Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blood, Zombies and Cookies-An Interview With James Cheetham

Dark Fiction author James Cheetham grew up in Manitoba, Canada. Thanks to many a long winter he developed a love of horror movies and novels. His first novel, Fade To Pale developed a strong cult following. It won Best Horror Novel of 2007 at Preditors and Editors. His short story The Beekeeper was recently released in an anthology called Weirdly: A Collection of Strange Stories. The Beekeeper won Best Short Horror of 2007 at Preditors and Editors. And now, his second full length novel is the initial book in a series dedicated to the zombie genre but written with a fresh new twist. Seasons of The Brittle Harvest Volume One: Prairie Frost is a Canadian take on the ominous world of the walking dead. I had the pleasure of talking to to him and asking him about his career and what he's working on.

How did you get your first novel Fade To Pale published?

Well, I should start by sending kudos to another writer who gave me some advice I still appreciate to this day. I started out taking the usual route most writers do. I queried agencies and publishers and received the standard generic rejection letters that makes one feel an inch tall. One late night while sitting at my computer I emailed writer T.M Gray and asked about her experiences, not expecting anything in return. To my surprise, she emailed me back and suggested I write some short stories and submit them rather than just concentrating on my full-length novel. I took her advice and wrote a story called ‘The Beekeeper’ which M.E. Ellis at Wild Child Publishing picked up a few weeks later. She asked if I had any full-length novels lying around and I sent her Fade To Pale. Thus began my long strange trip…

Where do you start with a story? Writing down some ideas and characters or with an outline?

Fade To Pale came about from a re-occurring dream I had that involved my wife and I purchasing an old house. I must have had the dream a thousand times and it always involved me stumbling upon a door to a room that I’d never seen before. The room was always well lived in, as though we’d been sharing the house with somebody else. It is hard to describe to people how ominous the feeling was. I would walk through this weird living quarters where the odour of breakfast still lingered from a greasy pan on the stove, or a radio crackled away, but nobody would ever be there. I would be left with an overwhelming feeling of a ghostly presence. The rest of the story evolved around those bizarre dreams…

In general, my ideas start with a single image in mind. Something startling that lingers there for a while. At one time I wrote my ideas down, but have since come to the conclusion that good ideas will never be forgotten. If you forget a plotline, it could not have been that great to begin with.

When is your favorite time to write? Morning? Night time? And for how long?

I am learning to write whenever I can now. At one time it was late at night or when my daughter was younger—early in the morning. Now, with my various things on the go, I try to fit it in where I can.

What do your prefer for writing? Old school notebook or typewriter or more modern like a computer?

I prefer a computer. A laptop makes life easier; you can take it with you or go outside if it’s a nice day. Computers have evil sides too though. They can crash, notebooks can’t. I find if I write in a notebook and then transfer it to computer I practically rewrite it all over again anyway. I’m pretty fussy, and the laptop is most forgiving. Writing in a notebook hurts my wrist after a while too, which causes this wimp to take more breaks… and I’ll be damned if I can read my own chicken scratch most of the time.

How many drafts do you write before you feel what you've written is done?

I write one draft and then edit it a million times over. By the time I’m done, the first draft and the final edit are often two entirely different stories. I hate writing first drafts, but I love editing. Editing is putting the icing on a cake it took you two years to bake.

How do you deal with the violence in your writing? Is it a cleansing experience for you putting it on the page? Have you ever been effected by anything you've written? Or written something you felt went too far and changed it?

I think violence is reality. We human beings are violent animals, and it is in all of us to act out under the right circumstances. I don’t feel I embrace it in my writing, like sex, if it is imperative to the plot it must be tackled, but it should be done with tact, even if it is taking place in a horror novel. Good writing should include a sense of class. There are ways you can write about taboo subjects like incest or murder without offending those affected by it in their own lives. If you are writing for no other reason but to shock somebody or offend, your career will be short-lived.

What writers have had an influence on you?

