Saturday, June 25, 2016

Interview with Filmmaker, Musician and Die J, Mars Roberge

Electric and eclectic, eccentric and fantastic, Mars Roberge marches to the sound of his own drummer, and man, that cat can knock out some funky beats. It's no wonder his art is being lauded, and rightfully so. His origins are the heart of the city, with its filthy throbbing pulse driving his musical momentum and thrusting him into his cinematic journey of its underground.    

Body Count Rising: Your film “The Little House That Could” won the Audience Choice Award for Best 2015 Film from NewFilmmakers Los Angeles on June 18th (as well as being nominated for Best Feature Documentary), won Best Documentary at 2016 Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and was nominated for Best LGBT Feature Documentary at 2014 Queens World Film Festival.

Wow! Congratulations! I read that you spent a decade preparing for this film and “becoming one” with the LGBT community. Do you consider yourself an activist, or simply a documentarian?

Mars Roberge: I consider myself an activist. I was a member of the House of Field. From that, I was one of the few straight people involved. I lived in Toronto in the 90s, which is kind of what “Scumbag” is about and then I was rescued by the LGBT community in New York even though I’m a straight guy. So I owe them a lot and I would absolutely say I’m an advocate. As far as awards, “The Little House That Could” has been nominated for something each year since 2014.

Body Count Rising: Nice! So they just keep celebrating this film!

Mars Roberge: Yeah…

Body Count Rising: That’s awesome! Maybe next year you’ll get another one.

Mars Roberge: I hope so. We’ve played it around the world 24 times and it’s been presented in three languages. In San Francisco it played at Frameline, the oldest gay film festival in the world and we got the coveted Friday night slot for the premiere. That was back in 2013 and it’s been lauded ever since. So as a filmmaker I’m indebted to the LGBT community too because I was getting turned down from a lot of top tier film festivals when Frameline, the gay film festival, picked it up and that really helped launch the film and give it momentum..

Body Count Rising: So are you finding it now has a cult following?

Mars Roberge: Oh, it’s a total cult film right now. When we played in New York especially, people dressed up and got together to go see it. There is just a camaraderie of people that will say “OK it’s playing. We’ve got to go!”

The House of Field members are harder to track down now that Patricia Field closed her boutique this past February. And after she had been around like 50 years everyone was just left standing there saying, “Wow, we didn’t expect THAT to happen.” And now the film is just the last historical piece from that time. Bringing the magic of what I lived to the big screen just became larger than me at some point. The more I made the film, the more I saw how important she was to everybody. 

Body Count Rising: Would you say Canada is ahead of the US with regard to gay rights, or behind the times?

Mars Roberge: Toronto has one of the biggest gay festivals in the world, but the truth is, and I know because I DJed in the goth scene up there forever, there are a ton of gays who pretend they’re straight with girlfriends, in hiding, who only come out once a year to that festival. It’s weird to me because they should know “it’s ok to be gay.” It’s like they think they have to only hang out in the Chelsea muscle gay club atmosphere to be gay or something. I know it’s slowly changing but it hadn’t changed when I was there in the 90s. Now, to me, New York is even more gay than San Francisco, or as gay, and they’re very open and accepting. In Toronto the gay world is accepting of the straight world, but I can’t say the same about the lesbian world. They’re almost like separatists. Some people may not like me saying that, but it’s the truth. I get along fine with lesbians and I’ve not experienced that anywhere else. I mean, I worked for Patricia Field for ten years and in making the film we’ve become better friends than ever.

Body Count Rising: I absolutely LOVE Toronto. I used to visit all the time when I lived in Michigan. It’s my favorite big city. You came from Toronto to New York. What led to the decision to come to the states? 

Mars Roberge: I wanted to kill myself in the schoolyard where “Welcome Back Kotter” was filmed.

Body Count Rising: Oh! OK... (laughing)

Mars Roberge: (laughing) I’m not making that up either. That was my goal. I was watching it one night and decided I was going to jump on a bus and just go do that, you know? But I did meet Mr. Kotter about a month after I got here… Gabe Kaplan… at a place called Gotham Comedy Club. I told him he was the reason for being here and he looked at me and got scared. (laughing)

Body Count Rising: (laughing) Well, how were you going to do it?

