Stephen Bessac / Kickback (interview) part 2
First published in Neons Fanzine #3 (split with Shocktilt)
Read part 1
Read part 1
How did you dive into the underground scene in the 90s ? Peter Sotos, Whitehouse, power electronics, ... Opening yourself to filthiest and more immoral spheres
I discovered Peter Sotos through Apocalypse Culture, like many others and then by getting my hands on xeroxes of PURE as fast as I could after reading that interview. PURE was exactly what I wanted. No apologies. Just pure unadulterated lust. I was already fully aware of what I was looking for in many things. That’s also why the work of Peter Sotos had such a resonance for me at the time. It was way more honest and dangerous than most of what was passing for extreme at the time. I discovered WHITEHOUSE and countless Industrial / Power Electronics /Noise acts around the same time, through a friend of mine. He turned me to the genre, knowing my tastes. The ''musical'' side of it was brand new to my ears, but the covers, the packaging, the song titles, the subjects matter and the uncompromising delivery were what immediately drew me in. Seeing a culture embracing Satanism, Serial Killers, Sexual Fetishism etc, with what seemed like a honest and prurient angle, sparked an instant interest. I had a few selected allies with whom we were sharing tastes and visions, and we were digging everywhere (literally!)
And you could find everything you were searching for in Paris ?
Paris had huge video stores back in these days (we are talking late 80’s/ early 90’s) that we were skimming through. Medical bookshops, porn stores... The rewards were there if you knew where and what to look for. I was curious and very selective, getting my hands on everything I could. There was no internet, most of the infos would come by word of mouth, reading zines and interviews, where people would name drop some interesting projects. A lot of underground sources overseas were catering to our needs. Aes Nihil was one of them, with a huge list of documentaries, dub of tv shows etc. The Centre For The Academic Study Of Extremes In Human Experience was another weird mail order archive, you would send them a few dollars and pick some subjects through a huge list of deviancies, perversions, paraphilias etc, and they would send you files about it. The Amok catalog was pretty amazing too, so was the Loompanics one, with it’s wide range of ''how to'' books that came quite handy for different activities I won’t mention here …
I bet the impact of fanzines at the time was really important, especially for people like you, in constant need of weirdness to feed your curiosity. And it seems like it was a quality era as well...
Lots of zines were coming out at that time, really a lot... here’s a few from the top of my head : BOILED ANGEL was pretty representative of the sprit of this era, it was a mix of art / poetry/ collage / stories... It featured a lot of contributors from different backgrounds... Interview with GJ Schaefer, Ottis Toole .. it was very oriented anti-religion and Mike Diana’s blasphemous drawing ended up costing him quite some legal problems. Mike’s friend Steve Sanborn, had a shirt printing company called SM Graphics... Shirts of Mass Murderers, Bondage etc... The cover of their catalog boasted ‘My Fun Is Sick! HEADPRESS was always a very interesting read, selftitled the journal of sex, religion and death. Well written articles with people who knew their subjects and they were tackling very interesting ones indeed, like articles on Animal Farm ( Videorama bestiality compilation that was quite infamous in the tape trading circles) and so on... DIVINITY was done by the same editor, David Flint, and was more sex-oriented. Always had a soft spot for the Full Force Frank zines (SINGIN’ DOSE ANTI PSYCHOTIC BLUES / LIVIN’ IN A POWDER KEG AND GIVIN’ OFF SPARKS)... Even though there wasn’t much from him in terms of articles etc, (it was mostly just random collage of news clippings and random insanities) his personality was stamped all over the pages. From his foot fetish to his obsession with mass murder/ serial killings and of course his claim that he was going to commit one... Publishing recipe on how to commit the perfect massacre etc... I had the chance to get my hands on an original audio tape of him that he recorded for a French radio station.
Really ? What was he ranting about this time ? How did it end up on a french station ?
