Interview: Ivan Moody (FFDP) and director Darren Lynn Bousman talk "The Devil's Carnival"
Fri, 30 Mar 2012 12:33:52
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Director Darren Lynn Bousman and Five Finger Death Punch Singer Ivan Moody Go to "The Devil's Carnival" Together
Let's face it.
Everybody is curious about Hell to some degree.
No matter who you are, you've definitely thought about the place downstairs. It's a running motif that's been explored by everyone from Dante Alighieri to The Coen Brothers. Hell usually makes for the perfect setting for a timeless story. The idea of it possesses mystique, sensuality, and comedic value if you look at it from the right angle. The Devil's Carnival director, writer, and producer Darren Lynn Bousman and Five Finger Death Punch singer Ivan Moody were definitely both on the same page, and that's one of 666 reasons why The Devil's Carnival is the most fun you'll have at the movies all year.
Moody plays the "Hobo Clown" in this tale of three wayward souls traipsing through Satan's playground, and he instills a welcoming darkness inside of the character. You'll want to hear his tale even if it burns you—literally. Bousman has constructed an incendiary, incisive, and invigorating musical for the ages that needs to be seen to be believed. However, he and Moody have a lot more in common than just Hell…
Just before Bousman brings the movie on the road city to city starting April 5 in Los Angeles, the director and Five Finger Death Punch main man Ivan Moody sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about The Devil's Carnival and everything above and below.
When did you both find your respective passion?
Ivan Moody: I don't think I could put my finger on a specific time to be honest with you. As far back as I can remember, music was always the source for me. It was happiness. It was a way to cope with anger and sadness. The greatest part of what Darren brought me in to do with him is it's something I've wanted to do. Music and theater have always gone hand-in-hand. Not to mention the ideas. Piecing together this ultimately twisted and morbid story and bringing it to life was incredible. The songs are amazing. It's not like this half-assed on the music side, and the movie's going to be great. The whole thing is absolutely perfect in and of itself. It's going to be epic and groundbreaking. There are a lot of directors out there who would have never taken the time to do this or have the balls to throw themselves out there especially under their own wallet. Darren financed the whole thing himself. To be able to incorporate my passion for music into this is a big honor.
Darren Lynn Bousman: I never wanted to grow up. I could never see myself doing a nine-to-five job. The mere thought of that terrifies me. My mom and dad were both nine-to-fivers. I'd see my dad come home at night, and I'd think, "I don't know how he does it." I admire people who have the ability to do that, but I'm not wired that way. I could never imagine doing it. I always wanted to play. I wanted to do something I loved so there would never be any opportunity to get burned out. The biggest thing is I can't imagine doing something I don't want to do or I don't love doing. I love everything I do. I feel lucky and blessed that I never have to worry about waking up and hating my job. Not a lot of people can say that. I've been very fortunate in that regard. I started off as an actor. Growing up, I was heavily into theater. I tried the whole sports thing, and I failed miserably. I was beyond bad; I was terrible [Laughs]. My parents were very supportive in everything I set out to do. I found success in acting. I was in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and there was something magical about it. I had the ability to help create a character. There's a rush you get from that. Ivan's band is playing in front of thousands of people. I was doing this in front of a hundred people, but there was still that rush which went along with it. I wanted bigger and more though. I was in a couple of commercials but I was always more excited by what the director was doing than I ever was about what I was doing. I went to college and majored in theater, but I cared more about the choices the director made. Actors are able to create characters, but directors and writers create these worlds. Early on, I said, "Screw this. I want to be the director." It began with a want to do something bigger and create something more.
Ivan Moody: I think it's really interesting how you got your first directing gig and how you came up. You should talk about that!
