Monday, December 30, 2013

Stick a fork in 2013.

It’s almost 2014 which means it’s time to get your fill of 2013’s best and worst. Like the triple chocolate candy cane soup made by Aunt Etna, the “best of” and “worst of” lists look appealing but do nothing but make you nauseous. Instead, I thought I’d share what I have in store for you in 2014, dear reader.

I plan on starting up my email list again and the reboot is going to be much more personal than previous versions. Plus, if you let me infiltrate your inbox you’ll get free stuff and exclusive material to make all the neighbors jealous. And if you don’t want to read it, don’t read. No harm, right? Sign up right here:

J. Thorn Mailing List

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I can’t tell you about my most exciting project planned for 2014 or I’d have to kill you. It is a major collaboration and promises to make you pee your pants in horrific glory. As soon as I can announce this I will. For now, you’ll have to accept the tease.

I will be finishing the Portal Arcane series in 2014 and I’ll have more detail on that next week. You’ll have some say on when and if that series comes to a conclusion. I’ve also decided to dust off an old manuscript and turn it into something very unique. I’m already feeling that this could be the “epic fantasy for people that don’t like epic fantasy,” fantasy. In other words, you’ll be getting a dose of supernatural esoteric horror set in a world of epic fantasy. This could be The Dark Tower of the J. Thorn catalog.

Suck it, 2013.

Thanks to all who entered Holiday Giveaway 2013 and congratulations to the winners.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Photo from "Memories of Cleveland"

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Monday, December 16, 2013

An Open Letter to My Friends & to Music Lovers

So here’s the thing. Our friends who don’t love music don’t get it. For them, it’s white noise to drown out the office chatter or used to mask the weird grinding sound coming from the rear brakes. But not for us. You and I, we listen to music because we love it. We get lost in the groove, or in the riff, or in the vocal hook. It doesn’t matter if it’s The Black Crowes, The Black Keys, Frank Black, or Black Sabbath. The point is, it means something. It matters.

I’m sure you’ve read the rants of musicians over the years, the worries about what “this” technology or “that” technology will do to music. You’ve probably chimed in at times, commenting on your Facebook status about how you miss the days of vinyl and remarking how “cold” digital is. I get that frustration and I feel it too. But you and I both know that it isn’t the CD, the download, or the iPod that is to blame. The hard, honest, truth is that there are fewer and fewer people like us anymore. We spent our teenage years slinging burgers or washing dishes to save up enough money to see a cool band on tour. We’d buy a ticket and a t-shirt, going without beer and cigarettes for a week in order to save up enough money to do it again for the next band to come through town. Well, guess what? People don’t really do that anymore. “The record labels suck and don’t sign bands anymore. MTV doesn’t play music videos. Radio stations are sterile, auto-programmed, corporate whores.” You’ve heard all of that and it’s easy to point the finger. You might want to sit down because what I have to say next is going to hurt.

It’s simple economics, my friend. There is no longer the demand there once was. If music lovers like you and I demanded live entertainment and used our wallets to prove it, all of it would still be here. But we’re not and it’s going away fast. I hope you like hearing “Don’t Stop Believin’’” for the 7997th time because that’s all we’re going to have. I hope “Dream On” gives you an erection for the next thirty years. I hope the Dolby stereo speakers on your iPhone can someday slam you in the chest like a kick drum at a live show. Virtual audio reality, or whatever.

Yes, I’m a musician but I’m talking to you as a fellow fan. I have a huge collection of music that will last me a lifetime, but am I ready to write off new music forever? I’m not, and I know you’re not either. But that’s where we’re headed because it’s simple economics, my friend. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If musicians make music and nobody buys it, can they make a living?

I know, I know. I’ve been charmed by Spotify and Pandora too. It’s so easy and convenient. Spotify said that the average payment to artists for a single play of a track is between $0.006 and $0.0084. That means a song played 1000 times per hour ($6.00/hour) for forty hours per week will produce less than minimum wage ($7.25/hour). Spotify has also revealed that 80% of its songs (4 million as of October 2013) have never been played. Never. Not once. Based on that nifty data, you can probably imagine the statistically insignificant number of musicians that could even dream of 1000 plays/hour – and at that rate, still make less than minimum wage. Oh, and that would be if you were a solo artist. Take your less-than-minimum-wage royalties and now divide those up between the four members of the band.

“Screw them,” I’ve heard from some of the people we know who don’t value music. “They play music. It’s not like real work. It’s not like they’re a surgeon or someone really important, like a reality TV star. If they don’t like it, they should get a real job.” Over the past few years, I’ve heard that from some of our friends that used to really enjoy music too. Fair enough. Simple economics. Musicians accept the market value of their art, or they… Right. They stop making the art.

Just a small town girl. Livin' in a lonely world. 7998 and counting.

*Source image by Rich Anderson from used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

“Your kids have a better chance of…dying of a common cold than they do of ever being abducted by a stranger.” A conversation with James Renner, author and serial killer investigator.

When you live in the Serial Killer Capital of the World (unofficially) it’s easy to think your neighbor might have young girls chained up in the basement. However, according to James Renner, this is not the case even in northeast Ohio. Beginning as a journalist and then as a writer of true crime, Renner spent many years investigating the most brutal abductions and killings in the Cleveland/Akron/Canton area. Some of these cases have since exploded on to the national scene and what may have been regional news is now international. But James Renner also writes fiction--really good fiction. I read The Serial Killer’s Apprentice years ago and when I saw that The Man From Primrose Lane was available, I grabbed that too. The novel is like nothing I’ve ever read before and the shift in the story is so jarring (in a sensational way) that I can’t believe he pulled it off. The book is currently being adapted to film with actor Bradley Cooper “attached” which must be some kind of Hollywood lingo for “involved.” Renner is already revising his next novel which he claims is even weirder than The Man From Primrose Lane, and if that’s true, I cannot wait.

I sat down with James at a crowded Starbucks on a Friday morning and was immediately struck by his calm, kind demeanor. I guess I expected him to burst through the glass doors, slamming his six-shooter down on the table like John Wayne in an old western. After all, the guy investigates serial killings. But that was not the case and I found Renner to be articulate, unassuming, and really thoughtful with a twinkle of mischief in his eye. As a parent, I gathered hope from his thoughts on the rarity of abductions and killings, contrary to what the mass media might have you believe.

Before you sneak a peek into your neighbor’s basement window, listen to what an expert has to say about serial killers. You’d probably be better off investing in a can of Lysol or a bar of hand soap. Ladies and gentlemen, journalist, palindrome, writer: James Renner.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Franklin Mills, Ohio. We had a lot of property and there were these creepy woods behind our house. In the woods-- and I’m not making this up-- were burial mounds. All the kids in the neighborhood would tell spooky stories about the woods. The way the story goes, if you stood on the burial mounds for an hour, a hand would come up from the rocks and drag you into hell. [laughing] The most I ever lasted was about a minute and a half.

You never made the full hour?

No, but I saw some strange things in those woods. It was kind of a cool place to grow up. I’d ride my bike all over the country and have adventures. I was in Boy Scouts with a couple of my friends and we’d go camping out in the middle of nowhere.  When I was about twelve or thirteen I noticed this kid from Scouts was writing in a binder during one of the meetings. I walked over and asked, “What are you working on?” He said it was a book. I was like, “That’s great. I love reading and I never thought about writing myself, but that looks pretty cool. How long is it?” He said, “Oh, I’m like 300 pages into it.” He was a serious writer.

Wow. That’s a lot of writing for a pro, let alone a kid.

