Fear of the unknown, the unseen – The Blair Witch Project

The living disappear leaving nothing but relics and whispers of the cursed.

I grew up playing in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. The trees extended miles into a forest left untouched by the subdivision’s manicured lawns. I spent hours sitting under trees, alone and listening to nature’s songs. With a vivid imagination that would amp up as the sun went down, dusk produced monsters unseen. I would run through the leaves and over crude trails before hopping the fence into the backyard, not looking back to see what might be on my heels.

It’s not always easy to understand the visions that the mind traps and then decides to call forth in the darkest hours of the night. Stories, myths, and frightening tales resurface at the most unexpected times. I’ve shared the impact The Shining had on me in childhood; the unformed fear within all of us. Another film had the same effect on me as an adult.

The Blair Witch Project debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999, grossing over $248 million dollars worldwide. An independent film, directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick directed a haunting movie inspired in part by the Salem witch hysteria of 1692 as well as The Crucible. Even though the film was not the first “found footage” style horror movie, it was the first marketed online. The crew shot the movie with handheld cameras, supposedly chronicling the disappearance of several college students from the Maryland wilderness as they searched for a witch rumored to live in the forest. Similar to the approach used in The Shining and The Omen, we never see the Blair Witch although the sound of clacking stone at night in the woods is enough to drive you mad. The gothic-style soundtrack featuring Type O Negative further solidifies the eerie nature of the movie. Some viewers and critics panned the film (and others made parodies of it) because the monster is never revealed. However, some things are scarier when left hidden in the dark.

I truly believe that there is nothing more frightening than the fear each of us can conjure in of our own heads. Pain and suffering, unique and unfiltered, can creep through the edges of our mind and threaten to paralyze. It’s for this reason that I love films like The Blair Witch Project. Sánchez and Myrick allowed me to create my own horror which is far worse than anything they could have put on the screen using prosthetics and an army of make-up artists.

I still love traditional horror flicks, especially ones involving zombies, but there isn’t a film maker alive that can rival the unknown evil that I try to keep contained within my own sanity.

Stop by the blog next Monday for part II of this post, including a visit from a very special guest.

#KickassKleveland – Smayx, CLE Suicide Girl

While many complain about the degeneration of society at the hands of those damn Interwebs, a few things have changed for the better. Social media and the internet has forever altered our culture, allowing people that used to be considered “outsiders” or on the fringe (like me) to find other like-minded freaks.

Case in point: Suicide Girls. For those of you that have never heard of SuicideGirls.com, what the hell is wrong with you? It’s only the planet’s largest website full of kick ass women that a generation ago would not have met the traditional definition of beauty.

From SuicideGirls.com:

“With a vibrant, sex positive community of women (and men), SuicideGirls was founded on the belief that creativity, personality and intelligence are not incompatible with sexy, compelling entertainment, and millions of people agree. The site mixes the smarts, enthusiasm and DIY attitude of the best music and alternative culture sites with an unapologetic, grassroots approach to sexuality…In the same way Playboy Magazine became a beacon and guide to the swinging bachelor of the 1960s, SuicideGirls is at the forefront of a generation of young women and men whose ideals about sexuality do not conform with what mainstream media is reporting.”

The women are tattooed, pierced, dyed, and even dreadlocked. SuicideGirls.com embraces a female image that doesn’t conform to the unrealistic standards set by Playboy, which in fact they outnumber in paid subscribers according to my guest.

Smayx is one of the models representing the CLE on Suicide Girls. She is soft-spoken with a playful wink in her eye. She enjoys Elvis Costello, 80s movies, and long walks on the beach (I’m making that last one up although it sounds like it fits). Smayx was kind enough to talk to me about tattoos, country music, and Suicide Girls. Did I mention she’s a Merle Haggard fan?

Allow me to introduce you to Smayx, Suicide Girl extraordinaire from the CLE.

J: Where are you from?

S: I was born in Florida but raised in Cleveland. In Parma.

J: A Westsider.

S: Yep.

J: What is a Suicide Girl?

S: Everybody’s an individual and you can be yourself. There are all different kinds of girls on Suicide Girls; ones with a lot of tattoos, ones without any, ones with piercings, ones with crazy colored hair, and ones with dreads. Pretty much you’ll find everything. If you’re a guy or a lesbian, you’ll find at least one person on there for you. It definitely has a good group of girls and we’re really close as well.