Mars Roberge: No idea. There were enough distractions that I thought “Well, hey let me figure out this town first.” Then I got new friends and I ran into a bouncer at CBGB who I knew from Goth club in Toronto called Death in the Underground that I worked at and he kinda pointed me in the right direction. Now I have all these films to write about those years. 

Body Count Rising: OK but Toronto was the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine going from that to New York. You must have thought it was filthy.

Mars Roberge: Well, New York has cleaned up quite a bit, but I was a bit unnerved when rats first went running by my feet.

Body Count Rising: Ugh. Nope.

Mars Roberge: Oh you just get to the point where they’re like squirrels. They’ll come up to you on the subway and it just starts to feel normal. I used to work at an S&M bar spinning vinyl from 5:30 PM to 4 in the morning and on the subway platform headed home the rats would charge. I’d just say “Shoo shoo!” and it was almost like playing chicken with them or something. (laughing

Body Count Rising: Oh… disturbing. (laughing) So… did the contacts you made while working for Patricia Field make it easier to transition into filmmaking?

Mars Roberge: That actually got me back into it. I went to film school at York University just outside of Toronto, and then when I graduated I worked in a post production house where they edited music videos for bands like Barenaked Ladies. I had left doing the cut and glue stuff in school and was doing digital linear editing--non-linear editing that we know today was so much money that you couldn’t even think about it unless you had 20 grand in your pocket. This meant if I ever made mistakes I would have to redo everything from scratch. I made some Super8 films but I didn’t know what festivals to apply to, or anything like that.

Eventually I got out of it because of sheer boredom. I wasn’t really getting to film anything. I also did various jobs on sets in a union-based work environment with a bunch of guys with families and just shooting a movie felt like work, and not fun. So I just started DJing plus I had a couple of bands and that kept me going for about 10 years. What really got me into doing any kind of film stuff is that I bought a computer in the mid-2000s after avoiding them for 20 years and found programs like Final Cut and I started creating experimental movies that I would play in the backgrounds at concerts.

Patricia Field needed some footage put together for a party she was hosting at Element Nightclub and I was asked to put it all together. I found this guy, Bob Lesser, to work with who was a roadie. He had an ad that said “narcoleptic psychopath with truck” and he had this Hare Krishna ponytail. We thought for sure we were going to get killed, but he ended up being my friend. He had all these lights and kind of became a partner. We just kept filming more and more stuff and that’s how this movie came about. But it was a good ten years between the time I originally was working in the film industry to the time that Patricia Field asked me to start filming.

Body Count Rising: I know you must have some wild stories from shooting "The Little House that Could".

Mars Roberge: There was a point where I needed to film the store, but I didn’t have electricity, so I stole it from a wall on the street. Cops were coming by and I thought we were going to get arrested for not having permits, but they actually stopped traffic so that I could shoot my film. That’s a big difference between New York and LA. 

We had this crazy party at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink where we were there with a bunch of drag queens and just kind of took it over. I remember this poor guy there who was proposing to his girlfriend on the rink and all the Patricia Field people were screaming at her “He’s gay! He’s gay!” (laughing)

One time I had Juliette Lewis help me look for Jerry Lewis in the store because I heard he was there. All these paparazzi were following us through the store but I couldn’t figure out why. It was great.

There was this one time I had a breakup argument with my girlfriend, Sarah Roemer from "Disturbia" who wasn’t discovered yet, and I hung up and Dave Navarro came over and said “Man are you alright?” I didn’t realize who he was and I just said “Yeah man, I’m just having a hard time getting people to come to my party.” He offered to help me out, so I gave him a bunch of flyers and told him where to go hand them out.

Body Count Rising: Oh that’s great! (laughing)

Mars Roberge: I went back into the store and I saw this girl and, being newly single, I tried to pick her up. I didn’t realize at the time that was Carmen Electra and she was there with Dave, who I was making hand out my flyers. So he comes back in and I realize he’s with her and I go “Oh man- I know where I recognize you from. You’re the guy that sings the Scooby Snack song.” And I just kind of wandered away. (laughing)

Stars really do get a kick out of when you don’t know who they are, and it happened to me quite often. I yelled at the designer Chloe and Liv Tyler for playing around in the dressing room and they got all nervous, like I was a teacher or something.