Yes. We started swapping stories back and forth. It was inspirational and he was a mentor. Because of him, I get to do it full time. He became one of the top people at the Federal Reserve, of all places, and I’ve been trying to convince him to get back into writing. I think he would enjoy something a little less scary than working for the Fed--like writing horror novels. [laughing]

He stopped writing as a kid?

Yes, I think he stopped. I don’t know why. We lost touch. We had a falling out when we were in high school over a girl and I hadn’t seen him in fifteen years. The next thing I knew, he was working at the Fed and not writing anymore. So, I’m trying to push him back into that.

Hanging out in the woods for hours and growing up in the country--that seems to have made a mark on you... 

Growing up in the country in Northeast Ohio is very spooky and there’s a lot of weird stories. We’d always heard about this famous case back in 1966 where a deputy sheriff from Portage County chased a UFO all the way into Pennsylvania. And there were all of the Bigfoot sightings in and around the area for about a year and it was obvious that people were seeing something in the woods. In the spring after the thaw, they found the carcass of an orangutan and realized that it had escaped from somebody’s illegal zoo and that’s what people were mistaking for Bigfoot. There are stories after stories like this. It was a weird place to grow up and these stories stuck with me and you’ll see them inserted into my writing. It definitely informs a lot of what I’m writing right now.

Are you a cynic?

Sometimes I think I’m extremely cynical, and sometimes I think I’m the world’s greatest optimist. Maybe I’m bipolar. [laughing] I wrote a lot of true crime before I started writing fiction. I worked as a journalist for The Scene and The Free Times, and at other places. I wrote about all of these unsolved murders in Ohio and people think that would make me cynical because I see the dark side of human nature and it’s easy to think that everybody’s like that. The question that everybody asks when I do these readings: “How do you sleep at night? How do you let your kids go out to play?” I’ve found the opposite is true. When you start writing about these crimes, you understand it in a purely statistical way that most people don’t see--the probability of it all. Even though we hear about these cases a lot, when you stack it up against the number of people in the world, the number of people in the United States, or here northeast Ohio, it’s still incredibly rare. The only reason we hear about it in the news is because it’s rare. It’s a unique thing. Your kids have a better chance of dying in a plane crash, or being struck by lightning, or eaten by a shark, or dying of a common cold, than they do of ever being abducted by a stranger. You shouldn’t be living in fear. If anything, it’s taught me to be less cynical and more hopeful of humanity because maybe it should be happening more. You would think that people are kind of evil. But I’ve found the opposite is true. Most people are good and they want to do good things, and these instances are very rare.

I read The Serial Killer’s Apprentice years ago and I wanted to ask you about the chapter called, “West End Girls.” If you were from outside the region, you might think that the only thing that happens here is abductions and killings, from Imperial Avenue to the Castro house on the West Side. People might ask, “What’s going on in Ohio?” How would you respond to that?

I think I’ve come up with a theory as to why it happened and I think there might be some truth in this. I think the blame rests a lot on the prosecutor’s office, specifically with our former prosecutor, Bill Mason. I think the prosecutor we have now, Tim McGinty, is doing a great job. But Mason was the prosecutor from 1999 until 2011 or 2012 and during that time, all these rape kits sat on the shelf. Nobody was testing these rape kits so we didn’t know that there were serial predators out there. We didn’t know where to look. We didn’t know how to track down the DNA. Instead, he [Mason] was very focused on prosecuting the easy wins, which for the inner city is petty crimes and small drug offenses. That got him a lot of wins but it created these communities where everybody had a criminal history for stupid stuff and it made these people fearful of cooperating or helping the police. People had suspicions about Anthony Sowell.  People had suspicions about Ariel Castro. But they were too afraid to go to the police because they were concerned that they would be arrested or they knew another person in their house that had a warrant or all these other excuses. It made these little pocket communities fearful of the police and that is the perfect stalking and killing grounds for these types of serial predators, and they’re aware of that. They know that they can get away with it. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.


It’s changing now because McGinty is testing these kits, going after these offenders, and he just hired a retired FBI agent a couple weeks ago to work on the unsolved murder of Amy Mihaljevic, which is one that I’ve been investigating for a long time--since I was eleven years old, actively for the last eight years.

Do you think Mihaljevic’s case will be solved?

I think the Amy case will be solved in my lifetime. I hope it is solved in the lifetime of the guy that did it. It might have to wait on technology. There are things coming out in the near future that could help solve this case. They just came up with technology in the last year that allows you to plug a DNA sequence into a computer and the computer will locate the genes responsible for facial features and facial construction. It will spit out an image of what that person probably looked like.


It’s even better than a composite sketch. It’s an image of this person based on their DNA. Stuff like that is going to come out fairly soon. In fact, it’s already happening but more in the world of art than in law enforcement right now.


Pretty cool.

I wanted to ask you about your fictional stuff. Are you David Neff [from The Man from Primrose Lane] or is that a composite character?

My wife would say that David Neff is definitely me. He’s named after one of my favorite journalists in town, a guy named James Neff, who wrote the definitive book on the Sam Shepherd case which is another Bay Village murder. It’s the “write what you know” type of thing, and people would be surprised by a book that deals slightly with time travel that there is so much autobiography in there. There’s little things that people would think would be made up. For example, there’s this scene where they’re on their honeymoon-- David and his wife-- and they go to this piano bar and she tries to trick the piano player,tries to embarrass him by pulling out this copy of Rachmaninov’s Concerto in D and asking him to play it when he’s playing "Piano Man" by Billy Joel--and the guy did it. On our honeymoon, this guy went into Rachmaninov and it was the most beautiful performance I’ve ever heard and everybody stopped what they were doing to watch it happen. Then when he was done, he was done, and just walked away.

I remember that scene in the book and had no idea it happened to you. [laughing] I think what really fascinated me about The Man from Primrose Lane was the way I thought I was reading one book and I ended up reading something else entirely, in a really interesting and unique way.


Were the dystopian and the time travel elements part of a master plan or did that sort of evolve as you were writing the story?

It was all there. The way I figure out these stories that I write about is something that I’ve done since I was a kid. I always had trouble going to sleep. So I would tell myself these bedtime stories and they became more and more elaborate. And that’s what I do with these novels now. The Man from Primrose Lane was a story that I thought about at night over the course of two years before I even put pen to paper. I had it all constructed in my head. I knew it would happen in three major acts, I knew there would be so many chapters in each, I knew how the time would switch back and forth, so it was pretty much there. I knew that there would be this big turn at around the two-thirds mark and it happens 230 pages into the novel. Some people are taken off guard by that. Hopefully, a lot of them are taken off guard but some people just outright don’t like it. It’s rating about 80% positive. I mean that’s a solid B. I’ll take that.


But the people that don’t like it, really don’t like it and it’s because you get 230 pages into it and suddenly you’re reading sci-fi. Some people that are just into mysteries and thrillers don’t like that. There are reviews that are literally like, “I got to page 230 and I threw the book across the room. I will not pick it up.” And that’s interesting, but it’s the type of book that I would like to read.
That’s what you have to write.

Yes. Sometimes I think the sideways U shape on the review averages is meaningful. It means your work is polarizing and I think that’s a good thing.

I think so, too. At least it means they’re talking about it and discussing it as opposed to saying, “Eh, it’s a book I’ll forget about next week.”

You are currently writing The Great Forgetting. Is that the sequel to The Man from Primrose Lane?

