By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
"I'm a little burned out," he says. "I want to continue doing this for a long time. It's gotten to the point where I'm paying more attention to the business side of it -- calling all the bands, arranging all of the feature shoots, making sure everything gets taken care of -- and I've lost some of my enthusiasm for the art of it. I always said I would stop if it stopped being fun. For the time being, it kind of has."
And right when Maris the Great was getting good. Vile, disgusting and shocking as it is, maristhegreat.com is a touchstone for the music scene, a community badly in need of some champions. Maris himself has become an indelible fixture at local performances: Several nights a week, he's at the foot of the stage at Herman's Hideaway, Cricket on the Hill, the Soiled Dove or Sportsfield Roxxx, in full costume and making hungry faces at bands. Like maristhegreat.com, his costume is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.
The Web site, in particular, is a well-executed grossout that titillates as it revolts. Most of the content revolves around Maris the Great, a gay, self-aggrandizing, wannabe rock star who has died and subsequently returned from the dead as a zombie. He's the leader of a band known as the Faggots of Death, and fearing the threat posed by talented Denver musicians, he murders all competition. Maris lures the musicians to his realm under the auspices of conducting a straightforward interview; at the conclusion of the interviews, the artists are killed, dismembered, eaten and brutalized. Many become zombies themselves. The site always includes a rolling text of the interview, interspersed with scenes from the band's bloody (and often ingenious) death.
Maristhegreat.com's Celery Girl presents SemiFreak, D.O.R.K. and P-Nuckle
8:30 p.m. Thursday, November 21
Sportsfield Roxxx, $4
Maristhegreat.com reads like a music- and gore-themed online comic book, with Maris starring as a quick-witted, self-deluded anti-hero. It's Wolverine and Dracula meets the Archies and the Pussycats. The feature interviews have varying plot lines and murder scenarios, but a few themes echo: Maris enjoys asking bandmembers about their sex lives as well as their craft, and he somehow manages to get them to reveal very personal information about themselves. As a result, his question-and-answer stories often contain as much dish and insight as they do wee-wee jokes and zombie doctrine. Local artists -- who usually want nothing more than a little bit of recognition -- get to feel like the stars of their own stories, however macabre they might be.
"I think it's become like a rite of passage for bands," says Cricket, who supervises Maris's shoots and takes all of the photos for the site. "It's become a thing that a lot of bands really want to be a part of, because only good bands are picked to be killed."
"Maris's entire premise is to kill bands that are good so that his can be the best. So all in all, it's a good thing to be hunted and stalked by him," says Rachel Simring, leader of local band Rachel's Playpen. "And compared to some of the more serious stalkers and 'fans' who have made their presence known throughout the years, Maris is a pussycat."
Not exactly. Bandmembers who agree to let Maris murder them may not have any real idea of what they've signed on for -- like being wrapped up nude in a sheet of plastic, or tied to a chair for hours while acting out a progressive torture scenario. Maris has consulted with forensics experts to ensure the authenticity of his shots and strives to create real-looking panoramas of gloom and doom. "The forensics people have told me that the only thing that makes it sometimes unrealistic is the amount of blood," he says. "There wouldn't be that much blood in a lot of murders, because the heart stops beating and pumping. But we like the blood."
It's dark stuff that only occasionally mirrors the music of the participating musicians. Although Maris favors heavy-metal bands from the extreme fringe of the Denver scene, past victims have also included singer-songwriter Mary Beth Abella, who ate her husband alive in the shower after becoming a ghoul; pop-rock band Rubber Planet, whose members gorged on bandleader Brice Hancock's intestines; and multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Eric Shiveley, who was thrown off a building.
"I've always just had this idea that heavy-metal bands are going to really get into the blood-and-guts part of it," Maris says. "But actually, they tend to be the most squeamish. The times that I've worked with artists that I might not have expected to be so much fun, I found that they were up for anything, which is a dream for me.
"While we were working on Eric's feature, we had him on the ground all bloody like he'd just splatted on the road," he says of the Shiveley shoot. "All of a sudden, we hear these fire trucks and sirens. I held out my hand and said, 'It's not real!' They jumped out and pushed past me and started getting out all of their equipment. Once they figured out what was going on, they were really impressed at the job we'd done. They were taking pictures. I asked them, 'So, is this really how it looks?' And they shook their heads yes and kind of shuddered. That was a very proud moment for me. It was like winning a Grammy."