Devil Doll - Interview with Mr.Doctor (Euro-Rock Press)



INTERVIEW FOR EURO ROCK PRESS MAGAZINE – MADE ON OCTOBER 30, 2008

FIRST OF ALL, TELL US ABOUT YOUR OWN PROFILE, MUSICAL BACKGROUND AND MAJOR INFLUENCE FROM COMPOSERS AND ARTISTS INCLUDING CLASSICAL MUSIC.

"My guiding light is (and always was) the charm and stupefaction I feel in front of a great work of Art, the trembling of my body when filled by the germs of someone’s inspiration, and the emotion, the challenge of creating, of pulling out of myself the Unknown. Art is the greatest adventure we are allowed to experience in our brief apparition on the stage of life. I have always listened to a wide range of music, but I cannot say I was “directly” inspired by any artist in particular. In classical music I always admired Mussorgsky’s unorthodoxy, unpredictability and disrespect of rules, and a few other Russian composers such as Shostakovich (the second tempo of his 8th String Quartet and Chamber Symphony op.110/110a electrocuted my imagination at least as much as the beginning of his 5th Symphony must have remained stuck in Morrissey’s mind, when he sampled it for 11 minutes on the opening song of his “Southpaw Grammar” album), Prokofiev (whose exceptional melodic ingeniousness influenced me, but must have pleased Sting too, as he borrowed the theme of Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kijé” for his hit “Russians”) and Mosolov (whose mid-1920s piece “Iron Foundry” is pure Prog-Rock à la Magma, Art Zoyd, Univers Zero). Early in my Devil Doll days, I was also into Ives (his 4th Symphony, in particular), Weill (the “Threepenny Opera” and “The Seven Deadly Sins”) and Eisler (a few of his songs, which I also performed and recorded, and the “German Symphony”). Among the classical conductors, my favourite was Fritz Reiner, whose interpretations of Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, Prokofiev’s “Aleksandr Nevsky” or Armenian composer Alan Hovhaness’s Second Symphony “Mysterious Mountain”, are unsurpassable. Concerning Pop and Rock music, there are a few albums spread throughout the last five decades which I find truly terrific, although I often find more inspirational tiny sparkles of genius lost in bad records, than uniformly good albums which are unable to engrave my soul."

PLEASE ALSO COMMENT ON THE WORKS OF LITERATURE THAT HAVE INFLUENCED YOU.

"Along with Symbolist poets and the Avant-gardes of the 20th century (Surrealism and its precursor Lautreamont, in particular), I was inevitably shaped by European writers such as Franz Kafka, Oscar Wilde, Luigi Pirandello or Graham Greene. At the same time, I developed an interest for the literature which dealt with imagination, with the hidden and the supernatural: after reading Lovecraft’s inspirational essay “Supernatural Horror In Literature” (1927) I was carried away by Sheridan LeFanu’s “In A Glass Darkly”, by the slow but atmospheric Gothic novels of Charles Maturin and ‘Monk’ Lewis, by Edgar Allan Poe (who made me understand from where Baudelaire’s most charming metaphors originated), Henry James’ “The Turn Of The Screw”, Arthur Machen’s “The Great God Pan” and Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows”. Later I went on to read and love M.R. James and Ambrose Bierce and, among the writers of the second half of the 20th century, Charles Beaumont."

DID YOU HAVE ANY BAND OR WORK AS A SOLO ARTIST BEFORE FORMING DEVIL DOLL? OR YOU HAD A DIFFERENT PROFESSION?

"In my early twenties I formed a few groups both in Milan, where I was taking my first graduation in Criminology, and in Venice, when studying for my second one in Philosophy, but everyone seemed more keen on checking what was the musical trend of the day (and the ‘80s where an extremely disheartening period, music-wise) instead of trying to explore their own perceptions. I then decided to record my compositions alone, onto a 4-track Teac recorder, hoping that a tape with my music could speak more clearly than a thousand words. It didn’t, as I just collected ironic laughter."

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO FORM DEVIL DOLL?

