Originally Posted on: March 22nd, 2014
Charlie J.J. Kruger sits down with author Alex S. Johnson, editor of the 'Axis of Evil" Anthology to get the inside scoop about this heavy metal themed horror collection.
H-P: First off, thanks for sitting down with us and taking the time to do this interview. i am really interested in this project you are working on here, can you tell me anything about how it started?
AJ: Indeed, and thank you for your interest in Axes! The project began as a benefit anthology to help a metal musician who was facing jail time for a drug offense. Many people were interested in the concept of the book--heavy metal horror--but also expressed concern about how the profits would be used. I got tired of arguing the case for helping him mount a legal defense, and by that point he was convicted and sent to prison anyway. I guess people are less concerned with the thought of a young, talented musician behind bars because he couldn't afford a proper defense than his being an addict, God help us. So I decided to put Axes on hold while I reconfigured it. People continued to ask me about the anthology, because as you know there are many points of contact between horror fandom and metal; it's a a natural alliance. To make a long story short, I pitched the book to Timm Tayshun of Chupa Cabra House and he immediately said yes. Timm is a musician himself and loved the idea, so much so that he started an imprint of Chupa called Diabolus in Musica (the name refers to the infamous "Devil's Interval" which is associated with heavy metal music, a good example being the iconic riff of "Black Sabbath") to publish Axes and other metal-themed books. I will be heading up DiM and have many projects in the works. But back to Axes--I took a chance and started asking for submissions. I'm still blown away that the final TOC includes people like Lucy Taylor and Sephera Giron; Del James, who is a very well-known music journalist and horror author who wrote the story that inspired the song "November Rain" by Guns 'n Roses, etc. It's a dynamite lineup and the stories are universally excellent. I'm extremely proud of this book.
H-P: I love the title, perfectly tongue-in-cheek. can we expect some of the stories to have a bitter comedy vein running through them?
AJ: The title comes from a song by the Canadian band 3 Inches of Blood. It just seemed so right for a horror metal anthology. There is a great variety of tone to this book, from serious to seriously funny. Charie D. La Marr's story, "The Plaster Casters Rise Again," is a good example of the latter. A little something for everybody, you might say.
H-P: What authors influenced this work the most, would you say?
AJ: Probably first and foremost John Skipp and Craig Spector and David Schow, with a little George R.R. Martin thrown in for flavoring. That is in terms of the idea of rock and roll horror or heavy metal horror. As for the individual authors in the anthology, again we have a huge range of styles and influences, from H.P. Lovecraft to Richard Laymon.
H-P: To work on this book, you clearly must have a true love for heavy metal (and possibly other extreme musical artforms)... what are some of the bands you think most influenced this book, and are we going to be getting any particular references in these stories?
AJ: Black Sabbath, Slayer, Judas Priest, Morbid Angel, Pentagram, basically all metal artists whose work has a wide streak of darkness to it. Morgan Sylvia (pen name) wrote us a great tribute to Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast." Mimi A. Williams references "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. There are also a number of stories that reference imaginary bands. It's a mix. A wonderful, scary, delicious stew. I'm pretty sure the book covers all the major sub genres of metal, from doom to thrash to crust core, goth metal, industrial metal, Viking Metal, and so forth.
H-P: You cant talk about authors/books, and musicians/songs without then asking... what films do you think have influenced this work? And please say "Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare".
AJ: When you say "this work," do you mean the individual stories or the concept behind the anthology? Of course there's many horror films that feature metal soundtracks and some that put heavy metal front and center, such as the Spanish film Day of the Beast, and then you have writers who fuel the muse with many different kinds of media, including movies. There is so much exchange between literature, movies and music that by this point it's impossible to say which came first. For example, Sam Raimi's original Evil Dead inspired an equally great song by Death, back in the day, and I know a lot of horror writers who listen to metal that has been inspired by film and hail both with the same fervor. It goes back and forth and continues to mutate. As far as movies are concerned, I would have to mention the classic animated feature Heavy Metal as a personal inspiration behind the concept of Axes. Ultimately, though, this is an anthology of fiction, so it's kind of hard for me to specifically pin-point the role films play for the more than 30 authors in the book.
H-P: What is your hope for this project? Have you thought about a sequel, or maybe a companion album?
AJ: My hope is that metal and horror fans will buy it and support it. It's authentic stuff. Many of the contributors are musicians themselves and most are heavy metal maniacs. With the exception of someone like (Bram Stoker Award winner) Lucy Taylor, who is a former journalist and did a formidable job of researching her story. You wouldn't be able to tell she wasn't a pure metal devotee! And yes, there will be at least two sequels: Axes of Evil II: Rise of the Metal Gods, and Axes of Evil III: The Metal War. Axes III will be a shared world fantasy anthology a la LotR. I would love to have a companion album to Axes III with all original music based on the shared world. We shall see.
H-P: I have to know... Metallica or Megadeth? And why?
AJ: Both bands have contributed mightily to the legacy of heavy metal and deserve recognition, respect and honor. And they've both put out crap as well.
H-P: Who really should win, Freddy or Jason?
AJ: As the author of a Friday the 13th spin-off novel, Jason X IV: Death Moon, I gotta stay loyal to my man Voorhees.
H-P: Is there anything else you would like to add? Thank you so much for taking the time with us! I cant wait to tear into a copy of this book!
AJ: I would just like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the authors who contributed to Axes of Evil because of their love for horror and metal or simply because they believed in the project. We have a world-class lineup of authors and I hope, again, that the word gets out and a lot of people buy it. Chupa Cabra House is a small indie press and we pay with split royalties; simply put, the more people buy, the more money goes to our contributors, many of whom are used to top pro rates. It's a hefty tome, but worth every penny.
Get 'Axes of Evil' on Amazon: amazon.com/gp/product/1522748113