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Zombie-A-GoGo Interviews

 

Sunday, February 19, 2006

6:58 PM - Andre Duza

Interview with
Andre Duza
by Wayne Simmons
AKA Spiral


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I heard a lot about Dead Bitch Army before actually daring to read it... Reviews and hearsay cited this indie horror book as more than just horror... It was whispered of with the same mix of trepidation, excitement and downright disgust that would ordinarily be reserved for hardcore porn. And that's about right.. because Andre Duza's Dead Bitch Army certainly is hardcore...

Bloody Mary is the tale's elusive anti-hero, the only undead corpse to exude sex appeal and star in her own steamy shower scene. Together with her merry band of generation terrorists, the Gas Mask Mafia, she sets out on a savage spree of torture and mayhem which makes a film such as Natural Born Killers look like a nursery ryhme. Pitted against her are two women, fucked up enough themselves to make it difficult to determine just who you should be rooting for as a reader. But will anyone be strong and brutal enough to stop the Dead Bitch herald in her new and chaotic world order?

This is sick stuff, beautifully written by Duza, interwoven with a tapestry of delightfully varied artists' impressions of the Dead Bitch. The style of writing is captivating, drawing you into a sick fantasy of gratuitous violence and compelling characters with surprising ease. You'll be hard pushed to set this down once you start reading.

There's pretty much everything to soak up, sordid dark humour and intricately choreographed death scenes blending effortlessly with a subtle-as-a-brick commentary on Western Society TM's obsession with image. By the end of the story, you're almost ready to believe that Bloody Mary's Vicious New Age would be almost preferable to the rampant apathy and injustice rife in our world today.

Dead Bitch Army is potent, damn-fine, guilty fun, evoking nervous and nauseous laughter with every victim's demise in a way that'll keep you on your knees in penance and Hail (Bloody?) Marys for some time to come. With Indie Gods upcoming release of a limited run of Dead Bitch Army graphic novels, you'll be paddling in Duza's sordid sea of imagery to your black heart's content...

I caught up with Andre in cyberspace, keen to uncover any dirty secrets ... or the Dead Bitch's phone number...

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Spiral: Tell us a little about yourself, Andre, and how you came to be an author within the horror genre.

Andre Duza: You are an overly inquisitive kid in a narrow-minded environment. You live in a small row-home with few windows. Mixed with the atmosphere of religious devotion, the dim lighting gives the place a gloomy, overly serious vibe. The house is made even smaller by too much furniture, some of which is covered in plastic that bites, and too many people―you, three very sheltered women, and their alcoholic, war-veteran father. You occasionally watch him beat them like he would a man. Sometimes he beats you too.

Eventually it gets so bad that your mother (who can’t afford to move) moves to a bad neighborhood. Along with the surreal, colorful ambiance, and the spirit of bastardized rebellion that most films about the hood neglect to show, you see violence constantly.

One day while riding the bus to church you watch a Native American guy stab a drunk white guy in the face repeatedly for calling him names like Chief, Tonto, Keemosabee. A few things stand out; the way the drunk man’s skin bunches around the blade and pulls taught like a tent as the Native American guy works the knife around inside the wounds; how the Native American guy’s hand is redirected when the knife hits bone; how the drunk guy remains conscious through the whole thing. Usually in the movies it’s one stab and you’re out. That experience really opens your eyes to the difference between real and movie violence.

Another time you watch the wife of a Korean grocer carry her husband’s bloody corpse out into the street after he is shot in the head during a hold-up. She yells hysterically (in Korean) at the people who are standing around watching. Nobody does anything. Some people even laugh at her.

Another time while going to church you are abducted by a child molester, but you manage to escape with your life.

You develop fantasies of revenge. It drastically changes your attitude. You go through your harming animals phase. You begin to lash out at family, friends, and teachers. You break things, attack people with weapons, etc.

Your mother tries everything. She takes you to a shrink who has a harelip. As easily distracted as you are, weird little details like that spell doom for the therapy sessions. The one good thing you take away from it is his advice to write down your feelings.