"I placed an advert to form a group, starting with the sentence “A Man Is The Less Likely To Become Great The More He Is Dominated By Reason. Few Can Achieve Greatness, And None In Art, If They Are Not Dominated By: ILLUSION”. I hoped to find someone who could be on my same wave-length regardless of the technical proficiency – it is much easier to learn how to play an instrument, than to change a mental approach. Among the few people I met through it, there was Edoardo Beato’s sister, a charming and artistically talented girl with an otherworldly aura. We kept talking about our Art discoveries for over a year, until she asked me to witness a concert of her brother’s Art-Rock group, which was named Iter Magister. In the following days I asked them to rehearse with me and this was the very beginning of Devil Doll. "

Our original set featured five long compositions which we recorded on my 4-track Teac: four never made it onto any record, but the fifth, The Mark Of The Beast, was recorded properly and preserved on a single-copy vinyl, which was meant as an “Aural Painting”, complete with a hand-painted cover."

THE SOUND OF DEVIL DOLL SHOWS THE INFLUENCE FROM MOVIES, ESPECIALLY HORROR FILMS.

"1920s Expressionist films have been a much deeper inspiration than straight Horrors. It is true, though, that some of the best 1930s Horrors were made by Expressionist filmmakers and actors who had emigrated to America. I was delighted by Karl Freund’s camera work in the early scenes of Browning’s “Dracula” or by some of his marvellous shots when he directed “The Mummy” or “Mad Love”. The Expressionist atmosphere also pervades the 1940s Film Noirs directed by Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak or Edgar Ulmer, all German refugees, and flashes of Expressionism also grace Val Lewton’s nine movies from the same period. But it is the universe of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu”, “Sunrise”, “Faust” and “The Last Laugh”, G.W. Pabst’s “Joyless Street”, “The Love Of Jeanne Ney”, “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary Of A Lost Girl”, Ewart Dupont’s “Variety”, Joe May’s “Asphalt” or Paul Leni’s “The Man Who Laughs”, which most influenced my visual aesthetics when I started Devil Doll. "

DO YOU HAVE ANY RELATION WITH ANY MOVIE DIRECTOR OR SOUNDTRACK MUSIC LIKE THAT OF DARIO ARGENTO AND GOBLIN IN ITALY?

"A few film directors made contact with our label Hurdy Gurdy Records, but I never considered the possibility of doing a soundtrack for a number of reasons. Film music is functional, which means that it is “at the service” of the images. The composer must obey and satisfy the director, the producer, the person who edits the movie, plus a number of film executives, who can all decide to cut your music and impose changes, regardless of the fact that do not understand anything about music (and in some cases also of cinema). When Orson Welles made “Citizen Kane”, he filmed quite a few parts on Bernard Herrmann’s pre-recorded music, in order to enhance the connection between sound and light, fully understanding the subliminal power of the music. But Welles was a genius. Stravinsky and Schoenberg were also asked to write film music, and they asked to compose it taking inspiration directly from the screenplay, whereas the filming should have followed the creation of the music. Even their fame did not prevent their substitution in favour of more realistic “yes-men”."

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT HURDY GURDY RECORDS. IS IT AN INDEPENDENT LABEL YOU ESTABLISHED? IF YES, TELL US WHY YOU FORMED THE LABEL FOR RELEASING DEVIL DOLL ALBUMS.

"I established Hurdy Gurdy as a logo under which I released Devil Doll’s first album. But while in ex-Yugoslavia, where the compositions had been recorded, I was allowed to privately print my records through the state-owned Yugoton factory, in Italy, in order to comply with law, it was necessary to establish a “proper” record company. At that point, few people who had followed Devil Doll from the very beginning expressed their desire to create a “real” independent label, which exists up to this day."

EACH DEVIL DOLL ALBUM HAS MANY GUESTS IN ADDITION TO THE CORE MEMBERS INCLUDING YOU, AND THE CORE MEMBERS ARE DIFFERENT FROM ALBUM TO ALBUM. PLEASE GIVE ACCOUNT ON THE CORE MEMBERS OF DEVIL DOLL EXCLUDING GUESTS.

