Saturday, September 8, 2007

“But You’re a Zombie!”: An Interview with Hendrix/Fish Films

Hendrix/Fish Films are in their own words, “a bunch of guerilla filmmakers” located in Sydney, Australia. They make the kind of films they’d like to see. Their first feature movie The Killbillies (2001), “a story about hillbillies and feuding” with hermaphrodites, hillbillies wearing strange masks, zombies (some of them very horny), psychedelic experimenting aliens, blood&shit and surf rock in it, only costed 2000 Aussie bucks and was selected for the 2002 “Zombie-dance” in Austin, Texas. I talked to Duke about past and future projects in 2003 for Sonic Splendour magazine. So, tune in...
Sonic Splendour: Hi, Duke! How is everything in Sydney? Have you finished shooting Bloodspit yet?

Duke Hendrix: Sydney is very strange at the moment, we are getting hail and thunder storms every night which at first was very inspiring but after a while it just gets boring. At this stage we are fine tuning Bloodspit, adding the soundtrack and some digital effects. We are hoping that it will be finished next month, though I'm not certain when the DVD release would be.
SS: Before talking more about past and future projects of Hendrix-Fish films, let me ask you how you guys met each other and decided to come together as a film company to make the kind of films you would like to watch?
DH: I first met Leon in his little shop called Independence Jones, it was a collectible shop that sold telivision memorobillia, things like The Munsters board game and Batmobiles etc. I'd been dealing in that kind of stuff as well but I’d been doing collectible fairs. My stuff was getting too much to drag around, I was looking for a shop and he was looking for a partner, so I moved in. After a while we started talking movies, we found out that both of our favourite films were Flesh For Frankenstein and Animal House. I'd already made a few shorts including Zombie Crackhouse and I was ready to film another called Frankenbilly. I asked Leon to come down and play the part of a hippie. After that it was all movies for us.

SS: So could you talk a little bit about Crack House Zombie and Frankenbilly? I also remember reading somewhere that you worked as a co-writer in a feature movie called Waste. Would you like to give us some information about them?
DH: Zombie Crackhouse was a short I filmed in black and white super 8 for a short film cable tv contest called “Graveyard Shift.” Basically it was about an ex vietnam vet who is working as a care taker in a graveyard. In that same graveyard there’s a bunch of zombies making crack. So our hero grabs his axe and takes the law into his own hands, (so to speak). The film got into the top ten and was played on tv which was kind of a strange experience. Frankenbilly is basically a short version of The Killbillies, I had made a few little shorts with the character Boy, and when the “Graveyard Shift” came around the next year I decided to to a proper little film with Boy in it. Frankenbilly is about an inbred family who grow hemp plants on their farm, the trouble is hippies are stealing the plants and smoking them. So Pa makes a hillbilly Frankenstein monster that goes around killing them, the trouble is that he is also in love with Boy’s dolly. That film came second in the contest out of around a thousand films, tons of people got to see it and liked it. My personal favourite short we did is one called earth versus the vampire wrestlers from outer space. I love that because it's so bad, it doesn't make sense at all and it makes me laugh every time I see it. Waste is a feature that we co-wrote with my brother for a producer in Queensland. It's about two pot smoking guys who realize they have to grow up fast. I didn't like the script changes I think it screwed the film, having said that there are some good bits. It's just been released in the States on DVD.
SS: How did you come up with your “names”? It’s not hard to find out where “H. P. Crowley” comes from... How about Duke Hendrix (Duke Ellington, or maybe John Wayne, and Jimi Hendrix???!) and Leon Fish?

DH: Ha ha ha, you’re right, the name Duke Hendrix came from John Wayne, and Jimmy Hendrix. I was looking for a name from two people who were the exact opposite and you can't get more opposite than those two. John Wayne was whiter than white, a real straight and a tough guy. Hendrix a black drugged out guitar hero. I think the names go well together. Leon Fish was taken from the first novel he wrote by the same name. Leon also invented the name Ringo Ray. We like to do that, invent names for people in our films. I invented a name for a girl who stars in Bloodspit, “Candy Whorehole.” You can guess where I got that name.

SS: Since this is mainly a music magazine, I might as well ask you about your musical tastes. One can tell that you enjoy surf rock as you used songs from bands like The Atlantics and Zen Genies...

