If Bloody-Disgusting’s home page is any indication, Rock n’ Roll and the horror genre will always be linked together in some form or another. That special bond is evident in artists such as Alice Cooper, Kiss, Gwar and Rob Zombie, just to name a few. In Zombie’s case, he eventually crossed over into filmmaking. Legendary Guns n’ Roses Guitarist Slash is the latest to make that crossover with his production company ideally named Slasher Films. The first project out of the gate (which he not only produced but as well as quite chillingly composed) is the atmospheric Nothing Left to Fear (out October 4), a slowburn supernatural horror film in the tradition of John Carpenter’s The Fog. It deals with a family that’s just moved into the small town of Stull, Kansas…a town that may be home to one of The Seven Gates of Hell.
At this year’s edition of the Toronto Fan Expo, I had the pleasure of chatting with Slash about all things horror.
B-D: When did your attraction to horror begin?
SLASH: “Ever since I can remember. I was born in England. I lived in this great little village in the midlands called Stoke-on-Trent, perfect backdrop for horror. It’s an old village, it’s always foggy. I was always gravitated towards anything which is ghosts, Dracula, monsters primarily and of course, dinosaurs, reptiles and all that. My dad was a big horror fan especially in the literary sense. He turned me onto H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe and then there were the Hammer movies and other assorted British releases. When I moved to the States, my mom, a big horror geek too turned me onto all the horror movies of the 30’s and 50’s from when she was a kid. Then my parents took me as part of the Dr. Spock philosophy of “treating your kids like equals” to all the horror movies that were coming out at the time from Rosemary’s Baby to The Exorcist to The Omen to Night of the Living Dead. I was very well versed in the horror thing and I used to collect Famous Monsters Magazine…”
B-D: How did Slasher Films come about?
SLASH: “For starters, as big of a fan as I am, I love the behind the scenes of music and movies. I love to see how that shit is put together and was always fascinated by it. I never aspired to be a movie producer. A few years ago I had this conversation with a Producer at a party about horror and I just went to town because I don’t know how many people I can talk about that with. He’s a big horror geek and he put out Session 9, Transsiberian and some other cool shit. So we had this couple of hours-long conversation about everything I liked about horror, certain movies and what I thought was good, what I thought was bad, great characters, great Directors. A couple of days later he called me up and he goes: “You know you’d be a really great candidate to be a Producer. Would you be interested in looking at scripts?” And so I said: “Okay.” (He laughs) I think I was really excited about the idea of more than being a fan but being involved in the actual production. Something I felt like maybe I had the aptitude for it. He sent me all these scripts. There was about a handful that I thought were good. Nothing Left to Fear was one of them. We ended up with thinking this would be the one from a financial point of view since it’d be the easiest first film, springboard and off we went.”
B-D: What about Nothing Left to Fear made you decide this was the ideal tentpole project for your production company?
SLASH: “I like the innocence of the Bramfords and the doomsday thing they naively walk into. I liked the fact that it had a monster. That’s one of the key things for me. I’m really into having characters we can invest in, someone we feel empathic towards or maybe you don’t like and you want to see die. Whatever the thing is but where you really have a feeling for the characters and obviously a really good story. It wasn’t complex; it was very straightforward and simple. Some of the other scripts that I thought were good were more on the gory side. There are some really great torture porn movies that are really unnerving but that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to make movies that I think are fewer and farther between in the last 30 years which is really psychologically sight-unseen kind of scary movies.”
B-D: When thinking about your scoring duties on this film, what were some of your influences?
SLASH: “In scoring the movie, I never really referenced anything. Even the temp music Director Anthony (Leonardi III) put in we threw out pretty much immediately. I have to say all throughout my movie-watching, they (audio-video) have to work together. The right story with the right score is like the ultimate entertainment because it’s orgasmic. (As for influences) A Clockwork Orange, 2001 and obviously Jaws. I love John Carpenter’s stuff because here’s a guy who definitely has a vision, a defined idea of what it should sound like and can play it. Same with Clint Eastwood. He’s not necessarily a seasoned musician but they tinker with these little notes to make a melody and it’s really ominous. Of course, I always thought The Exorcist was a great melody and Alien. Fantasia is another one which uses different kinds of classical music to enhance an image. I love Danny Elfman too. Beetlejuice is awesome.”
B-D: Your score is one of the more effective I’ve heard in a genre picture in some time. Tell us about the creation of the score.
SLASH: “Well I’m very flattered. I’m very proud of the score because I really think it supports Anthony’s vision. He has a very particular idea of what this movie was going to be. Nicholas O’Toole is my partner and he’s really the guy responsible for the tone because I would write for it but he would have to transpose my guitar parts with orchestral instruments and embellish that. He really did all the heavy lifting. I started writing when I first got the script. I would send the music out to Anthony and he would pick which things fit whatever his audio vision was. When he started filming at that point, he introduced me to Nicolas O’Toole, somebody he knew. I think the original short he gave me when Anthony and I first met was scored by this guy Nicholas. Nicholas and I got together and started working up the pieces of music that I’d written. Anthony would come in and he not being a musician at all had a very specific idea of every nuance and feel in a scene. It was a fascinating process. Whenever he would speak about something, it was so much from the heart. So we would tweak stuff to fit that. Once a week, he would come in and we would doctor up stuff. And then there came a point where I was doing this while I was on the road. Nicholas taught me how to take the reels and put it onto Pro Tools, synch them up so I can write into sequence. It was great.”
B-D: Why do you think rock and horror go so well together?
SLASH: “Rock n’ Roll in its purest form is a statement of personal expression and almost anarchy-based where you do what you want, fuck what anybody else says. It’s something that obviously kids can relate to because they want to get away from being oppressed by parents, schools, this and that. Rock n’ Roll has this great sort of attitude. I think horror is along the same lines because it’s never really been mainstream until they started building up all these franchises and now making a lot of money off of it. It has a certain kind of Rock n’ Roll element to it and being a personal statement that’s outside the box and scaring people which is not in everybody’s walk of life. I think the thing that connects them the most is the dark side. Not necessarily having to be evil. There’s a darkness in Rock n’ Roll. That’s part of the attraction for me anyway. They just sort of come together. There’s a certain kind of energy in horror that I think is prevalent in Rock n’ Roll. They both have sort of a brutality and aggressiveness. Also, I think there’s a lot of poser in both as well where you’re just trying to sort of fake the image of being scary or being heavy.”
Anchor Bay will release Nothing Left to Fear in the States on October 4.