ON OPEN CALLS AND WEIRD DIVERSITY, FUNGASM-STYLE!!!

Dear human-based peoples of all shapes, shades, sexes and sizes —

HI! I’m Skipp, editor-in-chief of Fungasm Press. I publish a handful of books a year. I only publish books that I absolutely love, which generally means they’re so abnormally formed that no existing traditional genre would know what to do with them.

This is, of course, why the Bizarro genre came into being in the first place: to create a home for unique, unfettered visions. And Fungasm is where I pick the ones that mean the most to me, working with authors I respect and adore, because I want other people to get the chance to read, respect and adore them, too.

I bring this up for two reasons.

This weekend, Eraserhead Press and Deadite Press — my publishing siblings, under the Eraserhead umbrella — announced that they’re doing an open call for submissions, April through June. This has resulted in people asking me if Fungasm is also doing an open call.

And the answer is: NO, FUNGASM IS NOT. I’m not looking to fill my 2019 slate. But Eraserhead and Deadite are fantastic, and you should totally send your coolest, weirdest shit there!

Also this weekend, yet another anthology or magazine or something came out with what appeared to be nothing but white heterosexual male authors (as it turns out, there were a couple of women who used sexually-ambiguous pseudonyms or something to get past the gate).

This naturally resulted in a chorus of, “What the FUCK, you guys? No women? No people of color? No non-straight authors? Are you KIDDING?” In the resultant foofaraw, a lot of people discovered they didn’t like a lot of other people, or at least were really mad at them.

As I observed all this, it occurred to me that I never really laid out my position on diversity. Since I’m not out actively soliciting authors — with very few exceptions, they come to me — I hadn’t really felt the need.

Of the eleven books I’ve published over the last four years, seven of them were written by women. Laura Lee Bahr, Violet LeVoit, Autumn Christian and Devora Gray are all brilliant, badass writers who I’m honored to work with. Soon, I’ll be adding Jennifer Robin and Heather Drain to the list. (Not to mention equally badass white dudes Danger Slater, Cody Goodfellow, S.G. Murphy and John Boden.)

What I DON’T have on the roster are people of colors other than whiteness. And I would love to be able to rectify that. But since I’m not out combing the indie hinterlands for new authors — I honest-to-God don’t have time for that shit — I rely on a) thoughtful recommendations from others, and b) authors stepping up and introducing themselves to me.

So while I’m not issuing an “open call”, my door is always open for the types of singular weirdos who confound the normal publishing world by being their distinctive, unmitigated selves. If you think you’re one of them, LEMME KNOW, okay?

Hope that clears everything up! Have a beautiful day!

 

 

THIS WEEK IN FUNGASMERY!!!

HI, EVERYBODY! Skipp here! Apologies for insanely long absence from these pages. But HOLY MOLEY, have I got some news for you!

1) Our own Laura Lee Bahr is currently touring the U.K. with her new collection, ANGEL MEAT. From what I gather, she’s having a blast; and though you missed her gigs in London and Scotland, she’s in Ireland now. If you get a chance, MEET HER! You’ll be glad you did! (And Laura, we look forward to the full report.)

2) This week, I’m editing HE DIGS A HOLE, the new one from Danger Slater. It is, I’m unsurprised to say, every bit as weird and sad and fun and fundamentally skull-rearranging as PUPPET SKIN and I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU. We’ll be unleashing this in November, just in time for Bizarro Con.

3) Have also just received the very last essay for THE BIZARRO ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM from my amazing collaborator, Heather Drain. Which means we’re one serious copy-edit and polish away from the design stage, coming right up (cover and interior design by Paula Rozelle Hanback, who created the original Fungasm logo, and gorgeously captured our first book, Laura’s HAUNT).

Pre-sales on THE BIZARRO ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM (VOL. I) begin NEXT WEEK, as part of the Indiegogo campaign for HOPE IN HELL. Speaking of which…

4) Most of you probably know that I’m getting ready to shoot the first Fungasm Film, and my feature debut as solo writer/director. It’s called HOPE IN HELL, and I’m crazy in love with it. HERE’S THE TRAILER!

 

And HERE’S THE CAMPAIGN, which we’ve just extended another month, running through the course of the shoot. The BluRay/DVD will only be available from Fungasm as a Special Limited Edition, strictly for our Indiegogo supporters. So that’s definitely something to keep in mind!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/john-skipp-s-hope-in-hell-solo-feature-film-music#/

We’ll have much more to discuss in the days and weeks to come. But yes, Fungasm Press is alive and well, with all our brain-melting art-o-tainment intact. THANKS SO MUCH FOR STOPPING BY!!!

Yer pal, Skipp

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIZARRO NIGHT IN BURBANK!!! (HYAENA GALLERY INVASION!)

Friday night, from 8:00-10:00, a bunch of Portland’s finest will align with several of L.A.’s weirdest to stage a night of Bizarro fun at the Hyaena Gallery in Burbank!

Danger Slater and Lisa LeStrange will be appearing as LIVE PUPPETS, performing a section of Danger Slater’s new groundbreaking Bizarro YA novel, PUPPET SKIN.

Jennifer Robin will also merge reading and performance art with excerpts from her amazing new Feral House entry, DEATH CONFETTI.

Cody Goodfellow, creator of the graphic novel MYSTERY MEAT (and the finest beard by far in this season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY) will be auditioning hapless passersby for his insane new Hollywood novel.