J: Is there something common between all of you? Is it the tattoos, is it the piercings?

S: I don’t know because all of the girls are unique in their own way. They do ComicCon and that kind of stuff too. So you usually find girls you’ll have something in common with and other ones maybe not as much, but you’ll still find something.

J: How many Suicide Girls are there?

S: I don’t know the exact number but I know there’s one in literally every country. I know in Columbus there’s at least thirty.

J: Do you know any of the history of Suicide Girls?

S: Missy Suicide came up with the idea. She was doing pictures of her friends and that idea led to the website. It started from there and now Suicide Girls has more subscribers than Playboy.

J: I’ve heard Suicide Girls described as an alternative Playboy, or a gothic chick Playboy.

S: A lot of people have asked me about it and that’s the best way to describe Suicide Girls; the tattoos, piercings, crazy hair, that kind of thing–kind of alternative.

J: I’m only there for the articles, the editorials, and blog posts. [laughing] There’s other entertainment too, right?

S: Yes and they have groups you can join if you have a topic you want to talk about. That’s how you meet a lot of girls as well, by joining the groups.

J: I did an interview with Erin Lung from Rebel City Tattoo. We talked about the tattoo culture and how it’s changing. He told me this funny story about a mother and a daughter coming in to get tattoos in really private places. He believes tattoos are becoming more and more mainstream. Do you agree with that?

S: I feel there are types of tattoos that everybody gets; very generic ones. Those are the ones I try to stay away from.

J: Such as?

S: The little hearts and the stars and the butterflies and those types of things.  I have one heart on me and it means something, but besides that I try not to do the normal. I try to think outside of the box and get tattoos that have meaning.

J: So all your tattoos are meaningful to you?

S: Yeah, there is a significance behind every single one of my tattoos that I’ve ever had done. I got my very first tattoo for my 18th birthday. I got it for one of my best friends that passed away when I was young.

J: How do you interact with the users on SuicideGirls.com?

S: We have the internal messaging. I have met some people in real life and then found out later that they were on Suicide Girls too, so that was kind of cool. If you go to any of the parties you’ll meet more people that are on the site; the last one that I went to had like hundreds and hundreds of people. It was crazy. It all just depends.

J: What do you listen to?

S: I have a broad taste in music. I go from like the Kottonmouth Kings, to As I Lay Dying, to country. I literally like just about everything as far as that goes and I’m a huge Elvis Costello. In This Moment is another band that I love.

J: Do you have some say in what shows Gorilla brings to town? Can you book the bands you like? [Smayx works for Gorilla Music]

S: Each of the booking agents have their own shows that they specifically do. Bryan Pauley is doing the one show and I’m just kind of helping him out with that because I’m the one who came up with doing a Suicide Girl thing. We did the foam party last year, so this is the second year in a row, and this year we’re adding Suicide Girls to it.

J: What is your favorite movie?

S: I can’t even pick a favorite movie. [laughing]

J: What about a favorite type of movie?

S: I can’t do that either. [laughing] I like Twilight, the Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. All the older ones, but those are so good.  Those are probably my top three that I can think of at the moment.

J: You’ve got an 80s thing going on with the Elvis Costello and the movies.

S: Those are some really good movies though.

J: What draws you to that decade?

S: I don’t know. I just think a lot of the stuff was better at that time than it is now, at least as far as movies are concerned.  There are some movies out now that I love, but not a lot.

J: If someone was looking at your profile on Suicide Girls, what’s not on there that might surprise them?

S: Music tastes change all the time; some people would be surprised that I like country.

J: I think there’s probably a perception that people with tattoos and piercings like extreme stuff like heavy metal—not something that seems so much more “wholesome” or “normal.”

S: I like everything.

J: Faith Hill/Tim McGraw country or like Johnny Cash country?

S: I like both types.

J: You get into old school country too?

S: I grew up on that. That’s all my parents would listen to. My dad was into Merle Haggard and that kind of old school stuff.

J: Was he a musician or a fan?

S: A huge country fan that was raised in Louisiana, so that’s why he likes country.

J: He’s not a native Clevelander.

S: Nope.

J: Your mom?

S: She was born in Alabama but she was raised in Cleveland.

J: You have some southern roots.

S: Yeah, a little bit.

J: Have you ever travelled to see any of your dad’s extended family?

