Sunday, September 10, 2017

Interview with Andrew Sheets (aka Meredeath), Co-Creator of Drag Horror Dance Party, Stereo Argento

When the first ad for Stereo Argento popped up on my Facebook, my eyes doubled in size and I immediately sent it to everyone I knew that I thought would be even the slightest bit interested, with the caption "We have to go to this!!" It was local, horror centered, and a drag show, and all three of those qualities got me excited. The part I was not expecting was that I was already a fan of one of the co-creators. I psyched myself up and asked for an interview, which has only gotten me even more excited to finally attend Stereo Argento. Below is my conversation with Andrew Sheets about his blood soaked dance party.

Huntress: How would you describe Stereo Argento to someone who's never heard of it? How did the series come to be?

Meredeath: Well, if you never want to be seen again… ha! Stereo Argento is a quarterly event that myself (Meredeath) and Jillian Gnarling, throw at San Francisco’s legendary gay bar- The Stud. We started pitching it as a “horror-movie-drag-party”, which in many ways it is, but it has come such a long way from there and we’re only three parties in! What you can expect every time is an onslaught of gore, television installations (all playing horror films coinciding with our theme), our killer Midnight Drag Show and dark Italo Disco sets to dance to until 3 in the morning!

Huntress: What kind of crowd does it draw? Is it more horror fans or Stud regulars?

Meredeath: One of our biggest strengths is our ability to get a ton of people into the bar that don’t always frequent The Stud! I think horror is something that is universally engaging. Whether you like it or not, scare easy or not, squeamish or not- people LOVE to talk about horror. And hey, “should I go out tonight or stay in and watch movies?” Come to Stereo Argento! We have both at the same time! But yeah, you’ll find lots of Stud regulars (it’s an amazing community to be a part of), straight people, younger and older, old school Bay Area Goths, horror fans, filmmakers, artists and academics. Someone once said “thank you for throwing a party for adults!” Ha.

Huntress: Stereo Argento has had three shows so far, the second of which consisted of staff selected lineup. How do you usually go about picking the movies you work with for each show? Do you aim to maintain a common theme or go by some other parameters?

Meredeath: Though Dario Argento is one of our patron saints, the focus of each event is not restricted only to his films. The first one was. And when I make these promo videos for each iteration, I always try to produce a Giallo-ish feel. But yes, “Part II: Staff Picks” was where we dialed out just a bit to focus on films that are frequently discussed alongside Argento’s work. Very much, “viewers who watched Suspiria also watched…”, or as the title hints to, the old school “Staff Picks” wall at video stores. Our next Stereo will be on September 29th and the theme is New French Extremity. This is a much more recent (and brutal) film movement but one that definitely fits in the auteur world of horror, which is more our brand than campy films or this whole “Conjuring-y” thing going on. However, we are planning on paying lots of love to classic slasher flicks this Halloween night at The Stud! We know a good amount of our crowd have seen the films we cover, but we also like doing these more auteur, genre-films for people who love horror but need a solid source for recommendations.

Huntress: Your co-creator and co-host behind Stereo Argento is Jillian Gnarling, who also appears in the show. In your experience, is it uncommon to see a woman in a drag show? How did you two meet/ team up?

Meredeath: I had the biggest drag-boner for Jillian as soon as we met in 2015 competing in Heklina’s Star Search Pageant at Oasis. We were the two queens who used a shit ton of blood- I think we both even ripped out someone’s intestines, something serendipitous like that. Anyways neither of us placed, haha, and over a year went by until I worked up the courage to approach her with this idea to collaborate together on a party. Turns out she had been feeling the same way about me! It’s funny because when I think about the type of drag I like, I think about Jillian Gnarling or I think about Fauxnique. It doesn’t really cross my mind they’re women. I know some people (in both the queer and straight communities) can’t wrap their minds around that, but come see our show! We are very focused on booking at least two female drag queens each time. Drag is about performing gender, it doesn’t matter who you are under all the makeup!

Huntress: What plans do you have for future Stereo Argento nights?