Next, your mother signs you up for an informal version of the ‘Big Brothers’ program that is run by the church. Your ‘Big Brother’ turns out to be a boxing trainer. He introduces you to it, and it actually helps calm you down a bit. At the time, the discipline to keep it up just isn’t there, though.

Eventually your mother sends you to a boarding school to hopefully straighten you out. The place is like its own self-contained world, with huge marble structures and a rich racist history. You continue to nurture your violent streak with horror (books, movies), which you develop a sort of an obsession with. In a way, it serves as therapy for your violent tendencies, however you continue to act out.

You attack one teacher with a broken hockey stick and slice his arms up pretty good. You attack another teacher with a cleaver. You light a cheapo Rambo knife on fire using a foam latex kit (At the time you wanted to be the next Tom Savini) and attack one of your close friends. The school hires another shrink, but you are too stubborn to listen to anything.

Being a smarter than average kid underneath all the anger, you realize where the path you’re traveling down leads to, so you try to deal with it somehow. You remember how the boxing training really calmed you for a bit, so decide to try martial arts. It’s then that you finally get a grip on your anger and learn to channel it into something constructive. You have been expressing your feelings through wild, disjointed stories (that started out as journal entries) since you were a kid, but now they have purpose, meaning. You fall head over heels in love with words…

That about sums it up.

I tried for about 10 years to get Dead Bitch Army published. Before that, I had an anthology called MindPhucked and Left to Die that had been making the rounds.

There were a few bites along the way for both, but they either wanted me to change the titles or tone things down a bit. Fuck that! I eventually gave up on the anthology and decided to focus on DBA. I was pretty fed up with the whole process. Then I got an email from Carlton Mellick III. I had mentioned my frustration with this whole title thing in my query to Eraserhead Press. The first line of his email was, “Don’t you dare change that title.”

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Sp: What films, comics and/ or books have most influenced your writing?

AD: Well, I’ve always been more a fan of reality-based horror―the news (I’m a news/political junkie), serial killers, etc.

I was also obsessed with ghosts and UFOs and shit like that. I would sit in the library for hours reading up on it. The first novel I read was Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror. I found it in the closet where my mom kept her “scary” books. I also found William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, there.

When I was a teenager, I was big into Fangoria. I would read it front to back, over and over. At some point, I remember reading Gary Brandner’s The Howling series. I loved the world he created with those books. It’s entirely different from Joe Dante’s film version, which also happens to be one of my favorite movies.

As far as comics, I was into Daredevil, The Avengers, Conan, EC horror stuff.

I like all kinds of movies, good and bad; sometimes the worst, the better. As long as it has some kind of vision, or sense of style. It might not be my thing, but if the talent is there, I can appreciate it. Sometimes all it takes is a good soundtrack to get me hooked. I’m a big fan of movie soundtracks.

Some of my favorite movies are: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I & II, Night of the Living Dead (Both versions), Dawn of the Dead (original, although I thought the remake was good. They just should’ve called it something else), The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Near Dark, Scanners, Martin, Old Shaw Brothers Classics like, Chinese Super Ninjas, Five Deadly Venoms, and Kid With the Golden Arm, The Howling, Brain Damage, Re-animator, Phantasm, Friday the 13th 1-4, Halloween, The Thing (81), Raising Arizona, Lady in a Cage, Henry, Body Double, Three The Hard Way, Foxy Brown, Uptown Saturday Night, Kubrick’s The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Repo Man, Return of the Living Dead, Death Race 2000, Sexy Beast, Ravenous, etc.

I was also inspired by Hip-Hop. Not the Minstrel bullshit that pollutes the media now, but the old stuff that spoke to real feelings that until then hadn’t been explored.

Sp: Describe Dead Bitch Army to a potential reader in 10 words or less.

AD: To quote Nick Cato from the Horror Fiction Review, “The ultimate midnight movie.”

