“This is Seattle, we’re the most progressive city on the planet,” states the mayor of Seattle in the second episode of the dystopian web series Bazzooka.
While it’s a fictional story, the parallels between the Seattle of Bazzooka and the Seattle we know today are striking in their similarities. A mayor who sees “no color or gender or sexual identity, only love” while also ignoring the needs of and injustices towards people of color. An evil tech corporation that’s trampling local businesses, especially those run by people of color. BIPOC youth standing up for themselves and enacting change through protesting. It’s a plotline that could’ve only been born out of the hellscape known as 2020 and yet stands on its own as a thoroughly entertaining, unpreachy mystery sci-fi series.
Conceived by local musician and filmmaker Danny Denial, the show is a continuation of characters built in his 2019 film Kill Me To Death. Black Tones lead vocalist/guitarist and KEXP DJ Eva Walker reprises her role as Gab, a musician who left Seattle to “make it big” and has now just returned to find the city in a very different state than she left it. Other returning actors include Noah Sanemitsu as Gray and Denial as flashback and found footage versions of his Kill Me To Death character Black.
A slew of local BIPOC musicians and drag artists round out the new cast including drag duo LÜCHI, Beverly Crusher vocalist Cozell Wilson, and drag artist Kylie Mooncakes. The music-heavy series features an all-Black soundtrack and sees appearances by Black Seattle artists like Black Ends, Shaina Shepherd, and Ex-Florist in the Twin Peaks-ian episode-ending performances. Bazzooka is a true celebration of the vast amount of Black talent in the various genre pockets of the Seattle music scene that are often overlooked.
KEXP spoke with members of the cast and crew including Danny Denial, Lük Lupe and Chip Sherman of LÜCHI, Cozell Wilson, Mikey Xi/Kylie Mooncakes, and producers Grayson and Rajah Makonnen about filmmaking during a global pandemic, the parallels between the fictional Seattle of the series and the one we’re living in today, and the power of art in enacting change. Read the interview and watch the trailer for Bazzooka below.
So let's go all the way back to Kill Me To Death. I revisited the interview that we did for that in 2019 and it's interesting because there's a point where, Danny, you're talking about the frustrations with the post-production process of making a movie. And I think it's Michael [Renney] who jokes about a sequel and you go, "No. Absolutely not, no more." But then you get kind of excited and you're like going through all these ideas you have for these characters.
Danny Denial: [laughs] That's crazy! I don't remember that.
Yeah! And then someone mentions music videos and you're like, "Oh yeah that would be cool if we did like a music video for each character!" And you actually get really excited. So it's kind of clear that you weren't really over these characters but at the time you said, "No, never again." So I'm curious when you realized that you wanted to explore these characters more.
Danny Denial: You know, to be honest, I feel like... I always had a love for Eva's [Walker] character in the way that Eva characterized...what she did in that movie was like...because it was an ensemble and it was very even but that character was so, I don't know, it just it felt the most real to me. Like it was that person that I know in the community that's like, "I'm the best shit." Like, "I'm better than everyone. I'm going to get out of this shitty town and I'm going to do big things." And kind of being toxic a little bit, but also coming from a place of hurt and maybe ego and esteem.
But also I felt like when 2020 happened, the biggest thing is we kind of lost a lot as a community and all of a sudden it was just like, "Whoa, we don't have shows anymore. We don't have events anymore. We don't see each other anymore." And then we were kind of thrown into this like hellscape of stuff with the police and everything happening just in the neighborhood. And for some reason, I don't really know exactly why, some of those characters really kind of triggered back to me.
I think probably because, at the time when I did the last film, like three or four years ago, there was this vague idea of an apocalypse coming. And then I felt like 2020 happened and I'm like, "Oh, I think it's here." [laughs] So in a weird way, I think I just felt like that married to like, "Well, what would a character like Eva go through with the world being the way it is?" Because I saw a lot of humanity in there that we never touched.
