CF: I'm a journalist, writer and musician living in Vienna since '87. In this time I'm working as a journalist. Journalism pays my rent but also a lot of my obsessions get met by my journalism. I worked for the biggest Austrian alternative radio station , I've got a weekly music show on the station and also I do a lot of movie reviews. I've also got a well known area on our web site which is also the largest alternative web site in Austria. Besides that I've worked for a number of magazines. Always to do with film and music. I've got a group called Fetish 69, an experimental rock group, which has been going since 1998, and I've worked also with other musicians and released many records on other labels. The first book I wrote was for the German language market called Kino Killers. An Austrian book company approached me about this topic of murderers in movies because they knew a lot of my articles and my music stuff all kind of fits together in a way. So I started doing research and when this book was finished I had a lot of stuff in the book about an American artist called Coleman , a performance artist. I sent him the book and he really liked the book and he's a friend of Creation Books so that's where it comes from.
3AM: Before we turn to the book, just say a little bit about Austria. It gets a bad press. Right wing, racist and so on.
CF: Definitely our government changed a lot in that direction, so you're right. Generally, Austria I would consider a kind of pragmatic country -- conservative that's true but I would not say really right wing. All this right wing stuff is coming out of stupidity but not out of a certain ideology behind it. It's a kind of stupidity. A slow moving country. That's true. In Austria the music scene has exploded since the mid-90's because Austria never really had a rock'n'roll scene or a band scene. The electronic revolution did that. Austria -- mostly in Vienna -- got really involved and there's a lot of stuff going on. I think the only art roots that are existing in Austria are the kind of performance art and literature. Painting as well. But they are all coming together. The electronic music could be done in England as well so all these people are coming to London as well -- it's a world wide scene and that's good because it expands Austrian's horizons.
All we had before was the classical tradition in music and that wasn't helpful. But the horizons are still very small. For a few years we have also a film scene which was non-existent during the 70's so with directors like Mikel Haneke and a director I really love called Ulrich Seidl -- I think his film Dog Days (Hundstage) will be showing in London in two months' time and it's caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival -- a lot of critics walked out because it showed just a normal weekend in the suburbs of Vienna and you see what people do on their weekends. It's a documentary made with everything going on on the surface, normal people on normal afternoons and no one dreamed this is what they do. It caused critics to walk out. Sado-masochistic games, violent stuff to wives and so on. Like the Piano Teacher, it's a cliché but the strength of Austrian art seems to be focusing on the dark side of the Austrian psyche, sexual psychotic tendencies. We had poets in the fifties and sixties -- there was a group called The Vienna Group they did really radical poems. The music scene is not like this. The music scene is more mellow and very very relaxing songs. My music was a rock group but is involved on the electronic scene now.
3AM: So talk about the book, Bad Blood: An Illustrated Guide to Psycho Cinema being published by Creation Books. Was it the films that interested you in killers or was it the other way round?
CF: Definitely the films. I'd worked as a film critic since the late eighties and a lot of my favourite all-time films ended up in this book. The films are fictional , not always dealing with true cases. I started in the mid 90's researching it for an Austrian edition, and because I was working as a journalist as well it slowed me down, it took me quite a while, it took me two years for every case. I tried to make it as complete as possible. For every case I tried to read two, three books because much of the stuff written tended to be really cheesy and was not right. I did a lot of research for the small one-page biographies and then after that I saw every film in the book. I watched all these really bad American TV adaptations; I think 90% are really crap.
When I stared to watch these types of movies I was coming from the horror film, splatter film side of things. It was the gore and the macabre. But that interest stopped after a while, after watching so many horror movies I got more and more interested in the psyche of the killer. What drives a person like this? This is the most interesting part for me. If I take a more mainstream film like Silence Of The Lambs or a more underground movie like Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer or a lot of Japanese films, they have a lot of different views of killers. In all these films I'm interested in what is going on in the head. What drives such a person? And I had a lot of people interested in this topic. I had a wrong , glamorous view at first because after Natural Born Killers they're really flashy editors who worked like rock music, like techno, and after reading all these biographies I had a completely different view. I made a real gap between the movies and the real cases because I can find nothing sensational or glamorous in the real cases. It was something I discovered whilst writing the book. For a while I could still watch but I never wanted to read a true crime book again after doing this work. I felt really drained.
