HorrorHound Weekend 2010: Neil Autry

Neil Autry and his Amazing Shirts

Neil Autry, Proprietor

Y Spy: Who are you and why are you here?

Neil Autry: My name is Neil Autry, and I own Western Evil, and we are currently running a booth at HorrorHound Weekend.

Y Spy: Did you make these cross-stitches yourself?

Autry: Yes. My girlfriend sews these professionally, and she’s going to be opening a website for them soon. She’s done them all by hand, and all original designs, each unique in their own way.

Y Spy: Did you make the shirts yourselves as well?

Autry: Yeah. I do all my own designing. I don’t silk screen them; I send them out, and they’re sent back to me. We have such great designs as the “C.H.U.D. Nelson” and “Your mom swallows period blood.”

[At this point, I noticed the C.H.U.D. Nelson t-shirt, which features the head of a cannibalistic underdweller on the body of the bad boy from “The Breakfast Club.” For a few seconds, I’m stunned by its magnificence.]

Y Spy: So how did you get Elvira’s tits in a box?

Autry: She actually posted a thing on her website connecting to her eBay store. She was having an estate sale; she sold a lot of rare items and autographs. Among the things that caught my eye was the fact that she was selling a life-cast bust of her tits. I paid $198 for Elvira’s tits, and really only had to outbid one person. It’s completely bizarre; you’d think something as historical as Elvira’s tits would bring more than $198.

When I purchased them on eBay they were said to be from the “Haunted Hills” Elvira, but I recently had them signed and she informed me that they were from “Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold.”

Y Spy: How awesome of a marketing technique has charging to see Elvira’s tits worked out?

Autry: I have had a lot of people buying $2 stickers and $1.25 pins just to take a look at Elvira’s tits. It’s working out, slowly but surely. I definitely made my money back.

Y Spy: What scares you?

Autry: Death! Actually dying.

Best for Job Interviews, Bar Mitzvahs, and Funerals.

C.H.U.D. Nelson and his friends can be found at www.westernevil.com.

HorrorHound Weekend 2010: Mister Hamilton

Mister Hamilton

Mr. Hamilton, Artisan, Sideshow Performer, and Owner of a Sweet Mustache

Y Spy: Who are you and why are you here?

Mr. Hamilton: My name is Mr. Hamilton, and I am a sideshow performer. I’m here to perform tonight and sell my artwork.

Y Spy: What do you do in your performances?

Hamilton: I do hula-hoop tricks; I put hands and other body parts into mousetraps and rattraps, have shit smashed on my body with sledgehammers. But mainly I talk.

Y Spy: What do you talk about?

Hamilton: Whatever comes to my mind at the moment. I’m called a talker; it’s kind of an emcee, but goofier.

Y Spy: Like a carnival barker?

Hamilton: No, a barker is a hack. We look down on the barkers. With sideshow talkers, there’s an outside talker and an inside talker. The inside talker is more of an intimate emcee and explains what’s happening with the show as you’re watching it. They do a lot of improvisation, cause they’ve gotta work with live audiences, drunks, and morons – and also some really educated, fun people. So you gotta play off of them.

Y Spy: When did you begin pursuing your interests?

Hamilton: I’ve always been a talker. I’ve done a lot of improvisational theater, a lot of street performing. I’ve always been a bit of a ham. The artwork I’ve always done as well, and I realized that I can do these shows and be creative and combine it all.

The first time I put my dick in a mousetrap was last year. We had this ongoing thing where for a hundred dollars I would do it. We played a fetish night at a gay bar in Champagne-Urbana. We performed at this thing, my old troupe and myself. We did the usual offer, and no one’s taking us up on it, when a little voice in the back goes: “Hold on, I’m going to the cash machine!” At that point I realized that I have to do this! I thought about the logistics and physics of it, and thankfully it went off without a hitch.

Y Spy: You didn’t take any practice runs before?

Hamilton: Nope! I’d been putting them on my tongue. The rat traps are very dangerous, though; I would not put my dick in a rat trap. With a rat trap, if you do it right, it’ll hurt like hell. If you do it wrong, you’ll fuck yourself up.

Y Spy: How do you go about making your art?

Hamilton: These are original paintings, and then I took my paintings and made a laser print. These are called bas-reliefs, which are images that pop from a background pieces. The backgrounds are just pieces of wood with fur and bits of fabric on them. With the front, I color copy the painting and use a template to cut everything out, and then I hit it with glitter glue, because everything looks better when it looks like a transvestite took a shit on it.

Y Spy: I’m in full agreement.

Hamilton: You should have seen my prom date! I looked great afterwards! Couldn’t walk right for a week, but I was shiny, like a vampire in the sun!

Y Spy: What do you do when you’re not working conventions?

Hamilton: I’m from Austin, Texas. I emcee once a month at a thing called “Sessions,” which is like an Austin City Limits showcase. I also work at a place called the Museum of the Weird. In future shows I’m going to be traveling with the Oddity Museum. I tour quite a bit with my sideshow, which varies from member to member. I’ve yet to tour with the same person twice.

Y Spy: Is there a reason behind that?

Hamilton: I am a fucking taskmaster! Nah. Circus performers do things called spots. You do a spot somewhere. They are more transient, and they’ll get offers, because there’s not many of us. A lot of people do it, but sideshow performing is a lot like burlesque or poetry. It’s often really horrible, or else it’s all right, or else it’s fucking amazing. There’s a giant gap between all right and amazing, so a good performer is often in high demand. I work with people from Coney Island, and for my next tour I’m probably going to be performing with one or two ex-Jim Rose Circus people.

Y Spy: So you just don’t want to be stuck in one place.

Hamilton: Yes, and it’s also about coordinating. If you’ve ever had a band, doing shows with four consistent people is difficult. One guy has a job and a house, one guy’s a big asshole and no fun to travel with, and another guy’s on drugs. It’s the same thing for sideshow performers, but we have more places to go.

For this particular performance, I’m working with a gentleman who does contact juggling, and I took him up from Texas with me. I’m going to be collaborating with one of the Horror Hosts; he’s gonna be eating razor blades. Another Horror Host from Dark Carnival will be doing a blockhead routine; we’ll be hammering nails into his head. The band Shriek is going to be doing some incidental music behind us. It’s nice to be able to collaborate.

Y Spy: How easy is it to keep your life running?

Hamilton: You have to have the right attitude. Is it easy? Probably not, but it’s all I do. If you love doing something, whatever it is, you’ll have a better chance of success at that thing than anything else. If you hate something, even if you’re successful, you’ll be resentful.

Do I make a lot of money? Sometimes. Most times, not. It’s a feast or famine situation, but I’m always doing what I love doing, so I don’t notice the time going by. We were on the train coming up, and it was a 23 hour train ride from Texas to St. Louis, where we caught a ride with a friend to here. And the gentleman I’m with, he’s bored shitless, while I’m like, that was the shortest train ride ever! But the whole time, I was painting and finishing up my artwork. I didn’t even notice.

Y Spy: What can I expect tonight?

Hamilton: I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, hopefully shocked, possibly amazed.

Mr. Hamilton can be found at www.museumoftheweird.com, and on Facebook under the fan page “Mister Hamilton.”

HorrorHound Weekend 2010: The Zombie Rights Campaign

The Zombie Rights Campaign

The Zombie Rights Campaign

Y Spy: Who are you and why are you here?

Zombie Rights Guy: We are the Zombie Rights Campaign. We are here to promote the cause of zombie rights and try to reduce the anti-zombie hostility in the horror community.

Y Spy: What is the history of zombie oppression?

Guy: Zombies were long used as manual labor by voodoo witch doctors, and then the U.S. government created a lot of them with secret programs and chemicals, usually for cannon fodder. Recently, they’re something you take out your aggression on. If there’s an apocalypse, you blame the zombies. You occupy a mall and start shooting everyone around who doesn’t have a heartbeat. It’s really unfair.

Zombie Rights Girl: You make a game out of discovering how many you can kill, in how many different ways. These are people. This is not how you treat people.

Y Spy: Will mankind always be looking for a scapegoat? Did the Civil Rights campaigns of the 60’s force our society to find another target?

Guy: Zombies are a convenient target. If you can’t oppress the living, people are generally willing to oppress the dead.

Y Spy: Like Jesus!

Guy: He did come back from the dead after three days. We would let him into the Zombie Rights Campaign!

Girl: That is an explanation, but it’s not an excuse. This is another stage in the process of trying to make it so that we give everyone an equal shake, an equal share of respect.

Y Spy: Are zombie rights similar to animal rights?

Girl: That is a harmful stereotype. We have this idea that’s perpetrated by the media, by movies, by George Romero especially, that zombies are mindless automatons; all they want is to eat our flesh. People don’t realize that zombies are more than the desire for brains. They have higher desires, like anyone. They enjoy art, they enjoy culture, they want to live, and they want to have families. They want to have all the things that we do, but they’re not allowed.

Y Spy: Is George Romero the Glenn Beck of zombies?

Girl: I think that’s giving Glenn Beck too much credit.

Guy: George Romero’s been around a lot longer, to be fair.

Y Spy: But in “Day of the Dead” he did make an intelligent zombie. He did seem to open himself up to the idea that they were more than just rabid animals.

Girl: It’s a step in the right direction, but we haven’t seen anything more, from him or media in general.

Guy: It’s a small step forward, to go from zombies that you just kill to zombies that you lock in a room and teach repetitive antics.

Y Spy: How did you feel about the ending to “Shaun of the Dead,” when zombies became megamart employees?

