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2008.09.24 - Fatally Yours - Interview with Del James

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2008.09.24 - Fatally Yours - Interview with Del James

Post by Blackstar on Sat Dec 01, 2018 2:56 pm

Interview With Horror Writer Del James

By Dana R. Davidson

Go buy his book, The Language of Fear, a collection of beautifully grotesque, based in reality, short horror stories at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, Amazon.com, and BarnsandNoble.com

One of the most interesting and loyal people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and keep, I give you an interview with, Del James, writer, Guns N’ Roses road manager, music producer, father, and friend. An interview just in time for the festivities of Halloween, Del says, “I fucking live for Halloween, October is my favorite month. I should have been born in October. I live for haunted houses, and horror movies.” I invite you to take a journey with me into the mind of Del James, this ain’t no internet questionnaire. This is the real deal kids, a live, no holds barred taped interview between friends, later transcribed for your reading pleasure, you know, the old fashioned way. For how can I possibly give you a real interview with someone I respect, someone with a point of view, a voice, someone who has lived such an interesting and eventful life? With out doing so would not be giving him, or his story, the respect they deserve.

Dana: How’d you get into Horror?

Del James: When I was growing up ‘Chiller Theater‘ on channel 11 New York television, Creature Feature on channel 5. These were staples of growing up. Like if you had you know like kids today there’s no one who can’t name check the Simpsons. We watched those shows, and, you either liked them or you didn’t. I fell in love with them.
So, I discovered horror on television. On the black and white television, so the black and white movies look the way they are supposed to. Go to the five and dime store on the corner and they have Creepy and Eerie magazine and Famous Monsters and comic books so you are either gonna pick that or you are gonna pick Batman. I always picked the monsters. Anything with a werewolf I had to have. Anything with a giant Japanese monster I had to have. You know, now that I’m 44 I still haven’t out grown it. I live it.

Dana: What is your favorite horror movie?

Del: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve lived in movie theaters. I feel at home in the dark, eating buttered popcorn, drinking Diet Coke, and waiting for the scares. The Exorcist had a profound effect on me. It probably had a profound effect on every Catholic if you know what I mean? There’s this great book called American Exorcism by Michael Cuneo, which basically pinpoints the moment, our history changes and that moment is when The Exorcist hits the theaters. Suddenly demonic possession becomes reality and a part of our conscious awareness. Prior to that you couldn’t find an exorcist in Catholic churches or anything like that. Possession was a footnote. The moment that movie did what it did to America- Oh my god demonic possession, oh my god call a priest! It still exists today. If someone who suffers from something similar to schizophrenia or mania and if they are of a certain religious belief it’s quite possible that it’s Satan. So yeah, The Exorcist scared the fuck out of me and still does but I love it every time. I remember going to see The Omen in the theater and people lost their minds. And that’s another one I mean, until The Omen came out people didn’t speak of the Antichrist. It’s mentioned in Revelations but it’s not on everybody’s tip. After seeing Damien, suddenly moms are shaving their kids’ head looking for six’s and all kinds of stupid shit. Film affects the way we think. Ask a high school student what happened with the assassination of JFK and they will erroneously drop Oliver Stone’s movie as some point of reference so imagine what a great film like The Omen or The Exorcist can do to a fearful nation? And it did. I mean The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, based on a true story, right? But the true story is completely different than the movie you see. Wisconsin and Ed Gein and Texas and Leatherface are two completely different realities. I mean, certain similarities occur but it’s a real liberal interpretation. That flick frightened people to the point of you know, don’t go to Texas.
Of the films I’ve seen recently, Inside (review) just destroyed me. A lot of the recent French horror films rank among my current faves but Inside is my absolute favorite. Inside would have been a great film without the gore. The bloodshed and extreme violence just puts it over the fucking top. The Swedish vampire flick, Let The Right One In, was a beautiful, beautiful tale that if you get the chance you have to see it. The Burrowers was really cool. It’s a horror western with some really awesome monsters and amazing usage of a bear trap!

Dana: Will you share that rad haunted house story on the road?

