The first week of April 2014 was the most incredible 7 days of my life so far - after waiting 23 years I finally got round to going to WrestleMania. Hey, don't grumble. We're "cult entertainment" now, remember! The Undertaker's 21 year undefeated streak finally ended, Mr T spent what felt like six hours telling us all about how great his mum is, Jake "The Snake" Roberts gave one of the most heartfelt and emotional speeches that had grown men wiping tears from their eyes, and the Ultimate Warrior finally made friends with everyone and appeared on WWE TV for what would turn out to be the final time before his shocking death just 24 hours later.
As much of an eventful week as it was though, the highlight of the week was getting to witness Kaiju Big Battel with my own eyes. I'd seen a couple of DVDs and a few bits and pieces on YouTube (some of the characters might be familiar to fans of Bloc Party's song "Flux"...) and I was pretty sure that this was going to be something special, but nothing could prepare me for the onslaught of insanity that took place that night in New Orleans. The search for a kidnapped dancing plantain, "New Orleans party powder" being snorted off the back of a fallen Viking by a mutated overgrown bed bug, a walking can of chicken noodles being slammed through a stack of semi-demolished buildings by a half-toucan half-gerbil hybrid monster (who later returned to try and peck me to death)... Welcome to the world of Kaiju Big Battel, an epic confrontation between good and evil spanning entire galaxies. Nowhere is safe, least of all the gentle serene cities of planet earth. Monsters are real! Danger can happen!
What is Kaiju?
What we've basically got here is wrestling, Japanese monster movie-style. While the wrestling aspect is quite low down on the list of priorities (it can't be easy to pull off any super-flashy moves when you're a radioactive sea urchin), the relentless chaos that takes place over the course of a two to three hour show is enough to put a smile on even the most hardened cynic's face. Set in a ring filled with cardboard buildings, where the mat is a painted cityscape, a parade of monstrous creations led by the evil Dr Cube attempts to take over the world and only the Kaiju Heroes can save the day! With non-stop music playing throughout the show and live commentary/audience participation provided by uber-hyperactive Louden Noxious, it's an all-out assault on the senses that really needs to be seen to be believed.
To explain all this a bit better, Kaiju Big Battel's creator Rand Borden and live show ringmaster and DVD host Louden Noxious were kind enough to answer a few questions for your entertainment. Let's go!
How/when/where did Kaiju Big Battel start?
Rand Borden: The seeds of Kaiju Big Battel were planted when I began to build my own kaiju suit while still a student at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, aka SMFA . It took about a year to complete as I was working in the dark. There was not much of an internet back then, so info on Kaiju costume making was hard to come by.
I’d been a big fan of Ultraman as a kid and this brought it all back. Creating the kaiju, it was immensely enjoyable so I decided to make some more. I soon had three kaiju suits and Halloween was just around the corner. The Revolving Museum, a local gallery, was planning its annual Halloween fundraiser and my friend had connections there. Somehow we ended up on stage, beating each other up amongst a hastily constructed city made out of cardboard. The crowd loved it.
Four months later we were asked to repeat it at SMFA. There was a Printmaking symposium going on and for the opening night the print faculty wanted us to entertain. We had one problem: there was no stage. We gathered up some wood and started building one and as it went up it transformed into a wrestling ring-like structure. The ropes were weak and there was little padding, if any, but it looked the part and even better it gave the Kaiju a reason to fight.
Also in the weeks building up to the event I cranked out several costumes with stuff I had lying around. A pair of scrubs, a child’s wolverine mask, bananas-in-pyjamas heads I’d made for Halloween, a California Raisin costume and a bootleg Power Rangers mask quickly became Dr Cube, American Beetle, The Plantain Twins, Silver Potato, and Powa Ranjuru. To pay for materials we printed up some T-shirts and made trading cards on the School’s presses, which we sold at the show.
From there, the show grew and evolved. In 1998 I went to Japan for the first time. As luck would have it the place I was staying was just up the road from Tsuburaya Studios, the home of Ultraman. I went to take a look and was taking pictures outside and the security guard waved me in. They were repairing suits in the parking lot and he let me get up close to see what they were doing. As I was watching, a man crossing the lot from one building to another stopped and asked if I knew Brad. I said no and he insisted I did and ran back to where he had come from. Brad Warner came out to greet me. He was the only American working there — I believe he was second-in-charge of the International Department. He took me on a tour of the place while I made mental notes on how things were made, while snapping pics. I was close in my construction techniques but I learned more that day than I’d managed in the last four years of experimenting. The way I build the suits has changed very little since that time.
