Jesse Dayton and his beautiful wife Emily Kaye are the embodiment of cool. I don’t know how many celebrities or famous musicians you have ever met, but as for me… maybe a handful and that’s probably an inflated number.These guys are no ordinary snooty celebs. For starters, Emily greets me with a big ol’ hug and embraces me like we have been friends for years and Jesse greets me with… “Heyyy buddy”.
Dayton has played on albums for Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. He was one of the first country artists to cross over to the punk rock scene. He also toured with bands like Social Distortion, X, Rob Zombie and The Supersuckers starting in 1994. His music can be heard this past season on television shows like “True Blood,” “Justified” and “Sons of Anarchy,” as well as in movies like “The Devil’s Rejects.” In “Halloween II,” he played the part of psychobilly band front man Captain Clegg .
Kaye is a Wilhelmina model, actress and behind the camera as a post production supervisor on the set of their film “Zombex.” She can be seen in the Robert Rodriguez movie “Sin City” as one of the Old Town Girls. This power couple has more talent than most of us have in our little finger but Dayton says, “She is the real star in our family. You will be hearing a lot more about Emily Kaye.”
When I approached this dynamic duo about being featured artists for our October issue they replied, “Yes! Of course, anything we can do to help.” This response, from two very busy people in the middle of post production for their film “Zombex” and in between touring with his band, proved true to the wonderful words I kept hearing about them. We arranged an interview and photo shoot to promote their new film and bring some gore to our October issue. They provided the zombies, cast members Rick Watson, David Adams and Sabin Smith. The shoot took place in the basement of an insane asylum originally built in 1857. Dayton said it was one of the creepiest photo shoot locations he has ever shot in. To this we say, ” hell, yeah ! mission accomplished”. Jesse sat down with AFM in that basement and we chatted about how he got started and where they are headed.
AFM: What prompted you to move from music to film?
JD: I’m still doing both but I started working in film and always had songs licensed for film and television (over 40 songs). I did a couple of soundtrack recordings for Rob Zombie’s movies “Halloween II” and “Devils Rejects” and that is what really dragged me into the film world.
(interrupting) AFM: That is pretty amazing opportunity to work with Rob Zombie! He even put you in his movie as “Captain Clegg”. That character pretty much took a life of his own, didn’t he?
JD: Yeah, he did. Rob and I did a zombie a-go-go video together for Capt Clegg, along with Don Swaynos. I started doing webisodes for the Captain Clegg character. (link). Then we eventually went on tour with Rob (Zombie) as Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures.
AFM: Is this when the “ZOMBEX” script came about?
JD: Well, I wrote it while on tour with Rob.
AFM: So is Rob Zombie your inspiration for the film?
JD: Not directly, but on the tour bus we listened a lot to Alex Jones and his radio show. It’s very entertaining. He talked about how the government and health care industry are getting away with giving you all these meds like Xanax and other stuff which is basically turning everyone into zombies. I heard this and it gave me an idea. I began to write the script during our 40 city tour, it’s basically a political conspiracy theory movie. It is about a pharmaceutical company in New Orleans that is giving Post Katrina stress victims these pills, and the pills are literally turning them into zombies. I wrote about 3 pages a day until I was done. Now it is an hour and a half film.
AFM: Why a horror film? Why not a comedy or drama?
JD: I have always been a fan of that genre. Horror movies make me feel like a kid again. When I was younger I would stay up all night while my parents were asleep, and watch scary movies all night.
AFM: George Romero is the zombie god, but are there other films in that genre that you just love?
JD: I love “Night of the Living Dead.” George is the man — he is the godfather of the zombie genre. His movies always had a subtle political commentary you could pick up on. But I love all kinds of movies, although with horror films it’s fun to watch a bunch of people get chased or killed.
AFM: What inspired you to have the story line for Zombex take place in New Orleans?
JD: I grew up going to New Orleans all the time with my family as a kid. When I was little my dad put a seer sucker suit on me and would take me to brunch. That was back in the day when you could smoke on planes. I thought the post stress Katrina syndrome would be a great story. Plus, New Orleans does not require set designers ; you can basically point cameras anywhere in that town and it looks amazing.
AFM: You got some big name actors for this film. What was it like to work with Malcolm McDowell?
JD: Man, the first day of shooting Malcolm beat me by 30 minutes. I thought I was early but Malcolm was ahead of me. When I arrived a Production Assistant said “Malcolm wants to meet you, aren’t you scared?” I said, “ Well, I hung out with Willie Nelson and Johnnie Cash, how scary can he be?”. From the first meeting we went straight to work. He was pretty amazing, he had just come from the set of Entourage and did not skip a beat.
