Saturday, October 17, 2015

Artist Interview: JOHNNY HELLION by Dave Wolff

Interview with JOHNNY HELLION 

I interviewed you for Autoeroticasphyxium and have included your work in that zine and Cerebral Agony. How much have you done since our interview and what projects have you been involved in lately?
I've been working on a series of new pieces involving animal remains. I'm using my collection of bones, feathers, and skulls. I've always seen a beauty in it. Dead things are just more interesting to look at.

What animals have you been collecting bones, skulls and feathers from lately?
I have bones and skulls from dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, rats, ravens, crows, etc., and feathers from both ravens and crows. I also have a collection of ostrich feathers. I also have a collection of pickled things, one of them being a piglet. I love preserved things. It's a timeless admiration.

Much of the drawings and painted artwork you design may be considered offensive by some. Describe some of the pieces you have recently completed along with the positive and negative feedback they have gotten.
I think art is the grey between black and white. It's how the individual wants to perceive it. Some people say certain pieces scare them while others say they love it; others simply ignore it. The negative feedback mostly comes from the serial killer tribute art but that’s expected. People are also offended by art created with dead animals and or bones. Everything I use comes from animals already dead but for some reason it still offends animal lovers. They love living animals, I love dead ones more. They last longer.

You were selling such items on the internet at the time of our previous interview. Have they received a steady response from then to the present day? What does your collection come from of late?
It's like an odd phenomenon where nothing sells for a while, then I'll get a big order from an individual or a bunch of orders at once. I still have artwork I've done dedicated to serial killers, favorite horror films, and original pieces.

Are most of your orders from within the U.S. or have you received orders from outside the country? Which overseas countries have you received the most orders from when you’ve corresponded outside the U.S.?
I try to keep orders within the U.S. for reasons of complications but I have shipped overseas. Outside of the U.S. I've had orders from Italy, Canada, Japan and mostly from Italy.

Was your first interview perused by a sizable number of your friends and fans following its publication? Did anyone who was acquainted with you receive a deeper insight on your mindset and the inspiration for your work?
I’m not sure who keeps up with what I'm doing but if I can inspire people to create their visions then that’s what matters.

How many people have told you they were inspired by your work after viewing or purchasing it?

I have received a lot of messages from people telling me they feel stuck, have no motivation or are just no good at art but wish they could do it. I tell them to take their time and when it happens it'll happen. To the people that say they're no good, I tell them art is an expression. It doesn't matter if they think it's no good. Let others relate to it. There is no good or bad art as long as there's passion.

How much passion or lack thereof do you see among artists while browsing Facebook or other social media outlets?
What frustrates me are the people that rip off others’ ideas with no shame. I've had it done to me. People will either copy in the same way or make things just a little different but it's only obvious. I have no respect for the people that do that and call themselves artists.

Have you read many zines dedicated to art, fiction and poetry in your time? Would you like to see more of them in publication?
I haven't seen too many magazines dedicated to art besides tattoo magazines. I spend most of my time reading horror magazines. Horror has always been fun and interesting to read especially behind the scenes stuff. I would like to see more magazines and articles dedicated to artists and artwork because how else can people see it to appreciate it?

How often are you reading tattoo magazines and which ones would you recommend for their content?

The main magazine I've seen around is Tattoo. I like to flip through to see the body art. It's interesting to read about individuals’ tattoos. I personally don’t have tattoos except for one tiny one. The reason I don't have more is I change my mind too much on what I would want.

Do you recall any articles from Tattoo that particularly stuck in your mind; any particular artist or publicly held convention?
No one specially comes to mind but I favor horror themed tattoos obviously. I've always loved sleeved arm collages of horror movies and/or characters.

More horror authors are releasing material independently and more reviewers of horror are posting their reviews on internet sites. Of the latter, I’ve read reviews from Baron Craze, Kristin Theckston and Christina Bergling who are all reviewers I would recommend. How much easier has the internet made it for independent writers and artists to get their names around?
The internet has made things easier and more convenient to find out information on what's going on such as upcoming conventions and new movies, but I like owning magazines since I like to collect.

Where on the internet have you searched for information on the horror genre? Are there any reviewers you have discovered?

It depends on what I'm looking for, I just use basic searches on the internet. I don't use any one specific site.

Are you reading well known horror magazines such as Fangoria these days, or are there any obscure horror magazines you are adding to your collection?
Book stores seem to be going extinct which is a sad thing but when I do find one I grab whatever I see, such as Fangoria and Rue Morgue to name a couple. I wish there was more of a selection. If I don't buy the issues then I'm always writing for information from them.