No. It’s a totally separate book. I’m waiting to hear back from the editor right now. My editor, Sarah Crichton, is reading it at the moment and, knock on wood, hopefully she likes it. It was a monster. When I first turned the manuscript in, it was 950 pages long. Over the last year, I’ve cut it down to about 600 pages. So basically I excised an entire novel out of my novel. That’s a lot. It hurt but it does make it a better book because it cuts right to the meat of it. I’m excited. It’s a weird one.


Weirder than The Man from Primrose Lane in a lot of ways.

The Man from Primrose Lane is in film production right now--is that right?

It’s in pre-production. A script has been written. I know they’re working on notes from Warner Brothers. Bradley Cooper is attached, but other than that, I don’t know much.

Will you have a lot of input on that?

I will have zero input. They keep me updated and they let me know what they’re doing. I met the screenwriter and got him really drunk at the Chateau Marmont and he told me all of his secrets and we became the best of friends…[laughter] No, at this point they’re in total control of it and I trust them, so we’ll see. The Man from Primrose Lane now has a dog as a sidekick.


No, I’m joking. [laughter]

Do you have any really good dirt on Chad Zumock or Mike Polk?

Let’s see... I’m trying to think of a good one. There’s something about Zumock that still makes me laugh to this day. We all did these TV shows at Kent State. We also did the news, and they had this weather wall--you know, the blue screen, and you stand in front of it and there’s a map. Some people know the way blue screens work--anything blue becomes the map. So if you’re wearing blue, like a blue sweater, you’ll see the map and it almost looks like you’re invisible, right? One day Zumock walks into the shot and he’s standing there, and he doesn’t know anyone is watching him while we’re setting up for another shot, and Chad was wearing a blue sweater that day. I see him standing there and he looks over at the screen and sees that he can see through his shirt, and then I watch him put his hand behind his back. I think he really thought he was invisible… [laughter] Because, obviously, he doesn’t know how Chroma key works and…

So he’s looking in the monitor to see…

Yeah, like, “Am I really invisible?”

That’s a good story.

He would come out completely naked on set sometimes, just for kicks, with a hand placed over his privates. Mike Polk is a funny character but he’s very weird in real life. We were roommates for a year and he is extremely OCD. He’s one of those roommates that if you leave a dirty bowl in the sink for more than five minutes, you’ll hear about it. He would go out there and wash the dishes and then give you a dirty look as he was doing it and then he’d scrub the sink, too. The sink had to be clean, too. He’s just very particular and an odd cookie to live with. [laughing]

Any plans to go on Zumock’s new radio show?

He’s asked me to come on once or twice and I’d love to do that. Zumock’s a funny guy.

It’s a good show and it’s good for him. …I think you touched upon this a little earlier, about people that look at what you write and at what you do and think, “Oh, that’s so dark. Renner must go home every night and cry.” Where is humanity right now? You mentioned that there is some hope--so how do we offset the media blitz of the really rare and gruesome stuff versus what’s really happening?

The biggest danger to society has never been serial killers. It’s not your neighbor that’s holding some woman hostage in his basement, although that may be happening in Cleveland. I think the problem we need to face--and face soon--is all these guns that are out there and are so easy to get. There are two sides to that. The one issue is the guns and how easy it is to get them. The other side of it is mental health, and we have to start treating that better. We stopped treating mental illness as a society back in the 70s and we need to get back to that. Now that we have universal health care maybe that’s going to be easier to do. I think that I’m generally hopeful for society. I think we just hear about the few bad ones more than anything. I think most people are trying to get along, just trying to keep their heads down and do their work. People want to relax at the end of the day, raise their kids, and that’s it.

Well said, and a good place to end. Thank you.

You’re welcome.


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Monday, December 2, 2013

If it all came to an end, what would you do? Lost Track from the world of The Beam.

“We are close to dead…the sense of a long last night over civilization is back again.”
--Norman Mailer

If it all came to an end, what would you do? How would you respond? Where would you go?

Playing with other peoples’ toys is always fun. Writing inside of Sean Platt and Johnny Truant’s world was a blast. I’ve been a fan of these guys for a long time, digging into the serialized fiction of Yesterday’s Gone and Fat Vampire. To be one of the authors contributing to the world of The Beam is truly an honor and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

Lost Track is a dystopian short story based on a trip I took several years ago. I rode Amtrak from Cleveland, to Chicago, and then to New Orleans. I rode it back home too although every time I visit New Orleans it gets harder to leave that incredible city. I saw the heart of the United States as I spent more than nineteen hours on the rails, passing through small towns and backyards that you won’t see from the interstate. My imagination took hold and I began crafting an escape story from the environment I saw pass by my window. The story stuck in my head for years until I read the first season of The Beam and realized it would make a nice addition to that canon of work. Sean Platt edited the piece to make sure it fit into the story’s broader history. Lost Track takes place a few years before the global meltdown that gives birth to the world of The Beam. The synopsis:
It’s August 2026, and a Category Five hurricane has broken through the NOAA Hurricane Barrier and is headed for the coast of Louisiana. Unaware of the impending doom, Ben tells his girlfriend he is traveling to Cleveland to meet a client when he is really headed to his friend’s bachelor party in New Orleans. After the Big Easy is pummeled by the most destructive flood since Hurricane Katrina, Ben treks north to his home in Chicago through the ensuing chaos, where he discovers that the natural disaster is only the beginning of the end.
I’m thrilled to make this available for FREE. The short story is listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $0.99 until they price match it to $0.00. In the meantime, you can grab it for FREE from the following retailers. In addition, if you’re using Google Chrome, check out the Booktrack I made for Lost Track featuring music by Threefold Law.

Before you ride the Lost Track, I’d like to introduce you to Becky Dickson. She is a friggin’ powerhouse of awesome and working with her on this piece was incredible. She kicked my words in the ass and made the story brutal. In fact, if you’re a writer-type you should head on over to her website RIGHT NOW. December 2nd is her one-year anniversary in the biz and she’s offering FREE editing, today only.

Here’s to hoping we’re not as close to dead as Mailer believed. I’ve got free Amazon gift cards and prizes to give away before the apocalypse. Enter below and remember that Holiday Giveaway 2013 is open through December 25th. Free gift cards; no catch.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Giveaway 2013 - Free Amazon Gift Cards & more!

I love you all! […in my best Ozzy voice]

I want to show my appreciation to you for helping me live my dream. This also happens to be the 100th post on the blog and that alone feels like a celebration. I’ve discovered some of the numbers that make me feel as though I’m on the right track--that I’m doing what I’ve been put here to do. Recently, the blog passed 35,000 unique page views and earlier this year my Amazon book sales broke the 5-digit mark (To put that into context, in late 2011 my sales figures broke the 2-digit mark and I was thrilled about that, too.) Also in 2013, I crashed Amazon’s Most Popular Authors list for Horror (#26) and Fantasy (#96); this rank is determined by sales, and sales only. Threefold Law (my band) seems to have new momentum and we’re getting recognition from people and places that matter to us.

So without getting too sappy and ruining my reputation as a bad-ass cynic, I want to thank you all for supporting my craft. Don’t get me wrong--I would still write and scream into a microphone no matter what, but it’s really nice to have people validating my creative energy with their wallet. Awards and contests are fun, but the only true feedback mechanism for me is hard-working people who value my work enough to buy it. I will always be humbled by that and will never take it for granted.

In celebration, I’m giving away lots of stuff for nothing. No hoops to jump through. Everyone and anyone can enter and winners will be picked at random through Rafflecopter. Whether you’ve read all of my books or none of them, you can still win. The details and entry form are below, and the contest also has its own page: Holiday Giveaway 2013, on the top right of my blog’s navigation bar. It’s open through Christmas Day.

