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Trust us, you’ve never seen ANYTHING like ‘We Are The Flesh’
10:42 am



One of the outstanding films of Fantastic Fest 2016 was also one of the most divisive. While audiences cheered the pasteurized mainstream sci-fi film Arrival and the sumptuous beauty of Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter’s We Are The Flesh shocked audiences into stunned silence. Fest attendees inured to extreme gore and torture porn found something in We Are The Flesh that still retains the power to disturb and provoke: explicit sex. Like directors Gaspar Noé and Alejandro Jodorowsky and author George Bataille, 26-year-old Minter conjures images that take us deep into areas that were and are still taboo. He’s a pilgrim descending into darkness in search of light. If there is a God and God is everywhere then even in Hell there is rapture. And sometimes you gotta be the turd in the punchbowl to do Jesus right.

A film like We Are The Flesh uses cinema in the service of what movies do best: replicate dreams. In the hellish bardo that the movie plunges us into, plot and narrative take a backseat to a series of surreal images and a trance inducing soundtrack that insinuate and point to things beyond knowing. We see but we don’t completely understand what we’re seeing. Like ceremonial magic, film is a language that transcends symbol and gesture. We are often left at the celluloid door breaking holes in it with the fists of our eyes. In the case of We Are The Flesh, the plot, such as it is, is best described by the the press notes:

A young brother and sister, roaming an apocalyptic city, take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit. He puts them to work building a bizarre cavernous structure, where he acts out his insane and depraved fantasies. Trapped in this maddening womb-like world under his malign influence, they find themselves sinking into the realms of dark and forbidden behaviour.


There was a great line in the ad campaign for George Romero’s masterpiece Dawn Of The Dead: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.” Emiliano Rocha Minter was born in Mexico City, a city that until recent years had been spared the full brunt of Mexico’s drug wars. But drug-related atrocities have hit the streets of Mexico City and continue to grow rampant on the city’s outskirts. More than 100,000 Mexicans have died in the past decade in drug battles between warring gangs. How does a young artist channel what he is witnessing in his own home, when the serpentine line between waking and dreaming nightmare is constantly shifting? How does one maintain sanity in an insane world? You write. You sing. You make fucked up movies.

In the tradition of filmmakers like Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal and Juan López Moctezuma, Minter has attempted to discharge the alchemy of film to transform and inflame the dark stuff: art as exorcism. We Are The Flesh rages against the complacency of the viewer. It demands you sit up and pay attention. It screams at you and seduces you. The imagery veers from blunt, violent, angry in-your-faceness to fluid, swirling, mind shattering psychedelia. Sex organs in extreme close-up pulse to the beat of the heart, labial gates form portals to the ultimate question mark in the sky. Flesh is torn, blood flows. This is the meat pit of absolute reality. Minter takes you places you’ve only dreamed of… if your dreams were that of a man in the throes of some mad fever—all of it stunningly realized by cinematographer Yollótl Alvarado. At times, I was reminded of Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes. Brakhage filmed autopsies so close-in that celluloid rendered flesh into land and seascapes. Alvarado does something similar with genitals. A close-up of a penis lounging on testicles looks like a bullfrog with inflated vocal sacs. The objectified view of the camera takes the erotic right out of the picture. We Are The Flesh is ripe with sex but it’s not sexy, though it is filled with life force.

“Eroticism is assenting to life even in death”—George Bataille.

Minter has made something of a masterpiece in We Are The Flesh. It is a search for meaning in a world that has lost its center. In its thrashing chaos, there is an artist trying to work things out. Like the elaborate structure of wooden sticks and plastic tape that the characters are building within their underground world, Minter has built his own makeshift reality. But Minter’s has better bones.

The film glows with crepuscular light. There are cum shots and penetrations lit in the heightened pastels and posed comic book architecture of F.X. Pope’s porn mindbender Cafe Flesh. And Minter, whether he knows it or not, has ventured into Gerard Damiano’s “dark night of the hole” melancholy of The Devil And Miss Jones. When Catholics do this shit , they go all the way, propelled by centuries of sexual repression. Pasolini’s Salo took us there only to drop us into a pile of fascist-flavored shit.