How many issues of Fangoria and Rue Morgue have you collected up to now? How familiar are you with Rue Morgue?
I usually collect horror magazines about favorite originals The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead, and Halloween to name a few, articles on Tom Savini or favorite actors like Tony Todd. I'm not too fond of newer horror but Hatchet and the sequels are an exception. Director Adam Green captures what I like in the older horror films. I like his vision. Rue Morgue is a really good magazine. I recommend it for any obsessed horror fan.

What horror movies are covered in Rue Morgue and how informative is this publication regarding the genre?
Some of the films Rue Morgue has covered are, Lucio Fulci's Zombie, Psycho, Henry Portrait of A Serial Killer, (that's where my crush for Michael Rooker came from), The Exorcist, The Entity, and Day Of The Dead, among many others.

Who are some of the regular writers of Rue Morgue whose work you read most often?
I don't pay attention to who's writing what. I just read certain interviews or articles I find interesting and flip through to see the photos. The more photos, the better.

What movies has Alan Green directed that you have seen? How does his approach recapture the atmosphere of older films?

Adam Green is known for his Hatchet films. I like the sense of humor portrayed in his films and the gore. They remind me of old Friday The 13th films. I wish more filmmakers would get away from that digital crap and get back to special effects makeup and puppeteering. That's where the real talent is. When I see blood, I rather see corn syrup with red food coloring rather than a cartoonish splatter.

Describe the Hatchet films that Alan Green has worked on, and how he brings a sense of humor to his work?
Adam Green's Hatchet films are about a deformed entity named Victor Crowley that uses the New Orleans swamps to kill whoever enters them brought on by a curse.

How many Hatchet movies have been released to date? What can you reveal about the acting and the production, et cetera?
There's three Hatchet films. The story came about by the director that was told a story as a kid which became the inspiration for the movie.

What is your opinion of the current state of horror cinema; the remakes of old horror classics as well as movies like the Saw series? How do they compare with the movies you watched in the 70s and 80s?
I think remakes are ruining what made the originals good. The originals had mystery behind the horror icons which made them scarier. The remakes are explaining too much and dragging out the original stories. I feel really bad for the new generation of kids that have never seen the originals or look confused when you tell them they're watching remakes. I made sure to bring up my nieces and nephews on the original films. Not all remakes have been ruined but I think it's because they themselves are older films as well; Tom Savin's Night Of The Living Dead for example.

The Blair Witch Project is a movie that is either loved or hated, but it’s one of the last that gave the audience a sense of mystery. Now moviegoers prefer seeing everything out in the open and prefer sudden jump scares to gradual buildup. Is this a reflection of the times or is it because the masses accept whatever they’re told is scary?
I personally love The Blair Witch Project. The best part is that it was a hoax. People set themselves up to be disappointed. You can't expect a monster to jump out of every horror film and that's what I liked about it. Everything was left to the imagination. It was very realistic. I'm amazed at what people think is scary these days, those are the people that scare me. Movies these days might scare a toddler but I don't think any true horror fan gets any kind of entertainment by the newer films or remakes.

Going back to special effects in movies, what are the reasons you think computer effects are overdone?
I can understand that sometimes digital effects are needed in films but when it's being used to replace things like blood, that’s where it's being overused. Low budget films have always been better, it pushes more creativity. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for example; watch the original, research the making of it and then watch the remake.

I remember Fangoria released two DVDs consisting of horror shorts made by fans, Between this and more opportunities provided by the internet, will fan-produced independent movies continue to increase in frequency?  
Anyone and everyone are making their own movies now. I would like to eventually make my own film, something dark humor/horror/pornographic.

What specific ideas would you have in mind for your own film production? Do you know anyone who would want to appear in it?
I do know people who would love to be involved and would be great to work with but I wouldn't be able to go into detail about it before it's made due to how much people stalk and ripoff.

What fascination do you have with serial killers that you make an effort to capture in your artwork?

I was more fascinated with serial killers as a teenager than I am now, but I still find them interesting. Jeffrey Dahmer is one I have always found more interesting than others on the serial killer celebrity status. He was a lonely, depressed person. He was ashamed of being homosexual. He cannibalized his victims and tried to make a human zombie for his own sexual desires. I did a painting of serial killer Otis Toole. He was a gay crossdresser so I painted him wearing makeup and framed it with red boa feathers to both symbolize flamboyance and murder. He's known as the companion of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas for the murder and decapitation of a young boy.

What aspects of Dahmer’s personality do you make an effort to capture in your work?

