Only partly because he has the word poison tattooed on his joy prong, Rob Rotten just might be the most punk-rock performer in adult movies. It’s not like he doesn’t have competition. Somewhere along the line, Silicone Valley figured out that Warped Tour disciples enjoy a good fuck film as much as the next person and, as such, they’d rather watch spiky, dyed, and inked performers than bleached-blond plastic-surgery disasters. The result? At the moment, the adult-movie subgenre known as alt-porn is hotter than Iraq at high noon. Self-styled goth-punk princess Liz Vicious has turned herself into a one-woman Internet cottage industry; upstart studios like Burning Angel specialize in flicks featuring tattooed alterna-types (best title: Moan Jett & the Cockbreakers); and major players like Vivid Video have set up alt-porn imprints. It’s like Suicide Girls with cum shots.
The fact that it’s been co-opted by porn—arguably America’s true favourite pastime—offers further proof that punk rock has become more mainstream than Sid Vicious could ever have imagined. As a true punk, Rob Rotten is sickened by that. It’s a sunny fall day, and the heavily inked writer, performer, and director is working his way through a pitcher of Stella Artois on the patio at the Cambie Hotel. Rotten loves Vancouver, and he loves the Cambie; every few months he flies into town from L.A. for some R&R and heads straight for the Downtown Eastside watering hole. Today, wearing jeans, a green Ireland sweatshirt, and a modified bull ring through his nose, the blue-eyed, brown-haired crusty punk is railing against the genre that he hates.
“Alt-porn is basically regular porn with regular porn chicks with tattoos,” Rotten practically spits while firing up the first in an endless chain of Kamel Reds. “In my mind, it’s fucking disgusting. Because of the way the industry works, everyone is suddenly doing alt-porn because they know that it sells. Most of what you see are just cheap knockoffs oversaturating the market.”
Ironically, Rotten, who got into porn by accident, helped create the genre he can’t stand.
“I started out a huge Nirvana fan, and when that died off I drifted into punk,” he relates. “I got really involved in it—everything from being in bands to becoming a squatter punk. It became my life. I didn’t go to high school—there were more important things to do, like drugs and chicks and beer. Punk rock was what I did instead.
“I was filming a friend’s punk-rock show in L.A., and there was another guy filming the headlining band,” he continues. “We started talking about cameras and stuff, and I asked what he did for a living. He said, ”˜I shoot porn.’ Totally joking, I was like, ”˜Put me in one of your movies.’ That was five days after my 18th birthday.”
The director in question was gonzo veteran Jim Powers, and he quickly discovered that Rotten had no trouble getting wood when the camera was rolling. That led to the two collaborating on a 2002 film called Little Runaway, which was a hard-core homage to Penelope Spheeris’s ’80s-punk cult classic Suburbia. When the movie went on to scoop 11 Adult Video News awards, which are kind of like the Oscars of jizz flicks, the porn industry realized there was a niche market waiting to be tapped. And that’s when the punk in Rob Rotten decided that there’s nothing more unpunk than playing by the rules. He began directing his own movies—Fuck the System, Scurvy Girls, and the delicately titled Anal Swine—starring underground types who seemed fresh off the bus, often having contacted him through his MySpace page.
Showing that punk can be used for something other than moshing, the opening vignette of Fuck the System has Rotten getting blown by a Mohawked punkette (Gia Paloma) in a crowded dive bar while the fast-and-loud Smut Peddlers perform live not two feet away. (Let’s give him credit for raising the Titanic under distracting circumstances.) Reinforcing Rotten’s emphasis on street cred, Fuck the System features a crusty-friendly soundtrack that includes Rancid, Youth Brigade, and ever-charming vets Anal Cunt, all of whom also appear on a CD that’s included with the DVD. (What’s punk about such bands licensing their songs to porn? Well, you can start with the fact that it breaks the founding tenets of hardcore, in which bands like D.O.A. and Minor Threat made it clear that, in the name of feminism, thou shalt not enjoy fuck films.)
“I find mainstream porn quite boring—it’s the same guys fucking the same girls in the same fucking locations,” he explains, firing up yet another Kamel. “I’m trying to put new people and new scenarios in my movies, along with music that you’ll actually want to listen to when the movie is done.”
Part smut flick, part genuinely creepy horror movie, Rotten’s latest creation, the AVN award–nominated Porn of the Dead, might also be the most punk-rock porno ever made. The soundtrack is, appropriately, heavily weighted with death-metal extremists like Deicide, Decapitated, and Gorerotted. Leaving no doubt that the director is indeed doing something different, the movie starts with donkey-donged (and quite frankly repulsive) woodsman Dirty Harry capturing a surprisingly realistic-looking zombie chick (Sierra Sinn) off the street to prove that men will indeed fuck anything. The vignette (a format Rotten prefers due to his self-described low attention span) ends with the zombie rediscovering her taste for human flesh—you can guess which appendage she goes for in an FX scene that would make George A. Romero blow chunks. Shocking, indecent, and kind of stomach-churning? Hell, yeah, which is exactly what punk rock was when it exploded out of the underground three decades ago.
“I made Porn of the Dead with no distribution deal,” Rotten says proudly. “No distributor wanted to touch it—they were like, ”˜You want to make a zombie porn movie with chicks chewing a guy’s fucking dick off?’ What I’m doing, though, is making stuff that people of my generation like. I like where I am, which is in the gutter, on the outside making movies that are pushing things. And I really feel like I’m doing something new without selling out.”
Spoken like a true hard-core punk.