"Since the group’s inception, many excellent musicians have performed as Devil Doll members, but I only worked closely with three of them, Edoardo Beato, Rob Dani and Francesco Carta. Edoardo Beato was 16 when we formed Devil Doll. He had already a varied and sophisticated cultural background, which he has continued to develop, becoming a well-known lecturer on various esoteric subjects revolving around Indian philosophy. We still meet with pleasure and recently discussed the concrete possibility of composing together again. Rob Dani was only a couple of years older than Edoardo Beato and had an exceptional talent for improvising and composing with percussions, more than merely supplying a rhythmic backbone. Like me, he never wasted time and self-imposed a rigid discipline. His dedication to Devil Doll was admirable, as he could work with me in the recording studio for 15/18 hours every day, without ever complaining or showing signs of tiredness. On the other hand, he never went along well with Devil Doll sound engineer Jurij Toni (who could be impossibly irritating on a bad day) and it was always hard to tone down the latent tension under the level of explosion. After the release of Sacrilegium, Rob Dani had to serve the army, so we lost him for a whole year. When he returned, he had a serious nervous breakdown which increased the friction with Jurij Toni and led to the hurtful decision to pass on his services. Francesco Carta had been brought in Devil Doll by Rob Dani (with whom he was playing in another group) after the release of Eliogabalus. After being credited as co-composer of Eliogabalus, Edoardo Beato was much more interested in writing music than playing it, so we agreed to recruit a new piano player, with Beato retaining the keyboards. Francesco Carta was a marvellous improviser and after a few initial difficulties, the link between my vocals and his piano became symbiotic. Beato’s role in Devil Doll inevitably felt his role as less prominent, and before the recording of Sacrilegium he decided to quit. From that moment Francesco Carta became the only musician in Devil Doll who shared with me the development of the compositions, the arrangements and the orchestrations."

HOW DID YOU PROCEED WITH ALBUM PRODUCTION AND RECORDINGS? HOW DO YOU COMPOSE MUSIC? DOES IT START WITH, SAY, JUST PLAYING THE PIANO? OR YOU ALWAYS LOOK FOR PHRASES OR SOMETHING?

"When I am satisfied with the lyrics (which are always written before the music), I sit at the piano and I let the music flow from the suggestions of the lyrics, as a blind man who follows his dog through tortuous alleys. A micro-recorder saves every note I play for later transcription. At this stage, writing the music could be too architectural, it could abate inspiration and the blind man would seriously risk of “losing the dog”. "

WHEN YOU ENTER THE STUDIO, ARRANGEMENTS OF INDIVIDUAL TUNES ARE COMPLETED? DO YOU BASICALLY ARRANGE EVERYTHING ON YOUR OWN? OR YOU PREPARE A FRAMEWORK FOR EACH TUNE, AND OTHER MEMBERS CONTRIBUTE IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE? WHEN DO YOU APPOINT GUESTS IN THE PROCESS?

"When the framework is set and most part of the music is composed, I begin intense rehearsals with piano player Francesco Carta, in order to transform the act of “doing” music together, in the act of “feeling” music together. When a piano/vocal version of the whole album starts to BREATHE, we begin to work on arrangements and orchestrations. Then I meet separately each member of Devil Doll and the guests, to whom I give a booklet with all their parts, defined in detail (also the guitar solos are written note-by-note). Just before entering the studio, there are a few guitar-bass-drums rehearsals, always without vocals. If compositional contributions are only allowed to Francesco Carta, occasionally I alter my arrangements during the studio phase, following suggestions from one of the other musicians."

PLEASE GIVE YOUR COMMENTS ON EACH ALBUM ON THE FOLLOWING POINTS: WHAT THE ALBUM TITLE MEANS. IF THERE IS ANY CONCEPT WHAT IS IT?