So, I just thought it would be interesting to tie it back to that, even though it was such a frustrating experience, as I probably said in the last interview two years ago. And it was really rough trying to do a feature film. But I think looking at it like, "Okay, we're not going to try to do a film. We're going to do something that's really accessible and really immediate and urgent and like right there." And so this has been the opposite of that because, quite literally, we filmed three months ago and it's already coming out and everything's happening in real-time. And there's a lot of things that are happening in the news that it's always like this weird [situation] where is this going to fall kind of like culturally? But yeah, I think that there's always this idea that whatever that world that was built was kind of always reactive to the real world. So when the real world kind of shifts and changes I think I kind of get re-inspired by what's going on in the parallel world.
So what was the first step? Who did you reach out to first when you decided you wanted to do this?
Danny Denial: I literally called Eva. I was just like, "Hey, do you think this is something that you would ever be willing to do again? And B, that you think you would be comfortable with trying to do in a completely..." Because we are still dealing with the pandemic and everything going on. And so I just felt like the biggest thing is we wanted to be as responsible and respectful and as safe as possible. So I talked to her first and then she was just like, "Absolutely, let's do it." And I was, "Oh, really? You think so?" And I also talked to her a lot about the idea of crowdfunding it, because that was also something I was really nervous about.
And then from there, once I talked to Eva, I knew exactly who I had in mind for pretty much every character. Like it was never even like I had a plan B or a second option, because, quite literally, a lot of the newer characters were completely based off on just this, like, fandom that I had of LÜCHI and Kiley Mooncakes and Cozell [Wilson] and all these other people that I haven't gotten to work with yet. So I just straight up, like, hit them up like, "Hey! I love what you do. And I don't know if you ever act or if this is something you're ever cool with. But like, would you be game to try?" And it just kind of became like a month or so of going back and forth and talking to people.
So, Cozell, Luchi, Mikey what was that conversation with Danny like?
Cozell Wilson: Danny asked me and I was like, "Finally." Because I've been seeing all these things he was doing and it's like, "Hey, these are my black friends. I want to be in this, too." And then so I was like, "Sweet!" And plus I'm on unemployment, I don't have a life. What am I gonna be like, "No, I'm too busy"? [laughs] Like, Yes, I'm trying to be in the movie."
Lük Lupe: I thought it was cool that Danny asked specifically LÜCHI, because we never really thought of Luchi as possible actors or, you know, having that kind of role and to kind of fantasize about that for a little bit was really cool. Danny definitely opened our minds.
Chip Sherman: Epecially myself, because I am an actor and I've been an actor for a little bit and I never saw myself acting in drag. And honestly, that was not something if you told me in acting school I would be doing that, I would actually believe. But yeah, like Luke was saying, it was super cool to get this new – like we're all going through during this time -- this new sort of evolution for our craft and what we do as LÜCHI. And it was honestly just through IG [laughs].
Lük Lupe: Super casual.
Chip Sherman: Danny hit us up and we were like, "Fuck, yes! Here's all of our information."
Rajah Makonnen: I have a little something to add to that, too. I was just working with LÜCHI in like what was that, September? And when I heard that they were going to be a part of this, I was hyped!
So there wasn't any audition or anything, it was just like, "Do you want to do this?"
Lük Lupe: Right. Yeah, Danny got inspired from a photo that we took that was kind of inspired from a lot of the marches that were happening from the BLM movement in June in the summer, and we had the ski mask over our faces. And he specifically was like, "This is the image I have for Dez and Kwame."
Danny Denial: Yeah, I forgot that I actually straight-up was like, "Hey, would you want to bring that look into it?" Because when I saw them in the ski masks, but like in their own way and their own take on, it was like, stylistically that's so perfect. But then on top of that, I'd always thought I really wanted to have some kind of story of solidarity and partnership, too. And that was such a beautiful element that, like, both brought to the table as well. I felt like LÜCHI kind of was like the heart of the cast because, quite literally, we have a whole love story-themed episode that's centered around them. And I felt like it would be really cool in this universe to have, as kind of aggressive and confrontational and crazy as the series is, to have something that's also beautiful and love-oriented too I thought it was just kind of really poetic.
Oh, absolutely. One episode in and you're already my favorite characters. So I'm feelin' it. Also those glasses?! Can I buy them somewhere?
Danny Denial: I was gonna ask y'all! We got like three different people asking about the glasses!