My initial influences were Ultraman and Godzilla, as I grew up watching them, but Ishinomori Shotaro’s huge output also inspired me in the early ’90s when I rediscovered my childhood passions for monster destruction. Other things that influence me are current events, toys and comics, mainly 2000AD.
Louden Noxious: My uncle was the Kaiju Commissioner. He got my foot in the door. But once it was in there, I kicked it down. I was just born to do this job.
What's the story behind Kaiju Big Battel's universe?
RB: Kaiju Big Battel is a modern conflict of epic proportions. Scattered throughout the galaxy is a monstrous mob of Kaiju - maniacal villains, ominous alien beasts, and gigantic, city-crushing monsters who are fighting for control of the globe, their volatile tempers periodically detonating into bouts of intergalactic sparring and senseless acts of violence.
Kaiju rumbles are nothing new - they've existed for millions of years, way back to the Triassic period. Monster scuffles have caused countless cataclysms: turbulent tornadoes, devastating earthquakes, stock-market crashes, geyser eruptions, forest fires, superpower bombing campaigns, and quite possibly, the fall of the Roman Empire. Ignorant humans have typically blamed such apocalyptic occurrences on Mother Nature, mortal transgression, and bad financial planning. But in truth, inexplicable disaster can almost always be traced back to a Kaiju Big Battel.
Planet Earth has always been under siege, and the first group of humans to recognize this was a covert committee of world leaders who called themselves the Kaiju Regulatory Commission (KRC). Ever since its underground conception, the KRC has been a highly secretive assembly - so secretive that the only thing publicly known about the KRC is its purported mission: 1) to monitor Kaiju mayhem; 2) to harness Kaiju aggression; 3) to coordinate strategies for protecting Earth against Kaiju threats.
As legend has it, the KRC's practices ran smoothly until late into the twentieth century, when one human-genius-turned-quasi-monster named Dr Cube initiated a pathological quest for world domination. Not only did Cube crash third-world economies and create himself an army, but the weight of his crackbrained megalomania threw off the cosmic balance between good and evil. Since spinning the yin-yang of the universe like a yo-yo inevitably causes suffering - some call this bad karma - Cube's initiative instigated trouble.
What happened was this: as the cult of American celebrity ballooned, the monsters became consumed with the desire for international stardom, gaggles of groupies, and autograph sessions at comic conventions. Many Kaiju became increasingly bumptious, self-possessed, and greedy, their egos expanding to unprecedented sizes. More and more frequently, these towering egos became bruised through silly, human-type melodrama (monster bumps monster at party and skirmish ensues), provoking angry Kaiju to pummel each other into a pulp. As more members of Big Battel began to hire handlers, publicists, and personal assistants, monster spats exploded daily. Finally, the KRC recognized that something had to be done immediately: the monsters and their egos were nearly out of control.
They created the role of Kaiju Commissioner, a position that demanded round-the-clock supervision and tracking of every known Kaiju. Upon his appointment, the Kaiju Commissioner hatched a plan to keep Earth safe from these fiendish freaks: the 'Kaiju Big Battel', a maximum-security event where pent-up monster aggression could be unleashed without human casualty. To everyone’s relief, the Commissioner’s premiere sanctioned Kaiju Big Battel was a smashing success. Not only were millions of lives and private properties protected, but the common man became instantly enthralled and addicted to the thrill of the live Battel. To this day, humans have to see Big Battels to believe them.
How have the shows evolved since the early days?
RB: It was originally intended to be a short video piece and just took on a life of its own. It is constantly changing but it has become more organized as well as streamlined. We managed to pull off a 6 match show in Las Vegas with just 12 people.
LN: It was a dastardly mishmash before I came along. No ring, no cage, no pizza or doughnuts backstage. I brought order and decorum to the Big Battel.
Who comes up with the storylines, and how do you decide which Kaiju are going to feature on specific shows?