It’s an amazing recording where he rants and raves as he usually does about how he will act on his murder fantasies, talking about how he was abused as a kid by his parents, his mom giving him bath even as he was a teen and forcing him to stand still with shampoo going in his eyes and how now he is blind in one eye because of that ! There’s a plan of releasing it as a limited cd-r with a booklet compiling some of FFF's material. THE NECROEROTIC looked pretty amateurish and poorly made but had the redeeming quality to deal with necrophilia and exclusively necrophilia. It had access to quiet some private material, sent by fellow paraphiliacs and mortuary employees... For once the guy seemed really into it, so that's always a plus ! Randall Philip's FUCK was pretty .. well...fucked up ! Very vile and in your face, very graphic ... it seems he was trying his best to be the most offensive he could. Crude layout, lots of gory color pics of dead babies, retards... He made a video compilation too called Terror Tape. Back in the days, it was pretty common to make your own private films and selling them. Short fiction films or demented mix of private home movies... I had quite a few, it was great to get into the life of those that were making those zines, and I always popped those tapes with some kind of excitement. … Some of them made it to the excellent AFFLICTION by Mark Hejnar, a must have
for anyone into that kind of stuff. Lots of video mixtapes were circulating actually... There is one called 'Mariah Was Here' . I think it was made by Yves Pierog but I am not sure... I remember it included the infamous footage of Teemu Mäki , a Finnish artist, killing a cat then masturbating on his severed head. It also had footage from FACCIA DI SPIA, some scene from a French scat film called Caca Boudin where a girl is fully covered in horse shit and a great soundtrack by Michael Nyman ... truly a piece of art ! You could find some of them through underground purveyors of filth like SHOCKING VIDEO / REVENGE IS MY DESTINY or the from the late Andy Copp etc... Those people where the only way to get your hands on these treasures, I am eternally grateful to those video mail-order and the fine gentlemen behind them …
I digress, I digress ... MALEFACT by the late Tom Crites was a compendium of deviant art from all over the world. Lots of perverted and degenerate drawings. SLEAZOID EXPRESS and METASEX are absolute favorite of mine. It's exactly what a great zine should be. The subject being totally transcended by the personality of the writer. They're very hard to find nowadays but the book is easily available
everywhere. HAELTER SKELTER from Alessandro Papa is definitely recommended. So is SEWER CUNT (Jan Bruun). I especially enjoyed the Manheim Jerkoff recommendation of extreme porn filth. The guy was responsible for SEPSIS. PANIK another good one from the US, from the same crew behind Bounty Hunter clothing. EXIT of course... ANSWER ME... ESOTERRA, OHM CLOCK, COMPULSION... Many Satanic publication / leaflets / booklets floating around too... THE BLACK FLAME, WEREWOLF ORDER... It would need a whole article on this subject alone ! FACTSHEET FIVE while not focused on the extreme side, had countless reviews of zines and digging through it could be quite helpful. You had the NAMBLA BULLETIN, GAYME and other related publications for the more adventurous of us. The Industrial scene had a great deal of amazing material, Kristian Olsson is the perfect one to talk to about it. Marco Corbelli from Atrax Morgue's MURDERS comes to mind... the SLAUGHTER PRODS catalog had great perverted contents too. COME ORG files and videos... KATA... AQUILIFER SODALITY ... Trevor Brown / R&D Group 28 (APOCALYPSO A GO-GO, NECRO PORNO ). The stuff that was coming out of Japan are some my favorites, although I got most them later on than in the 90s due the great difficulty to obtain stuff from the Land of the Rising Sun pre-internet days. ULTRA NEGATIVE, TOO NEGATIVE, SEIKIMATSU CLUB... same, it would need a whole chapter to explore the whole 80’s Japanese Bizarre magazines scene. BRUNO RICHARD’S stuff was incredible too. I am only just touching on the subject really. There used to be publications for almost all tastes. This list is far from being exhaustive, it's mostly the ones I got my hands on, or from the people I was corresponding with at the time. I still collect them and discover new stuff all the time. An index of some sort would be great, a book would be amazing. The subject really deserves it. Especially due to the fact that if not totally impossible to find nowadays, most are very expensive when you're lucky to stumble upon them. But anyway, it was a very exciting time, I was absorbing all those informations, creating my own philosophy, my own Weltanschauung. Those years were decisive in many ways. They made me who I am today. Many deeds from that era will remain confidential and that is for the best, but it was the turning point of many things for me. The start of an endless and obsessive quest that lead me on various paths, some of which I still tread to this day.
There is this picture where we can see you gravedigging, in Paris I guess. How and when did it happen? Was it for the rush, the fun, the macabre vibe?
For many reasons, I won't get into details, the picture being pretty explicit. Anyway, you can guess what is going on, but I will leave to how, where, and why to people's imagination. One of my close acquaintance was a dedicated Satanist, one of the real kind, following a real dark path, an uncompromising one. Our association resulted in many ventures. Let’s put it this way : it was a time of experimentation and rituals were performed. I was building a philosophy, and actions were needed to enforce these beliefs. I was already aware of what I was looking for, whether it was in music or elsewhere, the so-called transgressive culture really interested me insofar it was dealing with subjects I was fascinated/obsessed with. Some were actors, some were spectators, some needed to get their hands dirty more than others... Teenage death-lust... Fucking life in the gallbladder!