Now lemme see your hands, people! [Sorry. It’s hard to quit that Ozzy thing once you start.]

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Plan on living forever? Threefold Law Lifetimes Membership: For This Life and Beyond.

Threefold Law has been around long enough to see the music industry evolve. We’ve always been a band that honors our “old school” fans (CD's) while embracing new methods of distribution (mp3, iTunes, streaming services). Three years ago, almost to the day, we launched MMX which was a multimedia release loaded on a  custom USB drive that you can still grab from our online store. But times keep changing. With tablets and smartphones that are constantly connected to the internet and people depending more and more on these devices, we’re proud to announce our next innovation.

Introducing, “Lifetimes Membership” from Threefold Law.  Without the need to download or install, fans of heavy music get instant access to the entire Threefold Law catalog, for life. The songs stream directly to any device connected to the internet including computers, laptops, tablets, iPads, iPhones, Android phones, and more. In addition, new songs by Threefold Law will automatically appear in the player as soon as the band publishes them with no action required by the listener along with mp3 downloads of every album. Priced at just $19.95, the revolutionary delivery channel is competitive with most digital music purchases with nothing else to buy, ever. Plus, the membership is good for your past lives and your future lives; for eternity.

This channel creates a new way for us to deliver music to our fans instantly and as soon as it’s available. We’ll still release our material on traditional CD's, but we’ve also got our eye on the future of the music industry.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Try it out. The link below will take you to a fully-functional demo version with 30 second song snippets instead of the full tracks. Use any device you have that’s connected to the internet. That’s it. No downloads. No updates. No hassle.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why do women make such better murderers than men?

Lizzie Borden; not creative.
Men commit murder ten times more often than women do, but ladies are better at it. When it comes time to tango down, females are more creative.

Rainer Leurs of Spiegel Online recently interviewed Sigrun Rossmanith about her new book, which if it wasn’t in German, would be totally awesome (unless you can read German in which case it is awesome). Titled, Are Women the Better Murderers?, the book posed as a question takes a look at the ways in which the fairer sex do the 187, and I think Rossmanith knows the answer. It turns out that women are more vengeful and creative. One woman in Asia “passionately kisses her partner-- and in doing so slips a cyanide capsule into his mouth, which he is forced to swallow. She combines an act of love with the murder.” In addition, women rarely kill strangers. Most murders committed by women are intimate and are usually a result of failed relationships. Ladies prefer knives over guns, and skillful, vindictive, cunning over rage.

Rossamanith says, “In my life, I have often witnessed how incredibly hard women can be. How scheming they can be with each other. I am personally more afraid of the vengeance of women than that of men.” Women scheming? Passively aggressive? Really? [insert sarcastic smile here]

It’s a great premise but without a clear-cut definition of ‘creativity’ it’s hard to conclude that women are more creative killers than men. And, is being a creative murderer really that important? Doesn’t anyone value efficiency anymore? Maybe women simply don’t have enough practice at killing and that’s why they spend so much time planning and plotting it. If you want equal rights, ladies, step up to the plate and do your fair share of impulsive, rage-filled, whacking.

*Just in case you didn’t figure it out, I’m not advocating murder. I’m simply taking a very dark subject and making fun of it in a socially awkward way which is why I’m such a hit at cocktail parties.

About Sigrun Rossmanith from Spiegel Online:
“Sigrun Rossmanith, 61, is a doctor of psychiatry, psychotherapeutic medicine and neurology. She has been writing medical reports for criminal trials in Austria since 1997 and has investigated more than 3,000 cases. Her book 'Are Women the Better Murderers?' has just been published in German.”

The full interview can be found here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Book of Paul trailer for the bestselling horrror novel by Richard Long

The Book of Paul is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ve said that unequivocally since I finished reading it a few months ago. Since that time, I’ve interviewed author Richard Long and we’ve discovered a shared passion in the dark, visceral, craft of storytelling. As a musician and a writer, I know the effect sound can have on it (scary movies, anyone?). Richard has been working on a trailer for The Book of Paul and he asked if I’d be interested in helping him do the sound design for it. I immediately began creating and arranging the audio textures, many of which you can hear in the final cut of the trailer.

I believe in Richard and I love The Book of Paul. If you haven’t read it, you need to do so and then you need to review it on Amazon. In the meantime, let’s get Long’s trailer noticed by Hollywood and cross our fingers that someday soon we’ll see the likes of Paul on the big screen. All it takes is a click.


Monday, October 28, 2013

It's time to stop suckifying Halloween.

I think it’s safe to say that most horror authors love Halloween. That has always been true for me. I have more memories of Halloween than I do Christmas or birthdays. I don’t think I was a morbid kid and I didn’t play with road kill in the woods like a future serial killer. It was something about the changing weather, the encroaching darkness as winter draws near, and the way the forest looked in October that intrigued me.

However, kids these days, jeez, let me tell you—they don’t know anything about how Halloween is supposed to be. Back in the 70s we ALL ate apples with razor blades in them and got beat up by the teenagers for our candy, and we turned out just fine [except for those that died, R.I.P. Richie Haber]. We proudly carried our candy in pillow cases and trampled flower beds by cutting through lawns. We dressed up in classic Ben Cooper costumes like ghosts, vampires, cowboys, Indians, and C-3PO. We ran blindly through dark streets wearing plastic masks with no peripheral vision and sucking our last breath through the tiny mouth hole covered in saliva. We took the time to responsibly compost our apple cores by throwing them back at the house that handed out fruit instead of candy. We carved jack-o-lanterns with the officially sanctioned eyes [upside down triangles] and filled them with candles we stole from church, not fancy-pants LED lights. I mean, it’s Halloween, right? Not to mention Devil’s Night on October 30th. What kind of kid doesn’t enjoy TP’ing the neighbor’s house and then apologizing for it the next day? And its let’s not just blame the kids for the suckifying of Halloween. Many adults lack the holiday spirit too.

Out of the hundreds of homes within walking distance of ours (we live in a dense neighborhood with sidewalks built in 1909), about five hand out candy. The others send their own costumed children out the back door while leaving their lights off and front door shut. Karma, dude. Karma. Out of the five that celebrate the holiday, one woman hands out fistfuls of nickels. An elderly man that regularly baths in onion and turpentine leaves a bowl of Necco wafers [gag] on his front porch with a note that tells the children to take one. And those are the houses handing out candy.

The official trick-or-treat time is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the glorious, bright daylight. As for the trick-or-treaters themselves, we get babies coming to the door, infants that don’t have a bag, or teeth, but have a parent that carries them from house to house and says “trick or treat” like some kind of sick ventriloquist. Once they leave, the local high school football team shows up with their game jerseys on, dressed in costume as “athletes” and by the time they leave, we get the drive-thru trick-or-treaters.  These parents chauffeur their kids from house to house, letting little porkball Johnny roll up to the door bursting out of a $0.79 Scooby Doo costume from Salvation Army, inhaler in his right hand. For those aforementioned seekers of candy I dip into my suckbowl dish and hand them a yellow lollipop I got from the teller at my bank after I made a deposit.

So please help to stop the suckyfying of Halloween. I want to see vampires, ghosts, and MILFs in sexy maid costumes. If you pull up in front of my house and get out of a car dressed as a “thug” you’d better expect a “yellow flavor" sucker from the bank. That, or I’ll close the front door and shut out my lights.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Halloween Haunts 2013: A Giveaway Included!