Meredeath: We’re really excited moving forward. We have three more events to throw by the end of 2017. First would be Part III: Extrémité (Fri 9/29 10-3am $10), celebrating films like Martyrs, Inside, Calvarie, High Tension, In My Skin, I Stand Alone, Them etc. Which we’re promoting with a WARNING! because shit, have you seen these films? That show will be super violent and beautiful (we even are pulling out a suspension artist who will be singing opera live!!) The Stud also gave us Halloween night! Which we are so thrilled about. We’re taking over both the Happy Hour slot as well to host a classic horror movie marathon, followed by an extra-special Stereo Argento. December is our last show of this year. And with each Stereo Argento we will be donating a percentage of the door to different women-in-film institutions and festivals to assist in gender equality in the production of cinema.

Moving forward into 2018, we are thinking about writing some shows that involve more narrative. More theater. Booking bigger names. More art installations. Perhaps our own film? We’d love to be booked in other cities, too.

Huntress: So I first saw you at the Midnight Mass screening of Final Girls at the Clay Theatre, where you were part of the pre-movie stage show. Was that your only time working with Peaches Christ? Have you gone to any other Midnight Masses?

Meredeath: That was such a fun show! My friend, Seth Shubin (aka Veruca Bathsalts), and I were given a lot of freedom from Peaches to create that pre-show. That was rad because the film’s writer and director were there to see it. I’ve been working with Peaches Christ since Joshua taught his Creating Character class at the San Francisco Art Institute where I received my BFA. It’s where I concocted my drag character, Meredeath. I was so excited to work with him because his work as Peaches Christ was something that I wanted so badly in on. A lot of students in my class were interested in doing drag, I was just a huge horror nerd so me and PC got along right away. After graduation I’ve been in a couple of her pre-shows at the Castro (Hocus Pocus, Wizard of Oz, Drop Dead Gorgeous). Also Mommie Queerest at Oasis, and Creatures of the Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences, which is the Thursday before Halloween each year. She’s one of my biggest mentors and inspirations here. I’d be nothing without her!! And that’s the story for so many of us here. She’s incredible.

Huntress: Did you grow up watching horror movies or get into the genre later in life? What would you say is your favorite genre? Which movie got you into the genre?

Meredeath: It’s funny, I was just a guest on the podcast Scary Thoughts here in SF and I mentioned the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake like three times, which they totally read me for. Clearly not better than the original, but at that age (I was 12...) a trailer came on for it and was really the first thing like that I had ever seen. I became obsessed. I think either that year or the next is when my parents got me a video camera and a director’s chair for my birthday. From there I just made little scary movies and went to Blockbuster all the time. I remember I had a tutor/babysitter one summer and I made her watch Final Destination 3 with me every. Single. Day. When I was left home alone, I would run around the house pretending I was on some farm and I was some girl who was trying to escape this large Jason-esque killer who just pitch-forked her boyfriend through the face. Dripping water on the ground behind me like blood. I realize this isn’t normal for a child and I love that about myself. So then it was slashers, and I love that genre still, but now I would say my favorite horror films, the ones that actually scare me, are home invasions like Angst, Funny Games, most New French Extremity films, and a new favorite- The Eyes of My Mother.

Huntress: In 2015 you made Alone Not Alone, which was a one-man movie in just about every way. What inspired the project? Was the decision to work alone solely based on the kind of film you were making? What kind of responses have you gotten from people?