Concerning KICKBACK, as time went on, we could more and more easily identify your personnal touch. All the influences we were talking about, from Whitehouse to Sotos or Jamie Gillis, Sade, FFF... And musically, you were getting away from this New York Hardcore clichés to evolve in a more complex sound, mixing black metal, post hardcore or noise on NoSurrender and Le Diable Rit Avec Nous...
As you see, the external influences you are talking about were there, but yes, less present in the band. It's hard to explain because everything has been there for a long time. For way longer before I even started the band obviously. And It took quite some time actually to finally make a coherent apparition. When we started we were trying to be a NYHC clone. I chose to play this kind of music because it’was what I wanted to play at that time. Violent Metallic Hardcore. I was a hateful teen and it was a perfect outlet for my inner turmoil. But straight from the beginning I kinda realized I was limited in my choices...like writing lyrics for example. That's why most of the lyrics from the first era (demo / ep and first album) were pretty simple and expected. I thought it had to fit the music and I did not feel the need to do otherwise. It’s kinda like a ''genre film'' you know, you have to respect some kind of rules. Some bands manage to do differently and it works perfectly, I have many examples in mind, but as far as I am concerned I needed the right elements to be in place. I still managed to write a song called Streetcleaner though, where I sang about cummin' on a bloody face, and a Full Force Frank sample on the EP, I guess I could not help myself. I was taking it easy and not going all out like I could have and like I did later on. Controlled burning. Looking back, a lot was there from the start actually, although not in plain sight, hidden in the dark and lurking, growing, ready to give birth to the ugly beast it later evolved into. I will skip CORNERED, since for me it's the worst. There’are many different reasons but l won’t go into all the details here. Let's say that I was listening to lot of extreme music at that time, like I always did and that record wasn't representing at all what I was into, and what I wanted to do. It was a step backwards. I don't like this record. I never did. FOREVER WAR was a different story, A new line up and a common understanding of what we should sound like, a darker violent sound, more thoughtful and introspective lyrics, Full Force Frank again, Green River Killer pics, the Dark Ambient outro... We were slowly but surely getting there ! By the third, 150 PASSIONSMEURTIERES, I was getting more and more tired of almost everything, the HC scene I never cared about, we always were a breed apart, but it was finally time to break the last remaining shackles we were carrying for too long already. So It was kind of a fuck-you-goodnight to all... It came in the form of an Hommage to the Great Marquis (who else for this task), featuring an offensive Gillis sample, a song called Right To Kill which was a medley of my favorite Whitehouse lyrics, cut up style. It was a mix of wanting to piss people off, and a mix of 'look here's who I am, what I like, so now, leave me the fuck alone !' The repercussion alienated us from the most PC part of the scene, got us banned from playing in many places, distribution deal cancelled, the juridic part of our label claiming it could end up in alawsuit because of violation of human dignity... Good ! I couldn't care less really. This record still gets us in trouble to this day. What a joke ! I won't say that everybody in the band was applauding what I was doing, but the band was my baby, and I have always been in control of the artistic direction so... The boat sinks, rats leave first. Crybabies left, we were down to a duo. Pascal and me. It was us against the world, more than ever.
