Love and Pop talk to film maker, editor of The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds magazine and radio host Bill Zebub about metal and movie making.
The Naked Kiss: You wear a lot of different hats; you produce a magazine, a radio show and direct films. Do you prefer one over the other?
Bill Zebub: Each role has rewards, but I like making movies more than I like the other activities. When I am on the radio it is usually as a character called “Professor Dumdum” and I pretend that I know nothing about American subcultures. I provoke listeners into calling up, and the exchanges are live, on the air. What I like about that is that it is 100% improvised, with no preparation. It’s a creative exercise. And it is also the opposite of customer service. I get to yell at people and to ridicule their short attention spans, their grandiose notions of entitlement, and their ignorance. Movies engage a different kind of creativity, and although scripts are written and shots are planned, unforeseen things constantly happen so the improvisation that I use on the radio is used for creative problem solving on sets. When I am on the radio, improvisation is used to combat problematic people for the sake of comedy. When I am making movies, improvisation is used to combat problems and usually takes a few months after the fiasco to be considered funny. I fell off a friend’s backyard deck and couldn’t walk for a few weeks. It’s funny now, but wasn’t back then.
For those who have never encountered your work what films do you recommend they check out first?
That’s a good question. Indie Director is my most mainstream-friendly movie. I replicated 3,000 of them to give away at horror conventions because it makes more sense to give away $1800 worth of movies than to pay $1800 for a full color ad in a magazine. These give-aways are a different edit that the director’s cut that is for sale. It’s about 30 minutes shorter, and the camera work is different in many scenes. I have yet to see if this was a smart movie, and whether it is better to suggest that title rather than one of my absurd movies. In a way, it’s misleading. I am the king of absurdity. Straightforward stories like Indie Director and Assmonster are rare in my catalog.
You’ve pumped out quite a lot of films, do you have a favourite and which one/s were the most challenging to make?
It’s hard for me to pick out a favorite because each one has moments of fun, even the dark sex-horrors. I don’t show bloopers from those movies because it will spoil any tension in a re-watch. It’s hard to feel tension if you know that the actresses are having fun in real life. As for challenges, I don’t remember them unless they are comical, or if I can be proud of the way that I surmounted an obstacle. I still have not used ADR – recording audio after a scene has been shot and matching it to the actor’s mouth. But I should. There was one scene that should have only taken half an hour to shoot, but car horns, train horns, airplanes, dogs, and a local parade turned it into hours of aggravation. The scene was supposed to be in the deep woods, You’re not supposed to hear cars in the deep woods. I could have just recorded the audio as a reference and then had people re-record their lines in a quite place. But I am more afraid of post-production audio not syncing up 100% and looking stupid. Maybe I can pretend it’s a foreign film. There have been other problems that seem hilarious now but were paralyzing back then, like when a construction crew suddenly showed up and were using jackhammers. We had to time our recording between the noises. I feel bad about hoping that one of the construction workers would get hurt so they’d have to stop work. Such is the way guerrilla film making.
You’re love of metal is evident, you’ve done documentaries about Black and Death metal, not to mention your magazine, what bands are you listening to these days?
A staple of my musical diet is older Mercyful Fate albums, but my musical choices depend on my mood. I like to get lost in music, so I tend to listen on headphones, in darkness, with eyes closed. I can enter a theater of the mind with Elend which brings tortured death metal vocals into opera rather than heavenly soprano into death metal. That is when I enter hell. I also like the rich and atmospheric doom of Estoeric, from England. Shape of Despair from Finland have excellent dark and ebbing songs. I gravitate toward the melancholy.
I was kind of skeptical about your Black Metal documentary but budget and editing aside found it one of the more respectful and less sensational documentaries on the subject matter. I liked that you let the musicians tell the story and that it wasn’t art-wanky. Do you have any anecdotes about interviewees/making the film?
The irony is that some people complain about the budget, but black metal exalts the super low budget 4-track recording. I could have sought a big budget, but in exchange for seeing artists in luxurious surroundings the content would have to be censored, and the price of the DVD would be high. I wanted this to be seen, not to rot on a store shelf. What difference does it make whether an artist is backstage or in a castle? The words would be the same. I hate the idiots who want the documentary to basically rehash the fictional and sensationalist tales that everyone knows. I hate those posers who just want the documentary to make them feel good about knowing bullshit. “Oh, yes, this is the part when Grishnak stabs Euonymous in his underwear. I am so glad to see that in a documentary because this time I was just masturbating about a fantasy, and now that it’s real I feel rewarded for believing a distorted story.”
