INTERVIEW: HEAVY METAL DRUMMER’S Kiefer Findlow & Emiliano Plissken

"If you are not easily offended and you happen to dig ’80s body & cosmic horror films, bizarre indie comics, heavy metal music and lysergic art, I think there is a big chance that you like this shit."

Heavy Metal Drummer (published by Behemoth) is one of the most insane comics I have read in a while. Like some kind of cosmic John Carpenter acid trip, HWD is immersive, mind-bending and completely atmospheric. So when I reached out to writers Kiefer Findlow and Emiliano Plissken about an interview and they agreed, I was beyond excited. So read the chat below and make sure you add Heavy Metal Drummer to your LCS pull list, you seriously have to be reading this book.

MFR: Kiefer and Emiliano, you both created this book together, so why don’t you each drop an ‘elevator pitch’ on Heavy Metal Drummer. Like how do you describe this insane book to someone?
Kiefer Findlow: I’ve had to explain it so many times and each time I get to that point of “how do I explain this in 25 words or less” and I don’t know if I’ve ever cracked it (laughs).  I’d say imagine ‘They Live’ crossed with ‘Species’ with a twist of ‘Maniac’ all on a light dose of LSD. That maybe gets close to what it is as an experience.

Emiliano Plissken: The Cosmic Mirror would say: Words cannot explain the real nature of this book (laughs). I pretty much agree with Kiefer’s description. It’s an experience. If you are not easily offended and you happen to dig ’80s body & cosmic horror films, bizarre indie comics, heavy metal music and lysergic art, I think there is a big chance that you like this shit.

MFR: Yeah, I’d say that is actually a pretty good description. I didn’t even think about They Live but now that you mention it, I totally see it. You guys are dropping some vivid references I can totally see. Are there any direct comic book influences on HMD? A particular series, book, artist?
EP: Two cool comics that I really love and I would say they were big influences are The Filth by Grant Morrison and Space Riders by Ziritt.

Heavy Metal Drummer
Art by Luca Vasallo & Tokebi

MFR: What about them did you find inspiring?
EP: Reading The Filth for the first time was a really cool trip. That shit was crazy. I barely understood what was going on in there ha but I remember I really liked the experience of reading it, I was trapped by the dope imagery and the insane story. It inspired me to try to make that kind of comics.  Also, we are all big fans of Ziritt’s art and we have used Space Riders colors as reference for HMD lysergic sequences.

KF: For me, this might sound left field but the Marvel Knights run of The Punisher by Ennis was always a reference point for the tone. That’s always been one of my favourite series and the way it would have these absurd moments of levity and comedy. But would also have quite disturbing, gritty elements balanced with it. Sin City as well and Jim Starlin’s run of Warlock probably factor in there too for me.

MFR: What’s your comic book origin story? What’s your history with comics?
KF: I think the first comic I picked up as kid was that one where Superman fought Tornados (laughs)? I think it was when Twister came out. Comics in Australia when I was a kid were pretty hard to come by. There weren’t a lot of stores and I grew up in the country so it was scarce. So films were the bigger exposure point.
I started properly getting into reading them at around 15 or so.  Around the time Civil War was huge in 2006 I was right into it. From there I got to go back and read Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Gaiman’s The Sandman which all opened my mind to what comics could be. Things got progressively weirder and darker from there…

EP: Kiefer and I, are both filmmakers originally, we met each other at Monster Fest 2016 in Melbourne.  I, personally, along with my wife Emilia, we started to work in comics at the end of 2017 after watching Jodorowsky’s Dune. We felt pretty frustrated at that time with not being able to get our films done, and in the movie, Jodorowsky says that if you can’t materialize your ideas into a film you should try to make it real using another artistic medium. We thought that comic books were a medium where our stories could fit pretty well so we gave it a try.

MFR: Alright, so we know film is a huge influence on you guys. But what about music? Emiliano mentioned heavy metal music and obviously, the book is literally called ‘Heavy Metal Drummer’…so do any particular bands or genres of metal have an impact? What would be the book’s soundtrack?
EP: I believe music is very important for all of us and it always has been a big part during the creative process. Most of the time, the ideas or the imagery for a new story comes while listening to a record.  In our case, when we are working with Emilia on a new story, music helps us to set the tone of the story. We also have always a record playing in the background to get the proper setup for the writing. I can name a few albums that I was listening to at the time we were working on Hmd: Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss, Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains, Morbid Saint’s Spectrum Of Death, Death’s Leprosy & Symbolic, Ministry’s Psalm 69, Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill, etc. Also some post-punk bands such as The Fall, Public Image Limited, Wire and some hip hop albums as well such as Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition and Vince Staples’ Summertime 06.

KF: Yeah, totally. Music is a huge part of the creative process. I’ve been playing Bass since I was a teen and composed a few soundtracks for my own work. Having the right record on when writing is key. I’d have on a few different records, a mix of John Carpenter soundtracks (Prince of Darkness & once again They Live) and then lots of ’70s Metal and Prog Rock. Rush’s 2112, Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Dio’s Holy Diver. Some newer stuff like Earth’s Primitive but Deadly and The Sword’s Warp Riders got a few rotations too. Oh, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard were in the background a bit too.

