MONSTER INTERVIEW: Dave Tompkins talks to GODZILLA (Arthur, 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 10 (May 2004). Illustration by Brian Ralph…

“I COULD USE SOME FLIP-FLOPS”: What if Godzilla was one of us? A slightly testy King of Monsters reflects on his long career in this exclusive interview with Dave Tompkins

Known for his bad sense of direction, Godzilla “King of the Monsters” was recently spotted lumbering around Long Island, insisting to bewildered local officials that he was on “Monster Island” and asking where the hell was Rodan and in general making a big mess. Apparently, the Kaji Eigu legend hadn’t been notified that local mecha-faced rapper MF Doom had transferred the title of God’s former stomping ground to a New York suburb known for its tasteful lawn furniture, cracked toenail polish and a crew of rappers called “the Monster Island Czars.” Confused but flattered, Godzilla was in good spirits when Arthur correspondent Dave Tompkins found him resting comfortably in an orange floral lounger, popping beta capsules in Doom’s backyard. After an unprecedented 50 years in the monster game, Godzilla is happy to finally retire—though he’d still suit-up at a moment’s roar. Under a bruised sky, the bomb-born icon reflected on his career, quoted Public Enemy and marveled at how he nearly had his ass whooped by a moth…

ARTHUR: Godziller, wake up.

Godzilla: I dreamt I was a 400-foot tall black guy having sex with a volcano.

ARTHUR: That was the Dave Chappelle Show…

Godzilla: He was Blackzilla and the volcano was a very active Mount Fuji. My name is everywhere… from Yankees pitchers to Parliament bass players. I can’t be mad at that.

ARTHUR: Paul Hogan spoofed you too.

Godzilla: An atomic drunk Australian in flip-flops, crumpling Foster cans…

ARTHUR: Booming burps upon the people—

Godzilla: If you’re that large you don’t burp, you eructate.

ARTHUR: If you wear flip-flops, you burp.

Godzilla: I could use some flip-flops. I’ve been walking all over towns for half a century and my gods are barking.

ARTHUR: The same gods that squashed Bambi in Godzilla Vs Bambi.

Godzilla: Whambi. And just like that, I’m wearing fawn flops.

ARTHUR: But that didn’t really happen.

Godzilla: Of course not, it was animated.

ARTHUR: Have the documentaries been accurate?

Godzilla: Not really. That heap of bones at the end of the first one Inoshiro Honda did in 1954 wasn’t me. And if Dr Serizawa deoxidized the ocean, we’d be shit out of fish. At least he immolated himself so his invention couldn’t be inflicted on humans. Nice touch. Japanese version only.

ARTHUR: The US version woke you with a Hydrogen bomb instead of the A-bomb.

Godzilla: The Americans splice in Perry Mason and the Japanese splice ‘em out. Japanese version wasn’t intended to be anti-American, just anti-nuclear. What destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki merely got me out of bed. Something’s really wrong with that. I’m a constant reminder of one of history’s darkest moments. Talk about guilt. I have a military industrial god complex. It’s confusing. I could be defending Tokyo and the next thing I know they’re popping peashooters. Bullets sting like sweat bees and my feelings get hurt. Then I find it was the Americans who initiated the atomic testing. They woke me up. Like that Pharoah Monche song that says “Get the fuck up!”

ARTHUR: Right, “Simon Says,” the one that sampled your theme music.

Godzilla: Monsters would kill for a horn section like that. That’s Akira Ifukube. Dun-dun-dun-dun! How could I not tromp Tokyo?

ARTHUR: And The Roar. Sounds like two rusty frigates slow dancing.

Godzilla: Again, Ifukube. Rubbing a resin-coated leather glove against a contra-bass. It’s on the Godzilla Alarm clock.

ARTHUR: So you woke up and started swinging at Japan.

Godzilla: Japan was convenient. It was instinctive and I was groggy. Grogzilla. Can you be instinctive and groggy?

ARTHUR: A groggy man’s instinct is to not look where he’s walking.

Godzilla: See? And they woke me up.

ARTHUR: To meet your metaphor.

Godzilla: To mash my makers.

ARTHUR: They made you a star.

Godzilla: Loved, feared, merchandised. Maybe I helped Japan economically avenge itself. But they didn’t need me to crush GM. There’s a Nissan named after me now, 1000 BHP. I’ll step on it. And where do you watch me crush Tokyo? On your Sony Trinitron.

ARTHUR: Japan is very forgiving of you.

Godzilla: I’ll never be able to set foot in some towns again.

ARTHUR: Like the island of Odo?

Godzilla: (Snort) I feel bad about that. I had no idea where I was. My head was in a atomic fungus cloud. I was looking for the island from Attack Of The Mushroom People. Imagine taking a global economic power while on toadstools. That would’ve really tinkered my perspective.

ARTHUR: Now kids can be giants and stomp their Godzilla models.

Godzilla: The tables turn.

