Shade Rupe - Black Bible of transgression and transcendence, of the Other and the Beyond: a collection of 27 candid interviews spanning 24 years with unique, free-thinking artists, from America, Austria, and beyond
Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms, Shade Rupe, ed., Headpress, 2011.
"The smaller half of Penn & Teller ends his silence for a lengthy discussion of magic and falsehoods, John Waters' stars Divine opens the closet during his transition to playing male roles, Crispin Glover gives love to Fassbinder, the star of Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill, Kill! Tura Satana tells it like it is from burlesque shows to Hollywood, Alejandro Jodorowsky showers cinema lovers with psychomagic, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge lays down the gauntlet with his creations Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, Udo Kier, the star of Andy Warhol's Dracula and Frankenstein, hunts for virgins, Gaspar Noé helps up Enter the Void, Viennese performance artist Hermann Nitsch lets the blood flow, Chas. Balun paints us Deep Red, Richard Stanley unleashes a Dust Devil with his Hardware, and much much more.
Shade Rupe's DARK STARS RISING: CONVERSATIONS FROM THE OUTER REALMS is a collection of 27 candid interviews spanning 24 years with unique, free-thinking artists, from America, Austria, and beyond. Working in different media, countries, constraints, and freedoms, the vortex here is created by New York film writer Shade Rupe, known for his avant interests and the cultural realm he inhabits with his Funeral Party books. Everyone in this collection has produced artifacts that affect the heart, mind, soul, and future.
A visually stunning package, DARK STARS RISING contains over 500 photographs and illustrations, many of them rare and hitherto unseen. A choice selection of reviews rounds out this amazing book."
1. Richard Kern
2. Alejandro Jodorowksy
3. Buddy Giovinazzo
4. Udo Kier
5. Jim VanBebber
6. Dennis Paoli
7. Tura Satana
9. Brother Theodore
10. Peter Sotos
11. Johannes Schonherr
12. Chas. Balun
14. Floria Sigismondi
15. Hermann Nitsch
16. Genesis P-Orridge
17. William Lustig
18. Dennis Cooper
19. Gaspar Noe
20. Johanna Went
21. Zamora, The Torture King
22. Andre Lassen
23. Arnold Drake
24. Richard Stanley
25. Dame Darcy
26. Stephen O'Malley
27. Crispin Glover
"I was most elated when I was able to get my hands on author Shade Rupe's lengthy compendium of peeks in to the sub-cultural icons we know as cult figures today. Though all of the individuals in Rupe's book are prolific and iconic, they don't nearly garner as much attention as they deserve to. While many would be quick to pass this off as a book filled with interviews, the truth is "Dark Stars Rising" is a compilation of mini-biographies for stars, or people we consider stars, that deserve a spotlight. While author Rupe could have easily passed off lazy articles for a non-fiction book, all of the chapters profiling Rupe's subjects are comprehensive to a startling degree, painfully honest and blunt, and stand as mini-biographical in-depth explorations in to the many cult stars Rupe is lucky and determined enough to interview and admire with professionalism.
Never about appealing to the mainstream, but more spotlighting the stars behind the shadows, author Rupe takes it upon himself to interview some of the most controversial figures in pop culture, some of the most derided filmmakers in film, and many of the most underground and cult individuals who have yet to see their relevance dwindle. As explained in the introduction, all of these interviews were conducted from previous publications in much earlier times in Rupe's life (some meetings were recorded by Rupe at age seventeen) and were sadly either painfully truncated for an article, or sapped of crucial and interesting information. After painstaking retrieval of his past interviews from cassette tapes, they were transcribed and printed unedited. There's a vast array of biographical pieces both informative and stunning from Tura Satana, Gasper Noe, Teller of Penn and Teller, transsexual cult star Divine, Jim Vanbebber, Udo Kier, and the marvelous madman Crispin Glover.
