Your band’s concept is based on the villain from the last two seasons of The Walking Dead. What inspired you to devise this concept? Are the band long time horror fans?
Jimi Halfdead (Vocals, rhythm guitar): I've been in a few horror bands before this one and always wrote songs on different villains/monsters point of view. So this time around I decided to pick one bad guy.... Negan from the Walking Dead which reminded me a lot of the Joker but set in the zombie apocalypse. I've been a fan of horror since I was a kid. It all started between the late 80s early 90s. When Jason could come out of a lake, Freddy invaded your dreams and Michael Myers could be hiding behind a tree ready to sneak up on you! I love horror because it scares me... that's the fun of it.
Joe Z (Drums): We're all horror fans, and have been in other bands in the past that focused on more horror topics and villains as well. For me I think of our first collaboration together even before this band was a thing, where just as a fun random project we sat down and watched this old horror movie at Rev's place and then wrote a song about it. So even before this specific band was thought of, the mutual interest was there for scary things and turning that into music.
What horror movies did the band members grow up on? Were these mostly mainstream horror movies or were there any underground/cult movies you watched?
The Rev (Bass): For all of us growing up it was all the classic slashers. I am a big Jason/Friday the 13th fan, Jimi is a big Michael Myers/Halloween guy. It was in college that I started to get into horror from other countries and discover some of the more obscure horror movies. It started with seeing Dario Argento's Suspiria and then watching most of his filmography. I then started watching other Giallo Italian directors like Bava and Fulci. From there I started trying to hunt down the goriest or most disturbing movies, which lead me to Takashi Mike and the August Underground stuff. I've toned it down a bit these days, but if there's something that's really disturbing people I'll usually go check it out.
Who were the directors with the most inventive and groundbreaking approach to filmmaking in your view?
The Rev: As for groundbreaking filmmakers, it's tough because those that are really good seem to leave the genre. Besides the directors I already mentioned, you have the classics like Romero, Carpenter, Craven and Gordon. And even Spielberg used to be a horror director with Duel & Jaws! I used to push Guillermo Del Toro on everyone, but thanks to The Shape of Water everyone knows him now! Same sort of thing happened with Peter Jackson! Edgar Wright is one of my current favorites. I loved Shaun of the Dead & Spaced and he's just been killing it with everything since then. I've actually been on a car chase movie kick since he came out with Baby Driver. I'll go see anything Gaspar Noe does. I like movies that make you talk about them after you see them and after watching Irreversible I couldn't stop talking about how crazy it was. Really the French and the New French Extremity movement has been really making the best modern disturbing movies. On the more indie and shorter side of things I am hoping to see more from Nacho Cerda and Douglas Buck. Their shorts Aftermath and Cutting Moments are two of the best horror shorts I've seen in a long time. I showed Cutting Moments at a party about ten years ago, and some of the people who helped with our music video are STILL traumatized by it!
When did Nacho Cerda and Douglas Buck release Aftermath and Cutting Moments? What about them would you say stands out in horror cinema?
The Rev: They are both old, but to me classic horror is timeless. Aftermath came out in 1994 and Cutting Moments is from 1997. Both movies stand out to me because they make you think. With Aftermath, it shows the realization that after you die you have no control of what happens to your body and guys in morgues can be real perverts. It's not scary like there's a monster after you, but it's more of an internal realization horror. Despite the disgusting acts shown in the short it is beautifully shot, which makes watching it an odd experience of disgust and wonder. Nacho Cerda eventually went on to make The Abandoned in 2006, but haven't heard much from him since. Cutting Moments is gory, but what really cuts home is the silence of the movie. The horror is more than just self-mutilation but it's watching a woman desperately try to keep her family together. As I mentioned before it is one of those movies that sticks with you, and you just keep thinking about days after you watch it. Usually I have a nice feeling of existential depression for a week or so after a viewing.
Where can those two shorts be purchased online by interested parties?
The Rev: The DVD of Aftermath can be purchased directly from Unearthed Films’ website. As for Cutting Moments it's on Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America, you might find the DVD through Amazon but it's been discontinued. I think they've both been uploaded to YouTube, so you can always watch it there.
What is the New French Extremity movement? Are there any examples you want to tell the readers about?
The Rev: New French Extremity, to me, is sort of a broad term for the horror movies coming out of France. The French are just doing the most interesting things in horror it seems. After The Ring came out everyone was interested in J-Horror, the same thing has been happening with France after High Tension came out. The movies tend to be more graphic and extreme with sometimes an aspect of Body Horror to them. Watching them tends to be an experience, good or bad but you will be thinking and talking about it after you watch it. Some good examples are High Tension as I mentioned, Inside, Martyrs, Irreversible, and Them/ils.
How do you define J-Horror and Body Horror? In what ways does French horror cinema compare to cinema from Italy in the 80s and Japan in the 90s?