"“The Girl Who Was…Death”, inspired by Patrick McGoohan’s esoteric TV series “The Prisoner”, follows the series’ concept, an allegory on Man, at the same time Prisoner and Captor of Himself. The album’s title was taken from the 15th episode of “The Prisoner” and the cover portrays seventeen women (like the number of episodes of “The Prisoner”): sixteen are on the back cover, all dead, and a seventeenth is on the front, Elsa Lanchester (Charles Laughton’s wife) in “The Bride Of Frankenstein”, portrayed an instant before her death. “Eliogabalus” was the name of a child emperor in ancient Rome. His eccentricity (or mental insanity, depending on perspectives) provoked his killing and his obliteration from history, as a law by the Roman Senate even prohibited to write about his existence. The album features two tracks, both dealing with madness, diversity and deformity. The most intensely claustrophobic album is “Sacrilegium”, written and recorded in my darkest life period. It is about Love, a word so overused to the point of becoming meaningless (hence the title), and never mentioned in the lyrics. “The Sacrilege Of Fatal Arms” is the soundtrack to my first silent film, a dream-like (often nightmare-like), series of flashes on emotions at their purest stage. It transposes into images the inner turmoil of “Sacrilegium” and shares the same concept. The “Dies Irae” is a part of the Christian funeral mass, also called “Requiem Mass”, and it is the confrontation between each soul and God in the final judgement which follows each man’s death. My own “Dies Irae” is an account of my background, hopes, doubts and torments. "

WHICH IS THE BEST TRACK FROM YOUR VIEWPOINT. WHY?

"From a compositional viewpoint, I rate “Dies Irae” as undoubtedly the best among the five albums now reissued, although I am very fond of all the other albums too, of “Sacrilegium” in particular, for its atmosphere of death and desperation which conjure up in making it a unique experience to many, myself included."

IN THE STALLS ON THE FRONT COVER OF “ELIOGABALUS” WE CAN SEE MANY PEOPLE WHO SEEM TO HAVE INFLUENCED YOU OR WHOM YOU LIKE. PLEASE PICK UP TEN OF THEM AND GIVE US A COMMENT ON THEM.