Girl: That’s sort of admitting the possibility that they can be useful, but they’re being used. They’re not being treated as people who went out and got a job. And there are the other depictions of them being used for reality shows. We wouldn’t do that to living people, but it’s alright to do it to the undead.

Guy: It’s clear that Shaun knows better, because he protects his zombie friend and they play games together. They share a living environment; they share video games and fun.

Girl: This is another bright spot, but those bright spots are few.

Y Spy: Why do zombies never eat dogs in movies?

Guy: Maybe dogs aren’t tasty. Some people eat dogs, so I don’t know why zombies would be averse to it.

Girl: Maybe there haven’t been movies with Korean zombies.

Y Spy: That brings up another idea: that zombies only eat humans because that’s all there is to eat in an urban setting. There aren’t any cows in the middle of a city street. You go for what’s available, like what people do when they go to McDonald’s.

Girl: But why can’t zombies just go to McDonald’s?

Guy: They wouldn’t be allowed in McDonald’s. It would be a violation of the health code.

Y Spy: But a smelly guy can go to McDonald’s. There are some pretty rotten people who can get in while still alive.

Guy: But then we’re getting into the issue of passing for a living person, and a zombie shouldn’t have to pass for a living person to order a Big Mac.

Y Spy: How can people help your campaign?

Girl: We’d just like to get the word out so people start thinking about how they feel about and act toward zombies, and whether those attitudes are at all justified.

Y Spy: Is there any danger that acceptance will turn into patronization? Will there be people who befriend zombies not because of who they are, but because they’re zombies?

Girl: That’s a possibility, and another thing we have to worry about. But we’re not even to that point yet, which is perhaps worse.

Guy: Maybe someday Stephen Colbert will have his one zombie friend along with his one black friend. Even that would be a step forward.

Y Spy: Would zombies have a place in a Gene Roddenberry Star Trek utopia?

Guy: Well, Spock came back from the dead!

The Zombie Rights Campaign can be found at www.zombierightscampaign.org.

HorrorHound Weekend 2010: Emil Hyde

Emil Hyde

Emil Hyde, Filmmaker

Y Spy: Who are you and why are you here?

Emil Hyde: My name is Emil Hyde, and I’m here at HorrorHound Weekend promoting our film, “The Landlord!”

Y Spy: What is “The Landlord” about?

Hyde: “The Landlord” is a heartwarming tale of a young man who inherits a demon-infested apartment building from his devil-worshipping parents, and with it the responsibility for finding new tenants for the demons to devour, and cleaning up the mess when they’re done!

Y Spy: Is this your first time as a director?

Hyde: Yes. This is my first time directing a real movie. We had a few cases where it was just us running around a backyard with camcorders. Those don’t count.

Y Spy: What is the difference between then and now?

Hyde: Money. And people.

Y Spy: How much did it cost to make this movie?

Hyde: This movie cost an affordable $20,000 to produce, paid largely on credit cards. The other ones cost about $175.

Y Spy: What is your take on horror?

Hyde: You can’t watch a “horror” movie; you’re always watching an individual movie. You might be watching our film, which some might call a horror-comedy. I don’t know how one can say: “I don’t like horror-comedies,” when there’s probably one out there that’s good. I generally don’t like remakes, but occasionally you’ll get something like the remake of “The Hills have Eyes” that kind of kick ass. There’s an audience for the genre, and as for the art itself, there’s good films and bad films.

Y Spy: What has the reaction been thus far to “The Landlord?”

Hyde: We started showing it at film festivals in August, and as with any little film that doesn’t have the Hollywood bullhorn people were looking at us as if we were trying to sell them a vial of the Ebola virus. But as word got out that it was a really funny film – almost a sitcom version of “Hellraiser” – and not just another backyard zombie film, it’s been getting easier and easier to sell.

Y Spy: Would you be okay with making a Hollywood film, considering all its restrictions?

Hyde: You’re dealing with some major restrictions when you’re working on the independent level. Yes. I’d absolutely take a job doing a Hollywood movie. I’d figure out how to fuck with the system later.

Y Spy: Is there anything coming down the pipe?

Hyde: Yeah, we’re working on a couple of projects. One that you’ll probably be hearing about soon is called “The Dog Cage.” We’ll be producing a graphic novel first and a movie later. You should be hearing about that this fall.

The Landlord

“The Landlord” is available now. More information can be found at www.thelandlordmovie.com.

HorrorHound Weekend 2010: Sean Clark

Sean Clark, with Hare Krishna Zombie

Sean Clark, Filmmaker, Writer

Y Spy: Who are you and why are you here?

Sean Clark: My name is Sean Clark, and I’m here because my parents had sex.

Y Spy: Why are you in this room? Same reason?

Clark: No, they had nothing to do with that part. I’m here promoting my movie, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond,” which I wrote and produced. It’s coming out on about 350 screens. I also write for HorrorHound Magazine, who is putting on this show. So I’m here pulling double duty.

Y Spy: What is the movie about?

Clark: About 90 minutes. [Punny laughter] That never gets old. It’s about nine friends who every year get together and take a trip. This year they rent a Victorian house on a private island. Through a series of circumstances they uncover a hidden room in the basement of the house that has all these artifacts from an excavation in the early 1900s in Turkey. One of the things they find appears to be a game, so they take it upstairs and start playing it. As they play the game it turns them against each other. It’s kind of a possession thing, but it affects everyone differently. What it ends up being are nine friends on an island, stalking each other.

Y Spy: Is it more of a psychological thriller or a straight horror film?

Clark: It’s got a lot of elements of everything. There’s a lot of psychological horror, there’s a thriller aspect, there’s a slasher aspect, and a supernatural aspect. It’s different. That’s what I think fans will appreciate. It isn’t the same bullshit that they’re used to being spoonfed. I’ve had real positive feedback. One of the best compliments [I’ve received] is that it’s original. It’s not a remake; it’s something new.

Y Spy: So what’s your take on the current state of horror?

Clark: Fear is an adrenaline rush. That’s why we love to be scared. We love to be able to go to a movie and get the shit scared out of us, but be safe. Nowadays it is fucking hard to be scared in a movie. I am so disconnected, or perhaps inundated with horror that it’s very hard to get scared. The last movie I saw that genuinely freaked me out was when I went to a screening of “Session 9” in a big empty theater. It’s one of my favorite movies. It’s really hard to scare people nowadays, and I hope I can achieve that in my career.

There’s a lot of good stuff coming out, more independent. All the big studios are interested in now is capitalizing on a title and remaking it. They’re not even remaking the movies so much as just taking the name. Some of them are nothing like the original. They’re pointless. And it’s paying off! At the end of the day, all they care about is money. The filmmaker has integrity, but he’s at the mercy of the people who are financing it.

Y Spy: Is it harder to scare audiences because modern horror films are putting less emphasis on characterization?

Clark: I agree with that. One thing you will notice about “Black Waters,” something that I am very strict about: I am big, big, big on character development. The first 45 minutes of this movie almost plays out like “The Breakfast Club.” It’s people sitting around, and you’re getting to know them and their relationships. You genuinely care about these characters when the shit starts to hit the fan. That’s important to me.

Let’s take the last “Friday the 13th” remake. You didn’t give a shit about any of those people. When they start getting offed, it means nothing to you. When I’m in a slasher film, I wanna know that I want the bitch to get killed, I wanna know that I want the cool guy to live. It frustrates me when I see movies that are just gratuitous. I want people to care.

Y Spy: How was writing and producing this movie?

Clark: It was completely independent. We had investors, and for the most part they left us alone. There was nobody breathing down our neck. We did have a schedule, and it did get tight at times. There were a couple things we had to comply to, put a couple of people in the movie who they wanted. Beyond that they let us do what we wanted to do. It was a lot of freedom. As a writer, I was completely spoiled. I’ll probably never have an experience as good as this again.

Y Spy: What is your writing experience, and how did you end up writing this film?

Clark: I’ve been trying to get my original scripts off the ground since about 1999. This is my first theatrical. I’ve written stuff that’s been optioned, almost was made. This is the first thing that’s actually been made. It’s finally happening. The experience of writing it was great. The constant rewrites were challenging, especially rewrites during filming, which happened a lot. There was a major location that we lost at the 11th hour that really changed things. I had to come up with something new. Beyond that it was great.

As far as writing for HorrorHound, it’s a completely different thing. I’m not so much a journalist for HorrorHound; I write a specific feature article called “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds,” which is a retrospective on the filming locations of a classic film. I pick one per issue and do that. I’m not having to interview people and go to press junkets and screenings. I did that before; I used to write for Dread Central and bloodydisgusting.com. I did that for years and am trying to get away from that, doing more of my own creative thing.

Y Spy: What are you planning next?

Clark: I’m writing a script called “Sugar,” which is a horror film. I want that to be my directorial debut. I’ve been finishing the “Nightmare on Elm Street” episode of “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds,” the TV version of it. That’s gonna be on the new “Nightmare on Elm Street” documentary, “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.” That’s coming out at the end of April. It’s all filmed; we’re just editing right now.

Y Spy: What frightens you?

Clark: Not a whole lot, to be honest. I guess I have a fear of heights. I mean super high. You’ll never catch me sky-diving.

The Black Waters of Echo's Pond

“The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is out now. Visit www.theblackwaters.com for more details.

HorrorHound Weekend 2010: Cory J. Udler

Cory J. Udler

Cory J. Udler – Filmmaker

Y Spy: Who are you and why are you here?