We Are The Flesh features one of the truly great performances of the past few years. Noé Hernández plays the role of the Manson-like madman who abducts the brother and sister. It is one of the most committed, naked, raw feats of acting you’ll ever see. Imagine Frank Booth crossed with a troglodyte spewing wisdom like “the spirit does not reside within the flesh, the flesh is the spirit itself! So I kindly ask that all you lowlifes devour me until nothing is left. Eat every bit of my rotten flesh. Drink my blood.” Jesus the thug in a sacramental heat while dressed in Member’s Only disco attire. I do my best, but words fail me in the face of such lunacy. Just see it…  because you’ve never seen anything like it.

Video after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
This incredible fetish photo history book will have you tied up for months!
02:18 pm

Pop Culture


It’s amazing when you consider what we might now view as quaint, familiar photographic imagery was once a serious no-no. We’ve all seen photos of Betty Page bound and gagged to the point where it’s no more shocking than a LIFE magazine cover image. When John Alexander Scott Coutts aka “John Willie,” publisher of the original Bizarre magazine and the author/ artist of the iconic art comic The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline started, excuse me, basically invented fetish photography as we now know it, it was a punishable crime.

Possibilities!, a massive 472 page coffee table book of John Willie’s photos, published by J.B. Rund’s Belier Press is the be-all, end-all last word from the world’s greatest expert on the subject.

Belier Press has been in existence since 1974 and the publisher’s own story is as interesting as the subject of the books he puts out. J.B. Rund was a young teen running around in the original rock ‘n’ roll era (1955/56) looking for second hand rock ‘n’ roll 45s to buy cheap from juke box distributors in Times Square. One of these stores also had “adult books” and this is where the author first saw a John Willie photo. The afterward of this book goes into great detail about this discovery period and the history of Belier Press. Belier Press has published all kinds of books, not just fetish photography, though I can say that the first time I ever saw a photo of Betty Page was on the cover of Belier’s Betty Page Private Peeks volume two. He also put out R. Crumb’s Carload o’ Comics, The Complete Fritz The Cat, all of the reprints of the Irving Klaw catalogs (Bizarre Katalogs), Eric Stanton and Gene “Eneg” Bilbrew and other fetish artists in Bizarre Komix (24 volumes!), The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline and the recent deluxe reprint. An amazing run.
Possibilities! has more than 1,360 photographs basically giving a visual history of John Willie’s fetish coming of age and, in fact, the birth of what we take for granted now as an art form, a style, a distinctive look and feel all which can be traced back in these photos to something that sparked excitement in one man’s mind (and loins) and the fact that he wasn’t afraid to act on that idea, even though for all he knew he may have been one of the only people on earth to feel this way.
John Alexander Scott Coutts (or JASC as the author refers to him) was born in 1902 in Singapore, the youngest of four children of William Scott and Edith Ann Spreckley Coutts. His father, wanting to go into business for himself moved the family to St. Albans, Hertfordshire, a northwest suburb of London in June 1903. As a very young child Coutts was drawn to a particular type of children’s fantasy literature called “Fairy Books,” where he developed an attraction for “damsels in distress” and the want to rescue these damsels. At around this time he also showed a talent for drawing.

To quote the author:

At about the age of puberty he became aware of another attraction—for women in high heeled shoes—which had a strong sexual connotation for him. In his fantasies John wanted these women in high-heels to be tied-up (in order to rescue them?).

In September of 1921 Coutts entered Sandhurst (the Royal Military Academy), graduating in 1923 with a commission as Second Lieutenant and joined the Royal Scots regiment. In 1925 he married Eveline Stella Frances Fisher, a nightclub hostess who he decided needed “rescuing.” They were married without the required permission of his regiment and against his the wishes of his father (who cut him off), so he moved to Australia in late 1925 or early 1926. The marriage disintegrated soon after. One day in 1934 Coutts stumbled upon McNaught’s, a shoe store on King Street that had a sideline catering to shoe fetishists. He also discovered in that establishment the existence of a weekly British magazine called London Life.