Del: I’m the most irresponsible responsible person you will ever meet. I mean, I have never passed up on a fun time, okay? I will be responsible but once I do my shit, I’m ready to go have some fun. And if it happens that I can work in both, I totally will. You know I’m a horror nerd. I love all things dark and horrific and absurd and festive and gory. If there’s an exhibit or rare screening or a theme park or something I’m gonna try to get there. I mean I took my two kids to see Evil Dead: The Musical on a day off when GN’R were headlining Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Last year, GN’R were in Auckland, New Zealand and I found out about this haunted house called Spookers. Spookers? Of course I wanna go to some place called Spookers but unfortunately it was only running on the same night as the show. There were three bands on the bill: Rose Tattoo, Sebastian Bach, and Guns N’ Roses. As road manager, part of my job is to get every band members to and from the venue and make sure everything is all sussed out. Well, the last van going to the venue took a slight detour so that we could go to Spookers. I had one of the guitar players with me. I also had one of my best friends, Hernan, who’s part of the Guns N’ Roses crew, onboard. We had some family and friends and we all went through the mazes and got chased by monsters and did everything your supposed to do at a spook house and still got to the venue in time to do the gig. Now, someone else might have a moral conflict with hijacking a van to go to a spook house on a show night but I don’t.

(Spookers is located in a Nurses Hostel in Kingseat Hospital, Karaka, Auckland, live action, chainsaw filled maze complete with a something called The Freaky Forest of Fear, where things chase you outside in a real forest. All attractions are rated R16.**)

Dana: How have movies influenced you as a writer?

Del: Movies have a profound affect on not just me but probably any writer. It’s the interest of the subject. If you are a horror aficionado, you are probably going to read the books and the magazines and the comics and absorb the literature. You are probably going to take in all aspects of the genre so it’s inevitable that horror movies will work their way into one’s writing. It’s an influence and a profound one at that. Some of the monsters that have popped their ugly heads up in my fiction are obviously influenced by some of the monsters that I’ve seen on the silver screen. I love monsters. I fucking love monsters!

Dana: Where do you get your writing inspiration?

Del: I always say I only write what I know. I can’t write about nice happy do-well people. I don’t know them very well. But you want to talk about addicts? You wanna talk about people on the wrong side of the law? You wanna talk about the desperate? You wanna talk about the vulnerable? You wanna talk about the darker side of humanity? I can tell you a little bit about that, alright.
Any writer has certain influences and if they are based in some form of reality, you just exaggerate upon them. There are some truths that work their way into my writing, but if the story is better by exaggerating those truths or blatantly lying and taking it down your another path, hell yeah. I’m all about whatever makes the story as interesting as it can be.
So, in The Language Of Fear there is a story about called “Adult Nature Material” about a porn theater. I worked at the Pussy Cat Theater on Hollywood Blvd. back in 1986. One of the seediest, sleaziest places in the world. And that goes home with you, you know. There are two genuine truths in that story. Jeanna Fine, the porn star, once told me a story about some freak she knew who he got his rocks off by putting a condom on a pencil and inserting it like a catheter. That worked its way into my story and the porn theater, that’s the reality, you know. Hydrochloric acid and violence, that’s the exaggeration for story’s sake. So I know a little and can bullshit the rest.

Dana: What’s up with your writing?

Del: I never stop writing. I just had a short story accepted into an anthology called Shivers Volume 5 that will come out sometime next year. That was the first short story I’ve written in a while. My novel A Celebration Of Pain is currently being shopped. Recently I’ve tested the waters of screenwriting and certain people have been really receptive. I’m working on a script that a producer and director have been really receptive to and that’s showing some promise. And that’s all that you can do as a writer. All you can do is write, man. I mean I’ll always be writing anyway and hopefully some of these ideas, some of these dreams become a reality. If not, at least I got them out of me. For every rejection slip I’ve ever received and I’ve received my share, that’s all right. Shit just makes me stronger and more determined. Like, “Oh yeah, fuck you, watch me now motherfucker!”

Dana: What bands have you written songs for?

Del: I’ve written songs with The Almighty, Testament, with Dizzy Reed who has a solo record coming out, with Stan Lynch from Tom Petty’s band, with Rhett Forrester from Riot, West Arkeen, TNT, Dragonlord. Jessie Evans, Confederacy Of Horsepower. With a bunch of lesser-known bands. You know, with situation with Testament or The Almighty, I’ve written on a lot of their records. So. Probably co-written 15 or 20 Testament songs. A baker’s dozen with The Almighty or Ricky Warwick songs. Guns N’ Roses I’ve got a few songs.

Dana: When did you move to California?

