Archive for category People Who Were Willing To Speak To Me

An unInterview With Eviscerated Panda Writer Sarah Tipper

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Sarah Tipper is a writer who happens to write.  Books, no less!  Good ones, too.  She is a pioneer in the art of heavy metal fiction.  She also has the power of flight and can make leopards disappear by staring at them for seven consecutive hours.  She has spent the last eleven hours wearing socks on her ears.

Me:  There has been a number of complaints from the Panda community about your use of the band name Eviscerated Panda in your work. Several pandas at the Atlanta Zoo have refused to eat bamboo for the past two months until you agree to change the name of the band to something like Eviscerated Squid or Devitalized Orangutan. How do you respond to the charges of “panda-sploitation” that have been leveled at you by the Panda community?

Her:  It’s only a very small (but very vocal) part of the panda community that isn’t keen on the name. Most of the pandas I’ve spoken to love the name, they feel it raises their profile and lends weight to the argument that they need conservation. I’ve even had a letter from pandas in Scotland asking if they can name their thrash metal band Eviscerated Panda. That’s going to be one furry mosh pit just as soon as a venue is brave enough to book them.

There’s a rumour that the Atlanta pandas had my books dropped into their enclosure by Tipper Gore, who then rabble roused them into taking action (which is no mean feat so I’ve got to give her credit for that, you ever tried to get a panda organized to protest? They’re not the most dynamic guys on the block. As for them not eating, just you check out the (imaginary) CCTV footage around three a.m. every morning. She’s sneaking bamboo flavor Marshmallow fluff sandwiches in to them.

Tipper Gore is no relation to me and I don’t condone the use of my surname as a first name.

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Me:  Do you feel like your third novel, Eviscerated Panda-Vulgar Display of Panda, was a new level for you as a writer?

Her:  I’m glad you asked and since the most obvious way to answer this question would be with every Pantera track on Vulgar Display of Power I’m going to answer it with every track on Danzig’s debut album.

By the time I wrote my third book, Vulgar Display of Panda, heavy metal fiction had me in it’s possession until the end of time. It felt sometimes like my inspiration was not of this world and, with my soul on fire I was the hunter of pleasant things (mainly cookies) and evil things to lay before my readers. I included the occasional twist of cain-like naughtiness from my character Victor and told the tale of the approval hungry character Suzy (the insatiable band manager). She rides and then asks herself “Am I demon?”

My mother was very supportive and reminded me that as a child I’d written a poem about a holiday to Bognor Regis (an English sea side town). This has been lost but I sometimes still wonder what rhymes with Bognor Regis.

And now I’ll answer this question with every track on Vulgar Display of Power. Pow! That’s just how flexible I am as a writer. It’s like I’m doing yoga with words. Writing Vulgar Display of Panda was indeed a new level. This love I have for heavy metal and for writing is something regular people might not understand. Every morning when I rise and walk to work, it’s no good trying to quiet the clamor of characters in my head, using their mouth for war, or fornicating hostile (phew! Kept it clean). Without writing I feel hollow and might as well live in a hole. I’m happy to have the compulsion to write, if you can choose your demons to suit you, then by demons be driven.

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Me:  In your latest novel, The Mega Metal Diary of Cleo Howard, the main character is 16? Have you ever been 16? If so, how did it influence your writing?

Her:  I’ve been sixteen briefly. I’d have liked to have been sixteen for longer to help with the writing process but it was a busy time in my life so I only stuck at it for ten months. I did think about going back and having another go for research purposes but there was nothing on wikiHow to help. Nothing! Can you believe that? In a parallel universe I told Stevie Nicks about my struggle to give sixteen the time it deserved. In this universe she wrote Edge Of Seventeen. Coincidence? Yes, very probably.

Me:  Also, how old is 16 in English years?

Her:  To calculate English years simply add 2 to your US years, so 16 in English years is 18 in US years. The only exception to this is if you are appearing in “Saved By The Bell”, then in England we must add 5 years to your US years to calculate English years.

Me:  In a hallucination I had earlier today, book critic Dwight Garner of The New York Times called you the “Rudyard Kipling of heavy metal fiction writers who mention pandas in the title of their books”. Do you think he’s accurate?

Her:  I’ve been called a lot of things since I started writing the heck out of heavy metal fiction including The Jackie Collins of the Riff.

Your hallucinatory Garner is broadly correct and correctly broad. I am much like old Rudders Kippers as I like to call him. Do you like Kipling? I don’t know, I’ve never Kippled, is something English people say all the time. Great moustache that Kipling guy, really sterling top lip work, sadly overshadowed by his writing. Also, Garner has such a lovely smile for a critic, really warm and friendly. Also, I once saw a picture of him on the internet holding a cat, but it turned out not to be him, but I bet he’s still a really nice guy.