Darren Lynn Bousman: I succeeded in film school. They pick one person in class to be the director of the 35-mintue movie. They picked my script. Ironically, it was a musical set in Christmas called "Winter Follies." After directing a few short films, I came to Los Angeles. I thought they were going to open the gates for me and it would be this fucking amazing thing. I figured I would be a big director in a couple years. In Los Angeles, I was met with the harsh reality no one gives a fuck about my short films or what I was doing. They cared about if their coffee was hot or if their suits were pressed. I wasn't even a small fish in a big pond. I was a tadpole who hadn't even been born yet. The only jobs I could get were assistant positions. They weren't even cool assistant jobs either. I had to guard the honey wagons on The X-Files. On Van Wilder, I was Tara Reid's assistant and my job consisted of holding her cigarettes or her Diet Cokes. After two years, I was about to give up. I was working at The Firm as the tape room operator. My job was to videotape the late show at night for Samuel L. Jackson or make CD duplications for Korn. I didn't have a name. I had a position. I was "the tape room" guy. I hated my life. One day, I hit a breaking point. I had to sit in on the music manager meetings. During one meeting, they were talking about the Static-X music video for "So." The director backed out so they couldn't do it. I heard a voice say, "I'll do it." Then I realized it was me saying it in front of all the music managers [Laughs]. Everyone stopped talking and looked at me. My boss at the time was signaling at me to shut the fuck up and sit down. The Firm's C.E.O. Jeff Kwatinetz, who was at the head of the table, turned to me and asked, "Who are you again?" I said, "I'm Darren. I work in the tape room." Jeff goes, "You're going to do the music video?" I replied, "Yeah, I'll do it. I've got a camera and a crew. I'll do it for free. In fact, I'll pay to do it." He went, "Darren, you need to see me in my office after this thing is over." That was it. I thought I was getting fired. He said, "Alright, you want to put your money where your mouth is, we need a video in a week and a half." At that point, I didn't have a fucking camera or a crew. I didn't have anything. I just said that. I put all of the money I saved, which was very little, together and rented a 35mm camera, sound equipment, and playback. I shot this video, and it ended up on MTV Headbanger's Ball. The Firm started calling me to direct other things. I was doing all of these small projects because I stood up in this meeting at a breaking point. That was the first step that led me to bigger things.
What was your first meeting like?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I did a movie called Repo! The Genetic Opera. I had extreme luck early in my career with the Saw films. What's crazy about Saw and that experience is it was very little work on my part. I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I wrote a script. I was hired to direct it, and it happened to work. I did three movies back to back. Every Halloween, I knew I had 3,000 screens that would sell out. There was a huge system in place, and I was spoiled because of it. Repo! was dumped in two theaters, and it took me ten years to get made. I directed the stage play a decade prior. I fought for it. Who wants to make a crazy rock opera? Repo! was the biggest colossal failure ever. We made the movie for quite a bit of money, and it dropped in two theaters. I refused to accept that fate. I went into Lions Gate and asked for the movie back so I could tour it. They were completely cool and allowed me to do whatever I wanted with the movie in reason. I took the film on the road. It became this cult phenomenon. People were showing up in costume. We had a lightning in a bottle. We wanted to accomplish the same thing again. I want the "what the fuck" factor with The Devil's Carnival. You look at the cast list and see the trailer and say, "What the fuck? How are these people in the same movie?"
Ivan Moody: You definitely patched together a character list of misfits [Laughs].
Darren Bousman: Someone mentioned Five Finger Death Punch. I heard the name, but I didn't know much about them. I got on the phone with Ivan, and the thing I look for more than anything is passion. It was immediate that Ivan was not only excited by this, but his passion was crazy. We gave Ivan the track and essentially said, "Do this as a Satanic hobo!" We didn't know what we were going to get. We knew he was cool on stage. He was going to record it in Las Vegas and send an mp3. He was the only person we weren't there overseeing during recording. I was sitting in a coffee shop, and I got an email with Ivan's track. Thirty seconds into it, I was high-fiving myself [Laughs]. I was like, "Oh my fucking god, this is insane." We had no notes. The rest is history.
Ivan Moody: I've got to tell you. I was completely waiting for you to call me, freak out, and say something was wrong because, as you said, I remember you asked if we could Skype the session or if you could be in the studio via internet. I was like, "Listen man, I've never worked like that before. You've just got to give me one shot at it. If it comes out right, it comes out right. If not, we'll make adjustments." I was so nervous in the studio. I was looking around going, "Oh my God, I've never done anything like this." Growing up, I always saw plays like Fiddler on the Roof, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Jesus Christ Superstar. I thought, "If I screw this up, that's it for me. It's going to be heartbreaking." I'd never done anything like this. When I sent that track to him and he called me, the whole world lifted off my shoulders. I felt a lot better.
Darren Lynn Bousman: People think they know Ivan, Clown, and Emilie Autumn because of their stage personae. They have loyal fans because of who they are. However, they're here playing characters they normally don't do. Ivan didn't just come in, sing the song, and go to a bar and get drunk afterwards. He sang the song and stayed around the entire night helping apply makeup, hang wall art, and move lights around. It was such a fun shoot.