And John Skipp (THE ART OF HORRIBLE PEOPLE) will read his whacky short story “Depresso the Clown”, and possibly summon the spirits with his primal drumming hypnomania.

Also WEIRD SHORT FILMS! INTOXICATING BEVERAGES! SMOKING ON THE SIDEWALK, IN CLEAR DEFIANCE OF BURBANK LAW!!! A wonderful time, with some wonderful weirdos. Hope we see you there!

For more info on the Hyaena Gallery — specializing in dark art, lowbrow art, outsider art, and all KINDS of cool art — look right here:

http://www.hyaenagallery.com/

ECSTATIC INFERNO, AND THE ART OF THE BOOK TRAILER, FUNGASM-STYLE!!! (PT. II)

I’ve long felt that the book trailer is one of the most underdeveloped promotional forms we have, in terms of reaching out to smart people who love cool shit, but have no online incentive to suggest that reading is as cool as movies, TV, music, video games, or just yelling at each other interminably.

And this personally bugs the fuck out of me, because great books are frankly the coolest; and the more you read them, the both cooler and smarter you get. A double-win, by any standard.

A couple of months back, I did Part I of this enquiry, featuring original trailers for Devora Gray’s HUMAN FURNITURE, Laura Lee Bahr’s LONG-FORM RELIGIOUS PORN, and Danger Slater’s I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU.

Now we’re launching a psychedelic video mind-bomb I directed in celebration of Autumn Christian’s extraordinary bizarro sf/horror collection ECSTATIC INFERNO. It’s a project I’ve spent nearly six months developing — a little bit here, a little bit there — in an attempt to visually and sonically capture the full range of Autumn’s unique voice and vision, in one minute and seventeen high-velocity info-packed internet-friendly seconds.

It’s one thing to tell people how amazing she is — calling her “the gene-splice baby of Philip K. Dick and Poppy Z. Brite” is the quickest verbal shorthand I’ve come up with so far — but quite another to spike your psyche with an instant deep dive into what it’s like to actually read her profound, multi-leveled, genuinely mind-bending prose. Excitingly unveiling the ingredients, in much the way a movie trailer seeks to entice you with snippets of its coolest scenes. So that you will want to see it.

Or, in this case, read it.

As a filmmaker who also writes, publishes, and loves books, it strikes me as a moral imperative to give cool, Fungasmic literature as much motion picture zazz as I can possibly conjure.

So real quick — before I go on — please soak yourself in ECSTATIC INFERNO. (And if possible, CRANK UP THE VOLUME HARD!)

Now you may be asking yourself (or me), “Where the fuck did you get a million dollars to make that thing, as a teensy-ass small press?” But the fact is, we didn’t. It was made entirely out of pocket change, sweat equity, and creative friends who threw down out of friendship and love of the art. Plus a shitload of excellent stock footage, available online for remarkably reasonable prices.

For me, it started by sifting through countless hours of stock footage to find images that connected directly with Autumn’s themes and unbridled soul. Natural beauty and terror. Rural ruin. Deep space veracity (that’s the ACTUAL Space Station). And the trippiest hallucinomania I could find.

When Autumn came to LA in April, for AWP (a major literary convention), I picked her up at the airport, then dragged her to cinematographer/editor/renegade filmmaker Charles Pinion’s house. He took a big piece of cardboard and carved out a space the size of her face, affixed to the wall by clamps that held it steady. And she gamely stuck her silent movie star face through the hole while I directed, and Charles shot. She did her own makeup. Took maybe two hours, tops.

Next step was to hook up with old bandmate and brilliant programmer/producer/ musician Greco Rossetti. When I told him about the project — and Autumn’s love of dubstep and southern gothic country music — he laid down an amazing foundation which we then broke into beats and dramatic pauses. I laid down the central melody on keys, chanted, and played the trippy slide guitar at the end. Marc Levinthal provided the country slide guitar, and engineered Laura Lee Bahr’s unearthly vocals (which you might not even recognize as human as they play). And Greco killed it, integrating each layer every speck of the way. All the grooves and electronic textures are easily 87% him.

At which point, I went to Travis Flournoy, a brilliant visual digital artist I met when both of us threw down on Daniel Rosenboom’s jazz/metal onslaught BURNING GHOSTS. As it turned out, he already had 90% of the stock footage I wanted, plus some extra shit besides. Together, we narrowed down the shots we needed. But he was too over-booked to dance past that, for the moment.

So then it was back to Charles Pinion and me. Taking the music and meticulously layering the visuals over it. Background first, to tell the story. Then Autumn’s face, floating ghostly over the footage. Split-screening her as necessary, to get the enormity in. Scrupulously building every layer to precision strength.

Then, and only then, did Travis comes back to CGI finesse it to its ultimate form. Where all our teamwork paid off.

This may seem like an insane amount of work for one minute and seventeen seconds of art-o-tainment, in support of a book. And should you think such a thing, you of course would be right.

But if it makes you want to read Autumn’s insanely brilliant book, then it all will have been worth it. And even if it doesn’t, that’s entirely your loss.

It is, at the very least, the MOST WE COULD DO to make you wanna go there. NEED to go there.

And is only the latest in a Fungasmic campaign we’re already deep into. And will elaborate further upon, in Part III!

