Interview

Interview

Exclusive: Zombie Talk with Flesh Eating Foundation

up
34

A while back, while digging a compilation CD of creepy experimental music from Shinto Records, one contributor caught my attention on their name alone. I figured any band named Flesh Eating Foundation was worth a listen, and I was pleasantly surprised to sample their tight beats, jagged synth lines and aggressive vocals – a blend they describe as “Electro Zombie Punk.” My interest led me to their video for “Dead Shall Rise,” which centered around a gourmet cannibal banquet; their single “So Yeah” (now the title track of their latest EP) was the basis for another brutal and disturbing short film, which we also featured on these pages. I finally got a chance to pick the brains (sorry, I had to work in at least one zombie pun) of FEF members John E Smoke, Juddaman, Mash, Big Un and Crooknose, who shared stories of all things zombie, their favorite fear flicks, and their many creative and charitable pursuits.

 

 

FEARnet: You tag your sound as "Electro Zombie Punk." How would you describe it to a newcomer?
 
MASH: We found that trying to pigeonhole us into one particular genre just didn't fit. When people review us, everyone uses a different tag, so we thought fuck it, and made our own. It's like a congregation of goth, industrial, punk, thrash and computers being used by killer robot clowns with chainsaw hands with a thousand TVs playing '80s slasher films in the background.
 
BIG UN: Picture the Misfits having dinner at a cafe run by Trent Reznor and being served by Alec Empire. Oh, and Depeche Mode are on work experience.
 
JOHN E SMOKE: We’ve been described as industrial, goth, like a funhouse gone wrong, death rock and all sorts of other tags. We mainly seem to get lumped in with the industrial scene, which is fine as we certainly like that sort of music, but in truth we don’t quite fit there... or anywhere else, it sometimes seems.
 
Nothing wrong with that. It's good to own your niche.
 
THE JUDDAMAN: I guess that tag lets people know what to expect. I mean, it tells you that it will be some kind of electronic, and that it is likely to be maybe a bit angry and perhaps a tad scary too. It also looks a bit smart on a t-shirt.
 
CROOKNOSE: I like it because it covers two of my favorite elements of popular culture and my favorite form of energy.
 
What first brought your mutual loves of music and horror together?
 
JOHN E: It started probably longer ago than most would think, some time in the early 1990s. There was just the two of us back then, schoolmates who had similarly bad tastes in music, film and just about most things. When we were kids we’d watch stuff together – the gorier and more out there, the better. While we were doing that, we’d be flicking through each other's music collections and swapping stuff. Then we’d listen and tape the John Peel sessions on the radio, especially the noisy ones. That’s how we found new music.
 
JUDDAMAN: Over the years we’ve found a few other kindred souls, so the group is now more like a collective. We want a network of members who can turn up and play when we’re miles from home. No talent required, just an attitude and a willingness to get sticky.
 
JOHN E: Currently in the gang we have Mash and Big Un supplying guitars and various other bits and bobs, and Crooknose. who is our visuals guy.
 
BIG UN: I've been a fan for a while now and been aware of the guys from playing around the midlands. When they asked if I could fill in for a few gigs to add some more noise, I naturally said yes.
 
CROOKNOSE: I was on loan from Johnny Ha Ha from Alien Sex Fiend. I don't know if there's any overdue fees...
 
MASH: I met Juddaman and John when I was at University in Staffordshire and the magic just happened.
 
We've covered the band Angelspit before, and you've collaborated with them several times. When did you first cross paths with them?
 
JOHN E: We somehow landed a support slot with them at a night called “Fab and Kinky” in Newport, Wales, and we both rocked the house. We just stayed in touch, the odd email, the odd chat at gigs... then when we were releasing So Yeah, I just approached Zoog and asked him to remix the title track and he said yes!
 
 
JUDDAMAN: That remix is top banana, and we’ve since returned the favor and remixed “Defibrillator,” which got included on their official release. We’re a very collaborative band; we’ll work with pretty much anyone on the same wavelength.
 