Cory J. Udler: My name is Cory Udler, and the reason I’m here is because I work for Full Moon Entertainment out of Hollywood, California. I come and schlep Angry Dolls and shit like that to fans at conventions, but I’m also here because I wrote and edited and directed “Incest Death Squad,” starring the lovely and talented, sexy Lloyd Kaufman of Troma fame.

Y Spy: What is an Incest Death Squad?

Udler: That is a brother and sister duo who obviously love each other a lot, and kill tourists in the name of God.

Y Spy: How does Kaufman fit in?

Udler: Lloyd is a newspaper editor who wants more stories about dead hookers, and he’s very upset that people haven’t gotten stories about dead hookers. They’re doing stories on spelling bees, but he wants more dead hookers, butchered in bathtubs.

Y Spy: What about dead hookers in spelling bees?

Udler: You know I never thought about that, but Lloyd is here, so you should ask him if that’s acceptable!

Y Spy: Did Lloyd go method for this role?

Udler: I think he did. I think he went totally method, and by method I mean he was on meth when he was doing it. But Lloyd is so funny, because he’s insane. He’s going nuts, and you think he’s going to burst a blood vessel in his head, but then afterwards he’s very nice and soft-spoken and very gentle and intelligent. It’s funny because it’s a big contrast. But I know that Lloyd likes dead hookers and crush porn and reach-arounds and all of these wonderful things, so he fit right in with “Incest Death Squad.”

Y Spy: How did you get a hold of him?

Udler: How it went down was I had written the script for “Incest Death Squad” years and years ago, and I always said that this is a Troma movie, whether Troma produces it or I produce it myself. They had on the website a thing that said, “Lloyd’s looking for the next film script! Send it in!” So I sent him the script to “Incest Death Squad,” and I’m waiting, and a month later I get a phone call from Lloyd. He goes, “I love this script! It’s wonderful! It’s fantastic! We don’t have a billion dollars to produce whatever we want, but if you ever do it, good luck, keep in touch, and I’ll come and be in it for you.” That was the catalyst for me to make the movie, and he held true on his promise. We shot with him in Chicago a year ago.

Y Spy: How easy was it to put the movie together?

Udler: For me it was easy, because I went to school for editing and videography. I had a vision in my head about how I wanted the movie to be, and I was in charge of everything. I wrote, directed, produced, and cast it, and then I got it done and edited the whole thing as I went along. We finished shooting in June and I had the entire post-production done by the middle of July.

Y Spy: How much did you doing everything yourself affect the film’s cost?

Udler: That saved me a ton of money! Any independent filmmaker: learn to do as much as you can! You will save incredible amounts of money, and headache, too. I know a lot of guys who just want to do the vision and direct it, but then they need somebody to DP, and edit, and do sound design. All the technical stuff. It costs them a shitload of money and it takes forever to get it done. The budget for the movie was about $8,000 tops, and that included new equipment. To make the movie itself was about $2,500 to $3,000. No budget, and that’s because I did everything.

Y Spy: How did the increased availability of high-grade technology affect that?

Udler: If you have $200, you can go online and download some free editing software, scriptwriting software, and you can get a camera. I have a little Samsung that I bought at Best Buy for about $140, and you could make a feature on it. It all depends on what kind of movie you want to make. As a low-budget filmmaker you have to be realistic about what you can do. You can write a script that has a massive zombie invasion of the Prussian Army, and you go, “I can’t really do that, so how am I going to make it work? Instead, I’ll have a brother and sister who fuck each other and kill tourists, and I’ll pop Lloyd in there.” There’s your exploitation!

If you have a camera and you can get some of this stuff for free, that’s the best way to do it. Like Lloyd says, just make your own damn movie! Anybody right now can make a movie. I know a lot of people complain about that, but the guys who complain are guys who came in when it was 35 mm. They made movies at a time when you had to prove to people that you weren’t going to lose their money. Now anybody with $2,000 can make a movie. I think that’s great!

Y Spy: Does that redefine the old term, “B-movie?”

Udler: The term “B-movie” comes from the drive-ins. There was an A-picture, which was usually “Star Wars,” and there would be a B-picture, which would be “Alpha Incident.” Now, I don’t think that B-pictures exist anymore. You either have a budget or you don’t.

Y Spy: You’re either a big studio, or everyone else.

Udler: You’re either “Avatar,” or you’re “Incest Death Squad.” There’s nothing in-between. It’s incest, or it’s blue Smurf things flying around in 3-D. Hopefully we can do the next one in 3-D.

Y Spy: What else have you been up to, and what are you planning to do next?

Udler: Right now we’re in production for “Incest Death Squad 2.” We just started; we’ll probably have the premiere in September. I’ve also been writing movies for grindhouse legend Ted V. Mikels. I wrote his last two movies, which were “Demon Haunt” and “Astro Zombies 3.” I write films, I work for Full Moon, I just finished a documentary called “I Made My Own Damn Movie and Lived to Tell About It.” That will be on the “Produce Your Own Damn Movie” box set from Troma.

Y Spy: How has the reaction to “Incest Death Squad” been?

Udler: Amazing. We’ve gotten a tremendous response from around the world. We’ve sent it everywhere, and everybody gets back to us. That’s the one thing that I say: please just let me know what you thought. Good, bad, or indifferent. It helps you grow as a filmmaker. People get back and say: “I can’t believe this! I can’t believe what you did in this movie! It’s crazy, it’s insane, it’s sick, and I love it!” It’s really been gratifying to see people embrace it and make it their own. As a filmmaker, you make it, but once you turn it over, it’s theirs.

Y Spy: What’s the worst reaction you’ve gotten?

Udler: The worst reaction and outrage I got was from Fangoria Magazine. The dude who reviewed it freaked out! He freaked out because he knew incest survivors to begin with, so I had one strike there, but he hated everything about it. He said it was like a home movie, like I shot it with my friends, that the direction was terrible, some of the acting was okay, the stunt casting sucked. What was great was people started defending the movie in the comments section. Fans of the movie stepped up. It’s not about the reviewers.

Y Spy: How much of the negative reaction is solely due to the title?

Udler: They’re done! They’ve already made up their mind. But the title more often than not sells it to people. They see “Incest Death Squad” and say: “I’ve gotta own this!” For the exploitation crowd, they go nuts for it. Nobody embraces stuff like the horror community.

Y Spy: What’s your favorite psychological horror movie?

Udler: “Texas Chainsaw” always got under my skin. “Night of the Living Dead” I liked. “Exorcist” of course is always frightening. I don’t know if it’s a horror movie, but “El Topo” from Alejandro Jodorowski, and also “The Holy Mountain” from him was crazy. But if you go back and watch Ingmar Bergman’s “Virgin Spring,” that’s a creepy movie! There’s a lot of stuff outside of the horror genre that’s creepier than the stuff that horror folks are doing.

I used to watch “The Incredibly Strange Film Show” with Jonathan Ross. He would interview all these crazy filmmakers, and that was what turned me on to these weird, crazy movies. Basically I like the grindhouse/exploitation movies more than horror movies, so that’s what I really embraced. A lot of the stuff that’s popular now are zombie movies, slasher in the woods, teeny vampires. So when a movie like “Incest Death Squad” comes out, there’s no ambiguity. This is as graphic and grotesque and offensive and smutty a film as I could make, and the second one’s going to be even worse.

Y Spy: What scares you?

Udler: Failure.

Incest Death Squad

“Incest Death Squad” can be found at www.incestdeathsquad.com. “Incest Death Squad 2” comes out September 17th.

Life among the Dead/Alive: HorrorHound Weekend 2010

Gary Indiana: Hell on Earth

Appropriately enough, the most terrifying thing to happen during the last weekend of March – a weekend I spent among grim reapers, zombies, stilt-Nazis, and filmmakers – was driving through Gary, Indiana. NOBODY has made a fiction that is as frightening as Gary, Indiana.

The driver of our adventure took us through the hell that doubles as both Chicago’s Toilet and Michael Jackson’s birthplace in his girlfriend’s Prius. The car was as out of place as a drag queen giving a lap dance to Bono at a tractor pull. When I made the mistake of cracking a window, the outside air swooped inside our climate-controlled sanctuary, shat itself, and then died. The Gary-Air belied a greater desperation which seeped into every inch of the landscape. Thankfully, the safer pastures of Indianapolis awaited, and the ghouls of HorrorHound Weekend made us forget about the devastation – well, at least until we had to drive back home.

THIS is the best that Gary, Indiana has to offer.

* * *

One of the main reasons why I had decided to tag along with my friends and come to March’s HorrorHound Weekend was because of the adventures they had at the previous con during the past November. The big story from that weekend involved a crowd of people getting stuck in an elevator for an extended period of time. Some of them freaked out, while a few had a blast. My friends were in the latter camp.

Another elevator story came from that weekend, when a friend of mine ended up in an elevator with scream queen Linnea Quigley. This time there was no surrounding group, just him and her. Having been one of horror’s hottest babes in her prime, you’d think that he’d have been thrilled at the erotic possibilities, but as it turned out, she just mumbled a lot, laughed at random moments, and scared the crap out of him.

Yet the strangest thing to come out of November’s convention were the series of baffling texts I received from this same person, who kept telling me that James Duval was a cool guy. Duval, whom I’ve always knocked for coming off as an indie film version of Keanu Reeves, apparently took my pal under his wing and showed him his latest film, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond.” According to my friend, both the film and the actor were pretty alright.

The stories from that convention made me want to go to the next one.  And I’m glad I did.

