do, the logistics made it difficult to do as a regular thing. I was living in Atlanta, and the other three members were living in Tulsa…900 miles away. A local show for them was a major road trip for me! Besides, now I am 10,000 miles away, in Manila, Philippines!

SK:  What is the “private” Joe Christ like?

JC: Well, that’s private! Actually, people who meet me usually think “Wow, he’s a lot more normal than I thought he would be!” Then they get to know me better and they think “Goddamn! He’s a lot weirder than I ever dreamed!”

SK: Why did you move to the Philippines?

JC: I was offered the position of “Director of Media” for several major humour web sites I had worked for them previously, when they were based in the USA. They moved to Manila a few years ago, and I had stayed behind, waiting for the lucrative offer that I knew would be coming my way. Once it did, I made the move to Manila. I had been looking for a good excuse to leave the USA for a long time…but, never really had a viable way to do it, while still being able to support myself! Now, I am able to do that, and here I am…in the tropics of Southeast Asia! I love the place! The food and the people are great…and the US Dollar spends very well here, too.

SK: Are you working on a new film or script right now?

JC: I have plans to shoot another feature flick, while here in Manila, with a Filipino crew and a mixed cast of internationals. I also just got the green light from the company that owns the web sites to start producing some TV show pilots for a Philippines audience. So, I do have plenty on my plate at this time.

 

Selected articles and writing

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(2015) “Filmrage Vol 2 No 12” includes the article “The Making of Spidarlings”
(2015) “Black Giraffe: Issue one” – story “Icarus falls off his Bike”.  Dynatox Ministries.
(2015) “Art Decades #3” includes the article “Welcome to Jonestown: Southern Ontario Gothic”
(2015) “Art Decades #2” includes the article “Lemora Rising”.
(2014) “Weng’s Chop #6” includes the article “The Hot Month of August”.
(2014) “Art Decades #1” includes the article “Many Enemies Brings much Honor”
(2012) “MassMovement #33” includes the article “Kick him in the head and steal his wallet”
(2010) “Scene 4 Magazine Jun 10” includes the article “Splice: Never asked to be born”
(2009) “In Punk We Trust Inc. Issue 2” Publisher, editor
(2009) “In Punk We Trust Inc. Issue 1” Publisher, editor
(2008) “Scene 4 Magazine Feb 08” includes the article “Anger Rising: The films of Kenneth Anger”
(2007) “Scene 4 Magazine Nov 07” includes the article “Meet Joe Christ“.
(2007) “Scene 4 Magazine Aug 07” includes the article “The Day the Clown Cried”
(2007) “Scene 4 Magazine Jul 07” includes the article “Snuff: Everything You Always Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask”
(2006) “Scene 4 Magazine Sep 06” includes the article “Black Comedy”
(2006) “Scene 4 Magazine Aug 06” includes the article “A Thousand Natural Shocks”