 

“AN ARTISTIC DECISION BASED ON FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS IS NOT AN ARTISTIC DECISION AT ALL” (ON FRANK ZAPPA, AND WHY HE MATTERS MOST)

I’d just like to urge everyone with a brain in their head and genuine spark in their soul to catch EAT THAT QUESTION: FRANK ZAPPA IN HIS OWN WORDS (in theaters now).

You want a rebel hero who made the art he wanted, every step of the way, in total fuck-you defiance of every corporate, political, religious, cultural, and aesthetic obstacle slammed in his path? You want a man so deeply in love with music, and all its possibilities, that he’s probably the only guy with a deeper archive of unreleased music than Prince (despite releasing over 60 ALBUMS in his 30-plus year professional career)? You want a dude who spent his whole life unafraid to tell you precisely what he thought, in the clearest possible terms, no matter how painful those truths might be, with razor wit, mind-boggling virtuosity, and a genuine desire to make the world a less docile, complacent, excellence-deprived and entirely stupid place?

Frank was that guy. And it was SUCH a pleasure to trace his path through this excellent film, which combines televised interviews with concert footage spanning his career and time on Earth. It was particularly exciting to see beautifully-shot footage of the original 1960s Mothers of Invention at play (shit I’ve never seen anywhere). Wonderful to track so many of his excellent bands (and symphony orchestras, toward the end) in chronological fashion.

But there’s something about watching him speak his mind, in interview after interview as the years fly by, that just grounds you and grounds you and grounds you again in the fact that this was an artist carving a life for himself that had no maps beyond the ones he was drawing on the fly. With one lifelong, unwavering battle plan. (He says, toward the end, that every piece of music he ever wrote was one long composition, sliced only by time and the necessity to release it in album-length slabs.)

It was really hard to watch how much the cancer aged him, in those final years. How hard it was for him to accept the fact that pain and weakness were snuffing his fire. But how resolute he was to do as much as he could, for as long as he lasted. Uncompromising, unstoppable, and unrepentant to the end.

He said that he honestly didn’t give a shit whether anyone remembered him or not. BUT I DO. And nothing makes me happier than seeing his blistering genius chronicled in such a concise, historic, and loving way.

Flat out: I would not be the artist or human being I am without Frank Zappa. I was maybe ten years old when FREAK OUT, his first album (and the first double-disk in rock history), invaded my ears. From the opening mockingly-primitive rock of “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” to the mind-bending avant-garde mania of “Help, I’m a Rock” and “Return of the Son of Monster Magnet”, I was jaw-dropped every speck of the way. Couldn’t believe how hard he was subverting the normal shit I was hearing, while introducing me to sonic soundscapes I was both totally unprepared for and utterly understood.

Because his message was: you live in a world that doesn’t want you to think. The more you think – the more deeply you examine what’s actually happening, with an open mind so open it threatens to shatter in the process – the more you’ll come to realize that UTTER BULLSHIT IS RUNNING THE WORLD. That people who don’t give a shit about you have decided you’re either a tool or a problem. If you’re a good tool, you will do what they say, for however much or little money they can get away with. And they will entertain you with whatever entertainments help keep you in line, AND YOU’LL BUY IT, as long as doing so keeps a roof over your head.

But if you’re not a good tool, then you’re a problem. Best ignored. And only crushed as needed.

Frank was an outsider freak who refused to be ignored. So outside that he mocked both the Establishment AND the hippie hordes, who he found equally clueless. He was an equal-opportunity impaler of bullshit, wherever he saw it. And somewhere between those 60-plus albums and a shit-ton of stunning live performances, he managed to both support his art and family and keep pushing forward, forward, forward. Never stopping till he died.

I fucking love that guy. Can’t believe how many people he helped along the way, both as band members who launched amazing careers and as simple fucking fans like myself. Who grew up going, “I wanna be like that, when I grow up.”

I could go on and on. About how much I wish he were still here, to comment on THIS century’s clusterfuck. About how I can’t believe I outlived him, both in years and lifespan. About every song and composition he left behind, most of which I can sing along with note-for-note and insanely-syncopated beat-for-beat. Because they’re so burned into my memory I remember them better than the last meal I just ate.

If we forget Frank Zappa, we’re forgetting a huge part of the secret history of the entire late 20th century. I refuse to die accepting that possibility.

There has never been a more Bizarro motherfucker, declaring all boundaries open, or leaving a harder mark on the hindbrain of creative evolution, pushing forward.

THANKS, FRANK!!! Every Fungasm from here to eternity has your ruthlessly joyful and cunning grin etched large upon it, whether they know it or not.

Ever since, all I ever wanted was to live and die like that.

Or, at least, get as close as I can.

— John Skipp

http://sonyclassics.com/eatthatquestion/

A COMEDY TO THOSE THAT THINK, A TRAGEDY TO THOSE THAT FEEL

I frequently quote a long-dead guy named Horace Walpole (1717-1797): a British politician and writer (as Wikipedia tells us) best remembered for writing the first gothic horror novel on record, THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO.

I haven’t read that book since I was 14 years old, and it barely stuck then, so I can’t argue for or against its merits. But what I can say is that he once uttered one sentence that has stuck with me, the whole of my life, more than almost any other. To whit:

The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.”

If there’s one thing I feel almost constantly at the mercy of — every bit as much as the weather, my physical wellbeing, or rampant cultural insanity — it’s sadness. SO MUCH FUCKING SADNESS, accrued to almost every single aspect of living that, frankly, the sorrow is often overwhelming.

