Fans of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin got a gruesome treat when the video for “The Devil is Back” premiered earlier this month. With band members performing a ritual in hooded robes before being transmogrified into clay figures, the video is a charmingly creepy slice of stop motion Satanism, courtesy of Alex Machin. Below, we chat with the Tasmanian animator about his beginnings in claymation, how he got hooked up with the Italian prog rockers, and what’s coming next for him down the pike!
Can you give us a bit about your background as an animator?
I’ve been living in Melbourne since 2006, but grew up in Tasmania. My brothers and I, as well as friends, were all very much into genre films. When I got a video camera at around fifteen, we were making silly movies as much as possible. At first, we used tomato sauce for blood, then we discovered liquid latex, and I started practicing burns and slit throats! That was before I started doing stop motion, which I discovered in high school, when I made claymation in media class and then reused the same projects for art class. I got top marks for both. Pretty cheeky!
What are your biggest horror influences?
Aside from the obvious Argento influence? There’s a bunch! John Carpenter, primarily, plus Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg, Frank Hennelotter, and Jan Švankmajer. Švankmajer is an incredible art film maker and stop motion animator from The Czech Republic, and his style is often quite grotesque and unsettling. He’s influenced me because he’s so experimental. He’ll animate meat and taxidermied animals, or make weird creatures out of socks and false teeth. He inspired me to think outside the box and get weird. I went to Prague in 2012, and, just by chance, there was a huge exhibition of all his work. Three storeys of film props and sculptures! I was in heaven, what luck?!
More recently, the movies that have really stuck with me have been Mandy, Colour Out of Space, and Daniel Isn’t Real.
Have you always been a fan of Italian horror?
I first became a fan of Italian horror when I was a teenager, Tenebrae was my first Argento film, then I started buying the anchor bay DVDs that came with the soundtracks, so that meant that I was listening to Goblin pretty regularly.
How did you get attached to this project?
Through Instagram. I made a very short claymation in a style similar to Suspiria so I could practice lighting. I posted the video on Instagram with hashtags for Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. It worked a treat, because the video was seen by them and I was contacted to make a music video for their new song! I had free rein to do what I wanted. All I sent them was a pencil sketch and a short description, then they let me go from there!
Tell us a bit about your process on “The Devil Is Back,” from start to finish.
My process was first coming up with an idea and getting it approved, then I made the four members of Goblin as puppets using plasticine and silicone. The puppet’s costumes were made by my friend, Katy Fleay, and the devil puppet was made by my incredibly talented friend Bryn DC, who also does horror photography. I made the entire set out of polystyrene that I salvaged from a dumpster.
How long did the animated portions of the video take?
The animation took about five weeks, but stretched out over four months. Coronavirus hit just as I was about to start shooting, so it slowed everything down. Nobody could go anywhere, things took longer to get made, the local moulding supplies shop closed its doors, etc., so I had to order things online and wait for them to show up. It was stressful, but it also meant I had time to really make it perfect.
What are the best and worst parts of animating with clay?
I love the control that it gives you to create an entire world in miniature. I love the satisfaction of taking inanimate objects and bringing them to life. Worst part? When I work on a shot for ages and I accidentally kick the tripod leg and have to start again.
What does it mean to you to have worked on this video?
This has been amazing for me, I’ve always been pretty self-conscious and overly critical of my own work, but to get validation from such a legendary figure of music and cinema has given me so much confidence and inspiration. That doubting voice in my head is all but gone.
You also teach kids about the magic of claymation. Is that fulfilling?
Teaching kids claymation is great fun and they come up with some wild and crazy ideas. There are so many little gorehounds in my classes, I love it! It gives me hope for the future.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a horror-themed hip hop music video, then I’m doing some stop motion special effects for the upcoming Australian Splatter Punk feature film, Ribspreader, which promises to be all kinds of fun.
Who do you dream of making a video for next?
Slayer or Power Trip! Something fast and aggressive so I can fill the video with action!