The bad ones…
In this day and age, where anybody can go online and say they are a rock star, or a pinup model, or a writer—you have to be damn good at what you do to get anybody to notice you. It’s easy to be a bad writer, but I want to be a good one. I thank every writer out there who has put out trash. It only encourages me to write better.

Were do you see the horror fiction genre going in the next few years?

I don’t know to be honest. I prefer to write about simple rural settings and strange people.
It seems though, that there is a surge towards violence and snuff that makes me shake my head at times. Horror should scare you, but in those series of emotions there should also exist a sense of fun, or at least hope. I don’t want to write something that is only going to cause pain and fear in the reader. I want them to enjoy their read, relate to it, and find a soft spot for some of the characters if possible too. It’s easy to write about a killing spree, it’s hard to write about the mind that makes the decision to go on that spree…

Can you tell us a bit about Bonded by Blood?


Bonded By Blood is an Anthology put out by SNM Horror Magazine. SNM is an online magazine run by Steven Marshall (hence the name SNM, which are Steve’s initials, so get your head out of the gutter).

I was recently voted SNM Magazine’s horror writer of the year, but must add that I was in good company. It is a great place for new writers to get exposure. Steven has a soft spot for horror writers, and goes out of his way to make them feel welcome, and show them they have just as much a chance to become successful as everybody else does. There aren’t many people out there in this industry like that.

I believe SNM is releasing Bonded By Blood 2 next year as well…

You have a clothing line called Cheetham’s Zombies! How did this come about?

Well, let me take you back to the mid-seventies where a greasy haired eight-year old kid in bell-bottoms sat in the back of a van watching Dawn of The Dead at the Odeon Drive-in just outside of Winnipeg. That movie, and those Romero zombies struck a nerve in me that to this day has not left my system. I LOVE zombies, they are the only critters that can still give me that chill horror fans so often seek.

I wrote a book called Seasons of The Brittle Harvest Volume 1: Prairie Frost, hoping to fulfill my dream of creating a zombie story that takes place in my hometown. The book release was scheduled for January of 2007 but I made some choices that led to the book sitting idle, (live and learn new writers!). While seeking other options, I began offering my friends and readers zombie makeovers. I manipulated photos of people until they basically looked like dead, dehydrated Smurfs—but I got better at it, and it has since taken on a strange life of its own. The zombie makeovers led to a t-shirt line, which we hope to expand upon soon.

Can you tell us a little about what you working on next?

The zombie makeovers led me to collaborate with myphotocookie.com. We can take your photo, zombify it, and place it on a cookie for your Halloween events. It’s really neat, and we hope to make it a yearly event.

We are taking the zombies on the road too. Along with photographer Doug Ritter, we will be in Minneapolis for the Crypticon. We are offering actual 24x36 portraits to customers who want to become zombies. The portraits, once framed, look unbelievable on the wall.

I am also looking at submissions from a few artists hoping we can turn the zombie idea into a comic book.

It is hard to find people interested in a zombie story that takes place in Winnipeg, when most people in the industry aren’t even sure where the city is. I may finally end up releasing it as a free read at my website for my friends and readers who live there. It is an effort straight from the heart. It means the world to me to be able to share this with Winnipeg. It is my ode to the city that helped mould my oddball mind.

In the meantime, I co-created The Dark Fiction Guild. I have a new novel in the works called Ballad of a Bought Farm, and I am looking for a publisher that can offer wider distribution for Fade To Pale.

Any advice for someone who wants to write horror fiction?

I want you to close your eyes and imagine a colour nobody has ever seen before. Then, I want you to describe it to the rest of us…

Not that easy? Well, if you can write a plot as rare as that imaginary colour, there’s no doubt in my mind you’ll be rich!

Now, how many zombie cookies did you say you wanted?

