We Talked to Porn Star-Turned-Novelist-Turned Metalcore Frontman of Chiildren Danny Wylde
Wylde, a.k.a. Chris Zeischegg has now retired from porn and is turning his attention to music full time. Plus he's already on his darkly compelling second novel.
Chris Zeischegg doesn’t drink or do drugs, so I meet the 29-year-old frontman of the metalcore duo Chiildren for coffee in Echo Park between our Los Angeles homes. I’m late, but he’s there on time, dressed in a black t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, buried in a book. This is his duo’s second release, but since he was 19-years-old, Zeischegg has been better known not for Chiildren, but as the porn star Danny Wylde. Zeischegg got into the adult industry shortly after he moved from Northern California’s Grass Valley to Los Angeles in 2006 to go to film school.
“I was like most college kids trying to look for a job,” Zeischegg says sipping his coffee. “I started doing weird nude modeling gigs and a lot of the people who would shoot me were gay men so they would often ask if I could get an erection for the shoot or whatever.” He would pop a boner, make 50 bucks and be on his way. Later, he came across a Craigslist ad for what is now known as kink.com looking for submissive male bottoms to get pegged and whipped.
“At that time in my life I was up for anything,” he explains. “I had my friend take some nude photos of me to send the site and they called me back immediately.” He was impressed by the professionalism and ease of the shoot, so when one of the site’s regular performers bailed for a weekend of scenes in Napa Valley, they called up Zeischegg, offered him $2000, and, according to him, “the rest is history.”
Zeischegg signed a contract (a rarity for a male performer) and continued to make adult films while putting himself through film school. As he built a name, he became involved in sex positive advocacy contributing essays to The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, making a sex tape with his then girlfriend for MakeLoveNotPorn.com and publishing articles about the industry in The Nerve. He was nominated for many AVN Awards (the adult industry’s Oscars), performed along side James Dean and Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons and published a novel, Come to My Brother, based off his long-standing blog Trve West Coast Fiction. The band started when Zeischegg met fellow porn star Chad Alva (or Chad Fjerstad) in 2010 on a porn set. Zeischegg was fucking Fjerstad’s girlfriend during the scene that day and met when Fjerstad came to pick her up. Soon the two bonded over an obsession with drone and black metal, so they decided to start a band together.
“There’s this stereotype about most dudes in straight porn that holds true to some degree,” explains Zeischegg. “That a lot of them are kind of jocks, ‘I fuck bitches, if I wasn’t doing this I would be in a fraternity’ kind of thing. Chad [Fjerstad] grew up in metal bands, we had similar experiences.”
After no luck finding a drummer they liked, Zeischegg started programming drums and the project took on an industrial, electronic direction with Fjerstad on synths and bass, while Zeischgge sang and handled guitar. The music was almost an excuse for Zeischegg to score the short films he was making in school, teaming up with a friend in The Faceless and gathering his reel. Chiildren put out their first LP, The Other People, in 2012 on Bit Riot Records. The next year, Danny Wylde officially retired after three episodes of priapism (when one’s erection will not go down) landed him in the hospital. The doctors warned him that one more episode like this could cause him to lose natural arousal. He quit performing without a second thought, scrambling his world upside down.
Now, Zeischegg is a Content Manager, editing films for James Dean Productions. He shoots some films and helps as a grip or gaffer when an extra hand is required on set. Although he enjoys editing trailers and narrative, he likens splicing actual sex to watching a screwdriver go into a wall for hours. “When you are not aroused, it’s like cutting a basketball game or something.”
More importantly, Zeischegg just published his second novel, The Wolves That Live in Skin and Space (Rare Bird Books), a sick, twisted, compelling story about a porn star at the end of his career who gets manipulated into a dark family history of rape, incest, and murder. Chiildren released a new EP, The Circle Narrows and Zeischegg’s taking everything one step at a time as he transforms from the alias he once was back to his birth name.
Noisey: Does it ever bother you that your career in porn will always follow your pursuits in music and writing?
