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Thursday, January 19, 2012

BLOOD - INTERVIEW - The Twisted & Morbid R. Phil Roberts make blood waves with ZombieBloodFights.com

by Bowie Ibarra

"You go and find his head, while I scrape up the rest of him with this here shovel."



Full Name: R. Phillip Roberts (R. is for Ronald, but I go by Ronni)
Nickname/Alter Ego: The Dolly Master (but I have several, including Polly Rigormortis)
Primary Specialty: Having a creative imagination and the ability to express it in many different forms.
Secondary Specialty: I'm one helluva cook and I can mix up a pretty mean and nasty Long Island Iced Tea. Drinks, anyone?! 

ZombieBloodFights.com - R Phil, I want to start by talking a little bit about music.  It seems to be a big influence for you, as it is to me.  In your opinion, what makes music one of the most powerful of all artforms?

R Phillip Roberts - I think more than any other art form, music has the power to invoke very strong feelings and emotions in us very quickly. I personally love my metal music for a number of reasons, but can honestly say that it works as a sort of therapy, a vessel by which to cleanse myself of all the aggression and other junk that builds up inside of me. Writing works that way, too, but putting on one of my favorite bands gets the job done a whole lot quicker (...and no one dies). Music also sets the tone and mood for any situation. Take for instance the movie Natural Born Killers. When Mickey and Mallory are in the diner scene and she selects a song on the jukebox, they start kicking ass and killing everyone to L7's 'Shitlist'. The song absolutely encompasses the entire scene and would not work so well if it had been something mellow, like 'Mandy' by Barry Manilow, for instance.

On the flipside of that, you wouldn't want to hear SLIPKNOT playing during the movie On Golden Pond. I guess I have always looked at music as a sort of way to tell a mini story. Each song tells one, if you think about it. Even instrumentals can tell a story. The sounds and vibrations of the instruments get inside of us. Infect us. We don't just hear them with our ears, but we feel them with every fiber of our being, too. And I suppose that's why many people react to music by dancing, gyrating their bodies in response to those sounds and vibrations that are coursing through their soul, so-to-speak. It is widely believed that before primitive man actually formed language, they were pounding on rocks, logs and stretched hides, making their own sort of music to communicate with one another. It is in fact an International language, as we all understand music on its primal level, even if we cannot speak or understand one another's foreign tongues. The right music can also have a very strong impact on sex, as well. Our own military has even used music as a weapon. Music is a very powerful thing, man!


ZBF - Are you lucky enough to be one of the people that knows how to play a musical instrument?

RPR - As a kid, I played bass and a little guitar. I dabbled a little with drums and keyboards, too (the former not so well, though I think drums are my favorite instrument, and all I can seem to manage on keyboards is cheesey horror movie themes). Even played in a few bands through grade school to high school. But then I persued art and gave up playing. I even worked for bands for a number of years, including ICED EARTH and NOCTURNUS (a band formed by MORBID ANGEL co-founder, Mike Browning, now helming the band AFTER DEATH, who incidentally turned me on to H. P. Lovecraft's writing many years ago), doing flyers, demo and album cover art, logo design, t-shirt printing, photography, and even a little videography of live shows. It was fun, but it detracted me from doing the one thing I loved in school (and was quite good at)... and that is writing. When I look back, I know that I should have kept writing all along. But I can't live and wallow in regret, because I at least have the chance to write everything I want to, now. And the ideas seem to be limitless. I guess living what seems to me like several lifetime's worth of experiences can do that for a person.


ZBF - What are some bands you enjoy listening to?

RPR - I am a big-time hardcore BLACK SABBATH fan from way back, especially the original Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, Bill line-up. And I like a lot of bands, such as JUDAS PRIEST, KORN, MARILYN MANSON, ROB ZOMBIE, KING DIAMOND and MERCYFUL FATE, and so many others, that the list could get quite longish here. I'm pretty much a hard rock/metal kind of guy, but I do appreciate good music and performers in other genres, as well. Right now, though, I am obsessed with the German Industrial band RAMMSTEIN. Have been since I first heard them in '98 on the Family Values video tape that featured KORN. Very tight and precise band with a colossal guitar and drum sound that literally blows my f***ing mind. It charges me up like an emphetamine. If I were playing today, I would definitely be making music along those lines.

ZBF - Your writing is starting to take off.  We were recently part of a great anthology called “Holiday of the Dead”.  Tell us about the theme of the book, and also your piece in that book?

RPR - Ah, yes! And a big round of congratulations are in order, kind sir, seeing as HOLIDAY OF THE DEAD has just recently been nominated and won the award for Anthology of the Year by This Is Horror 2011. Rock! An awesome anthology, for sure! 


Now, from my understanding, being that it was a UK publication, the initial idea was to do a holiday theme with zombies. Only thing is, over there across the big pond, holiday literally means vacation. But once they got submissions that used the holiday theme as we Yanks know it, eg. Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc., Wild Wolf allowed those as well. And there are some great stories in there, like yours, Richard M. Cochran's, Wayne Simmons', Iain McKinnon's, and Clyde Wolfe's (just to name some of my favorites). As far as mine goes, I wrote 'The Day I Discovered The Truth About The Man In The Red Suit' over Christmas Eve and Day of 2010, just for fun. When I heard about the open call with Wild Wolf, I sent it in for kicks, never expecting it to get accepted. 


But when they posted the first short list of accepted authors and I saw my name, I almost pissed myself. I was literally in a state of shock. And the first thing I did was tell my roommate, Mikalene Agne, and Muse Raven (both of whom are my biggest supporters). Seeing as I did not write it with publication in mind, it is a little off the beaten path. The zombie apocalypse is merely the setting for the story, like a backdrop on a stage where the performers are in the spotlight. Told from the point of view of a teenage girl, it is a pretty macabre Dickens-like tale of the Christmas feast, the excitement of the holiday for a child, and the idea of catching Santa unawares. But, there is something not quite right, which the reader soon discovers by the end of the story. I am quite proud of it, as it is a pretty twisted little tale. A slightly re-edited version of it is available to read on our Muse Raven Publications page, right now on Facebook, along with the entire final edit of the opening Prologue chapter to Succulent - A Dead Man's Tale. I cordially invite your readers to come on over and give the page a "like", so they can give them both a read.


ZBF - You and I collaborated on a story for “The ePocalypse: E-Mails at the End”.  Tell us about that story and plans you have for a character mentioned in the book.

RPR - Yes, we did! A story called, 'Countdown To Extinction', done in email format. At the time that I had asked you, I really had my hopes set that you would accept. In all honesty, I really didn't want to write it with anyone else (other than Muse Raven, possibly). I thought about maybe doing it with someone else if you would have declined, but in truth, I probably would not have done it at all, then. I was already a fan of your Down the Road - On the Last Day, and then we became friends on Facebook. You tell an engaging and entertaining story in that book. And having read Down the Road since, I really love the series. And having a chance to work with you on something was a little too hard to pass up.

Anyhow, the story is told from the perspective of two scientists who had not seen each other for several years. The story gradually unfolds through their email correspondence, leading up to an apparent alien invasion. But I'll not spoil everything for those who might not have read it yet. It is a good story, though I wish we could have done it in a regular format. You did do an awfully precise outline for us to follow once we threw out some ideas and made some concrete decisions. I really think that helped a lot since we had to do the whole thing through our inboxes and emails, instead of just sitting down somewhere and hashing things out in person. But now, for the second part of the question, I did write another story for another anthology that came up afterward (though it actually came out just before the ePocalypse one did). The anthology was Signals From The Void, which I did two stories for, as well as the cover.

But I took the character of Major Terri Lynn Fairchild (based on and dedicated to a dear friend from my school days, Theresa Fairbairn, who got struck and killed by a car at the age of 17), who was merely mentioned in our collaberation story, and wrote what happened to her afterward from her perspective. The story is called, 'In This Time Of Our Darkest Hour', and gives a bit of closure to the story you and I wrote, seeing as we sort of left it hanging in the balance, so-to-speak. I do love my horror, but I also love science-fiction. And at times, the two genres can crossover very well to mate and breed their own sort of mutated scary step-child from Hell. One you wouldn't want to meet alone in a dark alcove in New Orleans, or in a corn field in the middle of Iowa.


ZBF - Zombies are a pretty big deal these days.  What initially got you into zombies?

RPR - I grew up in the sixties and seventies. And thanks to my parents, spent many a weekend in the backseat of my father's old Falcon stationwagon at the drive-in, watching films like Hitchcock's Psycho, Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Fuest's The Devil's Rain, and the like. On Saturday night television, it was the Creature feature films. Everything Hammer films put out and all the other monster films that had ever been made. And the Twilight Zone, as well as the original Star Trek series. All of these things had an everlasting impact on me. I have been fascinated with horror and science-fiction for as long as I can remember. So in truth, it's not just zombies.

But if I have to name my first zombie influences, I would have to say the old films, like White Zombie with Bela Lugosi. To me, the original zombies were voodoo hexed humans, or raised Satanically. And not necessarily dead humans risen from the grave, though some of those voodoo priests and prietesses in those old classic films did that, too. Of course, Romero came along and brought us the toxic zombie, infected dead humans risen from the grave due to some lab experiment gone terribly wrong.

But I think that was really defined more when the Return of the Living Dead series came out. Romero tended not to give too many details as to the cause in those early films. And hey, how cool is it for both of us to be in a book with John Russo, whose book that series spawned from, as well as being Romero's co-writer in the beginning? Now that f***ing rocks! The only think I can personally think of that would be just a tad bit cooler... would be being published alongside Stephen King. But back to zombies. In my eyes, whether it's 28 Days Later, The Crazies, Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead, or White Zombie, they're ALL zombie films. Too many people these days try to dissect everything to death, re-categorize, or even make up new categories for things. Sub-genre this and sub-genre that. With all the different interpretations of zombies, let's just be happy with the fact that they are what they are. Runners. Shamblers. Thinkers. Mindless meatsuits. Voodoo hexed. Risen from the dead. Infected human. Grunters. Moaners. Each and every one of these are examples of zombies.


ZBF - In your opinion, what are the elements that make up a good zombie story?

RPR - I would have to say the same elements that make up any good story. Action, for one, whether it's a little blood and gore, or a simple brawl in a bar, and everything in between. Good characters, whether you like them, or hate them. So long as they are interesting, you're going to root for them to survive, or hope they get killed off. And of course, a really good twist on the end is a definite plus. You, Bowie, definitely acheived all of that with Down the Road. Again, I won't spoil anything for anyone else. But when I read that, totally immersed in what was happening to George throughout the story and leading up to the big finish, I can honestly say that I did not see that coming. That was an amazing ending, much like the ending of the first Saw movie was, when what you thought was a dead body gets up off the floor and you discover it's actually Jigsaw.

Anyhow, whether it's zombies, psycho clown serial killers possessed by alien leprechaun spores, or the quiet and polite stranger that lives next door and keeps to himself but has a very dark secret buried in his basement, as long as a horror writer invests his/her time into telling a great story, then that's what it's all about... simply giving the reader a great story. A thrilling roller coaster that they'll never f***ing forget. One that leaves them fearful of taking a bath, or peeking under the bed in the middle of the night. Makes them afraid to open the closet, or even look at their own reflection in that eerily illuminated bathroom mirror. If a horror writer can illicit those sort of reactions in people, then the job of that writer has been done successfully.


ZBF - You also have an alter-ego.  Would you like to share with the readers who that is and what makes that person tick?

RPR - Like you, I have a history in theatre. I took two years of drama in high school and had a blast with a couple of girls I met there, Jennifer Koella and Christy Edson (my self-adopted sisters). We partnered up for many of our skits and even took in some plays together when we hung out away from school. Loads of fun we had! But I think it all started before that even, with those early monster films. All the latex appliances like Lon Chaney wore in The Wolfman, or the ones worn in The Planet of the Apes movies. And of course, the influence of the early Glam bands, like David Bowie and Alice Cooper. All of that stuff really gave me a glimpse of theatrics and over-the-top performance. And to this very day, it is still very much a part of who I am and what I do. It always will be!

But to the question at hand, like I said above, I have many alter-egos. I'm fairly well-known to some as The Dolly Master, but I think it is the Polly character you speak of. Well, it all started in the summer of 1977, back in my old neighborhood in the South-side of Toledo, Ohio. The neighbors (a young married couple) down on the corner got the nicknames of Charles Manson and Billie Jean King from us kids, as we would see them drive by every day as we played outside, going to and from their respective jobs. The scary part was, they both looked so much like those two icons back in the day. All the kids parents were very wary of them and warned all us kids to stay away from them (and you have to understand, this was the early and mid-seventies, when the Labianca and Sharon Tate Manson Family murders were still fresh in everyone's minds).

Well, it was during that one summer in '77 that the wife's (Billie Jean King's) younger sister came up to stay from southern Ohio, from somewhere just outside of Columbus (and if I'm not mistaken, quite coincidentally, not real far from where Muse Raven hails from). Her name was Terri (and I will leave last names out of this part for soon-to-be obvious reasons). Tall, long blonde hair, and a year older than this 14 year old teenage boy was. Needless to say, we hit it off that summer. And we hung out whenever I wasn't over at my girlfriend's house, which usually involved hanging out with the afore-mentioned Theresa Fairbairn, as well. But anyways, when Terri found out I was an Alice Cooper fan, she told me about her friend, Polly, who was an even bigger fan than me. And I will tell you why. This girl used to keep an empty mayonnaise jar, to which she would masturbate into (yeah... she was apparently "one of those" amazing girls who have that rare ability to ejaculate). And she claimed that once it was full, she was going to send it to Alice Cooper personally. Now if that isn't rock and roll, I don't know what the hell is. I was so impressed by that, that I asked Terri if her friend would mind if I used her moniker, for when and  if I ever started my own Glam band. And she said no problem. The name stuck with me over the years. I never did anything with it.

But when Raven and I met, Polly came to fruition as sort of a joke. From there she has grown into this entity that I have some crazy fun with. And which I now call Polly Rigormortis (as I dropped the girl's real last name just to be on the safe side). Polly is a Demented Doll, a killer clown cross-dressing hermaphrodite psycho rock star. She is everything that is dirty and nasty inside of me, you, and everyone else. And Polly would just as soon kill you than give you the time of day, unless of course you have something she wants. Polly will haunt you in your dreams. She will beat the piss out of you while seducing your girlfriend, all at the same time. She says what is on her mind and takes shit from no one. She is the craziest person you will ever meet. And Polly is just plain sick old-fashioned demented fun.


ZBF - I think it would be appropriate to mention Muse Raven here.  She seems to mean a lot to you.  Tell us about her.

RPR - Wow! This is probably the most difficult one to respond to. The things I can say about her could quite possibly take up a reasonable bit of space, so I'll try to keep it as brief and to the point as possible.

Raven R. Dozier is that one bright star in the night sky that shimmers and radiates to the point that it stands out from all the rest. Obviously, she is my Muse, my guiding light at the end of every dark and nasty tunnel that I travel. She keeps me going. Raven is also my partner (relationship and business-wise), co-writer, co-pilot, an endless fount of inspiration, and even the one I model a lot of my chatacters on, whether it be some obvious detail, or some obscure little thing that only her and I really know about. I even use her initials, R. D., like with the character Dr. Danielle Reynolds (featured in my upcoming zombie novel, Succulent - A Dead Man's Tale). A lot of Raven's personality is in Dr. Reynolds, actually. She was very pleased with how I did that in the first draft of the novel (which I am currently working on editing a thorough second, and hopefully, final draft of).

When I met her a good five years ago, I had just begun working on a story (my very first serious attempt at a novel), Rayna-Dawne - A Blood Masquerade. I had a pretty good idea where I was going with it, but it wasn't until I met Raven, got to know her a little, that it really began to blossom, and she literally became the lead character in the story, one Raven De Blanc. The idea for the one book soon turned into a trilogy, The Blood Trilogy, as I call it these days (and since it is a labor of love, I am taking my time with it). But it has been Raven's support ever since, and over these last five years, that has kept me going, given me the confidence to endure. She is my lifeline, my anchor to the real world. I can never show her enough gratitude for all that she has given me, both spiritually and literally. In essence, everything I write is for her, for the both of us, first and foremost. And she is the one person I will love eternally, cherish with all my heart, and protect with my very own life for as long as time endures. And if applicable, far beyond into the unknown abyss. Raven is one in a million! And like they say, behind every great man, there's an even greater woman! And, well, that's the short version of it, anyways! By the way, anyone got a Kleenex handy?


ZBF - And what is your choice:  Zombies, Blood, or Fights?

RPR - Blood! A gargantuous tidal wave of it that will flood the entire planet. Then I will build an Ark out of human bones and carcasses, to sail the Crimson Seas of Desolation in search of great adventure and even greater treasure, with the lovely Muse Raven (the crown jewel of all my treasure) at my side, of course. Oh... and a rum-drinking profanity-spewing spider monkey perched upon my shoulder, too.


ZBF - If you could appear in one zombie movie from the past, which one would it be?

RPR - I saw the original Dawn of the Dead in an old porno theatre when I was eighteen. That movie really had an impact on me visually, like the bikers entering the mall scene. So I will go with that one. I remember it much better than Night of the Living Dead, which I first saw at the drive-in with my parents as a kid, cowering in the backseat with a bucket of popcorn and a large soft drink in my hands.


ZBF - Where can readers find out more about your writings and macabre thoughts?

RPR - On Facebook at the Muse Ravens Publications page, or on the From the Morbid and Twisted Mind of R. Phillip Roberts page. If people would like to send a friend request to my personal profile, that's fine too. It's listed under R Phillip Roberts (no dot after the R). And since I resolved to give up meat (raw or cooked) for the New Year, I'm much safer to be around these days. I promise not to abduct anyone for the main course at dinner. Also, Polly is currently medicated, straightjacketed, and locked up tight in her padded cell. Just don't go down in the basement, okay?

ZBF - Thanks, R Phil.

RPR - You're welcome, Bowie! And I thank you for giving me this oppurtunity, my friend! it is most appreciated!

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You can order "Holiday of the Dead" in paperback and Kindle here.

"e-Pocalypse: E-Mails at the End", featuring the collaborative short story, is available in paperback and Kindle here.

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Bowie Ibarra is the author of the "Down the Road" zombie horror series from Permuted Press and Simon and Schuester.  His latest 80s inspired horror novel, "Big Cat", is a story of friendship and murder on the south Texas countryside.  You can order his book and explore his other stories here. 

You can network with Bowie at his official website, ZombieBloodFights.com

2 comments:

  1. Nice interview :) I want Holiday of the Dead as a birthday gift for my dear ol' dad...It sounds right up his alley.

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