I want to thanks Mr. Cheetham for taking the time to talk to me. Check him out here and here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Movies I love: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

In honor of the new trailer for the remake, I figured what better time. Considered by many as a classic 80's horror film. I remember way back in 1984 seeing the ads on T.V. and being freaked the hell out. Of course I was just a kid, but still. The original has some very creepy imagery and Freddy was played straight. No real jokey one liners and he was kept to the shadows for maximum menace. Plus you can't go wrong with a film were Johnny Depp getting sucked into a mattress whilst watching Miss Nude America.

"I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy."

Never sleep again...

I have to say I'm actually looking forward to the film after seeing this trailer.

A Nightmare on Elm Street in HD

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Paying Tribute

For a few years I was running my other blog From The Negative Zone which was/is mostly about movie soundtracks, there were a few sites that inspired me to want to review and discuss movies. So just thought I'd pay a little bit of tribute to the sites that inspired Cathode Ray Mission.

Doomed Moviethon

Dr. Gore's Movie Reviews


Hysteria Lives!

The Groovy Age of Horror

DVD Drive-In

Moon in the Gutter

Plus here's some I'm really digging now...

3B Theater: Micro-Brewed Reviews

Anchorwoman In Peril!

Cinema Du Meep

Cinema Somnambulist

Radiation-Scarred Reviews

I Like Horror Movies

Topless Robot

Tower Farm Reviews

Check 'em all out.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

“You don’t do it for the money…you do it because you love it!” A Conversation with David Stay

By indrid13

David Stay is the genuine article. He is a creative tour de force that creates not for financial gain, but for a burning desire to express himself, no matter the toll it may take. I was fortunate to get a chance to speak with David, as he is about to appear in two incredible projects, Ford (Attitude for Destruction) Austin’s Dahmer vs. Gacy and his self-directed feature Sphere of the Lycanthrope. 

First of all, let me say thank you for agreeing to this interview! Let’s start off with a few questions about your latest projects. What can you tell us about Dahmer vs. Gacy? 

David: Ford Austin directed and stars in the movie, and it’s full of blood and comedy. It is a dark dark dark comedy. I have a small role in the film as Rob Phillips. I decided to read Rob as gay, Ford agreed. After further speculation of the character I figured if I were going to insult the gay community, why not insult the deaf community as well. I surprised them with  the rehearsal take and everyone thought it was hilarious! So there I was in a kimono, and combat boots…flaming gay and just going (at this point, David does an impression of his character that is both impossible to transcribe and hilarious)!! Ford said, “Let’s do it!!” Rob is the only guy in history to be murdered by both Dahmer and Gacy by the way!

What can you tell us about the shooting of Dahmer vs. Gacy?

David: I filmed for one day. The filming took place in a disgusting, dilapidated house. The house looked condemned, but in a nice neighborhood though! And, every time blood is involved, I get hurt. I tore up my knees on some gravel while being stabbed to death by the infamous serial killers (on this shoot)! 

When will Dahmer vs. Gacy be available to the public?

David: It should be out in 2010.

You and Ford Austin and Keith Grening just finished another project, Sphere of the Lycanthrope (written, directed and starring David and produced by Ford and Keith Grening his East coast partner and Producer). Can you tell us a little about this project?

David: The film was completed in 1992! It took 18 years to get it out! The film seemed cursed. My car died, my girlfriend left me for being so obsessed with the project, and people stole my money! We were trying to create a new genre, the Thrillomedy. The film is pretty funny, until the teacher, John Hammond, transforms…then it isn’t funny anymore! I wanted to build audience anticipation. The Beast does not appear until the last 22 minutes of the film and the film runs 103 minutes, so there is action about every 20 minutes or so to keep building the audiences anticipation (for the monstrous climax). The film was completed for around 10,000 dollars!! I set out to make a new cult classic! An new genre of film, the THRILLOMEDY. The moto of the film is "This movie will kick your ASS!"  

The film seems to contain a lot of physicality on your behalf.