ARTHUR: Suckers burn to learn.

Godzilla: They can’t disable the power of my fable.

ARTHUR: The Godzilla legend lives on eBay and DVD.

Godzilla: Use your Godzilla Calculator to add up all the damage. Estimated 6 trillion yen just in Godzilla 1985 alone.

ARTHUR: Too bad the movie didn’t rake in—

Godzilla: Watch it!

ARTHUR: I haven’t…

Godzilla: Next question.

ARTHUR: You’ve been lionized by the very culture you destroy.

Godzilla: I’m king of the beasts. At least I’ve defended the world from Ghidra– the three headed garden hose gone wild.

ARTHUR: And Monster Zero.

Godzilla: Who’s got zilch on me.

ARTHUR: Godzilla’s got jokes for the folks.

Godzilla: You’ve got to when the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center is funding all this Mecha-mitsubullshit. And I get blamed for every oversized space cricket that craps in a crater. I wasn’t the one who defrosted that giant grasshopper in the arctic.

ARTHUR: That was a mantis.

Godzilla: That’s the thing—

ARTHUR: No, mantis—

Godzilla: No the thing is—

ARTHUR: Mothra!

Godzilla: The Godzilla Vs The Thing thing?

ARTHUR: That’s the Thing before the Thing.

Godzilla: Before the winged Thing.

ARTHUR: Ding!

Godzilla: James Arness was the first Thing…

ARTHUR: That’s my Thing—

Godzilla: The Thing From Another World.

ARTHUR: …thawed from a block of ice—

Godzilla: Like the giant locust. One man’s plague of bad movies is another’s childhood. Every A-Bomb boob in a monkey suit is chin-checking for me.

ARTHUR: You still talk to Kong?

Godzilla: Sometimes. We’re cool with each other. It’s kind of like professional wrestling. Minus the bad hair and fake moves. But I don’t think Kong should get back in the ring. Reminds me of when OJ played for the 49ers with his shot-up knees. Kong and I’ve had great seasons but—my knees are in a bad interarticular space right now. Low on elastoviscosity.

ARTHUR: Kong kicked your tail huh?

Godzilla: Kong grabbed my tail and threw me across Tokyo.

ARTHUR: Helicopter spin!

Godzilla: Sometimes it doesn’t pay to have a tail.

ARTHUR: Kong doesn’t have a tail.

Godzilla: Kong is paid.

ARTHUR: So it ended in a draw.

Godzilla: It ended in the ocean.

ARTHUR: And Kong won.

Godzilla: If you buy the American version.

ARTHUR: In the Japanese version, Kong surfaces in the water but we hear you roar.

Godzilla: Hear me roar!

ARTHUR: Did Kong roar?

Godzilla: Kong didn’t have the pipes.

ARTHUR: What started the beef between you and Kong anyway?

Godzilla: It started when Kong clobbered that Tyrannosaurus at Skull Island back in ’33. That Rex was my prototype, minus the isotopes. Kong was salty that I was labeled “King of the Monsters” without being tested.

ARTHUR: But you were atomically tested.

Godzilla: Still, Kong wasn’t trying to share his crown when he thought he could whoop Leroy Brown’s junkyard dog’s ass.

ARTHUR: So it was a title thing. Tohos before bros.

Godzilla: Also, I’m Gojira—Japanese for gorilla. So I’m Gorilla, King of the Monsters. That’s funny. That really enriches my uranium. What a Donkey Kong dumbass. Actually I’m supposed to be this monkey whale combo.

ARTHUR: And you don’t see Orca bitching about that.

Godzilla: Because Orca’s dead.

ARTHUR: My bad.

Godzilla: So, you have Kong, Malay god of Skull Island, billed against Me, the Manhattan Projectile Ray Leonard. Still, Kong taught me a lot. That flying drop-kick I used on Megalon? All Kong. Nothing mamby Bambi about that. And Kong learned it from Willis O’ Brien, the great stop motion animator. In addition to being the genius who mentored Ray Harryhausen, Obie liked boxing and billed Kong as this pugilist.

ARTHUR: Who had a problem with dinosaurs.

Godzilla: Maybe it was a mammal-reptile thing. I always resented being tagged a mutant dinosaur. Dinosaurs are stigmatized as old folks, broken down bulldozers and purple pills.. It got too cute didn’t it? Gamera…the Flying Turtle. Mothra and the Peanuts Sisters.

ARTHUR: Mothra was female, good-natured and wasn’t played by a guy in a rubber suit.

Godzilla: It’s beHEmoth, not beSHEmoth.

ARTHUR: Dude, it’s not 1954 any more.

Godzilla: But fighting a moth?!?

ARTHUR: Her larva silked you up and you fell off.

Godzilla: I fell off a cliff. Talk about bad threads…. I was impressed with Mothra as a caterpillar–in a Monster That Challenged the World kind of way. But they should’ve hired the amazing Mooncalf from First Men in the Moon. Now there’s a caterpillar!