London Life was, as Rund puts it:

...a weekly British magazine that openly dealt with a range of fetishes, but in a conservative manner that would seem quaint by today’s (lack of) standards. Suddenly John Coutts realized that he was NOT alone!

At this point he was introduced to a locally based organization for shoe fetishists, possibly called “The High-Heel Club,” run by a retired ship’s captain who went by the name “Achilles.” He then met Holly Anna Faram around 1934, a woman that shared his his interests in bondage & high heels. She became his first model, and his second wife.

“Coutts was frustrated by the refusal of London Life to print any of his letters on the subject of bondage and arrived at the conclusion–in 1936 or ‘37–that he could produce a superior and more liberal publication, which in 1946 would come to called Bizarre.

In the decade in between coming up with the idea of Bizarre magazine and getting the finances to put that project together, he came up with the idea of selling high-heeled shoes, though he actually wanted to market his photographs of women wearing those shoes and not the actual shoes themselves. But it didn’t work out that way.
In 1937 Coutts got access to “The High-Heel Club” mailing list and started his career as a photographer. He also acquired the right to use the name “Achilles.” At first, using the list, he offered rather pedestrian photos of women wearing high-heels. He then added Holly Anna Faram who turned out to be an amazing model and started offering bondage poses, but in a veiled manner. Like many artists, writers and musicians Coutts was not a good businessman and not very good with money, a problem that would follow him throughout his life.

Early in 1938 he placed a series of ads in London Life magazine for his sexy shoes, charging what he felt would be too much for any potential customer (wanting to push his more reasonably priced photos instead) and naturally people started to order them. Now he had to do something, or return the money. So Coutts added shoe maker/designer to his list of accomplishments. He also put the money together to make his dream magazine but World War II broke out and that ended that dream, at least for a while.

In 1940, John Coutts volunteered for service in the Australian Army (listing his religion as “Pagan”). In 1945 he decided to move to America to once again attempt to bring his Bizarre dream to life. At the end of that year he travelled to Canada on a merchant ship to subsidize the trip. In Montreal he found a printer that not only had an allotment of paper (remember this was wartime), but was willing to take on the job. At that moment both “John Willie” and Bizarre were born.
As far as Coutts’ new name was concerned and what it meant—“Willie,” of course, being British slang for the male sex organ—but “John Willie” was also a Cockney rhyming slang term for a little boy, so ummmm… take your pick! At last he was on his way. Willie moved to New York City in 1946 or ‘47, trying to work on Bizarre with not a lot of luck. He postponed publishing after four issues and started again in 1951. He sold the magazine to a friend in 1956 after publishing 20 issues. He also did business with infamous fetish photographer and mail order dealer Irving Klaw, famous for his Tempest Storm and Betty Page photos, bondage photos, fetish cartoon serials and of course, the photos by John Willie. Klaw made two color full length films (Teaserama and Varietease) which survived and can be seen on one DVD from Something Weird Video.
To quote Rund again:

In April of 1961, after moving to Los Angeles, Coutts/Willie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, followed in May by a confrontation with a Postal Inspector concerning his photographs. He then decided to put an end to his activities as “John Willie” and destroyed all of his negatives as well as his mailing list sending this announcement to his customers:

“On this occasion I will forgo the usual editorial “WE” (which is more businesslike) and instead, as this is the last letter you will ever receive from me I am reverting to “I”. I got sick (it happened very suddenly) and had to undergo a major operation (of course I’d have no insurance). As a result, there will be no more “Gwendoline,” and the whole business will be closed as of June 25th. (I have a few weeks grace—I hope.) I would like to inform you that on that date everything, but everything, including the mailing list will be destroyed… It’s been nice to have known you and I wish you the very best in your games of fun and nonsense.”

This was followed by a quotation from John’s favorite book (his “Bible”), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, from which he had also quoted at the beginning of each issue of Bizarre: “Ah, with the grape of my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.”

John Alexander Scott Coutts passed away on August 5th 1962, at a doctor friend’s house in Scottsdale Arizona, on the same day that Marilyn Monroe died.