David: I didn’t intend to play the role of John Hammond, I just wanted to direct it and produce it and do the fight and stunt choreography, but after auditioning a few guys Keith turned to me and explained we were using high school and college kids, and I don’t care what kind of release they signed, if they got hurt we would be in real trouble, you have to play the lead. As far as the fight sequences I didn’t want the fights to be like the ones in 100,000 million dollar movies with a ton of cuts and you can’t tell what is going on. I wanted every punch thrown to be seen! I actually damaged my kidneys and ended up peeing blood from one of the stunts in the film. You can actually see that in an outtake that plays during the credits. The credits actually run about 15 minutes to show all the outtakes. I think that every movie should show their outtakes, even a film like Schindler’s List! Well, maybe not Schindlers List.

The film is starting to get a lot of attention recently as well!

David: Absolutely, we actually won the 2009 Action on Film International Film Festival Award for Best Horror Feature of 2009 (one of the top honors)! By the way, Ford Austin, members of the cast and myself will be signing copies of the DVD at Dark Delicacies http://www.darkdel.com/ located at 4213 W. Burbank in Burbank CA. at 2PM on Saturday, September 26th!! 

I really wanted to touch on a subject that is very close to my heart, and that is your role as Mandarr in the classic (my favorite, in fact) 80’s TV show Photon. How did you come to be involved with the show?

David: I had a friend, who was going to Japan (where Photon was partially shot, as well as in Los Angeles) and he said, “Why don’t you come with me?” I said “Are you nuts!!” But, I had been reading the trade papers since I was 14, I was 24 at the time, and I saw an ad about a TV show that was casting inJapan, so I decided to go. I found a manager I auditioned for the role of (hero) Bohdi Li, and 2 hours later I was informed that I got the part of Mandarr the lead bad guy (I almost always play the bad guy)! For 3 months before the production began, I was the first American bartender in the history of the Hard Rock Café in Tokyo, the bartenders were all business boring and the clientelle were quiet and too behaved. This is the Hard Rock Cafe right?! Well, before I took my leave to start filming, I had the bartenders spinning and throwing bottles, I was spinning bottles way before "Cocktail", I would blow fires at the end of the night and the place was rockin like never before, people were actually having a blast as they should have been! Production on Photon began. They had all of the character concept sketches lying out when I arrived, and the sketch for Mandarr looked exactly like me, and the artists hadn’t even seen me!! So I assume it was a no brainer as soon as I walked in as long as I could act! We shot 26 episodes in 8 months. The show was created by the guy who created the Photon game and centers from Texas where they originated then spread through the US, We were going to be picked up for an additional 26 episodes, but the centers started closing down. I would call my family 8,000 miles away and tell them to watch this show, and I didn’t tell them what it was about, or what I did on it. It was a way to stay connected with my family, whom I am very close with! When I returned to the US, mothers and children would come up to me and recognize me as Mandarr! It really was like Power Rangers, but way before it’s time.  

So, what does the future hold for David Stay?

David: I’m currently working on getting backing for the sequel to Sphere of the Lycanthrope, the sequel contains a sphere forbidden to speak. The statement I wanted to make with The Sphere of the Lycanthrope was simply that, if I could make this movie for under $10,000 incorporating hundreds of people, motorcycle gangs, spines ripped out ect...and win two acclaimed awards, just imagine what I could do with a real budget. I am really not big on sequels, but this one is completely different and will kick your ass harder then The SOTL. I will even give my word with a modest budget, the sequel will make at least $50,000,000. So if there are any investors reading this, contact me and let's discuss the possibilities. Anyway Indrid, gotta jump, and do me a favor, ROCK ON!

I just want to add what an honor it was to be able to interview David. I urge everyone who to visit www.davidstay.com, click on the Sphere of the Lycanthrope link to learn all about The SOTL and David’s other projects, and be sure to get your copy of this CULT CLASSIC, The Sphere of the Lycanthrope!!
(Thanks to Ford Austin for making this interview possible)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Movies I love: Cannibal ferox (1981)

Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Rudy: There's something I can't figure out...
Gloria Davis: What's that?
Rudy: I don't know.