"Dark Stars Rising" is thankfully void of pretension and grandstanding and more about setting the light on some of the most provocative individuals we've ever read about. Since "Fast Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" is one of my all time favorite films, I naturally turned to the chapter featuring the great Tura Satana and there are explorations in to her life that are shocking and often times entertaining. Satana allowed author Rupe two hours of her time and she unfolded her life for him for the sake of the reader explaining her life in an internment camp, her early development in to puberty, her training in martial arts, her communication with her mother who was also forced to live in an internment camp, her first marriage at thirteen years of age, her horrible rape, and her confrontation with a group of classmates that led to her beating the piss out of the head bully. Satana is a woman with the cards stacked against her, born from a mixed Race of Asian, Native American and the like, and given the gift of sheer beauty, all of which ended in pure pain and misery. She of course took that turmoil and turned herself in to an icon for feminism and cult cinema.
Yet another incredible discussion is with director Gasper Noe, a very volatile entity in modern filmmaking who has constantly challenged audiences and offended dozens of cineastes. The interview with Noe makes for some rather engrossing content as author Rupe engages in intelligent conversations with Noe that delves in Noe's life in Paris, the imprisonment of left wing artists, the idiocy of censorship with his films and general art house filmmaking, masturbation, pedophilia, and Noe's absolutely provocative films that have garnered rabid buzz and backlash. The conversation with Chas. Balum leads in to discussion about filmmaking, his working with and deriding of George Romero, and the phony facade of Hollywood. A conversation with Divine reveals a gentle, kind, and morally upright persona who is confident in their ability to entertain and convey their art for their fan base. The interesting and fantastic element about the book is that author Rupe is not a silly fan boy who sucks up and gives us knowledge we already know. Rupe is a man who is capable of sitting down and speaking with these iconic folks at a common level and is able to influence them in opening up and providing some thoughts from them that many will be surprised to read.
The central theme of "Dark Stars Rising" is that every single person featured are interesting and are very deserving of their own books, and author Shade Rupe allows us a chance to take a gander in to these people who have led fascinating, and shocking lives of merit and pain. They grabbed a hold of the pain and turned it in to art. Rupe feels like a man who is not intent on merely hobnobbing but bringing the readers some valuable bits of insight in to old souls who have something to offer the readers. And with the wide experience from Mr. Rupe, it's not surprising his book is not just a compendium of interviews, but tales from people who will leave something behind when they've passed on. Author Rupe seems to understand that there's something to be taken away from reading about someone like Jim Vanbebber and he's right. Author Shade Rupe has compiled a marvelous assortment of discussions in to the darker corners of pop culture and the underground. For readers looking for a visit in to a zone beyond the diluted mainstream pabulum, "Dark Stars Rising" is a stellar book that deserves to be read and preserved." - Felix Vasquez Jr.
"Beneath the layer of media we call 'pop culture' there has long existed a sub-layer. An underbelly, if you will. Personalities exist there that sometimes defy simple categorization. Some are writers, actors, musicians, artists, but those terms rarely completely capture their being. Entertainer, blasphemer, freak, pervert...one could go on for some time and not successfully label them.
Author and journalist Shade Rupe has spent many years tracking down these characters and interviewing them, as well as reviewing their work, for many different publications. Dark Stars Rising is a compilation of those interviews and reviews, laid out with rare photos and archival media for each entry in this catalog of deviants.
The interviews cover many years, beginning with a conversation with Divine, the late muse of John Waters, upon the release of his first film where he played a man. Shade was just a teenager at the time of this interview in 1986. By the time the book is finished, we're well into the 2000s interviewing such modern transgressives as Gaspar Noe and Crispin Glover.
The quality of a book like this is sort of like an algebraic formula. You have to factor the interview subjects vs. the rarity of their interviews against the quality of the interviews, all multiplied by the number of interviews. It's tricky.