Chip Sherman: [laughs] Oh yeah! I saw in the post!
Lük Lupe: Online shopping! It's an addiction. It really is bad. But I just be searchin' and these cute fascinators popped up and I was like, "LÜCHI."
It makes it! For sure.
Danny Denial: I was going to say, about the audition thing, like I never saw a need to audition anyone. I just felt like, you know, with Mikey and Luchi and Cozell and everyone that I'd worked with before, there was already an element of, you know, "I want you to bring yourself to the table, but then also be willing to kind of push out of it too." And so I felt like as long as there was that willingness and just being game - and they're all performers so I just felt like I have that trust there.
With casting, it's always like a gut thing, I feel. And so there's always a little margin of risk, like, "Oh, what if I was wrong? What if it doesn't align the way I thought it was going to in my head?" But everyone on this project completely just blew my expectations. Which I think is a first, because every time I do a project like this, there's always some part that like, you know, doesn't work as great as the others. But I feel like with this one, everything just feels really authentic to me, which is what I wanted.
Absolutely. So, Rajah and Grayson, you guys are producing alongside Danny. How did that come together? And what's your background?
Rajah Makonnen: Me and Danny have worked together on quite a few music videos and just known each other around the town and stuff. And I always jump on any opportunity to get to work with Danny. I love Danny's vision and the way things come together and, plus, like so many good people. Every time I've worked with Danny I'm making new connections with crazy people I didn't even know existed and I'm happy to know exist. So, fuck yeah.
Danny Denial: And I should say that with this project, Rajah and Leo were kind of like our team up cinematographer DP's as well. And that was cool because I trust both of them, like between the two of them, all of my videos and Dark Smith's videos are from the two of them. And so I felt like having them kind of come together in the way we all just sort of attacked the scenes – because we had a lot of multi-cam and y'all just kind of got in sync and then just really made the visuals pop on this.
Rajah Makonnen: Yeah I really like Leo, I hadn't worked with him before and I feel like we could vibe. And also, I love that you gave me a lot of freedom to do light design tricks and stuff that I was feeling out as I went and I really feel like that paid off. There were some amazing shots that I was just like shocked came together so well. One of my favorites from it is a shot where LÜCHI are like kind of framing the sides - yeah, you know what I'm talking about!
Danny Denial: The glasses shot! Right?
Rajah Makonnen: Yeah!
Danny Denial: Yeah, there was a lot of warmth that was brought to the palette and the lighting design that I wasn't expecting originally. But it worked really nicely. And you and Leo definitely did all that because my original palette was totally different. And that's the cool thing about collaborating, is you always end up sort of like morphing into this larger...anyway. Sorry, Grayson can have control!
Grayson: You are just fine, Danny. Love when you talk. You're so passionate. Danny is my best friend, I love Danny. Danny is a genius in a lot of mediums. I know he's going to hate me for saying it, but I don't know anyone as brilliant as him and I love him. And everything he does, I try to be there because he's just amazing. So, I'm in L.A., and I was able to come to Seattle. I lived in Seattle for a few years. I love Seattle so it was great to be there, even though it was interesting kind of navigating how we were going to film. And there was a lot of things with it. It was really wonderful. So that's how it happened. I'm his friend and I came to do it. My background is, you know, music and acting, but also set design and set dressing and producing. You know, everything that you do when you're a creative.
Rajah Makonnen: I'm so glad that you're a part of it too. It's hard to find people that are really that glue that puts all the various pieces together. And you definitely kept us solid.
Danny Denial: Grayson saved the day like the entire time. I mean, all of the sponsors and catering that we got, transforming Victory Studios to look like a creepy warehouse, like the set design, dealing with actors like all of that stuff, like...I don't even know what I would do.
Lük Lupe: They were really good at checking in on us as well. Like repetitively making sure that we were all okay, that we were fed, that we were hydrated.
Chip Sherman: Fed!
Rajah Makonnen: And feeling safe with all of Covid.
Chip Sherman: Yeah, I was going to mention that too. Amen! Like legit PPE up the wazoo! It was great.
That's beautiful. So I do want to go back to something that you were you were talking about with the timing of everything and the fact that the protests are happening, the pandemic is happening. And for pretty much every other movie or show, that's a problem, but it kind of plays out and works out well for the plotline of this particular show.
