Interview

Interview

Exclusive: Family Force 5 on the Making of 'Zombie'

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Family Force 5 is a one-of-a-kind act, to say the least. Their hyperactive fusion of hip-hop rhymes, metal riffs, pop hooks with infectious dance grooves (not to mention a wicked sense of humor) has snagged them a loyal following, and their videos are especially beloved by fans. That love translated to the screen when the band formed a kickstarter campaign to fund their latest video “Zombie” – which also stars hundreds of fans as a popping-and-locking legion of walking dead, in the groove of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Watch “Zombie” below, then read on for some cool stories from FF5 guitarist “Chap Stique” (alias Derek Mount) about the origins of the song and the film.

 


Hey Derek, thanks for taking some time out to chat with FEARnet.
 
Thank you!  We’re honored that you checked out our video.
 
I loved it! What motivated you to write a zombie-themed single?
 
“Zombie” was kind of lurking around waiting to be written. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but the song just kind of (ironically) came alive. After seven grueling years of intense touring, missing our families, almost breaking up, and almost losing our bassist (he was in the hospital for months suffering with a near-death battle against renal failure), our band had been through the wringer, and we loved the idea of writing a song about rebirth, resurrection, and rising back from the dead... but all of our lyrical ideas were too literal and felt a little forced. Soul Glow Activatur, our lead singer, made an incredible beat and we kept listening to it and trying to write lyrics, but nothing felt right. Then, after a few failed writing sessions, somebody jokingly said, “It just feels like it should say, ‘Zombie, zombie, zombie,’ like the Cranberries.” We all had a good laugh, but then everything fell into place! It's a very metaphorical song, and it’s also full of classic FF5 tongue-in-cheek puns.
 
How much creative involvement did the band have on the film?
 
A ton! We prefer to be as hands-on as possible. The five of us wrote the treatment on a whiteboard at an empty little league baseball field before one of our concerts. Crouton, our drummer, was pretending to climb over the dugout like a ridiculous zombie.  We were so excited about the video that we worked with the city of Columbus, OH to block off the streets for the shooting, and to secure insurance policies and create waivers so our extras would be covered as well.  Fatty, our bassist, bought the groceries and all of us grilled burgers and poured human blood (sparkling cherry cola) into the glasses of our V.I.Z. (Very Important Zombie) guests. My job was to book the porta-potties. Not to brag, but I did it pretty well… I landed 2-ply and hand sanitizer for everybody! Crouton is also a fantastic stylist, and he did a masterful job of creating our costumes, which he hand-stitched, stained, and splattered with blood.
 
Did you have the whole Thriller homage in mind from the beginning?
 
Sure! Michael Jackson is FF5’s biggest influence, and we wanted to show our respects to the king. The guitar solo in “Beat It,” along with the “Johnny B. Goode” scene in Back to the Future, inspired me to play guitar in the first place. I don’t think it would be possible to make a zombie music video without wishing you were MJ at least once.
 
How much of the film's production budget came from fan donations?
 
One hundred percent! Early in the year, we filmed videos for our songs “Paycheck” and “Wobble,” and we were told that there was no budget to make another video this year. Because our fans tell us that they absolutely love our music videos, the five of us decided to make a kickstarter campaign in order to create this one. But we didn’t want to simply ask for donations; we wanted to give the fans the ultimate experience. So Nadaddy, our keyboardist, came up with a system that allowed anybody who donated money to actually play a zombie in the video. 
 
So all the zombies in the film are played by your fans? 
 
Yes, pretty much all of them, with the exception of Crouton, the zombie horde-leader. 
 
What was the casting process like?
 
They essentially cast themselves. If you pledged “x” amount, you could be a normal zombie, but if you paid a bit more, you could be a V.I.Z... or, if you wanted to be one of the zombies who bit a band member (thus turning us into zombies), you had to pay a bit extra for that luxurious feast! We had a finite number of differing types of zombies: athlete zombies, college student zombies, “prombies” who were dressed in their evening gowns and tuxes, celebrity zombies, etc. 
 
Within those categories, did they get to choose their own look?
 
The first people to sign up got the first dibs on the roles they wanted. We created video tutorials about how to make zombie make-up, how to distress clothes, and how to do the zombie dance. It was the responsibility of the zombies to show up prepared for the apocalypse!
 
That's awesome! Who handled the choreography on-camera?
 
Isaac Deitz, who directed the video. He also made our videos for “Wobble,” “Cray Button,” and “The Really Real Show.” He did incredible work with the extras to make sure they all felt like they played a significant role.
 
[check out the "Wobble" vid here.]
 
 
What kind of feedback on the video have you been getting?
 
It’s been overwhelmingly positive. Some of the oldsters don’t quite get it, but I think zombies are a bit of a generational thing. The video’s getting plenty of views, and crowds are freaking out when we play the song live. The most magical thing has been the bond we’ve developed with the fans who were in the video.  They’ve written us letters and tweets telling us they had the best experience of their lives during the shoot, and that connection is very special to Family Force 5.  One kid took a 52-hour Greyhound ride just to be in the video, and he said he’d do it again in a heartbeat.
 
 
Are you a fan of zombie movies yourself?
 
I know you probably want me to say something totally cred and legit horror like Bad Taste, which is pretty hilarious, but I dig The Omega Man as well, because it was one of the first zombie-esque movies that I ever saw.
 
What's the best horror movie you've seen recently?
 
I recently saw Dark Shadows, and I thought it was incredible. However, we must take into account the fact that film score is a big passion of mine, so Danny Elfman’s music gave it an unfair advantage.
 
What's the first movie that ever scared you?
 
I saw Cujo when I was eight, and it scared the sin out of me. Our neighbor had a St. Bernard, and I had dreams about it eating me every night for the next few years. Does Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure count? I just watched that movie a few weeks ago (to listen to more Elfman), and I almost peed my pants from Tim Burton’s whack animation in that scene.
 
So what's next on the FF5 agenda for 2012?  
 
We had such a blast making the video for “Zombie” that we decided to shoot another video with our fans. Last week, hundreds of fans showed up at an ATV park outside of Dallas and we filmed ourselves dangling outside of monster trucks and slinging mud at one another. The song's called “Cray Button,” and the video should be out soon. All five of us write and record music, so we’ll definitely release some new tunes as well. 
 
Cool! Any major gigs coming up?
 
We're playing a ton of festivals in the US, and in a few weeks we’ll head to the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. September through November, we’ll be on a fall tour called Music with a Mission (trying to raise funds to help children in third world countries who can’t afford surgeries), and then we head over the London for Warped Tour UK. The coolest thing of late is that we’ve been DJ-ing midnight dance-parties at festivals around the US, and kids have been freaking out with glowsticks, American flags, banana costumes... and of course, zombie costumes. We’re having fun, and we hope that we’re allowing others to do the same! 
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