The Rev: J-Horror is Japanese Horror, so any horror movie from Japan would count. In general they are usually more suspenseful or psychological while dealing with ghosts. Body Horror would be movies that really focus on something weird happening to the human body, like a mutilation or changing into a creature. Cronenberg really was the film maker that focused on it and helped make it into its own subgenre.
I think the connection between French, Italian, and Japanese Horror is that their directors were brave enough to push the envelope. Each era had certain sensibilities and the directors of the different countries decided to push past them. They keep finding new ways to make the movies more violent and disturbing.
How long have you been fans of the zombie genre? Which films of that genre are your personal favorites? What about The Walking Dead resonates with you?
Joe Z: Zombies have always been an interesting kind of adversary that I think we've all been fans of pretty much forever. For me its movies like Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later that really stand out still. People argue the semantics of different kinds of zombies, but ultimately it's that grander scale also found in TWD, of it's not just a few teens against a lone killer for a night, its people of all types and ages trying to survive a world that's now filled with mindless killers, and the threat of becoming one. That idea is definitely a part of us, the struggle against the mindless masses, taking a show built on drama and seriousness and making it fun and turning it on its head with ideas such as that Negan and the Saviors are actually the heroes of the story and Rick and his group the villains. Mostly we're just having fun, but also going very deliberately against the norm.
How do you account for the zombie genre reaching the heights of popularity it has in recent years?
Jimi: I feel like the climb of popularity in the zombie genre started in 2002 with the movies Resident Evil and 28 Days Later, although it truly wasn't until the Dawn Of The Dead remake in 2004 that people just couldn't seem to get enough of those brain and flesh eating undead freaks. I mean that movie just gave it such a modern day, realistic feel that it might as well have been happening right outside your door. I grew up Catholic so when I heard that famous line "When there's no more room in hell the dead shall walk the Earth" straight out of the bible's book of revelations itself, I thought maybe this could really happen. It terrified me as a kid. I also think in general, people love the whole fright or flight excitement you get out of watching these movies and shows. Imagine adding zombies to your everyday normal boring routine and you've got yourself a fun yet horrific adventure.
Several zombie movies released from the 2000s to the present show zombies running and climbing walls. Is this effective or do you share the late George Romero’s opinion that zombies can’t engage in such activity?
Mark Zero (Lead guitar): I think the important thing to think about there is what the human body is capable of in life, and whether it could reasonably be capable of that in a state of undeath. Rigor Mortis, as far as I know, is actually a temporary state of a corpse, it isn't permanent. So it really depends on what sort of state the corpse would be in during undeath.
I don't think it's completely crazy to have zombies that can run or move quickly, but it depends a lot on how the zombie movie establishes how its zombies function. If we're talking long dead people who rise out of their graves, running zombies would be tougher to justify. But in the case of movies like 28 Days Later, where the "zombies" are more like living people infected with a rabies-esque disease, why not have them able to run?
There's also something to consider about what sort of tone the movie wants to set. Shambling, slow moving zombies are better for creating that sense of inevitable dread. A slow moving zombie horde invokes a feeling of walls slowly closing in. Whereas if you're going for action, shock, and rapid panic, fast moving zombies are the way to go for sure. You don't want the protagonists to have time to think, you want that instinctual fight or flight panic to kick into high gear.
Jimi, you compared Negan to the Joker. Is there any specific Joker from any era of Batman that Negan has the most in common with? Describe the similarities you see between the two.
Jimi: To put it best, Batman has The Joker and Rick Grimes has Negan. Both villains are a thorn (or barbed wire if you will) to their counterparts. Both are very charismatic characters that will pull you in and make you hate loving them. But as much as they are alike, they differ in many ways. I believe what differs is when it comes to the Joker, as intelligent as he may be, he is still a total off the wall lunatic murderer who couldn't care less about anyone or anything, while I see Negan as more of an anti-hero. As brutal as Negan can be at times he does care about saving people, even if it's through bashing some heads to keep people in line. Overall I think Negan is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise serious and bleak zombie apocalypse.
In what ways do you see the Saviors as the true heroes of The Walking Dead, and how does the band represent this idea?
Jimi: I don’t think there are any true heroes in a world like the Walking Dead. I mean there are people that save others more often than themselves as much there are people that save themselves more than others. It all comes down to survival of the fittest and how good you are at that. If you know Negan’s origin story you know he tried saving a lot of people on the way but they kept dying by their own decisions. When he first encountered the group that would end up being the Saviors at that time, they were led by a scumbag so Negan decided to take over, set his own rules to ensure his and others’ survival. Hey, Negan’s not perfect by any means but neither is Rick and his merry gang. The great part of this band is that we all have fun doing it and the theme of the band doesn’t make or break who we are as musicians and as people in general. So, I like playing with the idea in my head that we save people with our music. And hope they can feel the energy we put out during our shows and how much of a good time we are having on stage. In other words, fight the gloom and doom of the zombie apocalypse with a hell of a party!
