INTERVIEW: Nj Calder, director of Fear Eats The Seoul

11 11 2010

There comes a time in everyone’s life in which they can take a chance to live their dream, or abandon it due to fear of failure.

Nj Calder took the chance.

Sugar -n- Thunder is thrilled to share this exclusive interview with the man himself: NYC-born, Korea-based filmmaker Nj Calder (of Kinetic Film), the blood -n- guts behind up-and-coming horror flick Fear Eats The Seoul.

Just to play catch-up, here’s the premise: When a raging demon epidemic sweeps across South Korea, four surviving English teachers must choose between waiting for help or fighting for their very lives. The ‘net ate up the teaser trailer released back in September.  Today, on 11/11/10, the FULL TRAILER is out and the next phase of this young filmmaker’s journey has officially begun.

We spoke with Nj about what led him from Queens, New York to South Korea, the experiences that spawned Fear Eats The Seoul, his favorite flicks of past and present, his personal history with filmmaking, his lifelong attraction to a darker aesthetic, and the all-important question: what is a horror director’s greatest fear?


What drew you to making movies in the first place?

I just love stories. My earliest memories were of movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Alien and Predator or Land Before Time. I always associated good times with renting VHS tapes when I was a kid. I was like a “Be Kind Rewind” professional with my 1950’s car shaped tape rewinder. I enjoyed the spectacle of blockbuster movies because it transported me to another world. So naturally, Jurassic Park changed my life. As I’ve gotten older I find that the purpose of making films for me is to express myself and my perspective, which will no doubt change as I keep on growing both mentally and spiritually. I want to tell good stories that are fantastical and unavailable to experience in our everyday lives. Sorry! There’re too many reasons I was drawn to movies!! Moving on! Next question damn it! [Laughs]

What made you take the leap and move to Korea? How long have you been there and what have you been doing?

Fear made me come initially. I was afraid after graduating college that I was going to fail and so instead of doing what I deep down knew I was supposed to, I fled the states to find myself in Korea. I thought I’d take a break from my life and live a little. I became an ESL teacher in Korea to pay off loans and grow up.

But as I’ve learned, thinking about not having money is a poisoning of the mind because it dictates that you can’t work on your dreams, but should instead find steady work and sacrifice your happiness. When, in fact, money is so far from the motivating factor that will open you up to pursuing your dreams. Of course it’s important to be financially aware but most people are also not very frugal and end up chaining themselves to debts.

Next July I’ll have been here for three years roughly. I have been teaching this whole time to subsidize the film. It’s not easy. At all. It’s like having two full time jobs and kids who like to eat other children and small animals and you constantly have to keep an eye on them with chains and whips on top of all your other crap.

What kind of space/time in your life did Fear Eats The Seoul come out of? Why are you making this movie right NOW?

It came from hating my last job as a preschool ESL teacher and feeling like I had become complacent. There are situations in Korea that I can’t help but culturally clash with, including teaching English to 18 month old babies. I was very unhappy because I had no clue what I was doing in the classroom anymore. It dawned on me that I was venturing so far from the path I once set out to take. And ultimately making decent money and having a free place was not enough. My dream kept bubbling to the surface while I was trying to push it down for the sake of a comfortable lifestyle.

So I finally quit that job and found a part-time one and my own place, which opened up my mind and my time to follow my own path. It became clear then that money was not as important if I was able to do what I was passionate about. So I finally accepted I AM a filmmaker and if that is so, I should start making some films.

Can you fill us in on the plot/concept of the movie?

The plot came from me, I’m going to be arrested [laughs], it came from me being so miserable at work that I just imagined I was stuck in this post apocalyptic Korea. And I was secretly looking for a way to kill off the mental presence of some choice co-workers or employers who will remain nameless. It became a catharsis.

But the plot is about these English teachers like myself, or the hundreds of thousands of others, who have been teachers abroad. And how we all know the big elephant in the room is that complacency is all too common. So on top of complacency, these characters are stuck in a real Hell when a demon infection spreads across the country preventing them from progressing with their lives. We meet them almost a month into the infection and they’re faced with the choice to own their fear and attempt escape or wait for someone to come save them.

I know it’s sometimes easy to write horror movies off as mindless chop-’em-up fiestas, but what is different about Fear Eats The Seoul? Is there a metaphor/meaning behind it?

[Laughs] Well it’s definitely a fiesta! I can’t relate to a lot of the horror films that are made these days. I can enjoy them as a spectacle or a superficial level of cool or whatever. But I can’t do it myself, not if the larger justification is to shock or disgust the audience for its own sake. I want to make something that is relatable and emotionally drawn. The film is really about the fear of taking flight in the face of the unknown. The characters represent those parts of us that are weak and afraid until that fear manifests as its own demon. It eats away at your confidence and your passions, your will to live. It’s an emotional horror thriller.