In celebration of the month of October, the Horror Writers Association is hosting its annual Halloween Haunts promotion. They have invited me to guest post on the blog. An excerpt from that post including a link to the entire article is below.

If you leave a comment there, you are automatically entered in the giveaway!

Fans of horror and dark fantasy love Halloween. There’s a reason people watch frightening films or walk through “haunted houses” to be terrorized by college students dressed as zombies: There is something incredibly exciting and entertaining about being scared. Not “being chased by a crazy man with a knife” type of scared, but rather, the kind of fear that you know is artificial but COULD be real. Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft are often cited influences of many authors and that is true for me as well. However, the biggest name in the history of horror is not lost on anyone.

Stephen King inspired me to begin writing fiction, turning my juvenile fascination with horror into a lifelong passion. My parents are both staunch Catholics and therefore we did not watch a lot of scary movies or read frightening books. To this day, I know my mom still thinks that AC/DC stands for “Anti-Christ Devil Children”, which it probably does. Not by coincidence, the movie and book that confirmed my affinity for dark horror came from the nightmares of Stephen King. Pet Sematary was the first book that made me fearful of a dark room. I remember reading it at age eleven and thinking that Gage was hiding in the corner. The storytelling was masterful and reanimation is a timeless theme of literary horror.


Monday, October 14, 2013

“Slow suicide’s no way to go.” From a Mad Season to Disinformation to a Dark Relic of Painful Expression – 18 Years Beyond Above.

“Wake up young man, it’s time to wake up. Your love affair has got to go.” Those haunting lines drifted upon the low, clean bass tone on Mad Season’s only full recording, 1995’s Above. The record came after the bubble burst on the Seattle scene and long after that region’s first “supergroup” collaboration known as Temple of the Dog. Cynics dismissed Mad Season based on the immense success of Pearl Jam (Mike McCready) and Alice in Chains (Layne Staley) although the project was born out of a stint in rehab and a desire to pull Layne from the clutches of his own abysmal addictions. Ultimately, both Layne Staley and John Baker Saunders did not escape heroin’s pull leaving only Mike McCready and Barrett Martin as the two surviving members. Talk of changing the name of Mad Season to Disinformation and adding Mark Lanegan (from the Screaming Trees and a guest vocalist on several cuts on Above) never materialized.

The pain embedded in those ten tracks cannot be obscured by the moderate chart success of “River of Deceit” which found its way on to the Billboard charts in the mid-90s. Above is a stark, festering wound with Staley’s black and white illustrations in the liner notes and on the cover. The visual representations are a far cry from the glamorous portrayal of the heroin chic culture popularized at the time by the "Kate Moss look". The lyrics are minimal, bare, and there is no attempt to mask the fallout of the constant cycle of addiction. Layne makes no excuses for his downward spiral, confessing in “River of Deceit” that his “pain is self chosen” or in “Long Gone Day” when he admits that “these sins are mine and I’ve done wrong.”

Legacy Recordings released a deluxe box set earlier this year with a live recording and video which seems absurd for a band that made one record and lasted only five years, but so goes the industry that has been cashing in on the corpse of Jimi Hendrix for decades. I’m fine with putting on the headphones, starting with “Wake Up”, ending with “All Alone”, and leaving this sorrowful recording in the grave until I’m in the mood for it again.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The book Stephen King called "mind-blowing." - A conversation with Richard Long, author of The Book of Paul.

Getting blurbed by Stephen King is the Holy Grail of the horror writer. If you don’t know what that means, it’s when an author (usually famous) reads your book and gives you a quote to put on the cover of your book to attract readers. For Stephen King to put his name on it, you know the book has to be outstanding. And when you’re talking about The Book of Paul, it is. I first heard Richard Long on a podcast and the way he described his book really caught my attention. He delves deeply into the occult, mythology, and astrophysics. As these are the same themes running through my books, especially The Portal Arcane series, I had to check it out. The Book of Paul does not disappoint. Long wrote it in a “cinematic” style that is fast-paced and streamlined. He doesn’t waste a lot of time on narrative description and his characters are so visceral you’ll swear you’ve been friends with them for years. Contrary to what some of the reviews say, the violence is integral and occurs “off-screen” although that does not make the actions of the characters any less frightening. After all, The Book of Paul is horror and horror is meant to scare you; no sparkly vampires here.

Richard was kind enough to spend some time talking with me from his home in New York City. We discussed his past, his plans for The Book of Paul, what constitutes “horror,” and the damaging nature of drive-by reviews. Long has that NYC swagger and is an engaging fellow. He pulls no punches and possesses a sharp, comedic wit. Read the interview and when you’re finished go buy The Book of Paul. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Stephen King.

You live in Manhattan, right?


Did you grow up there?

No. I’ve been living in New York since 1980.

That means you’re a New Yorker.

Exactly. I have my citizenship card.

I spent about a year living and working in Manhattan and I thought it was the most incredible city on the planet.

I’ve never even thought about leaving since I’ve been here.

Do you think the New York City influences your writing?

I think that the Book of Paul, in some sense, is a love story for the “back-in-the-day” version of Alphabet City and the East Village when it was really kind of like the Wild West. New York, since I’ve lived here, has changed radically. It was a filthy, scary place when I first came here.  And because I didn’t have any money, I lived in the cheapest part of town and that was really scary. Hence the haunted house feel of Paul’s apartment.

Let’s talk about The Book of Paul. I discovered you on a podcast you were doing with a mutual friend [book blogger & editor, Katy Sozaeva] and The Book of Paul really intrigued me. It’s the type of stuff I write.  And so when I saw the description and heard you talking about it, I had to check it out. I got about 10 pages in and realized right away that it was beautifully grotesque and I absolutely loved it. Can we talk more about the book?

Sure. Fire at will. [laughing]

There’s a reader segment that doesn’t necessarily read book descriptions, then they read the book, and they say things like, “Oh my gosh! This is horribly graphic, and it’s gory, and it’s grotesque, and there’s torture.” How do you respond to that?

Well…read the description. It drives me crazy. I got a one star review from someone that said, “I read three pages and it was just so horrible I put it down.” It’s like, do you understand the concept of a horror story? It’s supposed to be horrible. It’s supposed to scare you. Has there ever been any great horror story that wasn’t gross? That wasn’t gory? I’ve been a horror fan my whole life and I can’t recall of any…some people are…not very bright.

A lot of horror is horror for the sake of violence and clearly that’s not what The Book of Paul is about. The horror serves a purpose. The violence serves a purpose. The element that I love that you’ve incorporated into your storytelling has to do with science, astrophysics, alternate realities, etc. I’m really interested in talking to you about the singularity and M theory. I have read a lot of Michio Kaiku and used his theories as the basis for some of my books [The Portal Arcane series]. So what role does that element play in your books, in your writing?

It’s an overwhelming theme in all the work I do and in my life, in general. I’m a science nut. I’ve read a lot of science magazines and science books. When I was young the two things that interested me the most were science and mythology. I liked all the stories of the Greek gods and Egyptian gods and all that stuff, magical, mystical, monsters and aliens. And I love science, the factual part of it, which I thought was every bit as weird as the mythology, and I still do. Even more so.

