Writer,editor, journalist, publisher, and filmmaker David Flint is a very busy man. With a career which spans well over 20 years David has worked extensively within the realm of the wonderful, the bizarre, the sleazy and the weird; he could very well be considered a champion of and authority on everything which defies the margins of good taste. David joins us today to talk about his recent book Sheer Filth! (FAB PRESS), which represents his fourth published book in the arena of cult and adult entertainment; previously having written Babylon Blue (Creation Books) Ten Years of Terror (FAB PRESS) and Zombie Holocaust (PLEXUS).As well as being a published author David has had a very colourful career; writing for an inordinate amount of magazines (including Penthouse, Bizarre, Delirium) as well as publishing his own (Divinity). He has also worked with cult film labels Severin, Arrow, Blue Underground and Pop Shot (to name a few) to produce sleeve notes, while working on documentary films, commentaries, and serving on film panels ( not to mention working as a DJ, consultant for TV shows such as Euro Trash and Inside Deep Throat, and a whole myriad of interesting and exciting projects). Recently he has just collaborated on Jake West’s Video Nasties: Draconian Days, and Sheer Filth! was launched at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema on 4th April where a special screening of the documentary was shown and Director Jake West and David presented a Q&A session. David also runs his brilliant website Strange Things are Happening.
But everyone has to start somewhere, and for David Flint it was here, with Sheer Filth! Setting out with a typewriter, a photocopier and shit loads of punk rock attitude, the fanzine Sheer Filth! was born (which ran between 1987-1990). For those who missed it first time around (like me) or those who want to revisit that golden age of DIY publishing the book represents a must buy for this year.
It is difficult to imagine in today’s world of online blogging, (where just about everyone and anyone can set up a webpage and get their voices heard), that things we not always so. As writers we really are spoilt in the modern age as the internet represents immediate access to a global community, which means catching your audience is relatively simple. But go back 20-30 years, this did not exist, and publishers such as David Flint had to actually work at establishing themselves. Yet despite the obvious difficulties fanzines such as Sheer Filth! still managed to thrive, and provide much needed information for all those with an interest in entertainment which veered from the mainstream path, and Amen to that.
Now thanks to FAB Press (one of my favourite UK publishers who specialise in exploitation and cult film writings) Sheer Filth! is back, this time in book form which includes all original issues of the zine, and exclusive material (which was also written at the time); with a forward by editor David Flint outlining the history and context of Sheer Filth! (and some handy footnotes and new notes which set the scene). Articles are presented in their original hand typed format which adds to the delicious DIY aesthetic of the book. From reading you really get a feel of the time and a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the content involved. Sheer Filth! covers just about everything you can imagine, from XXX films, exploitation, sexploitation, horror, music and books, nothing is off limits and it reads like a bible for all things weird and wonderful. When you take into account the archaic censorship which existed in Britain in the late 80’s and also lack of resources, Sheer Filth! is quite an achievement and demonstrates a fantastic commitment to delivering the word to fans desperate for information at the time (information which is now freely available as the result of a couple of clicks on a keyboard).
Highlights include the first ever UK interview with Nekromantik director Jorg Buttgereit, as well as interviews with Norman J Warren, HG Lewis, David McGillivray, David F Friedman, Pamela Green, Tuppy Owens, and Samuel Z Arkoff. The book is also packed with film, music and book reviews and articles. To try and encapsulate the content into any coherent description for the purposes of this review is damned near impossible, but such is the wonder of Sheer Filth!- a fanzine which conveys a heady celebration of everything superbly obscene, gratuitous, sexy and violent, which even to this very day lies on the fringes of mainstream media attention. But then you don’t need me to tell you that, the title should say it all! What are you waiting for? Head on over to FAB Press for your copy today.
We are eternally grateful to David Flint for giving us his time to come and chat to us at The Gore Splattered Corner about his life and career.
GSC- First thing I suppose, how did the launch go?
David- The Launch was good! Yeah it was lively, it was entertaining, everybody seemed to have a good time, and everybody was completely wrecked at the end of the night, so yeah it was a good night!
GSC- And they showed the Video Nasties documentary (Draconian Days) didn’t they?
David- Yeah and that went down really well, the audience were really responsive, the Q + A was great.