Recently, scientists have speculated that human beings evolved from flying monkey-like creatures that descended on the planet from Pluto in the early 19th century. How do you think your writing will evolve in the next thousand years?

I’ve got medium sized plans for the next thousand years. I could have had big plans but I got distracted by listening to Manowar on the day I’d set aside for planning the next thousand years (Thanks a bunch DeMaio! Your anthemic metal offerings delivered from within the hairiest of pants could have cost me an amazing career).

Eventually novelists and musicians will just beam books and songs straight into the minds of the audience (U2 are (allegedly) working on this right now). Some traditionalists will still want paper books and CDs. I’m going to buy new pens around 2325 because I’ve calculated that all ink in pens now will have dried up by then. Future book covers will have more foil and PVC on them and come with free gifts, like a robot to read aloud to you, or stickers, people like stickers.

If you were only allowed to use one word for the rest of your life (you could say it or write it as much as you want, but you could only use that one word), which word would it be? And how would it affect your style as a writer?

 I’m too promiscuous with language to ever commit to one word and my favorite word changes all the time. It was spoon a minute ago, now it’s ambrosia. I’ve had a very public falling out with the word nice for trying to appear too frequently (it’s like the Kardashian of adjectives, always wanting more publicity). I’m also not enamored of the phrase “he thought to himself” because you have to think to yourself, you’d be telepathic if you were thinking to someone else.

I’m currently trying to invent a word that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet.

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I’m not a very good interviewer and I want people to actually know about the great stuff you are doing, so I’m just going to shut the hell up at this point and actually let you talk about your work, which is probably more interesting than the question I was going to ask you about whether you’ve ever eaten a moose before…

I heard you got a certificate of merit from the association for interviewers that don’t ask the obvious dull questions but it got lost in the post. Also, in a future book I write, all five members of Eviscerated Panda have small tattoos on their buttocks so that when they drop trou and line up it reads “Keith Spillett Is A Great Interviewer”. They only have small tattoos because large ones wouldn’t be believable.

I’ve eaten chocolate mousse and lemon mousse, mmm…one so sweet, and one so tangy, (oh, sorry moose, no but I once dated a guy with antlers, anyway that’s a story for another day…)

I’ve written six books of heavy metal fiction and have achieved a small and delightful cult following, mainly in England but also in the US and Canada.

Two of my books are diaries, covering 1997 and 1998. If you are ready to relive your teenage angst, plus doing all the truly exciting stuff for the first time with the backdrop of the late nineties metal scene then these books are for you.

Four of my books are about Eviscerated Panda, a thrash band struggling for success. I don’t focus only on the band, their fans, friends and girlfriends are all present too, being in a band doesn’t stop real life from happening. The same characters are in all my books and I promise you if you like metal you’re going to recognize yourself and your friends within my pages.

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An unInterview With Johanna Sadonis From Lucifer Performed By Mickey Rourke Before All The Plastic Surgery

Lucifer

Last night, I was abducted from my bedroom during a fitful sleep by Lucifer vocalist Johanna Sadonis, actor Mickey Rourke and former US Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird.  My wife informed me later than the three performed a bizarre Santeria ritual around my bedside and poured some mind-altering substance into my CPAP machine.  They then hoisted me out the window and on to famed metal musician Lee Dorian’s flying couch.  I awoke hanging from my feet nearly 30,000 feet above the city of Nashville, Tenneesee while Secretary Laird painted my feet with ox blood.  To the best of my recollection, here is what was discussed….

Rourke:  Do you know Johnny Favorite?

Sadonis: I deliberately chose to create a new concept this time around, as when I founded The Oath. I felt no need to repeat it. I loved that one album we did with The Oath and her raw style of playing fit very well with it. With Lucifer however I wanted to put more weight on 70s Heavy Rock influences and Doom. Deeper, more moody and defined.

Rourke:  How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise?

Sadonis:  Lucifer is not so much influenced by the folk stuff. Black Sabbath is the greatest influence to Gaz and me, yes. Gaz is also a huge Trouble fan. Other big influences to Lucifer are Deep Purple, Uriah Heep. Blue Öyster Cult, Aphrodite’s Child, Lucifer’s Friend, Led Zeppelin, Pentagram. The list goes on! I am personally also very influenced by 70s Heart, 70s Fleetwood Mac, Jefferson Airplane and the Shocking Blue.

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Rourke:  You ever watch the Mickey Mouse Club? Because you know what today is?

Sadonis:  These are two great bands. Bands like these of the 1960/70s have an original fire and spirit because what they did was fresh at the time. Heavy distorted guitars and in the case of bands like Coven and Black Widow wrapped into a magic dress. I just watched a Black Widow full show on the German TV program Beat-Club the other day. It was a black mass ritual complete with magic circle, a nude girl as a vessel, ritual knife etc. Today that is not shocking anymore but then it was obscure and fairly fresh. It was daring, extreme and creative. I love that spirit and look up to it. I also love hearing the direct influence these bands drew from, music my mother raised me with.