Body Count Rising: (laughing) You said that the Patricia Field family live fast and die young. If you died tomorrow what would you most like to be remembered for, and how do you think you changed the world? 

Mars Roberge: It’s funny. I always think about that and I’m trying to get so much done so quickly now. If I were to die tomorrow, I’m working on being that guy who got along with everybody. That’s what I work towards, you know? I’d like people to finally see what I’ve done, because I’ve played in a number of bands that never quite made it. We played the same parties as The Scissor Sisters and Lady Gaga. Then I was a DJ where other famous DJs would always call me for music advice who financially made it big for themselves, and it seems like just now people are really beginning to appreciate what I was doing as a DJ, especially in Toronto. With my films, I don’t care if people don’t like it, I want them to be able to say that I did something original and authentic.

Body Count Rising: Which filmmakers most inspire you? 

Mars Roberge: I once interviewed Dr. No from Bad Brains and I asked him that question about guitarists. He said “I used to have some favorites but they didn't stick to those fingers.” I kind of feel that way about filmmakers. Some have a couple great movies, but that is small compared to the whole body of work. I really do like Harmony Korine because he’s been doing his own thing for so long. I like French New Wave films by guys like Jean-Luc Godard but I don’t like everything in them, just the subtleties; the subliminal messages. And then sometimes directors are lumped as filmmakers. That’s just not true unless they are auteurs. Some people can be great directors, but I appreciate filmmakers who make a film they actually wrote. I don’t relate to anything unless there is characterization. Characters mean a lot to me. Cult films most inspire me because it’s a film that continues to mean something to people for decades on, something unique from the heart. 

Body Count Rising: You are an auteur. You’ve played most every role as a filmmaker from writer to editor and everything in between. Where is your true passion within these?

Mars Roberge: It’s weird. I’m kind of a control freak I guess. There are a limited amount of people I give jobs to. The script does not always reflect everything that is in my head. I enjoy writing and editing, but the directing part feels like work when you have to keep track of everyone. Editing is just fun for me.

Body Count Rising: “The Little House That Could” featured “rebellious outsiders” as does your film “Scumbag”. How do these films reflect on who you are as a person? What about growing up?

Mars Roberge: Growing up I wanted to be against the establishment. I grew up in this burb called Scarborough, which was ethnically diverse and people there really liked to fight. “Colors” had just come out and Canadians wanted to be like the kids in the ghettos of America. The only way for me to survive was to look weird like a punk and to hurt myself skateboarding. I didn’t like all the shiny, happy people going to all of these techno clubs. I gravitated toward the goth scene, and that’s where I began to DJ. 

Actually my film “Scumbag” came from the fact that I took this shady job as a telemarketer. We used to joke that we weren’t criminals, we were scumbags. We pulled fast ones on different businesses to make beer money. 

Body Count Rising: Speaking of, you have a credit as an animal wrangler in “Scumbag”. What’s that about? (laughing)

Mars Roberge: I’m glad you noticed that. It always seems to slip through. My fianc矇 Debra had one of the lead roles in “Scumbag” and she has this cat named Gwendolyn.. I’ve always been a dog person but now I think I’m becoming a cat person. I taught Gwendolyn flip and roll over. She does it in the movie, so I gave myself credit as the animal wrangler. (laughing)

Body Count Rising: I can’t wait to see that. You’re like the Cat Whisperer! (laughing)

Mars Roberge: Yeah! 

Rocktopia Manifesto

Rocktopia is a film genre created by director, Mars Roberge, in 2015 which he describes as "an individual's struggle against the ideals of a Utopian society where the only freedom of escape is to rock out." Influenced by the social realism movement of playwright John Osbourne, classic musicals, Dogma, 80s MTV and the absurd subtleties of French New Wave Cinema, Rocktopia has its own set of guidelines to follow: 
1. A large portion of the cast must be played by established musicians portraying characters far removed from themselves.
2. Rocktopia are epic movies that should have a cast of no less than 200 people and that does not include extras.
3. Magic must be involved. The term "magic" does not imply witchcraft or dark energies but may be referred to as "great luck." For instance, Scumbag found a lot of their bigger names a night before their shoot and scenes were shot perfectly with no preparation involved. This is what is termed "Magic."
4. There must be at least three original songs performed in the movie by the actual artist who recorded it. Each song should take place to heighten the protagonist’s stress.
5. Films should be shot on the highest quality settings possible, never accepting a lower grade just to cut costs.
6. Films should be mainly shot handheld.
7. Director should have a greater vision for multiple branding (theater, video games, art exhibits, clothing line, etc) for the film, keeping the film alive forever.

