“THE EL DUCE TAPES”— Behind the Singer


Behind the Singer

Amos Lassen

 Filmmaker Ryan Sexton took his camcorder into some of the seediest clubs and the filthiest apartments in Hollywood in the 1990s to film hours of footage of the offensive Shock Rock band The Mentors and their lead singer, El Duce. 

It took 30 years before the long forgotten and unseen footage was found. As it was pieced together a picture of the man under the black executioner’s hood emerged and we can see his offensive acts and controversial views and what they have to say about today’s America.

“The El Duce Tapes is “one of the best music docs to come along in a while. Funny, honest, grotesque and fascinated by a pot-bellied miscreant most would run a mile from, the film is a thought-provoking foray into anti-commercial art and outsider lifestyles.”

Eldon Hoke once made a cameo appearance in Nick Broomfield’s “Kurt & Courtney” and we could tell that he was a strange person. Under the nom de guerre El Duce, he was later killed on a train track. His untimely death was recorded as misadventure.

Directed by Rodney Ascher and David Lawrence,the filmis hinged on the discovery of archive footage. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a young actor, Sexton began recording concerts and interviews with El Duce and The Mentors, on video camera.  The Mentors wrote and performed songs primarily about male sexual dominance. El Duce describes their genre of music as ‘rape rock’. The sang odes to golden showers, with profane lyrics. They became a cult band, with male and female fans coming to their shows in dive bars and clubs. With strange names such as Sickie Wifebeater, El Duce, Dr. Heathen Scum, they performed wearing black executioner’s hoods. The Mentors were crafting transgressive art.

Hoke is seen as an emotionally damaged man headed for self-destruction and behaving badly. Yet beneath the black hood b and provocative statements about women, Hitler and other controversial figures, he was a guy with self-esteem issues that only alcohol could temporarily alleviate. He came from a conservative middle-class background in Seattle, and was a rebellious kid and a man who could not deal with his demons. Hoke had fantasizes about being an American dictator yelling that he would “build a Berlin Wall which is actually a Mexican wall, and not allow any immigrants to sneak into this country.” He called himself an advocate of “The 4F Club, Find her, feel her, fuck her, forget her.”

The film begins with a quote from D.W. Griffith arguing for the freedom of movies to venture into dark areas. Did Hoke really believe the madness he screamed or was it just an attention-grabbing joke. The film suggests that Hoke might be the kind of artist born to outrage and go out of control. It explores the tension between a real person and the mask he wore. Was Hoke an untouchable pariah or “just a manifestation of a widespread culture.”

Near the end ofthe film, Hoke sometimes shares his toxic misogynist, neo-Nazi, barbarian persona and says that he has all kinds of friends including blacks and El Duce recalls high school vandalism like peeing in jars and spilling the contents on radiators, distributing little packages of feces wrapped in foil, and using vomit for whatever. “He was the “Number One Nuisance,” who also became hopelessly alcoholic.”

Steve (Dr. Heathen Scum) Broy tells that Hoke played in a child symphony. He was serious about music, and his fellow musicians were once aspiring jazz fusion musicians. His  transition from jazz to perversion was a “conscious sell-out,” Broy says. 

There are g revelations from Duce and his sister that their father beat them viciously with a paddle. Maybe El Duce’s fascist posturing was more about outraging his father who had created the napalm bombs that maimed, tortured, and murdered in Viet Nam.

Ascher and Lawrence give us a look at the underground music world in the 1990s and what it meant to love sleaze. The first 2o minutes are disgusting— we see El Duce onstage screaming about raping women and hailing Hitler. During interviews he yells, burps, blows raspberries, and chugs plastic bottles of malt liquor while yelling about hate, sex, and alcohol. At first, we think that the film that will just showcase the heinous nature of the band and their lyrics and that would make it impossible to watch but  the documentary begins to transition into a deeper look at the character of El Duce, his desire to create art, and what it meant to pursue that art.

The film does not justify his actions. It tries to understand why someone who was so talented on the drums and loved jazz fusion, entered a world of perversion and used his art was perversion, a way to entertain audiences and speak to them about life, even though it was a life most didn’t want to face. He loved to make people uncomfortable, no matter what it took. Yet, Despite the heinous lyrics and the joking about sexual assault, we get a bit of understanding the methods to his madness.