Creativity does not come easily to many artists. It is a gruesome and tiring process that can torture someone’s soul. For Spider One, this concept inspired him to write and direct the horror film, Allegory. The film chronicles a group of artists struggling for inspiration and creativity. When their passions become obsessions, artists begin to experience their worst nightmares as things turn to the dark side.
Allegory marks the feature film debut of Spider One, who is best known as the founder and vocalist of Powerman 5000. In a conversation with Digital Trends, Spider One talks about authenticity in art, his relationship with his brother, Rob Zombie , and why he takes up the challenge of directing Allegory.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital trends: I saw your tweet about Letterboxd. Are you on it?
Spider 1: Sure. I think I need to write an article for a Letterboxd about the influences on Allegory. So I better get to it today.
It’s such a good app. I go there for all my movies.
Yeah. The reason I started using it is [that] inevitably people say, “Hey, have you seen any good movies lately?” And I know I’ve watched 30 movies and I can’t think of any of them, so I raise my Letter box journal, like “Here. That’s what I observed.
Did you find any similarities or differences between your music fans and your movie fans?
It remains to be seen what the film’s fan base, if any, will be. [laughing]. But, you know, I think there will be a crossover. Listen, my music is expressed in a very different way than the film. But it really comes down to being that kid who grew up in the 70s and 80s, obsessed with sci-fi, horror, and comic books; it’s just ingrained in my DNA. What I’ve always hoped for with music and also now with movies is that there’s an authenticity that comes out, and I hope people can feel that. I think people do that.
I think people have really good bullshit detectors and can tell when a person creating content really means it and is in a sense, “one of them.” I think that’s what’s so fun about living in this genre world. It’s more than making a movie or writing a song. It’s community, and it’s not a passive experience. It’s something that people really get into, which I think is really exciting.
Allegory is a collection of stories about a group of artists and their obsessions. The connecting line says, “They manifest monsters, demons, and death.” Where did this idea originally come from?
It comes from living a creative life and trying to exist as a creative person, which is a hard thing to do. What comes with it are tons of self-doubt, tons of wrestling with your own ego and insecurities, and how art shares so many properties with horror. Even the descriptive terms we use for artists are very close to the vernacular of horror. We describe artists as being tortured, suffering and selling their souls. These are all horror concepts. So both worlds really made sense to me.
I think whether you’re an artist or not, I think everyone can relate to the struggles of being human and the struggles of doubting themselves or whatever. I think it’s a very relevant idea. But put into the kind of absurdity of art, which in itself is an absurd concept, I think it’s really ripe for this idea to take the next step and not just have an overt personal conflict but monstrous possessive threats. Yeah, that was a really exciting idea to follow.
You made the decision to film a collection of stories for Allegory. Did the movie start out as a singular story, and then you branched out into other outlets? How did you decide to say it that way?
Yeah, I mean, that’s honestly exactly what happened. I shot the first scene, which was the acting story. Guess for my own mind, just a proof of concept, to see if this “art in monsters” thing had legs. So we shot that, and then I couldn’t help but think there was more to it. The [are] so many avenues to explore, and that’s where I started to develop this idea of incorporating all these different art forms. But I knew in doing this I didn’t want to build a traditional anthology where the stories didn’t necessarily connect or have anything to do with each other.
I wanted to invert this idea where these characters, even if they don’t share a scene, will share some connection. And that idea, maybe that curse, for lack of a better word, can be conveyed through six notes on a piano or buying someone a painting or going to see a movie. So it became a really fun puzzle to put together; for these things to connect, hopefully a fun watch for a viewer to experience these things as they go. I was trying to build this kind of non-traditional way of editing the film.
Did you end up shooting more shorts for the movie, or was that the final project?
It is complete. There’s not like a breakdancer story somewhere or something [laughing].
It would be interesting.
That would be pretty cool. God, you know what? I think I missed.
You can always make a sequel.
One of the moments that stands out in the film comes from your partner, Krsy [Fox]. At the end of the film, she delivers a moving and chilling monologue. It’s so haunting to watch. What was the idea behind this speech?
Yeah, I appreciate that. This scene was really pivotal because if it didn’t work, I would feel like the movie didn’t work. You know, I feel like we’re leading at this moment, and it really changes the tone of the movie. So that was a very important part of the film, and so I try to approach it as such.
Usually when you’re getting ready to shoot, you get your cast together and do a read, do a few rehearsals, and discuss some things. For this scene, Josephine [Chang], who plays Brody’s roommate Hope, came over, and we went through all the other scenes. We got to this [scene] and I thought, “I don’t want to repeat that. I don’t want this to feel scripted in any way, [or] say again. I want it to feel as real as possible.
We discussed pacing. We discussed an aesthetic, a feeling, that we wanted the public to feel this discomfort. I guess some humorous relief in some of Hope’s reactions, but really the intention was to try and create that squirm factor [of] “How long is this going to last?” So we got there and we shot it. I said I’m going to shoot this thing as few times as possible, and I’m going to shoot it right in the lens, and I’m going to shoot it over its shoulder, and that’s it. We shot two takes and that was it. We nailed it.
You’ve definitely nailed the wiggle factor. You’re like, “Is this gonna stop?”
You really want the audience to feel that Hope wants out of there, but [Hope] feels a roommate’s obligation to stick around to listen to this madness.
Your brother, Rob Zombie, is also involved in music and has written and directed many horror films. I was curious to know if he had any advice for you on the making of this film.
I mean, not directly. We always talk about things and what we are working on. But I’ve been asked this question before, and my answer is [that] his advice to me was to observe how he behaved in his career. In other words, there is [are] very few people as uncompromising as Rob. It’s his way and that’s it, man. He’s very determined, and I take that as an inspiration because it’s so hard – forget success – to make a movie or to make an album or a TV show.
Either way, or whatever goals you’re aiming for, I think it’s very easy to bend and do what you’re told, and maybe compromise here or there. It’s nice to have an example of someone in your life who doesn’t do that. [He] really go out with a vision and see it through to the end, for better or for worse, that’s what it is. I don’t know if he realized he showed me this, but it really is the best advice I’ve ever received.
I’m sure it’s been great touring with him too.
What a great tour. Every show has been massive, and it was fun to hang out. I described it as a family vacation without our parents telling us what to do.
When you write a work of art, whether it’s a song or a movie, does the creative process remain the same for you, or are they two totally different processes?
I think they’re just similar in many ways. Sometimes the idea finds you, what I find more than not is the process for me. I’m not used to sitting down and saying, “Okay. I’ll come up with an idea. It’s as if the universe opened up, handed you the ball, [and] now you have to run with it. You get a spark of inspiration.
Although communicating through film is a very different process from communicating through music, in the end it really comes down to communication. You’re trying to communicate an idea, an emotion, a concept of philosophy, so the intent is the same. The process is very different.
Do you have more fun going on tour or making a film?
Because I’ve done so many tours, directing is, I don’t mean more fun, but it presents a whole new set of challenges, which is fun. Music, I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s been [are] more nerves involved. I’ve played these songs for so many years that it’s still great fun to get out in front of a live audience and people’s reaction. But I’m really looking forward to this new chapter of nervousness and uncertainty. Are they going to like it? Will they hate it?
We had a few screenings. I can get on stage and play for 100,000 people without having a single butterfly. But watching a movie in front of a hundred people, [my] the palms were sweating [laughing]. I love that there’s this new thing in my life that I have to prove myself in. I have to take my bumps and my critics, and I salute [them]. It’s exiting.
Allegory is on demand and streaming on Shudder.