These bands are direct successors of their influences in blues and you can still hear it prominently shining through. That is beautiful to me as it is the musical language I grew up with. I’m a rock’n’roller at heart. I’m not saying modern bands in general lack this but it is certainly difficult trying to reinvent the wheel within Rock Music nowadays, so yes, I can relate much better to the original spirit than to copies of copies.

Rourke:  What gives human life its worth anyway? Because someone loves it, hates it?

Sadonis:  Thank you so much! You took the words right from my mouth!

Rourke:  Are you an atheist? Do you speak French? Are you from Brooklyn?

Sadonis:  It is a very powerful name, yes. I put a lot of thought into everything I do. It shouldn’t matter so much what people think. It has to make sense to me and it does.

Rourke:  Why do you have a thing about chickens?

Sadonis:  I have been playing in bands since I was a teenager and have been along the way very involved with the Metal scene in general all these years as a DJ, as a local promoter putting up shows and running events in Berlin. I have for example an old school Heavy Metal party called Kill Em All Club for almost six years now too. When we released the first single with The Oath on High Roller Records, several labels approached us for the album. Rise Above was one of them and we decided to go for them because of their catalogue and dedication. I didn’t meet Gaz until we played in London with The Oath.

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Rourke:  Mephistopheles can be a mouthful in Manhattan, don’t you think?

Sadonis:  Lucifer genuinely plays from the heart and not what might or might not be expected. I don’t measure Lucifer with other bands. I’m not looking at modern bands for inspiration. We might share similar influences with some of these bands. Whatever these inspirations are channeled into though, be it any of the mentioned bands or us, I don’t think needs to be compared. We all differ musically very much from another. I am however friends with most of these bands and respect and admire their work as contemporaries.

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(Robert De Niro suddenly appears on the flying couch looking very much like Satan)

De Niro:  Some religions think that the egg is the symbol of the soul. Did you know that?

Sadonis:  In fact, my parents were listening to 70s music. My rebellion as a teenager was listening to Heavy Metal. I was a complete misfit for it at school actually. I went to my first metal shows at the age of 13. That was GunsNRoses and Metallica. Danzig then turned me onto a darker path and by the time I was 15/16 I started deeply into Black, Death and Doom Metal. Later on I opened my horizon musically and started digging into the past of musical history and here we are now.

DeNiro:  Would you like an egg?

A huge difference indeed. The devil is only part of the whole picture. A metaphoric figure. Devil worshipping might have a strong appeal but it is very one sided. I am very interested in the dark side of things and had a time in my life I leaned very strongly towards it. However I learned that it applies much more to my life to draw perspectives on existence, death and everything beyond from ALL religions and philosophies. There is a universal duality. There is no dark without light and vice versa. And ‘as above so below’ as a central principle. I embrace it all with an open heart. I’m a very spiritual person and I have been looking for answers from an early age on – everywhere.

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Melvin Laird:  Why did you let Bedbug Eddie take Paulie’s thumbs? Do you worry that protecting him from his own mistakes will eventually lead to your undoing?

Sadonis:  Lucifer is a very complex figure. He is the morning star, the bringer of light in the Hebrew bible, Greek and Roman mythology. As the morning star, he represents Venus, the brightest star in the sky, only seen while descending during morning hours, hence Lucifer ending up as the fallen angel in the bible. The Old Testament had very positive things to say about the son of the morning. Unfortunately later on his figure was used to teach a lesson Christian style. He was now pictured as a favoured angel to god for his beauty and intellect and cast out of heaven when it got to his head and he started ‘sinning’. He ended up as being this common misconception for being a rebel: the devil. A wrong picture conjured in the bible. To me Lucifer is beautiful, bright and very misunderstood. A misfit. The name is not related to Kenneth Anger even though I am a fan of his work.

That’s the last thing I remember.  I awoke the next morning in my bed unharmed.

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An unInterview With Gary Meskil From Pro-Pain That Didn’t Really Take Place After I Was Beaten At Shoprite

Pro-Pain

If I could be anyone when I grow up, it would be Gary Meskil from Pro-Pain.  I have an unhealthy fascination with the man’s work.  The band has several thousand albums and I have memorized every detail about every one of them.    

You can imagine my surprise when I ran into him in a Shoprite in Passaic, New Jersey.  He was buying turnips.  I was so overcome with joy that I began leaping up and down and shouting.  I attempted to hug Mr. Meskil when a store security guard, who erroneously believed I was trying to assault him, hit me over the head with a billyclub.  I lost consciousness.  