I get so sick of crying sometimes that I wish I didn’t feel at all.

As it turns out, though, that’s when THINKING KIND OF COMES IN HANDY. Its job is to attempt to make sense of all that shit you’re feeling. Following the phenomenological evidence trail. Parsing it through your actual brain. Honing in on the facts, through logic and reason. Then integrating that intelligence with your feeling self, with results potentially ranging anywhere from an evolved personal philosophy to a capacity for making or appreciating art. Not to mention gracefully interacting with all the other struggling lifeforms in this crazy dance with you.

THAT’S ALSO WHERE THE LAUGHS COME IN. And fuck if the laughs aren’t our saving grace. Sure, Nietzsche said that every time you laugh, an emotion dies. But the point is: GOOD! The second I start laughing, that overwhelming emotion loses its total control over me. I can think about it. Weigh it. And put it into perspective.

I am not suggesting that you laugh off your feelings, as if they don’t matter. Because they do. They only hurt because they’re true.

But laughing works because it takes everything you think and feel and reveals the absurdity behind it. The INCREDIBLE ABSURDITY. Insofar as I can tell, the only force of nature that runs as deep as emotion or intelligence.

In conclusion: we live in a beautiful, terrible, hilarious, heartbreaking, vicious, tender, brilliantly specific, numbingly pointless and ridiculous world of unlimited potential that will suck us dry any chance it gets, and empower us every chance we take.

So my advice is: THINK AND FEEL YOUR ASS OFF, AS HARD AS YOU CAN. The sorrow’s inevitable. But the laughs are fungasmic.

And balance is everything.

— John Skipp

LOVE WITCHES, BIONIC GIRLS, AND PSYCHOTIC HAIR STYLISTS! (ETHERIA FILM NIGHT BRINGS THE NEXT WAVE OF KICKASS FEMALE DIRECTORS TO THE FORE)

ETHERIA2016MARQUEEWell, it’s been about a week since the Etheria Film Night kicked L.A.’s pasty-gray male cinematic ass for the third straight year. (Or at least it did mine!)

For those of you not in the know: Etheria is an organization devoted to showcasing first-rate female filmmakers who work in the genres (horror, fantasy, science fiction, action, crime, black comedy, and bizarro). Festival founders Heidi Honeycutt, Stacy Pippi Hammon, and Kayley Viteo take their traveling shows all over the country, year-round. Meanwhile connecting women all up and down the motion picture universe, from industry insiders to struggling beginners to international filmmakers the whole world over.

Their mission statement is that not ONLY are women fully capable of directing high-quality, astonishing film and television, but that they have the proof: selecting the cream from the hundreds of films submitted, and saying, “HIRE THESE WOMEN. You have no excuse not to.” And they are absolutely right.

Full disclosure: I’ve been a judge and “Honorary Vagina” for Etheria since the very beginning. So am I biased? You’re goddam right. I FUCKING LOVE THESE WOMEN. Believe in them a trillion percent. Think the case they’re making is incredibly important.

And every year, with every showcase, they do nothing to prove me wrong. Getting better and better all the time. (For more info, check their website  http://www.etheriafilmnight.com/about-etheria-film-night/)

Love Witch Poster ImageThis year’s feature also turns out to be one of my favorite films of 2016 to date: Anna Biller’s THE LOVE WITCH, which should be hitting select theaters before the summer is out. It’s a delightfully stylish, funny, and fucked-up 21st-century resurrection of vintage 1960s-70s Eurosleaze, exploitation, and hippie horror. Taking its fem-gnostically fun-packed vision further than any of the films and filmmakers it evokes, on the way to staking its own unique claim on film history.

Think 1973’s THE WICKER MAN meets BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS on its way to THE DUNWICH HORROR – with some Radley Metzger, Roger Corman, Donald Cammell, Sam Fuller, Nicholas Roeg, Jess Franco, and John Waters thrown in for good measure – and you start to get the gist of how insanely juicy this gets.

It’s the story of Elaine (Samantha Robinson): a lovely and deranged young woman who really, really wants that fairy tale True Love she’s been promised. And is determined to have it, no matter how high the broken-hearted body count gets. She’s a student of the seductive arts. She’s ridiculously gorgeous. And she’s also a witch. So she’s pretty much three-for-three in the Black Widow Sweepstakes. No man can resist her spell.

But love gotten that easily is pretty hard to respect. And the cruelty of her first love – which propelled her on this quest – has focused and hardened her to the point of pure free-floating psychotic fixation. And as her sloppily-disposed-of stack of dead dudes deepens, she encounters the One Tough Cop who could either be her ultimate dream lover, or the man who finally brings her down.

As a story, this is total fun. But as a film?

OH, MY FUCKING GOD.

It all starts with Anna Biller herself – a filmmaker’s filmmaker, if ever one was – who not only wrote, produced, and directed the living shit out of it, but also edited, composed the music, production-designed and art-directed the exquisite sets, the wardrobe, and every inch of it throughout so hard that she deserves some sort of Stanley Kubrick Award for EXCELLENCE IN EVERYTHING.

You know you’re in unusually good hands when you go, “Omigod, look at those colors. This is gorgeous!” Then start laughing at a perfectly staged joke, leading straight into sequences of genuine horniness, culminating (usually) in some sort of alarming death. All of it exquisitely shot. Eyeball and earball candy all the way. (Her music is both lush AND hilarious!)