Body Count Rising: Oh, and let’s talk about the Rocktopia Manifesto. Three original songs are a requirement. “Scumbag” has quite the cast. So who will be performing the three original songs? 

Mars Roberge: Camille Waldorf, who played a girl named Megan, then there’s Princess Frank and Debra Haden who did a duet and a whole musical number. He plays Phil in the movie and she plays Christine. Spookey Ruben does a little song and he plays Junior. En Esch from KMFDM was also in there.

Body Count Rising: You were casting director for “Scumbag” and there were A LOT of big names in the cast. How did you coordinate so that everyone could be together for the film?

Mars Roberge: Well the movie was mainly funded by me, with some Indiegogo support. After 6 days and running out of my initial money, I found I could afford one day per month, so the film was shot over 10 1/2 months. Most of the co-stars have no idea how many other stars are in the movie. There are about 230 starring roles. There are people from Warhol, porn, martial arts… it’s like the party I’ve always wanted to throw! I could only make this film at this point in my life because of the experiences that I’ve had. I’m no longer rebellious. I want to help others. 

Body Count Rising: You have some big punk names in your film. Do you integrate a lot of punk rock into your DJ sets?

Mars Roberge: Absolutely, a punk rock ideology as it would apply to dance music. I owe my sister, Patty Powers, credit for that because she’s a punk rocker from back in the day and a writer and used to do spoken word when Henry Rollins was starting with that. She was really into Johnny Thunders. I grew up with punks around all the time that were older than me. At the same time I was a skateboarder and my Bible was Thrasher Magazine. I listened to Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Fishbone, a Toronto group called Goblyns, T.S.O.L., Dayglo Abortions, all those great bands during the 80s. I think with the way the government is and the environment right now, we’re due for a hardcore punk resurgence. Hardcore was the only way out of Scarborough. That helped get me through my youth. 

Body Count Rising: You started DJing to research for a film, but ended up making it a career. So will this be your next film?

Mars Roberge: Well, “Scumbag” is about a DJ. “The Little House That Could” mentioned how a lot of us had DJ careers, etc... I think all of my films will address this somewhat. It’s one of those subjects that there’s so much to talk about that I have to address it over and over again. I want to make movies that I know, and I know this world. I want my films to be remembered thirty years from now because they really mean something.

Body Count Rising:
In your manifesto you talk about branding. You’ve worked in fashion, music and now film which are all excellent crossovers for marketing. What can we expect from Scumbag and when will it be available for purchase?

Mars Roberge: The premiere should be out in September or the last week of August and then we’ll continue on the festival circuit. After that we’ll wait for the distributors to approach us. We’re also having a huge party at Studio 79 on July 23rd in San Diego during the week of Comic Con (for info go to closer to the date) plus a big party at a gallery in downtown Los Angeles in late November. Once the film is out there, I have so many plans. I have ideas for a second film, a TV series, video games, you name it. I have all kinds of ideas. 

Body Count Rising: Beautiful! With so many involved in your films you’re generating quite the buzz. Do you already have those expressing interest in being in or contributing toward your next film?

Mars Roberge: Yes! The people that turned me down during the first film are expressing interest. I’m keeping close to the people who always believed in me though. If everything goes as planned, I’d love to do a part 2, but I have another film that will be an urban drama. I’d love to do both. I think people can’t relate to you if they don’t know you, so I always try to be as genuine as I can.

Keep up with Mars' latest projects and awards on his IMDb or follow him on Facebook

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Interview with Father of Transgressive Cinema, Nick Zedd of Penetration Films

I don’t open up to people. While I have many acquaintances, I have a very few real friends that truly know me, and while gregarious with cheerful smiles and girly giggles, I am tremendously guarded. I’ve been struggling with this interview for over a month and how to present it. I knew it would possibly be the most important thing I’ve ever written and I needed to honor Nick and his message. It occurred to me that to explain what Nick Zedd means to me I need to open up somewhat about who I am and why his message is so personal, so for the first part of this interview I’m going to be indulgent, but trust me, it will all tie together.

