Back in 2003, “cinemagrind” outfit Graf Orlock formed in the shadows of the Hollywood hills. Notable for lyrically repurposing dialogue from violent action films against inventive bursts of harsh hardcore, it wasn’t long before Decibel took note. That infatuation has only become more extremely extreme in the years since: Graf Orlock have landed in our top 40 records of the year. They were recently part of Decibel‘s Metal & Beer Fest in Los Angeles. Graf Orlock’s label Vitriol Records has even worked with multiple dB writers and staff members.
If I had to pick one Decibel ambassador to collab with Graf Orlock as the prize of some winner-takes-all bar brawl, Andrew Bonazelli would be the last man standing. Sharing the band’s fascination with the “hard R” action films from the ’80s to the mid-’90s, his prose is as punchy and razor-witted as Graf Orlock’s economical tracks. The union of his singular writing talent and Graf Orlock’s shrewd platform for cinematic critique makes almost too much sense to ever happen. But unlike a sequel of the Steven Seagal vehicle Above the Law, it has happened, and it’s ready to decimate you with an efficient strike of limb-shattering Aikido moves. (Oh shit, spoke too soon, looks like Above the Law 2 might be simmering.)
Graf Orlock’s new song “A Bad Cop in a Bad Mood” rumbles out of a box of Battle Crisps with hardcore punk riffs that (like Seagal’s hands) should be registered as weapons. In two minutes the song blasts, busts out infectious grooves and launches a screaming solo during a perfectly-timed swagger. The song embodies everything that made Graf Orlock first put the glimmer (Glimmer Man?) in Decibel’s eye. Meanwhile, Bonazelli transplants a shadow-world version of Seagal’s big-screen persona (played by Nick Principe) into a truncated dirty cop flick. Instead of Harvey Keitel or Nicolas Cage’s titular Bad Lieutenant hallucinating iguanas and religious imagery, we see Principe’s villain terrorizing residents of a sun-drenched neighborhood for kicks. The video is filled with sly movie references, but director Ken Whiting never opts for straight-up parody. Instead, it’s a lean ‘n’ mean pastiche focused on a power-drunk misanthropist with a rampaging soundtrack.
Stream Graf Orlock’s killer new video for “A Bad Cop in a Bad Mood” below. Stick around for a hilarious glimpse into the video’s genesis in an interview with writer Andrew Bonazelli. But first, put on your beret and get ready to protect/serve your own interests because Graf Orlock’s new track is locked, loaded and out for injustice.
Interview with “A Bad Cop in a Bad Mood” screenwriter Andrew Bonazelli:
How did you first meet and start collaborating with Graf Orlock?
Andrew Bonazelli: I forget if I just sorta stumbled onto a promo of Destination Time: Yesterday in the summer of 2006 or if Albert [Mudrian] summoned me into his office and said, “Here, you’ll like this.” (95 percent of the time when he says that, a) he’s right, and b) said band will never accomplish anything of note.) Either way, from the samples and the cleverly recontextualized dialogue to the next-level packaging and the fact that they started every set with the 20th Century Fox theme, there is objectively nothing for any sane person to not love about what they do. I probably expressed these sentiments to their frontman “Jason” shortly thereafter (they used aliases early on, not so much anymore; I’ll “use the illusion” for the sake of the last 10 seconds of the video), and we became fast friends. Before I knew it, his then-fledgling label Vitriol was throwing money on the ground to release a couple of my novels. One of which, DTV, is about loose stand-ins for Van Damme and Seagal teaming up in middle age; Gorlock’s drummer/art guru “Alan” designed incredible VHS clamshell packaging for it, and they were among a bunch of Decibel-friendly bands to contribute to the soundtrack. Anyway, I figured I owed the boys for these affronts to literature/savings accounts, so I proposed this video a couple months ago.
You’ve worked with director Ken Whiting before. What about your previous experiences convinced you his style was the right fit for this music video?
Bonazelli: As an exceptional screenwriter yourself, you know it’s really hard to make movies (of any length). Not necessarily making them “good” or “successful”; just making them, no matter where you live or what resources you have on hand. Ken has been a professional, imaginative genre DP in Hollyweird for some time, but just as important: He’s a finisher. My only “skill” is writing, and that’s pushing it. The directors that any writer would want to work with are meticulous in pre-production, capable of elevating a script far beyond its bare bones, versatile enough to improvise on set and easy to bullshit with between takes without losing the plot. This dude checks all the boxes and more (i.e., studying the Seagal “oeuvre” for visual callbacks both broad and subtle). If something winds up sucking at the end of any given project, I know it’s my fault.
Graf Orlock’s lyrics borrow dialogue directly from action films. What about action films appeal to you as a writer and as an audience?
Bonazelli: I’m only really into a very specific American era of hard R action — let’s say early-’80s to the mid-’90s. I wish I had a more nuanced answer for this, but it’s probably that I’m a sadist who likes seeing large men creatively maim one another. This might be a false equivalence, but when people complained about Superman and General Zod annihilating the skyline of Metropolis in the final fight of Man of Steel because, you know, those scores of random cubicle drones we never met were killed—like, seriously, that’s what you’re pearl-clutching over? One of the many charms of Death Wish 3 is the immense, unforgiving collateral damage to innocent bystanders. That said, very few of today’s action films capture the unintentional (?) homoeroticism, needlessly cruel hand-to-hand and pompous jingoism of vintage Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Seagal. (Only Olympus Has Fallen has come close in the last 20 years—perhaps the most aggressively moronic, utterly delightful ultra-right-wing “cautionary tale” since Red Dawn.) I don’t want to talk to people who don’t obsess about these things. Thankfully, the feeling is mutual.
The music video feels like a deconstruction of Steven Seagal’s career more than a parody or retrospective. What about Seagal made him an enticing persona for this project?
Bonazelli: I don’t know that I’m smart enough to successfully deconstruct anything. I just thought it would be a cool conceit for a Graf video to spotlight a “day in the life” of, well, (pinkie finger raised) I guess an amalgam of his characters from the first six movies (but mostly Out for Justice). The guy has had, to put it mildly, a strange career; I couldn’t care less about the Putin dick-riding, Steven Seagal: Lawman or the energy drinks, a.k.a. his “meme era.” (The sexual assault allegations are the only post-On Deadly Ground career development worth noting, and they’re alluded to in the video.) He’s a ripe subject because, all that goofy late-career bullshit aside, he was an absolute wrecking machine that many of us couldn’t take our eyes off from the first one-man bar decimation in Above the Law. How many impressionable kids took aikido classes as a result, only to immediately leave upon learning they wouldn’t be taught to bend an ulna 90 degrees the wrong way? Luckily, the video’s lead, Nick Principe, studied up and totally inhabited this “Seagal-gamation.”
Graf Orlock released a concept album about the infuriating state of cinema back in 2018. What are some of your favorite films released among the throng of what the band called “endlessly recycled” movies of the past decade?
Bonazelli: I mean, they’re right, but it would be nice if we all focused much less on Bill Murray’s paycheck for the latest Ghostbusters abomination and more on all the independent voices out there fighting the good fight against reboots, reimaginings and capeshit. For the last, say, five years, I would call Honey Boy, Raw, Destroyer, The Square and Personal Shopper fucking incredible. Even though nobody gets impaled with a pool cue in any of them.