And the performances couldn’t be better. Samantha Robinson channels young Liz Taylor by way of Russ Meyer and The Carrie Nations, and is can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her riveting throughout. Love-spell recipients Robert Seeley and Gian Keys both kill it, as does Laura Laddell as the woman most betrayed. Elaine’s fellow witches are also terrific. But Jeffrey Vincent Parise scene-steals his shit so hard (as “Wayne”, the totally good-to-go first fool we meet) that I can’t believe he wasn’t already one of my favorite movie stars.

I gotta say: there’s something about watching men nakedly, vulnerably weep on camera – like women have been asked to do since cameras began – that’s kind of hilarious in a film like this. Seeing the sex roles inverted always cheers me up. But also totally yanks my chains.

Because, yes: the broken heart of a man hurts just as much as the broken heart of a woman, I am here to fucking tell you. It’s just surpassingly rare to see it portrayed on film like this, from a woman’s perspective, and with the stoic manly filter turned off. Watching your guy melt down to a puddle, while you go, “Oof. Jesus, what a pussy,” is as real as real can be; and Parise and Seeley bring that emotion so hard that I’m laughing and crying at the same time. An extraordinary feat, in an extraordinary film.

I love this movie soooo much, in so many ways, that you’d think it cast some sort of nefarious spell upon me. And you’d be right! Am officially an Anna Biller fan for life. Want to see anything she does. But will not be swigging anyone’s love potion, any time soon.

And now we move to the short film block, where the remaining nine filmmakers cued up to weave their respective spells, at 20 minutes or less.

Ghengis Khan Conquers the MoonFirst up was GENGHIS KHAN CONQUERS THE MOON by Kerry Yang, wherein the titular warlord (Cary Tagawa, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE) is enticed to spread his empire extraterrestrially, to the Sea of Tranquility, as seen through a telescope owned by James Wong (GREMLINS). It felt like a super-high-end Syfy Channel series pitch to me, in terms of tone. Superlatively dialed. And I hope they listen. Cuz she knocked it out the park. (The production values –including the lunar landscape they created – are legitimately breathtaking.)

HOSS - directed by Christine BoylanHOSS by Christine Boylan is also aiming straight for high-end network viability. Clearly a setup for a post-apocalyptic sci-fi western series, it’s beautifully shot and staged, and the script is clever, with tons of cool implications. My unfortunate complaint is the one I honestly have with most TV. It’s too clean. I don’t smell the sweat, and wonder how this tough heroine keeps her wardrobe so spotless. But taken on its own terms, it’s sharp as a knife, and the death scene that caps it is excellent. Far as I can tell, she could step onto any show and hold her own. Knows how it’s done. And does it very, very well.

ReStart - directed by Olga OsarioFrom there, shit gets weird in a hurry. Olga Osario’s RESTART is a time-warping, mind-warping gem somewhere between MEMENTO and LOOPER, with all the enormous filmic skill that implies. This story of a kidnapped woman, eternally trying to figure out how to change her past and end the cycle, is profoundly thought-through and directed within an inch of its life. Amazing work. And phenomenal talent.

Boxer - directed by Toy LeiToy Lei’s BOXER brought the action, at the shortest running time. It’s the story of a nondescript Asian mom who nobody would suspect came here to kill you. But she can, and she will, with incredible skill and absolute ruthlessness. Somewhere between her succinct, beautifully-choreographed ultraviolence and her love of her son, I fell in love with this thing. It evokes a powerful motherly role-reversing twist somewhere between LONE WOLF AND CUB and LEON THE PROFESSIONAL. If this became a series, I would watch it. Just sayin’!

Hard Broads - directed by Mindy BledsoeLikewise with Mindy Bledsoe’s HARD BROADS, the far-and-away laughtastic favorite of the show. It’s the cheapest and rawest of the batch. But fuck if this girlfriend inversion of WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S gone horribly wrong didn’t bring down the house. Utterly belongs on Comedy Central, or whoever else wants to surf that hilarious wave. I laughed so hard it hurt.

The Puppet Man - directed by Jacqeuline CastelJacqueline Castel’s THE PUPPET MAN is thin on plot, but drippingly rich in sleazy textural va-va-vooom. The awesome music and cameo by the great John Carpenter certainly add to the voom. But there’s a giddy, galvanized intensity to every neon-lit speck of the proceedings at this shithole bar, where things go from bad to worse, that’s impossible to ignore. If the feature it implies pays off on its deliciously creepy setup, this one could be a keeper. It definitely rocks. (And Susannah Simpson gives my favorite supporting performance of the short fest. She’s the P.J. Soles of the next generation. I want to see her in EVERYTHING!)

Which brings us, at last, to my top three.

The Stylist - directed by Jill GevargizianThe big festival award-winner – with both the judges and the audience – was Jill Gavargizian’s THE STYLIST. For very many good reasons. Its tale of a lonely, damaged, homicidal hair stylist who longs to live the lives of the successful clients she colors and coifs literally screams to be made into a powerful stand-alone horror feature, of which this is but a chapter. (A series could work, too, But let’s start with the feature!)

Najarra Townsend (CONTRACTED) utterly owns this role, lovably down-to-earth and wincingly tragic by turns. She’s the opposite of a cold-blooded killer. Has a very warm heart. But is unfortunately deeply insane, with some really bad ideas about how to improve her life.