I noticed in one episode of The Walking Dead (Knots Untie from season six), Rick and his people rescue someone from the Saviors and in doing so kill Saviors in their sleep. This and other episodes sort of blur the line between hero and villain, something that hasn’t been done to such an extent in most television series.
Jimi: When Rick and his gang decide to kill those saviors in their sleep it was a big dive from the good guy kiddie pool into the bad guy open ocean. I remember thinking, "What the hell are our so called heroes doing?" After that I started thinking that maybe this is way that they are trying to get the viewers ready for how Negan does things. It was a smart way to show that good guys can cross that line when it's called for but by doing this very villainous act it would change who they are and the things that they would do in the future. They have blood on their hands and they would pay for it with the deaths of Abraham and Glenn.
I have watched fan videos discussing Negan on Youtube as well as interview clips with Jeffrey Dean Morgan; from these I gather Negan is convinced he is doing good in the post-zombie apocalyptic world through his methods.
Jimi: It's funny, in some of the Walking Dead groups that I'm in, recently I've realized that I've been defending Negan as if he were one of my asshole friends who is just misunderstood. I feel this way because I do believe that Negan is doing these things for the right reason. Just like Rick does his "stuff and thangs." It has been said by the makers of the show that if we followed Negan from the start that we would be rooting for him and thinking Rick was the villain. In the end, Rick and Negan are just two sides of the same coin. It's just all in perception.
Has the band been watching season nine of The Walking Dead so far? Any theories about how this season will pan out?
Joe Z: I'm definitely very intrigued by this civil war aspect that's already begun to happen in season nine. Negan is sitting in a cell and yet remains the center of everything; he is that powerful a force. Meanwhile the communities are already fracturing and battle lines being drawn. Season eight was dubbed "all out war", but I think season nine may be building to something even bigger with multiple groups within and outside of our known community coming to a head against each other, and in the middle of it all is Negan just laughing and waiting for his time.
What predictions do you have for Negan as the ninth season of TWD continues?
Joe Z: My prediction is that Negan is going to get out, either on his own or Maggie will try to kill him and it'll go wrong and he'll escape. I think he'll try to go back to Sanctuary and gather up anyone who will join him and cause trouble, but I also see something happening that forces Alexandria to turn to him for help, gives him an opportunity to "save" people once again.
How do you think Negan will react to Rick’s death by self-sacrifice when he hears about it? What is your take so far on the Whisperers?
Jimi: When Negan finds out that Rick is dead he will be angry that he didn’t get to prove Rick wrong that the world needs a Negan more than a Rick kind of leader. But finding out on top of it that Rick sacrificed himself probably he did have some balls after all.
Joe Z: I think he may be mad that he didn’t get to kill him himself, though I could see him respecting Rick’s willingness to self-sacrifice for the good of the group. The Whisperers look like they’re going to be an interesting enemy, especially in from what we’ve seen so far in the previews their abilities to manipulate and blend with herds of zombies
Do you watch any of the theory-based videos on Youtube speculating how the current series of TWD will pan out? Which of them are most researched and well spoken?
Jimi: I must say that I stay away from those YouTube videos because my wife reads the comics and she answers my question when I want to know if something is going the comic book route or not. Also, there are so many articles on Facebook that catch my eye, I tend to read those from time to time.
Do you watch TWD’s spinoff series Fear The Walking Dead? How would you say the two series compare with one another?
Jimi: I love Fear The Walking Dead. I thought it was nice to have a fresh start from the beginning and not to be so concerned with things matching up with the comics. Also, I’m so happy that Morgan crossed over to the show. He’s another favorite character of mine after Negan of course.
How long has the band been active to date, and how have you been received by the punk community so far?
Joe Z: We’ve been working together for a little under a year and half now. Our first live shows were actually out of state in Rutland, Vermont and Albany, New York in July 2017. In that time since we find ourselves repeatedly almost surprised at how accepted we’ve been by the scene in such a relatively short time. Be it punk, rock or metal, I like to think there’s a little something everyone can enjoy. We’re all familiar with the struggles of the “local” musician trying to stand out and get people to pay attention to you and whatnot, our real goal is that no matter where we are, who we’re with, how many people are there, every show is a party. I can say personally this is easily one of the most fun bands I’ve ever been part of, and that energy really translates to the point that even people who don’t know anything about Negan or The Walking Dead or any of that will still enjoy the music and have a good time.
How many releases does the band have out to date? Do they usually get favorable press once they’re made available? On what streaming sites can they be found?