I can say without doubt that most of the interviews are interesting and solid. As Rupe states in his introduction, many of these have been published before, but incompletely. These are 'directors cuts' more or less, and just as in film, sometimes those cuts can be for the better. Some of the interviews ramble a bit, or focus on less interesting facts for part of their length. Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch is a good example of this. Nitsch's 'Actions' should provide plenty of fodder for interesting conversation, but we seem to spend quite a lot of words on minutiae of his life, such as dates of specific Actions, dates of events in the life of Nitsch, etc. Much of it reads like a background check on him rather than a conversation of his work.
There are definitely times that longer pieces pay off, however. Teller (the silent half of Penn & Teller) goes into a great deal of depth during his several-page interview both about himself and his partnership and history with Penn Jillette. Actress and model Tura Satana spends the extra word space detailing her history in the internment camps of WWII-era America as a child. In both cases, we get to see far more of obscure, 'dark underbelly' celebrities than we have before.
The selection of subjects is also a bit off, in my eyes. I think sometimes Rupe's own personal interests outweighed his journalistic logic of who the public would be interested in reading about. Some of the entries, such as Buddy Giovinazzo (director of 1986's 'Combat Shock') are so obscure you wouldn't be faulted for consulting Wikipedia before reading the interview to have some idea who we're discussing. Relevance is a very iffy term when it comes to the pop-subculture personalities on review here, but I think Rupe tests the edges of that just a bit.
Offensive is another word that's tricky to use when it comes to a tome like this, but yes, I have to go there. This is not a book for the lighthearted. Rupe includes many photographs, some full-color, that are extremely graphic. I don't have a problem with this, but between graphic nudity and images involving animal parts and carcasses, there's much here that some could have issues with.
The subject matter is also in question. Many would be offended by the inclusion of people like Nitsch, who slaughters animals as part of his artistic performances. I'm nearly impossible to offend, but the inclusion of people like Peter Sotos and the content included along with his interview definitely hit some nerves.
Sotos is a writer of virtually no merit or recognition whose primary 'achievement' seems to be the self-publishing of a poor quality 'zine' that lasted two issues. The contents were almost exclusively stories (fiction and non-fiction) with graphic details of child molestation, rape, and murder. The series stopped at the second issue because Sotos used a pornographic image of a child on the cover, which lead to jail time. Rupe clearly does not hold Sotos in the same esteem that I do, based on his questions and preface to the interview, but I admit I'm still baffled as to how he wound up in this volume. Considering the interview reveals little about Sotos, and Rupe is clearly a sympathetic ear, I fail to see the point. And yes, I'm offended by it, if you'll allow me to rant for a moment. I think it glorifies someone who has told the world that he has not become a criminal only because of fear of prosecution. His fantasies don't just involve children, they involve hurting and killing children, and experiencing sexual release from both the act and taunting the family of the victims after. It's clear based on his writing and his thinking that he's a danger hiding behind the shelter of 'free speech'. One wonders how that shelter will protect him (or our consciences) when he acts out on his compulsions and takes his first victim. Sorry, ::rant off::.
If you can get past these issues, however, you're in for a treat. This is a gorgeous book and a great deal of bang for the buck. Clocking in at almost 600 pages and including many full-color photos, you can excuse not caring about even 1/3 of the subjects and still get a great value when buying the book. A sample of Rupe's reviews are included at the end of the book and reveal an interesting and entertaining critic.
You simply aren't going to find interviews with this group of people with this amount of detail in one place, ever. Period. It's truly a one-of-a-kind book. As long as you're willing to wade through a few over-long interviews and cope with some extreme content, you should enjoy this book immensely as long as you have some interest in the seedier side of pop-culture." - Mr. Dark
"Though unrelated to Lovecraft, in spite of the allusive title, Dark Stars Rising is a true Necronomicon, a Black Bible of transgression and transcendence, of the Other and the Beyond. Big words, I know, but this is a big book – big in every sense. More than 560 pages of large format (8 of them in glorious color) are crammed with 27 long interviews with some of the most daring fringe artists in various modes of the One & Only True Art: that of pushing Boundaries! Whether they’re expressing themselves through directing, producing and starring in movies, or their respective modes include photography, music, magic, self-torture, stand-up comedy, performance etc. – all of them share a rare passion and total devotion to their Art, and revealing talks with these “dark stars” are nothing short of inspirational.