One of my favorite differences between my documentary and a big budget one is, a big budget documentary showed a guy from Gorgoroth with fake-evil lighting from beneath him, making him appear more like a kid who is playing with a flashlight under his chin. He was holding a glass of wine and took a long pause before saying, in a fake evil voice “Satan”. In my documentary he is sitting hunched and submissively, and comes out of the closet. Yes, he’s gay, and so is the lighting in that big budget documentary. I wanted to to show the wizard behind the curtain. I had regarded black metal to be the pro-wrestling of metal. It’s not real. Some of the “wars” are pure fiction. So if you are looking for that, I will disappoint you.
As for anecdotes, this may not be funny, but I discovered how cool and down-to-earth many people are. I had expected otherwise. But you asked for anecdote, and I will reveal this as a worldwide first. King from Gorgoroth claimed to know the forefathers of black metal, and he promised me that he would get me in-person interviews with them if I flew to Norway. I bought my ticket. But the night before I had to fly, King notified me via Email that nobody wanted to do the interview but a couple of others would do interviews as a consolation prize, like the guy from Cadaver who played with Celtic Frost on the last tour. Needless to say, I did not go to Norway. I found out afterwards that he didn’t know any of the people he claimed to know. Some of the forefathers ridiculed him. He was called a poser and a newcomer. Absolutely no respect whatsoever. His public personality was a thing of jokes. My favorite story about him was from the guy in Enthroned who said that when Gorgoroth and Enthroned played a show, King from Gorgoroth had a Prima Donna tantrum about the amplifiers not being the exact ones that he had requested. By the way, King’s nickname to those guys is “Queenie” – so Queenie was told in no uncertain terms to close his bitch mouth and to get the fuck on stage or else….
Do you have any more documentaries in the works?
Actually, I am thinking of making a mash-up of several documentaries into one, in which black metal is the primary focus, but it has far more artists talking. This won’t replace the black metal documentary but should make for a nice companion piece. I made a series called Metal Retardation: in which everyone gets smashed, and the aim of the interview is retardation. You can read “What are your influences” kinds of interviews elsewhere. But if you want to see me get the vocalist of Cannibal Corpse to sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” then tune in to what I do. So far, we have Metal Retardation, and Extreme Metal Retardation as their own DVD’s, but the third in the series is a bonus movie on Scienceless Fiction and is called . The fourth is in HD and will be simply called Metal Retardation Volume 4 and will be almost 4 hours. But there is no active plan to make a documentary per se, although I was thinking about making one about King Diamond.
I haven’t seen many of your films but really enjoyed Dolla Morte, was it a rather time consuming film?
I am embarrassed. That movie was done purely for fun. When I received feedback from fans I decided to halt sales. Only about 400 sold and I gave the rest away. Years later, an acquaintance asked to re-release it. He loved it. He said that, when you watch a film you make a handshake with it in the first five minutes. You see the rules and you agree with them,or you shut the movie off. Looking back, he may have seen how inflated the auction prices were. You see, I make movies as soon as I dream them up. I sometimes realize that it was a mistake for me to release them, and I take them out of circulation. It seems that people want what they can’t have. Seeing my movies bid upwards of a thousand dollars per DVD may blind people to the actual market value of a re-release. I didn’t want to take advantage of that guy, so I sold him the right to lease the movie for a nominal fee. However I was angered by his deceptive marketing. When you look at my DVD cover you can tell that it is a low budget movie. He paid an artist to make a cover that in no way let you know what you were getting, and he also wrote “In the tradition of Team America and Robot Chicken.” First of all. those two movies are not similar, so how can there be a tradition if those two movies have different animation? Secondly, Dolla Morte has nothing to do with either of those great works. So I warned the guy that if I ever see that deceptive claim made again, we are going to have a face-to-face. I don’t hoodwink people. If I wanted to make easy money I would be doing something else.
How much money did you spend on toys for Dolla Morte?
Almost a thousand dollars. Many of the toys were not used in the movie. When I finished the project, I chose a family that had a boy and a girl and I arranged to give the children ALL of the toys in one day, to create a magical memory. Can you imagine how you would have reacted if you were a child and came home to a treasure trove of toys? I created that event anonymously. The kids thought that the parents did that. I didn’t videotape it for the public because it wasn’t a stunt. I genuinely wanted to create an amazing memory.
Who has been the biggest influence to you as a director?