The most famous of the non-glamorising films is Henry, Portrait Of A Serial Killer. It shows a normal person and never explains why this normal person kills other people. That's the most fascinating thing about that film. To not have an explanation. Not even a psychological one. You have to figure it out. During the process of trying to figure it out -- this is what I had to do -- you can confront your own fears, things going on deep down in yourself. For me the main interest in art in general is to use it as a kind of therapy. Even if it was just a film book I tried to write something very personal, switching between a personal style and theory. At the end of it I had found out a lot about myself too.
I did a radio interview with the BBC and after the interview the guy interviewing me confessed that it was the same with him. He'd seen 70% of the films in the book and read the book and we were talking about the profile of serial killers -- you can read these cheesy FBI profiles and you can read all this stuff and there are these questions you can ask to find out if you're likely to be a killer. And 50% of the questions point to you. I never did set animals on fire or things like that, but there are a lot of questions dealing with the normal behaviour of a kid behaving just a little bit outside. I was reading all the time and not socialising a lot and watching movies all the time and I think a lot of children are like this, but if you read these profiles most of these kids are in danger of becoming a serial killer. I found that all the serial killer and murderer stuff always went back to childhood. All these cheesy books and even the best ones go back to childhood and so that's what I meant when I said I was going back to my childhood. I don't think you're born bad like some movies say, I think it's a combination of many things, lots of things. And sometimes these things work in one direction and sometimes they work in others. If you're born in the wrong town at the wrong time to the wrong parents with the wrong schoolfriends then maybe you go to the other side. That's what I found out. It's scary but that I am very sure about for myself after watching all this stuff.
There's an American film called Badlands by Mallik which is one of my favourite films because it seems to illustrate this point. Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. It's a very poetic film and you cannot figure it out. There's a mystery. That's also an interesting point. In my book I am fascinated by films and cases that remain a mystery. Where psychology and the crime psychologist couldn't figure everything out.
3AM: The mystery there is the connection between the murder theme and the love theme.
CF: Definitely. Yes. There's whole thing going on there with innocence. And its opposite. That's also a very interesting point with these people, the psychology of damaged persons. They always look for some sort of innocence. They feel like a child. They look for innocence, it's their way. David Lynch deals with this in his movies where he always has some very innocent people and some very bad people.
3AM: Lynch always seem to exaggerate that point -- take innocence and badness to their limits in a way. He also brings in himself -- wasn't it in Lost Highway that he uses his own daughter's drawings?
CF: Yes, yes. That's an interesting point for me. To bring in something personal. Movie makers bring in something personal too. There's a lot of that. There's a really old film by Charles Laughton, Night Of The Hunter which I really love. The film also deals with innocence. On his hands the killer has the words 'love' and 'hate'. Also the Christian topic going on. And the abandoned children. It's like a fairytale in a way. I still like Taxi Driver a lot. I think it's the best film about a certain kind of killer because this isolation and some feelings around that are really well described.
But there are some really nasty, cheap films that also carry a certain kind of truth in them. There's an American film called Combat Shock which is a really cheap rip off of Taxi Driver. It's a cheap exploitation movie but the whole atmosphere is so bleak and disgusting. It's about a man who lives with his wife and kids in a small apartment in New York and he has no job and he's always on the streets. It's all so claustrophobic. So even this rip-off has some truthful moments. Eraserhead by David Lynch is truthful, the baby murder. And many Japanese films. Some recent films also deal with this topic in disturbing ways. That's the most important part if you're filming this stuff: it has to disturb you. If it's a comedy, like Serial Mum by John Waters, that's another case, but I don't like violence which is why I distance myself in the book from Tarantino.
I don't like violence depicted in a funny way -- if it's a real satire or an ironic film then it's ok, but I don't like it non-disturbing. It has to be disturbing because it's violent. It was disturbing to watch all these films and read all the information behind them because after a while it was too much. I watched too many disturbing films.
3AM: You interviewed Argento.
