9.24.2009

Interview with “Monster Attack Team‘s” Edward Holland and Michael Keller


Along with the promotion of the resurrection of legendary fanzine "Monster Attack Team", I have had the special honor to interview the editors-in-chief of the magazine, Edward L. Holland (also known as Edojira) and Michael Keller. I hope this interview is thorough, if not informative on the resurrection. Do take note that Bolgger seems to have an officinal problem when it comes to clumping large amounts of text together which are supposed to be spaced apart, so if you develop disdain, feel free to go ahead and leave your e-mail via comment and I am sure to give it to you. Enjoy!

1. When and under what circumstances did the revival of "Monster Attack Team" come under?

Ed: MAT was revived with the hard work and reinvestment by original contributor and associate editor Mike Keller.

Mike: It was my idea. Basically, it came out of the fact that I've been employed as a graphic designer for a little while now. I use all this software at work and at home. I have all these resources and equipment, plus I'm a hell of a lot better at this stuff now than I was back when we were doing MAT. It occurred to me that we could have really used all of this when MAT was active, it also occurred to me that there were things I'd still like to write about, or see written about. I contacted Ed and told him that I wanted to do another issue, and he agreed that it was a good idea.

2. When establishing "MAT", what goals did you guys set?

Mike: I'll let Ed answer this, as he is one of the founders

Ed: When MAT was established there were no definite guidelines or by-laws, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to present and in what fashion. I wanted to bring fans together via television and print media and branch out a bit. I wanted it to be a fan club and fanzine like none other. We never took it too serious and wanted to bring things to our network of friends not seen elsewhere. I believe we continue to do so today.

3. What impact did other fanzines like "Japanese Fantasy Film Journal" and "Markalite" have on "MAT"?

Ed: JFFJ and Markalite had an effect, particularly Markalite. I bought every issue of Markalite when they came out and I believe I wrote to their offices as they were preparing issue 4, which unfortunately never came out. I have stayed in contact with August Ragone and Bob Johnson since those days. Back when Ultraman Powered was being shot in Burbank, CA Markalite, Oriental Cinema, and MAT were invited on the set. It was quite an honor and Markalite and MAT were fortunate to be there. At the same time, MAT was invited on the set of Power Rangers while the first season was being filmed.

Mike: They set the standard. Personally, I don't think JFFJ has ever been topped, though Markalite did come close.

4. How many contributors are returning and how many are new?

Ed: Mike knows more about the lineup, but many have returned and there are many new contributions too. I have not brought as many things to this issue as I would like to due to job and family commitments, but I am very thankful that our original crew is basically all back together. I always thought of our contributors as a team and felt that Monster Attack Team really fit our method of promoting the genre and Japan.

Mike: About half and half. I'm really proud of the contributors we have in this issue. We have multiple published authors in our ranks, and everything they've given us is of the highest quality. We also got some people who were pretty involved in the fandom in the 1990s to come out of 'retirement' for MAT 8, so to speak.

5. How did the advent of a TV series come into play?

Mike: That's Ed's department...

Ed: The cable access TV series actually started first. I was approached by Larry King, not the Larry King of CNN fame, but a real fan in his own right that approached me at Larry Lankford's Dallas Fantasy Fair convention and asked if I would like to have a show on Dallas cable. Both Joe Riley (Church of the Sub-Genius, Jimmy Neutron, Blade: Trinity, Mighty Joe Young, makeup/latex mask master) and I said sure. We had worked on a Fred Williams movie and an MTV commercial and we thought it would be fun. The fan club/fanzine sprang from that.

6. Did any competition come up between "MAT" and other fan organizations/fanzines?

Mike: No. We came out of that whole '90s milieu pretty unscathed. We never bought into any of the con/fan wars. We never turned anyone away and everyone was welcome. We were friends with people who hated each other!

Ed: There has never been a spirit of competition between MAT and any other Japanese tokusatsu group that I know of. In fact, some of the groups we featured articles, etc. from were at odds with each other during the original publications. I hope those waters have subsided now. We did not care if people were at odds with each other. If you are still doing something to promote these great shows you have stood the test of time and we applaud such efforts

7. With the TV show, you showed a lot of copyrighted clips. How was it working with Toho, Toei, and Tsuburaya?

Mike: We probably shouldn't address this, but I'll let Ed answer if he wants to.

Ed: Well we did not really work with the studios to show those clips but the studios including Toho knew about us and NEVER once complained. However, during the Alien Death Squad cable program days, a show started by David May, kind an offshoot of MAT, we actually got some Tsuburaya clips officially which were going to be used on a PBS special that we were interviewed for but I never saw the finished product. I don't think I even have those clips of Ultraman 80 which I received in the mail from Ultracom, Tsuburaya's American division years ago. Great show by the way!

8. Other than fanzine articles, what other contributions have you done for the fandom?

Ed: I have been heavily stating the artistic and surreal value of Japanese film and television shows to anyone who will listen since I was 6 years old. I have done this on shore, at sea in foreign countries, at bars, schools and particularly with my old film school colleagues. If an ear is bent I will fill it up with my admiration for my childhood and young adult heroes. I guess I have never grown up, the whole Island of the Lost Boys syndrome so to speak.

Mike: Fan articles and art are all I've done for fandom. I've had things published in G-Fan, Kaiju Review and Oriental Cinema.

9. When writing an article, what mindset do you put yourself?

Mike: I think I write articles a lot differently now than I used to. I certainly hope that I've gotten better! I do a lot of revising and re-writing. It's important to me to have all my ducks in a row. I won't identify something as a fact unless I can corroborate it with another source or witness it myself. Ideally, I would like to do as much original research as possible for a piece - though sometimes that just isn't possible

Ed: I usually work on a deadline and cram as much in as I can possibly and add a fan edge to it as well. First and foremost I am not an authority. I feel there are no authorities except for the creators of these great productions. Those that feel they know everything can never walk in the shoes of those that live it and breathe it for a living.