Ivan Moody: I felt like I'd known you guys for years and years. It was so humbling. The awkward thing for me is seeing how actors and actresses are treated compared to musicians. As musicians, we don't get that kind of catering. We get towels and water. That's it for the day. To see these trailers setup with names on them was amazing. Everyone kept asking, "Do you need Starbucks?" There was great catering. I was like, "All I need to do is just be a part of this and be receptive with the people who brought me here." It was kickass.
Do you see yourself in the Hobo Clown? What does he mean to you?
Ivan Moody: He was the transient soul who found his place in Hell. To me, he was the character who wandered for eons. The only thing he ever found comfort in was that solace depression and inner demon. There was such a twisted sensibility to him. Listening to the song itself, I didn't have to create the character. It was created for me. I only had to envelope it and become it. In my eyes, he was an extension of who I am on stage. He's so perfectly matched for me. I made it what it was, but they gave it to me.
Darren Lynn Bousman: I gave him zero direction on the song. He gave his interpretation and nailed it. The same thing came to his performance. I believe his was the first song we did. There was a real nervous energy when Ivan showed up. If he didn't nail it, we were fucked. We didn't have time to do it again and again because I financed everything myself. I didn't even have time to explain what was working or wasn't. The whole thing takes place in a carnival. There was a huge circus tent with a big stage in the middle. We lowered the lights and I told Ivan just to go. Immediately, when he started singing, instead of high-fiving myself, I was high-fiving every single person around me. It was like a rock 'n' roll concert for just the crew from this crazy, weird, fun, demonic character. You didn't need to know anything about him. The minute he starts singing you learn everything you need to know. It was cool.
Ivan Moody: It was huge for me. Walking in, I knew Bill Moseley was there as well as Ogre from Skinny Puppy who is one of my all-time favorite musicians. Clown from Slipknot and I have been friends for years. There were so many incredible musicians, actors, and actresses. I felt such a pressure that I had to walk in and perform this. He made it very clear they didn't have any time to fuck around. It was like, "Get in there and nail it. If you can't do it, tell us now. No offense, but we do have to find someone who can do this right." It was relieving for me. I'd rehearsed it, I'd worked on it, and I was going to do my best. If I wasn't meant for it, I would've dealt with it. I love movies, and I've always wanted to act in them or be in theater. I want to have a future in movies, especially in anything Darren does I'll be there with bells on. It really was an honor.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, hopefully you'll be doing it again very soon because we've already written a sequel which you're a huge part of.
Ivan Moody: You, my friend, rock!
The trailer for "The Devil's Carnival":
How different are film and music? Did you have to shift focus?
Ivan Moody: Absolutely! We do videos, but those are different. We work side-by-side with the director from day one and we see templates and whatnot. This, however, I was going into something blank. I had no idea what to expect. Darren and I had never met physically. We only spoke on the phone briefly. When he gave me the song, it was three days before the shoot. I didn't have a whole bunch of time. I spent 14 hours a day getting this character down and preparing for the song. It was so unexpected but it was also mind-blowing at the same time. I wanted to encompass Darren's vision and do my best to put myself into it.
Is there a fairy tale vibe to the film?
Darren Bousman: You hit it. We 100 percent set out to make a fairy tale. Repo! is a fairy tale in its own right. It's Alice in Wonderland. It's a girl who's caged up in this hole. At the very beginning, she goes through this rabbit hole and ends up in this crazy, weird world. I excel at the fantastical. We want to do the same thing with The Devil's Carnival. It starts with three characters in the real world, and immediately they're transported from the real world into Hell. I always wanted to make a movie set in Hell. That can across cliché really quickly. Everyone thinks of Hell in a certain way with fire, brimstone, torture, and torment. So I asked, "What if the devil was the good guy and God was the bad guy? What if Hell was the fun place and Heaven was the place you didn't want to be?" Hell is fun in this. It's music, singing, dancing, and crazy characters that are bigger than life, but there's something macabre and off about it. That's how we approached it. We gave it that otherworldly fantastical look. One of my biggest influences is Terry Gilliam. Look at anything he's done from Brazil to The Fisher King. They all have that fairy tale look. They're still dark and extreme, but there's something fantastic about them. The Devil's Carnival is dark and violent, but it's also very fun. It doesn't take it too seriously. We want the audience to laugh with us. The road show is so important. The Devil's Carnival is an idea. We want to make the theatrical experience fun. We want the audience to clap, laugh, boo, and scream along. We wanted to make it like a rock concert. It's extremely over the top. Bill Moseley plays one of the most hilarious characters we've created. It's so ludicrous and insane you can't take it seriously. We want you to laugh at this thing and sing-a-long in the theater. We wanted to hearken back to The Rocky Horror Picture Show when going to the theater was an event. This is an experience that can't be downloaded. It goes against everything you're supposed to do.