And there’s a grisly, sustained centerpiece – shot in one retina-peelingly astonishing take – that had the entire audience cringing and staring through its fingers. It’s a virtuoso moment of pure hardcore horror that’s as emotionally transgressively shocking as it is meatily unflinching.

Bottom line: it’s a great horror film with a lot of soul, delivered impeccably. SOMEONE GIVE JILL THE MONEY TO MAKE THIS FEATURE NOW.

Nasty - directed by Prano Bailey-BondSpeaking of hardcore horror: the one film that had me jumping up and down in my seat was NASTY, by Prano Bailey-Bond. This is a U.K.flick, set in 1982, during the height of the “Video Nasties” scandal, when horror films from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST to THE EVIL DEAD were being actively banned. And it dances with the danger and allure of watching such forbidden fruit in a familial setting, with a barely-teenage son trying to figure out where his dad has disappeared to. Stumbling onto Dad’s secret stash of forbidden VHS tapes. And getting initiated into a deeper, darker surreality that may both corrupt his life AND bring the family closer together.

I’ve seen a lot of movies try to reconcile our love of watching horrible things with our desire to understand those horrible things. And recognize them in ourselves, without taking them out on the world.

NASTY’s enormous triumph, for me, is that it uses every naturalistic and hallucinogenic chance it gets to hardwire you inside that experience. Draws a super-clear line between the imaginary and the real. Then pries your brain apart, and drags you through the luminous VHS gateway to revelation.

Lemme just say that Prano Bailey-Bond is one amazing director. She works in at least three distinct styles here, from gritty/jittery/artifact-packed 80s VHS re-creation to Ken Loach naturalism to Chris Cunningham-level mind-bending what-the-fuck-did-I-just-see-ness. She uses every tool in the visionary toolshed, on a tiny budget, and the results utterly blew me away. Fucking loved it. Fucking want to see more of her soon.

But if NASTY had me jumping up and down, Stephanie Cabdevila’s BIONIC GIRL was the one with which I fell most soulfully in love. And it’s the one for which mere words are most apt to fail me. So please allow me to attempt to describe this most intoxicatingly beautiful of bizarro mindfucks.

Bionic Girl - directed by Stephanie CabdevilaLet’s start by saying Stephanie Cabdevila is working at a Michele Gondry level of artistic brilliance here, circa his videos for Bjork and THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP. The movie is, in fact, a musical sci-fi/fantasy from beginning to end, translating its boundless imagination into one breathtaking symbolic setpiece after another. So no, I wasn’t crying. That was just my eyeballs drooling.

From the moment our mad scientist/heroine (Clemintine Poidatz) starts songsplaining the bionic replica of herself she’s created to take her place in the outside world – and we’re shown her ghostly-sheeted, googly-eyed constant companion in alienation – we’re transported to a place made entirely out of magick and infinite possibility. And as her plan goes swiftly, horribly wrong, the depths of her isolation become stunningly manifest. She’s got a long, hard climb to reclaim herself, a process both sweetly comic and sincerely oh-no heartbreaking.

The climactic fight between self and projection is a classic example of the all-too-rare “surrealist action scene”, monumentally played. And where it lands is so achingly lovely and utterly weird that it feels, to me, like home.

If I were ever to start a Fungasm Film line – producing the kinds of films I edit as books for Fungasm Press – Stephanie Cabdevila would be at the very tip-top of my list. BIONIC GIRL is, to my mind, the reason they invented the word magnificent.

So that’s my report! I hope it inspires you to look into Etheria, and their ever-growing roster of femme-tastic filmmakers. Because they’re essential parts of the new frontier. In a world where men direct roughly 96% of the feature films and television being produced, there’s no longer any excuse for saying, “Well, I’d hire a woman director, but there just aren’t any. We just can’t find ’em.”

As Jackie Kong – groundbreaking, troublemaking director of BLOOD DINER, and recipient of Etheria’s 2016 Inspiration Award – said in her keynote speech (and I’m paraphrasing pretty close), “If you want to support us, hire us. We’re right here. And we’re ready to work.”

And as I’ve said before, and will say again: if 49% of the human race is telling 96% of the stories, WE AIN’T HEARING 51% OF THE WHOLE HUMAN STORY. A situation so unjust and untenably insane I should barely even need to point it out.

If you’re as tired as I am of hearing the same old stories, over and over, here’s a simple solution that’s sitting right there, just waiting for us to open the door.

I’d like to suggest that we open that door.

There is no excuse not to.

— John Skipp

AND NOW A WORD FROM VIOLET LeVOIT!

It’s been a while since we talked with Violet, the astonishing author of I AM GENGHIS CUM and I’LL FUCK ANYTHING THAT MOVES AND STEPHEN HAWKING. She vanished from the public eye roughly a year ago, to give two kinds of birth: a new short novel called I MISS THE WORLD, coming this fall from King Shot Press, and a new baby, who arrived just weeks after finishing the book.

So I was delighted to find this podcast this morning, featuring 40 minutes of Violet at her brilliant, captivating best. She truly is one of the razor-sharpest minds I know, and I could listen to her talk all day. Just love her voice. Where she’s coming from. Her unique polymorphous perspective.

So here she is, on the awesome Bizarro lit podcast BIZZONG (where I put in a cool appearance, a month or so back). Ladies and gentlemen? MEET VIOLET LeVOIT!!!

http://www.projectiradio.com/anagram-violet-levoit-bizzong-podcast/

ON BEING BORN FOR A REASON

HI! I’m turning 59 years old today. If I live another year, I will have fully lapped my expectations. Cuz I never ever EVER expected to make it to 30, hard and crazy as I’ve lived.