10. Do you practice a particular "style" of writing?


Ed: I do not practice writing. I write these day in a military manner and maybe I should adopt that style for the pages of MAT. I don't prefer too much authority in pieces that I enjoy on the genre, yet on the other hand I don't like too much subjective writing as well. I was trained to pass college level grammar, but I am a big abuser of comma splices.

Mike: I would like to think that I have finally arrived at my own style. I used to try to imitate the styles of others, but that doesn't get anybody anywhere. I try to steer away from goofiness - but can't help cracking the occasional joke or delving into sarcasm when the situation presents such an easy target. I do not write 'kaiju fan-wank' anymore (what if Godzilla ate a lobster and took a crap on a dead sea-slug and lightning hit it, blah blah blah...). I'm very embarrassed by some of the things I've written in the past. This issue will not contain anything of a fan-ish nature, or any fiction.

11. Do you think "MAT" has aged well in terms of for example, some issues becoming sought after collector’s pieces due to information kept in them, ect.?

Mike: Content wise, we had some pretty good stuff - good enough that's its been reprinted elsewhere. We were the first ones to write about tokusatsu in popular music, for example. Also things like Ed Godziszewski's Daimajin piece were really popular. I think that visually, our last couple of issues were pretty amateurish - that's something that will be rectified in #8.

Ed: I think MAT has aged as well as possible. We are not a fine Merlot by any means, but the members have been around the block seen things, some of them have released books, worked on dvds, played stages, authored articles for other fanzines and beyond. I think people have kept the old issues as a reference of the shows and time gone by. We are not at that level in fandom or professionally anymore. Most of us have larger responsibilities. The fan boys grew up but we never left our roots behind.

12. Where do you project "MAT" is going to go into the future?

Ed: I hope that MAT will be remembered for what it was, is and continues to be: a group of friends writing, discussing, showing what great events are happening on the other side of the pond. Doing this prior to the internet explosion was a labor of love. Our original members who have their membership packets are holding onto something that has never been done, or will be done again. Our original members received a newsletter, personally numbered fan club card, and the biggest prize a mockup of a SD hero or monster as a pin selected by me and hand painted by Joe Riley. To me this was as good as a fan club has ever come to honoring the masters. "Ultra" Joe Riley relaxes in the monster graveyard in the sky with many other legends now and I know he is looking down from more comfortable digs thinking about what we started. Issue 8 is dedicated to you brother!

Mike: No immediate plans. The magazine will not be coming back regularly. We are all too busy and have original creative endeavors and careers to focus on. Plus, printing costs a good chunk of change!

13. What new ground do you think could be broken in terms of kaiju journalism as of now?

Mike: There are always new things to discover. We have information in Issue 8 on some pretty obscure films - stuff that I'd never heard of before. I won't reveal any more until the issue has gone to press. We haven't mentioned everything we've got on the website. I'd like to see people continue to turn over rocks and dig up some new info. The Teito Monogatari series really needs a good English language retrospective, and somebody should try writing about the Watari films.

Ed: New ground? Hmm... maybe a platform for writers to actually write for screenplays and treatments for episodic television and animation. Everyone loves monsters in some form or fashion. As kids, we would pretend like we were on Monster Island and we would even get the girls to join in on the fun. As adults we saw Gamera and Godzilla in American theatres. How about more fan generated treatments with heavy weight stars and special effects done the western way with Japanese budgets and production efficiency?

14. As a fan, I got to ask: on the upcoming article on Kinji Fukasaku, how much information on the film "Satomi-Hakken-Den" will be included?

Ed: Please direct this question to Mike Keller. I don't know how much of that film content will be addressed in the piece.

Mike: Equal time will be devoted to all nine of Fukasaku's films that involve SF or fantasy - The Black Lizard, The Green Slime, Message From Space, Virus, Samurai Reincarnation, Legend of Eight Samurai (Satomi Hakken-Den), Crest of Betrayal, Battle Royale and Battle Royale II.

15. Any last words you would like to share with the fandom?


Mike: It would please me to think that issue 8 of Monster Attack Team will someday be looked at with the same reverence as those old issues of JFFJ. I also hope this serves as a shot in the arm to the fandom, and more people step up to the plate and try to out-do what we've done. I would love to know that we have inspired people to come up with great things, and I hope someone picks up the ball and runs with it.

Ed: Last words: Make it fun, entertaining, informative, a bit light-hearted and approachable for all and someone to read or watch. Even people at first who hated our cable access show continued to watch because they had not seen anything like that before in such a format. If it is not fun or entertaining for you then it will not be so for anyone else. Do your best and if you fall down trying to make a difference or promote your cause, at least you tried and can be proud of your efforts. Thanks for interviewing us and I hope that our readers old and new will enjoy the ride. Tanoshimasho!
You can visit the new site for the ressurected fan site here: http://www.kellerwerks.com/MAT.html
We at JournalismG2KM would like to thank "Edojira" and Mike for taking time out of their schedules to take the time to talk to us. Arigatou!

2 comments:

  1. Evan,
    Good interview and I can't wait to see the finished product. One minor correction, though, Markalite was never a "fanzine", it was a "prozine", which means that the editors were hired to produce the magazine, which was done through a publishing company with newsstand distribution. While "fanzines" are self-published and distributed through ads and fan channels. Keep up the good work.

    Cheers,
    August

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