Kevin Rhea was the lead singer of the infamous hardcore band NASA Space Universe, a band whose lyrics often read more like a Philip K. Dick novel and who made a huge impact on the current state of American hardcore. Through sonic pulses and his ferocious screams, NSU takes us to another time, another place. It was something I hadn’t heard before and I immediately knew that it was special. The mark that NSU has left will forever exist in time and space. Sadly, the band is now over, but Kevin is moving on to another part of his life. He is a writer, a collector and a true connoisseur of all things ghoulish. K. Rhea, a collector of VHS tapes, regularly holds VCR movie nights at his house in Orange County. It was here he told me about meeting director Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik) and that he had conducted an interview with him.
The following is a transcription from an interview CVLT Nation was granted by Kevin, and took place on Halloween at a screening of Buttgereit’s films in Los Angeles
Jörg Buttgereit is best known for his work Nekromantik, released in 1987. It explores sex and death, without turning away or flinching, even during the subject’s most painful illuminations. Filmed in 8mm, it is famous for graphically depicting necrophilia and murder, in a realistic, even artful way, considering the filmmakers limitations. Gore hounds maintain the movie’s popularity by perpetuating the excitement of its gory mythos, helped by the films gritty docudrama quality and its morally ambiguous, somewhat sympathetic, approach in depicting those who kill and embrace death. It is not just exploitation, however and I think any film snob worth their salt can see that. All of Jörg Buttgereit’s pictures beg important questions about humanity. They create a palpable suspense and fear, that movies made on multi-million dollar budgets never capture. Frankly, I think he’s tired of being labeled as a shock director. He’s an artist, with a brutal and challenging message about man’s ultimate fate. Nekromantik is the greatest horror film since Night of the Living Dead and remains unsurpassed.
K: Has there been any occult or unexplained influence on your work? How do feel about the idea of producing art in a state of limited self-control? Spontaneous work that is hard to relate to your ego?
J: The nature of the work is spontaneous. As I said before, I was never fully aware of what I or the crew was doing. I could only say what we could or should try to do, but never had a clear reason. I had a niche to do something, but no answers of my own. I was looking for answers. I never felt I was in control of anything. The production and circumstances were completely uncertain.
Have dreams influenced your work?
My movies are dreams. There are a lot of dreams and hallucinations in my films, but I can rarely remember my own dreams and if I can they’re boring. I deal with my subconscious in an artistic way, so it’s all cleared out of my system before it can enter my dream world.
What is your view of the afterlife, if any?
I don’t have any hope for an afterlife and I think that even if you were to become a part of nature, you would have no awareness of it. I think consciousness is lost at death and that’s what keeps us together, what we are.
Is that a comforting thought?
When I was a kid I was totally afraid of it. Now I can kind of relate to it. I saw a positive depiction of death in an issue of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore. He’s lying down, rooted, sort of melting into the ground, which was a picture I found to be very peaceful and then he awakens and has to get up and it’s very exhausting because he’s already where he belongs. You just melt into the ground and it’s ok.
So it’s a more comforting thought than an uncertain afterlife.
If you are religious you have something to look forward to.
Or be afraid of… Would lustmord be an appropriate term to associate with the characters in Nekromantik, because of their love of the idea of death?
No, lustmord is the German equivalent of bloodlust; in English, a sexual affection for killing.
Do you think that someone with a love of death like the characters in Nekromantik is better equipped for the world or can better adjust to society?
If you are looking forward to death you are not a part of life. Perhaps you can deal with death better, but not with life as well anymore.
You said the films of John Waters changed your perspective on cinema. What media has changed your perspective on life?
Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by Japanese monster movies. I believed in what I saw. I saw so many of these movies that the surroundings in them felt familiar to me. Of course, my surroundings in Germany were completely different. Something strange happened when I went to Japan for the first time; everything, even the forests, looked like they were out of the set of a Japanese monster movie. It felt strange, but everything felt like it was in a movie I’d seen and shaped my feeling of Japan into one of being at home, even though I’d never been there before. Not being able to read or speak the language also made me feel like a child, even though this was just ten years ago.
I find Nekromantik to be an uplifting film.
Well, it has a happy ending
Were you conscious, while making the film, that it might make someone more at ease with death?
Was there an intention to repulse the audience?
I just wanted to do it right. I only knew what I was trying NOT to do. I just wanted to avoid clichés. The result of that is what you see.