"Robert Louis Stevenson was the Scottish writer who inspired my name Mr. (Hyde) Doctor (Jekyll) with his story of dual personality entitled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886). As a child, I read all his novels and short stories and I still fondly remember “Markheim” and “The Body Snatchers”. Stevenson’s story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde gave life to three great films directed by John Robertson (1920), Rouben Mamoulian (1932) and Victor Fleming (1941).
John Barrymore (the youngest of the three “Fabulous Barrymores”, with brother Lionel and sister Ethel) was the Jekyll/Hyde of the 1920 version, and occupies the top left stall of Eliogabalus’ theatre. With a virtuoso performance, he accomplished the transformation from one character to the other without specials effects or use of make-up. Eleven years later, Barrymore would offer another extraordinary performance in the title role of Archie Mayo’s “Svengali”.
I share with writer Ambrose Bierce an affection for paradox and black humour and a visceral despise for envy and hypocrisy. His “Devil’s Dictionary” has been one of my youth’s life-guides, and some of his short stories (from “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” to the wonderfully cynical “Oil Of Dog”) are still at the very top of my preferences.
Some of the best music on earth can be found in film soundtracks. I have a particular consonance of sensibility with Bernard Herrmann (curiously, another Russian, although his family had emigrated to America prior to his birth changing in the process their family name Dardick into Herrmann), about whom I have published a book entitled “Music For The Eyes” a few years ago. Bernard Herrmann’s Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra, written for the film “Hangover Square”, is among my favourites, along with the obviously Devil Doll-esque “Psycho”, the tender “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, the crystalline “Fahrenheit 451” and the otherworldly “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, with its terrific use of the “theremin”. Even when Herrmann borrows from other composers, such as in the majestic “Vertigo” (from Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde”) or “Cape Fear” (whose main theme is borrowed from Schoenberg’s “Chamber Symphony No.1”), the orchestrations are always highly original and inventive. Some of his more inspiring ideas can be found in obscure compositions for TV, such as the soundtrack for “Little Girl Lost”, an episode of “The Twilight Zone”.
I included in the stalls a few pop/rock musicians and among them Brian Bond must be unfamiliar to most readers. As a teenager I attended a few London concerts by his group Punishment Of Luxury: Brian used masks, different costumes and had an amazing pantomimic ability. He was a gifted vocalist with an ever-changing voice which perfectly suited those insane masquerades which were their live shows. Unlike Peter Gabriel in Genesis, he was visually well-complemented by the other members, all musicians-actors or actors-musicians, with strange names like Malakabala or Nevilluxury. Their studio recordings inevitably fail to recapture the lunatic charm of their live performances, but their 1979 album “The Laughing Academy” and their early singles were among the biggest influences of my pre-Devil Doll compositions.
In the same stall as the angry Brian Bond, there’s a relaxed Michael Brown, better known to Rock historians as the leader of 60s baroque-pop group The Left Banke. After quitting that band, Brown joined Montage, whose lone album is erratic, but features a diamond entitled “She’s Alone”, which was part of Devil Doll’s early live set. For some time before forming Devil Doll I decided to study at the piano the songs by pop composers as diverse as Scott Walker, Elton John, Ray Davies, Kate Bush, Andersson/Ulvaeus of Abba, Holland/Dozier/Holland (who penned hundreds of songs for Tamla Motown), Elvis Costello and so on, in order to detect if there was a “formula” hidden behind their compositions. This knowledge freed myself of preconceptions tied to the genre they were playing, leaving the naked notes to speak for them. When I first heard Michael Brown’s “She’s Alone”, I was stunned by the fact the verse was a perfect Schoenberg-esque “Twelve-Tone” sequence (it uses all the twelve tones of an octave – no one note is repeated twice!), but despite that, it perfectly worked as a clever, melancholic psych-pop song.
Peter Hammill (in a stall with myself, then just a student) was the first Rock musician who I knew personally. I approached him after a concert and later he visited me in Venice (when the photo was taken). His gentleness and fragility, compared to the insanity of most of his records with or without Van Der Graaf Generator, were a puzzling Jekyll/Hyde contrast. Between 1970 and 1978 Hammill was at his creative peak, his voice was flexible like an instrument and his music always unpredictable. More than anybody else he transcended Rock sub-genres and was deservedly praised well beyond the Progressive Rock community, and quoted as a big influence by the likes of Johnny Rotten/Lydon of The Sex Pistols/PIL, Marc Almond, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, Mark E- Smith of The Fall, Phil Oakey of The Human League and myself.
When I was ten, I wrote a letter to Spanish film director Luis Bunuel, whose movies (and in particular “The Exterminating Angel”) had deeply touched me, to the point that I had purchased all the screenplays I could find, learning entire parts by heart. He had the kindness to reply with a brief note. His early Surrealist films (“Un Chien Andalou” and “L’Age d’Or”) taught me the paradox that mind is much more creative whenever it uses Icarus’ wings, flying beyond the predictable steps of intelligence.
Dwight Frye was the actor who is remembered by some for his unforgettable performance as Renfield in the original “Dracula” and as Karl in “The Bride Of Frankenstein”. Typecast in roles of idiots or lunatics, Dwight gave his most outstanding portrayal in Frank Streyer’s 1933 horror movie “The Vampire Bat”, which is recommended viewing to Devil Doll lovers. Frye died in 1943 (aged 44) poor and forgotten: before I offered him a stall on the Eliogabalus theatre, only Alice Cooper had remembered him with “The Ballad Of Dwight Frye”, his best song ever. In 1997 writer Gregory William Mank (whose volumes on horror cinema are magnificent) published “Dwight Frye’s Last Laugh”, a book which gave Dwight the immortality he deserves.
I have reserved the best stall, in the centre of “Eliogabalus”’s theatre, to director Tod Browning and his Freaks, the main characters of his 1933 film of the same name. Acted by real circus-freaks simply portraying themselves, the film is a celebration of Browning’s attraction for diversity and deformity. It subverted the equation which pervades Western culture from its roots: the concept that Greek Philosophers called “Kalokagathia”, based on the identification of “Beautiful” (kalòs) and “Good” (agathòs). If in Hollywood cinema the hero is necessarily Beautiful and Good, in Tod Browning’s “Freaks” Good are the ugly and deformed circus-freaks, while Evil lurks behind the pleasant look of the Beautiful ones. Too revolutionary to be acceptable, the film was reviewed as “revolting” and “nauseating”, it was butchered by censors and prohibited in many countries (including England) for over thirty years. "

