Immersed in the heart of the punk rock movement, the philosophic enigma and King of the Underground, Nick Zedd, has been an innovator and pioneer, pushing artistic and social boundaries since the 70’s.
Books by Burroughs, Bukowski and DeSade were inspiration for the films that Nick Zedd unleashed on the New York underground scene: THEY EAT SCUM (1979), THRUST IN ME (1985), POLICE STATE (1987) and WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY (1992) are just a few notables. Collaborating with the likes of Richard Kern, Jack Smith, Lydia Lunch and Lung Leg, the Cinema of Transgression’s guerilla, no-budget, fringe-filmmaking pushed limits, with pornography, amorality, shock, violence and basically anything else that a modern horror fan holds dear.
Nick’s love for classic horror is also apparent through his work, with monsters being a recurrent theme and horror sound clips positioned strategically in his films. He stated a special fondness for GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983), which especially makes him nostalgic and reflective on his youth. It stars John Zacherle, and with performances by Richard Hell, “Uncle Creepy” Bob Martin, and the disorderly Donna Death, it’s the die-hard retro horror fan’s must see. The talented Ed French was even one of the effects artists.
Beyond the discordant aesthetic of his films, Nick Zedd has a strong social commentary that he has been screaming since he could pick up a camera. I once joked to him that he will be properly celebrated once he’s dead. To which he replied, “I already died once, and it didn’t happen.” Of course he was referring to the vicious rumor spread by Richard Kern that was also given homage in PULP FICTION (1994). Believe me though, Zedd’s not dead baby. Zedd’s not dead.
“All values must be challenged. Nothing is sacred. Everything must be questioned and reassessed in order to free our minds from the faith of tradition. Intellectual growth demands that risks be taken and changes occur in political, sexual and aesthetic alignments no matter who disapproves.” –Nick Zedd, “The Cinema of Transgression Manifesto”
Beneath the Underground: Has becoming a father and ultimately the thought of your own mortality increased the urgency of your message?
Nick Zedd: No. When I was younger there was a greater sense of urgency because I hadn’t done anything yet.
Beneath the Underground: With accessibility regarding the onset of the internet, has your voice grown more diligent as you are reaching the masses so quickly and efficiently?
Nick Zedd: It’s just a different platform.
I projected movies onto the sides of buildings for everyone to see until agents from NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs showed up to kill the culture. They must have resented the democratic nature of what I was doing. As usual, no government agency or municipal entity has ever supported me.
Beneath the Underground: Through the Cinema of Transgression you’ve torn down boundaries and mocked taboos to extremes. Is there a line you would not cross to get your message out?
Nick Zedd: I couldn’t say.
Beneath the Underground: You use film, art and subversity as a medium to communicate strong warnings with a call to action associated in an almost Orwellian sense. You have been harassed in America and completely banned from other countries. Do you feel America listening yet?
Nick Zedd: No.
“Ironically one of the things in the van that got through was a .45 caliber revolver used in a performance. I guess customs thought it was less dangerous than my movies.” –Nick Zedd, “Totem of the Depraved” (On having his films confiscated by Canadian customs.)
Beneath the Underground: Besides being directly harassed by the police, which inspired your film POLICE STATE have you been persecuted or monitored by the American government for being so outspoken, or in your words “threatening the status quo”?
Nick Zedd: Yes, like everyone else who uses a computer I am monitored. I wouldn’t say that I’m persecuted. I doubt that I’m important enough for anyone in the government to notice me.
Beneath the Underground: I’m sure you’re being cynical, and if not, please understand that I consider you one of the most important voices of our generation. You have pushed boundaries and broken barriers. You have changed the face of what we now know as modern film and have spoken out fearlessly against political oppressors. I don’t take this lightly at all.
Nick Zedd: It means a lot, what you said.
Beneath the Underground: What are your feelings about the current political landscape?
Nick Zedd: I consider the current political landscape to be a mine field populated by clowns and charlatans with occasional exceptions to the rule. Politics as usual has failed miserably and the level of unrest and dissatisfaction among the masses whose lives have been adversely affected by 15 years of national recession has reached a critical mass which explains the rise of anti-establishment candidates like Sanders and Trump whose appeal lies in their refusal to follow conventional narratives prescribed by the puppet masters of the corporate global elite. The lies and myths disseminated on a daily basis by clueless pundits and experts in media internalizing the agenda of a malignant oligarchy no longer convince anyone. Their propaganda is failing and the illegitimate policies of predatory capitalists and their puppets in government are finally being exposed and rejected by a majority of the people, despite the lies being peddled by controlled corporate media.
Beneath the Underground: Do you consider yourself to be a political activist?
Nick Zedd: I don’t consider myself a political activist. Politics is a fleeting distraction. In the 21st century, politics is a farcical simulation of class war programmed for the masses by think tanks who control everything. Controlled corporate media pushes political struggles as a form of reality TV. No mention is made of touch-screen voting machines with no paper trails that are used to steal elections. I have found that individual human creativity has more lasting value than so-called politics yet is completely ignored, avoided and discouraged by those who control the flow of information around the world.
Beneath the Underground: You had stated in a previous interview that like America, Mexico caters to the least common denominator to maximize profit regarding mass promotion of the arts, yet you have been able to find your audience there. What unique challenges have you encountered with presenting your art in Mexico, and how did you overcome these?
Nick Zedd: They are the same challenges that exist in the USA; near total dominance of all channels of communication by property owners, gatekeepers and compromised directors of institutional structures. Rampant conservatism and timidity is everywhere. But when one venue or forum collapses, another arises to take its place. Such is the nature of being an “outsider” in our world. The fact that 99% of the people I’ve encountered in Mexico are liars hasn’t helped. Lying is now the norm everywhere, including in the United Snakes of Amerika. Being honest is a unique challenge in a world full of liars. I overcome obstacles by going around them or ignoring them until I find somebody who knows what they’re doing. When such people make themselves useful, change becomes possible.
Nick Zedd continues to show his formidable works at galleries and in clubs while DJing sets. He is vibrant, opinionated and accessible. If you don’t hear his message you’re deliberately not listening. Keep up with Nick’s projects on his official website, check out information on his films on his IMDb profile or follow him on Facebook.