Just in time for your holiday travels, we present the first edition of the Musings Podcast, in which we pair Punk Auteur Joel Potrykus (BUZZARD, APE) with The Undisputed Party King, Andrew W.K., for a chat about Faces of Death, Pink Floyd, Lord of the Rings, and other weird shit.
Below is a transcribed excerpt from their conversation, the full version of which is streaming on Soundcloud and iTunes. We hope you have as much fun listening to it as we had putting it together.
Joel Potrykus: I’m curious if there are any movies that you were way crazy into in high school. I think that’s where people really get into movies the most.
Andrew W.K.: At that time, I was definitely into trying to find movies. I had a rather primal experience, I believe, my freshman year at a concert that was actually at the University of Michigan campus at some type of auditorium that had a screening room. There were some very confrontational and intense groups/bands playing and that’s why I had gone. But one of the groups specifically, I believe it was called “10,000 Dying Rats” (at least I think that was their name—I believe they’re even still in Michigan, I tried following up with them over the years, I’m sure they’re still active, the members definitely are to some capacity). I remember they were very dedicated. Part of their presentation involved using the projector and the big screen and showing this compilation of movie clips that they had edited together. It was very intense. There’s a lot of clips I was semi-familiar and then there were many that I was unfamiliar with including clips from a movie called Nekromantik. It was probably the most disturbing thing I had ever seen. Part of it was probably taken from – or had the same atmosphere as – this compilation called Faces of Death.
JP: Right. Half of those were so fake, though. Those Faces of Death. I was so into those. But it was always such a bummer, because half of them were re-enactments and stuff.
AWK.: I never really saw any of those films. I was kind of just too scared, to be honest. But I had friends who collected those series and similar series did talk about how half the footage wasn’t real. Which, I guess they were disappointed about.
JP: Yeah, Faces of Death would be like, yeah in the 1700s, they would drag people until their skin ripped off, and then they would show supposed footage from the 1700s before film cameras were even invented. So it was like, c’mon, man. What the hell is up with that?
AWK: You know that’s gotta be fake, in that case then.
JP: But I’ve never heard of Necro—what did you say? Nekromantik?
AWK: Yeah, so anyway, just to give you a sense of the style they were going for, it was definitely in that vein. And one of the clips featured a sort of climactic scene – literally – from Nekromantik, which is a German-made film by a director named Jörg Buttgereit. He made two films in the series called Nekromantik, and then went on to make other films. Nekromantik featured this scene toward the end where this gentleman, the main character of the story, is stabbing himself in the stomach with, I think, a screwdriver, and ejaculating huge amounts of semen and blood.
AWK: The blood, especially, from his… uh, erection, which was something I had never even imagined – or thought of – was possible…It was really seeing something that I didn’t even think was in the realm of possibility. Even though it was obviously not real, it was the combination of the other footage that was edited around this scene, combined with the place we were viewing it, combined with the soundtrack – the music provided by this band live – in this darkened theater, all culminated in this very intense thing. I mean, I felt sick to my stomach, but I couldn’t look away. And I realized as it was happening that I was changing, that this was changing me as a person. You don’t get too many of those experiences, although you do get a lot of them at that age, where you could really tell that this was a turning point. And then I ended up hunting down that movie, almost as a way of trying to deal with the trauma of having seen it. Rather than avoid it, I felt like going deeper in to the nightmare would be more therapeutic, and it’s an incredible film, and that was definitely the most—I got hooked on trying to find movies that made me feel that way. And it was not easy to find many others that did that.
JP: Yeah, I think that’s kind of like—I remember when I was a kid, on PBS, there was a show that was sneak previews with two film critics, it was kind of a rip off of Siskel and Ebert, and they would watch movies, and when I was a kid I saw this clip they showed from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, where all the faceless masked people were dropping into the giant meat grinder. And it was so long before the Internet that I could never figure out where the scene was from, and I’d describe it to people, and they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. And finally, I was just watching Pink Floyd The Wall in high school and it hit me that that’s where it was from. And that stuff gets you sick to the stomach in a way that you just can’t get sick to the stomach anymore, not after you’re young like that. You just see that crazy shit that just sticks in your head and is just so warped – like in a good way, I guess.
AWK: It’s a debaucherous moment, where you’re expanding your mind but also your appetite, and you go chasing after that and it’s like your first time getting high or something – you’ll never be able to quite recreate it. It’s a fleeting high point. I’ve actually never seen The Wall.
JP: Oh, you should see The Wall, man. Are you a Pink Floyd fan?