I was raised by two very different people. My mom was much younger than my dad and was from an entirely different generation. She taught me never to trust the government and to question everything. Don’t conform and don’t ever depend on any man to take care of you. You make your own way and the man you choose will be an equal partner. My dad, on the other hand, was one of those staunch “because I said so” guys who I would constantly battle growing up, as I was not supposed to oppose his authority. For years he wouldn’t let my mom get a job, but when she finally did she became a nurse and she changed lives. When they went to the polls to vote, they would just cancel each other out, secretly hoping the other person would forget or stay home. Nick's dad was a lawyer for the post office and was in charge of censoring and reporting items sent through the mail. I'm sure that's where his rebellion against censorship was borne. 

I’ve never been a big fan of the news. It was on at 5:00 PM everyday during dinner while I was growing up. It was terrible and dismal, filled with tales of woe and devastation. It was so much worse than the horror films I wasn’t allowed to watch. At least horror films are art, and the violence is not real. The gore is a product of painstaking hours and hours of setting up and framing a scene, a perfect succession of squibs and other practical effects, until the storyboard comes to life. Horror films are perfectly planned and executed to give the viewer an experience of horrific proportions without any of the actual trauma of believing it could be real. Then one day I realized the news was also fake. 

Being designated as “gifted” in school I always have had a high IQ. In 2nd grade I had my stories published, and was published multiple times in college for my poetry. In high school the faculty sent me to science and music symposiums, and I was even offered the opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in France. Of course my parents declined, stating the French people would molest me. I’m only telling you this because those with a high IQ do have a tendency to internalize struggles within society, and if they can’t change the world they suffer greatly. Some even fall into madness. I say that as an aside, because this is a state where Nick Zedd teeters, constantly on the cusp of madness. I can empathize, but was not there myself, instead choosing to join my college student government and host the first ever voter awareness day where I brought in the candidates to the college. I tutored fellow students and volunteered at the hospital. I was determined to make a change, and I thought it would come from the inside. I would become part of the system. I see now that being part of a flawed system with the intent on change is a fallacy. 

One day, while in college, I came over to visit my parents and as usual they were watching the news. The reporter came on with her background green screen flashing the Dow icon. She reported that Midland Dow did their own research and came to the conclusion that their workers don’t have a significantly higher cancer rate than anywhere else in the country. I was furious. And no one ever questioned this? First of all, a company worth anything will hire an outside researcher to combat research bias. Science and research can be swayed. Maybe you tamper with sample size, location, or constitution, or a t-value when running the stats. It’s unethical, sure, but then so is conducting your own research on your own organization. It was obvious Dow had everything to gain here. Their research probably meant that they couldn’t get sued by the workers suffering from cancer, and they would state the cancer was not related to the work they did at the chemical plant. I never watched the news again. I felt it was deliberate misinformation, or at the very least ignorance and carelessness in what was being reported. 

I went to school with plans to be a doctor. While attending the University of Michigan I did a pre-med internship through Michigan State University in conjunction with the local hospital. My first assignment was to work with doctors on a non-small cell lung cancer research project. I was elated. I wanted to work with the cells under the microscope and could not wait to get started. Reality hit when they stuck me in medical records, researching and entering statistical data. They were looking at the effects of an “experimental” drug on the deadly cancer. Blue Cross/ Blue Shield would pay for the drug and those who received it survived. The people on government subsidized healthcare were the lab rats. They didn’t get the drug, not because the doctors didn’t want to give it, but because the insurance company wouldn’t pay for it. They called it “experimental”. Sadly the patients were the experiment. 

This rocked my world and my earth was thrown entirely off its axis. How could doctors take a Hippocratic Oath to do no harm knowing there are treatments out there they are not offering? Couldn’t this act of negation be complete and utter deception, going against that good they swore to do? So my senior year of college I was lost and depressed. My eyes were open and my life plan was failed. I graduated and aced the internship, but decided I could not be a slave to the insurance companies’ decisions as to who they would dictate as worthy of treatment. I did not take the MCATs and I did not apply to medical school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so much to my parents’ disdain, I worked retail.

