I like to celebrate alternative culture, especially when it revolves around a DIY mindset. Lucky for me, I had the pleasure of interviewing the disturbed purveyors of discomfort: King of the Witches. If King of the Witches were a tinder profile it would probably read, ‘Just looking for a girl who wouldn’t mind having beetles crawl from her eyes while being serenaded by Cannibal Corpse.’ Let’s begin.
Who is King of the Witches? How would you describe what you do?
King of the Witches is a DIY media distro that specializes in everything extreme and obscure. I guess we’re a throwback to the early 90’s independent home video outfits and the later 90’s underground video pushers. We’ve had our hands in everything from selling and making movies to zines and music.
The VHS format has been very important for horror since the 80’s. Do you consider the current horror VHS renaissance that’s happening to be a trend, or is it heartfelt nostalgia that’s keeping the format alive?
I think the current VHS movement is a trendy nostalgia thing for a lot of people, which is cool because it’s keeping the format alive. But there’s also a lot of people who take it seriously and spend a ton of money seeking out rare films and never really stopped buying them or importing them from all over the world. It gets a lot deeper than quirky t-shirts and memes, but the quirky t-shirts and memes are important in keeping it all alive on a larger level than the nerds like myself who spend all day every day looking for rare tapes on eBay and video stores that are giving up.
Along with distributing obscure titles, you also make horror mixtapes. Each one is almost like a bootleg of a bootleg of exploitation and horror, chopped up and served raw. Is this an accurate description? How would you describe these to someone unfamiliar with the concept?
The mixtapes have come a long way since we started doing them. They’ve always been a bunch of clips from rare horror and exploitation films mixed with old porn and other obscure/bizarro stuff. But now it’s almost about tweaking the videos until they’re something completely different than they were. Messing with colors, and layering things. I guess it’s all an attempt to overwhelm people’s senses. Loud sounds and extreme visuals.
Do you have plans to release more in the future? How do you come by your source material?
We’re in the middle of putting together a mixtape called Palace of Depression. It’s been an ongoing thing since last year but it’s about as done as it will be now. Source material comes from a number of different places. But basically, I’ve been collecting weird videos for years. From obscure shot-on-video horror to awkward documentaries to old adult videos. I keep my eye on blank tapes that we find all over the place, and have actually come up with some good, creepy stuff from there, which always surprises me. There’s a never-ending supply of videos out there, so the quest for the best material is never ending.
Where is your attention, currently?
Most of our attention is currently in working on a few films we started shooting a year or so ago. Other than that, we kind of drag the bottom of the film world for the weirdest or meanest stuff we can. Cold calling filmmakers to release their films. A lot of filmmakers contact us to work with them as well. Currently, we’ve partnered up with another distro called Toxic Filth Video to release a couple of films by a dude named Andy Patton that are pretty insane, a Carl Sukenick film, which is also a brain melter, and some extreme horror stuff from Abortion Bin Productions.
The spirit of the mixtapes brings to mind a different era, where one had to record and trade physical copies of media to share something with someone, instead of instantly linking them to a YouTube video. Whether it was some bizarre public access special, or found sounds like “Shut Up Little Man.” Do you feel there is something of significance lost if we don’t keep physical media sharing alive?
Mixtapes have always been important to me. In high school we would pass around tapes with gore scenes from whatever we were into at the moment. I had a notebook with a list of films I wanted to see, this is pre-Netflix, streaming, downloading, etc, and I would ride my bike to every video store in my town and the surrounding towns. So once I would find something on the list, if it didnt live up to my expectations but there was one cool scene, I would record it onto a tape and bring it into school and my friends and I would huddle around a tv in one of our classes and watch it. We would trade these goofy clip compilations like they were baseball cards. It’s insane to me that kids now don’t have to put in as much footwork to find obscure stuff. It’s all just there for them. I feel old saying it, but when I was a kid if there was something like Lucifer Valentine’s stuff, it would take years to find, or at least years to find a watchable tape, and now everything is just a mouse click away. I don’t think physical media is going anywhere though. I still send people all over the world DVDs of weird films when they can’t find them on their own. Sure streaming is convenient. But physical media is still a necessity as far as I’m concerned. Netflix doesn’t have a lot of the stuff I’m after on it, and holding something in your hands is a good feeling. I’m pretty against streaming things unless it’s the only way to see it.
What is your “Mange” line?
We do a lot of distro for other small companies, or other companies that just want to get things out to a different audience than they usually do. Mange does some quirky stuff on DVD. A few others that we help out with or collaborate with are Anubis Video, Flittermice, The Uneasy Archive, Secret Lair, Toxic Filth, Deadformat Films, Horror Boobs, VHS Is Dead, New York Horror Film Productions, Wolves Gotta Eat, Abortion Bin, the list is long. The VHS distro world is full of cool, like minded people so over the years some of us have gotten close and formed a little United Nations type of thing.
You have some titles I am dying to add to my collection. “Mosquito the Rapist” and “The Witch with the Flying Head” have me sold by their titles alone. Which King of the Witches release would you consider the most must-see?
Everything is cool, man. In the early days it was all about doing limited releases and now it’s more about getting things into people’s hands. Witch With The Flying Head is one of my favorites. We made a composite from a handful of sources, the only version with subtitles was cut pretty badly and the picture quality was trash, so we put a bunch of stuff together and re-subtitled it. In my opinion it’s probably the best way to see the film.
Does King of the Witches go beyond the distribution of fucked up shit, or is that the sole modus operandi?
It’s always been mostly about the films. But we also do a lot of zines and art stuff. We’ve got a partnership thing going with these Norwegian weirdos to sell their extremist “religious” handbooks as they come out, which is an interesting opportunity. We work a lot with an underground screen printer to do shirts and accessories. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re producing films now. We’ve got a YouTube series where we review extreme films. We’ve got our hands in a lot of things. But yeah, I guess for the most part it’s fucked up shit. Haha.
Stay up to date on the King of the Witches goings-on!
King of the Witches Home Video
Stay slime, and be rad at all times!