And I'm curious, was that like in your mind when you were creating this, like, "This could actually work out"? I could use it to my benefit to be able to shoot the protests and use that footage and have these desolate streets because of the pandemic.
Danny Denial: Right, right. I mean, that's the thing. It's like you can't separate the project being born out of the times that we were in for sure. And it was kind of by necessity because the only way you could do a project was kind of like working within the lines a little bit. But it was also inspired by it, at the same time. I think the interesting thing is that I wanted to do something that wasn't completely on the nose. That's why I didn't...we incorporate police and all that but we kind of try to go in a little bit of broader strokes but using a lot of what we have to work with. I think just because a lot of times we've seen that people have been misunderstanding, there's been a lot of crossed agendas happening and a lot of misinformation and a lot of characterizing activism in a certain way that I think definitely gets lost to a lot of people outside of this bubble in this community.
So I feel like in a lot of ways, maybe taking a step back and using what we have, but sort of fictionalizing parts of it or making it maybe in the terms that the broader audience can understand. Which, in our case, is fiction and adventure and all these sorts of things. My hope is that maybe people can start to look at and understand perspectives of like why people are so mad. Like why activists are pushed against the corner. Why these problems go so high up, you know, that it's something that doesn't just become over when Joe Biden is president. You know, there's a lot of stuff like that that I'm trying to pack in in a nuanced way. But getting a message across to people that may not get it when it's just in their face on their news feeds.
Right. But there are a lot of pointed parallels between the Seattle of today and the Seattle of Bazzooka with like Tundra, which is clearly Amazon and like the mayor is very similar to Jenny Durkan. Do you want people to be able to draw those parallels?
Danny Denial: Yeah, yeah. No, for sure. I think it's important to draw parallels, but I just feel like when you take a step back from it and you kind of create a little bit that barrier of, "This is fiction. But these are all the stand-ins for all of these people on all sides. And we're going to present this like a story and not like a news piece or just something on the timeline that kind of flips through your consciousness."
And I guess, for me, wanting to paint something that's empathetic of the Black and Brown experience in living in that chaos was important to me because I feel like what was happening over the course of the year was it felt like black and brown people were either becoming a talking point or becoming something that was just kind of getting misconstrued in between different agendas and conversations that had nothing to do with us, for lack of a better word.
And so that was the biggest reason for wanting to do something like Bazzooka, was to sort of re-center a place where those voices could be heard and you can get that kind of perspective without necessarily getting bogged down by the details. It's one of those things where I think art helps people understand what's going on in reality because it's imitating reality, but it's through a lens that you may understand or empathize with. Kind of like the way that I think LGBTQ people really benefited from television in the past two decades. And the idea that, like Middle America were finally cool with gay people because they like Will and Grace, you know. Like on a very basic level, it's kind of that same kind of thinking.
Rajah Makonnen: Can I cut in on that? Like when I read the script, something that really stuck out to me was exactly that. The way that we're not like exactly hitting on that exact point, but having like a metaphor through characters and stuff, it really almost felt like Rod Sterling to me, like Twilight Zone kind of stuff, where it's like it's almost there, but not exactly what the full political scope of things are. But it's still entertainment and it still touches on those important topics in a way that is easily digestible, I guess. "Easily digestible" is kind of putting it down, it's bigger than that.
Right. Like some white Middle American kid who likes sci-fi films could get into it and not really maybe notice, but the message would get through.
Rajah Makonnen: Exactly.
So are you hoping the show actually enacts change?
Danny Denial: I mean, yeah, the pipe dream is that art can be an agent of change in that way. But I think that art works in kind of more subversive, nuanced kind of ways. You know, it kind of gets under people's skin a little bit. I feel like if someone that's on the fence about social issues in 2020 like let's say someone who feels that like, "Oh, well, I agree that Black Lives Matter, but I just don't get why people who have to be out in the streets and being loud and disruptive and violent."
And maybe they'll watch something like Bazzooka and feel like, "Well, I really love Dez and Kwame's character and these characters. And, you know, they're kind of like these people that I don't like when I see them on my news feed, because they're disrupting things in the street. But, you know, I'm seeing them as humans because I like the characters that I'm following in this storyline."