When I awoke, I was in a hospital room.  Gary was standing there with my family looking extremely concerned holding a Whitman’s Sampler and a card that said “Get Well Soon, Champ!” on the front. I began asking him questions… 

Me:  I saw the band play back in 1992 when “Foul Taste of Freedom” had just come out. One of my favorite shows ever. It was in a Guido bar in New Rochelle, New York called Marty and Lenny’s that occasionally did metal shows under the equally awful name “The Rocker Room”. I was a skinny high school kid with a Gabe Kaplan from “Welcome Back, Kotter” looking Afro. I was wearing an Immolation shirt. How would you rate my performance in the pit that night?

Gary:  I would give it the highest of scores. A perfect 10! Aerodynamic haircuts are timeless and seem to be quite practical in and out of the confines of the pit. The spherical shape obviously aides in getting to the forefront of the circle pit and also in eluding certain rough and tumble types. The Gabe Kaplan cut was a good one! Add an Immolation T-shirt and you have a perfect score!

Me In High School

Me In High School

Me:  Was Johnny Black a real guy or is that a made up story?

Gary:  It’s a true story, but I made it vague enough so that the fans could relate to it via their own story. It’s generally about a modern day James Dean type. Someone whom we all looked up to “way back when”. Then as the years went by, everyone and everything seemed to change around him, yet he stayed exactly the same. As a result, those who once idolized him suddenly frowned upon him. He died young, and I was inspired to write about my observations of people who lose their inner child as they grow older. Suddenly everything becomes shallow and forced, with talks about the weather and such. I admire people who have the guts to always be themselves.

Possibly The Only Person On Earth Who Could Wear A Polo Shirt At A Metal Concert And Look Cool

Possibly The Only Person On Earth Who Could Wear A Polo Shirt At A Metal Concert And Look Cool

Me:  You have an incredibly powerful, distinctive voice. Have you ever ended up in a public situation where a used car salesman or some other idiot is jerking you around and all of a sudden you change your voice like in “Johnny Black” and scare the hell out of them?

Gary:  That’s a great idea, but I can’t recall ever vocally changing gears like that as a fear tactic in public. However, as a father it came in quite handy sometimes to use my “stage voice”, since I’m in favor of sparing the rod.

Me:  (in a serious voice)  A running theme in your music is a weariness and frustration with American military adventurism. From “Iraqnophobia” to “To Never Return” (a song I believe to be one of the most passionate indictments of US foreign policy ever put to music), you have railed against the government’s choice of wars. Do you see anyway for the United States to, at this point, extract ourselves from decisions driven by the military-industrial complex or are we pretty much stuck playing that hand until Armageddon or revolution?

Gary:  It’s pretty idealistic to think that war is somehow not perpetual. That is indeed how insane the world is. There seems to be a disharmony between humans and nature. Perhaps we are alien to this Earth. The wars and occupations will continue as long as at least half of the citizens of the occupying country are somehow convinced that it is necessary. The world desperately needs more tolerance and less ignorance.

Me:  You have done some interesting experimenting with your sound over the years. Have you ever thought of doing a really freaky, out-there Pro-Pain album? Maybe a mix of thrash, hardcore, gospel, and Bangladeshi folk music. Or something in that vain?

Gary:  That would be interesting, if nothing else. I think there are bands out there who experiment to the extreme in that regard. System Of A Down comes to mind. They use their influences really well, in my opinion. With Pro-Pain, there have been quite a few exploratory moments over the years, and more than we are given credit for (I’m sure). We used 808 samples (now called bass drops) in 92’, we had trumpets on our debut , a sax solo and Ice-T duet in 95’, horn sections on various songs, melodic vocals, and lots of guitar wizardry….yet some still categorize us as just a hardcore band.

Here Is Gary.  He's Actually Flying.

Here Is Gary. He’s Actually Flying.

Me:  I’m in the Pro-Pain Army on Facebook. Is there any chance we could go to war with the Kiss Army? We could invade the makeup aisle at Target or something. Go after anyone who has whiskers painted on them. What do you say?

Gary:  Sounds like a plan, (and good PR). We might be outnumbered, but their Love Guns are no match for our PRO-PAIN Tanks!

Me:  What do you think the greatest film ever made is? 

Gary:  The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz

Me:  Really?  Why?

Gary:  Because it was beautiful on it’s face, ugly inside, and was magically and majestically presented on the big screen circa 1939. To this day, there is still so much room for all kinds of interpretation (political and otherwise). Fascinating stuff!

Me:  Once I was hanging out with a bunch of serious hip-hop heads that were all freestyling rap lyrics. Everybody sounded really good and I was nervous because I can’t freestyle for my life. Each guy did a verse. They were making fun of me because they didn’t think I could rap. Luckily, I knew “Pound for Pound” by heart and none of them listened to metal. I jumped up and did the whole song. They all looked at me in stunned silence and acted like I was some sort of genius. I pretended I made the lyrics up and they all thought I was cool from that point on. I’ve always felt guilty for passing your work off as my own. You’re not angry, are you?

