Dylan Mars Greenberg drops “Glow in the Dark” single & vid from latest psychotronic feature film project, premiering at Museum of the Moving Image on 3/30/24

A neon-hued polka-dotted Slenderman type monster floats around stalking people in their homes. A log cabin explodes. Abductors wearing inflatable carrot heads menace the innocent. A young woman dances erotically with a roll of paper towels. Subway station parkour. Troma Movies founder Lloyd Kaufman performs a magic trick with a glowing egg. A man who looks like Rodney Bingenheimer shows off his pineapple. Flying penknives. Play-Doh garden gnomes. Stop-motion eyeball-goo casserole. A sweaty demon with an overbite blows smoke in Kansas Bowling’s face (older sister of fellow transgressive filmmaker Kansas Love Bowling). Beelzebub bless the Bowling sisters!

If this sounds like imagery from a movie you’ve long wish existed ever since watching The Goonies on VHS after smoking a bowl of powerful Moroccan hashish well then you’re in luck cuz you’ll witness all this and more in a film called Spirit Riser, or rather, you’re in luck if you’d like to witness a pre-release music video by “disreputable film” sorceress and pop wünderkind Dylan Mars Greenberg (DMG) modeled on those clip-job type music videos cum movie promos omnipresent in the ‘80s and ‘90s which should hopefully satiate you ’til the movie proper premieres a week from tomorrow night (Sat. 3/30/24) inna real life movie palace at Queens’s own Museum of the Moving Image no less…

…but until that time comes we’ve got the film’s catchy theme song to savor and enjoy and please don’t tell Cyndi Lauper but we think “Glow in the Dark” the song is actually superior to “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” but that’s subjective of course and to be fair the latter wasn’t exactly a career high-water mark for Lauper (she refused to play the song live even a single time for almost 20 years!) anyway thank goodness DMG didn’t call her song “Glow ’N’ the Dark” as an homage but when it comes to the two music videos we’d have to call it a tie…

…which is actually a nice compliment to “Glow” seeing as the “Goonies” music video has the unfair advantage of featuring a virtual Mount Rushmore of ‘80s-era wrestling icons including Captain Lou Albano, Rowdy Roddy Piper, The Iron Sheik, and Freddie Blassie among others–even if they do spend much of its running time yelling at each incoherently–the latter of whom we recently learned was the subject of a biography penned by Dylan Mars Greenberg’s journalist father Keith Elliot Greenberg titled Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks and seriously you can’t make this stuff up

…but hey we digress cuz we’re here to talk about “Glow in the Dark” a song that opens with a quick burst of backwards drums like you’re being sucked into another dimension—fittingly for a song about “matter over mind”—a dimension sonically marked off by Nile-Rodgers-via-Andy-Taylor funky chicken scratch guitar and a Bernard Edwards-worthy bass line as well to the point where I’d question whether Dylan hired Chic as her backing band if it weren’t for Edwards having died in 1996 (RIP) but either way it’s a rippin’ groove and suitable backing for the song’s aspirational lyrics delivered by DMG in a take-no-prisoners contralto… 

…and who doesn’t wanna hear sentiments like “you’re the last of your kind / it’ll last for all time / glow in the dark” in a movie theme song bid for immortality to rival Irene Cara living forever (RIP) with the end result sounding like it could easily accompany a Jean-Claude Van Damme training sequence comprised entirely of “The Muscles from Brussels” doing upside-down splits which more like Jean-Claude Van Don’t ammirite (jk!)…

…and do I even have to tell you “Glow in the Dark” fades out to the strains of a wailing duel-lead guitar solo in parallel intervals as if Adrian Smith and Dave Murray suddenly dropped in to the recording session but with the added bonus that rather than JCVD’s groin Spirit Riser will treat us to Runaways great Cherrie Currie in thespian ensemble mode for maybe the first time since Foxes alongside an all-star cast of cinematic riot inciters right down to the film’s narrator, the eternal badass with a chiseled jaw line Michael “Mr. Blonde” Madsen