Dark Stars Rising reveals a candid and warm side of Divine, the inimitable star of John Waters’s trash epics and puts a new light on erotic death trips of Richard Kern’s photos and short films. Udo Kier, another cult star of high camp, shows off more lucidity, humor and insight than many of his better known colleagues. Jim Vanbebber talks about the low budget splatter of his Chunk Blower, My Sweet Satan and Charlie’s Family, while Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock, Life is Hot in Crack town) rises from a similar background of shoestring moviemaking to reveal his deals with Troma and why Maniac 2 (with Joe Spinell, again) never happened. The mystical insights are oozing from the thorough, career spanning and thought-provoking interviews with the masters of (oc)cult cinema like Alejandro Jodorowsky and Richard Stanley, while the somewhat academic, yet still down-to-earth and funny Dennis Paoli bares all about his collaborations with Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak, etc.).
Chas. Balun, veteran of horror-zines, and Johannes Schonherr, critic, festival programmer and author of Trashfilm Roadshows: Off the Beaten Track with Subversive Movies (also from Headpress) uncover the varieties of extreme cinema from around the world. French provocauteur Gaspar Noe is here, too, to put his Argentinean background in perspective with French influences in making the angry movies like I Stand Alone and Irreversible (pictured, right). William Lustig talks about Uncle Sam, Maniac Cop films and how he almost directed True Romance. Crispin Glover unveils his uniquely schizophrenic position of alternating between the blockbusters (Back to the Future, Charlie’s Angels) and personal, offbeat projects (What is it?). Tura Satana, the memorable busty star of Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! offers a surprising amount of brains, emotion and attitude behind the appearance of a fetishized, objectified (or is she?!) woman with big boobs and even bigger personality. Authors Peter Sotos and Dennis Cooper talk about the extreme topics of their controversial books (homosexuality, serial killers, pedophilia, pornography etc.) while Hermann Nitsch, the legendary Vienna activist of gory and scatological performances (some featured in the cult classic, Dusan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie) talks about transcending the body by immersing into its tissues and liquids. Etcetera, etcetera.
These are just some of the unique creators whose words and images grace this Book of Transgressions. And, talking about images: if you expect your typical talking-heads book, with huge chunks of dull black-on-white text and an occasional ordinary photo of the artist thoughtfully looking into the distance, think again! This is a Headpress book, which means that it is lovingly designed (by David Kerekes) with an almost incredible amount of photographs and stills (some of them exclusive, never seen before), diagrams, esoteric and other symbols, all of which not only accompany but also embellish, extend and further explain the words around which they grow. The wonderful design merges the word and text in such a manner as to provide an even closer look into the idiosyncratic world of each specific artist so that whatever is lost on the way to the page (like, the artist’s voice, manner of speech, the aura of his/her surroundings etc.) is more than recovered through the lavish visuals which augment their words. These images almost literally burst from the paper in a subliminal, psychedelic manner, spilling from the edges of the pages into your surroundings and into your brain – altering them so that after reading this book you can’t be the same person as before. The trippy cover art by Howard Forbes also helps immensely.