Years ago I was at a horror convention to give away my magazine to would-be fans. until that point I had only videotaped skits for my own fun, as well as Jackass types of public stunts. A “director” knew about my mag and handed me his movie for review. I told him that I only review metal music, but when I saw there were hot chicks on the cover I told him I would gladly review it. I was impressed with myself. A director knew about me and came to me personally for a review. Well, when I got home I was surprised by how bad the “movie” was. Even though it had nude girls it was unwatchable. He was selling these VHS dubbs, with deceptive packaging, for lots of money. At first I hated him for being a thief and a fake, but I suddenly realized that, unlike that guy, I actually wanted to entertain when I videotaped my stuff. Why shouldn’t I also get a booth at a horror convention and sell my wares, but at a real price and without trying to deceive consumers. I’d do that one day when I was ready. I ran into him again, and he revealed that he had cancer. He was undergoing chemotherapy but still actively shot his talentless and fraudulent movies. That made me feel shame. What was my excuse for waiting? I have all the time in the world and this man could die any day. So I immediately went to a bookstore and purchased a book about screenwriting. I never wasted a moment since that time. When I get an idea, I act on it. I don’t wait for anything. By the way, he survived the cancer, but has never improved his movie skills, ha ha.
I am assuming your a self-taught filmmaker? How did you get into making films?
I’ve hogged up a lot of your time, so I will give a short answer. I always wanted to make movies but I thought that was just for a different class of people. I knew nothing about it. Some say that I still don’t, but the point is that I was always dreaming of owning a camera, and when I finally got one on my 18th birthday I constantly used it for fun. I never thought it would lead to anything other than personal amusement. Skipping ahead to when I bought the book about screenwriting, I made Metalheads as my practice movie, thinking that maybe in ten years I will be skilled enough to get a deal with some company. Even in that practice movie I paid the girls. I considered it my film school, and the girls were my textbooks, or at least they cost as much as college text books. When I finished the movie I handed out VHS dubs of it at a horror convention, and one fell into the hand of a distributor. He called me with a deal.
You utilize a lot of shock-tactics throughout your works, does anything shock Bill Zebub?
Indeed. Brainwashing is terrifying to me. Years ago when I was in the corporate environment I had to undergo “diversity” training among myriad other sessions in which adult employees were treated like children watching videos that were so boring they may one day be considered war crimes. In any case, I dismissed that colossal waste of time as just a protection for the business. Over time, that idiocy began appearing in movies. The term was “political correctness”: which I didn’t think was taken seriously by smart people. It’s polite fiction. I thought it was just a phase. But it’s become worse. I kept joking that it’s leftist fascism, that the “correct” Nazi’s should have their swastikas pointing to the left. Then I saw an episode on Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! which basically revealed political correctness to be based on Nazi methods of thought control, but instead of manipulating people for evil, the through control was for good. Impossible. Thought-control is evil no matter what. People are trained to have knee-jerk reactions, which is dangerous because it’s CONFORMITY, not MORALITY. A moral person actually thinks about why he or she makes a decision. A conformist doesn’t think – a conformist just acts. This allows him or her to commit atrocities. A conformist thinks that he or she is correct. No thinking needed. A moral person doesn’t punish or condemn. Rather, a moral person will be happy to enlighten. Conformists like to ostracise, condemn, and to punish. They are the hate-haters. Well, that’s still hatred. It’s reaching ludicrous levels. I’ve made movies in a category I call “sex horror” and a trademark of that is rape. Rape is taboo in movies, and that is why I use it. I try to tackle what others fear. Lately someof my movie became banned, or economically censored, meaning that credit card processors refuse to allow credit cards transactions to go thorugh. I am on the verge of finding a lawyer to file a massive lawsuit. These are LEGAL products. What is happening is the equivalent of a gas station attendant refusing to take your money for gasoline because he does not approve of your taste in cars. If the word “rape” is in the movie title or anywhere in the synopsis then there is a good chance for it to suffer this blacklisting. Remove that word and you can have a chance at doing business for a while, until some asshole decides to cause trouble. So you can kill a woman every ten seconds in your movie and get mainstream distribution, but the moment someone touches her breasts without first asking please, the movie gets banned. I can understand if a movie is a how-to guide for a would-be rapist. But for a narrative? Some studios are of course exempt. This era is stupid. Stupid and shocking.
Do you have any anecdotes about offended viewers/criticisms of your films? Ever had the Westboro Church protest one of your films?