DH: I’m a real big Beatles fan, mid period Beatles ya know, Rubber Soul, Revolver, The White Album. But I love surf and punk as well. The Zen Genies were a punk band around Sydney in the late 80's early 90's. All their songs had Horror themes, like Surfin Vampire, Hitman Frankenstein etc. Their frontman was wild, he used to do Frank from Blue Velvet with the gas mask and stuff then molest the girls in the audience singing a song called 'baby wants to fuck.' I had to put their songs in my films.

SS: What about your careers as writers? Can you talk about your book Cooking with the Hillbillies?
DH: We did Cooking with the Hillbillies a long time ago, I think that was the first book Leon Published, it was basically old recipes we found from pre-World War II cook books and changed them around some, there’s also a little story in there and things like Pa's Top Ten things to put in your bomb shelter. In the first edition you also got a little kit that made Boy's dolly. I’m not sure if you can still get it, but Leon has some cool books there. We just finished a book version of Bloodspit which we hope will be out in time for the DVD.
SS: What do you think about the film industry in Australia? Did you see Spierig Brothers’ movie Undead? If so what do you think about it? DH: Yes I have seen Undead, I enjoyed it. It’s not the type of film I'd do with that budget but other than Undead, there’s basically no scene genre film scene in Australia. We don't know anyone who makes these types of films. It’s strange because when we make one, there is always a lot of interest but we never see others do it. I do get mail from time to time from people interested in making a genre film asking for advice but I never hear from them again, so much for my advice.

SS: Are there any future projects after you finish Bloodspit?

DH: We have a few projects in mind, one is a documentary that I can't speak about just yet. We have another genre film we are developing called Flesh Cut. That will be a Frankenstein type thing. We are also thinking about doing a sci fi thing. We are just going to wait to see how Bloodspit goes before we decide on the next one.

SS: You told me that you have seen the movie Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam (The Man who Saves the World, a.k.a Turkish Star Wars). Do you now about any other Turkish movies? What do you think about them. And what do you think about Turkey and Turks that live in Australia?

DH: I really want to see the Turkish Exorcist, I’ve heard so much about that, but I can't find it anywhere. Also the Turkish Star Wars. I hear they are great. I would love it if someone made a Turkish Bloodspit that would be so cool. I’d much rather that than win Cannes or something. We have two Turkish guys working on Bloodspit. They were both born here but their parents were born in Turkey. One of them is my assistant editor and his brother is doing digital effects for us. Both of them are very good at what they do and we get along with them great, so they will be working with us forever I hope.

SS: Popular cinema seems to preach intertextuality nowadays, with Matrix trilogy being a mixture of different genres, philosophical/religious beliefs etc and Tarantino claiming to have stolen from every movie that has been made while making Kill Bill. Do you think The Killbillies has a similar intertextual attitude?

DH: We have never conciously layered our films with any hidden messages or philosphies, having said that people can read what they like into them. I’ve had people say to me that the overall message in The Killbillies is family values, and if people want to think that, that's fine by me. Our films have no meaning really they are just supposed to be good fun, although there are a lot of strange things happening in Bloospit I’m sure people will read into things while watching it. But yeah like Tarantino we have stolen from everywhere ha ha ha. Bloodspit is essentially an ode to Paul Morrisey Films and to Udo Kier. Everyone does an Udo accent in Bloodspit. SS: Final question: what happened to your website Are there any other places on the internet where we can download the trailer of Bloodspit?

DH: Someone built the website for us, then they dissapeared. We didn't even know where to go to pay for it to keep it running, but there will be a Hendrix/Fish website coming up soon, that will have a new trailer and stills as well as information on all our films and Leon’s books.

SS: Do you have any final words before we finish the interview? Would you like to give our readers some advice about low budget filmmaking?

DH: Well my advice to anyone that is making a film is, make something that you want to see, because at the end of the day, you’re gonna be stuck with it. Don't try and please an audience, please youself, if you’re happy, there will be others that will like it. What I have found is that no matter what you do, someone somewhere is gonna like it. It's a big world out there.
PS: Hendrix/Fish films finished their movie Bloodspit after this interview was published. They released it from Troma. The Killbillies is available from Cryptkeeper. Watch the trailers on youtube: The Killbillies & Bloodspit

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