Davis Bradley, the creator of Robot Apocalypse, is not the story here. In fact, he’s mad that you’re reading this article about him.
DB: Just show my art…
Davis came up through the DIY art scene of NYC in the late 80’s and early 90’s, reading zines that promoted music, alternative art, and punk rock shows. They featured Dada-inspired collages screaming with headlines crudely cut and literally pasted from newspapers and magazines, rejecting the mainstream with anti-capitalism sentiments and an unwavering refusal to sell out. All that energy and rage was taped together (literally) and lovingly printed at the 24-hour Kinko’s. That’s a lot of work.
Smash cut to 2022…
There’s a meme about Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh that reminds me of Davis. It says something like, “Even though Eeyore is a miserable bastard, he still goes on adventures and no one expects him to pretend to feel happy. They don’t ask him to change.”
Like Eeyore, Davis will tell you, he has a black cloud over his head. Sure, we’re all miserable, but unlike most of us, Davis doesn’t waste his energy trying to hide it. He devotes it to making art. Once fabricating, sculpting, painting and touring with GWAR; now writing, editing, and creating the series Robot Apocalypse, among other things; Davis has to create, and bring art to life. He’s like Dr. Frankenstein (which I guess makes me an Igor?).
There aren’t many pictures of Davis. Luckily, I have one, from a GWAR-B-Q, long long ago.
Explaining why he wears that shirt to the GWAR-B-Q-
DB: Everyone’s wearing black at the GWAR-B-Q, so this way it’s easier to find me. I’m the opposite of cool.
Davis can talk and talk and talk about many things at great length, whether you want him to or not. Until you say something like this…
MM: Can I ask you four or so questions real quick?
He furrows his brow.
MM: Really quickly?
He doesn’t say “no,” so I pounce.
MM: So…where ya from?
With a thicker-than-normal NY accent, he replies:
DB: South Shore, Long Island.
MM: How’d you end up in Richmond?
DB: I moved to Richmond to work with GWAR.
MM: How did you connect with GWAR?
DB: It’s a long story.
MM: Okay. Good. This is an interview.
DB: I was living in New York City, sleeping on a friend’s floor. He came back from a show one night and said, “I just saw the greatest band ever! There were heads spinning and blood flying.” Then I watched Phallus in Wonderland. I could see that they had made all the masks and costumes themselves. I was like, “I can do that. I want to do that.”
MM: …That wasn’t a long story. What else?
DB: I was doing art. It wasn’t a lot of money. I didn’t care. I’d eat dog food.
He doesn’t answer.
DB: I wanted to make monsters. So I did. Then I wanted to make videos and movies and edit, and here we are.
MM: Growing up, did you love monsters? Were you a “Monster Kid?”
Like I’m asking the most obvious question in the world, he replies:
DB: …Yeah. I started making monsters when I was twelve. I got Tom Savini’s book, Bizarro.
MM: Any formal artistic training?
DB: No. I’m self-taught. The books I read didn’t show me how to make the stuff, it just showed what it looked like. I saw an ad in Fangoria Magazine and bought this shitty little pamphlet that had been photocopied from a book. It gave instructions on how to cast faces and make masks; how to make burns and scars with toilet paper, latex, and cotton.
MM: Was there a specific movie that inspired you?
DB: It wasn’t a movie, it was that book.
MM: (sarcastically) So, you read that book before you saw any movies…
DB: No. I saw tons of monster movies. I liked them all.
MM: What were the movies that influenced you?
DB: Evil Dead, Star Wars, The Thing, Road Warrior. The first movie I saw in the theater was Young Frankenstein. I was four and I knew what Frankenstein was. I’d seen that movie but didn’t understand that this one was a comedy. I watched the whole movie and took it very seriously.
MM: What’s your favorite Universal Monster movie?
DB: I don’t have favorites. I really don’t. But if you’re going to make me… let’s pretend you’ve got a gun to my head and I have to answer.
DB: I like Dracula the least.
MM: Yeah, Dracula sucks.
He scowls at me.
DB: I like Frankenstein and The Mummy. Then there’s The Wolfman… though I thought he kind of looked like a dog. But then I saw American Werewolf In London and was like, “I think I like werewolves.” But that wasn’t a Universal movie… So, if there’s a gun to my head, just shoot me.
MM: No I will not. Life is your punishment. What were your movie influences when creating Robot Apocalypse?
DB: Dawn of the Dead being the best, and then probably Zombie.
MM: …That’s two…
DB: Hell of the Living Dead is the worst — but I like it because it’s bad. The irony in that movie is that these guys are buffoons, and it’s like they’re being sent out because someone wants to get rid of them. The Super Squad in Robot Apocalypse is like that — basically they’re cannon fodder.
MM: In episode one of Robot Apocalypse, the squad is sent out by Dr. X on an important mission. Whether they come back or not isn’t much of a concern.