Can you describe the live FEF experience?
 
JOHN E: Chaos! It looks chaotic because it is! Pretty much every time we play something breaks, and the sound just about hangs together. We like to put on a show that has a fun element, if just a little gross. The sound is usually messy, and the visuals match that. We have a few themes we play around with: zombies, butchers, zombie vicars, clowns... and more recently, Crooknose has joined the troops and he’s been making us some rather freaky heads to perform in.
 
CROOKNOSE: My masks are made out of cardboard, which is a natural form of insulation... last time I was on stage with the Fleshies, I lost a stone of weight just through chin sweat!
 
 
JUDDAMAN: We like to keep the sound as live as we can with the limited number of members we have. We probably try to include too much; other bands look over our shoulders at the mess of cables and boxes and wonder why we bother. Truth is, we love our toys: noise makers, bleepy things, farty things….
 
BIG UN: Cable soup, carnival noise, limbs thrashing, vocals screaming...
 
JOHN E: At some point you'll see me trip up, nearly fall off the stage, cut my head on the mic stand, or accidentally stamp on something, because I'm blind. I’m a bit of a hazard. I’m deaf too. I’m really in the wrong job. All part of the experience though. 
 
We posted Bruce Markos's video for "So Yeah" from the "2 Weeks 2 Make It" contest, and I loved his surreal take on it.
 
JOHN E: We’ve actually done that competition three times now – we seem to be their go-to guys for something a little bit “out there.” In year one, we did “Dead Shall Rise,” which is effectively a cannibal video, the underclass rising up to eat the rich. The offal we used in that video nearly made us vomit quite a few times.
 
MASH: I had to cleaver a real sheep's head, which was fairly... uh, interesting.
 
 
JUDDAMAN: Year two was the Bruce Markos' video for “So Yeah.” The concept was ace and it had some nice touches. I played the slightly-less-psycho side of the lead role. You’ll see Mash and Mr. Smoke in the video too.
 
JOHN E: I was the blind guy getting mugged. The director thought I might be sensitive about it, but I said “Fuck no,” so you see an actual blind guy getting a bit of a kicking!
 
 
Do you have plans for horror-themed videos in the near future?
 
MASH: I'm hoping that each video progressively gets darker and more horrifying until we make one that just gets straight-out banned.
 
JOHN E: My ultimate aim is to record the bloodiest, slimiest, wrongest live performance video ever, just like our live show ramped even further up, but to a very short song, so it feels like more of a shock.
 
Speaking of blood and slime... John, you run your local chapter of the charity group Zombie Aid. What kind of work do you do?
 
JOHN E: Zombie Aid is a network of smaller groups who arrange events with the aim of having fun and raising some dosh for charity. We did a zombie walk a few years ago in Stafford and raised a few hundred quid for the local hospice. Sadly, the police sort of ruined the day, as they suggested that we would be causing offense and traumatizing the local kids. I was more or less threatened with arrest if we took any zombie anywhere near the town center, and there was a heavy police presence.
 
Did you still manage to pull it off?
 
JUDDAMAN: We changed our route. The kids still loved it, and we had fun. Shame, though, as we could have raised so much more if we could have invaded the town. Since then we've participated in other walks in Manchester, Birmingham, Stoke on Trent and Bedford. The charity varies, depending on the local organizers. 
 
BIG UN: This time we need to be cheeky. A flash mob, but of zombies. Everyone turns up wearing shades and a hat, only to reveal their inner zombie at a given moment.
 
Do all of you participate in the walks?
 
MASH: I started the Bedford walks a year ago, with our second hopefully taking place soon. They're a great opportunity for families to dress up (or down) and just have good old fashioned fun by schlepping through town and grunting at strangers, covered in blood. It’s like a re-enactment of a night out in Glasgow, but charitable.
 
CROOKNOSE: I live in Devon... we only have zombie pirates and unwanted people from Chelsea.
 
What's the latest event you've planned?
 