Dahmer suffered from depression and was a loner as I am. He had a fascination with anatomy and had a vision of creating an altar from human bones. As a kid he impaled a dog's head on a stick in the woods near his home. My workings with animal remains are maybe similar in that way.

Who are other serial killers you have based artwork on, along with Dahmer and Toole?
I have also done art on Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, and Richard Ramirez. Charles Manson for his mind control, John Wayne Gacy because of his double life, and Richard Ramirez for the extent of his crimes and for being a Satanist.

You had just completed a television interview before our first interview. Explain what program you appeared on for those who may have missed it?
I did a segment on National Geographic’s Taboo about Satanism. I thought it would be important to show people that Satanists are people too and to break some of the stereotyping. The label still scares most people but people fear what they don't understand. I was hoping to ease some of the mass ignorance by people.

Indicate what Satanism means to you on a personal level and how it relates to today’s world.
Satanism is the anti of religion and all the negativities that come with it. It's being who you are and not being made to feel guilty about it. It's not something I preach or push on people. You are either a Satanist or you are not. I wish religions would follow that example and stop trying to ruin/save people. Let people be who they are and live their lives.

Was National Geographic’s Taboo your only appearance on television or have others followed afterward?
As for the moment, Taboo has been it. I would appear on more if given the opportunity or if the show were interesting. Television seems to have died along with book stores and video rental stores. Entertainment is lost.

There are still channels worth watching such as the Sci Fi Channel, the History Channel or the Independent Film Channel.
I don't watch too much television because it just leaves me yelling at the TV. I watch I Love Lucy and loved the Tales From The Crypt series. I'll watch anything about ghosts, hauntings, and aliens. Aliens interest me a lot because I feel they are responsible for our existence. I believe we are half alien and half ape. We're in the middle. If we simply evolved from apes then why aren't apes still evolving?

Which Tales From The Crypt episodes do you consider personal favorites?

One of my most favorites has to be, "Collection Completed". An episode about a man retiring to find that his wife is an obsessed animal lover which turns him to taxidermy and eventually becomes the taxidermied.

What do you think of such programs as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Tales From The Darkside?
I grew up on The Twilight Zone. I have a lot of favorites but one that comes to mind is about the mannequin that comes to life in a store. I've seen some Outer Limits and watched a lot of Tales From The Darkside. Elvira was fun to watch also when she hosted her show. It should be brought back.

There have been quite a few programs on the Sci Fi Channel about hauntings and aliens? Which do you remember most?
I'm not sure where I saw these stories but what comes to mind about ghosts is a story about a family that moved into a home and the ghost of a girl named Sallie started scratching the male in the family. For some reason that story scares family members of mine. As for aliens I remember a women who said she was impregnated by them and that they took the baby and would let her visit it from time to time. I've always found aliens to be attractive; I wouldn't mind having sex with one.

Do you read many full length books about hauntings and aliens? Which of them would you suggest to the readers?
Some ghost books I've read are, "Speak With The Dead", "Graveyard", "Ghosts Among Us” and "The Hauntings". If you're interested in reincarnation then I suggest "Old Souls". A book I think everyone should own is, "Final Exists: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die".

What information have you gathered from each of the books you cited above? How do they stand out in your opinion?
Those books are all interesting and have good stories. Whenever I buy a new ghost book I usually park in cemeteries to read them. It sets the right environment to get spooked. I'm going to eventually write my own book on personal ghost stories my family and I have experienced. I may have to write a series of books. I think people would also be interested in behind the scenes of mortuary work. I was also thinking of writing a sort of diary of personal stories.

Is there an official website where people can view your work on the internet? How much of your work are you able to display on your Facebook profile and community page?
A website is in the works but people can view my art on a site made up of links.

You have also done some photography work. Who are some of the photographers you have collaborated with?
Graeme Whifler, Aes-Nihil, and Tora Rue are some people who have done photography of me. Aes-Nihil did my earliest photography which consists of more black & white photography. Graeme Whifler is a director who wrote the horror/slasher film, "Dr. Giggles" (1992) and wrote and directed the film, "Deadly End: Neighborhood Watch" (2005). Tora Rue's photography is very colorful. She photographed me with The Goddess Bunny, known for the infamous tap dancing video and who also appeared in Marilyn Manson's "Dope Show' music video.

Are there any projects you plan to tackle in the immediate future?
I've just been focused on getting out the new artwork. It's a new theme mainly of animal remains that I hope people will appreciate. I plan on new photography and collaborating with interesting people. The more unusual the person, the more comfortable I am working with them.

-Dave Wolff

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