SP: Zombies are rarely portrayed as leaders in myth or contemporary fiction/ film… what inspired you to create a character, therefore, such as Bloody Mary?

AD: The Dead Bitch was inspired by many different things; the unstoppable, masked 80's killer; a zombie; a gothic superhero; my wife, and this painting that my mom had hanging over her bed when I was a kid. The character had been floating around in my head for years. It started out as a short story that was more directly related to the painting over my mom’s bed. The story was called “More Beautiful Than.” Over time I just kept adding to the story until it became what is it now.

SP: Racism and perceptions of what racism is and/or isn’t seems to play an integral part to the telling of much of Dead Bitch Army’s story… Has growing up in Philadelphia led, in some part, to you weaving such into your writing?

AD: Well, it’s not a conscious thing. My stories are often (but not always) inspired by my feelings about something. Coming from where I did, race seemed to be a logical starting point, but it’s not something that I wear on my sleeve. I’m all about the world community, man. Too much emphasis on racial, religious, and cultural distinctions is a big part of the problem with society.

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SP: The characters in Dead Bitch Army often seem damaged psychologically beyond repair… It’s difficult to find anyone who is completely likeable, or completely unlikeable. Was it your intention to create characters as ‘grey’ as this? What would you say to the reader who asks you where the square-jawed hero is in this novel?

AD: No one is all good or all bad. No one. That’s just the way we humans work. I think we’ve lulled ourselves into thinking in terms of ultimate good and ultimate evil because it makes it easier for us as a society to judge the actions that they inspire; rewarding the good deeds and punishing the evil ones. Or maybe in terms of violence, it helps some people to deal with something that they might find horrific beyond their comprehension.

You hear people say things like, “Those eyes… They were filled with pure evil,” in reference to a serial killer. We classify them as “an animal.”

Deep down we know it’s all bullshit. We know this guy could be our neighbor or friend, or family member and we might never even be the wiser. Stamping them evil once we weed them out helps to anesthetize the discomfort that the brutality of their crimes, or their lack of anything resembling remorse brings about in us.

I find that grey area to be an interesting place to visit and explore. It’s generally a more honest, uninhibited place, full painful secrets, and titillating ones.

SP: What are you working on now?

AD: My second novel, JESUS FREAKS (jē'zәs frēks), n. see ZOMBIE is coming out in January. It’s an apocalyptic zombie tale with a twist. It features a mix of Romero-style shamblers and fast-moving zombies that are able to think and speak to some degree.

I’ll been writing the introduction for Permuted Press’ reissue of Travis Adkins’ zombie hit, Twilight of the Dead. That should be a fun project. I’m also working on another novel, Dancing & Stabbing. You an go to my site for updates.

Beyond that, it’s all a matter of choosing between a few novels I have in various stages of completion. The two that stand out are SuperNigger: and other tales from the Toxic Brothers Circus, and Aries the Dog. Also, support Bizarro: a genre of film and literature.

SP: Might we see any other books based in the Dead Bitch world, for example a sequel?

AD: I’m currently working on an anthology set in the DBA world entitled, Necro-Sex Machine: The Dead Bitch Chronicles Vol. 1. Then, of course, there’s the at Indie Gods. Dead Bitch Army Graphic NovelDBA will be their last comic title.

There is also the Indie Gods chapbook featuring my story Dead Bitch Walking along with David Zuzelo’s Ascension of the Blind Dead. You can order a copy here and here, where the chapbook is listed under their New Voices Guarantee.

Queen Bitch will be the title of the DBA sequel. The story is all worked out in my head, but I’d like to put out a few more original titles before I actually sit down and write it. There is definitely more story to tell with both DBA and Jesus Freaks.

One of the stories in Necro-Sex Machine (called The Devil Has a Vagina) takes place a few years after the events at the end of DBA, just to give everyone a hint at what the sequel might be like. I’ll also be including the short story that started it all (More Beautiful Than…) in the anthology.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

9:02 AM - Conor McMahon

Interview with
Conor McMahon

by
Wayne Simmons
aka Spiral


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Picture the scene. You’re in a fancy restaurant with your girlfriend. The waitress takes your order, smiling politely as waitresses tend to do. You ask for the sea bass, only without the tomato salsa dressing (you’ve got a childhood phobia of the damn things) and your lovely belle requests some posh chicken thing-or-other.