CF: Yes. He is in a way my teen idol. I would go to Italy on holiday with my parents. It's near Austria. I couldn't watch the films when I was really small but I saw all the posters in Italy. I was a fan before I even watched any of the movies. At a very young age too! He came to the Biennale which is the big film festival in Vienna, and I was supposed to be part of this public discussion with him. I kind of translated Argento in the discussion. He's one of the lucky guys because he's really weird, I think. A very strange person. It's not just an image. I really adore people who can make a living and work off their strange personality in art. It's the best thing that can happen. That was another thing I found out in this book because I made a connection between murder and art. Not that I think murderers are great artists but I definitely think that some murderers would not have been murderers if they had had the right parents, been in the right class at school, the right town, not in small town rural America but in London, say, and had things been different they would have turned into artists rather than killers. They didn't find a place to filter all their strange thoughts and their other side.
I recently read, because the film was coming out, the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore and it makes the same point. Sir William Gull is a doctor who sees himself as a cruel kind of artist, murdering all these prostitutes. But that's another point of view. My point of view was more that if you are as a kid a social outsider then being a social outsider does not mean getting raped by your parents or some cruel trauma but just it's enough to be a quiet bookworm so you need the right people and the right literature and the right connections to exorcise your demons That's what I found out about certain killers.
Like Coleman, the artist, I mention him quite a lot because I met him in Vienna and talked to him for quite a while. And he has a museum apartment in New York. Really weird. Nasty stuff in his apartment. Pictures. His pictures are really interesting. He paints like a naive artist , naturalistic but small and detailed. Pictures about horrible parts of society. Even about his favourite artists like Edgar Allen Poe and also about killers. He's identified himself with a lot of killers. A lot of the philosophical thoughts about killers in my book came out of discussions with Joe because he was a real outsider, really extreme, and couldn't socialise in any way and there was a certain point when he hated other students at school and thought about murder. He was saved by art. He started painting and when his thoughts became extreme he made them into performance art. They're so extreme they're not even art. He exploded himself. He built some kind of harness and put explosives, and in art galleries and other spaces he exploded himself. He said it was a literal expression of all his emotions exploding out.
Now in America he's one of the favourite painters of people like Martin Scorsese or Johnny Depp and Dicaprio. So he could exorcise all his demons with art. That's one of the best ideas of art. It doesn't mean that the literature is good because some people do this and what they produce is bad. But it's an interesting idea. I made this connection with some films and murder and art in the book. It's classic Dostoyevsky stuff, definitely.
The other side of this is that art can help to prevent murder. It can't trigger murder. I know I was never at the point of being a murderer, but I had negative emotions and I could always put it into writing or music. With Joe Coleman it was much more extreme but he could put it into painting and performance art. For millions of kids in America growing up in some small town it's better that they listen to some Marilyn Manson records or Nirvana or Slipknot or watch some splatter film than beat up other pupils. Art helps exorcise these negative thoughts.
3AM: Is this tape still working? That would have been negative. I'd've had to make my own killer movie if that had gone wrong! We're ok! So where do you go next after writing this book?
CF: Hopefully, I will write another book. For the moment I have updated this one. I did the last update last year then in September Creation got it. So I keep it up to date. I have been writing constantly, but only for German-speaking magazines. After many years, I have even finished my study of extreme films and how the body is influenced by extreme films or even films about the body as a topic. I now want to go back to music for a little while because writing is such an isolating thing. I want to do live shows a bit. Then I will go back to writing. Another film book but not a novel because my expectation of novels are so high I don't think I can fit them myself. I'm not ready yet to write a novel. I will keep to essays and articles.
3AM: Is culture in a good place at the moment?
CF: There is always a book coming out or a record or a film that gives me new hope. In general, I'm kind of pessimistic. I wrote this book in the 90's, have updated it so it's up to date, it's about now. I guess there are two points of view about post-modernists. One view is that anything goes, to make it short. And the other one is that nothing goes. I'm on the second view. I'm deeply influenced by Baudrillard. I mention him a lot in the book and when Tarantino films came out I was against his stuff. Because I've seen so many movies perhaps if I was to do something creative I'd make a film like Tarantino because my brain is so full of it. Not write a novel. Full of quotes and samples and references. I'm not happy to watch a film full of quotes and samples and references. Natural Born Killers was an example where you cannot do it more. It was just full of references. It shut everything else out. After that there's no point. I'm pretty bored by recent cultural stuff that's just quoting other cultural stuff. Making references. Here my cultural pessimism is coming out. There is nothing original coming out.