* * *

Still, we were stuck in Gary for much longer than we had hoped, however, and as a result we didn’t arrive on Friday’s scene until the day’s events were almost over. We received our blue wristbands and stuck our toes into the pool, not stopping at any one exhibit until we hit the mask room, where I conducted the night’s only interview.

I dunno... do you think people will get it?

Of course my first interview of the weekend would be with a guy who made a movie called “Incest Death Squad!” There just wasn’t any way around this glaring appropriateness. As I followed my group into the mask room, where a vast array of horror-themed costumes greeted the spectators, I found myself at a booth manned by Cory Udler, the film’s director. Eager to get the word out, he handed me a copy of “Incest Death Squad” after the interview was over, autographing it with the tagline: “Incest is best!”

* * *

Friday night was spent in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel, where we drank overpriced drinks and watched a crowd filled with podcasters, internet dignitaries, and the costumed. Among the ghoulish guys and scantily clad ladies were two characters of note: a woman with orange hair and turquoise skin, and a guy who came off as a recently-electrified green goblin. A few legends mingled among the masses, most notably the great horror propagandist Joe Bob Briggs and actor Sid Haig. My friends met old acquaintances made from previous conventions, and we stood around plotting our next move.

Suckup.

We met Lloyd Kaufman at the entrance of the hotel. Originally our plan was to go to a karaoke bar with a crowd of podcasters, but we decided that we didn’t want to shell out money for a drunk taxi and were returning to the bar. As we approached the Marriott’s revolving door, we saw Kaufman standing at the drop-off, holding a bag and looking around. We approached this titan of Bizarro cinema with reverent caution. While there were plenty of horror legends in attendance at HorrorHound Weekend – including George Romero of “Living Dead” fame, Clive Barker of “Hellraiser,” and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark – Kaufman was really the guy we had come to see. Yet he was incredibly gracious – a quality that I suppose comes in handy when encountering lines of hundreds of people who come bearing similar adulations. I told him that I was excited to see him in “Incest Death Squad,” and he agreed to do an interview for the next day. Kaufman soon made a quick exit, and my comrades and I went back to wandering.

Later on, I made a brief return to our scummy-ass motel across the street, and when I came back there was a leather-clad dandy behind a miniature piano in the corner of the bar.

First Jason, Fucking Shit Up.

“Dude,” one of my friends said, “that’s the first Jason Voorhees!”

Indeed he was. Ari Lehman, who played the child version of the hockey mask hacker in the first “Friday the 13th” movie, was ready to rock. He lit a candelabrum, placed it upon the piano, and proceeded to blow us away.

Following this performance came more waiting, more standing around. The crowd in the lobby was impatient for the next day to begin, but unwilling to sleep away the time between. It was late when the masses broke off and returned to their respective rooms, and even when we fell asleep to the televised whore-mongering monologues of Artie Lange, we were impatient.

* * *

We woke the next morning, ready to go. After a fast food breakfast and a few laps around the convention floor, I got to work. The floor was packed with sightseers and autograph seekers, so my first order of business was approaching all manner of prospective interviewees and putting out the vibe, asking them if they’d be interested in a few minutes of conversation once the crowds died down.

One thing I noticed throughout the day was the amount of people who wore (or occasionally sold) t-shirts with disturbing statements on them. It seemed that for those who didn’t come in full costume, a snarky message would suffice. The first person interviewed on Saturday was no exception to this idea. His message: “Dead Girls Do Anal.”

Here's Another.

* * *

Following a goofed-up interview with film legend Tom Noonan, I decided to switch off journalist mode for a bit and wander the floor. I met assorted ghouls and monsters, a couple wearing hospital scrubs splattered with post-natal blood (with baby still attached), a ten foot tall gas-masked fascist type, and a pair of girls sporting facial road rashes. In the hallway, Elvira was flanked by an autograph line that ran as far as I could see, while in the men’s room, a giant guy in full Michael Myers costume was asked by another person if he had held him the year before. “I probably choked you,” Myers answered. “I don’t fuck around.”

Art!

I soon found myself back in the mask room, wandering around all manner of latex art. In the back aisle lurked some of the room’s best pieces: life sized statues, a raygun wielding Killer Klown, and exhibits from the “Hellraiser” films. All were magnificent works of art.

Returning to the main hall, I met Emil Hyde, director of “The Landlord.” My friend had already made the film’s acquaintance the previous night, when he was farted at by someone associated with the film while in the same bathroom where I met Michael Myers. “Consider that a gift from the Landlord!” the guy cackled.

Afterwards, I went to lurk in one of the hall’s back corners and saw some fine examples of humanity. There was a masked luchador hard at work on his laptop, a bald, eerie gnome lady, and a middle-aged guy with a beautiful, wavy mullet (which we decided to pronounce moo-lay in this case). When I met a lady dressed up as a fishnetted Ghostbuster, I knew I had found the hottest dame of the convention. Luckily, I have had no erotic dreams featuring Egon Spengler or Vigo the Carpathian as a result.

Amidst all this, a well-dressed man with tentacles growing out of his face spoke loudly for the cause of zombie rights. When I approached him in order to discuss his pet cause, he directed me to the masterminds behind the movement, a guy-girl duo wearing matching t-shirts that read: “Ban Headshots.”

Featured: "Your Mom Swallows Period Blood," "C.H.U.D. Nelson." Not featured: Elvira's boobs.

Neil Autry has one of the best promotional schemes I’ve ever heard of. As we approached his booth, taking in its delightfully vulgar t-shirts – including instant classics like “Your mom swallows period blood” and the Breakfast Club/Cannibal Underdweller mashup of “C.H.U.D. Nelson” – we noticed a box on the table which was covered in black cloth. The sign above it read: “See Elvira’s Boobs free with any purchase!!” You better believe we paid up. Being that I didn’t have the money to buy one of his hilarious t-shirts,  I bought a dollar pin featuring a shirtless Elvis punching a guy in the gut, and Autry took me to the Promised Land. And it was good.

* * *

Mister Hamilton had been at the top of the list of people I wanted to interview since I met him the night before. My group knew him the previous convention, and introduced me to the raconteur as he strolled through the hotel lobby. The first thing I thought was that he had one of the most bitchin’ curly-tipped mustaches I had ever seen. The thing could go toe to toe with the lip mane of Rollie Fingers and come out ahead.

Yet as I’d find out the next day, Mister Hamilton was much more than a set of well-groomed whiskers. In the corner adjoining the convention floor’s entrance doors sat a humble table of art, manned by a hefty guy with a denim vest and a two-toned Mohawk. The art depicted all manner of horror icons, set against leopard printed and/or fuzzy backgrounds which often used tops from soda cans as their hanging pieces. I knew that this was an art I wanted to know more about, but the guy was only the magician’s assistant and told me to come back later.

When I returned, there was Mister Hamilton, presiding over his artistic empire. He soon began to talk about putting his dick in a mousetrap. The man is amazing.

Goddamn Right.

* * *

Of everyone I met and talked to over the course of HorrorHound Weekend, only one person was a dick. That person was Robert Z’Dar, star of the “Maniac Cop” series. As I walked past his booth it dawned on me who he was, and I asked if I could take a picture of him.

“You got ten bucks?” he asked.

I was taken aback. People with cameras were all over the place, taking pictures with or without the subject’s permission, and nobody asked for or received any compensation. “No,” I said, probably sneering a bit past polite, and I began to walk off.

“Hold up,” he said, pointing at me as though I had grossly insulted him by not throwing wads of cash on his table. “I’ll let you take one picture. One.”

Not caring at this point, I snapped a quick shot and disappeared. Worth every penny.

Maniac Cop, Philanthropist.

* * *

Not Fake.

Someone whom I was much more excited to meet was a guy running the most unique booths at the convention, selling framed butterflies, spiders, and scorpions. The creatures were so stunningly colorful that I initially didn’t believe that they weren’t painted or otherwise modified. But as Matt Youngerman explained, that’s the beauty of nature.

Hare Krishna Zombie rules! We made the acquaintance of the “Dawn of the Dead” star early on in the day, and we saw him wandering about the floor from time to time, mostly mingling with horror and movie makeup legend Tom Savini, whom we were all far too chickenshit to talk to. When I finally made my way back to HKZ’s booth and conducted this interview, he dropped some knowledge on my friend and I, talking about the Rothchild family and the dangers of globalization. Talking conspiracy theories with a Hare Krishna Zombie is as awesome as it sounds.

Hare Krishna Zombie, Droppin' Knowledge.

* * *

So here’s one person I didn’t expect to meet at a horror convention. Early in the afternoon, someone got on the loudspeaker and made yet another of the day’s proclamations. “Would everybody please welcome – Catherine Mary Stewart!” As usually followed such announcements, pockets of people politely cheered and then went about their business. But I was stunned. The star of “The Apple” was here.

Bizarro Gold!

For those who haven’t heard of this titan of Bizarro cinema, “The Apple” is simply amazing. It’s Rocky Horror set to disco. It’s the Book of Genesis and the Book of Revelations in one. And it has one of the most insane, mind-blowing endings in any movie, ever. Holy shit, I thought, I had to talk to her. And she ended up being one of my favorite people at HorrorHound, even though I’m still not sure why she was there. Then again, “The Apple” has been confusing me for years, so that’s fitting.

* * *

Soon after this point, another voice boomed over the loudspeaker. This time it wasn’t announcing the arrival of another celebrity or issuing dire warnings against parking in fast-food lots, but stating that the convention halls were closing in 15 minutes. Shit. I still had work left to do. I looked around for Lloyd Kaufman and Joe Bob Briggs, but the former was still knuckle-deep in fans at the Troma Line and the latter was already being interviewed. So I decided to do a series of quick interviews with people I had already met.