Two cigarettes and a glass of wine later, the waitress arrives with your food. Both you and your girlfriend smile excitedly, thanking her profusely whilst stubbing out the ciggies. However, as soon as her back’s turned, you’re both complaining in hushed whispers. There’s tomato dressing on your fish and your girlfriend thinks her food looks more like a dog’s dinner than one fit for a princess (“I thought this was meant to be a top class restaurant?!”)… but neither of you complain. You smile and make do, then blush whilst telling the waitress that your unfinished food was delicious and that you’re just so full you couldn’t finish it. You pay the extravagant bill, tipping generously, then wander onto the street. You call the waitress a sour old bitch and declare you’ll never go into that hole again… Sound familiar? Yes? Ah, you must have green blood in you, then!

You see, we’re a funny bunch us Irish. A race of paradoxes. An insecure people full of good intentions, which have rolled out in bloody civil ’unrest’ for as long as any of us remember. We hate each other. We love each other. We hate ourselves, then we get blind drunk and love ourselves. We never complain. We always complain…

No horror film I have seen captures The Irish paradox ™ as much as Dead Meat. The title itself would have been for me something heard bandied about in Irish playgrounds circa 1985. It was a threat rarely said in jest, yet never carried out. You said it to some wee lad who was your best mate one day and worst enemy the next…

“YOU’RE DEAD MEAT!!”

… Fitting, then, for Dead Meat to be the title for a movie as much about the humour as it is about the horror…

Conor McMahon chose to make a zombie film that was unapologetically Irish in terms of dialogue and characters. His leading lady, therefore, is French… or is it Spanish? Either way, it makes about as much sense to find a European in this film as any word spoken by the coach or his monosyllabic wife makes... (When you see the film, you’ll know what I mean. Trust me…)

Yet it all makes perfect sense. The archaic blend of gore, kung-fu spade wielding, brash Irish dialogue and Spanish totty that is Dead Meat for me represents the most exhilarating piece of survival horror since 28 Days Later. Set in rural Ireland, the countryside backdrop provides ample space for this modest budget zombie flick to both amble and thrust itself into your imagination, reaching an inevitable conclusion which says more about human nature than that of the hapless hordes of undead creating merry trouble for our eclectic band of nitwits and French (?!) doll.

I was delighted to catch up with the director of Dead Meat, Conor McMahon, an Irishman by name and nature, to find out what the craic was…

Spiral: Hi Conor. What moved you to pen and direct another zombie film within an already saturated market? What do you think makes Dead Meat unique?

Conor McMahon: Well first of all when I started writing Dead Meat no zombie films had come out yet. I started writing the film a few months before I even heard of 28 days later. And then it was when we were filming that all the other zombie films started appearing. So it goes to show you can never predict what the market is going to be like. I guess the reason I thought about writing a zombie film in the first place was because I hadn't seen one in so long. (A lot of people must have had the exact same idea). Plus I had made a lot of horror shorts but I had never made a zombie one. And I thought if I do a zombie film I can have a load of death scenes and I should be able to drag that out over an hour and a half.

I think the Irish humour is the most unique part about the film.

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Sp: Where do you see the zombie sub-genre going from here, both independently and studio-style?

CM: I think there won't be another rake of zombie films for about ten years. I think we've all had our fill of them.

Sp: You have, of course, dabbled in horror before with 2001 short, The Braineater. What attracts you to this genre?

CM: I started making films with my friends on my Dad's camcorder when I was 15. We made all kinds of films, action, comedy, gangster, horror, westerns even a Shakespeare drama (though I did add in a few extra sword fights). But whenever I made a horror film they were always the ones I had the most fun making and they were also the ones that got the best reaction. I think I got a real buzz at making people laugh or cover their faces with disgust. So I've tried to keep doing it ever since.