Gary:  No. It must have happened some time ago though, because “Pound For Pound” is now required learning in most urban schools around the country. The class is called Street Cred 101.
Me:  (at this point, I dramatically grabbed his hand…I think it made him horribly uncomfortable, but I wanted to convey the importance of what I was about to say)  Promise me you’ll never stop making Pro-Pain albums. EVER! I want your word on this.

Gary:  Define EVER. My word is that I’ll keep making PRO-PAIN albums as long as I’m ABLE. (see ABLE under definitions).

Definitions:

ABLE: See EVER

Me:  (I look away from Gary and directly into the eyes of YOU, the audience)  They have a new album coming out this month.  It is called “Voice Of Rebellion”.  You need to buy multiple copies of it and give it to all of your family members and friends.  If you do not buy at least five copies, hundreds of bees will attack you when you are not expecting it.  Like, when you are sleeping.  Or, on an airplane.

I'm Not Kidding About The Bees

I’m Not Kidding About The Bees

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An unInterview With Zyklon-V From AntiKosmos; I Am Transforming Into A Beagle

Photo by Kassandra Carmona of Konvulsion Photography

Photo by Kassandra Carmona of Konvulsion Photography

Zyklon-V from AntiKosmos is the mammal pictured above.  She is wearing animal blood and wooden shoes.  Myself and a team of botanists from NASA interviewed her moments before the heat death of the universe.  Here’s what happened…

Me:  AntiKosmos?!?!   What…do you just want to see the Kosmos banned? Then what, only criminals and the government will have access to the Kosmos? You know who banned the Kosmos? Hitler! You know who thought it would be a bad idea to ban the Kosmos? Gandhi!

V:  I’ve always found “Turkish Delight” to be a really presumptuous name for a candy (or, I should say, so-called candy). I mean, what’s delightful about popping a sweet into your mouth only to discover that some nasty, fez-wearing miscreant bent on revenge against the decadent West has swapped it out for one of those decorative rose-scented soaps your grandmother used to keep in the guest bathroom but yelled at you if you actually tried to use to wash your hands? “Turkish Disappointing Surprise You’ll Be Tasting With Every Burp For The Next Presidential Administration,” more like.

M:  It’s your birthday. Someone gives you a calfskin wallet. How do you react?

V:  I once listened to “Yakity Sax” for 36 straight hours on a loop while totally naked in a sensory deprivation tank, with no breaks for food or toilet. When I emerged, everything was exactly the same as it had been when I went in, except there was a gentle trickle of cerebro-spinal fluid from my ear that continued for a week, and I subsequently lost the ability to taste mallocreme. I think this is as relevant a commentary on the state of black metal as anything I have read in a glossy music criticism publication.

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Q:  If Arby’s began selling a sandwich covered in the sweat of Glenn Danzig, why do you think we faked the moon landing?

V:  When I was a kid in primary school, I fell off my bike and scraped my knee so bad the kneecap was visible. My mother wanted to use a toothbrush to get the pebbles out of the wound, but my father said that was torture and used a washcloth. After that, I charged my classmates money to pull the bandage back and gaze upon the wound, like the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. I got addicted to the fame, and after the wound healed, I would eat anything brought to me for money – I ate bugs, pre-chewed gum, once all I had to do was put a found mouth guard in my mouth for thirty seconds. I guess what I’m saying is that child prostitution is educational but ultimately dehumanizing, and AntiKosmos does not use fake blood in our performances, so please stop asking.

H:  Have you ever walked up to someone wearing those weird plastic “Bubba” novelty teeth that are pointing out in all weird directions started pointing and laughing hysterically then realized the person is not actually wearing novelty teeth and really looks that way?

V:  For years, I avoided eating bananas because I read that an enzyme your skin secretes after banana consumption makes you more susceptible to mosquito bites. Then I realized I live in a high rise apartment complex in the middle of a city, and I haven’t seen a mosquito in almost a decade. So I bought a bunch of bananas, and when I reached for the first one, as if to mock the celebration of my return to banana-dom, I was immediately viciously attacked by a tarantula that had hidden itself amongst the bunches in a do-or-die immigration attempt from Honduras. Needless to say, I don’t watch televised figure skating anymore.

Ed:  You get into a taxicab. The man sitting in the seat next to you has a necklace made out of the ears of deceased members of the Kennedy family. You ask the driver to go north, he immediately proceeds south. He has a picture of a Benito Mussolini branded into his forehead and looks slightly like Florence Henderson on the early episodes of The Brady Bunch. Over the radio, you faintly hear the whimpering of a small dog. What do you do next?