A couple years later, I met a man at the mall, who as a stranger, confided way too much for me to consider it a coincidence. He said he was a physician with a private practice and he found a loophole in the system to allow his patients to receive the treatment they needed. He had his office staff falsify the DRGs (diagnostically related groupings) or the code for your ailment when you go to the doctor. He found that if he put in a certain code, even if you don’t have that illness you can get the appropriate treatment for the illness you do have and the insurance companies would pay for it. He said he was investigated and busted for it too. He was on his last free days before he most likely would be sent to jail. I knew I made the right decision at that point. I would have done the same thing. 

Instead I choose to teach. Actually I was recruited at the mall by a teacher and then I choose to teach. After subbing, being observed by the administration and getting my feet wet, the high school asked me to come on full time as a certified teacher. I taught biology, chemistry and research and I had the most amazing students anyone could ask for. They went on as a whole to be superstars in life, so I know I taught them well. We still keep in touch. They’re all in their late 20’s now. There are two things I hope they always remember: be ever alert of research bias and be skeptical of everything that the media, science or any other industry presents.

When I moved to Las Vegas the first person I met (while I happened to be lounging in the pool) was a teacher. He told me horror stories of low pay, gangs and classroom sizes large enough to make your head spin. He told me not to apply, and I didn’t. Instead I went into marketing and was paid a lot more than teaching, plus I absolutely loved it. 

Overall teachers are not paid well, yet we lament poorly educated youth as a society. Yeah, I hear people say you don’t teach for the money. You teach for the love of teaching. Highly intelligent people can also value their fiscal worth. At one point when I was teaching I worked three jobs to make ends meet. Never again. If you want quality teachers, invest in them, otherwise they’ll find a different industry and you’ll be left with what’s left. These children are growing up and making major decisions in life that may some day affect your life, and well, you get what you pay for. Wake up.

So that brings me to today, and this interview, and Zedd’s message. For decades Nick Zedd has used film, publications and the canvas as his media for screaming his message at the top of his lungs to the masses. What is his message? Wake up. Wake up! WAKE UP! Your government officials are betraying you and we live in a police state with a false sense of freedom. We are being given the information the government and mainstream media want us to hear and everything else is censored. Be critical. Question everything. That’s the message of this prolific artist, overly simplified in a nutshell.

Immersed in the heart of the punk rock movement, the philosophic enigma and King of the Underground, Nick Zedd, has been an innovator and pioneer, pushing artistic and social boundaries since the 70’s. The idea of being engaged or even pleasured by visuals that should repulse is at the core of “xenomorphosis”, a theory that Zedd published in his publication, “The Underground Film Bulletin”, and which is cunningly personified in his films. It is this quality that makes Zedd’s films both breakthrough and fundamentally subversive in their “cognitive dissonance”.
“Amos Vogel has said “The essence of cinema is not light, but a secret compact between light and darkness”. Half the time we spend viewing movies is spent in total darkness. With the psychological complicity of the viewer, persistence of vision occurs. The initially demoralizing effect of xenomorphosis, wherein alienation and transformation occurs, can be frightening, infuriating, and shocking to those who have been indoctrinated by an exploitative and hierarchical system. But it is only through this experience of transformation wherein one’s cultural conditioning is subverted, that mutation occurs. Xenomorphosis, triggered during persistence of vision by the use of diametrically opposing variables; ie: libido excitation versus mutilation revulsion, results in a form of cognitive dissonance.” –Nick Zedd, “Theory of Xenomorphosis”
Body Count Rising: In 1984 you first brought us “The Underground Film Bulletin” and you wrote under the name Orion Jeriko. You’ve been open about the fact that this was actually you. Have you published under any other pseudonyms that the public still is completely unaware of to this day?

Nick Zedd: Yes, but I won't say who.