JOHN E: This year we're doing “zombies on a train,” which is mainly a way of getting a bunch of zombies to a big walk in Birmingham to raise money for a children’s hospital. We’re being cautious, given previous reactions from the authorities, so this is literally us trying to dig up some local zombies to add to the hordes who will be doing the walk on July 21st in Birmingham. It’s like, “We’re going to this walk, we’re catching this train, we’re going to donate to this charity when we get there, it’s a free world... so why don’t the rest of you catch the same train as us? The more the merrier!”
 
These walks are one of the clearest signs that zombies have infiltrated popular culture. Why do you think everybody's into the whole zombie-apocalypse idea lately? Do you think it's a sign of a more pessimistic world view, or it just a cool fantasy?
 
BIG UN: Have you walked around Stoke on Trent recently? They're already here!
 
JOHN E: [Laughs] Generally I think it's the former rather than the latter. We read and hear all the time that we’re killing nature, we’re sterilising the rivers and seas, we’re polluting the very ground we live off. We’re effectively bombarded with the notion that the world is dying. Even some earlier zombie films hinted that the zombie uprising was related to some foul deed that the human race had done. It’s like zombies are the guilt coming back to haunt and hunt us. Also, zombies are much easier to relate to or fear: they are, or were, us. 
 
MASH: Look around you: mindless drones staring at their phones, devoid of all intellectual nourishment, craving mindless rubbish from crappy TV shows. Like John says, it's a mirror effect: we can relate to how messed up of a race we've become. That, and everyone loves the idea of running scared through a town with a shotgun chased by your now decaying friends.
 
JOHN E: I guess it would be most people’s worst nightmare for someone they love to come back as a brain-craving mindless zombie. I guess coming back as a compliant, cute living dead girl would be quite cool... but that would be another discussion.
 
I'll check back with you on that one.
 
JUDDAMAN: I also think it has a lot to do with supporting the underdog. In reality, humankind is very much dominant on this planet. We rule the place and seem to see it as our right to do with it what we please. In programs like The Walking Dead, the balance has tipped; we're no longer dominant and we are now hunted. We are the underdog, and people always root for the underdog.
 
CROOKNOSE: We've also made our own sort of zombie film, called Zombie Dog. Check it out on the Olde Tube!
 
Don't mind if I do!
 
 
You guys were obviously into the undead long before they went mainstream. What are your favorite zombie movies of all time?
 
JUDDAMAN: The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead is my favorite. The opening scene is just awesome and the whole film gets top marks from me.
 
JOHN E: Shaun of the Dead has got to be on our list! It’s a proper zombie movie, but also a great movie about life in our gray and dreary country, and damned funny. The scene where they're going through their vinyl collection choosing which records to fling at zombies is exactly what me and Juddaman would do in that situation.
 
MASH: I'd also include The original Dawn of the Dead... how about Happiness of the Katakuris?
 
That turns into a zombie musical, so it counts.
 
MASH: Wild Zero is so over the top, but I love Japanese horror... and Evil Dead.
 
CROOKNOSE: Yes, Evil Dead 1 through 3, and... do Star Trek's Borgs count as zombies?
 
I'll give you that one. They creep me out.
 
JUDDAMAN: Peter Jackson’s Braindead [Dead Alive in the US] classes as a zombie movie, and would also be right at the top of our list for all-time best horror film. Every time I see a lawnmower, I think of the closing scene. So much blood!
 
JOHN E: Zombieland is a more recent classic; it has everything you need for an entertaining film even without the zombies, so the fact that there are a shitload of zombies in the mix just really floats my boat.
 
JUDDAMAN: Okay, here’s a curveball: Dead Heat from 1988. Detectives Roger Mortis and Doug Bigelow, evil doctors, a resurrection machine and people coming back from the dead. It’s a barrel of laughs.
 
Don't forget Vincent Price is in it too!
 
JUDDAMAN: Is that one even out on DVD? 
 
It is in the US.
 