S: I have. My dad passed a few years back so I went to go see where he grew up, in Louisiana. It was a bit different. I liked it a lot more than I thought I was going to.

J: New Orleans, Louisiana or the backwoods of Louisiana?

S: More like the backwoods. My mom told me that there’s a show called Duck Dynasty and my dad is from that city. I’ve never watched it but my mom’s says it’s nothing like that.

J: Why Cleveland?

S: There’s diversity here; all different kinds of people. No matter where you go you’re going to meet somebody different, so that’s kind of cool. That’s what I think.

J: Thanks for your time.

S: You’re welcome.

Smayx on SuicideGirls.com

Gorilla Music upcoming events:
–June 1st Foam Party
–June 15th with Atomic Grave in Mentor at Tequilla Jacks tickets 8 adv or 10 day of show
–June 22nd Masonic Temple with Atomic Grave tickets 10 adv 12 day of show
–June 28th at Frankies with Atomic Grave tickets 10 adv 12 day of show
–Release Tour June 8th in Geneva at The Cove 6 advance 8 day of show with Atomic Grave
–Cleveland Music Fest (booking soon) which is Sept 5-8

For more details gorillamusic.com

#KickassKleveland – Alan Cox

Alan Cox

Go ahead and try. You’re not going to come up with a one-liner about his name that Alan Cox hasn’t already heard. When the new guy took over for Maxwell in December of 2009, callers felt compelled to tell him how much they “hated the show” which has become a rallying cry for loyal listeners. Airing daily from 3-7 p.m. on Cleveland’s 100.7 WMMS, The Alan Cox Show has charted in several key demographics. Articulate, thoughtful, and witty, Alan hosts a morning radio show in Detroit in addition to the afternoon one in Cleveland with Billy Squire (no, not “The Stroke” Billy Squire) and Erika Lauren. Alan has been a DJ for a long time and has come to know radio well, broadcasting in his hometown of Chicago as well as Pittsburgh before coming to Cleveland.

Erika Lauren

You never know what you might get when tuning into The Alan Cox show. Topics can jump from gun control to penis pimples in a matter of seconds because Cox is that versatile. He does not believe that shock radio has to be dumbed down and is sometimes criticized for his vocabulary (huh?). Alan controls the switchboard, often allowing callers to make their point or hang themselves by it. 

While Bill is a somewhat new addition to the show, it is clear that Alan and Erika have developed a sibling-type relationship and even though many of Alan’s pop-culture references go over her head (Erika is in her 20s and her year of birth is not her fault) he doesn’t dwell on the inescapable reality that she is half his age. A fan of heavy metal despite a Catholic mother that had him in church almost daily, Cox is also a disciple of George Carlin, drawing inspiration from Carlin’s mastery of language and razor wit.

Bill Squire

The show started The Black List which is neither offensive nor controversial; it’s a simple idea born of the misconception that only white guys into Led Zeppelin listen to WMMS. Cox has a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude about his show that undoubtedly turns some listeners away but garners many more. On any given day, I find myself squirming (“Sperm News”) or nodding my head in agreement (“Why Florida Sucks”) and I respect that level of integrity in a show that doesn’t pander or talk down to the listener.

I felt privileged to be able to have a conversation with Cox who was kind enough to spend time talking about Rush fans, tombs made out of feces, and boobs.

How did you get your first break in radio and how do you think the industry has changed since then?

I tell people that I fell ass-backwards into radio because I did. I was doing stand-up comedy in college and needed an internship. My girlfriend at the time, her sister was leaving the biggest morning show in Chicago. The DJ was a guy who in the late 80s early 90s was just crushing. She said, “Well, they need an intern. Do you want me to put in a good word for you?” I said yeah but I hadn’t really thought about radio. I was already performing and I thought, “Why not?” I got the internship and ended up getting hired after that to produce the show. Once I left that show and saw how a program of that magnitude was put together, I kind of caught the bug and so I spent the next couple of years doing stand-up and radio at the same time until I figured I needed to do one properly instead of doing both of them half-assed. So that was my first break and then I started sending tapes out. The industry has changed a lot. When they deregulated radio in ‘96 everybody started buying up stations. So it’s changed because of that and the rise of the Internet. The pendulum has kind of swung back the other way now where radio stations that survived did so because they hyper-served their local community rather than trying to cast such a broad net. I think the stations that survived and the personalities that survived did so because the figured out what got them to the dance in the first place, which is hyper-serving local listeners.