ACCORDING TO “THE WORLD OF MR.DOCTOR” AT ONE OF THE BEST DEVIL DOLL WEBSITES (www.devildoll.nl) MOVIES YOU’VE BEEN INFLUENCED ARE DISPLAYED. IF YOU PICK UP 10 WORKS, WHAT LINE-UP DO YOU CHOOSE? PLEASE GIVE SHORT COMMENTS ON THEM INDIVIDUALLY.

"No other movie has images as stunning as F.W. Murnau’s “Faust” (1926): lightning, composition, camera work are all flawless. Possibly the greatest film director ever, Murnau would create his artistic masterpiece, “Sunrise” in 1927, before prematurely passing away in 1931, aged 42.
Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus” (1950) sports a clever metaphoric concept and is at the same time graced by an intensely poetic dialogue: a rare happy-marriage between Philosophy and Poetry. Besides that, the highlight is Maria Casares (chosen by Cocteau after her unforgettable performance in Robert Bresson’s “Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne”, five years earlier), wonderfully portraying “Death”. Jean Cocteau had previously filmed the slower but wonderfully visual “Beauty And The Beast” (1946), assisted by Renè Clement, whose “Forbidden Games” (1952) also deserves a honourable mention.
Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s funeral march which opens and closes Orson Welles’ “Othello” (1952) is among my favourite pieces of music-with-images, but throughout this amazing film the immensity of Welles’ talent as a director and as an actor, shines even more brightly than in his deservedly-praised “Citizen Kane”.
William Dieterle’s “The Devil And Daniel Webster” (a.k.a. “All That Money Can Buy”) (1941) offers an oblique reinterpretation of the Faust myth, set in rural America. The film’s climax is a visually powerful trail decided by the oddest jury you will ever see on this (or any other) world.
A friend of mine keeps saying that my eyes remind her of Richard Attenborough’s in John Boulting’s “Brighton Rock” (1947) and although the character he portrays is among the most loathing human beings I can think of, his glaze is so terrific that I am inclined to take the comparison as a compliment. “Brighton Rock”’s ace sequence is the finale, a crucial moment in every work of Art, here so ingenious and breathtakingly unexpected. to remain engraved onto the viewer’s brain. Forever.
The most eminently personal, intimate, ineffable of feelings, love is mis-portrayed in most films as a nauseating cocktail of sugar, tears, flesh and unexpected events. Incarnated by a magic performance of actress Celia Johnson, in David Lean’s “Brief Encounter” (1945) love is finally skeletal, divested of any fake and frighteningly pure.
Thorold Dickinson’s “Queen Of Spades” (1949) has an elegance and a technical virtuosity in a class of its own, enhanced by the eccentric vibrations generously supplied by two majestic actors of the calibre of Dame Edith Evans and Anton Walbrook.
There is no other film I have seen more times than Carol Reed’s “Odd Man Out” (1947). I adore it so intensely that I would kindly ask to be buried with it, whenever Time will call my name. I had previously found James Mason a competent actor, but hardly a first-rate catalyst of strong emotions, but his performance here is so powerful, passionate and intense, that I was forced to revise my opinion on him. In 1948 Carol Reed would film another recommended film, “The Fallen Idol” and in 1949 would complete an extraordinary trilogy with his most famous opus, “The Third Man”, but he would never recapture the intensity and the pure artistry displayed on the more imperfect but superior “The Odd Man Out”.
The Day Of Wrath” (1943) has been one of the main inspirations behind “Dies Irae” and its director, Carl T. Dreyer is my favourite filmmaker along with F.W. Murnau. There is only a way to appreciate Dreyer: to empty yourself and let him flow into your veins with his angular, elliptical, cathartic universe made of a different notion of time and of infinite shades of physical and spiritual grey. The x-rayed human portraits of “The Passion Of Joan Of Arc”, the nightmarish “Vampyr” and the tormented souls of “Ordet” are also recommended viewings.
Georges Franju’sLes Yeux Sans Visage” (1959) (debut 1960 red.) is not a masterpiece, but has the most poetic ending I have ever seen, punctuated by Maurice Jarre’s inspired theme music and by a delicate performance by Edith Scob, a young actress whose melancholic eyes defy description. Her alien charm also graces another Franju-directed film, “Judex” (a 1963 remake of Louis Feuillade’s 1914 serial of the same name), which is an embarrassingly chaotic disaster of a movie, but includes an incredibly powerful sequence – a masquerade ball with all guests wearing giant bird heads – which MUST be seen to be believed."