(warning the following answer contains strange Dutch stuffed animals talking to one another   If you are allergic to stuffed animals or Dutch people or your workplace has a policy in which watching talking owls can cost you your job, do not click the link)

Click here if you dare

K:  In John Cassavetes’ 1976 masterpiece, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, the lead character, Cosmo Vitelli, skillfully played by Ben Gazzara, is sent on a mission for the local mob boss to whack a bookie that is cutting into his business. At some point during the film, a nuclear bomb is detonated in the city of Calgary. Years later, three-headed Canadian beasts emerge from below the surface of the earth and consume all of the margarine available on the United States mainland. Have you ever committed a blunder and later regretted it?

V:  People make a lot out of famous last words. I think some people reveal themselves to be utter deathbed try-hards (not naming names here, but I’m definitely looking at you, Oscar Wilde). For my money, the greatest last words ever uttered were those of Thomas Grasso, who was executed in 1995 for strangling an elderly woman to death with her own Christmas lights over what amounted to $137. His words stay with me to this day, and now I’m passing them on to you so their wisdom will echo through the ages. He said, “I did not get my Spaghetti-Os, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”

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KL:  You’ve got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar. What do you do?

V:  Did you know that there’s a sort of tunnel-like spot in the architecture at the Canadian Embassy in Washington where you can scream as loud as you want, but nobody outside the tunnel can hear you at all? I’m starting to feel that way about this interview.

5:  You’re watching television. Suddenly you realize there’s a wasp crawling on your arm.

V: I get a lot of emails from Smithsonian magazine. They’re that sort of “we want you back” emails that you get when you let your subscription lapse. They’re all intended for an ex-boyfriend I dated 6 years ago. I never mark them as spam or take myself off the mailing list, because I enjoy reading the mini articles they use to try to tantalize you into re-subscribing. There’s probably some ironic commentary there about the detritus of old relationships haunting you long after they end, but right now I’m much more concerned with when the 100,000 Dollar Bar changed its name to 100 Grand, and what made them think they could be so colloquial all of a sudden.

U:  You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?

V:  As a small act of protest against the patriarchal hegemony asserted by this question, I’m going to ask your readers to join me in a silent, ten-minute contemplation of the McRib sandwich (not available in all markets; check your local franchise for details and nutritional information; limit 17 per customer).

Photo by:  Kassandra Carmona of Konvulsion Photography

Photo by Kassandra Carmona of Konvulsion Photography

K:  One more question: You’re watching a stage play – a banquet is in progress. The guests are enjoying an appetizer of raw oysters. The entree consists of boiled dog stuffed with rice. The raw oysters are less acceptable to you than a dish of boiled dog.

V:  Great question. I get this one a lot, and it never fails to really trip me up and make me think. The thing we all have to come to terms with, I think, has less to do with whether human life is imbued with inherent value by nature or some sort of creator being (I think we waste a lot of time contemplating this – time that could almost certainly be better spent ingesting frozen custard), and more to do with whether there really is an “airport rate” that hired cars in Albuquerque are required to charge for rush-hour travel through downtown, or whether that cab driver was ripping me off. Look out for AntiKosmos’ debut long-playing record album “Lachryma Mortis,” available at finer stolen car chop-shops later this year.

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An unInterview With Tommy Christ Of Scatterbrain and Ludichrist; Though This Be Madness, There Is Method In It

scatterbrain

There have been many greatest moments in my life. The birth of my two children, my wedding day, the first time I saw Jodorowsky’s “Holy Mountain”, the time my high school basketball team came back from 8 down to win the league championship, the first time I saw an x-ray of my foot, defending my family from alligators and nuclear waste fueled swamp mutants after our plane crashed into the Everglades….

…the time my pancreas was featured on the Today Show in their “Pancreas of The Month” segment, the day I found out that my neighbors wife wasn’t missing, but had been consumed by him in an all-night Santeria ritual meant to bring a plague of locust on the people of Peru…

…..the time during college when myself and a couple of friends stole an 800 pound orangatuan from the Bronx Zoo, the moment I realized I had the power to become a donkey merely by selling my eternal soul to former President Jimmy Carter and the day I first learned that Al Roker was my biological  father.

However, all great days pale in comparison to today. For this is the day I get to publish an unInterview with a man I’m not afraid to say that I love. His music has shaped me into the deluded, psychotic misanthrope that I am today.

Both Scatterbrain and Ludichrist helped me discover the parts of myself that were missing after I was accidentally dismembered on an assembly line in Flint, Michigan back in 1953.

Now, without further adieu (as the French say), I present to you The Man, The Myth, The Legend….Tommy Christ….

Why did you kick Slash out of the band?

Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere;

When did you first realize Led Zeppelin had plagiarized a portion of “Whole Lotta Love” from Scatterbrain’s “Down With The Ship”?

Who steals my purse steals trash. ‘Tis something, nothing:

‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.