So, I think to some degree, things like that I'm hoping if it breaks out beyond our bubble of the Seattle art scene, which I hope so. But more than anything, what I really would like for it to be is to be a statement of this is kind of – and I can't speak for everyone involved in this project so I don't want to say that this is how we all feel – but in a sense, what people like me feel about what we're living in versus what other people are saying about my own experience. And at the same time, just being a platform for incredible BIPOC art happening in Seattle. So it's having that kind of dual goal is kind of more I think what I'm getting at with this. But I'm hoping for, hopefully along the way, we're able to change the minds maybe.
How did everyone else feel when they first read the script?
Mikey Xi/Kylie Mooncakes: I really loved that it was a really human take on everything that's happening right now. Because I feel like the media will continue to try and depict Black and Brown people as, you know, angry and just like inhuman. So I love that, literally, band rehearsals were happening while we were trying to plot to take down the fucking corporations. Because that's kind of literally real-life things that are happening right now, people who are taking selfies online, trying to do makeup for Instagram are also like planning entire protests in the streets. The revolutionaries are literally drag queens and just like dancing in the clubs two weeks ago, you know. With LÜCHI being in the film like this is very much just like that.
Cozell Wilson: Yeah, I was going to say, it kept some of the same energy from the summer from June. Like Danny, remember when we did that thing at CHOP?
Danny Denial: Yes, This Ain't A Picnic.
Cozell Wilson: Yeah, yeah, This Ain't A Picnic. The thing that Cameron put on it was just like...it was chaos. But it reminded me of what you hear outside of the apartment when Eva goes to sleep. Like that's what was going on outside, but it was real life and it felt like a continuation of that, but in a fictional realm. But that's kind of like literally was happening. Like, it was that same energy.
Danny Denial: Yeah. That feeling of like there's a war outside. And like Mikey said, it's like we're just trying to live our lives but also do our part. But also, it's kind of surreal. Like you forget what is real and what's not anymore. Which I think that was, especially in the first episode, what I wanted to tap into. Especially with a lot of the scenes, like when they're in the apartment here, which we shot in my apartment, like that's actually how it sounded every day because I live in Capitol Hill. So that was just the noises, obviously put in post because we shot in a quiet day, but that's how it sounded for every day for almost three months straight and still does, not every night but from time to time. And so, yeah, I just thought that juxtaposition of sort of being in this weird kind of surreal disbelief like, "Is this really happening?" And LÜCHI's characters are just like, "Yeah, this is what we've been living in every day." You know?
Rajah Makonnen: I was curious Danny, that audio that you played for the outside of the apartment, was that recorded during protests and stuff, or was that something that you created with different sounds?
Danny Denial: No, I mean, most of it was found sound like found recordings from protests in the summer, but not all from Seattle. It was kind of a mixture. And then I mixed in some different kinds of things just for my own suspension. There was an air raid sound that we heard actually in Kill Me To Death that I incorporated a little bit like a couple of different things that are a little bit different, mixed in with a lot of the 2020 protests.
Rajah Makonnen: Yeah, I thought it sounded so real to like, you know, just trying to sleep during crazy shit going on like it was real! So I was curious if it was actually what you'd heard outside of your apartment or like a conglomeration recreation of that?
Danny Denial: Yeah, a little bit of both. A little bit of ambi, but very much, in the end, feels really true to what that was like.
Yeah, I mean, watching the first episode, it's definitely like Uncanny Valley a little bit. It's really interesting. So let's talk about the soundtrack. Clearly an important element of the show. I love that you even created original songs solely for the show. When you were writing the script, did you have specific songs in mind that you wanted to include or was that more of an afterthought?
Danny Denial: No, I was definitely hearing stuff as I was writing it. The biggest one is Olivia's song, formerly Guayaba, now Ex-Florist. ".925" is the song. They had just changed their artist name and dropped the song on Bandcamp like right as I was finishing the script. And when I heard the song, I was like, "Oh shit. I can see it. I can see like Dez and Kwame and the mask and this. I can see it all from the lyrics and just the vibe."