Eventually, Ari Lehman was free to talk. He gestured wildly and spoke in exaggerated tones, lending no doubt to the idea that he really enjoyed being a part of horror movie history. At least in the context of HorrorHound Weekend and other such conventions, people such as Lehman and Hare Krishna Zombie have turned relatively small movie parts into big notoriety. Yet having played the first Jason Voorhees, the malformed kid who leaps out of Crystal Lake in the first “Friday the 13th” film, Lehman seems to have taken it further, making his hot minute of film lore into a huge part of his life.

The voice on the loudspeaker quickly returned and announced the end. The convention hall was now closed. Joe Bob Briggs was still being interviewed, so I figured that my chances of getting to talk to him were a wash. I walked back to the center of the room, hoping to find Lloyd Kaufman and get an education on things Bizarro. The line at the Troma booth was fading, and after he spent a few minutes talking to Catherine Mary Stewart, he was ready to talk.

As could be guessed from the many movie introductions he’s produced for Troma, Kaufman likes to get other people into the act. Well, that, and he’s a hilarious ham. While we were getting ready to start, he saw Louise Robey, star of the “Friday the 13th” television series, and pulled her into our conversation. Later on, Joe Bob Briggs himself walked past us, and Lloyd roped him into our circle of madness as well.

What followed was a work of joyous chaos. It made no sense. There were no points made. No ideas were being advanced. But it was without a doubt the best way I could have ended HorrorHound Weekend.

Horrorgasm.

* * *

And with that, I left the Marriott and returned to my crappy motel across the street, satisfied. I spent the next few hours transferring all these interviews to my computer, watching TV movies in the meantime. After that, I went to a liquor store, filled a Burger King cup with screwdrivers that were half vodka, and got triumphantly drunk.

I left my motel room and began walking back to the Marriott when I saw someone I recognized outside a room opposite mine. It was the frazzled green goblin I had seen the night before, hanging outside with his face paint (almost) scrubbed off. Introducing himself as Freakshow, he invited me into his room, and together with his partner, by day a fetish-dressed lady named June “The Meat” Cleaver, we talked about the convention. They were in town covering the event for Madison Horror.

“Hey, do you want to do an interview with us?” Freakshow asked.

I swayed on my feet, for some reason unwilling to sit down, but barely able to stand up. “I think I’m done,” I said.

* * *

The Marriott remained in high spirits when I came back some time later. My cohorts were lurking around the lobby, but I heard tell of a mass hula-hoop demonstration in the depths of the hotel, so my friend and I ditched the entrance. We weren’t disappointed. The giant hallway was packed with people spinning rings around their waists, while Mister Hamilton looked on and performed a trick or two. I briefly spotted Ari Lehman in the mass, but my focus fell on a girl whose butt was turning purple from a violent spanking she was receiving at the hands of another girl. I tried my hand (and hips) at hula-hoop, but I was as inept as I’d always been.

The night wore on and the crowd wore out, and soon I was one of the last people in the halls. At this point I looked out into the hotel courtyard, where amidst a sudden rainstorm, a luminous fountain cascaded water down a giant staircase. I had to climb it. Stripping down to my underwear, I ignored the rain and leaped into the pond, climbed up the stairs and bellowed like King Kong. Pleased with myself, I soon decided to head back to my room, and I walked across the street, barefoot in the rain.

The ultimate result? I was very, very sick for two weeks. But I regret nothing!

Partied Out.

* * *

We cleared out of the motel early the next morning, having decided that the long drive ahead didn’t leave us with any time to take in Sunday’s festivities. We had seen all that we needed to see. The drive home was one of contented fulfillment – well, until we had to drive through Gary again.

Oh, the horror of Gary.

Gary Indiana: Still Hell!

Say Rah! Discussing the Daddy of Rock n’ Roll with the Directors of “Wesley Willis’s Joy Rides”

Wesley Willis: Rock Star

Chris Bagley’s favorite Wesley Willis song is, appropriately enough, “Chris Bagley.”  It’s a signature Willis friendship song in which the rock and roll hero pays tribute to his buddy.  Kim Shively has her own song in this style, but she lists her favorite as either “NFL Shit” or “The Turkey was Wild” – the latter describing a fateful encounter she had with a wild bird, immortalized in song by Wesley.  The pair’s tributes are found on Willis’ 2001 album Full Heavy Metal Jacket, and Wesley also has songs which call out Bagley’s brother and dog for special distinction.  He must have been really excited about the movie which the two were making about him.

Around the same time as they were being lauded in Full Heavy Metal Jacket, Bagley and Shively were setting up shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, forming their filmmaking imprint, Eyeosaur Productions.  Having met as film students at the Colorado Film and Video Instructional Studios (now the Colorado Film School), the pair teamed up on experimental projects and short films before moving on to documentaries.  One of their short films featured a cameo by Wesley Willis as a cowboy.

Bagley explained his move toward being a documentary filmmaker.  “It was an interesting time at film school because everything was just at that moment [when] it was starting to go digital.  It changed the work flow.  There was a documentary class in film school, and at that point it became obvious that doing documentary on digital video was a viable option.  It was something that you could do and maybe not break the bank, maybe get a lot more coverage.”

The name Eyeosaur quickly evokes thoughts of vision and dinosaurs (and, similarly, a song on Full Heavy Metal Jacket has Wesley singing about his own record label, Earosaur Productions).  Yet Bagley also derives the company’s philosophy from a skewed homophone.  “All the things I’ve ever been drawn to are things like eyesores, things that are kind of on the edge of society that are crumbling nuisances.”

Wesley Willis's Joy Rides

Continuing their explorations of such fringe characters, Eyeosaur’s current project involves the world of Lucha Libre wrestling, the focus including its deep history in Mexico and growing popularity in the United States.  Bagley also hinted at the possibility of a future film concerning Live-Action Role Players.  Yet Eyeosaur’s achievement of the moment is the release of Wesley Willis’s Joy Rides, a film which may well be the definitive look at Wesley’s life.  Reaction to the film has been positive; having made the rounds at various film festivals, Joy Rides won the Gold Hugo for the Chicago Award at the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival.

Wesley Willis certainly qualified as an Eyeosaur candidate.  Indeed, to more than a few he is that very eyesore who most would rather be hidden away from view.  A schizophrenic colossus, Wesley is best known for singing along to preprogrammed keyboard accompaniment, his songs almost always adhering to the same template, right down to the “Rock over London, Rock on Chicago” which invariably closed each song.  Wesley was prone to outburst, sang foul-mouthed songs about drugs, violence, and bestiality, and he bumped heads with so many people that he developed a permanent bruise on the center of his forehead.  His life story wasn’t any more benign; he was often the victim of severe acts of neglect, exploitation, and violence.

No, he wasn’t for everyone, but therein lays the genius of Wesley Willis – he didn’t need to be for anyone. Through Wesley’s sincere and unwavering conviction that he was a rock star – albeit one free of the usual entitlements and pretense – he became one, and more people than might have been expected got that, and loved him.  When he died in 2003, many people genuinely mourned him.  (I learned of Wesley’s death as I was heading out my door to go to an amusement park.  It was the saddest, most lifeless day I’ve spent on roller coasters.)

Wesley Willis: Sex Bomb

“Before I ever even met him, he changed the way I see everything, just by listening to his music,” Bagley said.  “I never really saw the novelty of McDonald’s until I heard ‘Rock and Roll McDonald’s.’  Then I never could look at McDonald’s the same way again.  I felt like I somewhat knew him before I met him, because he was so prolific with his songwriting and there were so many aspects of his life that he touched on.  It just felt very real to me, and it was kind of refreshing.  There’s so much music out there that’s full of people fronting, so when you come across something that’s as genuine as Wesley’s music, it’s a breath of fresh air.

“Once I met him, he was even more compelling, because he wanted to give me a headbutt!  Once I got my first headbutt from Wesley, I thought that someone needed to document this guy’s life.  That never came into focus until years later, when I had the ability to do that.”

Performing with his earlier rock band, The Wesley Willis Fiasco

Wesley has been the subject of many documentaries, the other most notable being The Daddy of Rock n’ Roll. Yet while the tendency of most of these films was to simply follow him around and allow the viewer to react as he or she saw fit, the scope of Joy Rides is monumental, examining all aspects of Wesley’s life and filling his story with context.  To put the difference in perspective, Bagley – who followed the production of the other film – estimated that the crew of Daddy followed Wesley around for about a week.  The creation of Joy Rides took almost a decade, amassing around 100 hours of footage of friends, family, and the man himself.

Shively summed up the mission statement of Joy Rides as follows: “The intention was never to make a day-in-the-life film.  We wanted to do something more in-depth.  We had always envisioned it to be a film that was made with him; it was his film.  When he got sick, that changed the whole direction, so it became something that showed him for who he was: an amazing person.  A lot of people misunderstood him; we wanted to show the guy that we knew.

“Chris shot his first footage of Wesley in 1999.  From then until 2003 we filmed with Wesley on and off.  When Wesley got sick and passed away, we weren’t sure if we were going to finish the film or not, and it took another year or two to get back on it.  We went back and did a lot of interviews after that.  It was a really long process; we officially finished editing and cutting the film in 2008.”

