Beau Kaelin

Our friend Beau Kaelin is an interesting dude. If you don’t know him personally, you probably would recognize him by his alter ego Senor Diablo, a Tony Clifton-esque character he created years ago. Under this bizarre veil, Kaelin participates as a band member of hardcore punk/thrash band Belushi Speed Ball, and he also produces an ongoing YouTube series called The Señor Diablo Show. He also has directed several films and released them under his Schadenfreude umbrella.

His latest endeavor, titled TOUR MOVIE is a project that took about 4 years to fully come together. Back in the Summer of 2017, Louisville punk/hardcore bands Belushi Speed Ball & Dick Titty Blood Punch went on tour, and Kaelin decided to make a feature length movie about their collective experience. On the surface, this premise doesn’t sound all that interesting, especially if you’re not familiar with either of the bands involved. But this ain’t yer grandpappie’s music documentary. If you’re at all familiar with his ongoing YouTube series, you have a hint of the sort of oddball, unconventional approach he takes to creating fantastically fucked up imagery.

Check out an exclusive clip from the film below:

If you missed the first run of screenings that happened a few weeks ago at Baxter Avenue Theaters, another screening has been added. You can see the movie on a big screen on Friday, July 2nd at Art Sanctuary. Go here for more details. If you aren’t able to make it, get yourself a copy of the film on Blu Ray here.

To get a better handle on what this dude’s motivation is, I reached out with a few questions. Thankfully, Mr. Kaelin obliged and pulled back the curtain just a bit…

Never Nervous: How’d you come up with the concept for Tour Movie? Was this an idea you had before the tour actually happened, or did you end up getting a bunch of cool footage during the tour that spurred the idea after the fact?

Beau Kaelin: Short answer: “after the fact.”  Longer answer: Tour Movie went through a lot of incarnations.  The initial intent was to make a series of episodes for the Senor Diablo Show. However, after we returned from the tour, I had several local bands reach out to me about guest appearances/interviews for the show (Godking, Mama Said String Band, Pleasure Boys, etc), so I put the intended tour episodes on the back burner while I focused on those set in Louisville.

By the time 2018 rolled around, the idea of developing it as a feature film had evolved (not merely a feature-length Diablo episode). More than once, I edited the first several minutes of it, but with about forty hours of footage on multiple cameras, I struggled with what to include vs. omit.  So I stepped back, reassessed Tour Movie’s two predecessors – Kora and Bill the Viking – and realized I’d subconsciously been diving deeper into a relationship rabbit hole: our relationship with memory, specifically how it wantonly deceives us. 

I chose to let the memory guide Tour Movie far more than either of its predecessors. The band members of Dick Titty Blood Punch and Belushi Speed Ball were individually interviewed, separated from the tour by lack of sobriety and two years’ time, and their memories serve as your unreliable guide through the wealth of tour footage that existed. If one were to create a Venn diagram of how the mind’s eye for each interviewee recalled the tour, the place where all eight circles overlap would be Tour Movie.  That place is one absent of linear progression, or semblance of logic or coherence, resulting in a film that is not about the tour so much as it is about what the members of the two bands remember about the tour, whether it is true or not.

And just as the visuals were the guide for Kora and Bill the Viking, in editing I elected to turn your guides for Tour Movie into the visuals. In the end, Tour Movie took almost 4 years to come to fruition and went through a variety of incarnations before I found one that felt right.

NN: Was Tour Movie shot and edited entirely by you? 

BK: By and large, yes. There are times where members of Dick Titty Blood Punch or Belushi Speed Ball would pick up the camera while on tour, but the bulk of footage shot while we were on the road, as well as all of the interview footage of the band members was shot by me. The editing was all done by myself, encompassing almost all of my free time outside of two jobs for an eight month period (longer than any previous film of mine took to edit).

The more varied your diet, the less likely your art will have a discernible influence. I’m a film glutton by habit and will watch anything, and enjoy much of it.

NN: Your off kilter approach to making movies is fantastically original. Who or what inspires your unique style?

