The affinity for the weird, obscure and bizarre has gained momentum in the last few years reinforced by the likes of tumblr as catalysts of visual ‘debris’. The hunt for the abstruse and low-brow is no passing pop culture fad for audiovisual bricoleurs Jigoku though. Driven by the need to unearth and manipulate random VHS tapes of exploitation cinema classics adding a custom-made soundtrack, the AV collective is hardly a novice on the scene. Jigoku have collaborated with the likes of Italian soundtrack legend Alessandro Alessendroni or Rekids’ Matt Edwards. With the launch of their label Iron Triangle and DVD ‘From the Vaults Vol 1’, a compilation of trailers and edits from their vast collection of exploitation video tapes carefully hand-picked over three decades of digging all over the world, we have caught up with Jigoku’s Lovely Jon, old school East London free party veteran, to talk about the medium and the message.
Can you tell us about your new label Iron Triangle?
The Iron Triangle is myself, my fellow Jigoku compadre Gareth ‘Cherrystones’ Godard and our blood brother Joel Martin. We’ve all been through the rigour of the music business but have remained a tight, close unit. You see many artists fucking each other over to ‘get ahead’ – this can be a fickle, plagiarised, cut throat musical world (even within the ‘below radar’ independent sector) and we remain very loyal to one another. The label is a branding of our unity and an outlet for future mixes and other like-minded projects from our family and friends such as Aneet Nijjar (who runs the excellent cult movie and music website Days are Numbers) and John ‘Capracara’ Burnip of Churchill’s Leopards.
What is the genesis of your obsession with exploitation cinema?
I was definitely a child of the UK video nasties era and would regularly bunk school to watch immortal classics such as Zombie Flesh Eaters, Evil Dead and Cannibal Holocaust with large groups of friends before my mother arrived home from work! By my teenage years I was a regular at the legendary Scala cinema in Kings Cross which really shaped my appreciation and vision of how far reaching exploitation cinema could take itself – they expertly programmed incredible genre hybrids that encompassed the weird (Thundercrack!), the art house (Herzog’s Aguirre The Wrath of God), the trash (Meyer’s Supervixens) and the plain obscene (Pasolini’s Salo 120 Days of Sodom) and as for those all night shows (!). It was wild to be amongst the sleaze bags in and outside the cinema doors since the area was well known for it’s prostitutes and degenerates at that time and the whole experience was a genuine ‘coming of age’.
Do you approach working with visuals in a similar way as working with music?
Very much – the two mediums are one and the same. I got this early on from seeing three seminal movies in my youth – The Omen (Jerry Goldsmith’s score is so fucking BOOMING when those set pieces are unleashed), The Conversation (whose eerie, intricate sound design is a master class in manipulation and unease) and Suspiria (a wall to wall epiphany of the competing mediums that really is the litmus test of what was to follow). I can hear a tune or be watching a scene and instinctively know what will work – when you lock in to the rhythms of sound and vision the two threads come together perfectly.
How do you source your material? Where do you find it?
In regards to sourcing – home work, toil (steadily accumulating knowledge through the passage of time) and most importantly sticking with it (this is a passion not a fad – even the most internet savvy will hit a brick wall eventually – you have to go all out to get on top of what material is out there – the bottom line does not end with the IMDB). Where do I found my gear? – all over the world: boot fairs, abandoned video shops, flea markets, collectors and yes the internet. However, the crucial link has been traveling, going directly to the source – if you’re in Thailand – hit the smaller towns where there are no tourists.
Could you recollect a particularly memorable VHS trip?
I was in Lisbon in the late 90’s and hanging out at the Barrio Alto. I came across this small video shop tucked down a back alley way off the main strip. Sat inside a thrift shop which sold plugs and sink plungers was this sweet man with a lumberjack shirt and crowbar moustache. We started to chat and struck up a deal as he had many treats (an uncut Exterminator 2, Italian Giallo slashers and Euro crime obscurities lined the shelves). The boxes were thick with dust and he offered to clean them. I told him it was ok as there were so many but he insisted and sat there gently cleaning the boxes with love and care all afternoon. He made those tapes shine like diamonds and I will forever be indebted to that lovely man and his thoughtful gesture. For me that’s what VHS digging is about – it is very much a ‘hands on’ experience that typifies grass roots blue collar culture (which in turn reflects the movies themselves – these are not cinematic creations designed for the tastes of the elite and bourgeois).
You work with the analogue medium of a VHS tape, what fascinates you on this medium?
I’ve always been fascinated with the ‘look’ of imagery through VHS – the soft fuzzy textures, low end humming and grimy facade add a sleazy, mysterious texture that definitely accentuates a grubby vibe. I guess there’s a nostalgia value base going on too but there’s definitely something uneasy and edgy unleashed when you watch certain movies on VHS compared to the shiny, glossy sheen of Hi Def DVD.
Do you think the current retro-mania and nostalgia for the analogue is a sign of some greater shifts in cultural consciousness?
Well I would hope that analogue and digital can thrive with one another in the future but we’ll have to wait and see as retro-mania has a habit of burning itself out as the culture vulture zeitgeist drop the ball and then move on to ‘the next thing’. But you can definitely see the interest in analogue as a resistance to our ‘digital future’. You only have to look at all those wonderful Wolf Eyes tapes to see there are forces at work kicking against a controlling system which wishes to abolish hard copy media and have us all sitting at home zombiefied, having our lives streamlined for us.
What are your plans with Jigoku?
Despite a recent impromptu show at Rough Trade nothing at this present time, however, we are beginning to put in place plans for our follow up to A Visual Mix Tape. Myself and Gareth really want to push the envelope with this one and take it to the next level but we’re in no hurry – as has been said we’re like The Ramones of this shit – fads come and go but we’ll still be there kicking against the pricks!
You can tune in at 10pm tonight (22 February 2012) to listen to Lovely Jon’s 3-hour guest mix featuring Punk, Glam, Bass, Dub, New Wave, Soundtracks, Rap, Rock, Psych, Jazz, Afro, Funk on Deep Frequency.
Read our interview with Lovely Jon and Matt Edwards about The Machine project here.