Not as harrowing as Cannibal Holocaust. If it wasn't for the animal killings this would be the perfect grindhouse experience for me. The animal cruelty is unnecessary and takes me out of the film. But there's a lot here to love. The soundtrack is great. Plus the movie has some very cheesy dubbing. There's lines you'll be quoting for days. Most of which a delivered by two of the most ridiculous mobsters ever to grace a movie screen.  Then there's some ridiculous, over the top gore effects. You'll either be laugh and them or puking after seeing some of them. Definitely a grindhouse classic.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Farewell Swamp Thing

Actor and stuntman Richard "Dick" Durock has passed away at 72 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He's appeared in everything from Star Trek, The Poseidon Adventure, The A-Team, The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica and The Swamp Thing films and series.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bad Dreams and Halloween: A Conversation with Eerie Von

By indrid13

The subject of my newest interview needs little introduction. Eerie Von is a true legend in the horror punk and dark rock world. From his early role as Misfit’s photographer, to his days playing bass with Samhain and Danzig, and his current solo endeavors in music and art, there is little Eerie has not accomplished creatively. And now, as he is set to release Misery Obscura, a detailed account in photos and prose about his amazing career, I had the honor of interviewing this incredible artist!

(All photos in the interview are courtesy of  Eerie Von)

I cannot wait for your book, Misery Obscura to be released! The opportunity to see the most vital period of dark rock and punk, through the eyes of someone that experienced it first hand, will be fascinating! Can you tell our readers a little more about the book?

Eerie: I've always been the guy who saves everything, so since High School, that's what I did. I'm a collector. So I had a lot of photos, and clippings, and just stupid stuff, from my whole life.
I do regret not taking my camera with me on the Samhain tours but, it was my Dad's camera, and I was afraid it would get stolen; but all thru the Danzig years, when someone would say "Why you shooting that, or why are you saving that?" I'd say "It's for the Book" I couldn't get all the stuff I wanted in there, since I had a designer, and an editor to contend with, but there's a lot of great photos, and I'm told my recollections of
those times, are a good read.  It's definately a book I think every fan is gonna wanna have, and look at, over and over.

One of my (and I’m sure many other’s) favorite photos of yours is the famous photo of the Misfits, almost completely in silhouette, standing in the mouth of a cave. It makes the viewer feel completely trapped and helpless, with four menacing monsters coming to destroy them! Can you detail that photo shoot for us?

Eerie: I tell the story, again in the book, I love that shot too. Glenn was considering it for the cover of "Walk Among Us" because on the contact sheet he wrote "Possible cover" That would have been kool. I was just a kid, and didn't know what I was doing. I made a lot of mistakes, but I liked spooky shit too, so I knew what they might like, and I got some good shots I think. Those guys were fun to be around, and we had a good time, whenever we all got together.

What would you consider the single most defining moment of your time with Samhain and Danzig?

Eerie: I can't say there is a single defining moment exactly, but favorite moments maybe, like the first time I heard Glenn singing the song "Samhain" in the studio, or playing the Stardust to 2000 people in L.A., Doing those great Ritz shows in New York. Man I loved playing there. As far as Danzig goes, there were a lot of great moments, like playing those big festivals, for 100,000 people in Europe, doing the Beacon Theater, and Univeresal Amphitheater, but I think playing for 13,000 people on Halloween night, at Irvine Meadows in 92 was a great thrill, because, there were bigger bands who couldn't put that amount of people in there for a regular show, but we could.

Your first three solo releases (Uneasy Listening, The Blood and the Body, and Bad Dream No.13) were amazingly ominous soundscapes. Can you describe the recording process you used to create the albums?

Eerie: Every record you make is different. Different people, different studio, different time in your life, so there's no formula for me. I like the way the records come out differently, and sound the way they do, because of where I'm at at that point in time. They're like a snapshot of that moment.