Then, ten years of nothing, not wanting to break up, trying to find the perfect band members. Fed up with all the clones, the fakes, the impostors... But knowing that the best/worst was yet to come, that we had to make what we really had in mind come to life, something that represents us in a more realistic way. And the final line up came to life, the Trident. Damien being the missing piece we needed. The perfect weapon for the last mission. Pascal being there from the start and being someone who rather hates cliche, it was a welcome for him to finally have someone to work with who was talented, smart and would share the same unyielding attitude. It was the opportunity we were waiting to take the band in the uncharted territories we now know about. Unfortunately a little bit too late I would say, but it allowed us to make the two best albums of the band, and the only ones that matters as far I am concerned. NO SURRENDER is a masterpiece. This record gives me a hard on. I have been waiting for this since day one. It's the perfect Kickback record and crushes all the previous releases. Period ! LE DIABLE RIT AVEC NOUS could have been better. It's kind of a weird record but it was done in a weird way, with me being away and everything... But don't get me wrong, it is still a great record that just demanded more work. For the final nail, The setting was perfect. The pleasure and honor to have Pierre
Marc of Akitsa and Kristian Olsson / Alfarmania on there... Mike Cheese of Gehenna too. Despite what a lot will say, that’s what Kickback was meant to be and should have been from the start. I skipped many things of course but maybe it will help seing things a little bit clearer. A lot has to do with what was going on in my life at the time also, I grew up with the band by my side, so of course all of this was bound to happen, it had to leak one way or another on the band. Which it did, all through our history and also many times more than I would have liked haha.... With time and the perfect settings, elements kinda blurred together naturally. That made things way more interesting to say the least. You have to understand that my priorities were elsewhere anyway. I always considered the band to be a small percentage of me, it was mostly a tool I used. In different manners through the years. It doesn't define me as much as people think. Even with the last 2 albums that reveal a lot more about me, it's still only a few facets of the prism. I know what I am doing, but there is also a big part of experimentation. I had to keep the whole thing exciting .There always was a chaotic and uncontrollable spontaneity to the band, the live shows are a great exemple of that. I can put what I want in the band and people will lap it up or make it as if it is written in stone. People don’t realize how much I fun I have doing what I do, and choosing what I want them to believe, or how to react or where to look... Very few people really understand what is going anyway, so many jump headfirst into the trap. Confusion is a weapon.
Could you tell us a bit about that mythical night in Paris at Le Pulp in 2003, since there are a lot of talk talk talk about it but only a few were there? And it looked like the ultimate Kickback show!The Pulp was a lesbian after-hours club in Paris. A nice hang out when many places were closing down. A friend of mine started working the door and we were always joking around about having Kickback playing there. They had some rock shows sometimes, but nothing too crazy. It was mostly a hype / trendy place but they had an ''I don’t give a fuck'' attitude that was a nice welcome compared to the PC dolts we usually dealt with. The crew from there was really cool and when the idea came about, they were very excited about it and they knew it had a lot of chance to get out of hand... That was part of the game. I knew from the start that I was gonna do something more than just a regular show... The choice of the opening act for me was obvious : DIAPSIQUIR. I had a friend that was well involved in the Tranny ''scene''. I've had been hanging out with him in many spots, especially the Bois De Boulogne which used to be such an incredible place. Paris had a huge TS community, from all over the world, they had their own parties, they held election every year of the Miss Trans etc... Anyway, his task was to find me some go-go dancers for the show and so he did. Let's say that the atmosphere was pretty electric right from the beginning … even before anybody started to play... The baroque, shall I say, decor of the club, the eclectic mix of people, the late hour of the show... You could feel the chemical sexual blood lust in the air. Everybody was drunk and/or drugged out. I remember someone telling me she was feeling high even though she did not indulge in anything. DIAPSIQUIR started with a domina torturing and fisting an old white trash submissive man. It was their first show ever and G.A.S was the yelled leitmotiv of the set and of the night. Leaving some blood and shit on the stage as an introduction for us. To make it short, it was pretty chaotic, some people were getting knocked out here and there, I was doing speed on the amps, talking a lot of shit... just random mayhem...
When On The Prowl came on, I had 4 massive Rae Rae (Tahitian word for TS) shaking their ass and tits around me... I was bleeding from hitting myself with the mic... Just good ole sleazy punk entertainment. I should mention that my friend Gaspar Noe filmed the whole event, he used a night shot and the rendering is not usable. Gaspar being quite a perfectionist, I doubt the video will ever surface anywhere. We'll see, maybe digging through it and making some edit we might come up with something. But it's best like this, there is very few pics of the night too, but those that attended know what they witnessed and have it forever burned in their minds. There were TV screens in the place, and they were playing 'Traces Of Death' back to back the whole time.. The crowd of habitual customers must have been totally lost. The after party was quite lecherous but it's of nobody's business except the different parties involved. The girls from the Pulp were definitely more real than most of the crybabies who called themselves Hardcore and lose it if something gets broken or if someone gets hurt. Here we had drugs, fights, blood, trannies... and they loved it ! No complain at all. Great people ! I remembered at the end of the show handing the busted and full of blood microphone to the owner who told me it was one of their best show ! They took the whole thing like a man ahah... Those girls had balls !
You told me some times ago that you were deep into 70s & 80s underground gay hardcore. What do you have exactly ? Documentation, pictures, loops, VHS ? Have you found French material too ? What fascinates you in it, and are you planning to do something with all this ?