…a cast which didn’t just magically coalesce but who are clearly on the same wavelength as director Dylan Mars Greenberg seeing as DMG is a known quantity in psychotronic film circles for having started low-budget experimental films while still in the crib apparently or by age 9 at least and by the age of 18 having completed somewhere between seven and seventeen-hundred movies first cutting her teeth with “let’s shoot a movie in a single day” guerilla DIY-fests before graduating to New New Queer/Trans Cinema up and comer status and if you wanna learn more about DMG’s filmic repertoire so far just take a look here or here or here

…an if you’re intrigued by all of this you may also wanna check out Theophobia which is Dylan’s full on “glitter rock” new-wave theatrical project in conjunction with guitarist, vocalist, and synth producer Matt Elli among other collaborators whose music is something like if Sparks and early Roxy Music had a baby who was raised listening exclusively to the soundtracks to Rocky Horror and Phantom of the Paradise and Gregg Araki’s Teen Apocalypse Trilogy and Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine but why take our word for it when we DMG was kind enough to answer a few of our queries below so please do enjoy…


The Deli: In doing a little googling I found out you’ve been interviewed quite extensively regarding your very nearly life-long history with the medium of film—perhaps not surprising considering you were already making movies in your sandbox as a kid and then got accepted to the New York Film Academy at an absurdly young age and then made something like six feature films before you turned 18. But we haven’t seen you grilled on your musical roots to nearly the same extent. With this in mind we’d love to hear about a formative musical influence or two or three that laid the groundwork for your future musical self.

Dylan Mars Greenberg:  Wow, you really know your stuff! I love all kinds of music, my favorite band is probably Sparks. They’ve had a huge influence on my songwriting. This song was a bit inspired by them, in particular their theme songs for films recorded in the 80s. I also love Brian Eno’s glam stuff, early Tin Pan Alley music, music produced by Nile Rodgers, and The Beach Boys. 

TD: Were you formally taught as a musician at all or strictly self-taught? Any benefits or drawbacks that stick out in your mind about either? How would you compare songwriting as a creative process versus filmmaking as a creative process?

DMG: I took guitar classes as a kid which definitely taught me the basics of song playing and structure, but I didn’t really begin to immerse myself in that process until I began teaching myself how to compose music in GarageBand – then I eventually moved to Logic. That’s still how I compose the demos for all my songs. I do think there are a lot of similarities – composing music in a DAW is not unlike editing footage. I also try and tell a story in both – I like love songs but with most of what I write, I try and challenge myself to write something different. In this case, obviously the song is meant to compliment the film, so in that sense it’s both coming together. 

TD: Many of your songs sound like musical cues or even full-blown production numbers lifted from a film adaptation of an off-Broadway rock musical that doesn’t exist yet. Do you feel like your songs are “cinematic” or otherwise influenced  by your film background? Also, what is it that makes music come off as “cinematic” to listeners from your viewpoint?

DMG:  I definitely consider my songwriting very cinematic. I often imagine visuals to go with the music. Sometimes I imagine the characters I’m making up or writing about as well. A great song can be like a short film – sometimes you can tell an amazing story in three minutes or so. Sometimes I also imagine my music as a soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist yet – I guess just like how you imagine Theophobia’s music as from an off Broadway rock musical that doesn’t exist yet. 

TD: What does the song “Glow In the Dark” tell us about Spirit Riser either plot-wise or more vibe-wise as a film? From where I sit, this song could feasibly be outtake from the soundtrack of The Goonies or even Lost Boys. Could you tell us about one or two of your favorite film soundtracks and why you like them? Also, what do you think a good soundtrack can do for a film? 

DMG:  I tried to tell the story of the pursuit between the film’s villain and the characters Sydney and Ingrid. All they want to do is hide, but they can’t blend in because they’re special – they glow in the dark, so to speak, and it makes them a target. I think in some ways, at least I hope, people can relate to that. 