Del: I moved out to California from New York in 1985. I was 21 years old and I had less than $1000 in my pocket. I had little clue as to what I was going to wind up doing but I knew that California presented opportunities because music was happening here. The Sunset Strip was happening here. If you look at New York, its pedigree was Twisted Sister. If you look at California round the same time, you’re talking Van Halen, you’re talking Motley Crue, you’re talking W.A.S.P. and Ratt and Great White and all these bands who had a opportunity to thrive here. I’m not saying they’re my favorites or anything but there was a scene and opportunity. So in ‘85 I move out here and literally on my first day, when I’m going to an apartment building that say ‘for rent’ on it, I bump into a fella named West Arkeen and living on his floor was a guy with no residence named, Axl Rose. Guns ‘N Roses had been together for several months. I don’t see them play till I think September 20th. That’s the first night they played “Rocket Queen.” So for a month I’m hanging out with these guys. They are my new friends. We speak the same language, do the same drugs, and smoke the same cigarettes. You know, mutual riff-raff influences. I like these guys the same way you like anyone else. These are your bros. These are the dudes you wanna hang out in alleys with and do shit that you do when you’re 21 years old. I remember thinking to myself, if you’re half as cool as your name, Guns ‘N Roses, cause I never heard a name like that you know, you mother fuckers are on to something. When I saw them and it was Aerosmith at Max’s Kansas City. It was the Sex Pistols. It was raw and exciting with so much potential and you know, I was really fortunate to become a part of that gang.

Dana: How did you end up becoming the road manager for Guns N’ Roses?

Del: I’ve been around for twenty some odd years and I’ve worn many different hats. I was in charge of the documentary crew for a while that was on the Use Your Illusions tour. I’ve co-written songs. I’ve been a roommate. I’ve been a dealer, songwriter, and video director…I’ve done a lot of different things. When I get my shit together and finally get off all the drugs and the drink, management made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. They basically said “when you are clean you are part of the solution, you are an asset. When you are wasted you are one of these animals and we’ve got enough animals and the animals are performing. So, you know, so as long a you keep your shit together you will always have a job with Guns N’ Roses.” So far still sober and that’s how I lucked into becoming a road manager.

Dana: You wanna talk about sobriety?

Del: I have been sober since May 13th 1992. May 12th I had a cocaine seizure so that was like my last night of drinking and drugs. I shorted out, my wiring went buzz-buzz and I wound up in a hospital somewhere in the valley. I was living in Sherman Oaks. These paramedics came and found me on the ground having a seizure. I was all locked up, couldn’t get off the floor to be driven to the hospital. Shit was moving through my spine, spasms, and wound up twisting my face to such an extent that I had lockjaw. They carried me out on a stretcher, took me to the hospital, ran some tests, and found out I’m chemically imbalanced and borderline diabetic. That wasn’t the first time I’ve been in the emergency room with a doctor warning me about how bad drugs are. I’ve woken up in Emergency Rooms before and gone and gotten fucked up that night. If I wanna do anything I’m gonna fucking do it. If I wanna do heroin you can’t stop me. If I wanna do cocaine I’m gonna do it. My favorite thing to do was speedballs, okay? Not particularly good for your heart but once you cross a certain line of addiction, once you cross a certain line of excessive abuse all rules are off. That was my drug of choice. That the paramedics had to lift me off the floor, put me on a stretcher and take me in an ambulance, then fix me wasn’t what basically made me hit my low point and you have to hit your low point. Waking up in the hospital is not the low point; losing certain relationships ain’t the low point. At least they weren’t for me. Blowing a lot of amazing opportunities wasn’t the low point. The low point was, as I was being taken out in a stretcher the mother of my child was holding my daughter. I was being lead off like a piece of shit, like the piece of shit that I was. That I am. That was the lowest.
So I’ve been clean since May 1992. During that time I’ve raised my children as best I could. I’ve ascended in GN’R world from fucked up band friend to their road manager. I’ve been given certain opportunities and hopefully made the most of them outside of guns. My book got printed, went out of print, got reprinted. There’s interest in my screenwriting. So yeah, I think that sobriety works for me.

Dana: Were you sober when you wrote the book?

Del: I wrote a lot of The Language Of Fear while I was really high. I wrote “Without You” wasted. Ironically enough, some of the stories that I’m happier with, like “The Immortals”, were written closer to the books publication so they were written sober. I look at a lot of things I did while I was high and stuff that was done after and I prefer the sober work cause I have all my facilities. There’s no excuse. If I write something that sucks while I’m sober it just sucks. If I wrote something I thought was genius while I was out of my head, you couldn’t tell me that it sucked. I wouldn’t see it. My book originally came out in ‘95. I get sober in ‘92, so stories like “Bloodlust” was written while I was wasted. “Mindwarp”, I was younger, you know. “Adult Nature Material” was written sober. “A Tale Of Two Heroines”, that was my tale of heroin and hope, and that was written after I got clean. Doesn’t matter what it was, music or fiction or whatever, my better work has come out of me while I was sober.