What has the process of making this movie been like?

It has been very surreal, almost unbelievable when I look at where I was only a year ago. It’s extreme highs and extreme lows. There is so much that goes into a film and if your crew consists of five people max, it’s compounded exponentially. This film has been a master class in filmmaking. We’ve been shooting on and off from July. It’s difficult to keep a production afloat when everyone on board has a day job on top of supporting this film. It’s a testament to their sheer willpower that they have all stuck by my side! Even the lows are worth it though because shit, I’m making a fucking movie!

What are the biggest challenges and biggest thrills?

The biggest thrills have been the major attack sequences, especially the last one we shot on October 3rd. I had a lot of fun shooting a major attack/fight in one of the character’s Kindergarten classrooms. On our last day we had 20 demon extras on board and we had to shoot in the pouring rain, which was a day of weather change. It was both the most challenging night and the most rewarding.

I wanted this crane shot so we rigged some rock climbing gear and hung me off a bridge as demons chased after the protagonists. It was definitely a moment I will never forget – having to climb the rope over and over in the cold downpour, my camera hanging off my neck and getting soaked. I earned every shot that night.

Another one involved me riding on the back of a motorcycle tracking a car as it was driving around the city and over bridges. It was nuts. But we got the shots. And I’m still alive.



SNT LIVE: The Birthday Massacre

25 10 2010

Our comrade SEAN COLÓN repped SNT (and QRO Mag!) when he sat down with Chibi (lead vocals) and Rainbow (guitars/programming/vocals) of Toronto-based synth-rock band The Birthday Massacre to discuss their new album, Pins and Needles, before they took the stage at NYC’s Highline Ballroom on September 10th. You can check out Sean’s interview below, but be sure to check out his kicka$$ set of photos by clicking HERE as well!

Take it away, Sean!

+ + +

From the start, the second I walk into the room I’m complimented by Chibi and Rainbow on my purple button-up shirt and purple watch. I already knew from that point on what an awesome interview I was going to get. The Birthday Massacre is a perfect example of what happens when you follow your dreams and do what you love. I definitely learned a lot from them and I think you will too…

SC: Welcome back to New York! How does it feel being back at the Highline Ballroom doing another show and during Fashion Week?

Chibi: Well honestly we love playing here. This is a really great club, everybody who’s here is really nice and it’s very well organized. We always look forward to playing here and in New York as well. We have a lot of good fans here and it’s going to be a good show. But yeah, Fashion Week, I don’t know, it seems like everything is a little crazy.

Rainbow: Yeah I haven’t really had a chance to experience enough of it to really know, but we like New York.

SC: So your fourth studio album Pins and Needles comes out in four days. What makes this album new and what makes you excited about it?

Rainbow: I think just the way we went about recording it was really fun, because usually as with the last couple of albums we’ve done we’ve recorded them – I wouldn’t say separately, but just the way the workspace is setup we usually have different little areas where we work. This time we did a bit of writing the way we did before. Then Mike [Michael Falcore, TBM’s other guitarist] and I went back to our hometown, cleared out a space in a basement and just worked together for about five or six months – it was a really cool process. Mike and I have known each other for a really long time so it was really cool to be able to work so closely with him over that period of time and really focus on the songs, especially in that environment in our hometown. It was like coming full circle. Before we sort of came back and worked on the vocal melodies and lyrics with that too.

One thing that we really wanted to do with this album – we had a pretty specific idea about how we wanted the album to sound and whatnot, so we wanted to have certain elements within the album that were consistent. The way we’ve recorded before was a little bit more haphazard and every drum sound was different, the guitars would sort of vary and [for this album] we just wanted to have certain threads that were sort of consistent throughout the whole thing. Like the rhythm guitar sound, we really wanted to find one main sound that we would accent and we could layer with other things, but really one sound that we were happy with, a consistent kit sound that we would add loops to, stuff like that. So the album has a consistent feel – we wanted to have a really dense, heavy, textural, larger than life feel. So that was really fun and we got to accomplish that.

Chibi: Was it really fun?

Rainbow: It was fun! I thought it was fun, in retrospect it was. I was stressing out a lot during the process though.

Chibi: There was some stress – we had a deadline that we had to meet. We got really stressed out and a friend of mine said that a lot of times out of the worst stress the most awesome creativity can come, and I think that was the case. But you know how it is, you get like “How am I going to do this? What are we going to do?” But it came together really, really well.

Rainbow: I think that’s the way we were. If you gave us ten years to do an album, we would still be rushing at the end. It’s like we need the due dates in order to set the fire under ourselves, otherwise we’ll take forever, you know.

SC: Yeah, I definitely know what you mean. How would you guys describe your music?