ARTHUR: Yeah Mothra never really scared me. Neither did Kong for that matter.

Godzilla: Don’t let Kong hear you say that. Monsters with good resumes are chomping for a comeback. Remember how Gorgo took London. The Ymir took Rome. Reptilicus took Stockholm.

ARTHUR: Sweden had a monster problem?

Godzilla: Reach out of the darkness, son. Who didn’t have a monster problem back than? The atom ants of Arizona? The big-ass rabbits in New Mexico?

ARTHUR: I’m surprised the gnat wasn’t supersized.

Godzilla: Gnatmare on Elm Street, Gnat of the Hunter, The Gnat That Saved Pittsburgh. Then there’s the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms! The Rhedosaurus.

ARTHUR: They say he died like an opera singer when he got electrocuted by that roller coaster.

Godzilla: Yeah, that was sad. At least he took his lonely monster blues out on Manhattan. The Muppets had an easier time taking Manhattan. Or Gork.

ARTHUR: Gork?

Godzilla: Gork Eats New York And Gets A Thank You Note From President Ford.

ARTHUR: But Fred G. Sanford fabricated that one.

Godzilla: Another example of my influence.

ARTHUR: Do you have credibility issues because you’ve always been played by a guy in a rubber suit?

Godzilla: I’ve got incrediblity, son. I never had the discipline for stop-motion animation. I got into modeling for the glue. And CGI may be fancy but the rubber “suitimation” get-up has the charm. I’m analog like Yog.

ARTHUR: You needed more than a rubber suit for Hedora, the smog monster.

Godzilla: Here comes the sludge! That guy was a mess, a real chudsucker. How do you shog a 400 foot industrial wasteoid who can turn into a Frisbee that spits acidic mud?

ARTHUR: Mule Team Borax?

Godzilla: Hedorah came from tadpoles hitching a ride on a contaminated meteor. This was ’71.. just after the Chisso Corporation finally started compensating victims for dumping nearly 70 tons of Mercury acetaldehyde in the Minamata Bay—especially during WW2. While Chisso’s plastic production was booming, they were poisoning people and fish. Not that I’m Mr. Save The Whales. I breathe radiation for crying out loud!

ARTHUR: What are your concerns raising a son in a world that’s gone in the ecological shitter?

Godzilla: Crappy movies, SARS and the fact that a lot of warheads aren’t screwed on too tight. We all might need rubber suits soon. Thawing giant grasshoppers is one thing. But unfreezing nuclear weapons program… I guess no one listened to me.

ARTHUR: Or Bulgasari.

Godzilla: “The North Korean Godzilla.” A leftwing revolutionary DMZilla from 1985–but backed by Kim Sung-II. He gave the director (Shinn Sang-okk) suggestions on how Bulgasari should look. His name means “starfish” so dude needed help. They imported my personal image consultants from Japan and monstered him up.

ARTHUR: Bulgasari was the people’s monster with a strong anti-nuclear stance.

Godzilla: The government wanted to convert confiscated farm tools into weapons—to stomp a peasant revolution. But Bulgasari ate all the metal. And Kim Sung-II endorsed this! And now his son antes his arsenal while his people starve. Talk about irony.

ARTHUR: While you were flossing your teeth with Tokyo’s bullet train.

Godzilla: (Sigh) Talk about stupidity.

ARTHUR: Talk about Man.

Godzilla: Nukes, biohazards, genetic engineering—how does that old song go? The message is the monster. You know it’s time to hang up the contrabass when they’re using your own DNA against you.

ARTHUR: Godzilla Cells! Spliced with a rose bush haunted by a mad scientists’ dead daughter and…

Godzilla: Voila! “Bioallante!” A plant named after an enviro-friendly Cadillac.

ARTHUR: Greenhouse in effect! Your biggest opponent.

Godzilla: The greenest but not the meanest.

ARTHUR: Speaking of asexuality, there’ve been questions about gender ambiguity. Does your son sometimes feel like a motherless child?

Godzilla: Hmph.

ARTHUR: Struck a nerve?

Godzilla: More like a plothole.

ARTHUR: Your son helped slay Ghidra in Destroy All Monsters. That must be a special memory.

Godzilla: But Monster Island wasn’t too happening. It wasn’t like we were dancing around singing “I Scrumble For Ya.” You know that movie was also called Godzilla’s Electric Battle Masterpiece. Destroy All Monsters is a cultural battle cry. Take a look around. I’m the least of your worries. Like the Twilight Zone guy with the eyebrows once said: “The monsters are on Maple Syrup.”

ARTHUR: That’s Maple Street.

Godzilla: That’s splat. Flat as a Bambi pancake.

ARTHUR: Please stop.

Godzilla: Did you just call me Godziller?

Categories: Arthur No. 10 (May 2004), Dave Tompkins | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in Tucson, Arizona with Stephanie Smith. https://linktr.ee/jaywbabcock

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