The enthusiasm expressed by these dark stars is contagious, and reveals new constellations of a parallel, far more interesting universe which thrives beyond the dull, fabricated facade of shallow “films” and fake “artists” boasting the covers of mainstream books and magazines. Shade Rupe, as the author of all interviews, has done an excellent job of probing into the essence of what these subversive minds are all about, and his knowing but modest presence allows these stars to shine without the obtrusive “me! me! me! look at how much I know!” stance which mars so many otherwise interesting interviews. His balanced questions manage to provoke his subjects into giving what must be some of the best interviews in their respective careers, and this certainly applies to the thorough and more than honest ones by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Udo Kier, Dennis Paoli, Tura Satana, Peter Sotos, Genesis P-Orridge, Gaspar Noe, Richard Stanley and Crispin Glover (pictured, left).
I wouldn’t want to sound like a plant, but in trying to curb my enthusiasm for this book by finding a fault with it, I couldn’t come up with anything other than the fact that some of the interviews are not so fresh (a few are a decade or more old). However, in most instances like that, what is being said is so worthwhile that even references to then-contemporary plans and intentions do not take away from what’s really important and timeless. In the book’s commendable “the more – the merrier” attitude, on top of all 27 interviews and all the amazing imagery, there are 50 pages of Shade Rupe’s reviews of books and films directly or indirectly relevant to the stars interviewed previously, and they adequately complement what precedes them. Hopefully, they’ll help to educate and initiate the novices into the parallel universe of films, books and art that many may not be aware of.
Dark Stars Rising is a perfect holiday gift: just make sure you don’t give it to your grandmother or to a relative or friend of any kind of orthodox persuasion or taste, because the book itself is as provocative and boundary-pushing as the artists it covers. There is movie gore, splattered bodies and zombies; there is real (animal) blood and animal carcasses (in Herman Nitsch’s sessions); there is frontal nudity, both female and male, not all of it in the conventionally erotic context (sewn pussy; animal brains and innards around a penis; suggestive though non-explicit kiddie photos; morbid attractiveness of skeletons, pregnant beauties and dead chicken, etc.); there are images at the same time titillating, repulsive and strangely ambiguous…
Just like the Necronomicon, this book is not for everyone. After seeing its table of contents and reading this review you’ll know who you are. Invoke often, but carefully, from the pages imprinted by these dark stars!" - Dejan Ognjanovic
Regardless of one’s opinion about these transgressive artists, you still have to wonder every now and then what the hell is going on inside of their heads. And, while definitely not the first person to wonder that, Shade Rupe was one of the first to actually find out. Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realm is a fascinating look at 27 of the foremost icons in the field of transgressive art. Throughout the years, writer/actor/PR guru Rupe interviewed many actors and artists for underground magazines such as Screem and Fun Magazine, but his tête-à-têtes were usually edited down by publishers to make room for ads from all of those dubious mail-order companies.
But now, thanks to the folks at Headpress Books, Rupe’s intimate chats with folks like Alejandro Jodorowsky, Richard Kern, Tura Satana, Udo Kier, Chas. Balun, William Lustig, Brother Theodore and even Teller (from Penn & Teller fame) are available in newly-transcribed, unedited form. Put together just like one of those good ol’ fanzines from the ‘80s and ‘90s (complete with its share of rare, outrageous and often-explicit photos), Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realm is a venerable feast for anti-art lovers everywhere.
Want to know what Divine thought of his first on-screen performance as a man? Or perhaps you want to find out how truly twisted Crispin Glover really is? Well, at last, you can dive into the dark grey matter of these unconventional artists to find out what makes 'em tick. Will you be able (or even want to) return to the "normal" world of art after reading this? Well, that depends entirely on how sick you are to begin with, I suppose — but this collection comes highly recommended nevertheless." - Luigi Bastardo
Helping each interview take on a unique life of its own is Rupe’s comprehensive knowledge of both his interviewee and their art, and the contemporary art/film world that surrounds them. You can’t carry on an intelligent conversation with Gaspar Noe if you don’t have a firm grasp on the French New Wave movement, of gender role in film (and for that matter, sexuality and masturbation!) — not to mention his work, as well as that of his contemporaries. The same is true of Teller, the quiet half of Penn and Teller, who ironically gives Rupe what may be the longest interview on record! To accomplish his task was simple, because first and foremost Shade Rupe remains a fan of the far-out, of non-traditional, or at least rule bending, cinema and art. When you’re a fan — a true “geek” — absorbing every bit of detail is easy. Rupe exhibits a wealth of knowledge culminated over years spent in video stores, film festivals, and screenings, and as a professional film writer that allows him to take these conversations to thought-provoking levels of depth giving the reader real insight into each individual. Best of all, Shade isn’t afraid to comment and lend his own analysis into these conversations, pushing the subject to expel information that would never be discussed during a junket or similar kind of interview. In a few simple words, this is interviewing the way we wish it could be done all the time.