Chibi and Rainbow: Umm, I don’t know.

Chibi: Really good?

Rainbow: Really great? It’s the kind of stuff that we want to hear. We just write what we like.

Chibi: We all grew up all listening to a lot of different kinds of music, and we tried to put those different sounds in contrast, sometimes together into something that sounds really good to us and hopefully to other people.

Rainbow: We have pretty eclectic tastes; we have a wide range of stuff like on a mix CD or tape or whatever. The band was just a cool way to put those things together. It seemed sort of a natural, cool thing to do for us. It’s just a combination of all our influences. Hopefully it works – we don’t really over analyze it.

SC: My next question for you has to do with your new video for “In The Dark.” I noticed a lot of horror references and references to past album artwork. Was that something that was consciously included or was it something that just happened as you put ideas together?

Chibi: Yeah, I mean Mike – he’s our other guitar player – directed the video and so he had a lot of ideas for it, and this was the first time that the band has been in full control of the creative process of the video. We’ve always collaborated with an artist named Dan Ouellette. He’s got great ideas so we would always collaborate with him and mix ideas. But this time it was exactly what you were saying – we used a lot of the old imagery, and we like a lot of horror movies. There’s the bed at the end [note: the scene is reminiscent to Johnny Depp’s death scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street], there’s a lot of references like that.

Rainbow: Yeah, it’s very much a Birthday Massacre video.

Chibi: It was nice as well to have the opportunity to do that.

SC: I’ve noticed a lot of rabbits in both your album artwork and videos. Is this something that was originally just supposed to have been for the website?

Chibi: Sort of, it was like a transitional follow the rabbit through the areas of the website.

Rainbow: And then it just took on a life of its own, so we just brought it through.

Chibi: It’s become our trademark, it wasn’t planned at all.

Rainbow: It wasn’t something that we overanalyzed and calculated. A lot of times when you do something creatively you just do it.  I wouldn’t want to lie and say it was contrived beforehand.

SC: Are there any rabbits in the new album artwork or merchandise?

Rainbow: Yeah, we sneak them in.

Chibi: We have some new merchandise that we’ve conceptualized while we’re starting this tour and yeah, the rabbit’s there. We’re mixing it up a little, doing some different things with it but, oh yeah, it’s going to stick around for a while. But at the same time you don’t want to put a rabbit on everything, so some stuff doesn’t have a rabbit on it.

Rainbow: The rabbit ratio is always in flux (laughs).


VIDEOSMARTS: ‘math’ by demander

19 10 2010

we are hereby kicking off a new category on SUGAR -N- THUNDER, ceremoniously dubbed after the super-amazing learning toy VIDEOSMARTS we used in the late 80s to GIT OUR LEARNZ ON [side note: check this teaching teddy video.. YES!!!].

BUT NOW! here is an awesome video from an awesome NYC band by the name of DEMANDER! i adore the two gals at the heart of this band and i certainly adore this song off their latest record, FUTURE BRITE!

just in case you’re interested, i also interviewed these lovely ladies for QRO Mag at the end of last year. check it out!

and here it is.. ‘MATH’!

– da leopardddd

ELECTRIC SIX keep crankin’ it out: new album ZODIAC out 9/28

7 09 2010

you know all is well in the world when ELECTRIC SIX has cranked out yet another album and is getting ready to embark on yet another massive tour. OH. YES.

what do they have for us this time?


check it:

Now, why call the record “Zodiac”? The answer: why do anything at all? Which is also a question. Which has an answer. The answer is….because it has already been written. While Zodiac is perhaps our most collaborative, most unique and most fun record, we also had nothing to do with it. You heard me. The experience of making a record called Zodiac has opened our eyes to how REAL all this shit is. The record was already made. All Electric Six did was not stand in the way.

THE SHIT IS REAL. REEEAAAAL. and it ain’t even 2012 yet.

check out this album’s gems:

1. After Hours
2. American Cheese
3. Clusterfuck!
4. Countdown to the Countdown
5. Doom and Gloom and Doom and Gloom
6. Jam It In The Hole
7. I Am A Song!
8. It Ain’t Punk Rock
9. Love Song For Myself
10. The Rubberband Man
11. Table and Chairs
12. Talking Turkey

i’d like to announce that i am already a fan of ‘jam it in the hole’ and ‘i am a song!’ even without having heard them. at all.

the cap & i will be catching them later this month on their ‘Rent is Too Damn High!’ tour. it’ll be the 8192719827891st time we’ve seen them – well, not that many.. but everytime feels like the first. (wink) we’ll have some notes for y’all! maybe other things if you’re good. but first:

STOP! check out this interview i did with the man himself, DICK VALENTINE, at the start of their KILL tour last year, for QRO Mag … CONTINUE!

– the leopard