Watching THE LOST REALITIES OF HOG CALLER is a unique experience. You feel it in your teeth. You feel it in your bones. It’s a sensory experience that at times is almost overwhelming. The combination of bizarre, sometimes surreal images and droning, squealing music is a lot for a delicate soul to take. But Daily Grindhouse has never been for delicate souls. Tom Richards, one half of Hog Caller and this film’s director, was good enough to take some time to answer some questions about his influences, Canadian Content and where the hell he got all that pork. DOG WILL HUNT!
Sweetback: Before we get into the movie, let’s talk about the band. Who are Hog Caller? And, how would you describe Hog Caller’s music to, say, a suburban soccer mom?
Tom Richards: Hog Caller is Steve O’Donnell and myself (Tom Richards). We share equal writing/playing duties, but I do all the drum programming and Steve does all the samples. I would describe the music to a soccer mom as the kind of music you listen to when trying to get in touch with your inner pig.
SB: What brought Vomitrocious (Steve O’Donnell) and yourself together initially? How did your interest in grindcore/hardcore music form, and how long have you been making a racket?
TR: Steve and myself were born and raised in the same small town (Middletown, PA), the home of Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant. I have older siblings that always had 70’s, early 80’s vinyl that I would pilfer and it gave me an opportunity to listen to heavy stuff at an early age (Sabbath, Alice Cooper, early Judas Priest). Steve is about 6 years older than myself. When he wasn’t selling $5 hits of acid at the local convenience store (Turkey Hill) he would be playing guitar in different bands. He eventually ended up as the guitar player in grind legends Exit-13. As for getting together and making a racket, we were hanging out at a one-time industrial chicken coupe that was converted into band practice spaces. I was in a band playing Clutch covers and a few originals, Steve was in a band doing straight up rock music. Steve mentioned that we should record some kind of grind project and he will give it to Bill Yurkiewicz at Last House on the Right Records. Bill was the singer in Exit-13 and one time Relapse Records honcho. So we recorded several tracks in the winter of 2005, let Bill have a listen and he said he will release it on a split CD with Headcrash from The Netherlands. The title is “Proper Parasite Mannerisms”.
SB: One of the things that really sets Hog Caller apart is that you have guys have a ton of experimental music videos – usually involving pigs, internal organs and extreme violence – three of my favorite things. Where did your own fascination in filmmaking come from? Is it just an extension of your music, or do you consider the two forms seperate?
TR: I would say my own fascination with filmmaking comes from the VHS culture of the early 80’s. I remember my family’s first VHS deck probably 1983-84? And how awesome it was to go to a local movie rental store and be able to walk out with a stack of VHS tapes. You could fast forward, slow-mo, rewind cool parts, and even record.
I have never personally thought of them as two different forms, to me they were equally important or complimentary to each other. I remember playing FACES OF DEATH on vhs, putting the TV on mute, cranking Slayer “Hell Awaits” or something similar on the stereo and scaring the shit out of myself and my friends. That was powerful to me to be able to customize your own visual/audio experience.
SB: Now, THE LOST REALITIES OF HOG CALLER includes segments from many of these music videos, as well as a narrative following a news crew attempting to track down the missing band. There are definitely mockumentary elements and mythology building at work here. What was the original idea behind the film? And what were some of your influences in making the film?
TR: We started out just wanting to make a few disturbing videos for our tracks on the CD. We had so much fun doing it that we just continued making videos. Then at some point we had over a half-hour of videos and I was talking with my friend Jim Hollenbaugh who is the Director of Photography and Skip Jenkins on THE LOST REALITIES, we thought we should try and make a full length DVD of some sorts. So we were throwing around ideas and I ended up watching THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GUY TERRIFICO (Canadian Film) and thought we should take a mockumentary angle and of course I’ve seen THIS IS SPINAL TAP. It just seemed like a logical way to pull some of the imagery together into a storyline. I wanted it to look like you are actually watching a really fucked up news story. I thought Jim Hollenbaugh would be great as a shitty local news reporter. A lot of the influences with Hog Caller music/film come from living in Central Pennsylvania, we live in the town that to this day had the worst nuclear accident in United States (Three Mile Island), during the March 1979 accident I was in the third grade, my father worked at TMI, now retired from there and all of these families are leaving town, people freaking out, President Jimmy Carter is in town, and my dad had to go to work so we were one of the families that stayed in town and at our home. I remember the extreme fears and paranoia associated with the accident that people and the media exhibited and rightfully so. So to have the nuclear facility so close by it seemed like a good idea to use it as a prop or somehow weave it into the film. We also live about 30 miles from the Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) communities of Lancaster, PA who shun modern technologies and lifestyles, but have also influenced the Central PA region culturally through their own way of life. I always thought how interesting it is to have a nuclear power plant which displays mans ability to harness power & technology next to a community that shuns electricity and will not drive automobiles. So the extreme juxtaposition was definitely an influence.