And so the first thing I did was message Olivia like, "Hey, I'm doing this series and can I use it in our crowdfunding trailer because I want this to be a part of the script. And if you're okay with it, I'd even love to have your performer self have like a character." And so we made it "The Ex-Florist" in the series and Olivia makes a cameo later on. It's kind of like the Log Lady in Twin Peaks of Bazzooka like a seer that people reference like, "Ex-Florist says that this is happening and that they're doing this and these people are coming."
But then everyone else was just people that I was just a huge fan of. We already had Eva, Cozell, and Nicole from Black Ends and all these incredible musicians in the film, playing versions of themselves and whatnot, and Shaina [Shepherd] and Olivia. But then having the rest of the soundtrack filling up with people that are from Seattle, like Donormaal and King Youngblood and then people that were outside of Seattle that I actually met through Afro Punk and things like that, you know, like the OBGMs and NNAMDÏ, who was on the first episode. And so basically at the end of the day, I realized, like, "Oh, wow. This is an all-black soundtrack. That's so cool." I'm sure, of course, that's been done before, but in a way that goes through all kinds of genres, I think that's pretty cool.
So I'm really proud of the soundtrack and working on getting that together, because that's been a big thing that I really want to happen. And, hopefully, what I'm trying to do is do something where we could make a benefit compilation for King County Equity Now. That's the hope. And yeah, we did the original songs, and Eva and Cozell tracked on those songs for the Bazzooka songs. Then we have Natasha from Razor Clam's character, Viv Vicious, is in this series as well and she has original songs for that character's band. So there's a cool mixture of like meta fake Seattle bands and then real Seattle bands.
Yes, I love that. There definitely needs to be some sort of full soundtrack that comes out. Are you thinking physical copies?
Danny Denial: I would like to have physical copies. I mean, my pipe dream of what would be kind of amazing is if we can finish the last episodes then we could do some kind of excuse for...because my last film I did, Conditioner for my album, we did like a DVD/CD thing. So it'd be cool if we could do like a Blu-ray/soundtrack kind of bundle, but I've just got to figure out the details with, like, if it's a compilation and how that works.
Licensing and all that.
Danny Denial: Yeah, yeah. I got to talk to everyone and work out how we're going to do all that stuff. So that's the biggest thing. But I mean, I'm confident that we can do it, especially just everyone being a part of the community and everyone who's been involved in contributing music has been so supportive of it, which has been so cool. I was really nervous going into it that people just were going to say, like, "You're trying to make what exactly? In a time like this? I don't understand." But everyone's just been really down, which is cool.
Do you think that Kill Me To Death and the fact that it had a lot of ties to the local music scene as well kind of solidified this idea for people?
Danny Denial: Kind of. I mean, it's hard because Kill Me to Death like had a couple of local screenings, but then it wasn't really very accessible. So I don't know if it resonated even the way that I feel like Bazzooka's resonated in three days, to be honest. I've gotten so many messages and things about Bazzooka, like more than I ever did for Kill Me To Death already, which is a good sign. But I think that says a lot about accessibility, like people can just share a link around.
Yeah, and I think probably a bigger element is I'm guessing maybe just kind of like just doing different things within the Seattle community, doing music and doing film stuff. And I feel like it's really cool that people that I admire and respect so much trust me to have their art be a part of my art, which is really amazing and really humbling, honestly. So that's been like the coolest part of this whole thing for me, as an artist right now.
Absolutely. And I love Olivia's performance at the end. Is there going to be a performance at the end of every episode?
Danny Denial: Yes, every episode has another BIPOC artist, on stage at the...I think we were calling it The Saloon in this version. Yeah, it's another thing we're stealing from Twin Peaks. And the interesting thing is, in a weird kind of meta or not meta, but like suspense kind of thing, a lot of the performers at The Saloon who aren't seeing the story are on missing posters. So that's kind of part of it, too. Like if you notice a lot of the. Yeah, like Keif Urban and Shaina and Nicole, like they're all missing other shots. So they only exist right now on stage. We don't know if these were before they went missing or what. So tying it to the story, but yeah it's all kind of part of this weird, contrived storyline.