Bagley described the process involved in documenting such a subject, noting Wesley’s frequent visits to Wyoming to make himself available.  “Originally we just wanted to make a documentary about Wesley, because we thought he was such a unique individual that his experiences needed to be documented.  Then, when he’d come and stay for a month or so, there would be so much time when we weren’t shooting anything.  The thing that I’ll probably take away the most are all the in-between times.  He just kept coming.”

One time Wesley stayed with Bagley and Shively for so long that Chris suggested they head back to Chicago to visit.  At another point, they ended up in London with him.  “At first it was like we were fans of Wesley doing the documentary,” Bagley continued.  “Quickly, we became friends of Wesley, and the documentary was secondary.”

One of the most interesting parts of Joy Rides is its initial focus on Wesley’s prodigious drawings of the buses and towers of his Chicago landscape (the footage of Wesley in Wyoming shows him seeking out the trains instead, showing his inclination toward mass transit).  His friends from the art world spend much of the film’s first act discussing Wesley’s talent for perspective and his photographic memory.

“I don’t think we ever made a plan,” Shively said in describing their focus on art, “it just happened organically.  The history of his art became just as compelling as the music.  It’s just as important, just maybe overlooked because he’s more known for his music.”

An Example of Wesley's Art

In fact, it could be argued that Wesley’s art career eclipsed his music.  “He was every bit as prolific when it came to his drawings as he was with his music.” Bagley said.  “[For] a lot of people who didn’t know he was an artist, that was the part of the documentary that they really responded to the most.  It blew some people out of the water to see that part of him.

“He started doing drawings in the early 80s.  I ended up getting a drawing of his from the 80s that I’m really happy about.  It was an amazing piece.  He was doing that for years before he got into music.  It’s really powerful, the way he would lay down his marker or pen and just go to town.  There was never a moment of hesitation; he just went for it.  I think that goes for his musical career, too.”

This focus led to Eyeosaur animating some of Wesley’s artwork and bringing it to life.  Bagley stated that the idea came to him in a waking dream, after which he convinced Wesley to animate the self-portrait which introduces the film.  Shively offered a less esoteric rationale.

“I think it was important to convey the scale of those drawings because they were so huge.  If you just take a still picture of it you don’t get a perspective of the scale or the depth or the detail.  It was lots and lots of photos and scanning.  We didn’t want to go overboard on animating it, so a guy named Chad Herschberger, who had helped us with the film and was a friend of Wesley’s, we worked with him on the animation and described to him what we wanted, and he did it just how we had hoped.  You don’t want to change the nature of the art, but you want to bring it to life somehow, so we tried to find a balance.”

Chad Herschberger, it should be noted, also got his own song on Full Heavy Metal Jacket.

Yet all this work was almost completely derailed by Wesley’s illness and death.  “It’s okay to have a thought of what you want it to be, but documentaries have a way of going their own way,” Bagley said.  “When Wesley passed away, it was really hard.  We couldn’t even look at any of the video for a long time afterwards.  We had no objectivity, because we were so close to Wesley at that point.  We got some perspective on it; it took us quite a while, and that’s why it’s been so long.  It took years and years.  It got to the point where it was so personal for us that to try to consider it some product and shoot it out the door just didn’t feel right.  We wanted to go around and interview people.  We were trying to do it justice with the resources we had.  But eventually you just have to get it out and let people have a chance to see it.  There were some moments in there that I felt like I was hording by not having it out for people to see.  There may be a day when more of the unedited footage might end up getting released, but that’s probably years off.”

Shively explained the financial reasons behind the film’s delay.  “We wanted Wesley to be a part of the whole process, and [then] he was gone and we had lost a friend.  It was kind of a big thing to deal with and then to think about what we were going to do.  We had a responsibility to put this film out there, [but] another aspect of it was that we had no outside funding.  It was [done] on our own time when we could afford to do stuff.  We got a little money when we started editing, but it takes a long time when you have to work full-time jobs.  We also didn’t want to rush it; we wanted to be really careful about how we were putting the film together.”

The second act of the film’s production began at Wesley’s funeral.  It was here where Bagley and Shively met many of Wesley’s friends and family and encouraged them to share their memories of him.  Among the crowd of close friends, art patrons, and cohorts in music, one group of interviewees comes to dominate the narrative of Joy Rides in explaining how Wesley became the man he was – his family.

There’s a moment in the film in which Wesley’s brother Michael provides a lucid insight into the Willis family’s terribly troubled dynamic.  In describing life in the Stateway Gardens housing projects where the family lived, Michael noted his neighbors’ aversion to the Willises.  “People in fact didn’t like us at all when we were over there,” he said.  “They ridiculed us constantly.  We were ‘The Willis family.  Don’t talk to them; they’re crazy!’”

This line illustrates a larger point made by the film – that Wesley’s mental illness wasn’t an isolated case.  The even-handed perspectives of Michael Willis rank him among the film’s most compelling subjects.  Yet with some of the other family members featured in the film – including two more of Wesley’s brothers and his father – something seems, at best, off-center.

“We tried to get in contact with as many of his family members as we could,” Bagley said.  “It became obvious right away that he came from a broken home, that a lot of his family didn’t have a whole lot to say.  We tried to put the ones in there that had the closest ties to Wesley; unfortunately, none of them really had very close ties to Wesley.  Michael was very articulate, and his physicality is very similar to Wesley, so it made sense to have him.  Ricky had probably the closest ties.

“The interesting thing about Ricky is that he’s a lot like Wesley.  He has this photographic memory; he knows every street of Chicago by heart to the point where he can make model buildings by memory.  His abilities are definitely lopsided, because he’s not able to communicate as easy, but we really love Ricky.  We became close to him since Wesley passed away.  He always calls, and he’s especially fond of the ladies, [so] he always calls Kim.  But he calls me a lot, too.”

One aspect of the film which disturbed me, one I couldn’t help but feel cynical about, was the appearance of Wesley’s father.  Being filmed alongside Ricky, Walter Willis Sr. – who himself died around the time of Joy Rides’ release – appeared to mug for the camera, and he made a point about how a person’s kin sometimes doesn’t realize that person’s goodness until everyone else does.  To me, the interview came off as callous and a bit exploitative.  Bagley and Shively didn’t see it that way.

“His dad was a pretty complicated person,” Shively said.  “I think he had a lot of guilt when Wesley passed away because he didn’t pay attention to his career.  I think it’s also important to notice that his dad had mental illness – I think he had schizophrenia – so he was not equipped to be a good dad in that sense.  That time we were there visiting with him, he genuinely was sad that he didn’t know more about Wesley’s life.  He was very disapproving of what Wesley did when Wesley was alive, but I also think he didn’t understand it.  I don’t think he tried to benefit from Wesley’s fame in any way I can see.”

Bagley noted a specific moment which showed Mr. Willis’s love for his son.  “We were just sitting outside of the funeral home, way early.  No one else had even shown up yet.  We saw this old guy going up and down the street, clearing the sidewalk and street of trash because he didn’t want there to be any trash at his son’s funeral.

“He had his own demons, [but] for somebody who has mental illness to open up their door and let you see his life, I felt like he was very warm to let us be there, especially in the context of having his son just pass away.  I think his dad was extremely genuine.”

With much of Eyeosaur’s work on this film involved prolonged encounters with people with mental illness, it goes without saying that the directors of Joy Rides emerged with a changed perspective on the mentally ill.

Wesley, in a down mood.

“I’m less fearful of people who are walking down the street talking to themselves,” Shively said.  “I’m more intrigued by those people now because I think they have so much to offer.  Just because they maybe can’t function the way society thinks [they ought to], we sort of miss out on what they have to give to the world.  I think Wesley helped me understand mental illness.”

“I didn’t realize how much reverse discrimination there is,” Bagley said.  “People are so afraid of being accused of exploitation that they’ll stop dead in their tracks, and then these people don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else.  I think, in general, people would rather have people who are mentally ill out of sight and out of mind.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because as soon as legitimate people that are doing legitimate work turn their backs on people who are mentally ill, all these vampires have a tendency of filling the void.  In the end, a lot of these people are really being exploited, but it’s only because everyone else has turned their back on them.”

He noted that Wesley’s chosen career wasn’t exactly predator-free, either.  “[In] the music industry, people who aren’t mentally ill are exploited all the time.  But they want to be exploited; they’re putting themselves out there to be exploited just to get that first record deal, just so they can get their foot in the door.”

Wesley at the Wheel

Yet as Bagley and Shively conveyed in their film, Wesley’s story is a success story.  Despite having every obstacle in the world seemingly against him, the man made a career doing what he loved, and he made a lot of people happy doing it.

Shively discussed the reaction to the film.  “It’s interesting, because you have the people who watch it who are fans, and you have people who have no idea who he is who watch it.  The nice thing is that a lot of people have said that they did know about his music, they knew that he was this ‘crazy person,’ but the film showed him as a really amazing person who achieved an incredible amount of work in his short life.  That was the nicest thing to hear, that people really did walk away with a deeper sense of who Wesley was.”

When asked what about Wesley Willis made him so amazing, both acknowledged Wesley’s talent as a hustler and his fearlessness.  Beyond this, Bagley and Shively emphasized different aspects of his character: Bagley praised his sense of freedom (referring to him as a “Han Solo”), whereas Shively noted his intelligence and sense of humor.

When asked what a success Wesley’s says about the music industry at large, both had a lot to say.

“He was ahead of the game as far as being out there and self-promoting,” Shively replied.  “He did have a relationship with Alternative Tentacles, [the label, run by the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, which put out his three “Greatest Hits” albums,] but I think he’s proof that you don’t need to be tied to all this press and publicity.  The record industry is not really there anymore.  Now everyone’s doing what Wesley was doing 20 years ago.  It’s just great that he was so successful.

