[written by author, Kim Lakin-Smith]
Rain pours down in an endless baptism. The lone figure in the alley is oblivious, water steaming offa him like sin. He wears a beaten up leather trench and knee-length New Rock boots festooned with every sort of buckle, lace and strap. His hair is a Mohawk, his t-shirt, a threadbare original from Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion world tour.
He steps out onto the street and joins the queue outside The Crypt nightclub. Two hundred years is a long time to dodge sunlight; handful of times, he’s been caught out. The scars mark him out as a self-harmer. In truth, the fangs which press against the inside of his lips are used to puncture others’ flesh…
Sound familiar? It’s a scenario that quite literally haunts genre literature, movies, and graphic novels these days. Vampires, Nosferatu, The Undead – call them what you will, this exotic band of social misfits sure do like their un-breathable PVC, black eyeliner, and goth slash metal rock music. Likewise, in a self-perpetuating cycle, so members of the rock scene love to embrace the style, deathly pallor and eroticism of these über glamorous blood suckers. After all, while most humans hide their shadier inclinations on the inside, goths, punks, grebos and metallers wear their darkness as a badge of honour – and isn’t that precisely the appeal of the vampire? Darkness is their raison d’etre. Yes, our favourite monsters may attempt to go incognito, but there’s always a give away, isn’t there? They’re just that bit too beautiful (Twilight’s sparkly teen crush Edward Cullen), too sensual (Salma Hayek’s pant-dropping Satanico Pandemonium in Dusk Til Dawn), too worldly (repentant Supercentenarian Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview With The Vampire), and too deadly (Max Schreck’s follically challenged lead in Nosferatu.)
One actress to embrace all of these traits was Aliyah in her portrayal of Akasha, Queen of the Damned. Aliyah imbued a weak movie with an otherworldly eroticism, not to mention a ghoulish box office appeal thanks to the 22 year old pop star’s premature demise in a plane crash. Exoticism coupled with (Aliyah’s) eternal beauty – these two traits combined with a seminal rock soundtrack to save Queen of the Damned from being a sucking travesty.
That the vampire Lestat is quite literally reawakened by a love of rock music and becomes the lead vocalist in a rock band is somewhat laboured in terms of the vamp/rock ‘n’ roll blood tie. The saving grace here is the music. Jonathan Davis of Korn and Richard Gibbs (ex keyboard player for Oingo Boingo) wrote all of the songs performed by Lestat’s band. Davis’s contract with Sony BGM meant he couldn’t lend his vocals to the soundtrack. Instead he called on a few buddies to rerecord the vocals: Wayne Static of Static-X (‘Not Meant for Me’), David Draiman of Disturbed (‘Forsaken’), Chester Bennington of Linkin Park (‘System’), Marilyn Manson (‘Redeemer’), Jay Gordon of Orgy (‘Slept So Long) and others.
Rock music so powerful it could allure the very queen of vampires…It’s an appealing notion to a subculture based on ancient religions, androgyny, historical dress, grave goods, and horror movie imagery. Many goth and metal band names reflect this link – The Damned, The Cure, Alien Sex Fiend, Specimen, Christian Death, Black Sabbath, Slayer, etc. And, as with Queen of the Damned, the connection has often extended to individual rock stars.
1983’s The Hunger was a master-class in vampiric obsession long before Twilight made it okay for a 108 year old male to stalk a seventeen year old school girl. The Hunger also stared David Bowie. Lord of transgression and gender play, Bowie was cast against type – an exotic creature in real life, reduced to a living husk in the film. Further rock credence was provided by the gothic rock group Bauhaus performing ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ over the opening credits and in the movie’s nightclub scene.
But if ever one movie grabbed the rock ‘n’ roll soul of the vampire and exposed its pulsing lily white throat, it was eighties’ classic The Lost Boys. In a climate given over to Brat Packers, Sunset Strip hedonism and sax dominated movie anthems, it seemed only appropriate to focus in on the wilder side of the Undead. With its cast of horny teens, comedy duo of Coreys, livin’-on-the-edge morality and touchstone soundtrack, The Lost Boys has retained its place as the coolest vamp movie in motion-picture history. *Incontestable fact*
Sex god and baron of autoerotic asphyxiation, Michael Hutchence and the rest of INXS joined forces with former Cold Chisel lead singer Jimmy Barnes for the prophetic track, ‘Good Times.’ Echo and the Bunnymen provided a concise cover of The Doors’ ‘People Are Strange’ – a self-penned song for the rock scene if ever there was one! And while some contributions erred on the hammier side of rock, they gained credos by association thanks to the film’s title song. Recorded by Gerard McMahon (under his pseudonym Gerald McMann), ‘Cry Little Sister’ was the perfect goth rock anthem for a movie that made it cool to suck.
The same premise carried 2009’s rock ‘n’ roll vampire comedy Suck in it entirety.
Female bassists are hot. Period. For average rock outfit The Winners, their bassist Jennifer’s blood exchange with a vamp notches her up to smokin’. The rest of the band follow suit, juicing their veins with the red stuff, and attaining global stardom in the process. Naturally there is a vampire hunter on their tail. Meanwhile, the drug of fame proves a destructive narcotic…So far so 5% rotten on the Tomatometer. But what saves Suck from resignation to the cess pit of vampire satire is its rock star cast and killer soundtrack. As the man responsible for first introducing horror imagery to the rock ‘n’ roll stage show, Alice Cooper is immaculately cast as the creepy bartender with a hidden agenda. Iggy Pop tones down his shock-jock stage persona to play a veteran music producer with a suave, cocksure edge (“Always wear a condom. Never trust a vampire.”) Malcolm McDowell is legendary vampire hunter, Eddie Van Helsig. Infamous for his portrayal of a young sociopath (Alex DeLarge in 1971’s A Clockwork Orange), there is a subtle irony in McDowell’s character advising The Winners to be afraid of the darkness. Other notables include Henry Rollins, Moby, and Carol Pope, alongside a cast of bright young things who remind us all why a pair of contact lenses, a set of fangs, and a dose of the old blood lust make gods and goddesses of us all. And then there’s the soundtrack, a dark entanglement of Iggy Pop’s ‘TVeye’ and ‘Success’, Alice Cooper’s ‘I am a Spider’, Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground’s ‘Sweet Nuthin’’, David Bowie’s ‘Here Comes the Night’ and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’
And how neatly this final track encapsulates the bond between vampire and the rock scene. Yes, we rightly fear the snaggle-toothed nosferatu with his claws and hunchback and over-acting eyebrows. But we can’t help being seduced by the devil in the red dress. Desirous, exotic, timeless, deathly – the vampire represents the beauty of eternal youth combined with the promise that maybe, just maybe, if they sink their fangs into our flesh, we too will get to live forever.
It doesn’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than that now, does it?