BK: I don’t know that there’s one inspiration for Tour Movie, per se. It definitely is the sum product of all of the styles I’ve experimented with in episodes of the Diablo Show and my other feature films. I suppose for me, I’ve always looked at creative arts following the old “you are what you eat” adage, in that you tend to write what you read, you compose what you listen to, and in terms of filmmaking, you film what you watch.

The more varied your diet, the less likely your art will have a discernible influence. I’m a film glutton by habit and will watch anything, and enjoy much of it. Glancing at my movie shelf as I type this, Casablanca is wedged between Carrie and The Cat from Outer Space, for example. I’ve always been a fan of Errol Morris, a documentarian who has his subjects talk straight into camera with minimal prompts, providing viewers with a sense that those subjects are conversing with and/or confessing to them, and that influence is clear when it comes to the band member interviews.

And when it comes to my other feature films, such as Kora or The Fated Assemblage of Dr. Malvagio, the influence of Baraka or Suspiria, respectively speaking, is evident. But with Tour Movie, I don’t know that I can point at one source influence, which I suppose may indicate that this is my most authentic, creative project to date.

NN: As far as filmmaking goes, what future endeavors do you have in the works? 

BK: I have a scripted project entitled Crooked City that’s been on the backburner for several years, much like Tour Movie, that I’d like to revisit. A teaser for it can be found after the credits for The Fated Assemblage of Dr Malvagio (a scripted feature film of mine that can be found on the Senor Diablo Show YT channel). And I’ve also got footage for three episodes of the Senor Diablo Show Season 5 that are ready to be edited. But prior to that, I’ve had a few bands reach out to me about shooting music videos. 

NN: Belushi Speed Ball is a band that seems to always be up to something. Do you have anything special planned for this Summer and/or Fall season?

BK: We’ve announced that our first show “back with an audience” will be a Terminator 2 theme. What that means for the audience they will just have to wait and see. That will be at the opening night for the Pink Flamingo.  As for other ideas, not to evade the question, but we do always like to keep those surprises, for there is nothing more fun that continuing to surprise our fans who think they’ve seen it all and know what to expect. 

Photo by Amy Yabao
Photo by Amy Yabao

NN: Speaking of your band, let’s talk for a second about the Senor Diablo character. How the hell did you come up with this? And when did you know that this would be a character you’d be sticking with for years?

BK: I never foresaw Belushi Speed Ball or the Diablo Show when Diablo himself came to pass.  He was a character I created in 2004 for a friend’s film project entitled Team Switchblades, wherein I was playing four different characters and had to make each unidentifiable from one another. He was likely inspired by Brendan Gleeson’s role from The Tailor of Panama, though there are other film influences.

The path from Team Switchblades to Belushi Speed Ball is a mildly convoluted one. My friends and I have a longstanding tradition of making annual holiday specials, dating all the way back to 2008. Many of those specials are populated with characters from other projects interacting (in the spirit of SCTV’s Staff Christmas Party episode). Diablo became a recurring character in these holiday specials, and over the course of many years, he had a slow fall from grace.

At his highest point, he was the power behind the president of Crank-o-lotta Cola in New New Mexico City (picture Diablo as a Dick Cheney-inspired villain, if you can) and at his lowest, he was a “mule” smuggling Twinkies out of the Hostess factory after the company closed. When I got to know Vinny Castellano in 2013, and he watched my backlog of film projects, he was stricken by the character’s habit of ineptly blundering from one job to another, and suggested the idea that he play the manager for the band under the guise that he foolishly thought that attaching to Belushi Speed Ball would bring him fame and fortune.

When the band debuted in 2014, he mostly functioned as a host for the band. The crowdwork and props really come along until 2017, with hardcore stageshows and fucntioning as backup vocals both not arriving until the following year. So much like my filmmaking and the band, he’s evolved a lot over the years.

Without getting into spoiler territory, it’s safe to say that Diablo’s homebrewed Listerine is going to be less detrimental to your liver than anything storebought will be. 

NN: What is the official mouthwash brand preference for Senor Diablo? Or do you homebrew your own mouthwash? It honestly wouldn’t surprise me. 