Nick started making films when he was twelve using his father’s Super 8. As an adult, books by the likes of Burroughs, Bukowski and DeSade were inspiration for films that he would unleash on the New York underground scene. “They Eat Scum”, “Thrust in Me”, “Police State” and “War is Menstrual Envy” are some of the more popular Zedd films. And if you’re a filmmaker, you need to see these to really appreciate where film has evolved to today. Collaborating with the likes of Richard Kern, Jack Smith, Lydia Lunch and Lung Leg, the Cinema of Transgression guerrilla, no-budget, fringe filmmaking pushed the limits of taste, with pornography, luridity, amorality, shock, violence and basically anything else that a modern horror fan holds dear.
“Pre-Video Age welfare filmmaking at its very, very best. Zedd’s first feature is likely the most ambitious Super 8 film ever shot, and is certainly the most wildly entertaining of the New York’s independent cinema output of that time.” -Zack Carlson, Destroy all Movies (Discussing Nick Zedd’s “They Eat Scum”)

Body Count Rising: Your love for classic horror is apparent through your work, with various monsters as a recurrent theme and horror sound clips positioned strategically in your films. And I’m sure you grew up glued to “The Outer Limits” just like I did. What horror film makes you really nostalgic, where you just have to smile when you see the title?

Nick Zedd: “Geek Maggot Bingo”.

Note: “Geek Maggot Bingo” also know as “The Freak from Suckweasel Mountain” stars Zacherle and with performances by Richard Hell, Fangoria’s “Uncle Creepy” Bob Martin, and the disorderly ex-girlfriend of Zedd, Donna Death, it’s the die-hard retro horror fan’s must see. Ed French was one of the effects artists and Zedd’s monsters are absolutely to die for. Zedd also gives homage to films of the 40’s-60’s through the scoring. Here’s a “Geek Maggot Bingo” quotable: “If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it and trample on it with straw sandals, it is said that the skin will come off.”

Beyond the discordant aesthetic of his films, Zedd has a strong social commentary that he has been screaming since he could pick up a camera. I once joked to him that he will be properly celebrated once he’s dead. To which he replied, “I already died once, and it didn’t happen.” Of course he was referring to the vicious rumor spread by Richard Kern and that was given homage in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”. Believe me though, Zedd’s not dead baby. Zedd’s not dead.

Body Count Rising: In New York you played your films projected on the sides of buildings for the homeless, an otherwise forgotten and ignored part of humanity, and were attacked for it by society. Is it safe to say that you give the same respect or consideration to all people regardless of race, religion or status?

Nick Zedd: I projected movies onto the sides of buildings for everyone to see until agents from NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs showed up to kill the culture. They must have resented the democratic nature of what I was doing. As usual, no government agency or municipal entity has ever supported me.
“Our movies were a means of asserting our autonomy while the masses were being immersed in an alien Zeitgeist.” –Nick Zedd, White Hot Magazine, Dec. 2011

Body Count Rising: Through struggle and personal torment you have survived because you are driven. Is your message to all of us what has always driven you?

Nick Zedd: Yes.

Body Count Rising: Do you consider yourself a political activist?

Nick Zedd: No. Politics is a fleeting distraction. In the 21st century, politics is a farcical simulation of class war programmed for the masses by think tanks who control everything. Controlled corporate media pushes political struggles as a form of reality TV. No mention is made of touch-screen voting machines with no paper trails that are used to steal elections. I have found that individual human creativity has more lasting value than so-called politics yet is completely ignored, avoided and discouraged by those who control the flow of information around the world. That being said, I support the grassroots political revolution represented by the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. We need socialist answers to today's problems.

Body Count Rising: Through the Cinema of Transgression you’ve torn down boundaries and mocked taboos to extremes. Is there a line you would not cross to get your message out?

Nick Zedd: I couldn't say.
“Ironically one of the things in the van that got through was a .45 caliber revolver used in a performance. I guess customs thought it was less dangerous than my movies.” –Nick Zedd, “Totem of the Depraved” (On having his films confiscated by Canadian customs)

Body Count Rising: You use film, art and subversity as a medium to communicate strong warnings with a call to action associated in an almost Orwellian sense. You have been harassed in America and completely banned from other countries. Do you feel America listening yet?

Nick Zedd: No.
“All values must be challenged. Nothing is sacred. Everything must be questioned and reassessed in order to free our minds from the faith of tradition. Intellectual growth demands that risks be taken and changes occur in political, sexual and aesthetic alignments no matter who disapproves.” –Nick Zedd, “The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto”
Body Count Rising: With accessibility regarding the onset of the internet, has your voice grown more diligent as you are reaching the masses so quickly and efficiently?

Nick Zedd: It's just a different platform.