Little could Coutts have known the impact his art and life would have on the future of human sexuality. This impact is mostly due to Bizarre magazine and his The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, both of which have been documented. According to author and publisher J.B. Rund:

The former (Bizarre) in the disappointing reprint of the magazine. The Latter (Gwendoline), together with a substantial amount of previously unpublished and uncollected artwork, in The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, (Belier Press, 1974 and 1999). And to a lesser extent, as a photographer, which heretofore has been poorly and disrespectfully done. The present work will expand on this other talent, and provide an extensive—but not a complete—record of his prodigious output in that medium.

The photos in the book are culled almost completely from just two sources, the author/publisher’s personal collection and that of the Kinsey Institute. It’s separated into three huge sections, geographically (Australia, New York, Los Angeles) which match his life’s timeline and it’s just incredible to see it all in one massive artistic survey. The notes, introductions and afterward are riddled with the most minute details that seem to leave no stone unturned. If you have even the slightest interest in pop culture, photography, women in distress, art, bondage, or the history of alternative culture, then you owe it to yourself to own this book—the only one you’ll ever need on this subject. Trade edition available from Belier Press for $70. Deluxe limited edition of 150 numbered copies each in a custom made cloth slipcase containing an ORIGINAL print of a photograph taken by John Willie in Los Angeles circa 1958-61, a different photo in each book, plus reproductions of two previously privately circulated photographs taken by Willie in Sydney circa 1938 (not in the book). Plus John Willie Speaks–John Willie Sings!?!, an audio CD, just under forty-eight minutes, consisting of a monologue from Within A Story, his only known speaking part in a motion picture from 1954, and excerpts from the only known interview with Willie from 1961-62, excerpts from A Bawdy Recital–Poems, songs and stories performed by John Willie in 1962. Whew! A serious bargain if you ask me, as only Belier Press could whip up.

Posted by Howie Pyro | Discussion
The crazed death disco of Germany’s Warning, the scariest band you’ve never heard of
10:30 am

One-hit wonders


The early 80s was prime time for scary music. Blame it on Reagan and his itchy nuclear trigger finger, but in its darkest corners, rock n’ roll devolved from the freeballing hedonism of disco and the happy computer blips of new wave into the gnashing teeth and ripping claws of hardcore punk, industrial, death-rock and extreme metal. Bands like Black Flag, Hellhammer, Christian Death, Venom and Whitehouse were making records so aggressive, unhinged, or suicidally depressed that they sounded like the work of actual lunatics. But, you know, rock n’ roll is supposed to be edgy. Dance music, well, you’re just supposed to dance. But in 1982, a year that birthed Negasonic teenage warheads like Venom’s Black Metal, Walk Among Us by The Misfits, and the Birthday Party’s Junkyard, it was a mysterious synth-pop band from Germany who released perhaps the most unsettling album of the year.

It was right there in the title of the band, really: Warning. That basically says it all. The cover of their self-titled debut album is both campy and terrifying. Two black-caped, space-helmeted figures—half Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die pilot, half Darth Vader—descend an escalator, presumably to kill you when they reach the lower level. Amazingly, the music contained within is just as unnerving. A sort of unholy g(h)oulash of horror-prog, clanging disco-metal and woozy electro-pop, Warning is dance music made by people who have never danced in their entire lives. Forget new wave or even cold-wave, this was harrowing doom-wave, anchored by the alternately hilarious and soul-piercing croaks of frontfiend Ed Vanguard.
Ed Schlepper
Except that there was no “Ed Vanguard”...

It was actually the work of the positively jovial Edgar Schlepper, a turtleneck-wearing producer/songwriter known mostly for writing minor hits for minor pop singers and for “solo” records like 20 Disco Hits in Super Sound. Schlepper made happy, boring music for elevators and mall food courts, but along with his pal Hans Muller (AKA “Mike Yonder”) he created an inexplicable alter-ego so dark and disturbing that it hardly seems possible that this goofy asshole in the beige slacks could be responsible for it. Only Germans could come up with shit this wack. Warning’s crazed opener “Why Can the Bodies Fly” surged up the German pop charts, peaking at #11, despite the fact that it’s seven minutes long, has no hook, and is totally fucking crazy. It was like Daft Punk after a weeklong bath salts binge watching only Teutonic skat videos. It was also their only hit, but since when did Darth Vader care about the pop charts anyway?