IF YOU PICK UP FIVE ACTORS AND FIVE ACTRESSES YOU’VE BEEN INFLUENCED/YOU LIKE, WHO ARE THEY? PLEASE GIVE A BRIEF COMMENT ON THEM.

"In-born charisma and magnetism are the supreme gifts of actors. Technique can be learned and it can enhance charisma and magnetism, but can often bury them under dull waves of “mannerism”. Louise BROOKS did not have a particular technical ability, but her simple “presence” filled the screen, cracked the camera lenses penetrating the viewer’s pupils. Director G.W. Pabst was the supreme magician in x-raying female souls, and the combination of director and actress makes “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary Of A Lost Girl” unforgettable. However, Louise’s uniqueness shines also without him, and I would recommend as a proof the touching finale of Augusto Genina’s “Beauty Price”.
At the opposite side of the female spectrum is my beloved Brigitte HELM, best remembered for her angelic/demonic dual role in Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, but even more profoundly angelic in her Pabst-directed characterisation of a blind girl in “The Love Of Jeanne Ney”, and even more demonically erotic in Henrik Galeen’s “Alraune”.
Robert Wiene’s dreamy and stylised “The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari” (1919) is generally regarded as the very first truly Expressionist movie and Conrad VEIDT, in the role of the killer somnambulist, offered one of his early demonic roles, later followed by performances in “Satanas” (as Lucifer), “Der Januskopf” (in a Jekyll/Hyde role), “Waxworks” (as Ivan The Terrible), “The Hands Of Orlac” (as Orlac; a film re-made ten years later by Karl Freund as “Mad Love”). But his most unforgettable portrayal is that of Gwymplaine in Paul Leni’s touching film “The Man Who Laughs” (1928), which pre-dates some of the themes explored five years later by Tod Browning’s “Freaks”.
Among my favourite actors I must also include Lon CHANEY sr. In his silent films like “The Unholy Three”, “The Unknown”, “Laugh Clown Laugh”, “He Who Get Slapped” and obviously “The Phantom Of The Opera” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” I was stunned by his unsurpassable pantomime, his ability to express a precise emotion through the simple blinking of an eye. A unique gift perfected throughout the daily drama of living with deaf-dumb parents. When Hollywood appointed director William Dieterle to film the remake of “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” (1939), Charles LAUGHTON was the obvious choice for the role of Quasimodo, originally portrayed by Chaney. Even Laurence Olivier rated Laughton as “the greatest living actor”, his talent being so versatile to shine in the widest range of characters and in films such as “The Canterville Ghost”, “The Big Clock” and “Witness For Prosecution” (in a spectacular acting duel with a Marlene Dietrich).
Film director D.W. Griffith was the single man who elevated cinema from simple entertainment to Art. Lillian GISH embodied Griffith’s cinema, offering performances of supreme interior deepness in the classic “Broken Blossoms” and “Orphans Of The Storm”. Thirty years later, she would offer a memorable performance in the lone film directed by Charles Laughton, “The Night Of The Hunter” (1955), the last truly Expressionist masterpiece and a big influence on “Dies Irae”.
I m a big fan of Peter LORRE, the incarnation of the Expressionist actor with his wide range of emotions. He was perfectly suited for roles which involved inner turmoil: Fritz Lang’s “M”, Karl Freund’s “Mad Love” and Robert Florey’s “The Beast With Five Fingers” show him at his most insane. He was also surprisingly effective in comedy (as in Roger Corman’s “Tales Of Terror”) and had the gift of transforming his few minutes of screen appearance in “Casablanca”, in a masterful characterisation, proving that there are no small roles, there are only small actors.
This sentence is even more pertinent for the divine Maria OUSPENSKAYA, an old Russian actress who had studied under Stanislavsky before going to Hollywood when already over 60. She was mainly an acting teacher (with Lee Strasberg, future director of the “Actors Studio” from where Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and James Dean came out), but is dazzling in all the tiny Hollywood roles she was given (most notably in “The Wolf Man”, 1941), with each syllable full of her charisma and technical perfection.
Magnetism filled every atom of another Stanislavsky student from Russia, actress and violinist Alla NAZIMOVA, arguably the brightest film star before the emergence of Greta Garbo in the mid-20s (by which time she had already retired). Nazimova had emigrated to Hollywood two decades earlier, together with a sister and her little son Val, who would later become the great film producer Val Lewton. I have the most profound respect and appreciation for Boris KARLOFF. His acting nuances gave a soul to the Frankenstein monster in three films (a miracle in itself, as no other actor succeeded in defining the “creature” beyond the limits of an emotionless brute), but his visual and verbal uniqueness make Karl Freund’s “The Mummy”, Edgar Ulmer’s “The Black Cat” and Michael Curtiz’s “The Walking Dead” three must-see films, but his artistry shines again in three of Val Lewton’s atmospheric horror films of the 40s: “The Bodysnatcher”, “Isle Of The Dead” and “Bedlam”."

