UKHS – Hello Zion, thank you for your time and welcome to UK Horror Scene.
You are best known as the lead singer and co-founder of UK rock band, ‘Spit Like This’, which you formed back in 2002. Can you tell us about your band and how you got started?
Z – The band has done OK for itself and we have a pretty decent cult following. Under our belts are 4 EPs, a compilation CD and two albums. We’re not exactly prolific but like to think that, when we do release something, it is worthwhile it being out there. We’ve been lucky enough to play some great festivals and play in a bunch of different countries. Done a slew of videos and generally had a great time! We have achieved more than 99.9% of bands that ever form, so that’s pretty cool. Shame we’re not as big as Metallica though 😉
We had a rather unusual beginning as we were funded by the sale of Vikki’s used panties on eBay. We had less than zero cash and cottoned on to that as a way to generate something fast. A nice salacious way to kick things off! From the funds made, we started a slightly more legitimate business, smellyourmum.com, designing and producing our own range of sweary slogan T-shirts.
Little did we know that would take off like it did! That site is in the top 1% most visited on the planet! Shame they don’t all fkn buy something though. I think they all come to look and be outraged. Anyway, it kept us liquid and all profits went into getting the band off the ground proper and keeping it ticking over.
UKHS – OK, let’s talk about your filmmaking career. When did you first discover your passion for filmmaking, acting and writing and will your production company ‘Fuel My 928 Film Productions’ just focus on the horror genre?
Z – Well, as a published songwriter, I have obviously always written in some form. I’ve also kept a handwritten diary for the past 24 years so that has kept my creative hand operational. Always, at the back of my mind, was the notion that I would one day write and make films but I didn’t expect it to happen quite when it did. A series of events collided for the opportunity to arise…
First off, we (the band) were asked to appear in Zombie Women Of Satan 2. Whilst on the set of that, I was looking around, thinking how much fun it was and how much I would like to do more stuff like that. Then me and Vikki got asked to act in the “Snow” segment of “Blaze Of Gory”. More on that later! I knew a couple of other directors through various channels and all took an interest when I mentioned that I was thinking of writing a film.
Believing that, if I wrote something not-shit, one of these new friends would help me make it, I set about writing a sci-fi thriller. A two hour long epic. I didn’t even think about a budget! Until I finished, of course, and realised that it would take some serious cash to get that ball rolling. Shame, as I spent six months on it.
So to Plan B: write something quick, cheap and easy to shoot. That was when I came up with “Meet The Cadavers”. Wrote it in 10 days, showed it to David VG Davies (from “Blaze Of Gory”) who said, and I quote: “This HAS to be made”. So I took him up on that and, within a couple of months, we were shooting.
UKHS – You have worked on two of the segments for ‘Blaze of Gory’, which is a great achievement, well done! In the segment ‘Snow’ you play a character called Vir. What can you tell us about your character and the challenges you faced filming in Norway?
Z – Thank you. I wish I could take more credit for the achievement but, in all honesty, all I did was say “Yes” twice then worked out how the fuck I was going to do it! Thankfully, on the acting front, the character in “Snow” was rather similar to myself. Or rather my old, drunken self. So that was very easy to slip in to. Also, my role wasn’t that large so I didn’t need to worry too much about me cocking everything up. A nice introduction to acting.
Filming in Norway was epic. Getting to the location was a story unto itself! It was all going so well until we tried to climb a gentle gradient in a car without snow tyres. We span a bit and got stuck. For five hours. In the middle of nowhere. At night. In minus 25 degree weather. At first, it was all jolly-good fun, until we realised that we were actually FUCKING STUCK. Eventually, we did get out and, next day, made it to the filming location. It was beautiful. A lodge by a frozen lake 30 minutes from the nearest civilisation. We had no light, no heat, no electricity, no running water and the loo was outside.
I am glad I had the experience but I am not sure I would want to repeat it. Having said that, I did love it. Weird.
UKHS – You have just directed the ‘Blaze of Gory’ segment ‘Spawn of the Devil’. Did you enjoy the experience and do you find directing more enjoyable than acting?
Z – I absolutely loved it. I don’t consider myself an actor much – I think my range is comedy or evil. But, that’s OK as my aspirations lie with writing and directing. Naturally bossy, telling people what to do with an air of authority comes quite naturally to me. I think in visual terms so, the more I am exposed to directing opportunities, the better I will get and I will find my own visual language. Truth be told, I have hit the ground running first with “Cadavers” and then with “Spawn” but it is the best way to learn. No fucking around, just do it. The only bit I don’t like is the early mornings. I’ve been on rock n roll time too damn long! I am loving filling my head with new information though and absorbing everything I possibly can about making films. I think life is for learning so am glad to be trying out something new and different that not many people get to have a go at.
UKHS – Last year you shot ‘Meet The Cadavers’ which you wrote, starred in, produced and co-directed with David V.G. Davies. Where did the inspiration for a Zombie family come from and how will this compare to other Zombie movies?
Z – Yeah, I did throw myself in at the deep end, rather. Why did I take on so much? I think it is for a singularity of vision. “Meet The Cadavers” is not a typical film, in any sense, and I really needed to be involved everywhere to make people understand what the hell it was supposed to be. A lot of people, even on set, didn’t “get” it. I would be asked questions all the time as I am breaking a lot of Zombie “rules” but, eventually, everyone got it and fell in love with the Cadaver family and the story.
