Sex, Drugs, and Punk Rock Music
Editor's note: Tristan Taormino is on vacation. Here's an oldie but goodie.
Rob Rotten is nervous. Or is he excited? It's 10 in the morning, we're in the Metro Interactive booth at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, and he hasn't been to sleep. "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC is blaring in the background. He's sipping on a cup of dark brown liquid. It must be strong coffee because he's wired.
When I first heard of Rob, I knew him as Mr. Rachel Rotten. Rising porn starlet Rachel Rotten was a striking punk pinup with Bettie Page hair and creamy skin. He was the dude who always fucked her (they worked exclusively with each other). That's sort of the way it is in porn: The women get noticed and the men are an afterthought.
While he was filming a friend's band, he met another camera guy, who happened to work in porn. A week later, that guy shot Rotten in his first movie. So Rob was already in the business when he met Rachel, who decided to join him. The couple really got attention when Rob co-directed a movie with Jim Powers called Little Runaway in 2003. It blended punk rock music, sex, and a campy plot, yet wasn't dismissed by the industry or consumers as too weird or niche. People loved it, and it got more than a dozen AVN Award nominations.
Now, several years later, Rachel is gone from his life and from porn, but Rob's company Punx Productions (punxproductions.com) is on the rise. There are lots of interesting characters in the adult industry, and Rob is no exception; he's also a bit of a walking contradiction.
With his thin body covered almost entirely in tattoos, his appearance is hard and intimidating, but after a few minutes of conversation, he comes across as a warm, approachable guy who loves his job. He admits that he comes up with loose concepts for his movies, but doesn't really know what he is doing until the cameras start rolling. He's manic, opinionated, twitchy, sweet, and talks openly about his drug use. For years he had a signature mohawk, but recently got a complete buzz cut. "People have speculated that I cut off my mohawk because I have grown up or something," he says. "But I did it because it was getting in the way of doing drugs." He recounts a story about his hair being singed by the edge of a bong while he played video games. He couldn't find a hair tie, so he cut it all off. After I spend an hour with him, I find that it makes perfect sense: He's spontaneous yet practical, and he doesn't give a fuck what people think of him.
Last year, he signed a contract to direct for Metro; his first film for its Loaded Digital line, released last month, is appropriately titled Fuck the System. It's a series of vignettes ("I have a really short attention span, so I like vignettes because they are like really short movies") that feature lots of spiky mohawks, scuffed-up Doc Martens, tattoos, skateboards, and sex. Foreplay, communication, and kissing aren't on the menu, but sweaty, saliva-soaked girls' faces are.
Rob's single on-screen appearance comes when he fucks Gia Paloma in a dive bar during a live performance by the Smut Peddlers. You don't get to see people fuck to live punk rock all that often, so it's pretty cool. Plus, Gia gives as good as she gets, throwing all Rob's manic energy back at him in the form of an aggressive blowjob and fuck. Her crazy-colored mohawk and ripped fishnet shirt may be aesthetic signifiers, but it's her attitude that really says punk. The movie is fast-paced and loose, a little rough-and-tumble, sometimes silly, sometimes nastythe whole vibe is very reflective of Rob. This is, after all, a guy who has "POISON" tattooed on his dick ("It's a warning label for the chick who's about to have it shoved down her throat") and who admits he likes porn he can laugh at more than jerk off to, an odd confession coming from a pornographer.
The project he seems most excited about is his series Scurvy Girls, featuring women who've never done porn before. "I get about 20 e-mails a day from girls who say they want to be in one of my movies," he says. He talks to them for a long time to make sure they know what they're getting intohe wants them to take it seriously. "If a woman says, 'I want to be in the business to fuck and have a good time,' that's where you need to be and the money is an added bonus. Girls who get into it for other reasons are gonna burn out and regret it." When he's sure about someone (his level of concern and care is unexpected but genuine), he flies her out to L.A., sends her to Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation to get an HIV test, and puts her on video.
Given all the piercings and ink he displays on his own body and favors on others, I have to ask him about the trendy alt-porn movement and where he fits in. "I don't want to be affiliated with it," he says firmly. "I have been in this biz for a long time and the people who do 'alt porn' have been here for six months. If they want to say they started it, sure, let them. But Jim Powers was putting punk rock music in his videos in 1996. What's been classified as alt porn is crappy art stuff, some of [it is] just hilarious. I am not just doing punk rock movies. I am not just doing zombie movies. With every movie I do, I try to change the direction of it."
His latest release from Metro, Porn of the Dead, debuted last week and has been described as really disturbing and creepy zombie porn with a death metal soundtrack. They went through over a dozen gallons of fake blood during production, and people eat each other's organs in this flick. Some of it was so controversial that the release was delayed so it could be re-edited. But Rob says he's comfortable with the compromises they needed to make in order to calm down the lawyers.
He continues to direct for Metro as well as other studios, including VCA, for which he shot a movie called Anal Swine. "The best part about being in porn is that the ideas that used to get me in troublewell, I get paid to make a movie out of them now."
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