“The one thing about him that was really great was that his fan base was so diverse.  He had young punk kids, but he also had businessmen who were millionaires, and they liked his music.  His music appealed to everyone, and he didn’t discriminate.”

“The problem with art and artists,” Bagley said, “is that it usually comes from a place of privilege.  The fact that Wesley had no privilege, that he came from the hardest situation anyone can imagine, a broken home on the south side of Chicago, and he was able to find his way – that’s an amazing accomplishment. In the music and art communities, it’s great to have some fresh voices, and Wesley was a completely fresh perspective.”

Bagley also noted Wesley’s strange ability to take corporate slogans and make them his own.  “The one that I think most applies to Wesley is the one I always loved to hear him say: Nike’s ‘Just Do It.’ I never, never liked it when I heard it on the Nike commercial, but with Wesley saying it, it felt like the real deal.”

Wesley Willis is a man who cut a wide streak of legend throughout his life, and as such, there are a lot of people who have great stories about him.  One of the best parts about my conducting these interviews with people who knew and loved Wesley – which I’m also assuming was one of Bagley’s and Shively’s favorite parts of making their documentary – was hearing some of these tales of Wesley and cutting through some of the surreal mythos surrounding him.

Rock and Roll McDonald's. Really.

For example: in his songs Wesley often mentioned things and concepts that didn’t always seem real.  One piece of evidence is shown in the film, as Wesley’s old friend Carla Winterbottom described her confusion when reading some of his lyrics which mentioned defenestration (it means to drop from a high place).  In the course of our conversation, Bagley deflated a conspiracy theory of mine linking Wesley and the film Mac and Me by explaining that his signature song, “Rock and Roll McDonald’s,” is based on an actual restaurant in Chicago which mixes Big Macs with the Hard Rock Café.  Furthermore, both Bagley and I have sought out and obtained Hoisin sauce due to Wesley’s mention of it in a song.

Both Shively and Bagley, in recounting their favorite Wesley stories, mentioned a scene in Joy Rides showing Wesley in the film’s most joyous moment.  He was almost exploding with laughter as he tried not to swear in a restaurant and failed.

“He wasn’t having a hellride,” Shively explained.  “He was just being funny and reading out loud from one of his songbooks which had a lot of profanity in it.  He was cracking himself up, cause we kept saying, ‘Wesley, they’re gonna kick us out!’  He just couldn’t stop!  It was the funniest thing.  And then he finally said, ‘Suck my Dick… Cavett!’ as if he did this play on words all the time.”

When cops strolled in, Wesley tried to tone it down.  “Any time he saw a cop,” Shively continued, “he’d say ‘I’m not gonna break the law’ out loud to let the cops know he was cool.  I think he was saying it more to himself.  Who knows.”

It was a great moment, yet there was one more Wesley story which Bagley told which had me doubled with laughter.

“We ended up going to one of these aquarium places.  There was a father talking to his son, and there was a tank full of otters.  Wesley was checking out the otters, and I was in the background listening to this whole thing.  The father was telling the son: ‘The otters!  They’re the clowns of the sea!’

“And then Wesley chimed in and said: ‘I can see his dick.’”

Rock over London, Rock on Chicago!

“Wesley Willis’s Joy Rides” is available now.  More information can be found at www.wesleywillissjoyrides.com.

Y Spy: Hypernova Goes Solar

Hypernova: Kami, Jam, Raam, and Kodi

Hypernova doesn’t want to be your One Iranian Band. In fact, if the band’s country of origin wasn’t tacked onto every scrap of its press and promotion, one would never know the difference. Its recently released first full-length album, “Through the Chaos,” stops short of being cheerful, but it is a full-bodied rock record with a spring in its step and a promise of a bright future. If you’re expecting cheap shots against the Ayatollahs or President Ahmadinejad, however, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead, Hypernova’s themes of love, sadness, and rebellion are universal, readable without a frame of reference – and the accompanying music is great fun to dance to.

It’s difficult to avoid the subject of Iran coming up in connection with the band, and to be fair, it is part of the story. What this band has gone through to get where it is puts the majority of so-called rock rebels to shame. In our conversation, Hypernova’s singer, codenamed Raam, was content to discuss the band’s history with Iran, so long as it never became a dwelling point. Throughout, Raam minced few words, freely speaking his mind on his band and life, never fearing to be self-critical. Yet whenever we moved into more political subjects, he always turned the conversation back to the music. This wasn’t an evasion, but an implicit statement of where his focus lies.

Y Spy: Many bands that come to America become advertised as being from their home country, and Hypernova is no exception. Do you ever get tired of your band being looked at as an ambassador for Iran?

Raam: Oh, all the time. It’s hard being pigeonholed into this idea that you’re of interest due to the nature of where you come from. It takes away from what we’re really about, which is the music. We want our music to speak for itself, and we want people to appreciate that and then care about the story and what we’ve gone through. To us, that is secondary. We came here to be able to play and share our music. We didn’t come here with an idea of being peace ambassadors or [to be] this image that people have made us out to be. Obviously I do feel a responsibility in representing my culture, my country, my history in a more positive light. But that’s a cool thing on the side.

Y Spy: How did Hypernova come together?

Raam: I met my drummer at a military camp ten years ago in Iran when we had to do our mandatory time. We didn’t do the full two year service; we only did a couple of weeks, which was more like a summer camp for kids who could afford to buy off the military thing. We both loved rock and roll, and we started our first band together. I didn’t play any instruments, but I spoke English so I became the singer. For several years we played on different names in the undergrounds of Iran. We went through many different members, and eventually we came up with the lineup that is Hypernova now. We realized that we were on to something while playing as Hypernova for these last couple of years, [so] we decided to let go of everything else in our lives and commit ourselves full-time to this, to what we love, the only thing that we’re half-decent at.

Y Spy: What influences did you bring into making music, and how does one find such influences in a theocracy?

Raam: Growing up in Iran we used to have bootleg cassettes. I still have my collection back home. We used to trade mixtapes and whatever we could find. It’s very hard to find new music; people just shared whatever they had. We came across all these random and obscure bands, but also the big bands like Queen and Pink Floyd. We listened to all sorts of rock and roll: punk, new wave, garage, Britpop, grunge, indie. We just kept listening to as much as we could, trying to find our own sound. We started up in a very garage, punky band, and developed and evolved. To this day, we’re still expanding our musical horizons. We’ve been trying to confine ourselves to a specific genre, but it’s harder and harder to listen to rock music now because it has a way of seeping into your brain, causing you to lose the originality of your creativity without even knowing it. So I try to limit myself in terms of listening to rock music.

Y Spy: How does one operate a rock band in Iran?

Raam: It’s not an easy thing to do at all. The whole nature of the game is: it’s illegal. You can’t perform publicly; you can’t distribute your music. You have to do everything on your own, whether it’s putting on underground shows, or recording, or distributing. It’s quite a hassle. There’s no money to be made in this. There are always people making fun of you, [saying that] you’re crazy trying to be a rock band in Iran. But the whole idea behind rock and roll is the ability to dream of being a rock star someday and putting everything into your project. For us, we’ve been through so many struggles. We just believed in ourselves so much and we were so passionate about what we were doing that we just never gave up. We worked harder and harder in the hope that we could one day leave Iran and travel around the world and be able to play freely, without fear of reprisal.

There’s only so far you can go in the underground scene. Ultimately, you’re gonna have to leave the country to tour and distribute your music and be heard. The Internet has become very helpful in sharing your work, but there’s so much competition to be heard. We’ve been very fortunate to make it this far. When we first came [to America] there was so much hype around our story that I didn’t feel we deserved all this attention. I was embarrassed about a lot of it. But as musicians, we were just trying to get a break, trying really hard to make it. We’re such hard workers and we know that we have so much potential. Hopefully down the road we’ll get to the place in our lives where we’ll look back and say that we did something really cool, that we did something that we believed in.

Y Spy: Did you have run-ins with the law in Iran?

Raam: All of us have been arrested on random things. In terms of our music and underground shows, we were so careful. A couple of parties got raided but we never got arrested. We were very careful in terms of always bringing lookouts and having extra money put aside to bribe the police if they came. You can bribe the police, but you can’t bribe the moral police. Those guys are pretty tough.

We planned things out in advance to make sure that [the shows wouldn’t get] too crowded. That was one of the problems – once the word would get out, everybody would want to come. One of our friends threw this big concert, and several hundred people showed up. Obviously, it caused such a commotion that the cops showed up and took a couple hundred people away to jail.

Y Spy: You recorded your first EP (“Who Says You Can’t Rock in Iran?”) while in Iran. What were the processes involved in recording and distributing this?

Raam: There was a friend of ours who was a producer. We had built this in-home, really crappy studio at our place and started recording demos. We put bits and pieces together, sometimes at my place, sometimes at his place, using whatever knowledge we had at the time. We usually sent it by email to all our friends and fans. We didn’t have a CD first; it was a very basic way of getting an introduction to what Hypernova is all about.

Hypernova live at Studio Seven in Seattle

Y Spy: When did you decide to come to the States? How did it happen?

Raam: We came to the States in 2007. I had heard about this festival called South by Southwest, and I decided to send one of those crappy demos to the festival. I didn’t think they would care about us, and when they sent us a letter [inviting us to] the showcase, it was one of the coolest days of our lives.