I love the soundtracks to a lot of Italian horror movies, especially ones that Dario Argento was involved with in the 80s. Phenomena, which he directed, and Demons, which he produced have some of the best soundtracks of all time in my opinion – both the incredible theme music by Claudio Simonetti, and the needledrops throughout the films. I love the way that soundtracks influence the tone of a film – something that I think Argento loves playing with. In particular, there’s a scene where Jennifer Connelly is in danger, and she’s trying to covertly gain access to a phone by fishing it out from another room with a long pole, and she’s worried she’ll get caught. In any other film, it would play slow, building suspenseful music – in Phenomena it plays “Flash of the Blade” by Iron Maiden. I was really struck by that subversion of the viewer’s expectation, and I’ve since gone on to deliberately stick needle drops like that in my own work. 

TD: If your own life were turned into a “hero’s journey” type Hollywood movie what would the journey entail—a journey to what ends—and what would the most difficult obstacles be faced by the hero?

DMG: Well, if my life were turned into a Hollywood movie it could start with me visiting the Museum of the Moving Image as a kid, and becoming inspired. I think the main obstacle, the middle of the film would be the stretch of my life where I had convince my peers I was serious. New York is filled with people saying they’re making a movie, they’re staring a band, they’re building a career- and some of those people are telling the truth – but a lot of those people are lying, and especially when you’re young, people treat you like you’re crying wolf, so to speak. So, my obstacle would be proving that I mean what I say, doing what I say, and maybe it would end with my movie premiering at the Museum of the Moving Image, which is really happening on March 30. It does feel very much like a full circle moment, my film premiering somewhere that meant so much to me as a kid. 

TD:  Do you view music as a form of storytelling? Or more an emotional mood ring? Or something in between? Or something else entirely?

DMG:  I think music can be anything, it really depends on the artistic intent! I definitely do believe it’s a form of storytelling, however. Tomás Doncker who produced the song with James Dellatacoma, has gone into great detail on these subjects with me. To some extent working with Tomás has been a musical education. He’s talked to me about weaving narratives throughout his music, and many of his albums such as The Mess We Made are concept albums with thematic throughlines. He also works with artists such as the Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Komunyakaa, who tells stories with his poetry. Tomás has put his poetry to music in one of their many collaborations – and I think he’s demonstrated to me how music can be a universal medium. 

TD: In the “Without Your Head” podcast recently shared online, horror host/actor Mister Lobo compares Spirit Riser to a “90s zine” in terms of (from my understanding) having an analog-era “cut up” aesthetic combining and colliding different filming styles/media/genres etc. Do you feel like this description applies in any way to your music as well?

DMG: I’m really impressed with how thoroughly you researched for this interview! Yes, I definitely think it applies to both. When I write, I definitely think of what I do as a cut up of different musical motifs. Sometimes I write for a specific style of vocals, which would be performed by an artist I like – so when I eventually sing it, I’m giving my own version of their vocal style. 

TD: Finally, if there’s any fun BTS anecdotes you’d like to share about the making of Spirit Riser and/or the music appearing in the film please feel free to share and thanks!!!

DMG: One really cool anecdote is when we shot Rodney’ Bingenheimer’s scenes for the film, he let us into the Vampire Lair at the Rainbow Bar and Grill. That’s the tiny loft, really more of a treehouse, where Alice Cooper, Ringo Starr, Micky Dolenz and Harry Nilsson would hang out. So, not only did we get to see it, we actually got to shoot his scenes in this legendary little clubhouse where musical history was made! Secondly, we also got to shoot at Bronson Canyon, which served as the exterior for the Batcave in the 1960s Batman. A few years later, I returned and discovered it’s now shut down due to safety concerns. So, we got the privilege of shooting in two historic places that I may never be able to enter again. It really was a treat. 

Spirit Riser premieres on March 30 at Museum of the Moving Image then screens April 12 at Athens Ohio International Film Festival and then April 26 at Gardena Cinema and then April 29 at Whammy Analog Media…

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