BK: Without getting into spoiler territory, it’s safe to say that Diablo’s homebrewed Listerine is going to be less detrimental to your liver than anything storebought will be. 

NN: Now that the pandemic is widely considered to be on it’s way out, what is something you’ve been looking forward to doing that you haven’t been able to do over the last 15 months?

BK: Live shows go without saying. We’ve performed live music through streaming, but it’s not quite the same without an interactive audience. And truthfully, hug hellos. In the whole love language department, physical touch is the bottom of the five for me, but I am a big hugger when it comes to greeting others at shows…which, as a tall person, usually means shoving someone else’s face into my armpit. 

NN: Tell me about a band or two that you’ve gotten really into over the course of the pandemic. Who are they, how’d you find them, and what’s a good song to start with?

BK: There are three local bands that come to mind that I was pretty unaware of prior to the pandemic (note: with rare exception, I almost always listen to local music) and they would be: The Histrionics, Dead Letterman and Scrooge Mandella. The Histrionics is an under 21 band we had the pleasure of playing with at the infamous Friends Mansion (RIP) show, so I found out about them right before the pandemic started. They released their first album Static during June of the pandemic – start with Exorcism. They’re definitely an up and coming band that should be on everyone’s radar. 

Dead Letterman’s first performance was at the last Wet Basement show (another RIP) during a BLM fundraiser livestream that I got to attend in person. Maven Avila had an honest rawness to their music that really grabbed my attention, and since then has dropped a couple of albums – I recommend starting with Come Find Me on the album Small Hours: Episode 2. 

Lastly, since I couldn’t go out to shows, every Bandcamp Friday I would buy everything different local bands had to offer (it’s how I ended up with all the Prayer Line swag and albums).  I pre-ordered Scrooge Mandella’s album Impotent not knowing what to expect, for I’d never listened to any of their music, and that album became my most listened to album during the pandemic. Favorite track would be That Person, but Warewolf and Enochlophobia are two other faves from the album. 

NN: I know you’re a big fan of b-movies and obscure horror films. Before you go, please recommend a good flick for us to check out that we probably haven’t seen.

BK: Oof…I feel like that’s a tough request, for I know you all have a solid knowledge of B-movies and obscure, horror films yourselves.  I feel like if I am to suggest something you’ve not seen before, staying out of the 1980’s would probably be wise, so my first suggestion would be Doctor X (1932). The film just underwent a restoration on par with what Criterion did for Night of the Living Dead, meaning a film that had only been available and seen on low-grade, secondhand transfers received a gorgeous restoration. However, the restoration is just one of many reasons to see if it you’ve not. It’s historically significant for being the first color horror film, so not only were audiences treated to gore in vivid color, but director Michael Curtiz takes advantage of two-strip technicolor as readily as Dario Argento does three-strip technicolor for Suspiria. Couple all of that with the fact that the film is batshit insane, especially for 1932.

Most horror films of that era, from the Univeral monster films to other 1932 entries like Freaks or The Old, Dark House, pale in comparison (even Freaks is just a melodrama when its unique cast is removed). The premise is this: after every full moon, women are found dead, portions of their brains surgically removed and their bodies partially eaten. The rare surgical tools lead police to Doctor X’s institute, which is coincidentally populated by a number of prominent researchers who all have cannibalism somewhere in their pasts, along with fascinations with the moon. It’s like an Agatha Christie mystery wherein every suspect is a mad scientist. By the time it reaches the fourth act, the film goes completely off the rails and yet, arrives at the destination it’s been heading towards the whole film.

In terms of another film that has a “what the fuck?!” ending that doesn’t get enough love, I gotta go with Don’t Look Now (1973). It’s one of the few films that continues to give me goosebumps every time I watch it. This is a recommendation for anyone that’s a fan of Ari Aster’s work, especially Hereditary, for his films are clearly influenced by the fascination with the horror of grief and fatalism in Don’t Look Now, as well as embedding (or hiding?) visual storytelling clues throughout the film for the watchful viewer. Go into this one blind, knowing only one thing: if you’ve ever had a secret desire to see Donald Sutherland naked, this film will scratch that itch.

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