The more you learn about science the more you understand that everything that we take so for granted as “normal” is incredibly bizarre. As scientific research progresses, it’s getting stranger and stranger. You read any science article that comes out about consciousness or neurology and you discover that scientists still don’t have a clue what consciousness is. It’s still one of the greatest mysteries in science, and even physics, and there are a lot of big name physicists that spend a lot of their time thinking about consciousness.  There are quantum theories of consciousness. It’s so bizarre that there’s plenty of material to draw from.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish with The Book of Paul and one of the most difficult parts in marketing it was that I really wanted to cover five, six, seven, different genres at once in there. It’s like the blurb Stephen King gave me, “Richard Long combines a bag full of genres…” But that was deliberate. I really wanted to have this kind of Elmore Leonard, pulp crime element in it, a science fiction element in it. I was having a lot of fun, obviously.

The arrangement of The Book of Paul and the style is really engaging and I think you called it the “cinematic” approach. Could you explain to the casual reader what you meant be that and talk about how the book is structured?

Before I wrote this book I had written poetry, and some short forms, but I had never written in the long form. I had been an avid reader. Dostoyevsky was one of my favorites. So when I thought about writing a novel, I’m saying to myself, “You could never write like that.” Fortunately, there was a little voice in my head that said, “You don’t have to write like Dostoyevsky you just have to write like you.” I gave myself permission to write exactly how I wanted. And the other thing I said was, “Only write exactly what you want.” That cut out a lot bullshit. I kept narrative description to an absolute minimum. I really wanted to project the reader into the story, not paint much of a picture of the surroundings but just enough to get you in there where you get a sense of it, emotionally, psychically or whatever, and let the reader fill in the blanks. Make it more collaborative. I’m trying to put you inside the characters so you’re experiencing what they’re experiencing.

When I write, it’s kind of like dreaming. I’ll be walking, or thinking, or sitting, or typing and I’m in a daydream and I hear the people talk, I listen to them talk, and I take dictation. As far as the cinematic quality goes, you’re dealing with a number of different plot threads you really have to orchestrate it. I’m a big movie fan. I love the pacing you can achieve in a good thriller film, and I wanted to cut between the characters in such a way that I built up a lot of tension. It cuts back and forth fairly quickly. The chapters aren’t very long until you get into William’s journals.

I found that lack of narrative description unique because it forces you to really connect with the characters whether you love them or not. I found myself going back and forth throughout the book; liking Paul, hating Paul, pitying him, feeling sorry for him, and sometimes, even rooting for him. I have to assume that’s by design.

Any good thriller or horror book is only as good as the villain. When I read books that have a really shitty villain who has very little “screen time,” if you will, there is so little dramatic tension. If the protagonist has to overcome really dramatic obstacles, you’ve got to have a great antagonist. Otherwise…big deal. I wanted to create the best villain I possibly could. I wanted to see if I could make a classic villain. Any classic villain that’s good, you’re rooting for them on some level.

I agree.

Like Breaking Bad. As the series wraps up and Walter White become more and more evil, there’s still a part of me that doesn’t want him to get caught. That makes me question myself and that’s what I want the reader to experience. I want the reader to say, “What the hell? What’s inside of me that I’m rooting for this bad guy to get away with it? That’s awful, I’m awful.”

I thought Rose was one of the most intriguing characters. I just could not quite put my finger on her as far as her motivations and her role in all of this. Are these characters going to appear again and are you going to expand on them? This is only the first book, right? You have six more lined up after this?

All the characters that appear in this one are going to be marching forward plus many new ones. There’s an awful lot of new ones.

Do you have a time frame for those books?

No. I just finished my YA book called, The Dream Palace, and it’s with a couple of agents right now. I’d like to go the traditional route with that.


We’ll see what happens. If it does go that way and I get a deal, it won’t be published for a while. I’m sure everyone will have their editing suggestions. For The Book of Paul, I’ve written well over a thousand pages, unpublished so far. There are various prequels and sequels, stuff like that. It’s like a quilt.

You’re not at the bottom of the mountain looking up. You have a volume of work in progress that you’re going to pick from.

Yes, there’s a lot of stuff.

Is the YA title going to be released under your name or are you going to use a different pen name for that?

I think I might use a different pen name because The Book of Paul is so adult. When I started it, I didn’t have children. When I had children, I said, “I’d like to write something that they can read before they turn eighteen.” So, I started The Dream Palace. I have an autistic daughter who is now eleven years old and The Dream Palace, in some degree, was my way of processing what it means to have a child with an alternate neurology; what your expectations are, what you are told. When we got the diagnosis of autism I didn’t know shit about it. I didn’t know anything. You’re told this is a tragedy, that it’s an awful thing. Many tears are shed and in the years that have passed I have come to realize that there are all kinds of wonderful things about that type of neurology. So anyway, there’s a part of it that’s a journey into that world, through the dream world. It started one time when my daughter was asleep, she was probably two or three years old at the time and she couldn’t speak much at all. She woke up from a dream and she spoke to me in a full sentence.


It made me wonder, “In her dreams is it easy for her to talk?” Interestingly enough, when I went to an Autism conference recently and met a number of nonverbal autistics and had the opportunity to ask a few people that question, they said, “Yes.” They can talk in their dreams. They also said, it was easy. And, they look forward to dreaming. That’s by no means a survey. It was only few people I asked but it was very exciting for me.

It’s not unlike the people that have a head trauma and then they wake up out of a coma and they can speak four languages that they never spoke before, right?

It’s that concept, yes.

Tell me about the Kickstarter campaign and the book trailer you’re doing for The Book of Paul.

I worked in advertising for a long time. I directed and wrote a number of television commercials and radio commercials so I had experience doing that kind of thing. When I first self-published people were saying, “Oh, you’ve gotta do a book trailer.” So, I looked at some of the book trailers, and I was like, “I’m not going to put out squirrely shit like this!” Just still pictures and type scrolls and stuff.

So being the nut that I am, I came up with the idea to make a book trailer like a movie trailer as if the movie’s already been made and you’re seeing the preview for it. It was a fun idea so I cast it and at first I had confined the action to what could be a one day shoot. I wanted a cool, moody piece, and then the director of photography I was working with, Sergei Wilson—he’s really talented he read the book and he said, “Man, you’ve got too much wild shit here to not show more scenes from it.” I didn’t really have the money to do that. All the cast had volunteered to do it, not for pay…for their reels. But just the production costs: camera and lighting rental, sets, props, all of that stuff costs a lot. So, I raised about $3,500 for it on Kickstarter, but that was about half the cost as it turned out. I’m editing it right now and I’m shooting for a Halloween release.

It was all shot on digital then, I would assume?

Yes. High-end RED cameras.

What are you using to edit?

I use Final Cut Pro 7. I’m doing the rough cut myself so I can sift through everything and take out the best cuts. I’m just doing straight cuts. Then I’ll work with an editor who’s very, very, accomplished and he’ll do the polish on it.

What’s your hope for that trailer? I think trailers are one of those things that authors do and they’re not really sure why.

I’m pretty clear. I want to get a movie deal or a TV deal. I think that The Book of Paul would be an awesome HBO, Showtime or AMC series. It’s a big story. You’ve read the book. Can you really cover that effectively in two hours?  What do you think?

Probably not.

You’d lose a lot. You’d have to cut a lot. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to see it in a movie and I think you could. But I’ve really gotten into watching serialized television. There are a lot of shows that I watch and I love. We’re in the so-called “golden age of television” and I think that’s really true. So my hope is to get a TV deal for it.

Could that include something like a Netflix-only serial?

There are a number of great outlets right now. The networks are doing great continuing dramas. Lost was a big pioneer. So was Dallas! With The Book of Paul, it’s so adult that it either has to be HBO, Showtime; maybe AMC. Netflix is a great new outlet and Amazon too.

Almost every other day I come across an article that says that erotica is the hot genre [pun intended] right now and that horror is dead. Horror sales are down and no one wants to read horror. How do you respond to that?

