Jim Van Bebber on Metal, Part 2

Jim Van Bebber’s audacious underground masterpiece The Manson Family recently finished its first proper domestic screening run in a decade. The following is the second half of our lengthy interview with the underground director (read the first half here). In this installment: rejection in Hollywood, Philip Anselmo and modern music.

When did you decide to move to Los Angeles?

Let me tell this to you straight. Any filmmaker, if you are in Peru or in Las Vegas, you want to go to Hollywood and try. Everyone wants to throw their shit up against the wall. I thought I was worthy (laughs). Old Jimmy Van Bebber is coming out, what do you think of that! Well, they didn’t think too much, to put it mildly (loud laughter). The whole time I was there was torture. It was terrible. Finally, I wised up and realized I could do the hamster wheel my whole life or control my own shit like I used to. So I decided to go back to shooting my own films.

Did you get any meetings or did your films just scare the shit out of people?

I had plenty of meetings with would-be agents and they all were terrified. Everyone was fucking terrified. They thought I was a bomb and just didn’t know what the fuck to do with me. The only friend I had in town was Sage Stallone. Thankfully, he had my back a lot of the time. Otherwise, I would not have lasted as long as I did.

Do you remember any meetings that were a complete disaster?

Plenty, which do you want to discuss?

The worst?

There was one meeting with a Paradigm agent. This guy had my tape. I said ‘hey how’s is going?’ And he said ‘Jim? I didn’t know what was going to walk through the door.’ (loud laughter). I knew it was over then. Whatever. What a fuckhead. Fuck em’ all. They haven’t even seen the cusp, y’know what I mean?

In the 90s bands like Carcass, who are completely rooted in the underground, were signed to major labels. It didn’t go well either.

I’m not going to wait for people to catch up just like Carcass. Hey, do you want to talk about Philip (Anselmo)?


Well, Decibel is the last heavy metal mag in America, goddamit. So you are the only people I will talk to about Philip.

Tell me about your relationship.

We met around 1994. A director hooked us up and put us together. He invested in my movie and after that he was just the best friend. Pantera would come around and I’d get on the bus with them. He’d be like “bring your toothbrush, motherfucker.” I’d stay out with them for two to three weeks. He gave me shots to direct every band he ever did. I love the guy. He’s a trusted friend. He really kicked it in on The Manson Family. He gave me like 80 percent of the music.

What’s the status of your cut of the Down tour video?

I made my version which I call the director’s cut, which has leaked around. But guitarists sometimes think they are a better Orson Welles than you are. So they recut the motherfucking thing. The version that is out there sucks. Pepper (Keenan) had his own editors. Look, man, my version rocks. If you want to see Down in Europe in 2006 find the bootleg.

What are you listening to lately? Black metal?

(laughs loudly). What am I listening to these days? A lot of Cream, Vanilla Fudge and The Grateful Dead. I don’t pay attention to the new guys except for Phil’s shit. He’s the last Mohican. Is anyone good? Not really. It’s pretty frightening. It’s crap to the point where it kills you and you don’t want to listen. Maybe I’m not listening hard enough because I end up going back to Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix.

What’s happening with the documentary on your life? (Diary of A Deadbeat)

I think it will be finished sometime this summer. I have no control over it. I did my piece and I showed up and yelled and cursed.

What was it like to have your life under a microscope?

Anyone who wants to know about my shit – it’s available. Just Google my name. You have to live with knowing where you fucked up. But hey man, this is the life I’ve chosen.

I think the world needs your crazy vision.

I can’t wait for you to see Gator Green, brother.