Joe Z: We just released our very first EP, Take It Like A Champ, in early October, and in fact your review was the first and so far only press review we've had for it. We definitely plan to get more reviews and earlier reviews on later releases, but for this first release the focus was really on getting the music out there and introducing ourselves to the world. So far though the response has been overwhelmingly positive and really feeling like the work we put in has paid off. The EP is on all the major streaming/download sites, such as Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Amazon, etc, and we do have a limited run of physical CDs. CDs, digital downloads, other merch items like t-shirts, patches and such are all available through Bandcamp online at thenegans.bandcamp.com.
Which of your merch has been selling the most of late?
Joe Z: Shirts have really been the big sell for merch so far. We actually went through the first batch so quickly that we were running out of sizes after only a couple weeks and had to order up a second batch. We've got some new stuff coming in that I'm very curious how it goes over, but the number of people wanting shirts is awesome, there's something about seeing people proudly displaying your name and logo that always hits home for me and is like damn, that is so cool.
Has the band dealt with any copyright issues since you began selling merchandise?
Joe Z: I think we've been good about keeping our own image, taking the general idea and concept and making it our own enough to avoid any copyright issues. That and we're still new enough that we're pretty under the radar.
Do you also release your material on cassette and CD format? Between these and streaming formats, which have proven most successful for the band?
Joe Z: As for which format has proven the most successful, the physical CDs still remain king. Streaming and downloads are all the rage now, and there's definitely a demand for that especially among younger generation listeners I find, but from what we've seen a lot of our fans still prefer to buy CDs. We may consider things like cassettes or records in the future, though generally I feel those fall more into the category of novelty/specialty items. While CDs aren't what they used to be, they're still a major music medium, especially for smaller bands.
In what ways do the lyrics of Take It Like A Champ reflect on Negan and The Walking Dead?
Jimi: The first two songs on the E.P., Shut This Shit Down and Pee-Pee Pants City, are part A and Part B to the introduction of Negan. In both songs I reference parts of the speech that he gives when we first meet him. Redneck Zombies was a song I actually wrote years ago. Since it's zombie related I thought it would fit well with our theme and the guys agreed. The Saviors is basically about Negan and his people as a whole as opposed to solely being about Negan himself. It's pretty much give us half your shit and we'll protect you from the undead. The last song, I Love Lucy, is a love song about Negan’s feelings towards his barbed wire bat which carries the essence of his late wife Lucille. Also, the title is a tribute to one of my favorite shows and favorite female comedian of all time, Lucille Ball.
Did you base Redneck Zombies on the late 1980’s movie of the same name? Are there other movies from that time period you would consider basing lyrics on?
Jimi: I mostly write lyrics and music about what I’m into at the current moment. But with that said if I watch an 80’s movie and get some ideas, I’ll pick up the guitar and give birth to a song about that movie. So, the possibility of me writing a song about Return Of The Living Dead or even a movie like 28 Days Later is not out of reach.
What sort of song treatment would the band give Return Of The Living Dead and 28 Days Later?
Jimi: I think a movie like Return of The Living Dead needs to have kind of 80’s metal/rock kind of flow. A 28 Days Later song needs to be fast and heavy. Hell, maybe I’ll start writing them now.
Where do you see the zombie genre going five years from now, in terms of popularity and original ideas? How much as The Walking Dead contributed to it since they began airing?
Jimi: I don’t see zombie shows/movies ever going away. The genre may not be as strong as it now but I feel people are going to keep writing about them. What I’ve heard about the plans that they have for the walking dead universe in the years to come alone will keep the genre undead for a long time.
What ideas based on The Walking Dead does the band have in mind for the next release? Will the next release also be an EP or perhaps a full length?
Joe Z: We've talked a few ideas for the next release, possibly expanding the EP into a full length. This first EP is an introduction, what's already been written and is continuing to come from that has started to dive deeper into some of the lore of what Negan is trying to accomplish, other stories of horrors that have happened in TWD and a zombie apocalypse in general. There are direct stories from the show/comic, and there are more conceptualized ideas of "What would Negan do?" type of things.
Are there any songs completed for the next release at the time of this writing? How many songs are you hoping to record altogether? How is the band planning to promote it when it comes out?
Jimi: As of this moment, we have eleven songs altogether including the five that are on the ep. I’m thinking we’ll go back to the studio, record the other six and maybe put out a full length. The funny thing is that I already have three new songs I wrote to show the guys and those might make to the album also.
Joe Z: We’ve talked about a few different ideas such as more videos, remixes, reviews, interviews, Rev laid out a whole master plan at one point. I think the major idea is that the EP was the first taste, and now we’re going to take the time to really lay out the full story and put everything into it that we can.
What would you most like the band to accomplish in their career?
Jimi: For me, it would be to get our music into people's brains from here to all over the world so they can enjoy our rock n roll apocalypse as much as we do.