AFM: Regarding post production what’s next for “Zombex“?
EK: We are fielding offers for the film right now. But, what’s most important is the integrity of the film. It’s a genre film, and the horror genre is the most successful genre right now, and having big name talent like Malcolm McDowell, Lew Temple and Sig Haig will only help bring the right deal in and the biggest audience possible.
AFM: What is it like working with your husband and Director, Jesse Dayton?
EK: Phenomenal , he is my best friend. We have a very collaborative relationship and he is very open-minded with me because he knows that I know horror. It has always been my favorite genre.
AFM: Now that you have been active in both the music and film industry, do you have a preference?
JD: Well that is just comparing apples and oranges. I grew up playing music. I love playing music. The beautiful thing about film is that you can be alternative or edgy in film. While in music the pop youth market has basically killed that edge for musicians. If you listen to radio, it sucks unless you listen to satellite radio. When it comes to film, you can still go see a hardcore, unapologetic movie. I love the freedom it brings to me as an artist.
AFM: Not only are you an actress but also a Wilhelmina signed model. What got you into the entertainment industry?
EK: My mother was an actress and model. My father and his father were both in the music industry so it’s in my genes. I started in the music business and from there moved to the film and commercial modeling. I have done national commercials for Lincoln Mercury, Toshiba, Napa Auto Parts, Exxon Mobil and a slew of industrial shorts.
AFM: What is one of your favorite projects that you worked on prior to doing “Zombex“?
EK: I was one of the Old Town Girls in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City. The days were very long but we had so much fun filming the movie. When we weren’t on set acting we would spend hours in the trailer talking about makeup, sex, cellulite, guys etc. – There were like 8 of us and we were all dressed in tiny little outfits so it just seemed to come up.
All of the films I’ve be fortunate enough to work on have been such great adventures! I’ve worked on a couple of TV shows as well. TV is such a different animal than film. It’s much quicker and intense. There’s no time to waste and a lot less sitting around waiting for your scene to shoot.
AFM: Jesse, What has been your favorite music legend to work with?
JD: That’s easy, Waylon Jennings. I played guitar on a record called “Right For The Time” (watch it here).
AFM: What inspires you and your craft, be it a guitar solo or a zombie script?
JD: I love to read and own a lot of books. My parents, were the first ones to make it out of the oilfields and become academics. I also love to travel, I can’t stay in one place too long. This is why I enjoy touring with my band. We just got back from a European tour; we played summer festivals in Italy, France, Austria, Holland and Belgium
AFM: What’s next for you, Emily and your crew?
JD: We are finishing production on “Zombex.” We will have a new Captain Clegg soundtrack and I just started working on a new movie. It’s a vampire movie that takes place in a south American village, so pretty soon we will head to Brazil to scout locations for filming and finish up the script.
AFM: What does the future hold for you guys? More movies, music or both? Any personal goals you want to set?
JD: Getting my kid to graduate from high school and into UT is top of the list. But, as for business, right now we are diversifying our production company Hardcharger Films. We are doing music videos, short films and building a production crew around people to tour. The beautiful thing about film is that it has allowed me to play music for fun…the music business is a shameless brutal rat race. I love the music part but the business part sucks these days. That’s what lawyers, agents and managers are for.
AFM: Now that filming for “Zombex” is wrapping up, what is your involvement?
EK: I am the Post Production Supervisor meaning I coordinate all the editing, timelines and requirements for finishing the film. I am coordinating ADR at the moment , making sure any additional sounds and voice overs that we need are taken care of so that the film is as authentic as can be.
AFM: How does Austin fit into your way of thinking and doing as a celebrity?
JD: The reason why I live in Austin and not LA or New York, is that the people in Austin are either suspicious of fame or could really care less. Like Quentin Tarantino and Vince Vaughn have been out to several of my shows in the last few weeks (talking about his Broken Spoke thursday night gigs) and no one hounded them. You can hang out here without being bothered. In LA or New York celebrities are rewarded for bad behavior, it brings you more publicity. Austin is a more familial place that, unlike the rest of Texas, rewards you for being a free-thinker.
AFM: We are so honored to have you and Emily involved with Austin Fusion Magazine. I am sure the readers will be inspired by your story and success.
JD: Yea man, we buy all our stuff here, we shop local, we frequent the local farmers markets. We support all of our friends and their businesses. Austin is a magical place to be, it’s a place to allow you to be creative. We are totally into what you guys are doing here, it’s a great idea for the local artists.
Click here for list of dates and venues you can catch Jesse and his band playing.