GSC- I’m dying to see this!
David- Yeah it’s a great film, and it’s telling a story that’s not as well-known as the first one I guess.
GSC- Yes because I suppose you think it just all ends at the end of the 80’s.
David- In fact it just gets worse.
GSC- I think I was just sort of living in oblivion then I think!
David- I think a lot of people were, but there were a lot of little things going on, I don’t know how you would put it, but it’s all like little drip effects going on; the occasional big thing going on like the Jamie Bulger case and Hungerford, things like that. So it was an era from the mid-80s to the end of the 90s there were constant attempts at improving censorship, I suppose improving isn’t the right word, but you know increasing censorship should I say in various forms, not just on video, but on TV, in publishing, all over the place.
GSC- Yes but things did improve for a while, not now though! It feels like we are going the other way!
David- It feels like we are back in 1984 at the moment. A lot of this stuff started under Labour so there’s no hope under a change of government unfortunately. The whole criminalising people just for possessing images of consenting adults was something that Tony Blair started to push through, Brown finished and now David Cameron is increasing, and he’s doing so with the full support of the Labour Party, unfortunately.
GSC- When you were setting up Sheer Filth! did you ever come across anything to do with that, for example did anyone ever try and censor you, did you ever get into any trouble with the stuff you were reviewing?
David- Not so much with Sheer Filth! because I think that was probably a bit too low profile but after I did Sheer Filth! I did a magazine called Divinity and that certainly had a few problems. You know it had issues with Canadian customs , it had issues with being seized by the police; not as a single magazine but within a whole range of magazines that were seized and prosecuted. I certainly had a few problems with the police and with the customs over the years in terms of being a video collector and a video journalist I suppose.
GSC- So were you ever busted during the video nasty raids?
David- Not during the video nasties, but basically I was arrested once by customs coming back from holiday in Amsterdam, then a few years after that I had a dawn raid from the police, that was 1998.
98 was a time when I was very much involved with what we used to call the new porn generation, which was like the new golden age of adult cinema, so I was doing quite a lot of writing about that at the time and that rattled a few cages I think and my neighbours were under the impression that I was actually a porn dealer! So they reported me to the police and they came round and took everything away and I waited for about 6 months before they finally dropped the case.
In a way it was actually quite good for my career but I would rather it never happened because it was quite stressful for a 6 month period, and I didn’t have a computer for 6 months either.
GSC- If we go right back to when you started Sheer Filth!, I read your little intro piece in the book, so what was your inspiration that actually got you to making your own fanzine, from just thinking about it, to actually saying I am going to do this, I am going to put this out here?
David- I think because I had always been interested in doing that sort of thing, but it always seemed that is inaccessible, because you look at the American fanzines that came out at the time like Cinefantastique and Little Shop of Horrors, they were big, glossy, expensive, they had all the right contacts, they were full of interviews , they had big pieces and articles, and you know you think you can’t compete with that when you are a teenager living in the north. But then I saw this whole new generation of zines coming out like Gore Gazette and Splatter Times, Sleazoid Express, Video Drive-in, and these were 4, 5, 6 page magazines, well you know I say magazines, but some of them were single sheets , done on a typewriter, photocopied and I thought yeah you know I can do that. So I sat down and thought what do I want to do? How do I want to do it? How do I fit into this scene, how do I differ from this scene? And just came up with a concept and started in 1987.
GSC- Just off your own back, from home?
David – Yeah pretty much! I had been writing for somebody else, I contributed to a fanzine called Video Horror and I’d done a few things for him so that eased me in a little bit, and also he had a photocopier because essentially he was dealing all these US zines totally illegally. He was just buying copies and then just boot legging them and selling them. But he made stuff accessible to people because it was still quite difficult to order stuff from the States back then. You had to get US money, find the right addresses, sent it off, wait for these things to arrive, so for him to be doing that was handy. And it also meant I had someone to go to, who owned a photocopier when I did the first issue and say can you run me off, however many copies it was.
GSC- It’s quite an achievement really. I think the younger generation now don’t appreciate the way things were marketed or how people got the word out about things before the internet. Now you would just set up a website or go on Twitter wouldn’t you?