When I first released Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist it wasn’t a film. I had planned on making a film, but in those days I was shooting with a camcorder. When I examined the footage I didn’t like it. Back then I didn’t understand that the footage looked bad because it was 30 frames per second and looked like a home video. The film look is 24 frames per second. Well, I halted production and scrapped the footage, but someone talked me into releasing it as soft core bondage, or whatever, that should be sold to porn stores. Of course, I didn’t know anything about that world. I was told that bondage has no sex, and that I have enough damsels in distress to merit the release. My distributor would not take a movie titled Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist but I asked, if I replicated the DVD’s myself and had only my name on it, not the distributor company, would they sell it? Yes. Well, I was under the assumption that they would only target porn stores, but this movie ended up in a major chain. A morbidly obese christian woman was so outraged that she threatened that if the movie wasn’t banned, she would launch a christian campaign and take it to the highest levels of the company. All of the units were returned. I could have used that as a publicity event, but I was not proud of the DVD. I hastily stopped all further sales. Years later when I had a better camera, I shot the movie as an art house horror, and by then I had developed some brand recognition, so the distribution company acquired the title as an exclusive. It sold well. A fan notified me that it has over 100 reviews on Amazon.com. Christians who had never seen the movie were rating it 1 out of 5 to ruin the likelihood of someone buying it. Their reviews showed that they never saw it. They were furious that a movie with that name existed. Then people who hated the christian abuse of power started rating the movie 5 out of 5, but they didn’t see the movie either. Eventually, the Christians changed tactics and they successfully got Amazon to remove the title. I protested, citing that none of them had seen the movie, but to no avail. After that, when I made the movie Forgive me for Raping You it had a priest on the cover with his arms around a girl. Christians again protested, claiming that the movie was about raping boys. Clearly they did not see the movie. There are no children in the movie, and the girl on the cover is obviously not a boy. The priest in this movie does not swing this way. The Christians got Amazon to ban the title. I protested again, asking how they could allow people who never saw the movie to even review it, let alone call for its removal. The response was, “As long as there is a perception that THAT’s what the movie is….” but it’s not a public perception. It’s just a bunch of Christians who have nothing better to do than to fuck up everyone who is not part of their club.
So I appeal to anyone who is reading this, if you have an urge to kill people and haven’t figured out who your targets will be, please start with Christians who go around trying to fuck people over. By the way, you may have heard of peaceful loving Christians being fed to lions. That is religious fiction. The historical Christians who were fed to lions were terrorists. They were nasty assholes, not the meek people depicted in paintings.
One of the barriers for budding directors seems to be money. Your films are extremely low-budget, I’ve read you fund them yourself, how do you manage to produce feature films on such a low budget?
Let’s get something clear. My movies are low-budget, but they are not zero-budget. I spend about $3,000 on girls alone. Where other people spend money on blood, I spend money on boobs. Lots of boobs. Other indie directors talk girls into being naked for free. You can tell that they are free. I hire models. The reason why I can afford it is because my promise was to always re-invest the money. So my first movie, which was done purely for practice, cost me about $800, which I considered to be tuition, because I was learning how to make movies. I could have done it for far less. but if I paid nothing for it I wouldn’t have such respect for what I was doing. When I got the surprise of a lifetime and was offered money for the movie, I took half of that and made another movie, and that snowball has turned into an avalanche. In recent years I made four movies for an other producer, and I used the money to get better equipment, I really should have bought a car and taken care of some health issues, but I am a fool.
Any tips or advice for those looking to become directors?
I have realized that the people who succeed don’t need advice. When I tried to help people, they never acted on my advice. I didn’t understand why. When I started, no one helped me. Other people who succeeded had the same history. There is something wrong with us. We embark on high risk journeys. We can write down exactly what someone needs to do in order to succeed but if you do not have the drive, or the madness, then it’s meaningless. People who succeed are not smarter than you. They are just people who actually DO things, not just TALK about doing things. So if you are open to advice, the only thing that I should tell you is to DO something immediately. Use what you have. Don’t wait until the day that you can afford what you want. Time passes by faster than you think. Also, making movies is something that you learn by actually DOING it. You can read about film making, but until you try the lesson is meaningless. Everything is clear in your head. Try real life. When I started, there were no books about film making or cinematography. Now there are dozens, as well as free tutorials online. Even if there were those resources for me, I learned by failing. Why did that scene not work? By the time those books were available, I could use what was in them But being outside of film school, and being dismissed by actual film makers, it made me develop my own style. But before I masturbate about myself here, let me make a point that should sink in. I purposely did everything wrong, and I still attained a big following. The mainstream hates me. So what? There are enough people who resonate with my own style that they keep me afloat financially. I am a loser. But I got far for being a loser. You are probably a winner. Start doing things immediately and you will far surpass me.
What projects are you working on now?
I just wrapped up Scienceless Fiction, which is my anti-indoctrination movie, although brainwashed people are going to consider it a racist movie. I am hoping to raise funds for a drama called The Reaving of Isabelle but I will probably film Holocaust Cannibal and Dickshark in the next few months. Hopefully I will make Santa Claus: Serial Rapist and Nightmare on Elmo’s Street before the end of the year.
Any final words / pimp yourself here:
Break from the spell.
Check out more Bill here: