Bill Moseley Of The Devil’s Rejects- A Very Viral, And Visceral, And Scary, And Wonderful, And Terrible Interview.

October 25, 2010 by Chris Grosso

“Lick my plate, you dogdick”…If this quote means anything to you, then you probably know who Bill Moseley is. If not, maybe you’d recognize his face from roles such as Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre II,  Otis B. Drfitwood in House Of 1000 Corpses & The Devil’s Rejects, or Luigi Largo in Repo! The Genetic Opera. Still nothing? Ok, you know the band Primus, right? Well, the “Dog Will Hunt” quote from Jerry Was A Racecar Driver is Bill Moseley! If you still have no clue, read on and learn about an actor/musician who is brilliant in his craft. While he plays some of the most maniacal characters on screen, off screen he is extremely nice, very intelligent (can you say Yale graduate?), and sincere in appreciation of his fans! In this interview, Bill Moseley speaks about spending time with Timothy Leary, rocking out with Buckethead, what made him uncomfortable playing Otis B Driftwood, and more. Enjoy!

The Bill Moseley Interview

TIS: You did an interview with Timothy Leary after performing in a play about him and Charles Manson, but I was unable to find its content anywhere. Can you tell me a little about what you guys discussed?

BM: Yeah, it was an interview I did for Psychology Today Magazine. We talked about a lot. I remember one of his quotes, which was quite startling, was that he thought the most evil person in the world was Mother Teresa, who was still alive back then, and of course, beloved by millions, if not billions of people. And I remember thinking that was so crazy because Timothy had grown up in Boston and was very much Irish-Catholic. So to revile Mother Teresa was unheard of. But what he was talking about was the fact that the church, and especially Mother Teresa was against birth control. He thought of Mother Teresa as a hypocrite for ministering to the poor in Calcutta, whereas in the same breath, encouraging them to multiply and be fruitful.

We also talked about Dr Kevorkian, whom he loved for taking back the idea of assisted suicide, which Kevorkian was performing at the time. For Tim, it was about how citizens should have the power over their own life, and especially their own death. Between the Church and the State, suicide was either something that would condemn you to hell or was certainly by most States standards, illegal. The thought of an individual controlling his or her own life and death was very exciting for Tim.

TIS: Sounds like an extremely interesting interview. Is it still available through Psychology Today?

BM: Yeah, I honestly don’t remember what year it was, but it is available through their back issues. It was a really good interview. He a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and became very helpful to me, as he helped my portrayal of him in the stage play I was doing called Timothy & Charlie, which was based on a night back in 1974, when Tim Leary and Charlie Manson were side by side in solitary confident in San Quentin. It was great. I’ve also written for Omni Magazine and interviewed a lot of famous scientists and different personalities.

TIS: I was actually going to ask you later on about your writing for Omni Magazine, but will segway it here. Can you tell me what areas of science excite you the most?

BM: Well the story with Omni is that I went to Yale, and as an undergrad, one of my favorite courses was Black Holes and Stellar Phenomenon for the non-scientist. It was great because it took something that was very complicated and taught it in a more user-friendly way, so we were able to understand what was going on, at least a little bit more (laughter). That got me interested and focused, so that when I started working for Omni I was able to interview scientists and formulate questions in such a way that they had to talk in plain English about some of their very cool stuff. (*Note– at this point douchey Jake Busey interrupts to say goodbye to Bill and invite him to some housewarming he’s having. I felt very empowered as Jake looked at me and I gave him the stink eye!)

TIS: Great. I’ll have to do some digging on that. So how does it feel to be immortalized in the Primus song “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver” with your quote “dog will hunt” from Texas Chainsaw Massacre II?

BM: It feels great. I’ve done a lot of collaborating with Buckethead who is also a big Primus collaborator and friend of Les Claypool. What was interesting was I’d hear the “dog will hunt” quote and think about where the royalties were. So at Rob Zombies 40th birthday party in Los Angeles a few years ago, I met Les, who was also a guest. Someone introduced us and I told him who I was and that I played Chop Top, who said that quote. He said “hey man, how’s it going”, to which I replied, “great, so where are the royalties for dog will hunt?” He looked at me and just laughed. So it was then and there that I knew that that was a “free exchange of ideas” and that Les had no intention of ever paying me.

TIS: Ah, I had no idea. Sorry if that was a bit touchy.

BM: Nah, it’s not touchy. I think if a sample is under five seconds it’s free territory. In the end, I really am flattered.

TIS: Cool. So you mentioned playing with Buckethead. You guys did a band called Cornbugs which I think was sort of in the vein of Mr Bungle or Primus. Is that the style of music you typically listen too?

BM: Actually it’s not. With Cornbugs, it all came about thanks to conventions. I had started doing conventions back in the early 90’s, long before House of 1,000 Corpses. I was doing them because of Chop Top and Texas Chainsaw II, and I’d noticed that everyone only had 8”x10” pictures on their desks to be signed, and thought it’d be fun for the fans if I did something more interesting and varied. I had done some work with Buckethead on his album Giant Robots and asked him if we could get together and do some music, which I could offer fans at these conventions instead of just the 8”x10” photos. He was up for it, so we got together and did our first session at his rehearsal studio in San Dimas, CA. He came in with his guitar and a drum machine, and I showed up with a couple of poems. I remember the guy who ran the studio offered to record it on DAT for an extra $50, which I was up for. He asked what we wanted to do, and so I made up on the spot, that we wanted to do 6 songs, the titles of which were also made up on the spot, such as Lord Lawnmower, Meat Rotten Meat, Pigs Are People Too, and  Buckethead just started cracking up.

So we banged out these six songs and it was really amazing, especially Pigs Are People Too, which is a seven or eight minute song, and was completely improvised. Buckethead was just so inspiring to me that the lyrics were coming out trippingly. The thing about Cornbugs, is that there was never a second take of any of the songs, and no rehearsal. It’s the same story for all five albums, they’re completely improvised. Buckethead was just so great to work with. Sadly, it is rare that artistically, you find someone who is really the perfect collaborator, and Buckethead was certainly that. His music, guitar artistry, and weird personality were so inspiring that it all just bubbled up.

TIS: I watched a couple of the Cornbugs home movies you guys made for Youtube including “Chicken & A Severed Hand”. Were those all improved?

BM: Yup, all improvised. They were actually done at his mom’s place.  

TIS: So as I was waiting for you, I was checking out your Spider Mountain CD on the table which you released this year. I noticed that you have various instruments including the Theremin, Harmonium, Banjo & Mandolin which sounds very interesting. Can you tell me about it?

BM: Well Buckethead and I drifted apart around three or four years ago, after which, I took a break from music. Then I did Repo! The Genetic Opera which got me excited about music again. After that, Ogre asked me to do some spoken word on his last CD called Devil In My Details which got me even more excited to do something. I met a guy by the name of Rani Sharone, who’s in a band called Stolen Babies, who are great and have a Danny Elfman sound to them. Their lead singer Dominique actually does background vocals on Spider Mountain.

The frustrating thing was naming the band. Every time I’d come up with a name I thought was cool like “Dog Will Hunt” or “Poison Apples” or a number of other ones, I’d check Myspace, and sure enough, there was some fucking garage band in Phoenix or Wisconsin or wherever, who’d already have taken it. So one day, when I was really annoyed, I said let’s just call it Spider Mountain, and very much to our surprise, it wasn’t taken. So that became the name of the band.

TIS: Yeah, I’m never a fan of coming up with unused band names myself.

BM: Haha, tell me about it.

TIS: So what is one of the most surreal experiences you’ve ever had?