David- It was a lot more DIY then, a lot more complex, you know you would have to produce this stuff yourself, do it all by hand, learn how to do it by hand because there was no one really there to tell you how to do it. And then when you had it printed then you had to work out how to sell it, that was usually putting adverts in video magazines and trying to deal with likeminded people.
GSC- Do you miss that though? Do you miss that age?
David- A little bit because I think the problem with the internet now is, it’s great that you can do stuff instantly but the downside is that there’s no coherent movement for anyone to get behind, because it is so widespread, and there’s so much stuff out there. Back in the day there were no more than say 20 or 30 zines worldwide at any one time.
GSC- I think now anyone can just start a blog can’t they?
David- Yeah, now it’s made incredibly easy for people so they don’t need to seek out the information because it’s all there. You think of the most obscure movie you can imagine and then you can look it up on IMDb and there will be about 30 reviews for it. So there’s no sense of discovery any more I think that’s the one thing that we’ve lost.
I think the other thing is because people used to have to actually send off in the post, and then you’d have to post them something, that you got a lot more direct communication with people as well. Or that they would write you letters, and then you would write them letters, and there would be that sense of a community building up. Whereas now you usually just get people arguing on forums! It’s not quite the same! It’s quite strange, and it’s one reason I don’t have any kind of forums on my own website, I just can’t bear that whole thing of having to deal with people who take real offense to something you’ve written, as if you have said you want to stab their mother, rather than you didn’t like a film they are into. So I have got no time for that sort of thing!
GSC- So I was going to ask you about that, have you ever really offended anyone during your career of publishing?
David- Ohh Probably!
GSC- Have you ever had anyone voice that level of offense at you?
David- I think, you know I am sure that I did! There were a few people who reviewed stuff I did who would maybe not be so openly offended, you could see that they were a little bit upset about some of the more vitriolic comments or some of the more how should I put it? Some of the more interesting content we had. You can’t help offend people. I think the music scene is much worse for that you know. I did a music website for a few years back in the early 2000’s and then you really would get the death threats and the angry sponsors because you said that a band was crap.
GSC- Going back, do you think there is still a place for fanzines, I mean you mention Robin Bougie in your Sheer Filth! intro, Cinema Sewer is doing quite well and the Sheer Filth! book is doing really well, so do you think people still want that printed format?
David- Yeah there seems to be, there seems to be a bit of a zine revival in the UK at the moment. There’s about 4,5,6 horror zines out there at the moment, which is more than we’ve had for a long time. They all do seem to be a bit more nostalgia based quite often which I think maybe that says they are just selling to an older demographic; the kids aren’t buying them, it’s just people in their 30s-40s and above that are buying printed magazines, I don’t know? But… it’s there, and it’s still happening and I’m quite glad to see that because there’s nothing quite like having a physical publication in your hand.
I think it’s got more permanence to it as well. Because stuff on the internet is only there for as long as someone maintains their blog or their website and if they get bored with it and shut it down then it’s gone and its like it never existed.
GSC- What were your stand out moments from Sheer Filth!, anything that you look back on now and think that was pretty amazing?
David- I think the stand out moments were some of the interesting people that you would meet and get to talk to, you know David F Friedman was a guy who I’d been a fan of for years and we ended up having an ongoing correspondence for several years. Getting to know Jorg Buttgereit through Nekromantik.
GSC- You were one of the first people to review that in the UK weren’t you?
David- We ran the first interview with him which was a really short interview but we did the first thing with him and there were a few other people like that who came along. Going to events was a highpoint and really getting to know people who became good friends for a long time, those were the highlights of those days, definitely. Not so much any particular movies that you saw but just the people you would meet.
GSC- So how about the most weird?
David- Weird, weird what?
GSC- Weird moment, the time you were sat there thinking what the fuck am I doing?
David- Sometimes you would get letters from people and there would be a sense of yeah this is good this guy’s got my address (?!). Because I got a letter from one person who claimed to be part of a group of penis worshippers, who wanted to come and worship me, that was quite strange you know! There really are some oddballs out there!
GSC- They wanted to come and worship you??
David- Hmm yeah… evidently so! But only if Sheer Filth! was actually worth wanking to, they hadn’t seen a copy at that point, so it probably wasn’t because I never heard from them again!