Chris Zeischegg: I’m fine with it, it’s just always hard to tell whether, from a perspective of objectively thinking about your art if you put it out to people and they’re always like, “Two porn dudes do this, or a porn guy does this…” When I was doing porn and this band, I financed three music videos for us. I just wanted to make it like a visual art project, and I still wish I could do that but I don’t have the same income anymore. We financed this EP from this guy I had a web cam relationship with. He claimed to be this really famous international artist and ended up sending me a bunch of money, some of which I used to record this album. Then, he stopped communication and my buddy was just like, “You should just put him as Executive Producer on your EP.”
And you did. He’s on here: Raqib Shaw.
He’s the type of dude, if it’s really him, that sells his paintings for several millions of dollars. I don’t know if it’s him or someone pretending to be him but either way it’s fucking hilarious. We came for several months and even talked on the phone. He once said to me, “Beyoncé and Justin Bieber, they’re not rich enough to buy my stuff.” It’s the .0001% of the world, the people who run the world.
Let’s talk about your latest novel The Wolves That Live in Skin and Space. It’s one of the darkest, most perverse stories I’ve ever read and I could not put it down. It’s excellent. But your main character is Danny Wylde, how much of the novel is fiction compared to your life experiences in porn?
So, [the novel] starts out with this relationship that is from my personal experience with another guy that I cammed with who was about my age. He professed his love for me and thought we were dating. I felt almost horrible after because I felt like I had exploited him. I was there to make money and he was there to fulfill an emotional need. So there’s elements of that truth in the book. Then, there’s the criminal murder story plot with my relationship to a fan. The fan’s young son is in a coma and he kidnapped him away from his ex-wife, but he had been fucking his son.
He discovers his son had been a fan of mine, and because he wasn’t able to relate to his son sexually, even though he had this attraction to him, he contacts me and the whole story unfolds. There’s this idea of porn having no inherent sexual ties to the immediate. So, when I have sex with somebody I’m not necessarily into it and that person is not necessarily into it and even the person filming it is not necessarily into it, so it’s this weird sexual situation where you are performing for someone in the future. That is not based on any one person in particular, but it comes from a place that I think a lot of people on the outside viewing pornographers think you mean to them. It’s just how I processed my position as a performer. All these people have written me over the years saying different things, like, “You must feel this way about doing this certain scene” or “When I saw you with this person you must’ve been really into her or not at all,” you know what I mean? The viewer has a narrative. I thought that was always interesting, especially when it’s wrong.
The story is really graphic too. Not just sexually, but violently too.
When you are in the adult industry you have to deal with the stress of negativity. I didn’t really have a direct outlet for that. I think in the book I was able to take that stuff and mix it with the aesthetic of literature and art that I enjoy, which is horror, and I make it cathartic for me. Besides, there’s enough porn memoirs out there. Instead I went to a fantastical place.
When you are writing songs for Chiildren, do the lyrics speak through a character like in your novels?
Anytime I listened to a metal band when I was younger and felt something profound, I would look up their lyrics and it would automatically ruin it because the lyrics were about something stupid. I try to take a minimalist approach in my words. Most of the lyrics are dark jokes that are funny to me. I don’t want to say a lot. When I do, it’s primarily just criticism. It comes out of either two places, which I think is either that nostalgia for being young, in which your emotional feelings, primarily around love or sex, are so extreme to the point where anything happens and you want to die. A lot of black metal that I like is very anti-Christian or anti-establishment, which seems almost silly to me at this point…
Because it’s such an easy target. No one I know is Christian, except for my mom, but everyone I surrounded myself with is actually into new age bullshit and has read The Secret. That stuff to me is way more absurd.
Maybe it’s dated to make fun of God.
It’s like fighting a fight that doesn’t exist in your immediate life. Fundamental Christianity has a big impact on being in LA in 2015? Not really. I think a lot of hipster bullshit is a more relevant topic. But it’s not like that is ruining my life either.
Mish Way is the lead singer of White Lung. Follow her on Twitter.