IT SEEMS THAT THE BAND NAME DEVIL DOLL COMES FROM “THE DEVIL-DOLL” DIRECTED BY TOD BROWNING. WHY DID YOU COOSE THIS NAME?

"I liked the film title’s sound, but the story, despite the stage-y camera work, is also very enjoyable, with its bizarre variation on the Mr.(Hyde)-Doctor (Jekyll) theme. Lionel Barrymore handles it brilliantly and the alien-looking Rafaela Ottiano is also very effective."

THE PEOPLE IN THE STALLS ON THE FRONT COVER OF “ELIOGABALUS” INCLUDE BORIS KARLOFF AND BELA LUGOSI. HAVE YOU SEEN “GODS AND MONSTERS” (’98) DESCRIBING JAMES WHALE WHO DIRECTED “FRANKENSTEIN” AND “BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN” OR “ED WOOD” (’94) ABOUT DIRECTOR ED WOOD WHO USED BELA LUGOSI IN HIS LATER YEARS?

"I have enjoyed Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood”, and especially Martin Landau’s poetic portrayal of Bela, but I have not seen “Gods and Monsters”, although I have read the book which inspired the film, James Curtis’s “A New World Of God And Monsters”."

WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO LISTENING TO YOUR NEW ALBUMS SOME DAY. PLEASE GIVE YOUR JAPANESE FANS A MESSAGE.

"Thank you for the interesting questions, to Devil Doll lovers for their support and to all Euro Rock Press readers for their kind attention. If even one person has found this chat a stimulating starting point to explore new paths, our conversation has been worthy."

This is my very last interview for this life.
I can just say…
Good-bye."


"The World of Mr.Doctor"

Brief Encounter - 1945 The Devil and Daniel Webster - 1941 Vredens dag/Day of Wrath - 1943 Tagebuch einer Verlorenen/Diary of a Lost Girl - 1929 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - 1920 Les Yeux sans visage/Eyes Without a Face - 1960 (filming 1959) Faust - 1926 The Night of the Hunter - 1955 Odd Man Out - 1947 The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice  - 1952 The Man Who Laughs - 1928 The Mummy - 1932