How is your morning gig in Detroit different than your afternoon one in Cleveland?

The Detroit morning show doesn’t necessarily need a full show in the morning. It’s still a lot of music, probably about nine songs an hour, and they kind of let me do what I want in between. I have about six breaks an hour. Its six to ten in the morning and it’s just me. Up until I returned to Chicago in ‘06 to do a morning show there, I had always done a solo show. So this show (afternoons on 100.7 WMMS) and the one I did in Chicago are the first two ensemble shows that I had done. The Detroit morning show is me going back to doing a solo show but it’s not as much heavy lifting because it’s pretty short breaks a few times an hour, in between songs. The plan is to grow it outward. For now it’s a new station, they’ve only been on for about a year, and I’m their first morning guy. The initial hurdle is just getting people used to hearing somebody in the morning when they didn’t before. They don’t require as much in the way of a full show, whereas here I have four hours of blank canvas I have to fill. The bulk of my day is spent preparing for the talk show here. The show in Detroit, because I’m familiar with that area, is a lot easier to do because I can make it sound as local as I need to make it sound, but content-wise, there isn’t as much preparation for me to do.

What about Pittsburgh would surprise Clevelanders?

People in Cleveland hate Pittsburgh because I think it’s primarily a sports rivalry, but I think Cleveland could learn a lot from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is another Rust Belt city that found a way to get over its hump. Pittsburgh got over the hump that Cleveland hasn’t gotten over yet. Pittsburgh reinvented itself as a tech hub and as a medical hub. I know that Cleveland exists as a medical hub too, but Pittsburgh’s also got a real thriving art scene. I think Cleveland has a lot of those things already but they just haven’t grown to the point where nationally and internationally they’re seen as a city to contend with whereas Pittsburgh ends up making a lot of lists for livability, and for sustainability, and for innovation, businesses moving in, and so on. I know there’s a rivalry between the two cities and having lived in both that is my assessment of it. There’s a lot of great stuff in Cleveland. Cleveland still seems to be burdened by low self-esteem that I think Pittsburgh divested itself of a long time ago.

How are you preparing yourself for the upcoming Tomb of Feces world tour?

Rigorously. [laughing]

Rush: Finally due or overrated?

I approach most bands on the strength of their drummer. I’m a drummer and so obviously Rush is one of those bands that when you start playing drums all you’re doing is listening to Rush albums all day long because you think you’re going from point A to point Z, or point YYZ, as the case may be. I like Rush a lot. I think they’re a fantastic band. I’m glad they’re getting into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame just to shut Rush fans up. Rush fans have been like the Boston Red Sox fans of rock and roll for so long. They’re overdue and they’re more than deserving. It makes the fans happy and it’s clearly a band that should have gotten in a long time ago. I’m glad to see them go in and I just wish it were here this year.

What is your technique or approach to the interview?

I’m always trying to make them better. Over the years, I’ve learned what I think does work and what doesn’t work. I have to be genuinely interested in the guest. There’s a lot of guests that I get pitched that I turn down because I’m not really interested in what they do. It’s hard for me to manufacture enthusiasm. There have been a few guests that I’ve had on that I’m a fan of but they were just awful on the radio or they were having a bad day or whatever. I hear a lot of people interviewing where it doesn’t sound like they are listening. I think if you want a good interview it has to genuinely be a dialogue. It can’t be just asking a question and then waiting for the next time for you to ask your next question when they’re done talking. The best interviews that I think that I’ve gotten are ones where we organically talked. Obviously they are on because they are promoting something but I don’t want to do a five or a ten minute commercial on what they have coming up. I’ve had people on before where clearly they don’t want to talk they just want to pitch their project, and that’s fine, that’s what they do press for, but that doesn’t really interest me. I’m not really sure that there’s one way to go about doing it. I think that my style has developed to where if I like what somebody does, I talk to them and we have a conversation. I prepare for it. I do have specific things I want to ask. I think it’s a matter of liking what they do and kind of having a regular conversation with them. There have been a few times that I’ve had somebody on where I was really geeked out; I was a real fanboy, but I try to keep that to a minimum.

What is the current vibe between the Alan Cox Show and Rover’s Morning Glory?