BM: Sure. I was living in New York City, and I woke up in my little one bedroom apartment on the upper west side. My bedroom was off the kitchen which had a little skylight. It was a three story brownstone. I woke up convinced, and I wasn’t drunk or on anything either, but I woke up from a deep sleep around two or three in the morning, with moonlight coming through the skylight, and I was convinced that there was an evil presence in the kitchen. It was some kind of a glittering mist, which was subtle, but I had a strong sense it was evil. I remember it coming towards me and making a cross with my fingers and channeling Max Von Sydow from The Exorcist as I started saying “the power of Christ compels you”. I rose up in my bed, repeating that and the mist started to recede. I kept saying it as I slowly laid back down into my sleeping position. Later when I woke up, everything was exactly the same. So when I was having that dream, if it was a dream, it felt so real. It didn’t seem like a dreamscape though. I still remember that very vividly to this day. But I’m ok now, it hasn’t been back.     

TIS: Well I’m very glad to hear that. For my last question, I wanted to know about your overall experience playing Chop Top & Otis B. Driftwood. For example, even though you know you’re acting, did you ever think “man, that’s fucked up” about something one of those characters was doing while shooting the scene?

BM: The only time I experienced that was when I was playing Otis during The Devils Rejects when we shot the Kahiki Palms Motel room scene, with Banjo, Sullivan & their wives. In the scene, Otis, along with his sister Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), were getting bored while waiting for Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig). Otis made Gloria Sullivan (Priscilla Barnes), who played Roy Sullivan’s (Geoffrey Lewis) wife, get up and start taking off her clothes. Otis then proceeds to put his pistol down her panties, between her legs, making her say stuff and take her clothes off, and it was really weird. The acting had to be done from a place of boredom. It’s one thing to do a scary, violent movie when you’re in a very violent mode, and you’re chasing someone, trying to kill them. But when you’re coming from a place of boredom it’s a completely different energy.

I was really concerned how Priscilla was going to handle it, because it required so much out of her, and I had no idea how that was going to work out. I remember communicating those reservations to Rob (Zombie- Director) before shooting those scenes, and asking if Priscilla was ok with it, because I didn’t know her as a person or actress. Rob said he thought it was going to work out, and in the end it did.

Doing the scene though, required me to go to such a dark place. It was actually really a bummer. Priscilla was amazing in that scene. I just had to go for it. I remember coming off the set after the first take, and seeing Rob, who said some of the woman on set who were watching were upset, some even crying. It was a very unvarnished, violent scene, but also sexy in a way, so it was all very strange. So I came off the set and my gut was twisting and I said to Rob “that was fucking tough”. That’s when Rob looked me in the eye and said “art is not safe”. That’s the best thing he could have said in that moment. I didn’t need him to pat me on the back and say “you poor thing”, and I also didn’t need him to say “suck it up pussy”.

So after that, for the first time, it really occurred to me that art is not safe and I’d never really thought about that. I’d always thought of art as the big eyed, sad children at the checkout counter at a supermarket, like those little weird paintings they do on velvet. I knew that art was certainly a challenge, but this solidified for me that we weren’t just doing a sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses or phoning it in for some extra cash at the box office, but that we were going for something special and that in fact, art is not safe.

So just hearing that was like a spiritual chiropractic. The scene was very viral, and visceral, and scary, and wonderful, and terrible and it worked. We had to shoot it about 8 times because we had to have my close up, a medium shot, an establishing shot, one over my shoulder on Priscilla, and there’s various camera angles and lenses, and each one of those has different takes in case something screws up or is out of focus. It was amazing though because once we had gotten to that place, it was easier and more thrilling to go there again, and again. There was a lot of different dynamics that happened during those takes. Afterwards, Priscilla thanked me and said it was the most exciting acting she’d ever experienced, and it was for me too. I also thanked Rob for helping me through that, and now I’ve got no problem putting my pistol in women’s pants.

TIS: And there we have the perfect ending to this interview.

BM: Haha, sounds good.

Visit Bill Moseley Online Here!

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.