We had to go this whole process of getting petitions for work permits, having to go to the U.S. consulate in Dubai to apply for visas. This whole process took so many months, waiting for the paperwork to go through. There were so many security clearances because of the nature of where we’re from. The first time, they denied our visas because we were unable to prove that we are a legitimate band. How do you prove that you’re a legitimate band when there’s no musical press, when everything is underground? We got very lucky that the people who were doing our paperwork got in touch with the New York Senator’s office of Charles Schumer. They sent a fax to the U.S. consulate. We don’t know what they wrote, but the next time we turned up for an interview, two weeks later, they didn’t even interview us. They just gave us our visas. We were absolutely surprised.

When we came here, we had no intention of staying here more than a couple of weeks. We had round-trip tickets for three weeks, and we didn’t have that much money, just a guitar and a suitcase. We didn’t have a clear idea of how the music industry operates. One thing led to another, and three years later, here we are, still! We got signed, we’re doing tours, and hopefully we’re going to be doing tours in Europe and the rest of the world pretty soon. It’s been a journey full of ups and downs and many adventures, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Y Spy: What’s your current legal status in the States?

Raam: Currently we’re on entertainment visas. Hopefully we’ll be able to get more permanent status as we achieve more success. No band from our country has ever come as far as we have. We sort of set the bar in terms of rock and roll from Iran; now we’ve opened the way for so many other bands to do the same thing. So many people have supported us and our cause over the years that I wanna help out and be there for the kids back home who believed in me and gave me a chance to do this.

Y Spy: Each band member goes by a pseudonym, the given reason being to protect family and friends back in Iran. Is the government’s reaction to your music a real danger?

Raam: Some of my friends who are musicians and have gone back, they’ve been arrested at the airport, they’ve been hassled, their families have been hassled. [Due to] the nature of the jobs that some of our parents have, some of them are in very delicate places. To be honest, I’m pretty sure that none of [the authorities] know who we really are. One thing that we’re trying to be conscious about is staying away from a lot of the Iranian press, because they try to politicize things. We have very strong ideals and we stand up for what we believe is just and right, but at the end of the day we want to be first about the music.

It’s a hard thing. Because of the nature of where we’re from, a lot of people try to politicize the band. I hate questions like: “What do you think about the nuclear standoff between the U.S. and Iran?” What do you want me to say? I don’t even know how to answer that question. I’m for the abolishment of all nuclear arsenals. Sometimes they don’t realize that we’re a bunch of kids who came here for the love of music more than anything else.

Y Spy: Let’s discuss your song, “Viva la Resistance.” It’s a song that feels political, but could be read as a normal rebellion song if one didn’t know the origin of the band. Was it meant to be specific of your country, or a more universal song?

Raam: I write from the perspective of a kid growing up in the underground of Iran, but within a global context. The first album is a pretty simple, straightforward album. The whole idea of “Through the Chaos” is to tell the story of all the things we’ve been through to get where we are today. All the songs are very personal, but anyone in the world can read between the lines and lyrics and relate to it as well.

Y Spy: How was “Though the Chaos” put together?

Raam: We were in L.A., and we were very fortunate to find people to help us out in finding proper producers, or helping us with funding, and getting the album recorded. We met the producer, Herwig [Maurer], and we got Sean Beavan, who has done Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, to mix the album. The whole process didn’t go exactly the way we wanted it to. It was our first real take at a studio project, and we were very naïve. In terms of understanding how the studio works, we weren’t that knowledgeable. The whole process seemed a little rushed. In the end, I’m really proud and happy to finally achieve something that kids have tried for back home. At the same time, we always strive for perfection, and I don’t feel that we were able to do justice to the sound that is Hypernova. But it was an interesting process for us to learn.

Y Spy: What would you do different on the next album?

Raam: For the next album, there are a lot of things that we’ll do different. If you’ve seen the live show, so many people are blown away. We’re a live band first, then a studio band. I understand how hard that is to transfer that raw energy of a show to a polished studio album, but hopefully in the future we’ll be able to represent the richness and fullness of the band more in the way we are live.

Raam at Studio Seven in Seattle

Y Spy: One other song that caught my attention was “American Dream,” which describes idealism turning into disillusionment. How autobiographical was that song?

Raam: It’s the idea of not being able to go home to the life we once had. Once you get a taste of this whole crazy, insane rock and roll lifestyle, it’s hard to go back to the normal, innocent kid who you once were. Everybody has this dream of coming to America and trying to make it here. We were no different than anybody else. When we came here we accomplished many things, but there was a price we had to pay. There were many sacrifices, especially in L.A. There was so much vanity catching up with us that I realized that I had turned into anything I had ever hated in this world. It was asking myself: is this the life that you wanted?

Y Spy: Was there a culture shock involved in this?

Raam: I was born in Iran, but during the 80s I grew up in the States for six, seven years. My bandmates haven’t been that familiar with life outside of Iran, so it was a bit of a culture shock in the beginning. Very quickly, they adapted to the lifestyle. In terms of coming to the States with nothing and having this rollercoaster of a life, it really messes with your head. There are a lot of things in this line of work that mess with your head. You always have to stay grounded and stay humble, and not let your ego get out of control. Just do what you love without fear of consequences. It’s just sometimes so hard. There’s all this madness around, but that’s the cliché of rock and roll.

Y Spy: What songs on the album have hidden meaning?

Raam: I feel like our song, “See the Future,” tells the story of these two kids who fall in love during the war. Growing up in Iran, I still remember the sounds of sirens going off when bombs are falling on the city. All of us went through really crazy things during the war. I think that song’s another really personal song, trying to figure out what’s going to happen at the end, for all of us who are on this ride. But from the first song to the last, [“Through the Chaos”] is a very simple introduction to what Hypernova is. For us, it’s trying to find our sound. Both musically and lyrically we’ve really evolved ever since we recorded this [about] two years ago.

Y Spy: What has reaction been to the album?

Raam: It’s been really overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that so many people are digging the album and enjoying the tunes. As artists we have to play these songs so many times. Sometimes it gets hard for you to get in touch with the meaning of the song when it becomes so repetitive for you. But that’s the beauty: even though you write a song, sometimes I feel like you’re not the fully rightful owner of the song. Your fans who listen to the song, they relate to it sometimes more than you do. We don’t even listen to our own music.

We’ve gotten so much praise; there are also critics who gave negative reviews, and I appreciate that, too. It keeps you grounded and reminds you how much harder you have to work in becoming a better musician and a better band.

Y Spy: Have you met any prejudice in America?

Raam: We had some hate mail when we came here in the beginning, people telling us to go back to our country. We didn’t know much about a lot of Americans. We toured for 36 days, and we’ve seen so many great things in America, so many cool people that I would have thought otherwise if I hadn’t met them personally. That’s one of the cool things about our journey: we’re able to bring people together through music. We play Midwest America, and there are all these people who have never seen someone from Iran. They’re very skeptical about us at first, but after our shows they connect on such a personal, human level. Everyone realizes the fundamental human truth that we’re all really the same. Our similarities outweigh our differences.

Y Spy: As part of a band that has literally had to fight for its music, how do you view the convenience and availability of music, which today often feels produced by default?

Raam: Obviously the convenience of being able to walk into a venue, playing and drinking their beer without worrying about the police is a great comfort. But at the same time, it makes people complacent, sort of indifferent as well. You have to work that much harder to entertain people; I think that’s a really cool challenge, actually.

I see people on the subway in New York all the time who are such amazing musicians that I wonder: how did this guy end up in the subway? Every day I hear a band or musician and wonder: how is it that no one’s ever heard of this? You realize how hard it is to make it in this industry. There’s so much competition. Almost every single person I know in [my] neighborhood is in a band. Because of the internet, people have been given this power to share their music freely without the big record label monopolies dictating what’s going to be distributed or not. At the same time, what do you listen to? I listen to a lot of classical music, because trying to catch up with all the music is just so hard.

There are so many bands that I wonder why they’re even playing. I’m surprised that a lot of people even pick up a guitar and start playing. I assume everybody starts out like that. Maybe there are too many bands in the world. Maybe it’s better to have bands and musicians than people who make atom bombs.

Y Spy: With music coming from every angle and often as a corporate product, what is its role today as a tool of legitimate dissent?

Raam: The reason why governments like Iran are afraid of artists and musicians is because they understand that art and music have this ability to inspire people the way that politicians can’t. I think that’s why they try so hard to put [them] down. [In terms of] the corporations of the West, it’s become very difficult, because the corporations have a pretty strong grasp on the market. All the radio stations and music television stations are dictating what the general tastes of the masses should be. But there are a lot of cool people finding innovative, creative ways of trying to share their music and staying true to what their ideals are. Everybody has a price; it’s just how low it is.

Hypernova

Y Spy: What are your touring plans for the future?

Raam: We’re going to be touring across the States in mid-June, which is very fun. For us, the ultimate form of freedom is when you’re on the road, and you don’t have to worry about the landlord and the rent and all the other nonsense. When you’re on the road you don’t really think about anything, and that’s such a blissful state of mind. Every night, you’re going to be playing in front of an audience and they’re going to be digging your music – or even not! It’s the opportunity to travel and meet interesting and new, crazy people. Every city we go to, we find the weirdest people; we party with them; we have the times of our lives. We’ve become so addicted to this lifestyle of change and variety; it’s really hard for us to stay put.

Y Spy: So adventure trumps stability.

Raam: We’re all about the adventure. It’s not going to end anytime soon for us.

Hypernova is Raam, Kami, Kodi, and Jam. “Through the Chaos” is out now. More information can be found at www.hypernova.com.

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