When I first got here that dynamic had existed for so long that I think they felt like they had to keep it going, or that the audience expected it. For maybe the first year or so, they would make fun of me and mock me for my vocabulary or something. I always thought that was a weird thing to pick on somebody for. It’s not really my style and I found it very, very strange. I had never been in a situation where two shows on the same station were ripping on each other. I never met Maxwell so I have no personal beef with him. I have my own thing to do. I’ve always done my own thing. I’ve been on the Rover show a couple of times talking about different things. I understood that it was a lot of theater and I don’t take things personally. I’d see people in the hall and I’d be like, “Hey, what’s up?” I think once they got the vibe that I wasn’t somebody that was going to continue whatever that was, that kind of WWE thing, things settled down. It’s just not my style and I don’t take that stuff personally. I get along with everybody over there. I don’t really run into Rover too much, mostly the supporting cast, but I’ll see him in the hallways and we say hello. We’ve hung out a couple of times at station events. Again, I wasn’t privy to what the prior situation was between those two shows. I only heard about it second hand, but like I said, I’m too busy doing my own thing. I don’t have time for anything like that.

Which promotion has a better shot at creating world peace; Drunk West Sixth Girls or the CLEavage Gallery?

There’s shades of difference between the two. [laughing] I think the Drunk West Six Girls spot is a lot of fun because you’re certainly not reinventing the wheel; that format’s been done forever. It’s fun to write the questions, to be out, and ask girls questions you’ve written and to hear their answers. The CLEavage Gallery was just a matter of getting online activity. That’s as much a part of radio now as the actual over-the-air signal. People like boobs. It’s silly and it’s low brow, but if you say, “Hey were putting a gallery together, send your pictures,” girls will do it. It gives people something to look at. With all of the other humorous content out there, sometimes you just want boobs. [laughing]

Why Cleveland?

I grew up in Chicago and I started there and I went back to do my own show for a few years before I came to Cleveland. There are a lot of people there who just don’t care about radio. It’s not their thing anymore. There are so many distractions and people are immersed in other things. Cleveland is still one of those cities that you have a lot of personalities here who’ve been here a long time. I am flattered and pleased at how quickly people accepted me. I don’t have anything to attribute that to other than the fact I’m still a Midwest guy so I think by extension maybe there’s that Midwest vibe that people get, that sensibility or whatever. People here want to be entertained. People have that sense of pride about being from Cleveland, even though to a lot of other places around the country Cleveland is a punch line. People wear that as a badge of honor. I admire people who thrive under that kind of adversity. I like it here a lot. The audience has been great. It’s a city with some teeth. People in L.A. or whatever might make fun of Cleveland but I wouldn’t mess with anybody from here. It’s got such a good vibe to it and the people know where the bullshit is and if you suspend that then they’ll come along for the ride.

Official Show Page

#KickassKleveland – Camille Champa

I tend to gravitate towards people with a growth mindset. These folks are constantly trying new things, experimenting with life, taking risks, and DOING. At the other end of the spectrum lies the fixed mindset; people that “can’t” or won’t try as they believe they are what they are and things will never change. I’m inspired by people with a growth mindset and saddened by and for those with a fixed mindset.

My #KickassKleveland guest is a person with a growth mindset. I met Camille six or seven years ago.  She is a woman that seeks out new challenges, all of which would be considered trivial by those that believe being an artist is not a “real job”. As we began talking, I quickly realized that Camille’s grandmother planted the seed, telling her granddaughter that it was fine to do what she loved.

Allow me to introduce you to Camille Champa. Rocker. Fangless vamp. Yogi. Can a zombie cry? Let’s find out…

J: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

C: I grew up in Cleveland, in Euclid.

J: You and Tim Misny.

C: Did Tim Misny grow up in Euclid too? That’s awesome. The only other place I’ve lived besides Cleveland is Athens where I went to college. I’m a Cleveland person with the Cleveland accent and everything. My parents are still married. Family life was pretty stable. We lived a mile from my grandparents. My dad’s mother was awesome. She was the person who was always like, “You do whatever you want to do. If you like music you do that.” A lot of people think you can’t have an artistic goal in life. It seems like people tend to say, “Oh, you can’t really do that for a living.” I think I was told that by a few people that were close to me. But my grandma kept saying, “If you want to do, that then go for it.”

J: Was she an artist or a creative type, a free spirit? 