I always feel like, “Well, shit, dude. You make it through this one, we’ll talk about the next.” But so far, there’s always been a next, full of new things to do, and even more reasons to stay alive.

Insofar as I can tell, I was born to make art I believe in, and support the artists who do so, too. There’s a sweet spot in the universe that wants to be tickled hard. A cosmic clitoris that will get off like crazy, once we learn how to hit it. How could you NOT want to provide that invaluable, fungasmic service to all of creation?

If there’s one thing I love about not being dead yet, it’s the chance to connect with amazing people, with every speck of honesty and emotion and intelligence and uninhibited creativity we can possibly muster together. Making our fleeting time together as astonishing and rewarding as it could possibly be.

HI! I’m 59 years old. And the universe goes on forever. Maybe we do, too. Maybe not. Who knows.

But my birthday present to you is the love underlying every speck of work I do, and that of the astonishing people I champion. Because, to me, they ARE champions. Art heroes. My heroes.

I may live forever. But one of these days, this John Skipp dude I’ve been playing for the last 59 is gonna get his ass shown the door. And I will step through it, like everyone else.

So, baby? LET’S ENJOY EACH OTHER WHILE WE CAN. Give each other the best of each other, for so long as we are able.

That’s what Fungasm means to me.

I love you crazy fuckers.

Let’s dance.

 

BURNING GHOSTS PT. 2: DANIEL ROSENBOOM INTERVIEW, AND LIVE CONCERT-FILM PERFORMANCE!

Burning-Ghosts-Band

As mentioned in Pt. I, the band BURNING GHOSTS releases its new CD today. What I didn’t mention is this!

BURNING GHOSTS // CD Release // Saturday, May 7th, 9:00pm

Celebrating their debut CD release on Orenda Records, Los Angeles expressionist metal-jazz mavens BURNING GHOSTS present a live concert-film recording IN THE ROUND at Downtown LA’s premeire live creative music venue, BLUEWHALE.

Featuring:
Daniel Rosenboom
 | Trumpet
Jake Vossler | Guitars
Richard Giddens | Bass
Aaron McLendon | Drums
www.burning-ghosts.com

Joining them for this special event will be video artist extraordinaire, Travis Flournoy on live psychedelic visuals, and countercultural force of nature John Skipp. (Ain’t I fancy?)

BLUEWHALE
123 Astronaut E.S. Onizuka St., Suite 301
Los Angeles, CA 90012
http://www.bluewhalemusic.com/event/2016/5/7/dan

Hope to see you all there!

Meanwhile, as promised, here’s a brief conversation with the man both behind and in front of the curtain: on sonic evolution, cultural revolution, working with brilliant musicians, and forging new ways to get that music heard.

FUNGASM INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ROSENBOOM

1) What cultural forces provoked this music?

Truth be told, by the summer of 2015 I found myself disgusted, despairing, frustrated, and somewhat helpless in the face of the continuous onslaught of “bad news” that seemed to really explode after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. By that point, it had been almost a year of pulling the curtain back on police brutality, particularly in majority black communities; and along with this rampant disgrace, all sorts of reports on rape culture, economic and class inequity, gender discrimination, LGBTQ struggles, and political corruption seemed to be boiling over in our newsfeeds. And as a white artist living in an incredibly diverse city, I couldn’t make sense of any of this – it just didn’t compute for me. How could this be our 2015 America? How could people enact such bigotry towards each other? I was almost feeling paralyzed by the need to do something, but not knowing how to put these feelings into action.

Of course making art, particularly expressionist music, is a pretty abstract way to react to all of these cultural ills. But my voice is most effective through the horn. I’m not saying that this music is a mode of effective action against police brutality or discrimination – but I do think that music has the power to inspire discourse, to make people reflect and share in a feeling. And if knowing the influences that, as you say, “provoked” this music can help our audience to ask themselves some difficult questions, or to reflect on our society while listening to the collective emotions the band puts out, then I think it can be a pebble in a pond. And hopefully the ripple radiates wide.

In a certain way, music IS the rock that hits the social mirror. And change really IS possible.

2) Why these instruments, for this particular experiment? Why these guys?

For me, making music always comes down to the people involved in the project. Depending on who’s in the band, the approach, sound, and concept are going to be unique. So, I had been mixing an amazing duo project between Jake Vossler on guitar and Aaron McLendon on drums. I’ve known these guys for well over a decade now, and Jake and I have been close musical compatriots, bandmates, and brothers that whole time. Mixing their duo project, I said to myself, “I gotta play with this combo.” Jake and I have had a duo relationship for years, Aaron and Jake have had a duo relationship, Aaron and our bassist Richard Giddens have had a duo relationship, and Richard and I have had a duo relationship, but the four of us had never all played together in the same context. So, it was an exciting opportunity to mix these elements, these incredibly strong musical personalities, together. 

The sound of these guys together was always going to be visceral and intense – some might even say extreme. So given the timing of the recording (summer 2015), and the culture maelstrom that felt totally overwhelming, it seemed like the perfect band to dive into that fire and say something bold. But rather than write music specifically designated to certain social issues, we basically started a dialogue about all these things – the warts on our American cultural identity that were just too big to ignore – and we set out to make subversive music in a spontaneous way. That is to say, some of the pieces had some loosely structured compositional elements, and some were totally improvised, but all were played against the backdrop of serious cultural examination.