The topic of one of my radio shows was “What is a thriller?” and we had a big conversation about horror books being reclassified as thrillers. The horror label became a pariah for traditional publishers, so they decided “Let’s put everything under thrillers and fantasies.” If you look in the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble you’ll see all these horror books there because everybody is terrified of horror. Yet, when I started doing social networking, I met tons and tons of horror lovers out there. All these horror movies are so successful, too. I think it’s just another example of the publishing industry being out of touch with what people really want. You can’t have all these people paying to see blockbuster horror movies if they don’t also want to read horror books. But that’s they’re call, I guess. That’s the way that they’re categorizing stuff. Still, there are so many hard-core horror fans.  Go to Twitter and put “horror” in the search engine and you’ll get a million hits.

There are a lot of fans of horror out there.

And they probably won’t stop reading your horror book after three pages.

Probably not! [laughing]

“So horrible!!! Nasty!”

Do you read your reviews?

Yes. Unfortunately.

I think I’m like most artists. Confident and insecure. When I get a 5-star review that’ll stay with me for a little while, but when I get a 1-star review that’ll stay with me a lot longer. People have been telling me that there are a lot of authors out there who get jealous of your work and then trash you with lousy reviews. I thought I was being paranoid until I got one recently that was so mean-spirited, and, it was the only review she had ever done. It just made me wonder, “What axe do you have to grind?” So yeah, I read everything and I’m way too sensitive. That’s a problem.

One of the things that these people giving 1 or 2-star reviews when they haven’t read the book, what they don’t realize is they’re really, really, hurting the author. You can’t get on BookBub unless you‘ve got a high-star average for reviews. It’s the most effective way for independent authors to get their work in front of a lot people. And so, you’re really hurting indie authors. It hurts traditionally published authors too but it’s they have other marketing avenues available to them. It really hurts an indie that’s doing all the marketing work themselves.

However, I have faith in readers. I think they see through the bullshit and when they see a one-star review with someone that says, “I couldn’t get into this book,” and then they’re reviewing it; I think readers see through that. As we close the conversation, is there anything you want to say to people who might be finding you for the first time through this blog post?

In a lot of reviews I get “not for the faint of heart.” There are some rough parts in The Book of Paul but the violence isn’t gratuitous and very little violence in the book is actually described. A lot happens “off camera.” So the readers are the ones creating the more precise images in their minds. I think fans of horror, thrillers, mystery, mythology, Dan Brown, Tarantino, pulp fiction, erotica—they’ll all like elements of it. There’s something in there for everyone. It’s a roller coaster. A wild ride.

It is. And it’s punctuated very cleverly with great dark humor and I think that that carries the story through as well.

Yes. The Irish. [laughing]

Absolutely. I really appreciate your time.

Thanks. I really appreciate you taking the time and your interest and support.


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Monday, September 30, 2013

"In 1970...people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal." Talking Heavy Metal with Sam Dunn of Banger Films

Heavy metal music has the most passionate, dedicated, and loyal fans of any genre in the history of modern music. As a lifelong metalhead I can make this bold statement because I’ve spent time with musicians and fans of other types of music, and although they may love it, they don’t live the lifestyle like the heavy metal folks. Fans of the genre have gotten tattoos of their favorite bands, been buried to heavy metal music, and based their lives on a band’s tour schedule. Sure, fans of One Direction may turn out in the hundreds of thousands for a few years, but fans of Iron Maiden have been doing it for a few decades.

Within the realm of heavy metal, certain people function as ambassadors. Two that I’ve interviewed further the same cause in different ways. Bill Peters is the godfather of classic metal in Northeast Ohio and Don Jamieson waves the banner nationally on That Metal Show. My guest this week has helped to dignify the heavy metal culture and protect it from those that like to claim it’s primal and aggressive. It is. But it is also sophisticated and complex and nobody illustrates that better than Sam Dunn. Dunn broke onto the scene in 2005 with Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and has continued to produce professional, educational films about the often misunderstood genre.

Along with Scot McFadyen, Sam Dunn runs Banger Films. Over the past seven years they have created Global Metal, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, Metal Evolution, and Rush: Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland. Dunn also has a documentary in production aptly titled, Satan. Sam is a Canadian and a musician as well as a film director. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal, including Bruce Dickinson, Geddy Lee, and the late Ronnie James Dio.

The widely-successful series that aired on VH1 Classic, Metal Evolution, chronicled the history of heavy metal through the decades but did not include the most recent strand, extreme metal. With an IndieGoGo campaign running through October 8th, Dunn hopes to raise enough money to finish the episode on his own. Sam is an intelligent, articulate, metalhead and I enjoyed talking to him about the moms of Slayer, Norwegian church burnings, and Satan. Not necessarily in that order.

I feel like I have somewhat of a personal connection with you because you chose to film Rush: Time Machine 2011 in Cleveland. Tell me about your experience doing that project.

Cleveland is an extremely important city, not only for a band like Rush, but for rock and metal. Generally, it was those northern American towns that were the bread basket for bands like Rush touring in the 70s where they found an audience for their music. So Rush wanted to give a little love back to Cleveland because it was the city that broke the band in the U.S. and they knew it was going to be an amazing crowd. It all worked out really well.

Why the Midwest? What does the Rust Belt mean to Rush?

I think it’s got a lot to do with the fact people in that part of the U.S. feel a really personal connection to the band because they toured early on in the small towns of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, all through the Midwest. So they’re going back and playing where they played in 1973, 1974, 1975 to people who saw them when they were in their early teens. And at that age, those are your formative years. You’re starting to cement your musical tastes. So going back to those places, you see a lot of people who saw them back at that time. In that part of the world, there’s a little bit deeper or personal connection to the band because they have such a long history together.

I couldn’t believe that it’s been eight years since Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey was released. I’m wondering what your thoughts are looking back on that? How do you feel about it these days?

It’s a film we’re still really proud of. It premiered at TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival] in 2005 and really opened a lot of doors for us. It was really the first documentary that took metal seriously as a style of music and as a culture, and really tackled the question of why it polarizes people. The film really resonated with a lot of people and did really well around the world. We were obviously pleased. I think that there was this whole world of metal and rock that hadn’t really been paid attention to in documentary or film form with a few small exceptions like Spinal Tap. So it helped us establish a lot of relationships with artists like Geddy Lee and Bruce Dickinson—two good examples of musicians who we went on to make movies about. It really helped us and is still doing something for us now.

I think one thing that sets it apart is that it’s a real cultural study. It’s an anthropological study of not only the music but also of the subculture. Was that something that you had in mind at the outset or did that evolve as you worked on the film?

It was always our goal to make a film about metal that wasn’t just for metalheads, that would connect to a broader audience. One way to do that was not to talk only about the intricacies of the music or do a super-detailed account of the history of metal, but rather look at it as a culture. I wanted to look at it as something that was born in the 70s and is still going strong today. I wanted to ask, “What is the appeal of this music and why does it cause so much controversy with things like the PMRC?” We looked at the church burnings that happened in Norway in the 1990s and bands like Cannibal Corpse getting their records banned around the world. It was about much more than just the music. It was about the culture and the impact. We felt that it was that part of the film that could interest even Kerry King’s mom.

Well, when you can get the moms of Slayer to watch, you must be doing something right. [laughing]

We know a few moms of metal guys that understand their sons a little bit better after our movie, so I think that’s a good thing.

