Jon Moritsugu – Original BB in da house — Asian Pacific American Heritage Month


Jon Moritsugu and Amy Davis


Jon Moritsugu
is an American filmmaker who’s enjoyed a long career of critical acclaim and underground fandom. Many of his films feature actress/wife/Scumrock co-writer/sometime bandmate Amy Davis. Although best known for his cult classic Mod Fuck Explosion, he’s consistently and constantly made films that challenge and entertain with his unique style. As part of a series of interviews with groundbreaking Asian-Americans in the entertainment industry, he graciously agreed to be interviewed.

Eric Brightwell: Since it’s Asian/Pacific Island American Heritage Month, I’ll start with some questions related to that. First of all, how’s your APAH Month so far? Does it mean anything to you?

 

                                         nori in its green glory                            “wok on over” and “taste the joy”… I don’t get it!
Jon Moritsugu: APAH?… Ah… I did eat a buncha nori my mommy sent me… I think every day should be a day of awareness, be it racial, cultural, environmental or personal. No, but I digress…to me APAH is two for one Panda Express for me and the lady.

EB: It seems like in the past two decades, there’s been a fairly healthy explosion in the number of Asian American movies (albeit mostly within the indie sector). With the diversification within the works of Asian-American filmmakers, do people still tag you with the “bad boys” thing? Who were the “good boys of Asian American Cinema?” Wanye Wang and Peter Wang? What do you think about the current state of Asian American film?

JM: The current shade of Asian American film is pissy wissy yellow dolloped with EXTREME neon chartreuse. I dunno what people label me as…maybe Old Bad Boy? Original BB in da house? I am still labeled as a BAD ASS and I guess to me Wayne Wang and all the Eat a Bowl Of Freckled Rice types of Asians are the good boys.

 

EB: Do you get the sense that the role and representations of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry are changing at all?

JM: I think M Night Shyamalan was one of the only curry-scented yellow men doing something original in the field and he totally lost it… I do like Bobby Lee and Sandra Oh as far as actors go… And right on for Justin Lin (Director) for getting inside and making H-wood films. The opportunities now for Asians are so much more plentiful than twenty years ago…time to burn the rickshaw at both ends!


from Terminal USA


EB
: Do you get much feedback or criticism about your atypical and maybe oblique way addressing Asian American identity? I’m thinking specifically of Mod Fuck Explosion, Terminal USA and Scumrock, which each seemed to approach the issue from fairly different directions.

 

JM: I don’t get much negative feedback because in these modern times my stuff is pretty au courant. 10 or 20 years ago, I did get bad reviews. Now, I get normal feedback and I think perhaps the critics have chilled out and/or the world has gotten a lot weirder.

Mommy, Mommy, Where’s My Brain?

 

EB: One thing I’ve heard more than once about your films (i.e. Der Elvis, Mod Fuck Explosion and Hippy Porn) is that they bait a subcultural audience and then defy their expectations. Is there a deliberate agenda to confront people’s preconceived notions with the titles?

 

JM: There is a deliberate DESIRE to confront all narrow minded people who live, breathe and DIE for their COOL. I was all the asshole characters in my movies…I AM MILES MORGAN. “RED DOT DON’T PLAY ME” (from Scumrock) is a total picture of me as RECORD GEEK…UBER RECORD GEEK.

POSTMODERNISM: WHO CARES? THE COMPLETE JON MORITSUGU

EB: In the past you’ve been an outspoken proponent of the democratization of filmmaking that has resulted from cheaper, more accessible means of production. But as a result, it seems to me that more and more often independent films seem designed to show how well they can imitate Hollywood. On the other hand, Hollywood seems to have effectively transformed Indie film into a genre with its own set of clichés (e.g. quirky ensemble casts, hand drawn titles, &c) Where do you and other underground filmmakers fit in?
JM: Hollywood has actually made it easier, not harder, for the freaks like me to get a deal. I feel I could get a deal tomorrow. I know I could keep making films even if I don’t get one. I can make a film for 50 million or for 5 grand. There are pros and cons, but ultimately life for folks like myself is better now than in 1985 when I started out. There are so many more venues, cheap equipment, and DIY ways for all filmmakers to get their work out there.


Trailer from Scumrock

 

EB: In interviews, everyone always asks you about your use of music, but you’ve been in several bands yourself, right? What bands have you been in and what’s the current state of your musical endeavors?

JM: Here are some bands I’ve been in:

SPRAY RAY URBAN BAND (1982-83)
THE URBAN BAND (1983)
SEX DRUMS (1984-85)
ALIEN BUFFET (1985)
BIG SKID (1986-87)
HATE FAMILY (1986-87)
FURBALL (1988-1990)
NONOBOY (late 90s – I don’t remember…)
DREAM CHILDREN (2006-2007)
LOW ON HIGH (1993-2009)

 

LOW ON HIGH is me on guitar/vox/drums and my wife/leading lady Amy Davis on bass/vox. This is where the action is right now. We have a song on a new SWISS compilation w/ folks like SKULLFLOWER as well as a full-length album coming out later this year. LOW ON HIGH also has a 4-song 7″ single coming out soon in France on SHIT IN CAN RECORDS.

For Sale at all Amoeba locations and other fine stores:

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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