There are still recent films and records and books that are good. That never stops and it gives me enthusiasm. I'm not one of those people who says that there's nothing good coming out, because it's not true. With the recent records of Radiohead, for example, I have thought there is something new going on. There is something coming out. Electronic music too. I interviewed Radiohead. Not Thom York. He does one interview a year. They were very distant. Very distant. I didn't get very far. I have interviewed people I adore and that gives back some real enthusiasm. I interviewed James Ellroy once. He's a showman. He never talks about a topic you never knew before but he's a showman. It's like interviewing a rock musician. Or a psycho. He plays the psycho. He howls like a wolf. He's got a wall up.
There are films too coming out which I love. Recent ones I couldn't include in the book. They were too recent. One called Chopper about a guy called Mark Chopper Reid. He's an Australian murderer. He's come out of prison and lives on a farm outside of Melbourne. It's a really disturbing movie. And even if the film uses all the classic techniques of lights and camera like an MTV video, sometimes under the surface there's a really good film. I read about a film I can't wait to see -- it's a new film about Ted Bundy -- in my book I write about an extremely bad TV adaptation of Ted Bundy which is almost impossible to watch. And an American director called Matthew Bright is doing a film on Bundy, I'm not sure if it's finished, but it's got rave reviews on the Internet: it's the best of Scorsese, the best of Lynch put together! And the unknown actor who plays Bundy is hailed as the next big star. So I think there is some interesting stuff going on. The Japanese too. It's a country with its own rules. Post modernism hit Japan in an odd way. Sex and violence is its mainstream culture in a way. The Japanese underground scene is harmless compared to the Japanese mainstream. I was buying some food there and on the desk there were all these pictures of schoolgirls in bondage and then you go out and on the steps you see all these schoolgirls with businessmen and you make the connection.
3AM: And yet sex crimes in Japan are tiny. 3% of all crimes or something.
CF: Yes. I mention in my book maybe the Japanese people are so repressed living in their small buildings, small apartments, maybe these extreme versions of art help. They do kill fish and whales!
Takashi Miike, for instance, he's a mad working guy doing fifty movies at speed. He does three or four really crap commercial films and then he goes wild on an underground one. There's one he made called Audition -- I think it was shown over in London - it's like an art movie. Very quiet. It's about a Japanese businessman whose wife has died, he lives with his son, he can't find a wife. So his friend, a movie director, says 'Let's make a fake audition. We'll audition young female actresses and maybe you'll find your new wife.' And he falls in love with the last girl at the audition who is really quiet girl, she never speaks and she looks very normal. And after a few sentences and just seeing her he falls in love with her. And after some time he finds out that she kills all her lovers because she had a really extreme childhood where her father was always torturing her. And it ends with some of the most extreme scenes in cinema history so far. In her final wedding night she poisons him so he is on the floor and cannot move and she uses a lot of sharp instruments. It's on camera. But what's interesting is that most of the horror audience have already walked out bored before these scenes. It's just a Japanese art movie up until the last fifteen minutes when she dismembers him. But even then he loves her even as she does that to him.
This kind of art exorcises the glamorous point of view about killers. Even when I was eighteen or nineteen I had a glamorous view of death. I would be reading all these French novels and when you get older that view of death diminishes because it's not funny or romantic or hip. It's just horrible. All that stuff vanishes. It's when something happens in your own life. My mum died last year in a car accident and so it becomes personal. But from such personal things you could go even to the 11th of September which happened to a city: it's not the right thing to ban all confrontations with it, the thing to do is to honestly confront it.
If you are in a sad personal state, something bad has happened to someone you love, then it can help you see in films and stuff what is truthful in it. I don't understand people who throw art out of the window when something bad happens to them. I don't understand that. Art always helps me, even if it's only one song.