DB: Right, because they’re all replaceable: The Smart Guy, The New Guy, The Tough Guy, The Big Guy, The Cool Guy. In later episodes, we meet other squads fighting robots and zombies.
MM: Culturally, we just can’t get enough zombies. They’re perfect; we can kill ‘em and everyone’s okay with it, because they’re already dead.
DB: I went into Walmart at Christmas and there was a Walking Dead playset of the jail, and I thought, “This is a child’s toy?!” And that’s when I knew — the world I thought I lived in was not the same. GWAR still gets villainized, while the whole world around us is getting worse.
MM: Let’s talk about robots, particularly Kitty.
DB: Kitty is a robot that has the brain scan of a “real” woman. She was not created with A.I. She doesn’t see herself as a robot. She’s a woman that happens to be in the strongest robot body that’s ever existed. I got the idea from watching this thing online with Rupert Murdoch.
MM: Fox News Rupert Murdoch? Gross.
DB: I’m watching him sitting in court, looking like Grandpa Sawyer from Texas Chainsaw Massacre but more smug like, “hee hee hee.” And there’s a woman sitting next to him. I don’t know who this woman is — maybe his wife or a girlfriend or his muse… probably his wife.
MM: He’s had many wives. Three or more, I think. [Four. –fact-checkin’ ed.]
DB: Well, this one’s in court with him, and she’s looking around shooting fire out of her eyes at everyone, like “You motherfuckers, if any of you touch him I will rip your fucking hearts out!” She was ready to kill anyone that came near him.
MM: Like a pretty little trained assassin.
DB: And Murdoch is just sitting there, smugly looking at his pen.
DB: Her devotion to him was insane! Then I thought, “Maybe this woman has been programmed, or has been overly trained to perform, respond and react like that.”
See this example of Murdoch’s ex-wife, Wendi Deng, laying the smackdown on a would-be pie-thrower.
MM: So Kitty is that? Dr. X’s sweetie/vicious killing machine?
DB: Yes, but love makes her “nice.”
MM: Gross. None of the characters in Robot Apocalypse are actually good, right?
DB: Right. Everyone’s horrible. What else?
MM: Recent movies you enjoyed? Are there any?
He thinks for a long time before he replies-
MM: Anything else?
DB: Movies? No. But I like the show Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell.
MM: Surprising fact about you?
He scowls at me.
MM: Are you left-handed or right-handed?
MM: Okay. That’s my last question.
DB: I know a surprising fact about me — I like anchovies. On pizza and on salad. Or plain. I love them.
MM: You like hairy fish, I got it. That is surprising. Any parting thoughts or words of wisdom?
DB: You gotta balance yourself out to survive in this world, and when you choose something as insane as we have, making art, it kind of tips the scales in an abnormal way.
MM: That was beautiful.
He scowls while also revealing his dimple as he tries not to laugh.
Davis Bradley doesn’t do social media. He can be contacted at @aisthesis_productions.
Some additional Davis Bradley info, stories, and photos:
I’ve been working with Davis since 2003. I got to know him making my first short film, The Music Box, about a greasy oddities peddler that sells tchotchkes out of his truck — including a music box that appears to be fashioned from human skin. Written and directed by Tim Moehring, starring myself as the “City Girl” and John Gethins as the “Greasy Oddities Peddler.” Davis made the music boxes.
Davis created the “Zombie Ben” mask for my first feature film, Lights Camera Dead, a dark comedy about independent filmmakers trying to make a zombie movie. Art imitates life, right? Unlike the characters in the movie, we do not go on a wild killing spree to finish the film.
Davis designed the ancient evil game for a horror movie I’ve yet to make, Savor the Kill — it’s evil Jumanji meets Reservoir Dogs. The game sits bitterly waiting for us to make that film. But just look at it. Here, I’ll wait. It’s a masterpiece. See it all closed up? He built it to fold up into itself. See all that detail? That’s bananas.
He made these Mayan calendars from the leftover parts and pieces from the Savor the Kill board game.
He made the puppets for my pandemical puppet project, Forever Young.
He made all the zombie masks in Robot Apocalypse, and the robots.
And that’s just the stuff he did with me. With GWAR, Davis worked on the bile driver, made Oderus’ shoulders, Cardinal Syn, Oderus Urungus’ funeral pyre… He just can’t stop.
Robot Apocalypse is an homage to the zombie genre from the last five decades. With gruesome gore, practical effects and robots — lots of robots. Robot Apocalypse is a hilarious throwback to poorly dubbed action and horror movies, from Zombie to Resident Evil to Hell of the Living Dead.
RVA Magazine will be premiering the pilot episode of Robot Apocalypse, Episode One: The Super Squad in three offerings: August 8, 15, and 22. (Yeah, we got Mondays. Because Mondays are horror-able too, right?)
Top Photo by Robert Alan Moose