Cozell Wilson: You said Twin Peaks but I always got, when we were at the Saloon, I was getting Luke Cage. Did you see that? That at the end they always have a black artist play.
Danny Denial: Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. Right. I forgot they do that.
Cozell Wilson: They use famous, super famous artists like we're putting people on but that's the vibe I always got.
Danny Denial: Totally. I just think it's so cool because, for me with Bazzooka, I feel like it like breaks...especially with a lot of episodes ending in moments of like, "Oh, what happens next?" Or like, "Oh, shit." And then you sort of have this like nightcap kind of, you know, this kind of cool, chill way to go out. And for me, I hope that the viewers feel this way, but for me, it's not like that moment where credits roll and you're like, "Skip." Like you actually want to watch the performance, hear the song because it's really good and it totally shifts the vibe a little bit. So I love those performances.
Plus Olivia with the scepter! I wasn't sure if something was going to happen.
Danny Denial: Yeah. that was so cool.
Rajah Makonnen: I was so excited when I saw them in the script, I was like, "What?!"
Danny Denial: Like, can I just say, that was one of the like dreamgasm moments of what everyone did, where I would just say, like, "Hey, just bring stuff that's you." And LÜCHI brings in these like crazy stylized glasses and just like suitcases of incredible looks that they brought for their characters. And Syiera [Mikey Xi/Kylie Mooncakes' character] had all these super cool, custom different looks for when she goes undercover in a later episode and this whole ensemble. And that that's all from Mikey and Olivia bringing the scepter as Ex-Florist. And everyone is throwing in just pieces of themselves. I just think that's like some of the coolest stuff about the whole thing, like visually, because.
Cozell Wilson: You have me with a burned hand, all jacked up.
Danny Denial: Cozell's burned hand that he had severely burned like mid-production!
Oh no! In real life, you burned your hand?!
Cozell Wilson: Yeah. Yeah. Like really bad. You can't really tell anymore. It's pretty healed, but I don't know.
Did you write that into the script then? Did you find a way to work with it?
Danny Denial: No, in fact, it was like the day before he was going to play guitar. And so we were like, "Oh, wait, maybe we shouldn't have you play guitar." And then Cozell was like, "No, it's all good." And took off the casing and played guitar and then was like, "Ow, my hand really hurts. That made it worse." And I felt really bad.
Aw. Well, I respect the commitment.
Danny Denial: That's the thing. I feel bad because people were like hurting themselves! Like Mikey had the most physical stunts like full-on Kim Possible action scenes. And I just felt so bad because I just felt like Mikey was like going through it, like physically.
Mikey Xi: I had an amazing time. I got my cardio in.
Danny Denial: It was amazing, like watching back your takes of your fight scenes. I was just like, "How the hell did you do that?"
Yeah, your character hasn't really come in, I've only seen the first episode, so I'm not really sure who your character is!
Mikey Xi: Stay tuned.
Danny Denial: Honestly, I think Siyerra is kind of like the dark horse, like the kind of stealth, silent killer of the series, because the first few episodes you don't see too much of her. And then episodes three and four, like all of this stuff happens because basically Siyerra's character is the new singer that became part of this band when Eva left town years ago. And so now there's this feeling of like, "Oh, well, Eva's back. So, you know, I guess I'm just going to do my own thing a little bit." And so Siyerra kind of goes on a kind of different storyline, which ends up being just super cool and really fun and kind of taps into her more like alias secret undercover Kim Possible vibe.
It may not make sense now, but we do tap into that at some point. Episode three has a lot of really cool surprises from Siyerra's character and from the mayor's character that I'm really excited people to see. So I really want to do some kind of watch party in March to like get some direct feedback about that.
So many mysteries! Very excited.
Danny Denial: It was all over the place, like I will say, for a project that we had only like four shoot days to do. It's crazy how many different kinds of shoots we did, like music shoot and fight scenes and like intimate, well not intimate, but just like kind of conversational scenes and then more like distanced, kind of. Cozell has an entire episode where he's on like webcast basically.
Well, something that's interesting to me is that, I mean, I saw Kill Me To Death like four times in the process of writing that piece, but it seems like someone kind of does need to see it in order to understand some of these characters in Bazzooka. So how have you been handling directing people like, "Hey, if you're confused, watch this."