Meredeath: The idea to make a movie all by myself came to me when I was given the opportunity to live alone for two months. I had been sharing this small space with a roommate who was renting out my closet. With limited space, no privacy and unhealthy habits, I was miserable. I have had depression my entire adult life, and this situation was only fueling it. What made me the most upset was that I hadn’t been making any work during this time. So I sought help and ended up taking action. There I was, with this apartment all to myself for as long as I could afford, thinking about all the potential this had. So in a way this film was more an exercise of me reclaiming my creativity. Playing horror movie at home- just like I used to as a kid. There was no script, just a very loose storyboard. Everyday I would film something new and then that would lead to the next thing. From early on I decided that my character would be a filmmaker working on the film that you’re watching- with the fourth-wall being blurred and tested. This would be a character who ironically finds himself interested in Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy. When I talk about Alone Not Alone, I refer to it as a ‘kindred fourth chapter’ to those films (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant). It was a really fun exercise in madness, depression, obsession, foolery, dread; the anxieties of any artist. At an hour long, to have a viewer say they weren’t bored (and actually scared at times) has been a huge compliment! Haha. I know it’s an art film more than anything, but I see it peaking in popularity some time in the future with some kid scanning the dark net thinking it’s this old, queer horror relic. I think it’s about time I make my next one. This time with help! The whole film is available online at

Huntress: Did you attend any kind of film school or take any classes in filmmaking? Do you have any future projects planned?

Meredeath: I’ve never taken a filmmaking class. I got my education in the New Genre’s program at SFAI, which is rooted in Bay Area video and performance practices. They taught my zero technical skills however, so I wonder how I’d be a different artist if I studied in the film department. All my editing is self-taught and I love doing it. I will shamelessly pitch that if anyone reading this is looking to hire a video editor to hit me up! I could do it all day. A lot of my work lately has been with Stereo Argento, but looking into my own practice I’m craving making a series of short films. That requires me sitting down and really evaluating what I want to be saying right now.

Huntress: After seeing your post on Instagram, I listened to an interview you did with the guys at Scary Thoughts Podcast about the whole Babadook as gay icon craze, and I noticed that you drop a lot of current and new horror references, which I found very refreshing. You stay pretty up to date with your movies! So what would you say was the best new horror movie you've seen? In the past year or two?

Meredeath: I was so thrilled when Marc Kate and Chad Lott invited me to guest on Scary Thoughts. The whole Babadook thing had just surfaced and they gave me a week to get my material together to have the episode ready for San Francisco Pride. I loved doing my research for it, makes me want to have my own horror podcast. I try to stay up to date with new films that are coming out but I have to say it’s not easy! I’m juggling three jobs so making it to festivals and special screenings hardly ever work with my schedule. So I just kind of cruise through my Netflix or Shudder to find things to watch at home. In the Babadook episode I know I bring up Black Mirror, which I think is one of the best things being produced right now. My favorite movies that have come out in the last few years have been The Eyes of My Mother, Neon Demon (fuck all of you), Baskin, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witch, The Black Coat’s Daughter- actually a lot of the horror that’s coming from A24. “Post-horror” I heard it called. I’m just very excited about the future of horror films.

Huntress: I'm curious about your thoughts on the "post-horror" label. I recently started seeing people use it too, and a majority of the qualifying films definitely came from A24. I'm personally not a big fan of it, I feel like it's dividing the genre in a weird, unnecessary way. What do you think of it? What do you think qualifies as "post-horror"?

Meredeath: Sometimes I really like a slow burn, or more frankly horror that's a little boring. As an artist, these films' quietness allows my mind to wander more and I'll be more likely to leave feeling more inspired. I love scratching my head. Was Raw A24? See, I didn't love that one but I'll take it over something like Dead Alive most days of the week. Maybe I'm just young and not very fun.

I'm interested in calling something "post-horror", I just don't know if what we're looking at when we watch something like It Comes at Night is that though. It's young, trendy, pretentious....we'll see. I like it so far. But is it horror?

What I want more of is tons of homework done on the writers part, no remakes, no found footage, more female directors, more collaborative directors and more technology.

Huntress: Where can people find out what you're working on and get updates on Stereo Argento?

Meredeath: Find me on social media, contact me directly, shoot me an email. I’ll have a newsletter soon I’m sure.
Follow @stereoargento on Instagram  and like our page on Facebook.
But most importantly grab your sickest, most twisted friends and bring them part III: Extrémité September 29th at The Stud.

Also, shit, book Meredeath or Stereo Argento for your events!

Below you'll find the teaser for Stereo Argento Part III, which is happening at the end of the month.
It's $10 to get in, and half that if you're covered in blood!


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