LN: The writing staff spends 8-12 hours in the boardroom coming up with a 7:30 script. I tear that to pieces and write the 8:00 script at 7:55. Then I go through the curtain and say the very first thing that comes to my head, which is usually “Run, run, there are vicious and deadly city crushing monsters here, run for your life!!”
RB: The storylines come from everyone involved from the interns to the performers. They are all encouraged to put forth their ideas and then I decide what to use, change, etc. The shows are written 3 to 4 weeks before a show and will change along the way influenced by current events, new, better ideas and even performers dropping out or becoming available. Sometimes it will come down to finding some cool prop so we will do a rewrite around that.
Who is in the show partly depends on who is available. I try to keep the same guy in the same suit, although it’s not always possible. A lot comes down to what the story is and then we fill in the gaps with who is available. It forces you to be creative and sometimes go down roads you would not think to take.
Have you managed to keep track of how many Kaiju have been involved in the shows?
RB: I think there are about 120 different characters, I have a master list on paper somewhere but can't seem to find it today.
Which Kaiju are the most popular?
LN: Children love the plantains. Girls love Kung Fu Chicken Noodle. Fat people love French Toast. My personal favourite will always be the Kaiju Legend Begrizzled Theodore, the very first inductee into the Hallowed Halls of Danger!
RB: Dr Cube and American Beetle have been around the longest as well as the Plantains. Most popular are Kung-Fu Chicken noodle, Steam Powered Tentacle Boulder, and Dr Cube. Lately French Toast has been building up a fan base. My personal favorites are Steam Powered Tentacle Boulder, Sky Deviler and Vegitius. Killing off Sky Deviler was hard as she was a fan favourite as well as my own. I wanted to off someone that was popular to make an impact on the audience. It brings up the tension of a battle if someone will truly die and never be seen again. It was a response to super heroes dying only to come back a few months later, I really hate that although I'm glad they brought Johnny Alpha back.
One of the many things that makes Kaiju Big Battel unique is the fact that you can do pretty much whatever you want with the characters - Tucor and Unibouzu's head-swapping incident and the resulting match where the winner got their own head back, for example. What have been your personal storyline highlights over the years?
LN: Once we had a fighto that lasted a full year. We had a crucifixion and resurrection one Easter. We had a gingerbread man with no pants. We gave Chris Hero a gold painted oatmeal cookie. We gambled in Las Vegas. We partied with Jimmy Kimmel. These were all carefully planned stories.
RB: I had a lot of fun with the Zombi Plantain thread as well as The Baby Sky Deviler saga which is still on-going.
What exactly happens after a Kaiju has been killed in battle?
RB: The only one to die and come back has been Hell Monkey, but he is a demon from the darkside and can be summoned with the proper incantation. Some people think that Pablo Plantain came back but he is, sadly, Dead. While nicknamed "The Plantain Twins" by the crowd, there are actually a whole bunch of them living down in South America. Paco replaced the zombified Pablo to join his brother Pedro. Sky Deviler, Multimoog, Midori No Kaiju are all dead and never coming back, in fact they were chopped up into little bits and sold as "Meat" on our web site. Unlike the U. S. comic book hero death is permanent and could strike any one at any time.
LN: Dr Cube is a master of the black arts. Who knows what kind of evil sorcery goes on in his dungeon? But fear not, dead or alive, zombie or ninja, the Kaiju heroes will stop him from taking over the world one crushed skyscraper at a time.
There are plenty of ways for mere mortals to get involved with Kaiju Big Battel. Tell us what's on offer and what's in store for the future!
RB: We are gearing up for our 20th anniversary show, it will most likely be held in NY in the Fall or if things go well it will be three days in Boston, Philly and NY. We are also working on a line of toys, small little rubber guys, I intend to launch a Kickstarter campaign once the sculpts are done and we have a quote from the factory. You watch the progress of that project on our Facebook page. We post works in progress pics every so often. Also check out the website, kaiju.com, to learn more about all the characters, as well as show updates. You can also pick up DVDs (region free) of our past shows.
LN: If you are brave enough to see us live check us out: May 31st, Stage 48 in NYC and June 13th, Berwin, Il (30 min from Chicago)
For more news and TONS of t-shirts, DVDs and more visit kaiju.com.