I’'ve been collecting for quite some years actually. Mostly 70’s and 80’s stuff yes, but not only. Books, magazines, videos... Everything I can get my hands on really, it’s so scarce and expensive too. Especially the stuff I am looking for. Of course classics like NYC INFERNO, BORN TO RAISE HELL or THE FRED HALSTED movies for example are well known and gives you a glimpse into the harder side. But there is a lesser known underbelly that pulls no punches and is pretty vile minded. CHRISTOPHER RAGE's movies definitely, almost experimental in their approach, the music being more than often weird electronics bordering on industrial, the situations, the characters all setting a very dark tone that really sets them apart from anything I’ve seen before. MY MASTERS, BROWN MASS... the latter one having a guy recalling how him and his friend sneak up in a Zoo in san Francisco at night, where they bulldozed all the animals shit together in a huge pile, and how they get naked and go to play in the steaming heap of excrements. BIZARRE released by Live Video Inc comes to mind too. It features SCOTT TAYLOR, an odd character, who mostly did solo videos where he sucks his own dick or finger fuck his piss hole who happens to be cut in half. The guy was quite a mystery, there's very few infos about him anywhere I found a book which have some sparse insights about him and it mostly reinforce his atypical persona, one that sparked my attention, is that he was known to participate in Creepy Crawling (going into apartment when people are not there and steal insignificant objects and / or move furniture around). He died of AIDS in 1994. The SLAVE & MASTER videos, are essential viewings. They were made by Steven Toushin, the owner of the Bijou Theatre in Chicago, the oldest gay theatre / sex club in the US. The often featured The Skulls, a leather gang of S/M Bikers from Ohio taking parts in all kinds of rough and brutal sex acts, from fisting to genitorture etc ... The infamous segment THE ANALBIRTH OF BERT that made the round in some underground video mixtapes in the 90s comes from a Slave & Master flick called TERRIBLE TRILOGY. They made some pretty intense scat films too, ''YOU SAID A MOUTHFUL'' featuring Mistress Ann comes highly recommended. It ended up in this huge obscenity trial in the 90’s. There's a book about all this called THE DESTRUCTION OF THE MORAL FABRIC OF AMERICA. It's worth mentioning too that they even shot a movie inside the legendary Mineshaft in New York. Speaking of NY, anyone interested in old NYC cruising testimonies should read TIMES SQUARE RED, TIMES SQUARE BLUE and DIARY OF A DIRTY BOY by Miguel Fuentes. There were some amazing magazines also, like MR SM, TOY from Sweden... BOYD MCDONALD’S STH ( STRAIGHT TO HELL) magazine from America is mandatory reading. Very bold content with a total unadulterated libertine attitude. There’s a biography coming out soon about BOYD MCDONALDS, written by WILLIAM E JONES. WIILIAM E JONES is responsible for TEAROOM TRADE, a 56 minutes long document of Police footage of a crackdown on public sex in restrooms in the 60s. It's available in its integrality on Youtube. The book of the same name by LAUD HUMPHREYS is also a recommended reading. Art was also the cradle of many amazing pieces on tendentious subjects. Filth purveyors like MARTIN OF HOLLAND, BASTILLE, REXWERK dealt with their obsessions, battling censorship, jail to give form to their obsessions and paraphilias, shit, piss, blood, bestiality... the result is an uncompromising Sadean body of work that has still not being fully equaled. The late GREASETANK was great too, although more recent. But even if very modern in his approach (computer generated images) the mean spirit of the old days is totally present in his drawings. Sex and Violence, the torture of the other for sexual gratification, Schadenfreunde. The content being truly offensive and very very un-pc to say the least, fetishization of redneck violence, frequent use of Nazi iconography, etc all this and more can be found throughout his brutally Sexual art. His website used to host many artists with a variety of styles too from all over the world. It is now unfortunately closed. France had quite an interesting scene but it’s unfortunately not that much documented. But as usual, if you know where to go and where to look... The Keller is a very important place. It is known for having being the host of some of the filthiest scat party, all that in the center of le gay Paris I had some very nice discussions with Robert owner of the Keller, that ranged from his visit to torture museums to how the charge of the cossacks were sexually charged, all kinds of uncommon perversions etc... It's pretty clear where the focus was, and what their interests were... As for now I am just gathering all the material, infos I can for personal use, and who knows, maybe it will come out in one form or another. In this era of gay marriage and adoption, with the gay community mimicking the heterosexual way of life and their family values, it might be the right time to celebrate those true masters of deviance and depravation and give them the proper homage they deserve.
|Eros & Thanatos in Paris. First steps of the interview|