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Sp: You received funding for Dead Meat from the Irish Film Board. How difficult was it to obtain such for a horror film? And what was their general reaction to the film?

CM: I think we were very lucky with Dead Meat and we got the funding a month or two after I had finished the script. The Film Board had just launched a scheme called the "Mirco Budget High risk digital Initiative” and our project fitted right into that. They we're excited about the project because they hadn't made a horror film before. I think it was my short film Braineater that convinced them I was up to the task.

The Board have been very happy with the outcome of the film and we're very happy to see it secure a sales agent and sell to countries around the world.

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Sp: Tell us a little about your choices of actors/ actresses for Dead Meat? What were you looking for most?

CM: Well I had already cast the character of the Coach Cathal Cheunt (Eoin Whelan) before I even wrote the script. He was a friend of mine from college and he had appeared in my short film the Braineater. A lot of people found him entertaining so I thought I could develop that character more in a longer version.

It was never my initial intention to cast a foreign person for the role of Helen (Marian Araujo) for the lead, but I really liked her audition and I thought that having a foreign person might also add to the whole Fish out of water thing.

Sp: What made you choose a French character to play the lead within a rural Irish backdrop? What would you see as the strengths of this character?

CM: Most people think she is French but she's actually Spanish. I thought that it might be funny to have a foreign person who didn't understand a word that the Coach character is saying. So maybe other foreign people who can't understand him could relate to her situation. I guess her strengths are that she's pretty nifty at using high heels to kill zombies.

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Sp: How did you train the zombies in the film to move/ behave?

CM: We put them through zombie school and showed them how to walk. I said, "Don't put your arms out in front of you"

Sp: Dead Meat is an unapologetically Irish film. Its colloquial dialogue and humour may make it difficult to transfer, at times, to an international audience. Were you ever tempted to dilute the film in favour of suiting a wider audience?

CM: I think when I was making the film I didn't really think that far ahead. I really liked the coach character and he always had me laughing on the set. If I had to dilute him down I think it would have lost the humour. I think I justified it by saying.."well no one understood Brad Pitt in Snatch and he was really funny"

Sp: Did any of your international distributors try in any way to promote the film differently for their particular audience?

CM: Well Japan called the film Meat of the Dead. They took a picture of the actress Marian for the DVD cover and digitally put a big massive axe in her hand and put all these bloody carcasses on the ground. So I guess the Japanese like their gore a lot.

Sp: Have you been satisfied with the response from fans?

CM: Yeah. I was really worried that people wouldn't understand the humour, but after going to a few festivals, people really seemed to enjoy it. It went down well at Screamfest in L.A. and I was over in Berlin and Hamburg and people were laughing in the right places. I got asked to sign some programmes afterwards, which was something new for me.

I think as well, showing the film at the festivals reminded me why I made the film in the first place. Fans of the genre spotted the little homage's I had put in to other horror films that I had totally forgotten about. Sometimes because I've seen it so many times I just think about the things I could of done better, or if I had more money…but in the end I think for the money we had it was a good achievement.

Sp: Dead Meat is as much comedy as it is horror. How compatible do you see these two genres?

CM: I think it's proven to be compatible with films like Evil Dead 2 and Bad Taste. I think in a way they go hand in hand because comedy is a good way to relieve the tension after a scary scene. Even horror films like Jaws or Aliens are full of humour.

Sp: Have you any plans to return to the horror genre in the future? Or even specifically zombies?

CM: Well I do have an idea for a black and white zombie film set during the Irish famine.

Sp: What are you working on at the moment?

CM: I'm working on two projects. One is a supernatural horror about the Banshee, set once again in the Irish countryside. And because I can't do any over the top gore in that script I wrote a good old slasher film to keep myself amused. Lot's of eye-gouging aplenty.

Sp: Finally, what would be your top five zombie films of all time?

CM: Night of the living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead 2, Evil Dead, and Shawn of the Dead.


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