Rocks Off has done lot of playlists over the course of our writing career, but last week's birthday tribute to the one and only Bela Lugosi may be our favorite. Finding songs about the beloved horror icon not written by Bauhaus wasn't easy, and one of the deeper tracks we uncovered was an Ohio band called the Town Monster.
We still don't much about them except they're a fairly awesome goth-industrial act who maintains an incredible release schedule and supplements their mystique with animated Christmas specials. (Yes, really.) So it was with much delight that the band got in touch to inform us that they had shot a video for "Bela Lugosi."
This risqué tour through sex and violence perfectly sums up the anger of the track itself. Singer Nathan Photos loses no time in preparing himself to climb upon the sleeping form of his Marilyn Monroe-esque victim. But who is the real monster here?
From moment to moment you're never sure if you're watching sex or rape, murder or some kind of elaborate sado-masochistic ritual. Most of all, you never seem to know who or what is being killed.
The ambiguity lights up the video, and it expertly moves through a color shift where black and white seems to represent what we might consider a normal reality and the red- and blue-hued shots focus on Photos and his blonde, respectively. Each shift comes unexpectedly, assaulting the eye on a deeply primal level even as you wince from the blood, the tightened fist around her throat, and the very real possibility that someone is going to die.
We spend a lot of time around vampires, the television variety and the annoyingly common real-world pale obsessors. When they walk around claiming a need for human blood and denying a need for their parents' respect, it always comes across as desperate. Here, Photos embodies the essence of a nosferatu, that of a monster for whom lust and blood are their diet without any qualms of humanity.
Music videos are Rocks Off's greatest passion. They are the deep looks into the souls of musicians we admire, and we believe that watching them on YouTube, commenting and subscribing, is honestly a more personal connections with them than what we can get in a live setting. Well, to look into the soul of the Town Monster as portrayed through "Bela Lugosi" is to hear a howling wind and feel teeth in your flesh.
There just haven't been enough visceral musical massacres lately. Oh, Grinderman did a good job with "Heathen Child," and we still love Goldfrapp's "Alive," but here's the first unapologetic sin-fest we've seen from an independent acts in quite a while. Thank bloody God.
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We fired off a few questions to Photos to see if he could tell us more about the video. Jump to page 2 for the interview.
Rocks Off: So who is the monster and who is the victim in this video?
Nathan Photos: I wanted to play on the idea that, in a relationship, both parties can be guilty of victimizing one another, as well as outside forces which inevitably get involved.
RO: What made you want to pay tribute to Lugosi?
NP The whole concept originated from conversations I was having with my girlfriend. She's a huge Marilyn Monroe fan, and I've always thought that if she had a celebrity counterpart, it would be Marilyn. And if I had one, it would probably be Bela Lugosi.
Fun fact: he's exactly 99 years and one day older than me.
RO: Color seems to play a big part in the presentation, with a cold blue representing you and an angry red representing the girl? Was that a conscious decision?
NP: Yes, although we had quite a battle with it during the editing process. I was tempted at times to make the whole video black and white, but there is a cheapness and a grit to the natural, bright lighting that I find appealing, and discomforting.
I tried at one point to much more heavily accent the blue, but the red was getting washed out and making the whole thing feel less... sexy.
RO: A lot of people see the vampire as an analogy for perverted sexual deviance. What do you think?
NP: I definitely understand this. I just read Dracula after we finished the video and I loved it. It's written from the point of view of all these stuffy English gentlemen, and it's as if they're too horrified to even write in detail the events surrounding this creepy, supernatural rapist.
I miss the good old days when vampires were monsters; something to be afraid of. I worry that Hollywood and Twilight have turned them into harmless pretty boys that sparkle in the sun, that girls have crushes on. What is that?!? They're monsters! They drink blood, for God's sake.
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RO: If this how the song looked in your head when you wrote it?
NP: Yes, for the most part. There are, to me, many different themes and ideas running through the song... love, jealousy, obsession, and our sometimes inhuman response to these emotions, and I feel we were able to express a lot of these ideas in the video.