But he that filches from me my good name

Robs me of that which not enriches him

And makes me poor indeed.

Rank your favorite Hawkwind albums in order 1 through 983.

I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I

know a hawk from a handsaw.

When Rob Halford rejoined Ludichrist, do you think it improved the band or do you think you were better off with Blaze Bayley singing?

And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil

By telling truth: tell truth and shame the devil.

If thou have power to raise him, bring him hither,

And I’ll be sworn I have power to shame him hence.

O, while you live, tell truth and shame the devil!

ludichrist

How come Steve Perry won’t play live with you anymore? Is it because he is short?

I have long dreamt of such a kind of man,

So surfeit-swell’d, so old, and so profane;

But being awak’d, I do despise my dream.

Do you ever wear pleather on stage? How about around the house?

What, is the jay more precious than the lark

Because his feathers are more beautiful?

Who is a better drummer Ricki Rocket or a sock puppet?

None better than to let him fetch off his drum, which you hear him so confidently undertake to do.

How did your band end up with the starring role in 2 Fast 2 Furious? And what did you do to make Bill O’Reilly so angry?

Can he be angry? I have seen the cannon,

When it hath blown his ranks into the air,

And, like the devil, from his very arm

Puff’d his own brother:—and can he be angry?

Something of moment then: I will go meet him:

There’s matter in’t indeed, if he be angry.

Did Mitt Romney get your permission to use “This Party Sucks” before campaign speeches or did he do that without asking?

O, he is as tedious

As a tired horse, a railing wife;

Worse than a smoky house: I had rather live

With cheese and garlic in a windmill, far,

Than feed on cates and have him talk to me

In any summer-house in Christendom.

That time you toured with so and so. What was that like?

Set you down this;

And say besides, that in Aleppo once,

Where a malignant and a turban’d Turk

Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,

I took by the throat the circumcised dog,

And smote him, thus.

wbr20lw

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The Time I Met Chuck Schuldiner

Chuck-Schuldiner

Back in June of 1995, I was lucky enough to have met and spoken with Chuck Schuldiner. Myself and several friends were at a Death concert at The Roxy in Long Island and through a bizarre series of events we ended up on their tour bus.

Meeting Death was, for me, the equivalent of what I imagine Christians might feel having been in the presence of Christ. Seriously. For me, Death albums were transcendental experiences that explained most of the mysteries of the universe. Chuck was a mystic to me, Gautama with a guitar, The Great One sent down the mountain to help us see the invisible boundaries that we have created to lock away the most creative, life-affirming aspects of our being.

I’m sure I made a total fool of myself. I was your average 13-year-old girl getting backstage to meet Justin Beiber. I was stumbling around for words. Saying anything that came to mind to try to prolong the time we were in the man’s presence.

It was actually an uncomfortable feeling in retrospect. I didn’t want to mess up my one shot at actually asking the man the questions that had plagued me for the entirety of my being. This man had answers. No one could create like he did and not hold the key within him.

Finally, I worked up to asking him the meaning of the song “Vacant Planets” off of the album “Human”. I had somehow worked up a theory in my mind that this song was a comment on the nature of reality and life itself. I had pondered this song for hours and hours. Understanding its meaning consumed me.

There was something to the urgency of this song. It demanded to be understood. There was something deeper to it. Beyond meaning. Beyond rational thought. If he could just explain it to me, I’d have found the missing piece that explained this demented jigsaw puzzle I was living in.

I ambushed him out of nowhere with a rambling, semi-incoherent question about the song. “Chuck…I need to know about the song Vacant Planets. I mean, that song…that song. There is something within that song, you know. The planets around us are so empty. But, ‘in a realm so vast, we sit among the Vacant Planets’. They are vacant and without life. So is our planet, you know.”

“There is nothing to us. We are empty vessels. We eat, we sleep, we decay, we die. Over and over. And it all amounts to nothing. We want endless life, but for no reason. We don’t want to discover the universe around us, we simply want to not die. There is so much possibility wasted.  This place is a void.  No different than the emptiness on Mars or Mercury. We are a Vacant Planet! There is no meaning to any of it.”

During this whole disjointed explanation he regarded me with a great deal of kindness. He had a very empathetic expression. He was listening. He understood.

“Chuck, I need to know, am I right? Is this it? Is this what Vacant Planets means?”

He looked composed his thoughts for a second and looked away. I felt embarrassed. Had I said too much? Had I wasted my moment?

Then, he looked back at me. Stared directly into my eyes with a half smile on his face.

“Man…the song is about outer space.”

If there ever was a testimony to his genius, it was that answer.

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An Interview With A Happy Person

Sunset

A few days back I got into an intriguing conversation.  I was asked who I would consider a “happy person”.  I drew a complete blank.  I couldn’t think of anyone.  I pushed myself on the question for hours.  Nothing.