For fans of horror, there are natural highlights to the book. Genre die-hards will inevitably turn right to Bill Lustig’s interview, or in my case, Chas Balun. More hardcore horror geeks might migrate towards Richard Kern, who goes into some great detail about his art philosophy and working with Lydia Lunch, as well as his short films, such as Fingered. Or perhaps you’ll find your attention directed to Richard Stanley, who crafted Dust Devil and Hardware, both significant works of art in horror cinema. Each interview lends insight that is just not found elsewhere. For instance, a minor highlight was that it was interesting to hear that Chas Balun didn’t actually coin the term “chunk blower”, even though he is generally credited as doing so. And I’m not saying who did. You’ll need to pick this book up to find out juicy nuggets like this.
While the majority of the interviews fall on those working in the horror genre, or at least that of violent and sexualized forms of horror (Rupe is an unabashed fan of the genre), they are only the center to a larger, off-center world. When you start to look deeper into the text you’re going to find that all of these interviews provide an oddly, perhaps ironically, holistic view of individuals creating art on the fringe. For instance, I just picked up the new Sunn O))) album Alter, which features the mind-blowing Japanese guitarist Boris accompanying (if Boris plays on it, I’ll buy it!), and in Dark Stars Rising we’re offered up a tremendous interview with Stephen O’Malley, the founding member Sunn O))). Point being, no man is an island and no person lives in the world of pure horror 24/7. There are so many fascinating stories and bits of knowledge to discover in this book that I can easily tell you it won’t be leaving the immediate vicinity of my desk anytime soon. I’ve already gone back and re-read parts, pulling out details that were perhaps skimmed over before and just allowing the viewpoints represented to give me deeper appreciation for the respective art. Hell, I’ve even gone and re-watched and re-visited films this year as a direct result of reading these conversations, including Dust Devil, Irreversible and Richard Kern’s Hardcore Collection. I’ve even spent time fingering up a few Alejandro Jodorowsky films, since he’s been one filmmaker so far out that even I — a lover of art-house avant garde non-sense — have had a hard time getting into.
Finally, I have to talk about the art, the photos, and the layout. This book is IMPRESSIVE! It’s packed full of photos and artwork, including many rare photos that you may not see anywhere else. All of this is laid out by David Kerekes in a very cut-and-paste style unique to ‘zine makers and other “underground” print publications. (You can see samples below) All of the interviews themselves have a standard typeface they are complimented by a copious amount of black and white imagery to take in. It makes for a visually immersing experience to soak in as you read. The interviews demand to be read carefully, but you can’t help but peruse the pages simply to spend time examining the photos. In the final pages of the book, Rupe gives us an added bonus with over thirty pages of various books and films he’s reviewed.
All things said – you’re not going to find a more comprehensive collection of intelligently conducted interviews with a wonderful and diverse group of filmmakers and artists who are fiercely devoted to their art and proudly stand outside the mainstream. It would be great to see a volume two come out in the future. I already have a shopping list for Rupe that would include Nacho Cerdà, Pascal Laugier, Boris and Larry Fessenden, amongst others, but I’m trying not to get carried away. Just do yourself a favor and snag this one up while you can." - Marc Patterson
Shade Rupe's web page