Ivan Moody: I've always been into stuff like Alice in Wonderland, and I'm a huge Tim Burton fan. Theater and music go together. It comes across perfect. It makes you want to go to a theater. To me, it felt like I was actually at a concert. I've seen hundreds and hundreds of bands if not thousands. This was surreal. I never saw myself doing anything like this, and I wouldn't change it for the world. It's the perfect heavy metal play. Take the time, live the experience, see it in the theater, and be a part of something. At the end of the day, that's what it's about.
Did you hit it off right when you met?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Absolutely! When I got there, he was outside in the parking lot. He beat me to the set, and that shows a lot about his character. He nailed the part, and he stayed afterwards taking it all in. He didn't have to do that, but he had to. It showed me I had a partner who was there for the long haul.
Ivan Moody: I appreciate that. It was a respect thing. I didn't try to interfere at all. That's not my place. I was there to learn. The biggest deal for me was sitting around and seeing someone of your caliber do what you do. I learned so much from it. Being a part of the experience was mind-blowing. On stage, I'm not creating a character. That's Ivan. To actually do something and put a little bit of myself into something that already exists was the real challenge.
When did you first discover heavy metal?
Darren Lynn Bousman: In high school, it was a big thing. I went through every single phase as a kid. I watched Gleaming the Cube and wanted to be Christian Slater and a skateboarder. That turned into me listening to rap music. I wanted to be a rap dude. That led into me getting into theater. The theater people were those types of dudes, so it started there. It really happened for me when I moved to Los Angeles and started working in the music world. When I grew up, I thought metal was a lot of people screaming who were angry. When you actually look at what they're saying and how they're performing, there's a true art to that. They are true artists. I had this awakening about metal. I opened up and went to shows and that was awesome.
Ivan Moody: I was always into metal as a kid. My parents raised on me on everything from '50s bop to rock. My grandmother was a country singer. I was exposed to every genre of music you could fathom. For me, there was always something absolutely brilliant about metal. I'm talking from Black Sabbath on. I moved onto stuff like King Diamond, Exodus, and Nuclear Assault. It built from there to Metallica and Slayer, so on and so forth. Metal is the rawest form of music, and that's the most brilliant thing about being a part of this. Darren came to the table with a metal attitude. It's a twisted, morbid story about individuals falling into his perception of Hell, which is very close to mine by the way. It was great. I've been listening to metal since the day I opened my eyes.
Which horror movie can you watch again and again?
Ivan Moody: I'm not sure if you'd call it a horror film, but I could watch Se7en a hundred times and never get tired of it. I love the Saw movies. The way they roll together the storyline is awesome. Those are timeless for me. There are so many. I love House of 1000 Corpses and the other Rob Zombie movies. I'm such a horror buff. I go back to the original Halloween series and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Darren Lynn Bousman: That changes daily! I love The Shining. That's still one of my favorites. I show people The Last House on the Left over and over again. Stephen King is the guy I strive for as a writer, and it's Wes Craven as a director. That movie is like getting kicked in the balls over and over again.
What's your favorite attraction at The Devil's Carnival?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Every character goes into what we call "The Tent of Shadows". We shot at this insane classic-looking carnival in Riverside, California. We augmented it to make it darker and more disturbing. All of the carnies enter into the big top tent. When they go in, the tent disappears, and they're in a "Tent of Shadows" which is basically a void of nothingness. That was really cool. In the next episode, we're actually going to do a full-on big ass funhouse, and that's what I'm most looking forward to. The hall of mirrors is always awesome, but it's a technical nightmare. I'd say "The Tent of Shadows".
Ivan Moody: My favorite attraction was "The Painted Doll". She was my favorite attraction. She was hot as fuck [Laughs].
Darren Lynn Bousman: [Laughs] That's Emilie Autumn, and she's fantastic! She was the first person we got involved in it. She's awesome! She basically plays a broken person.
Ivan Moody: She has a brilliant voice and was a pleasure to work with.
Be sure to check out the Devil's Carnival official site!
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—The ARTISTdirect Staff