Not only is The Cemetery an exquisite slab of nasty/fun uber-brutal indie horror — think Cabin Fever via Evil Dead — it also throws extreme music fans a serious bone with a soundtrack featuring a gang of grind n’ blasters including Fleshgod Apocalypse, Gorod, Ulcerate, Circle of Dead Children, Defeatist, The Year of Our Lord, Squash Bowels, and Crowpath.
Decibel recently caught up with Adversary Films executive producer Brian Iglesias, who kindly took a few minutes between making the rounds for the company’s much-praised horror flick Cross Bearer and prepping the animated Korean War epic Chosin to chat about the nexus of gore, metal, and DIY ultra-violence.
The Cemetery brings legit extreme metal into the horror movie mix. It seems like a natural fit, but for whatever reason genre films seem to usually employ some sort of cock rock or nu-metal…
Well, just like there are very different factions within heavy metal, there are very different factions within horror culture. A mainstream horror filmmaker is not going to have the same concept of what is extreme as someone who, like us, comes from an indie horror background and grew up on a steady diet of Evil Dead and Dead Alive. We’re just not going to be as easily impressed by a movie based around a scare tactic or a slick marketing campaign or Anthony Hopkins fighting a possession. So for us [extreme music and horror] is a perfect combination. There is a similar directness and honesty to hardcore and metal — those bands are not playing to get rich or get the girl. They’re playing that music because their internal compass points them toward it and they’re answering that call.
Talk to me a little bit about your own extreme music background.
I’m dating myself here, but I graduated from high school in 1995. For me, from the mid-90s to the early 2000s in heavy music was the equivalent of the Industrial Revolution. My brother had roadied for some local metal bands — hair metal bands; you know, denim jackets, long hair — but it was great hardcore bands like Snapcase, Strife, Sick of it All that really turned me onto this music, and from there I just kept getting into heavier and heavier stuff, my interests kept expanding into other extreme genres.
Does the DIY ethic/approach of the underground metal and hardcore you came up on inform the way you approach filmmaking?
Yeah, absolutely. For me, my father left when I was in middle school, I had a single mom who worked three or four jobs to raise four kids. We ate out of the church pantry all through high school. There are definitely people who had it worse, but it was pretty tough. As a kid you’re trying to figure out life and how you fit in and how you’re going to survive — all at the same time. And this music spoke to me. It was all about being true to who you really are and not suppressing what’s inside you. That message was so important to me. It’s easy to say, Follow your dreams, but it’s a lot harder in practice to work tirelessly to achieve a dream; to persevere when everyone tells you you’re wasting your time. I didn’t have a parent telling me these things — I had this music. People who aren’t familiar with the metal and hardcore scenes don’t understand how uplifting and inspiring that music can truly be. I mean, I’ve been to combat as a Marine infantry officer. I was in Ramadi, Iraq, and it was a doozy. Not everyone came home. Even there I’d have Pig Destroyer blaring in my ears on the way out the gate — what better way to prepare for hell? That’s just who I am. I’m going to be one of those old guys at the VFW listening to metal and watching indie horror movies.
How did you get hooked up with the Willowtip bands?
I’ve done music licensing before. Our company does content, we do commercials, a bunch of different stuff. It’s actually kind of a difficult process. You’ve got to secure the rights from the publisher, the label, the copyright owner, and the band. Unfortunately, when you’re doing an indie project sometimes the lawyers or the label can’t see past your music budget. The industry is not what it used to be, so they try to squeeze as much blood from every stone as possible…and we don’t have it. I don’t even pay myself! While the bands are almost always cooperative…the bigger the label, the lower we are on the list.
I’ve loved Willowtip for a very long time. I remember waiting in line for the release of Exotic Sense Decay by Circle of Dead Children. I say something like that to my wife and she’s like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ [Laughs] But Willowtip is very indie and very consistent. If I want uncompromising metal I can go to Willowtip, order a CD and I’m going to get uncompromising metal. I met [Willowtip CEO] Jay Tipton at a couple shows. When I started looking for music for The Cemetery I thought, ‘If I can get Jay on phone, he’s going to get what we’re trying to do.’ Sure enough, I got him on the phone and he was all about it. Then I went to the bands, and they were great. I didn’t have a single band say no. We’ve done five feature films, live television, commercials…this was the single best experience I’ve ever had doing music licensing, hands down.
Was it exciting to see this music come together with your footage in the editing bay?
I’ll be honest: There was a moment where I thought to myself, ‘You know, I hope we’re doing the right thing. Is it going to be too much?’ Just that bug of doubt. Some movies can really overdo it on the soundtrack and it ruins the experience. We didn’t want the music to be a distraction. I saw first cut, and I basically just started laughing hysterically. Because it worked so well and it was so over the top. Look, The Cemetery is not going to win any Oscars, but it is a fun movie that does justice to our roots on a lot of different levels. We didn’t have major stars like Tom Hanks or Jennifer Lawrence, but we did have help from great young talent who wanted to make something that the mainstream wouldn’t dare to. The world is changing and it’ll continue to change, but we grew up on horror movies that were fun and extreme, and we’ve got our own little piece of that now.
For such a young company you’ve got a lot of accomplishments under your belt and a lot of forward momentum. How, exactly, do you guys manage to be so exceedingly productive?
I don’t think about it all that much. I get very little sleep. I’m probably overly driven and probably work too hard. But this is what I love to do; this is what I was made for. I just wake up in the morning and I don’t lie to myself. I just let myself be, exist…We went through hell to make these movies. They’re not about big budgets. It’s more about bringing talented, passionate, driven people together to make it happen.