Dana: What are you doing on Dizzy Reed, keyboardist from Guns N’ Roses’, record?

Del: Dizzy is in the process of recording his solo album. Dizzy is a great songwriter but not very many people know this. I’ve known Dizzy has a record in him for a real long time. I co-wrote some of those songs but they were already great ideas before I ever got involved. He’s fucking good. And the list of people who have jumped on board to help Dizzy, to play on his solo record, cause it’s not a case of five guys in a band who have rehearsed these songs inside out. So some of the GN’R guys, like Frank Ferrer on drums, Richard Fortus on guitar, Tommy Stinson on bass, they’ve all come down. Frankie Banelli from Quiet Riot played some drums. Adrian from No Doubt played drums on a song. Mike Dupke from W.A.S.P., Mike Duda from W.A.S.P. played some bass, Greg Coates from The Bangkok 5 played bass, Chuck Wright, guitarists include Todd Youth from Danzig, Murphy’s Law and D-Generation. Alex Grossi. Whitey Kryst from Iggy Pop. Ricky Warwick from The Almighty…Bobby fucking Hamble. Oh man, Bobby from Biohazard comes down to the studio say hello to me, right? I ain’t seen this guy in like 8 years. We hug and going on tour the next day. I’m like, “hey Bobby, so what are you doing right now?” and I’m holding the guitar. He knows that I can’t play the fucking guitar so Bobby wound up playing a killer solo on a song called “Cheers To Oblivion.” And that’s how it’s been. There’s been a bunch of talented friends getting involved because every one is supportive and believes in Dizzy Reed the musician, the songwriter with a phenomenal voice. His voice is the secret weapon to the whole project. Dizzy & I are producing it.

Dana: You are obviously a loyal person, you’ve got friends that have lasted what, like 20 years!! What are your opinions on loyalty, forgiveness, how has it served you, and have you always been loyal or was it something you learned as a young adult?

Del: Loyalty is everything, man. There are people that I ain’t seen in years but if I need a favor, I know I don’t have to ask twice. People who accept me unconditionally. No questions asked. And if you want that sort of peace of mind, you have to be willing to give back the same. At an early age my parents, and mind you these are some serious law-abiding Catholics, instilled in me that if one of the kids on the block was getting in trouble, you all had to stick up for one another. And if you got caught doing something stupid, you never snitched. Treat people that way you want to be treated. And hopefully I instilled some of these same values in my children.
Forgiveness? Now that all depends. Anybody can make a mistake. Fuck, you have no idea how many mistakes I make and I’ll probably make another one tomorrow. A mistake is just that- an honest mistake. Treason or betrayal is a different story. You wanna fuck me over and then act like we’re all buddy-buddy? Not gonna happen pal. Doesn’t matter if it’s one dollar or ten grand, you take from me and I don’t know you. You wanna try and play me? Better hope I don’t catch on.
Before he passed away, my best friend, Timmy Meeske, essentially lived at my apartment in New York. One morning I wake up and he’s all eager to talk like he’s got something heavy on his mind. I’m pretty hung-over and wishing he’d go the fuck back to sleep. Our exchange went a little something like this:
“Yo bro, last night I borrowed your helmet.”
“Cool Timmy. Just put it back.”
“I did… And uh, I siphoned some gas out of your bike too.”
“As long as you left me enough to get to the gas station then no problem.”
“Yeah yeah and one more thing… I also borrowed your girlfriend!”
Now you might think I’d get upset over something like but the exact opposite is true. I loved Timmy EVEN MORE. He looked me in the eye and said “this is what I did.” How can you not respect that?

Dana: How are you not jaded? How do you keep in such good spirits?

Del: Jaded and cynical? That’s for other people. I got too many dreams to chase. Too many kicks to get in. I will always be a fan of the things that interest me. New exciting music. New movies. New books or comics. That shit keeps me motivated. My friends keep me young. My friends keep me laughing and even when I’m deep in some serious shit I’m usually laughing. I laugh when I get arrested. I laugh when the car swerves out of control or the plane drops unexpectedly. But I digress, jaded is for other people. I’m just me and got shit to look forward to.

Dana: Any GN’R stories you can dish?