Body Count Rising: Besides being directly harassed by the police, which inspired your film “Police State” have you been persecuted or monitored by the American government for being so outspoken, or in your words “threatening the status quo”?

Nick Zedd: Yes, like everyone else who uses a computer I am monitored. I wouldn't say that I'm persecuted. I doubt that I'm important enough for anyone in the government to notice me.

Note: At this point I was moved and wept. As a poignant voice that has spanned generations, this broke my heart. His importance is unparalleled.

Body Count Rising: I'm sure you're being cynical, and if not, please understand that I consider you one of the most important voices of our generation. You have pushed boundaries and broken barriers. You have changed the face of what we now know as modern film and have spoken out fearlessly against political oppressors. I don't take this lightly at all.

Nick Zedd: It means a lot, what you said.

Body Count Rising: What are your feelings about the current political landscape?

Nick Zedd: I consider the current political landscape to be a mine field populated by clowns and charlatans with occasional exceptions to the rule. Politics as usual has failed miserably and the level of unrest and dissatisfaction among the masses whose lives have been adversely affected by 15 years of national recession has reached a critical mass which explains the rise of anti-establishment candidates like Sanders and Trump whose appeal lies in their refusal to follow conventional narratives prescribed by the puppet masters of the corporate global elite. The lies and myths disseminated on a daily basis by clueless pundits and experts in media internalizing the agenda of a malignant oligarchy no longer convince anyone. Their propaganda is failing and the illegitimate policies of predatory capitalists and their puppets in government are finally being exposed and rejected by a majority of the people, despite the lies being peddled by controlled corporate media.

Body Count Rising: You had stated in a previous interview that you moved to Mexico City basically because you became disillusioned with the gentrification of New York City and the overall shunning of true artists. You did not mention American politics. Did that also play a role in your decision to leave the country?

Nick Zedd: American politics played no role in my decision to leave the country. Such things are far removed from my life. 

Body Count Rising: You also indicated that like America, Mexico caters to the least common denominator to maximize profit regarding mass promotion of the arts, yet you have been able to find your audience there. What unique challenges have you encountered with presenting your art in Mexico, and how did you overcome these?

Nick Zedd: They are the same challenges that exist in the USA; near total dominance of all channels of communication by property owners, gatekeepers and compromised directors of institutional structures. Rampant conservatism and timidity is everywhere. But when one venue or forum collapses, another arises to take its place. Such is the nature of being an "outsider" in our world. The fact that 99% of the people I've encountered in Mexico are liars hasn't helped. Lying is now the norm everywhere, including in the United Snakes of Amerika. Being honest is a unique challenge in a world full of liars. I overcome obstacles by going around them or ignoring them until I find somebody who knows what they're doing. When such people make themselves useful, change becomes possible.

Body Count Rising: Has becoming a father and ultimately the thought of your own mortality increased the urgency of your message?

Nick Zedd: No. When I was younger there was a greater sense of urgency because I hadn't done anything yet.

Body Count Rising: It’s clear that your child has inspired your art. Is the fact that you use your own bodily fluids in the creation of your art pieces analogous with giving birth to the piece so that in effect it is a part of you?

Nick Zedd: Indubitably.

Note: Zedd lives in Mexico City with his amazingly talented artist wife, Monica and his quirky little prodigy. May they always continue to inspire each other, changing lives, history and waking-up society as a whole. Zedd continues to show his formidable works at galleries and in clubs while DJing sets. He is vibrant, opinionated and accessible. If you don’t hear his message you’re deliberately not listening.

Body Count Rising: “Mutant Disco”, “Death Rock”, “Ordeal Art” and even your name. These were all coined by you, but stolen from you throughout your life. When you hear that there are multiple DJs out there carrying some permutation of your name, do you take it as an homage, or are you disgusted?

Nick Zedd:
Disgusted. I hate copycats. Doesn't everyone?

Body Count Rising: Do you have any interest in doing a definitive Nick Zedd collection on Blu-ray?

Nick Zedd: I don't care. I'm focused on other things. If anybody stepped forward with an offer to put out such a thing I might be interested.

If you’re that person, here is Nick’s GoFundMe, and thanks in advance. Keep up with Nick’s projects on his official website, check out information on his films on his IMDb profile or follow him on Facebook.
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