AWK: Well, as much as anybody else. I mean, I don’t know that much about them, but I like everything I’ve heard for the most part. There are those sort of insurmountable areas of the arts – whether they’re an artist, or a band, or a film, or a book – where it’s so huge of a confrontation and you sort of end up working through it, or avoiding it, but, one way or another, it’s a part of your life. I haven’t consciously avoided Pink Floyd, but I definitely knew, well, could go buy those albums and finally get into it, spend all that time with it—or not. And I just haven’t done it. I don’t really know why.
JP: I was that way with the Beatles for a long time. And finally one day I was in my early 20s and decided I finally had to get into the Beatles to see what it was all about. It was too overwhelming and I had been putting it off for no reason and I just got a bunch of Beatles records and just hacked through it until I understood what it was all about. So I totally get that.
AWK: Yeah, that’s a very good example.
JP: Do you watch movies very often? Or are you just busy like crazy all the time?
AWK: Oh, I love movies. I try to watch as many as possible. I really enjoy going to movie theaters always, whenever possible.
JP: What’s the last movie you found in the theater?
AWK: In a theater? It’s been a while now. Probably, the last Hobbit movie, The Battle of the Five Armies.
JP: Yeah, I didn’t even see that one. I saw the first one and it didn’t work for me, so, I didn’t bother going to the second one. Was it good?
AWK: I liked it. I was really impressed with everything Peter Jackson’s done since, well, I guess his old horror movies.
JP: Yeah, Dead Alive! Me and a few guys in high school had a list of movies we had to track down somehow, and Dead Alive was on there. And to know that that same guy would go on to make this epic fantasy series, Lord of The Rings. Have you ever seen Meet the Feebles?
AWK: Yeah, of course, it’s a sort of legendary, underground movie.
JP: Yeah, that was on the list, too. Just to think that the guy who did Meet the Feebles and Dead Alive would be trusted with literally probably hundreds of hundreds of millions of dollars is pretty rad.
AWK: He’s the only one crazy enough to even think it was possible – people wanted to try to make those Tolkien stories into films for years. And those animated versions are fantastic, and that seemed like it was the closest you could get. I mean, how do you film that visually? A lot of his style that he introduced and was perfecting in Dead Alive, he used it again. He used it throughout all the Tolkien stuff – like, the real wide-angle lenses, the close ups, the faces, these certain kind of shots, you really notice there’s a style he didn’t abandon.
JP: Oh, yeah. I think certain directors just have their instinct and they go to it no matter what. Whether it’s chopping someone up with a lawn mower, or a hobbit shooting someone with a bow, or whatever. I think you can’t get away from that kind of stuff. So you’ve seen Ralph Bakshi’s animated one, where he tried to do the whole Lord of the Rings series and it’s kind of like, half-way through he ran out of money and it just kind of gets shitty and is not even animated – they just put colored filters over certain scenes. I think that is amazing.
AWK: Yeah, I think those are really, really, really, really fantastic. The music is incredible, the sound design. I really remember a lot about the sound effects, and just the way the sound worked. I think that for some reason I had an audio version, just the cassette, of those films. I don’t know how or why I would have had that, but I remember listening to those. This was before high school. That I was familiar with before I ever tried reading any of the books. And I really thought those were well done on many levels.
JP: Yeah, as a kid I was way into the Hobbit cartoon, which I think is probably technically superior to the Lord of the Rings cartoon. But the Lord of the Rings cartoon is just cool for different reasons, because he’s trying to do rotoscope animation where he’s drawing every single cell over live footage, and then he just kind of rushes it because he ran out of time and money and it kind of turns into his own version of Lord of the Rings and it’s like its whole other thing. Ralph Bakshi – I mean the guy who made Fritz the Cat, the X-rated cartoon – is now trusted to turn Tolkien’s vision into an animated movie… I don’t know who signs off on these papers, but man, that shit just doesn’t happen anymore. It’s so awesome.
AWK: And then he did Cool World, right?
JP: Yeah, I think that was his last shot at mainstream. Brad Pitt is in that, right?
AWK: Yeah, that was a really big deal. That was probably more like middle school, junior high school.
JP: Yeah, and I think that was kind of like, they let him do that because Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a big success, and that was his version of real life meets animation, but it didn’t really click like Roger Rabbit did, obviously.
AWK: Yeah, I liked the Roger Rabbit movie a lot.
JP: I made a movie called Buzzard one year ago, and they were showing it in Chicago at the Music Box. They have two screens there, and in the main room, they were showing Roger Rabbit on 35mm in this huge, 500-seat venue, but there were like seven people there, and that was just the coolest way to watch that movie. It was just amazing, man.
AWK: Yeah, I definitely enjoyed those empty-theater viewing experiences; it’s quite strange.
JP: Yeah, there’s nothing better than an empty theater.