A year later, Warning returned with Electric Eyes, a (very) slightly more accessible album, but it still sounded like two fleshy robots short-circuiting during the climax of Saturday Night Fever.
More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Discussion
Black Noize: Remembering Proper Grounds’ anguish rap metal (or ‘Madonna discovers rap metal’)
03:51 pm



Remember the record industry? It was nuts, man. REO Speedwagon had their own plane. Black Sabbath had a $70,000 cocaine allowance. Jimmy Page had his own fucking castle. Michael Jackson, that guy...well, never mind. The point is, if you sold enough records, you could basically do whatever you wanted.

In 1992, when she was sandwiched between her 80’s pop-hit peak and her 00’s disco-feminist golden age, Madonna was generating so much income that Warner Brothers financed her own media empire. Maverick Entertainment was formed initially to release her Erotica album and the infamous Sex coffee table book (i.e. the one with Madonna’s vagina and Vanilla Ice’s penis), but they also operated as a subsidiary of Warners, signing bands and making movies. There were, naturally, high hopes for a Madonna-led entertainment company. She was known for pushing the envelope and edging mainstream culture away from the center and into weirder, kinkier territories. So who knew what she would unearth with Maverick? Could be anything. Crazy, mind-blowing shit, right? We already had full-frontal Maddy getting her freak on in Sex, what could possibly come next?

Spoiler alert: In 1995, they released Jagged Little Pill, one of the biggest selling records of all time. Which is great for Madonna and for Alanis Morrissette, but it wasn’t exactly a cutting-edge release. And most of the Maverick-y stuff that came before it was even more underwhelming. Remember Canadian Bacon, John Candy’s last film, the only non-documentary that Michael Moore ever made? That was Madonna’s thing. So were soft-grunge cretins Candlebox. Maverick would eventually be the home of cuddly mainstream enterprises like Britney Spears, Michelle Branch, and the Twilight twinkling vampire movies. The Brink’s truck continued making regular deliveries to Madonna’s house, but any dreams of the company living up to the name were pretty much dashed when they signed the Backstreet Boys.

But there were actually a couple of early glimmers (rays?) of light suggesting that, hey, maybe Madonna knew what was up all along. For one thing, she signed DC hardcore heroes Bad Brains and released their reggae-heavy ‘95 album God of Love. Unfortunately Brains’ mainman HR was on a real tear that year and assaulted a bunch of people, including the group’s own manager, hastening the band’s (brief, but career-tanking) demise. And she also discovered LA rap-metal pioneers Proper Grounds.

Many would cite Rage Against the Machine as the first significant band to tread this thorny path. Rage are not a metal band and they don’t have a rapper, but okay, sure. Ice-T would point you to his incendiary thrash metal outfit Body Count. But that was a just a rapper playing metal.There were one-offs like the Public Enemy/Anthrax mash-up “Bring the Noize”; the lesser-known Sir Mix-a-lot/Metal Church head-spinner “Iron Man” in ‘88, and if we stretch even farther back, the mysterious hooded rapper The Lone Rager, who spat out a brief history of the genre back in ‘84’s ridiculous “Metal Rap” (“And Metallica? Spectaculah!”). 24-7 Spyz offered up funk-metal that edged into hip-hop territory, and Schoolly D, in his bid to wipe out rock n’ roll once and for all, merged metal riffs with hilariously angry lyrics on his 1988 album Smoke Some Kill (“Fuck Cinderella, fuck Bon Jovi, and motherfuck Prince, man.”). All that shit existed, sure. But none of them merged the gritty realities of life on the street with the intensity and velocity of heavy metal in the same way that Proper Grounds did.