What’s really amazing about this band is the range of musical influences that integrate seamlessly in the moment. For me the broad umbrella of “free jazz” was an important element, not only musically, but for its cultural implication. I think of it as an attitude more than genre. And that attitude is pretty aligned with punk, in many ways. Jake’s background as a metal guitarist informs everything about his sound and approach, but his musical tastes are incredibly diverse, and his approach to improvisation is so dynamic and colorful that sometimes it’s impossible to believe it’s the same guy. Richard and Aaron have deep roots in jazz, but they’re also spectacularly diverse improvisers, and approach their roles as a rhythm section with an incredible drive and intensity. There aren’t that many “jazz guys” that can shift gears from burning swing to straight up metal or even almost avant-classical as effortlessly as they do. Basically, I knew this band was perfect for creating music that felt as shifting, dynamic, and conversational as this subject matter demanded.

Really, the music is like a mashup of Ornette Coleman and Wadada Leo Smith with Fantomas and The Melvins, imbued with the spirit of Rage Against the Machine and Dmitri Shostakovich. Fans of Napalm Death, Burning Witch, and Earth will find common ground here with fans of Albert Ayler, Charles Mingus, and John Zorn – it’s a complex sound that has appeal to folks on either end of the spectrum for ironically similar reasons. Timbre-ly speaking, it is metal and timbre-ly speaking it is jazz, but these are ultimately superficial and secondary distinctions. What it really is, is a group of four musicians with broad interests fluidly integrating the entire spectrum of their shared language in a naturally spontaneous way. It’s a musical dialogue, and the sound is just the result. 

3) I love that you put the trumpet in the foreground on this project. So often, you generously offer the spotlight to your band members, to the point where you spend more time blending in than popping out. What’s the difference this time?

Thanks man! Yeah, usually speaking I try to go for an ensemble sound more than a soloist sound. In this instance, it was an important delineation to only have one horn – we were going for a very strong and distinct sound for each instrumental voice. But the trumpet is also an appropriate “narrator,” if you will, for the conversation. Historically, the trumpet is a signal instrument – in the ancient world it was literally used to signal approaching danger, or announce important events. In that way it has a deeply ingrained role as “the voice of the call,” so to speak. So, in this context, it really operates like the lead voice in a narrative.

On a personal note, this is the first time I’ve positioned myself as the only horn in a band. It was a distinct choice to put my voice out front and center, both to challenge myself as an artist, and to really direct the conversation. Because of it’s timbre and natural melodicism, the trumpet acts like a guide through the ever-changing textures the other guys weave. Richard and Jake both have really deep, rich, big sounds, so they provide a huge sonic bed for the trumpet to float over. Aaron’s drive and percussive sonic palate are like waves to surf as a horn player. 

But really, I think the feeling that the trumpet is at the foreground is actually just a bi-product of the instruments we used, and the natural way we play together. The idea was to really have a group dialogue going the whole time. It’s not music where there are very many clearly delineated solos and backgrounds. We’re all contributing equally all the time. The trumpet just has a timbre that rides on top very naturally. 

4) Orenda, like Fungasm, is a small label with a fierce determination to put out challenging, genre-defying work. Can you talk a bit about the Orenda aesthetic, and the kind of work you push, why?

For me, as an artist, I’m most interested in work that’s pushing the boundaries of its chosen direction. So in terms of music, that naturally tends toward projects that are quite genre defiant. But the genre-defying isn’t the point. It’s simply that musicians today listen to an enormous range of music. Since we’ve got about a century’s worth of recorded music to draw from, and hundreds of years of scores to check out, and thousands of years of traditions, I think most creative musicians today see genre lines as almost laughable. 

In the days when record companies had to give stores clear genre distinctions in order to help them organize their shelves and sell products to people of certain persuasions, it was more important. It’s how people moved music to the masses. But the most creative artists never really played by the rules anyway. The difference was label executives used to take more chances. I saw an interview with Frank Zappa once where he laid it out perfectly. To paraphrase: “The label executives were old guys with money, who recognized that they had no idea what kids would like. So rather than worrying about whether or not they could sell an artist or album, they just threw money at the weird stuff and let the kids figure it out.” I love that attitude. And I’d totally go with that ethos…except I have no money to throw at anything! Hahahahaha!

But that’s largely why we put out the music we do. Most of the stuff on Orenda Records would have a really hard time finding an appropriate home on another label. Most of the artists we work with are at the beginnings or early stages of their public careers. They’re taking chances, trying things, and experimenting with music without worrying too much about sales. Worrying about sales is the death of creativity, and in my experience, the bolder your creative choices, the better chance you have of success. So, I’m inspired by artists and musicians who take those risks and go for it!

That’s created a catalog that’s pretty damn diverse. This is our 30th record, and we’ve got everything from creative jazz, to electronic music, to contemporary classical, to cross-cultural, to avant-garde, to chamber jazz, to experimental metal, and more. And what unites all of this is a sense of community – all these artists are working with each other, playing on each other’s projects, sharing influences, and pushing each other. That’s the most exciting part. And we’re just getting started…

Get the Album: http://bit.ly/24pF3SR
Music Video: http://vimeo.com/165177877
Official Website: http://burning-ghosts.com

CD Release Show: http://burningghosts.eventbrite.com