Del: During the Use Your Illusions tour, GN’R were down in Australia for like three weeks to do three massive shows. Talk about an amazing time with a lot of days of. The band stayed in Cairns and the band members had these awesome bungalows. It was on this luxurious golf course that people fly in from all over the world to golf there. Swimming pools, tennis, spas, restaurants, clubs…Most of the musicians brought their wives out for this fun time but Dizzy Reed’s wife could not make it so I got to be his roomie! And naturally, our pad became the party pad. Constant complaints from our neighbors about the noise. Our refrigerator was like a bar. It was non-stop and we only had one rule: if someone dared you to do something and they chose not to, they had to leave the bungalow. That’s how we weeded out the weak from the worthy. Our dares were never cruel or mean spirited. Just goofy and, well, usually involving nudity.
Apparently, golfers take golfing really seriously. Like stupid serious so one of our favorite challenges became to dare some nubile bunny to take off all of her clothes and run out our back porch to go steal a recently hit golf ball! Now, if some naked hot chick stole my golf ball, I would laugh my ass off but golfers have like no sense of humor. They would get all bent out of shape and chase these streaking girls! Man, they’d get pissed off and we would watch, laughing like little kids. Funny shit, right…Then there was a knock at our door. Me and Diz slowly open it and standing there is the band’s biggest bodyguard. Big ‘ol, ex-professional football player and he’s not looking too happy. He growls at us, “I think you got my golf ball….”

Dana: What’s it like being on the road, do you like it? How do you keep from being bored or going crazy?

Del: People think that touring is just one big party. They have no idea about the emotional toll it takes. The endless pressure. The hours that blur into months. Temptations and guilt that accompanies. I’ve see strong men crack on the road. I’ve seen upsetting shit the likes of which you couldn’t imagine. Forget all the sex and drugs bullshit. I’ve seen everyone from the guy running the teleprompter to the dudes making music on the verge of a complete emotional breakdown where you just want to do anything you can to help ease your brother’s pain.
I don’t care who you are, everyone eventually goes crazy in their own way. It’s just the way it is. That’s why sex and drugs are such a prominent part of rock & roll history. Talk about a cure-all for most of your woes, right? For me personally, when my kids were babies I would struggle immensely with being away from them. It hurt. And I’d have my once-a-tour freak out, usually about two weeks in, where I’d lock myself up inside a hotel room. Since I couldn’t afford to trash the room I’d just beat the fuck out of myself and my bed to the point of exhaustion, crying like a loon. That’s the day where I’m like the most unstable I become and if some stranger fucks with me they’re getting hit. And my friends all know me…I’m usually among the most levelheaded people out there but that’s my day so they keep an eye on me, keep me sober and out of jail, and just get me through the night. The next day, I tend to be back to okay and good for the remainder of the tour.

Dana: Axl seems to get a bad wrap. Any misconceptions you’d like to set straight about Axl?

Del: Almost everybody knows that Axl Rose and I have been gang tight for over twenty years. Earlier you asked me about loyalty. I’ve never met a more loyal person than Axl. He’s loyal to a fucking fault. That guy always shares the credit, always gives opportunities, and hell, is willing to take less of a cut in terms of money just to make sure that his band and crew are well taken care of. It’s unheard of. Every tour we’ve even done, members from other bands’ crews are begging to jump on our crew. Treat people that way you want to be treated, right?
From a personal perspective, it fucking bothers me to no end when people with their own personal agendas or who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about write books or give interviews about Axl. And let’s not forget that a lot of these journalists writing about him don’t necessarily like Axl. You could make a case that personally they hate him so you really think they’re going to go out of their way to present a fair story? I mean really, how can you objectively write about someone you have no contact with? How accurate can a biography be when all of your information comes from secondhand sources or is hearsay? One of these days, Axl is going to set straight a lot of the misconceptions about himself and the history of Guns N’ Roses and people ain’t gonna know what hit ‘em.

There you have it my darling readers, Del James, one of the most loyal, interesting, and passionate horror lovers, writers, and people you could hope to ever have on your side. We as humans can learn a bit form his stories. Sadly, many people these days view others as disposable, a sad state to be in the world. It’s truly refreshing to know that there are still good loyal people left in the world. I wish we had more time, for Del is a wealth of wonderful stories, and I truly look forward to his future writing contributions. Go buy his book, The Language of Fear at Dark Delicacies, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble, and stay tuned for his short story in the anthology, Shivers Volume 5 out next year, his future novel, A Celebration of Pain, and Dizzy Reid’s new solo album which Del is co-producing and helped write some songs on. Until next time, take care and thanks for spending some time with us.

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