MFR: Since we’re talking music, how did you guys link up with Behemoth? I know they put out music as well as books. Did you guys pitch this to them? And now that we’re on this topic, what was the initial origin of HMD?
KF: I’ll let Emiliano answer about how we got linked up with Behemoth. As for HMD’s origin, we had both wanted to work on something together for ages. Emiliano came to me with the idea of doing a comic after he and Emilia had produced The Gatherer and Purple Oblivion. From memory, I think Emiliano came to me with the concept of the alien cat parasites taking over these elderly ladies (you can fill more on where that one came from brother). From there we had a solid starting point and it just grew from us going back and forth with pages each. Where this madness originated from is a mystery to me because so much of it just seemed to organically flow.Heavy Metal Drummer

EP: Yes, Kiefer is right. I had this idea of an alien virus that behaves like toxoplasmosis, first infecting rats and then using them to climb up in the food chain until they get to humans. I remember also that I had this idea of these aliens invading earth and possessing women in order to use their vaginas as a teleporter machine. If I remember correctly the first draft we start working on it was called Teleprostitutes from outer space or something like that and then it ended up being called Heavy Metal Drummer. Regarding Behemoth, we started working with them at the end of 2017. They were just starting the publisher and we were just starting writing comics. We sent him a short 16 pages pitch of The Gatherer OGN. They liked it and we started to work together. They are always down to publish our crazy stuff.

MFR: So what’s the creative process with you guys? How do you guys communicate and get things done?
EP: I think Kiefer put it perfectly when he said it’s been surprisingly smooth considering we have been working from opposite sides of the world (Australia-Argentina) It worked really on momentum. I would get a flow for a few pages and then when it stopped we would hand it over. Back and forth, we were able to build the story really organically. It would be great to get stuck at a point and then get Emiliano’s pages and just be thrilled… which then re-energized my momentum to pick up the next leg. We were oddly in sync the whole way through. I think that’s one of those special connections when artistic collaboration works at its best and I think it shows. I would like to add that we also had a big hand from Emilia, she helped us to get a better narrative close, and she helped us to get more explicit its “They Live-esque” vibes adding the reptilians in the main story, something we had missed during the writing process.

MFR: I  also love the size and dimensions of the book. It’s very unique. What led to the book’s smaller size?
EP: That’s a question for the guys from Behemoth. They took care of all the matters regarding the printing and stuff.

KF: As much as I would like us to be able to take credit for it (laughs)! I think it really did add to the experience though of picking it up for readers. Its size gives it that unique underground comic look and kinda signposts that “this is something really different”. So the process of writing was a back and forth, ‘ take a leg of pages and then send them over to Emiliano, He’d add and work on them and we would just build between each other’s flows. Sometimes one of us would have a really solid vision of say half an issue and then pass the baton on. Considering we are on opposite sides of the world it felt like we were always in sync about where the story was going. Once an issue was in a good state we would have Luca (HWD artist) work on the layouts from there. I believe Luca works digitally? (can you confirm Emiliano?). It’s been a really unique experience having such an international team through the process with Behemoth being in Texas, it’s been a real United Nations of comics!

EP: Luca has worked analog in HMD. Pencils, inks and colors have been made in photoshop. 

MFR: Speaking of Luca, How did they join the team? Where did this fantastic artist come from?
EP: He was born in Chile but he lives in Argentina. I met him on Instagram when Kiefer and I were looking for an artist who can fit aesthetically with what we were looking for in HMD art. We get along pretty well from the very beginning. Now we are working together on a couple of projects.Heavy Metal Drummer

MFR: Awesome. I think Instagram is perfect for finding artists. Social media at its best! So a couple of new projects? I am glad you mentioned that because that’s my last question. What’s next for you guys? What are you working on after that drum rolls for HWD?
KF: So we have quite a few coming down the pipeline. Together we have been working on 3 further books, one called Death Tripper which is a story about a cyberpunk cult of nuns that hunt down Neo-nazis and worship a worm-like being that feeds on the human experience of death. The second is a Thing-esque book about an alien rainbow liquid that begins assimilating the ground crew of a remote airport, that’s called The Unknown Spectrum. Also, a prequel to HMD called Heavy Metal Yakuza which will hopefully be the second of a trilogy. But I won’t say too much about that right now. Separately I’m working on a book called 1981 A.D. which is a post-apocalyptic, psychedelic, zombie mash-up set in rural Australia, two years after the world ends in 1979.

EP: Kiefer already told you about the new projects we are working on together. From my side, I am working along with Emilia and Luca in a couple of new projects. The Firstborns is a sci-fi horror five issues mini-series and Daemon is a horror five issues mini-series about a band of black metallers and their encounter with an evil entity summoned via an ancient mask. The Firstborns is already done and it will be published by Behemoth soon.

Follow Kiefer Findlow at:
Facebook: @kieferfindlow
Instagram: @theta_sigma_omega
Twitter: @opposite_number

Follow Emiliano Plissken at:
Instagram: @emilianoplissken, @plisskenstudio

Manuel Gomez
Manuel Gomez
Assistant Comic Book Editor. Manny has been obsessed with comics since childhood. He reads some kind of comic every single day. He especially loves self-published books and dollar bin finds. 'Nuff said!