GSC- So, does anything cross the line for you? Is there anything you wouldn’t cover, or anything that you would think hmmm no that crosses the line?
David- It’s a tough one, I don’t think there is anything you would say you wouldn’t cover because I guess it all depends how you cover it. SO I wouldn’t cover anything that was sort of abusive or exploitative, I mean genuinely exploitative, in terms of hurting non consenting people. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still write about that. You can write about it in the sense of examining why this stuff exists. I don’t think there is anything that you can say you definitely can’t cover. But within the context of something like Sheer Filth! it was a case of on the one hand pushing as far as we could in terms of let’s see what we can find that’s really interesting or unusual ,but never pushing to the point where we were doing anything that was totally beyond the pale. I think everyone has got their own little moral compass and actually putting your finger on where that is, is quite hard. I think it’s when you get to that point when you think I wouldn’t want to write about this, I wouldn’t want to write about anything that was involving child abuse, I wouldn’t want to write about anything that was involving animal abuse (certainly not just for the sake of it). I can write about a mondo film, I can write about Cannibal Holocaust, but not some guy torturing an animal for fun. But again there’s nothing to say you can’t write an article about that kind of thing and say this is really terrible and expose it in some way. So I wouldn’t say there is anything that is completely un-writable about.
Gsc- What do you think is your recipe for success because you have had a long career, you’ve kept going for a long time! I take my hat off that’s some years you have put in! You are still going, what’s kept you going?
David-( laughing): I don’t know, stubbornness I think! Recipe for success is hardly the word I’d use, it’s not like I’m living the life of a millionaire or anything. You know I’ve somehow managed to keep going doing stuff but I think it is just bloody mindedness and the fact that I’m not very good at anything else! So I do what I do, because whenever I try and do anything normal it’s not really worked out.
GSC- You have covered some weird shit with Sheer Filth!, and these were pre-internet days, so where the hell did you used to get your films from?
David- This was the days of tape trading, you would just meet people, again the same way you would sell your fanzines with adverts in video magazines, you would meet people doing tape trading through the same publications and get to know them. And then there was little bit of one upmanship, trying to find that film that nobody else had seen, find the most outrageous thing, the weirdest thing. As long as you had a large amount of contacts, and they all had similar tastes a lot of stuff was out there. For example there were people who specialised in collecting old 50’s movies, just dealing video nasties. So you would just seek stuff out. Back then there was a lot of weird stuff on TV a lot more than you’d expect.
What I was doing was, I wouldn’t say I got bored with the nasties, but it was kind of limiting and I was more interested in the other side of stuff. A lot of weird old 1950s exploitation movies, seeking that stuff out was harder, but it was quite rewarding when you found people who had it.
GSC- What would your perfect movie marathon be then?
David- Oh god I don’t know, *laughs* I do these sometimes in my house, and it’s usually a kind of confused mess, because everyone is like what do we watch? And I’m like I don’t know, what do you feel like watching? I think my usual marathon would probably be a lot of sleaze, a lot of trailers, weird music videos, and nothing too heavy going. I don’t think anyone wants a movie marathon that just consists of European art films, and those are my favourite films but I’m not going to sit and watch that stuff over a few beers with friends.
GSC- So you haven’t got anything that’s like your sort of Holy Grail, or anything that you think this is the best film ever made? Or this is the one you always return to?
David- Well not so much the best film ever made, but I do have a habit of making people sit through a film called The Killing of America, which is this film about gun crime in America that was made in 1981. I have basically sat down everybody that I know, at one point, to watch that film including total strangers that I just met in the pub. That seems to be the film I go to.
GSC- Rounding it up, what are your future plans? You’ve got your website haven’t you?
David- The website keeps going, that’s my main thing, there’s possibly another book for FAB Press that’s lined up which will be about film censorship, and that won’t be until next year, at the earliest because it’s quite a big project. There’s a couple of other bits and pieces, I’m doing some stuff for Severin Films, several pieces for one or two other sites. So just keep going and see what comes along.
Check out Fab Press here to buy your copy of Sheer Filth!
Check out David Flint’s website Strange Things are Happening (here).
Sheer Filth! Official Facebook here.