C: I think so. She’s the person who taught me how to sew. I could never be a clothing designer but I love clothing design. She’s the person who showed me how to sew and I started making clothes with her help. She was just more open minded I guess.

J: So she was an inspiration to you early on?

C: Yes. She wasn’t the typical person at that time. She was more strong willed and she got what she wanted in life.

J: Interesting.

C: Inspirational.

J: Well you and I have crossed paths a number of times. The first time we met you were auditioning for my band at the time. You had just bought an amplifier. I think it was a Vox?

C: Yes, I had a Vox.

J: It was still in the box I think, literally.

C: Yes, it was brand new.

J: You picked it up on the way to the audition?

C: Yeah… [laughing]

J: And now you’re the guitarist for Blacklight Betty. I was wondering if you could talk about that journey?

C: When I auditioned for your band I hadn’t been in a band before and I had been trying since high school. I had friends who played bass or guitar or whatever. I wanted to form a band but nobody ever really got anything together. I had been trying and trying and meeting with people. Some people were good but they were better than me so that’s probably why I didn’t get the gig. Or they sucked and I didn’t want to be in the band. That was early and I was still learning. I think I could play guitar well but I wasn’t used to playing so much with other people. I started playing guitar when I was 12. I was always playing at home by myself to records or learning from tabs or sheet music. So that was early on and I was trying to latch on to my first band. It was a struggle and I got frustrated. Blacklight Betty just had a show this past weekend and for me it was one of the first shows where I felt like it was fun. I was comfortable and not nervous about playing. I messed up a note here or there but it was fine. It was a high-energy show. I think when you first start playing any instrument you’re concerned. You think you have to make sure everything is perfect and you’re nervous about messing it up. But sometimes mistakes can turn out to be the best part. I feel like I’m finally got to the point where I’m comfortable on stage, I’m comfortable playing with other musicians, and it’s fun. I think anybody who is just starting should go play with other people because it will take your playing to the next level.

J: Blacklight Betty is really steeped in 70‘s classic hard rock, kind of ballsy. Do you feel additional pressure being a female guitarist playing that genre of music?

C: Not really because it’s always what I’ve loved. I started out listening to the Beatles. George Harrison is the reason I wanted to play guitar. Then in high school I started listening to Led Zeppelin and I said, “Holy crap this is amazing!” I still love the Beatles to this day but I started getting into the heavier, bluesier side of rock-n-roll. I’m reading the autobiography of Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart and I thought it was interesting that when they were kids they had their guitars and were pretending to be the Beatles but their friends wanted to pretend to be the Beatles’ girlfriends. They said, no, we want to be the Beatles. They wanted to be the band. It didn’t matter that some of their heroes were men, they were all musicians. I kind of had the same feeling. I never really felt I couldn’t rock because I’m a girl.

J: Full equality rock, right?

C: Yeah! [laughing]

J: You have other artistic endeavors in addition to being in a band, such as photography. What makes a great photograph?

C: It creates a feeling. You see it and you feel something. That’s what I strive to do. Photography is relatively new for me but I’ve been an artist since a young age so it’s another kind of visual art. I look at photographs and I try to study different photographers and there are just certain ones that make you feel a powerful emotion even if it’s not something specific.

J: Is there an element of luck to that or is it framing the shot in a way that elicits that response?

C: I think a lot of it is composition. There are obviously a lot of technical aspects to photography. I have a friend who has been a photographer for 30 years and he’s like an encyclopedia. Someday I’ll know half of what he knows [laughing]. For me I think its composition. A painter would sit down and have a certain idea of what they wanted and you can do that as a photographer too. You can just take a whole lot more pictures in a lot less time!

J: Do you have a personal favorite of a picture that you’ve taken?

C: Maybe a favorite style? When we had our gig last weekend with Blacklight Betty and we knew the band we were opening for so I took my camera and photographed them while they were playing. That’s one of my favorite things to shoot is live music, live art, just capturing the moment.

J: You’ve done that for Threefold Law on a number of occasions. Anyone that has seen my Twitter or Facebook avatar should know that it’s your photograph. The lighting and composition within the moments you’ve captured are fantastic (photo of Threefold Law performance by Camille).