Definitely. It seems like it also planted the seed for Metal Evolution, which to no surprise, did so well because it’s such a comprehensive look at all of the branches of the metal tree. I was wondering if you had a particular episode or sub-genre that you found particularly engaging as the creator of that show?

Metal Evolution was born out of the heavy metal family tree that we created back when we did Headbanger’s Journey because we knew that film wasn’t going to be a detailed history of metal. We thought that maybe somewhere down the line there’d be an opportunity to do something more in depth and that’s what Metal Evolution became—eleven episodes on the history of the music.  When it comes to specific episodes, I’m a big fan of the thrash episode because that’s the one sub-genre in the series that is really close to me and includes a lot of bands that I love. But I think from a storytelling perspective, the shock rock episode was fascinating to make because it allowed us to take a step back before Alice Cooper, who many people attribute to being the godfather of shock rock. We looked at people like Arthur Brown, and even PT Barnum who wasn’t a musician but was an entertainer, that used shock to entertain the public. So it was a lot of fun because it allowed us to do something that touched on things just beyond the metal realm.

It seemed as though you went into the 80s metal episode a bit skeptical but you came out the other side with a new appreciation. That time in metal often gets a bad rap. People call it hair metal or glam metal with a derogatory tone. Would that be a fair assessment? Did you come out of that episode with a different perspective on the 80s metal scene?

Glam metal in the 80s when I was a teenager was not my cup of tea. I was more into the heavier styles. Granted, my first cassette was Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry and Ratt’s Out of the Cellar. But I quickly got into the heavier stuff. When it came to the episode on glam metal, from a documentary perspective, it was great because it’s always more interesting when you have two sides represented. There’s a debate still about whether this should be called metal or not. I am still not a fan of those bands. [laughing] When I come into the office in the morning, I don’t put on Poison to get me going. [laughing] However, I always had the preconception that these bands were manufactured, that they were the products of record executives in skyscrapers. But I learned that’s not the case. In fact, it’s not the case with bands that did quite well. I’m talking about bands like Poison or Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, etc. They were doing exactly what they wanted to do and not solely because they thought it was going to be commercially viable but because it was a bit of a “fuck you.” I learned a lot from Rikki Rockett who said, “People wanted to fuck us or fight us and that’s exactly what we wanted.” So there was a weird twist. They almost had a punk kind of attitude with what they were doing and that’s not what I expected at all. I didn’t come away a bigger fan of Poison’s music but I certainly came away a bigger fan of Rikki Rockett and his attitude. I thought, “That’s fair—I don’t have to love your music but I respect your attitude.”

I think in a way the industry came to them as opposed to the industry creating them, and that’s an important distinction to make whether you like the music or not.

Don’t get me wrong; the hair is ridiculous. [laughing]

It was even so back in the day, wasn’t it? The great thing about Metal Evolution is that the series isn’t quite done. I was wondering if you could talk a little about the Indiegogo campaign you have going on? Me and my band [Threefold Law] have already contributed. Tell us about the campaign.

Well, we did the main series—eleven episodes—and it was always our hope that we could do an episode on extreme metal but the broadcasters thought it was a little too heavy, a little too niche for their market. And that’s fair. I understand that. We were happy that we got to do this massive series on metal and it made a big contribution. Of course, the one glaring omission was extreme metal so we decided to get an Indiegogo campaign started and fund it that way. We know its music that is underground but that has a really passionate fan base. The people who like extreme metal, love extreme metal. They live and breathe it. Once you find a stronger cup of coffee you can’t go back to Folgers and I totally understand that because a lot of the music that I listen to is at the extreme end of the spectrum. We had one campaign and raised almost $40,000 which was amazing and that helped us pay for the first phase of the project. That involved a lot of travel, a lot of equipment, vehicle rentals, a crew, and travelling around the world. We went to New York and Florida. We filmed in Toronto and we went to Norway, Switzerland, France, and the U.K. And so here we are. We’ve got all of this great footage, we’ve got an episode mapped out, we’ve got it planned and ready to go, and now we’re in the second phase fund raising campaign because we’ve got to turn that footage into something. We pay our editors because our editors are some of the best in the business and that’s what’s allowed us to create the good work that we’ve done so far. That’s one part of the cost. The other part of the cost is paying for all of the photos, footage, and music that we use in the episode. That can get quite costly especially if you’re dealing with major labels. So there are still costs. We’re right smack dab in the middle of the second campaign and we’re pushing. We’re releasing little snippets of interviews every week. I’m writing a blog on Revolver on the top five metal albums of all time. We’re keeping the campaign really active, so we hope we can get to the finish line and make it.

And every couple of bucks helps. So I would encourage all the readers out there to go the Indiegogo page and contribute—let’s get that episode made.

In your travels documenting extreme metal, I’m assuming you had an interview with Satan and then you signed him on to do a documentary. Is that how that worked out? [laughing]

If you’ve met Satan, you should be part of our team because I’m still looking. [laughing] Satan [the documentary in production] is something separate, obviously, but it does have a connection to the extreme metal episode. In Headbanger’s Journey we looked at all the church burnings that happened in Norway and covered that part of the story. But it revealed that no one had really looked at the musicality of Norwegian black metal. I think because of all the controversy and the theatricality of the music, people have lost sight of the fact that what happened in Norway musically in the early 90s was pretty important. Extreme metal was getting pretty glossy at that point and the Norwegian scene was reclaiming a more primitive or raw sound that had been lost in metal and then added their own little twist to it. It was kind of like a bit of punk rock meets a bit of KISS with a dash of anti-Christianity in there. I think that’s an important story to tell because I think people have forgotten that this was also music and some really great bands came out of that era. Bands like Emperor, Enslaved, and Immortal who struck this balance between being raw but also epic. Before that you could be one or the other. You were either epic like Iron Maiden is epic or like Dio is epic. Or you had to be raw like Napalm Death or Bolt Thrower is raw. I think what the Norwegians did is they found a way to combine those two things. So from an historical perspective I think it made a pretty big contribution.

So the Satan documentary might hint at some of these misconceptions? I remember back in the day when AC/DC was satanic and KISS was satanic. Was that a label thrown around by conservatives to undermine the music?

The Satan documentary has a longer backstory. It did come out of our conversations with the Norwegian black metal-ers. We were fascinated by their perspective. What we’ve embarked upon for the Satan film is a much broader story. It’s not just about Satanic music. It’s also about Satan in film, literature, media, and pop culture. We’re taking a broader look at why the Devil has made such a big impact in the creative and entertainment world over the past several decades. Satan is a big topic, so it’s hard to wrestle Satan to the ground.

I wish you luck with that. [laughing] Whenever I interview people in the heavy metal realm, I like to ask their opinion on the future of heavy metal. Some of our pioneers are aging and in declining health and it always begs the question. What do you think?

I think the future of heavy metal is bright. It’s never going to go away. I’m going to make the argument in the extreme metal episode that it’s actually the extreme bands that can be credited with really pushing the music forward. It is by far the most adventurous, risk-taking, sub-genre of metal and because of that it’s always carving out new directions for the music to go. It’s like an art. Often it’s the underground, avant-garde artists who are the ones that push it to the next place and then everyone follows. In 1970, if the term had existed, people would have called Black Sabbath extreme metal, right? I think that’s where it’s going. We’ve got the grandfathers of the genre that are still going pretty strong— Maiden, Rush, Sabbath. And in my personal opinion, Sabbath put out a pretty damned good record. At that same time, you have to remember that metal is a breed of the underground and that’s never gonna change and that’s where the real vitality is going to continue to come from. So that’s part of the story we’re telling…


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