Danny Denial: I'm not at all, basically. [laughs] I mean, the thing is, with the previous film, I feel like yeah, there's a lot of character backstory that may not be filled in. But also I feel like when you watch a film, a lot of times characters have this long back story that you don't actually know and the story fills in. And with Bazzooka, for the intents within of our story, we do fill it in.
But, you know, I do think at some point before we finish, I mentioned the Zoom call. Someone asked about how they can watch Kill Me To Death. And it's on streaming. But when that license ends, hopefully we'll get it back to the channel, too, so people can easily just click over and watch it. But I really do feel like...I don't know, I mean, I think Eva's back story and who my character maybe was, I think those two things you can glean from the movie. But other than that, everything else in Bazzooka, I feel like it's kind of new. And I think if you follow Eva's POV of being gone so long that it's almost a different city now, with that vantage point like there's a feeling that you don't know everything, but also what you knew is different anyway, you know. But hopefully, I think the film goes off streaming in the summer, so we'll be able to put it back on YouTube after that.
Rajah Makonnen: I totally got that hidden back story vibe like through this and through Kill Me to Death with Eva's character. And it kind of reminded me of, like Blue, the film by Krzysztof [Kieślowski], whatever the short film about killing. And that's like one of my favorite movies. So I was like, "Yes." That hidden back story kind of stuff adds a lot of character depth and I love it.
So, I thought it might be fun if each of you could pick, maybe a song that's not on the soundtrack, but if your character was a song or had a favorite song or had a theme song, what would it be? I guess for the producers, it can be you as you.
Danny Denial: Well, I mean, I actually do have a character, he's dead, so I would say mine would probably be the Jesus and Mary Chain "Black." Easy.
Mikey Xi: DoNormaal, who is a Seattle rapper who's probably my favorite Seattle artist, period, maybe, has a song called "Emotional" off their album Third Daughter. So if we're keeping in line with our all-Black and local artists, I think that would be a great song for Siyerra, personally.
Danny Denial: And can I just say on that, I'm so sad that DoNormaal moved because I wanted them in this project so bad. But they were really cool to basically contribute, we have two DoNormaal songs in the series. So I'm really stoked on that.
Cozell Wilson: I'm going to say TV On the Radio, "Wolf Like Me," because whenever I'm on screen and I have these glasses on, I always feel like I look like I'm in TV On the Radio or something. It looks...I feel a little bit corny, but it's also funny. It's a good song.
Lük Lupe: You know, we had to go with our girl, Chloe x Halle.
Chip Sherman: We're split on it. Either "Ungodly Hour" because I think that's a dope ass song and it's really cute and it's all about getting down and having fun.
Lük Lupe: And I'm thinking, "Do it." And join the revolution and change the world.
Rajah Makonnen: I have to say for mine is "American Wasteland" by Nascar Aloe. Angry, kind of protesty track.
Grayson: If there was a song that one of you will find for me, it would be ten hands, you know, like that's the song I'm going to write a song called "Ten Hands." Like I was trying to put my hands in everybody's business.
Danny Denial: Oh, you're going to write it?
Grayson: Yep, "Ten Hands." For the last episode.
Wow. Writing your own theme song, that's the way to go!
Danny Denial: Actually, I'm going to change mine because everyone's answers were so good. So I'm going to change mine because Black is basically like me and I feel like my song would be Chuck D's "Generation Wrekked," because I feel like that's been my 2020 mood and that's very much the spirit of this project. "If I can't change people around me, I change the people around me."
The third episode of Bazzooka is out Friday, March 12th. Northwest Film Forum and Vera Project are partnering up with Denial to host a "virtual watch party" of the episode. Pre-sales of the Bazzooka soundtrack will be available on Friday, March 5th.
Filmmaker and musician Danny Denial is following up their 2019 independent film Kill Me to Death with a new monthly series titled <bazzooka< em=""></bazzooka<>
KEXP spoke with Danny Denial, Michael Renney, and Noah Kappertz of the film Kill Me to Death about music, mental health, and the laborious process of making a feature film.