C: I’ve done a couple things for my current job where I went to events to shoot. We went to the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy, which I’m sure, a lot of Cleveland people know. It’s great and it’s another one of those things that’s totally different than doing a live show but it’s similar in the way you’re capturing a live event. People are outside having a good time, people are selling their wares, and everything is moving. So you’re going out there and capturing a different side of it, a different side of the human experience, or whatever you want to call it.

J: Zombies or vampires?

C: Zombies, lately. [laughing]

J: Why?

C: Because I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead. I just like…I don’t know. It’s a hard question.

J: It is a hard question.

C: I have to choose whether I was going to be a zombie or vampire?

J: Yes. Which would you rather be?

C: Vampire because I wouldn’t want to be walking around like a mindless…aaahhh! [marginally scary zombie voice]

J: What’s cooler?

C: I think vampires are cooler.

J: Even after Twilight, you think they’re still cool?

C: I can’t get down on Twilight. I’ll admit to you that I’ve read all the books.

J: I can scratch that from the interview if you want. [laughing]

C: One of the other things I’ve tried is acting which is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and another one of those, “Oh you can’t do that, other people do that, but not you.” But when I see things like Twilight, and somebody’s going to get mad at me for this, but some of the acting is hideous and I think I can do better than that.

J: Haven’t you been involved in some vampire movie making?

C: I know a local photographer who’s venturing into film making. The project originated as a photo shoot he did with a couple of models and it was a vampire-themed shoot he decided to make it a film. We’re shooting a short film, a B-movie type of thing. We shot a couple of weekends ago with the fake blood, and teeth, and everything. It’s great and a good experience to be working with other people who love that medium. It’s called Vade Macum Vampirium, which is Latin for something. I’m not sure if it exactly translates to “book of the vampire” but it’s about a book about vampires and their secrets and the struggle to keep it away from the people who might want to hunt them.

J: Did you get to wear fangs?

C: I have some fangs but I’m not a special effects person and didn’t get them to fit quite right so I didn’t put them in for the shoot because I knew one of them would probably be falling out while I was acting!

J: Where did you shoot?

C: We shot some scenes at the Cleveland Photographic Society. The film maker is a photographer and he’s a member of the club so he rented it out for a day and set up a vampire lair. At this point we only have a few more scenes to shoot.

J: What’s in a vampire lair?

C: Daggers and a lot of red things. [laughing] I got to work with some people who I’ve heard a lot about. I didn’t realize there was such a film community here in Cleveland.

J: Is there a possibility that the short film will end up in the Cleveland Film Festival in the near future?

C: I don’t know about the film festival but I do know they’re planning a premier at Atlas Cinemas in Euclid with a couple of other short films.

J: Have you done other film projects?

C: I worked on a few student projects with some awesome students from Cleveland State and I was so impressed with how professional they were.

J: Do you have to study vampire characters in literature and other films?

C: I’ll look at classic movies. I’ve read Interview with the Vampire but I’d never seen the movie so I made a point to watch that. It’s interesting to see how different people portray vampires. I had a small role in something that’s still in production. It required some crying and emotion and that was tough. I had never done method acting before but I spent the day trying to get into a sad mindset that would make that easier. I’m still trying to learn different techniques. I’ve been reading and watching interviews with actors checking out their techniques for getting ready for a role and that helps. It’s similar to playing a show with a band; you have to get into the mindset.

J: So you feel a correlation between what you do on stage and what you do on a shoot?

C: Yeah, it’s funny because right now I still work a 9-to-5 job. We had a show on Friday with Blacklight Betty. I came home from work and I had to transition from working in an office to playing a rock show. So it’s a similar thing. Working on a film you have to go on set and transition into being a vampire in a vampire lair or whatever type of character you’re playing at that moment.

J: Do the people in your office know that you’re rocking out on the weekends and that you’re wearing fangs?

C: Some of them do. [laughing] I have a coworker who I also consider a friend that came out to see Blacklight Betty on Friday. She came out with her husband and they were great. She came back to work and she was like, “Yeah, you were rocking out!” I work at a rock radio station so I think people are more open to that kind of thing.

J: How does a guy join a yoga class without appearing creepy?