I found the thought troubling.  Is it possible that there are really no happy people?  Am I so blind to happiness that I am surrounded by many happy people and completely unable to notice it?  I could name 100 people I think of as angry or miserable people who have suffered greatly, but I could not come up with one person who I would think of whose defining characteristic to me would be “happy”.

I couldn’t come up with an answer that made any sense.  I decided to attempt to find someone who considered themselves “happy” and really hear them out on their point of view.  I put up a post on my Facebook page seeking someone who considered themselves a “happy person”.  I got several responses.

The person I ended up interviewing was perfect.  Her story is compelling and thoroughly poignant.  She is extremely honest in her answers.  She asked that I did not use her name so that she could tell her story as truthfully as possible without the potential problems with being entirely truthful in a venue that can be accessed by anyone on earth. (She was comfortable with me mentioning that she is from Portugal)

You consider yourself to be a happy person. Why?

I always see the positive aspects of everything. I’m an optimist, a glass half full kind of person. Smiling or laughing are my default modes. I always enjoy my meals or the view from my window. I love to put on my headphones and listening to a podcast while I perform boring chores. Some people say their children revived that spark in them but in my case I’m trying to create a permanent spark on my son.

How do you define happiness?

I wouldn’t. As a sociologist I’m very careful with my concepts. I often feel tense or anxious, of course, like all people. But aren’t we mistaking moments for the grand total? I have terrible moments. Rage, sadness. But overall I am very happy, my life has been comprised of more positive than negative.

What percentage of the time would you actually consider yourself to be happy?

90%. I do understand other emotions and I don’t deny them.

Do you believe your happiness is more a product of what is inside of you or of how you were socially conditioned?

The answer is, of course, a mix of both. My mother is very pleasant and a really good person but very pessimistic. My dad was very harsh but also very funny and carefree. I think I took a bit from both of them. I do believe it’s inside of me because my parents always told me I was a very happy child, way before I could understand what it all meant.

Do you think there are circumstances that could change your view of yourself as a happy person?

Yes. I think that continued trauma could change this. But it had to be something big, much like torture. As I told you privately, if we’re taking circumstances, I’ve been through stuff. In the past I’ve had two pregnancy terminations, unwillingly, one as an early miscarriage and the other one due to severe heart malformations. My father passed away earlier this year. Then, I underwent knee surgery. My husband is going to be away from home for a month during the ending stages of my thesis work. In July my scholarship ends and I have no prospects. I SHOULD be unhappy, right? But I’m not. I’m sometimes tense and anxious. But I’m not unhappy.
I still have my healthy mother. If I’ve had those children I wouldn’t have this particular child right now. Because after limping for six months my knee is now fantastic. My partner is an amazing person that is leaving his son to bring home some extra money and it’s only a month. If I don’t pursue the academic life in the future at least I’ve tried it for a bunch of years and I’m able to say that I’ve lived my dream for a while. I live a blessed life, with a happy healthy child, a loving partner, full of gadgets and entertainment and funny people and friends… why should I be unhappy?

Why do you suppose so many people feel unhappy?

Money, life events, the news… life is tough, man. I’ve been lucky all my life, so far. The pros column is full and the cons column has some stuff but nothing that can overshadow a lifetime of success and happy moments. Sometimes it’s really hard to do this math, I’m not a guru or an expert and I’ve had my moments so I truly understand unhappy people. It’s very easy to get swallowed in the vortex of unhappiness.

People use the expression from time to time “ignorance is bliss”. Is happiness a condition of self-delusion/ignoring personal pain and the suffering of those around you (and in the world as a whole) or do you believe people can authentically recognize pain and still be happy?

I am very blissfully ignorant about some subjects that I know will hurt me. I hide Facebook posts about abandoned or hurt animals, for example. Also I don’t watch videos, tv shows or movies with extreme violence or with scenes that can upset me, I see no reason why I should put myself through pain just to “understand”. Not knowing some things makes me less unhappy. But, this being said, my thesis is about children in institutions. I’ve read hundreds of cases of negligence, abandonment, severe abuse. I’m all but blind to this reality that maybe other people can’t stand, like I can’t stand abandoned dogs. My role here – and what makes me happy – is that I’m able to write about their experiences and show them to the world.

What role do you believe spirituality plays in people being able to experience happiness?

For other people probably a lot. For me none. I’m an agnostic prone to atheism and I’m very happy with the fact that I’m here for one life only, folks. No reward in the afterlife, no spiritual guilt right now. I’m responsible for my actions as a human being and as a citizen of the world. I must respect laws and human boundaries. Otherwise I feel free and loved and having God means nothing for my personal happiness. As far as religion and spirituality goes I’m in the “don’t care” category – I don’t care what you believe in, as long as you are a good person. Whatever makes one happy, right?

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