"Uneasy Listening" was done on a tight budget, in the tiny studio, where the Samhain records were done, with a good friend. I had a few basic song ideas, but Mike Morance, (the Evil genius) had no clue what we were gonna wind up with.
I wanted to make a Horror movie soundtrack to a film I had in my mind. Each song, tells it's own story that only the listener knows.

"The Blood and the Body" was recorded in a walk in closet, in a one-room apartment in L.A. with an accoustic guitar, a distortion box, and a casio keyboard from Toys R Us. Since I was in Los Angeles, I was in a Doors kinda mood, and altering my consciousness a bit. I think I was trying to capture a dark romantic spooky vibe.

"Bad Dream" was recorded in the Dark, in my House in Florida, in my Toy Room, surrounded by skulls, and masks, Black lights, and most of my collection of spooky shit. I was in a weird place, but played real drums, and made tape loops, and at least had a Bass, as well. That one was a theme record. The songs are the soundtrack to the life of a psycho killer type, as well as the songs, he hears in his head.

Can you tell us a little about what the style and tone was to be for your lost album, The Bastard Blues?

Eerie: It was gonna be sort of like "Exile on Main Street" by the Stones, only spooky, lots of Bluesy stuff. It was my first all Digital recording, and I worked on it for a year before my hard drive crashed. I have basic tracks on a cassette, so the songs might be reworked, and used at some point down the road. I think the new record, would be less of a surprise, if I had finished it, and put it out.

After that, I did the "Spidercider" record, which is all Punk stuff. I think I was pissed off, and all the songs I was writing were like the ones I wrote in High School, so I figured, why not put it out? I was kinda pretending to be someone else, when I sang the songs, because I couldn't really figure out how I wanted to sound.
It's got some good songs on it too.

Can you tell our readers a little about your new album, Kinda Country?

Eerie: I write all types of songs. I don't say "Oh you can't do that" I just let them happen. All my stuff has darkness, or a bluesy feel; so I'm never gonna write, about rainbows, and fuzzy bunnies. This batch of songs I had, some from as far back as 1996, had more of a Country feel to them. That's why it's called "Kinda Country" because that's how I'd describe it. I've been writing songs for like 20 something years, and have folders full of them. I just decided to put them all on one record, and put it out. I have no idea what the next one will be like.

Your Fiend Art series of paintings is absolutely incredible as well. My personal favorites are Halloween Night #1 and Cats and Pumpkins. They immediately bring me back to crisp, cold Halloween nights, when the only thing that mattered was what horror films were going to be on TV, and how much candy I could consume without giving myself diabetes. What is the creative process like in the creation of these works?

Eerie: I have a few different styles, abstract, cartoon, regular portrait stuff, whatever I feel like. Much like the songs, I just let the paintings happen, unless someone wants a portrait of Karloff, or Lugosi or Elvis, then I try to make it look like them. I like the Halloween paintings, because they remind me of the candy bags, and trick or treat sacks we used to have when I was a child. A lot of that classic style Halloween Art isn't used on stuff anymore, so I like to do it, now and then. My favorite stuff is the abstract shit that just pops out of my head.

Do you find any one creative discipline more rewarding than another?

Eerie: I can actually almost pay the bills with the paintings, something I can't do with the music, so that's rewarding, but there's nothing like writing a good song. Knowing it came out the way you heard it in your head, and that it's better than the last one. I love that. I enjoy painting a great deal. I don't have to think about anything, I just let it happen. That's a nice thing to have going on.

Do you have any final message for our readers?

Eerie: Just want to say "Thank You" as always to anyone who has checked out my Music, or Fiend Art, and those who have supported my efforts, these last 26 years. I hope to go back on the road, and come see each and every one of you, real soon.

Please visit http://www.eerievon.blogsopt.com/, www.myspace.com/eerievonart, and
 eerievon777@aol.com to see and hear more from the legendary Eerie Von!!
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