Jon Moritisugu on Pig Death Machine and his retrospective at the Downtown Independent (L.A.)
Underground filmmaker Jon Moritsugu not only has a mind-blowing new movie out, Pig Death Machine, but he has also been on the receiving end of recent retrospectives in San Francisco and New York City. Coming up on August 9 it’s the City of Angels’ turn at the Downtown Independent. I asked my friend about the honor as well as the flick to get all of you excited about it.
MW: Is this the first time you’ve ever depicted a character with the problem of being too smart?
JM: Yeah, it’s a first. I’ve had characters in other movies who thought they were really smart. F’rinstance, Miles Morgan (played by Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio) in Scumrock and Kazumi in Mod Fuck Explosion. But Cocojoy is the only legit, hands-down, I’m-so-smart-this-sucks character. Amy and I wanted to portray “too smart” as an affliction, a total problemo, like not something you’d ever wish for.
MW: Santa Fe looks amazing, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you show nature like this before in a movie. Can you talk about how your new home base has affected your film making?
JM: New Mexico is totally intense–visually, physically, psychically. I love it. You have the desert (of course), blue-screen colored skies, summer monsoons that bring full-on thunderstorms and torrential rains and then blistering sunshine half an hour later, seven thousand foot altitude and 30 percent less oxygen. Green chili sauce so hot it makes you puke (no joke, the place is Horseman’s Haven). The sweet smell of pinon wood burning in fireplaces at night. Plus, we live in a 200-year-old adobe (!!!) house that looks like a baked potato with holes poked in it for windows. This area is totally weird and cool, foreboding and beautiful all at once. Perfect inspiration for making the movies. Plus Albuquerque is only an hour away for getting rowdy in that Walter White sort of way.
MW: Can you share a little about the stop-motion animated meat sequence? It’s like Gumby and Son of Kong and squishy juicy porn at once!
JM: Yeah, total animal flesh porno anime! The “meat finale” was a huge freakin’ flapping albatross! We had been putting the scene off for months, and with two weeks left to finish the movie, Amy (being a good producer) made me go to the lo-fi supermarket and buy all the meat. After this, there was no turning back. We spent two days filming everything stop-motion style, and since it was mid-summer, everything was putrifying quite nicely, yeah? We were forced to wear rubber gloves by the end and let’s just say I will never eat olive loaf ever again! But it was totally worth it and when we wrapped on the second day at 3 a.m., we celebrated by drinking martinis and not eating hamburgers.
MW: Has this movie been in the works and/or marinating for 10 years? Or is it just a small part of what you’ve been up to?
JM: This movie was originally written for the Seattle area when we lived there a few years back, but it just never got off the ground. We re-tooled it for New Mexico, which worked out better cuz scorpions and cacti are much cooler than orcas and pine trees. This is our first feature movie since Scumrock (2003), which is a loooong time in movie years, but in the interim we moved 4 times, shot a Grammy-nominated music vid for TV on the Radio, released two Low on High albums, turned vegetarian and gave it all up for meat again, and learned how to garden. My head is still spinning… But now it’s back to the movies, yeah!
MW: And what’s with all the recent retrospectives? You’re not sick or anything, are you?
JM: No, I’m not sick. Only sick in the head, ha ha! I think people are finally catchin’ on to the Moritsugu-mania… I mean, 25 years, 7 features, 9 shorts–it’s like I’m an esoteric and weird wine that has been sitting in a dank cellar until now, and people are finally uncorkin’ me and appreciating my minerally, tannic-yet-mildly fruity, in-your-face yet robust character. I’m totally stoked about the L.A. screenings at the Downtown Independent after great retrospective runs in New York (The Spectacle) and San Francisco (Roxie).
MW: You mentioned that you won’t be in L.A. for your run at the Downtown Independent. Are you bummed that you can’t make it? Maybe relieved?
JM: I’m a little bummed. I love L.A.! I’m missing the Pacific Ocean, portobello fries, totally prehistoric-looking freeways covered with vines and bougainvillea, palm trees, Pink’s Hotdogs…
MW: The soundtrack to Pig Death Machine, of course, is rad. Stoked that you’ve got Dirty Beaches in the mix. How did you meet Alex?
JM: Thanks man! I totally love the PDM soundtrack–one of the best ever. Amy and I met Alex out in Honolulu in 2005…. Low on High had a gig with his band, The Goners, and afterwards, he helped us load our equipment out and stuff. We ended up chattin’ in the street for a little while… Totally cool dude who was way excited cuz he was leaving da islands in a couple weeks for the Bay Area. Even back then, he had was the total rockabilly guitar monster and full-on rad dude.
MW: Are you still getting run from TVOTR?
JM: Oh yeah. I mean, once you’re a Grammy nominee, no one can fuck with you. You are legit. Not! Strange thing, a couple press people got the info jumbled up, and in a funny and sorta good way. They tagged Low on High as a Grammy-winning band! Now that is rich! Where’s my bottle service, bitches!?
MW: Low on High is going to Europe but still doesn’t have any L.A. dates? What’s up with that?
JM: I think we have to play L.A. soon. It’s been waaaay tooo long. Our last L.A. gig was at the Giant Robot headquarters waaaaay back in the old skool days. Great show and lotsa feedback. I love feedback! I remember we freaked out Dave Choe in a good way. He was sitting next to my amp and afterwards he was completely noise damaged… haha.
Catch the official Pig Death Machine trailer HERE. And the Jon Moritsugu retrospective trailer HERE. Jon tells me that Victor of Aquitaine will be introducing the Pig Death Machine and Terminal USA shows on Saturday, August 10 and doing a Q&A afterwards… He’s also in The Canyons with Lindsay Lohan!