We’ve been big fans of Jeff Tuttle ever since we first saw him practically challenge an entire venue for a fight, during The Dillinger Escape Plan’s quite-frankly-infamous two-shows-in-one-day showcase of Option Paralysis at. We were pretty bummed out when he announced his decision to leave one of Thrash Hits’ collectively favourite bands to concentrate on his filmmaking, but at the same time we were super excited about what possibilities that might bring. We caught up with Jeff to talk about his current musical projects – the noise beast that is Old Gods and the more-conventional (but no less kickass) Malo Konjche – as well as to pick his brain about his burgeoning career behind a camera lens.
Malo Konjche seems more straightforward punk rock than the more noise/math/intensity of Old Gods. Why did you take this project in the direction you did?
I’ve always been interested in many different types of music, but none have had more of an impact on me than classic rock. Classic rock was my first musical obsession and is still very much in my blood. Malo Konjche is my opportunity to play music inspired by the sounds of the 70s. In many ways, it’s the band I’ve been building towards all my life.
How does the creative process for Malo Konjche differ from that of Old Gods?
First and foremost, I’m a guitar player. So, when Old Gods began, I wanted to express myself differently. I wanted to be immersed in the role of frontman and not concern myself with writing riffs and dialing in guitar tones. It may sound silly, but figuring out my guitar-less stage persona took a bit of time and introspection. It felt a bit like preparing for a film role and that dynamic became the thematic concept for out full-length Stylized Violence.
The band shares its name with your overall “creative identity”, Malo Konjche Industries. What’s the origin of the name? Why did you choose it to represent your creative works?
Malo Konjche is the nickname my wife gave me early on in our relationship. As I began developing myself as a filmmaker and continued my musical endeavors, I realized how much these two mediums have in common. I began drawing from each individual world to fuel the fire of the other. Instead of having a separate entity to represent film and music, I thought it more appropriate to have one home for both. My music and film is always deeply personal, so I wanted a name that would reflect that. Malo Konjche felt like a great fit.
Okay, going back to some real basics now – can you talk us through what initially made you want to get involved in filmmaking, and how you’ve progressed to the point you are now?
I’ve always been obsessed with movies and my love for horror was becoming something I could no longer contain. I was looking for a new creative outlet and filmmaking felt like the logical next step. To me, it’s just another form of artistic expression and a different type of performance. In the end, it all feeds the same desire to create.
The examples of your filmmaking that I’ve seen is – if I try to sum it up in just a few words – is both disturbing and intensely visceral. How does your creative process as a filmmaker differ from that as a musician.
I think my creative process, as both a filmmaker and a musician, are very similar. In either case, I have something in my head that I need to get out. It becomes a matter of problem solving. It’s about finding the right notes, the best materials or the most effective means to convey the emotion I want to convey. I think that’s why my work tends to be so disturbing and intensely visceral, as you’ve suggested. When you’re primary objective is to appeal to you audience’s emotion, the use of shock and awe is grounded in character development, rather than mere spectacle. It’s much more effective in this manner.
Both the videos for Child Bite’s ‘Ancestral Ooze’ and Old Gods’ ‘From Beyond’ see you ending up bloodied and damaged. The day-glo vomit in the Child Bite video also reminded me of the bright colours in the Old Gods promo photos and artwork for Stylized Violence) – would you say that these are your signature visual motifs, or am I reading too much into this?
I wouldn’t call the colour palette a signature visual motif, per se, but I definitely draw influences from a movie called Street Trash, which has an aesthetic that I always aspire to. Street Trash is an explosion of bizarre colours that is simple in its execution and very effective in terms of its payoff. Both of these ideals are essential to capture when you operate as a DIY filmmaker.
In both Cathexis and Irrational, you covered yourself in black goo to become this metaphorical (or is it?) beast. Can you elaborate on why you’ve returned to this concept? Is it something you feel you’ve got multiple things to say about, or is it that you don’t feel like you’ve quite gotten its portrayal on film as you’d like yet?
Cathexis is a continuation of the story that started with Irrational, and both are part of a greater idea that I’d eventually like to turn into a feature. As far as the black goo is concerned, the concept began very pragmatically: I wanted to play the role, but didn’t want my tattoos to be visible. When I saw how incredible the black goo (in reality, latex body paint) looked, I realised that I had created a monster that I could be really proud of. I really look forward to developing the story and taking The Thing to some strange places!
Was this a role that you felt you needed to handle all the aspects of? In addition to writing, directing, and performing this role, you’ve listed yourself as doing the make-up FX. I guess I’m interested in how much the precise appearance of this character/force within your work needs to be portrayed in a certain way.
Much of my decision to become a filmmaker was predicated on my desire to make horror movies. So when it came down to it, I wanted to handle as many aspects as I could, not because I didn’t trust anyone else to do it, but because it’s fucking fun! Also, convincing someone else to be covered from head to toe in black latex body paint and then immersed in a vat of blood is a hard sell… for most. For me it was a dream come true in every conceivable sense.
Are there any other musicians you’d particularly like to work with on music videos?
This is a very simple question to answer: FAITH NO MORE! Classic rock may have been my gateway into music, but Faith No More made me want to be a musician. Now that they are back, I’d love to make a music video for them. That would be a pretty surreal experience.
Or other filmmakers you’d like to collaborate with on film projects?
I was pretty vocal about my distain for any remote possibility of an Evil Dead remake, but Sam Raimi sure shut me up. I’m very impressed with the resulting film his production team created and would love to work with him to create a horror opus of my own. The Evil Dead (1981) is my favorite movie of all time, not just because it’s a bloody spectacle, but because it stands as a testament to DIY ethic and the undying spirit of a driven artist. To work with someone like him would be magical.
What would be your dream project to work on, if budget and the like were not a concern?
It has been said that filmmakers are like magicians. They continue to push the boundaries of the imagination and create entire worlds within their features. However, as technology progresses, I feel the line between fantasy and reality becomes more apparent and the magic is lost. Filmmakers like Christopher Nolan strike a great balance between the new and old regimes and use technology as a tool rather than a crutch. If budget were not a concern, I’d love to make a movie like Interstellar or Inception. Both of those movies are so grand in their design, but extremely simple at their core. I think the best things in life are just the same. Also, there’s a book called House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski that I really love. People say that it’s unfilmable because it is so massive in its scope, but I’d love the challenge!
Let’s talk about Detroit for a minute. Looking at the city from another continent, we keep finding loads of interesting bands and ideas and weird stuff coming out of Detroit and that area of Michigan generally. What is it about the city do you think that seems to have led to such a creative resurgence? Apologies if this is misrepresentative of the city – as mentioned, I’m approaching it from an outsider’s viewpoint.
As an outsider, I think you have the greatest viewpoint because it’s much more unbiased. The beauty of art is that it elicits feelings. An artist can create something and put it into the world with a given connotation, but it’s ultimately up to the viewer to decide how it makes them feel. The fact that you describe Malo Konjche as punk rock is a perfect example. I can honestly say that I was not trying to create something that would fit that description, but that’s the impression it gives you, so who am I to argue? I make music and in the end that’s all that it is.
There are loads of exciting things happening in Michigan right now because we have always been a blue-collar state and that ethic bleeds into everything. I think it has less to do with the amount of opportunity and more to do with the amount of people willing to create opportunities for themselves. Many may aspire to land in Hollywood or make a name in NYC, but Detroit is a place that lets misfits flourish. We just do things differently here and I can’t imagine it any other way.