As for cinematic influence I remember watching the original DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD in Junior High on VHS and was like this is great, CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH, and a bunch of other pre-DVD stuff. I also had a Nick Zedd STEAL THIS VIDEO VHS from the early 90’s that someone stole from me.
SB: One film that came to mind a few times was the awesome Canadian fake punk-doc HARD CORE LOGO? Are you guys fans? Am I transparent in my attempts to get Canadian content into this interview?
TR: I have not heard of HARD CORE LOGO, but I just watched the trailer on youtube and now can’t wait to see it. I just gave you GUY TERRIFICO props, correct? That film’s Canadian!
SB: Where the hell do you get all that pork?
TR: We have this great meat market in a place called Elizabethtown, PA. It’s called Groff’s Meats, you can get any type of pig, beef, lamb parts that you like. The only think I don’t think you can purchase is intestines. I must have ordered over 20 different pig heads/feet and several pig hearts that come with the lungs, trachea, and arteries. Pig heads are about $15 bucks a piece and the heart, lung, and arteries are about $5 bucks.
SB: Of the new filmed scenes, how much was scripted vs just you screwing around improvising material? It looks like you were having a hell of a time.
TR: I would have a rough idea scripted and run it past Jim Hollenbaugh the DP and some of the other people that would be on the shoot and we would just go for it. I always made sure we had a cooler full of cold beer for the cast and crew. We had a blast shooting it.
SB: From personal filmmaking experience, getting permission is for pussies. Did you get any grief while filming the scenes of pushing the pig corpse around the city, or playing with it on the playground?
TR: Fortunately the day we shot Steve O.D. with the piggy walking around town there was a heat wave, It was the middle of August 2008 and it must have been at least 100 degrees outside with like 90 percent humidity. No one was outside, it was too hot. By the end of the day the flies were already starting to lay egg larvae on the pig. Poor piggy!
SB: How much of a one man show was this? And what were some of your biggest challenges while filming?
TR: Hog Caller the music is Steve O.D. and myself. When it came to the film I couldn’t of done it without Jim Hollenbaugh. I would take ideas from whatever the song topic and try and relate it to visuals. Every shoot for the most part went smoothly, we were usually under time constraints, we had absolutely no budget other than two 30 packs of beer and if something wasn’t working we would try it another way and just keep moving. The biggest challenges was getting people to act or help out and then hoping they would show up.
SB: While you’ve been directing videos for a while, this is your first stab at directing a full-length picture. You’re obviously a busy guy with your music projects, but is there interest in making another feature? I’d love to see your take on a more traditional horror piece.
TR: Yes, I would love the make another feature, I would love to be able to support myself making films but for the time being I work in an internal marketing department shooting and editing corporate video. It pays the bills. Barely! I have a feature length script that I wrote maybe 10 years ago that someday I would like to shoot, but now I need to push this film out there. Somehow!
SB: Let’s talk about the marketing of THE LOST REALITIES OF HOG CALLER. It’s an intentionally aggressive, and sometimes very weird film. How are you getting such an “out there” film out there?
TR: Well I have entered into a shitload of festivals and it seems like it is too “out there” to get accepted into any, so I’ve blown some dough on festival fees without much to show. I would like to get into the 2011 Mockfest Film Festival, I should find out in a few days. I’ve also sent the dvd out to distro companies and not much happening there either. Just seems like a tough market.
SB: What’s the final destination? Ideally, what would you like to see happen with the film, and for anyone reading this, how will they be able to see it or purchase it?
TR: At some point, hopefully by the end of 2011 something happens, such as maybe someone has a soft spot for pork and is willing to release it. If not I’ll probably put it out ourselves on our website. www.hogcallermusic.com
SB: If anyone wants to learn more about HOG CALLER, or THE LOST REALITIES OF HOG CALLER, where should they go?
SB: Anything else to plug?
TR: We have cd’s and t-shirts and if nothing happens with the dvd it will be up there the end of 2011. We have a track on the double CD, Bulldozers United “A Tribute to Cock and Ball Torture”. It can be found on Mierdas Productions out of Mexico. A split 7 inch several years in the works is supposed to come out on Vomi dPorc Records. Also I am getting itchy to record some new Hog Caller music.
SB: Awesome. Thanks for your time, Tom!
TR: Thanks a lot for this opportunity!
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016