Proper Grounds were, essentially, a panicky Grandmaster Flash with grungy guitars. Or maybe Stone Temple Pilots with scratching. Formed by frontman The Sandman and bass player/producer Danny Saber, they had a deep-rooted social consciousness that neatly subverted the mindless violence and material worship that engulfed rap in the 90’s and their take on metal, was elastic and acrobatic, avoided the genre’s chest-thumping excess. They called their particular brand of noise “anguish rap metal” and that pretty much says it all. Songs like “I’m Drowning,” “Backwards Mass,” and “Money in the Depths of a Plagueless Man” were so dark they were practically gothic. Their sole album, 1993’s Downtown Circus Gang, was a stark snapshot of life on the streets of LA in the wake of the ‘92 riots, bitter and hard and raw and real. Perfect for the 90’s, really.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Discussion
Gary Coleman, comic books & other disasters: Raging Slab were the assmasters of the 1990s
02:00 pm



Assmaster cover
It sorta all shook out the same way, really. Promising start followed by a long, slow slog to oblivion. While it might’ve been a one-off goof, Gary Coleman’s appearance in a 1993 video by New York boogie-rock champs Raging Slab was essentially the last real flash of light for both of ‘em. It’s probably the second thing on a pretty short list of what most people remember about Gary Coleman and the only thing most people remember about Raging Slab. And that’s a drag, because they both deserve better.

Raging Slab might be one of the most ill-starred bands this side of their spiritual and musical forebears, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band was formed in NYC in 1983 by husband and wife team Greg Strzempka and Elyse Steinman (vox/guitar, slide guitar). The earliest incarnation of the band included future Warrior Soul riot-starter Kory Clarke on drums and one DJ Dimitri (later of house music legends Dee-Lite), and their aggressively retro southern rock style flew in the face of 80’s new wave and glam metal. Nobody wanted to sound like Foghat in 1983, not even Foghat. But Raging Slab did.

Despite their twirly mustaches and mid 70’s hustle, the band eventually carved out their own niche, and in 1987 they released their first album, the audacious-in-every-way Assmaster. It came with its own comic book, created by Marvel artists Pat Redding and Pete Ciccone, portraying the band as groovy, muscle-bound superfreak superheroes. It sounded like a comic book, too.  Much like dope metal heroes Monster Magnet, the band embraced 70s junk culture with religious fervor, creating a brightly-colored alt-world splashed with boogie vans, pot leaves and American flag motorcycle helmets with riffs that could topple evil space tyrants from the Forbidden Zone. They were like Elvis, the Fonz and Evel Knievel jamming on “Freebird” at the Grand Canyon forever and ever… And Assmaster was a stone-cold classic. No doubt about it.

Raging Slab signed to RCA and released a self-titled follow-up in 1989. It was a fitting successor to their debut, filled with tasty slide guitar and crunching riff-rock. Lead single “Don’t Dog Me” had a hot hit video, and the band toured the country, sometimes with southern rockers like Molly Hatchet and sometimes with glam-bangers like Warrant. Things were looking up, despite rapid turnover in the ranks, particularly in the drummer department. But RCA hated the next two records and didn’t even bother releasing them, eventually dropping them/pawning them off to Rick Rubin and Def American. Raging Slab been slipping below the radar for years so when comeback album Dynamite Monster Boogie Concert was ready to hit the bins in spring of ‘93, it was preceded by a single so infectious and a video so over-the-top that no one could resist it. “Anywhere But Here” featured the chick from the cover of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain album (sorta), funky 70s puppet “Lester” (sorta) and real Diff’rent Strokes star Gary Coleman running around a magical mini-golf course while the band rocks out in front of a candy-colored castle. There’s fire and bubbles and shiny gold medallions and everybody looks like they’re having the time of their lives. Which is good, because that’s the best it got for all involved.

Gary Coleman starred in Diff’rent Strokes for eight seasons. Stricken with a rare kidney disease, Coleman stayed kid-size well into adulthood. Piles of sitcom cash would’ve lessened the blow but his parents mismanaged his fortune and left him in the unenviable task of being really famous and really broke. So sure, get dwarf-tossed by a couple of Mexican muskrat (?) marionettes on the set of a rock video, why not? Could be the start of something big.

It wasn’t.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Discussion
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