C: I’ve been doing yoga at lunch with a couple people from work. We’ll take our lunch break and go to this yoga studio across the street from our office. The other girls in the office and I keep trying to get this guy to come. We’re like you gotta come with us, because we’re buds and guys do yoga too; there’s even this thing called bro-ga. He was like, no, I don’t want to do that either because it’s going to be a bunch of guys doing yoga. [laughing] I’ve been to a studio called Cleveland Yoga which is awesome and there are a lot of guys in those classes. Yoga’s a lot more intense than people think. I think some people think it’s a thing for women to do, which is ironic because women weren’t allow to do yoga for a long, long, time. It’s an ancient Indian tradition and it was only males of a certain class that could learn it. If a guy is going to come to class and make creepy comments, that’s a problem. But if you’re acting normal and there for yoga I think women are totally fine with having guys in class.

J: I know you’re studying to become an instructor so you know what real yoga looks like. I’m assuming it’s not like Namaste Yoga where all the women are in Hawaii doing yoga under a waterfall in very little clothing?

C: No, no, no. [laughing] At Cleveland Yoga where I go sometimes, it’s a heated studio. They keep it at 85 or 90 degrees and it is an intense workout. Everyone is sweating and we don’t exactly look glamorous!

J: Is it the common misconception of yoga that it’s a Zen-like meditation practice rather than a workout?

C: I think so, but it can be meditative too. There are so many different styles of yoga and there are so many different facets to yoga. Meditation and the Zen aspect are important but there’s also the physical aspect. If you look into B. K. S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, which is amazing, it’s pretty much a manual of how to do all yoga poses. There are pictures of him doing all of the poses and some of them look crazy! There’s no way I can do some of those things. There’s some misconception that you have to be flexible and bendy and only women are like that, but this guy from India, an amazing yoga guru, is doing all these things I can’t.

J: Beyond the physical workout, what is another benefit to yoga?

C: I think a huge benefit is your mindset. My wonderful teacher has been listed as the best yoga teacher in Cleveland by Scene Magazine and she’s amazing. I’ll go to her class and she can use her words and her inspiration to make my day so much better because she has such a deep knowledge of yoga. She offers this amazing experience that goes so far beyond a workout.

J: Can a zombie cry? You can answer that a number of different ways so I’ll let you think about it for a second.

C: One of my theories, after watching The Walking Dead, is the difference between old zombies and what I call newer zombies, meaning people who have just been bitten, died, and comeback recently.

J: Newly turned?

C: Newly turned zombies, yes. One thing I’ve noticed is that they seem faster which makes sense because they’re less decayed. On this season of The Walking Dead Merle had just turned and it was almost like he recognized Daryl. He starts walking towards him like he kind of knows who he is. Thinking back to season one when Amy, Andrea’s sister, was bitten and she stayed with her all night and when Amy turned, it almost seemed like she was still a bit human and could see Andrea there. She didn’t immediately turn; she was kind of looking at her. So if they could cry it would probably be in those first few moments of becoming a zombie.

J: Like the, “Oh, shit. I’m a zombie!” moment?

C: Right. “Oh, shit. I’m a zombie and this sucks.” [laughing]

J: Why Cleveland?

C: I like the attitude of the people. There are people who like to get down on Cleveland but we’re past that whole “burning river” thing. There’s a lot going for Cleveland now especially downtown. I think people here realize that there are a lot of scenes. We have amazing clubs like the Grog Shop and the Beachland Tavern that attract national acts. I’ve seen some great bands in these clubs.

J: These clubs are fifty-seaters, for people that aren’t living in Cleveland. These are intimate venues.

C: This is not a House of Blues or an arena. These are small clubs that also support local bands. We can play there too. One of the other things I learned that I didn’t even realize because I grew up here is the quality of our local theater. We have Playhouse Square, the second largest theater district in the United States, second only to Broadway in New York City.

J: Most people would assume that would be Chicago or L.A.

C: Right, because they call Chicago the second city but Cleveland’s got the second largest theater district next to New York. I think a lot of the rankings of cities are hype but you can hype up a city or you can hype it down, if you will. I think Cleveland’s been hyped down.

J: Anything else you’d like to share tell people that might surprise them?

C: I think some people might already be surprised. [laughing] I had somebody at work the other day ask, “You’re in a band? What kind of band is it?” I said we’re garage, rock, blues, raw, loud rock-n-roll. “Really? Really? I wouldn’t expect that at all.” She was genuinely surprised and excited.

J: And meanwhile you’re thinking, “Thanks grandma.” Because you’re the one on stage instead of saying that to someone else.

C: Exactly.

Contact info:
Blacklight Betty