Initially, when David first got involved, he was going to direct it. I asked though if I could go direct and he very kindly agreed to give me that chance. He would gradually let me do more and more as my understanding of the medium grew. Hey, I must have done something right or I am guessing he wouldn’t have asked me to do “Spawn”!
The inspiration from the family came pretty fast. I tend to like quirky takes on tried and tested themes so my mind just started melding a Zombie movie (fast to make, popular, relatively cheap to produce) with a Carry On Film (recurring cast, differing situations).
Next thing I knew, I had the Cadavers. Like a modern take on The Addams Family or The Munsters. It’s a comedy horror, the humour being quite modern and reactive (rather than joke lead). When the horror starts though, it is really horrible and the humour stops. It’s not a Zombie movie though. They just happen to be Zombies. Make sense?!
UKHS – Your real-life partner Vikki Spit plays Kelly Cadaver in ‘Meet The Cadavers’. How much of your real-life relationship comes across in this movie and on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest), how good is Vikki as an actress?
Z – I guess when I wrote it I had both our voices in my head. I’ve been with Vikki 13 years now so I obviously know that some stuff just wouldn’t work coming out of her mouth. I also know what she will tolerate (she is the victim of a rather gruesome sight gag), so that helped. Neither of us are parents in real life so, suddenly giving ourselves offspring was a bit weird, especially as Vikki is too young in real life to have an 18 year old. So we made her older in the film. That was funny, actually, the first time she met Jack (who plays our son, Sidney Cadaver). He is very tall and Vikki is very short. She took one look at him and said “How the hell did you come out of my vagina?”. The poor boy nearly died.
To specifically answer your question, I am going to say an 8. The Cadavers are a loving, caring family, with an edge of taking-the-piss. I deliberately avoided the tiresome East Enders style SHOUT A LOT family. The only real differences are the lack of children and the lack of being dead.
Z – I think character is very important and something sadly lacking a lot of these days. A lot of films cannot wait to get to the gory stuff so gloss over the people involved. So you watch as a voyeur rather than as someone that has a vested interest. The thing is, if you care about the characters and what is happening, it will have a much greater effect on you. Case in point: with “Spawn”, I worked hard (in the limited time constraints) to give as much life to the lead character as possible. As such, when events happened, we were all on set disturbed by them. Ingredient one then, definitely character.
Tone I think is important. I decided that I wanted my segment of “Blaze Of Gory” to have a 70s vibe and look. So the shots were wider, sometimes obscure, often unnatural. It will be colour-treated to give it that 70s look and we shot with a slower shutter speed to avoid the modern choppy look. Setting out with that in mind will give the film a unique vibe.
The third ingredient would be inventiveness. Try and give the audience something they haven’t seen before. Or, at least, a new take on an old theme. That was certainly the case with “Cadavers” and also the next project I am working on.
UKHS – Lauren Harris is your leading lady in your ‘Blaze of Gory’ segment “Spawn Of The Devil”. She is not only an actress but also a musician who also happens to be the daughter of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. Your band ‘Spit Like This’ have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with her over the years, which is really cool. If you could perform on stage with any three artists (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Z – Lauren was amazing. We had an ad on Star Now and, when she applied and I saw her name my first thought was “surely not THAT Lauren Harris?”. I clicked through and it was. It was a blessing, I think, as we kind of knew each other so, instantly, there is an amount of trust from both sides. Good job, as we put her through some trying times!
We were trying to work out where we had played together – pretty certain it was at the 1st and 3rd Hard Rock Hell festivals. And, although nowhere near Lauren’s own adventures with Iron Maiden, my band has actually played on the same bill as them; Wacken (Germany) in 2010. Quite funny, actually. After filming “Spawn”, Lauren popped in our house where there is a BIG poster from Wacken. Of course, Iron Maiden are right at the top. I promised her I’d not planted it there! And I should mention, she is a FANTASTIC actress.
Who would I like to play with… Hmmm. Tough one as I have played on the same bill as some of my favourite live bands (Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Alice Cooper). Would be cool to play with Queen from the 70s, just to see if I could out-camp Freddie. That’s about it, really. One band I never saw but wished I had.
Z – Certainly. I used to frequently expose myself to the babysitter when I was a small child.
UKHS – Finally, Can you tell us about your movie ‘Sleep’ and any other projects you are planning to shoot in the near future?
Z – “Sleep” is a psychological horror. The story explores the psychosis that occurs due to prolonged bouts of insomnia. Those that have read it have compared it to “My Little Eye” and “The Cabin In The Woods”. Lauren is attached to that as the lead female. The whole thing is written, I am just trying to put it together. Daily though, developments happen that could achieve that. I think it could be a winner. Low budget, simple story, neatly interwoven with some fantastic twists.
Other than that, I have two other screenplays I am writing. One is a Nazi comedy, the other is another horror. I would love to get my first screenplay into development but, like I said, big budgets..! I am also in contact with a couple of other filmmakers whose projects I might be working on in one capacity or another. Ultimately though, my future definitely lies in writing, producing and directing my own ideas.
MEET THE CADAVERS
FUEL MY 928
BLAZE OF GORY
SPIT LIKE THIS
SMELL YOUR MUM
Image courtesy: ‘Snow’ segment photo by Duff.
Others: Lord Zion, Meet The Cadavers, Spit Like This and Vikki Spit.