JUDDAMAN: We have it on VHS.
 
BIG UN: We can’t forget Planet Terror... oh, and 28 Days Later.
 
That reminds me... what's your opinion of fast-moving zombies? Is it sacrilege, or just a new spin on an old idea?
 
MASH: I was very apprehensive of 28 Days, but it's a whole new fear, knowing that you just can't outrun them anymore.
 
CROOKNOSE: I would call them Zoom-bies! 
 
JUDDAMAN: That definitely ups the fear factor, and new ideas are always good. Preferably zombies in movies should be unpredictable: “Is it a slow one or a fast one? Ah, it’s a slow one... shit, now it’s a fast one, RUN!”
 
BIG UN: As long as they don't start to fly!
 
JOHN E: It’s always good to change the rules a bit. I loved the film Wasting Away... zombies who don’t know that they're zombies, thinking that everyone around them are the real zombies when they aren’t.
 
Of course, George Romero is the godfather of the slow-moving zombie... what's your opinion of his later films?
 
JUDDAMAN: We talk about this quite a lot, so we can answer that quite quickly. Land of the Dead was rather good, Diary of the Dead was watchable, and Survival of the Dead should be missed if at all possible. The whole recent Romero experience leaves one with mixed feelings.
 
BIG UN: The latter Romeros were, in my opinion, pants. Land was okay, but Survival made me cry sad tears.
 
MASH: Land had a lot of new ideas... I quite enjoyed the idea that zombies become more intelligent and outwit the humans. Plus Dennis Hopper is a legend.
 
So what's the best horror film you've seen lately?
 
JUDDAMAN: The Paranormal Activity films were a bit jumpy, though we disagree on which is the best. I say the first one...
 
JOHN E: ...and I say the third. I like the whole full-circle thing.
 
JUDDAMAN: Is Hobo with a Shotgun horror? That was awesome.
 
JOHN E: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil was also pretty damn good as a horror comedy.
 
BIG UN: Mum and Dad. It's a bit full-on, but a good English horror flick.
 
JOHN E: That was well sick…
 
MASH: Insidious was great, and Cabin in the Woods, which really had a new take on horror films as a whole.
 
CROOKNOSE: Most Haunted Live! with Yvette Fielding... very cool!
 
JUDDAMAN: Hmm...
 
Any new films you're looking forward to seeing soon?
 
JUDDAMAN: I can’t wait to see Chernobyl Diaries... that looks like it has the potential to be damn scary; and the new Resident Evil film Retribution. I think we’re all waiting for the perfect Resident Evil film. 
 
JOHN E: I think Extinction is the best Resident Evil film so far, but I love the whole post-apocalypse feel to it.
 
MASH: My hopes are holding out for a Silent Hill 2. Chernobyl Diaries does look great though.
 
CROOKNOSE: It looked good in the trailer.
 
BIG UN: I’m also looking forward to Lovely Molly and Sinister.
 
JOHN E: I also remain in hope that Worst Case Scenario gets made some time. 
 
That one looks like it could have been the ultimate Nazi zombie movie, just based on the trailer alone.
 
JOHN E: That trailer was awesome! J.G. Thirlwell [of industrial band Foetus] was doing the score... but it looks like it disappeared into production hell.
 
True, but at least that director is working on Frankenstein's Army now, which looks pretty cool too. So what's next on the agenda for you guys in 2012?
 
JOHN E: We’re still busy promoting the So Yeah release, which saw us fulfill a lifelong dream of releasing on vinyl. It’s a 7” of only 100 copies with the Angelspit mix of “So Yeah” and a Babyland cover version on the flipside. In the main we’re recording material for a new release that we hope to put out soon under one of our side projects, “Fun Every Friday.”
 
CROOKNOSE: We also want to produce a Zombie Dog program.
 
BIG UN: I'm going to learn some new songs, so we don't have to keep playing the only ones that I know!
 
MASH: More remixes, more blood, more noise!
 
Check in on the band's latest happenings at their official site.
<none>