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Vampiro & Michael Paszt Interview: Conformity, being a father, and ‘Nail in the Coffin’

An interview with the Lucha icon.

Vampiro has left his mark on the wrestling business wherever he has gone. From the legendary status he rose to in Mexico to his memorable stint in WCW, Vamp became a world wide star during his career. After his in ring career came to a close, he became a color commentator and has worked backstage at major wrestling events. At Fantastic Fest, the man who once lit Sting on fire spoke with AIPT about his wrestling career and Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of Vampiro.


AIPT: When you got started in wrestling, did you think you would leave such a mark on it?

Vampiro: I knew I was destined for something. I remember the moment I was watching TV and it was the Rolling Stones from the 60’s, it was a documentary about the pre-British invasion. It was one of the things that changed my life. They were singing “Around And Around”, a Chuck Berry song, and the girls were going insane. And it was just a clip of them, and I remember seeing that and I knew that that was my destiny, to be in front of people and make them go crazy. I think I was eight years old when I saw that, but I knew that I was going to be an entertainer and I was going to make a difference. How, I didn’t know.

So when I became a wrestler, my mission was never to be a good wrestler. My mission was to make an explosion, a cultural explosion with fashion, with look, with attitude. My heroes were Iggy Pop and Evel Knievel. I had nothing to do with wrestling. And I wanted to do that, I wanted to be that guy, like Evel Knievel, jumping over Caesar’s Palace with no safety net. I wanted to be that in wrestling.

AIPT: Michael, what was your inspiration behind doing a documentary on Vampiro?

Michael: Well, we’ve known each other on and off over the years. I originally, before I was into film, I was living in Mexico City, about 20 years ago, I was a reporter for a Mexican Lucha magazine. They wanted an international correspondent to tell stories and I ended up doing that, and I got to meet a lot of people. And that’s where I originally connected with Ian. And then we lost contact, and then years later we bumped into each other in Toronto, and he was doing the same thing, still doing Lucha and whatnot,  but, “what are you doing in Toronto?” And he’s like, well, I’m commuting. I’m actually living in Thunder Bay and I’m flying to Mexico City. And he did it every single week.

And I was just blown away by that. I said, this is amazing. And then we started talking with ideas from there and it’s a sort of, that’s where we’re like, “Okay, well we got to document this story.” And for me what was most interesting was the core of it was single dad trying to raise his daughter, and he’s going to do it anyway he can. And if he’s living in Thunder Bay and he’s got to fly to Mexico City on Thursday to go and do work and do all that and come back Sunday night, make lunch for her in the morning, to go to school. Just like we all do, right? And that’s what he’s doing. So at the end of the day it was like, that’s the story and we all have that story. Right? And Lucha and all that is the back story that’s around it, right?

AIPT: And as the subject of the documentary, you might have a different opinion of it. How would you describe Nail in the Coffin?

Vampiro: I can’t. I don’t know how to because, like he said, the movie didn’t stop and then I went on to do something else. I saw exactly what you saw, that’s the way it is. So I feel like he did an amazing job telling the story because I wouldn’t have told that story. I don’t know how to tell it. I would have told a different story. But he saw something that I didn’t see and I’ve been trying to say it, this is all for my daughter. And it didn’t matter about the music, it didn’t matter about the other fame, it didn’t matter about this, that the other thing. He said that’s… The story is you and your daughter.

I didn’t understand it, but I get it. So I said, don’t ask me, don’t show me, don’t tell me. You just turn the camera on and then whatever you do with it is fine with me. So yesterday was the first time I saw it. It was an education for me because I saw how other people see me for the first time. So it was intimidating, sure. Scary.

AIPT: You mentioned The Rolling Stones, you mentioned Iggy Pop. Music always been a big part of your career. What do you think of today’s music?

Vampiro: I think that music was the first language in human race. It was the first form of communication. What it did for me culturally, education-wise, choosing my path in life was a commitment. It wasn’t just listening to songs, it was getting tattoos. It was quitting school. It was wearing a leather jacket. It was getting in fights, it was getting beaten up for being a punk-rocker. It was going on the road, learning how to be a musician, because I believed in the movement. So it wasn’t just a music group or song that influenced me. It was a commitment to a lifestyle.

So I’m sure this generation… Just like in my generation, Nicki Minaj, well that was Madonna. It wasn’t my thing then, it’s not my thing now, but it means something to somebody. And as long as an artist doesn’t become bigger than the mission, then I will support that artist. I believe the best thing to do now is see older bands, hardcore bands, metal bands that weathered the storm, to see them live because you’re going to get a better education. The stuff that’s out there now that means things to my daughter, I don’t understand it. But I see what it does to her and if she’s getting the message, then the messenger is doing his job. Does that make sense?

AIPT: That makes complete sense. And in the documentary you mentioned the worst drug is believing the hype. So, yeah. That does make a lot of sense. You’ve both mentioned Dasha. How early on did you plan on including her in the documentary?

Vampiro: I think it kind of happened by accident, right? I think we found the story about halfway through.

Michael: I think with her, she was always there, so at some point or another it was just sort of like, okay well-

Vampiro (looks at phone): Like this, “Who’s he texting?” My daughter.

Michael: I knew that he was single dad, he was raising her, and so we were like, well at some point we would like to, you know? But is she open to it? And then what happened was, is that she came to an event. And then we met at this event, and we just started talking and then she just kind of… And we weren’t even filming her, we just had this great conversation. And then it was just sort of like, that’s it.

And then he was in, because what happened during, what sparked that, and you’ve got to remember now, there was an event going on. The room, the place was packed. And she had a brand new camera, it was in this bag, brand new camera. And she lost it, it got… it disappeared. And Ian stopped the whole event, got in the ring and said, “My daughter’s lost her camera. Lost the camera bag. Everybody find this camera.” And then everybody, the whole building started looking for the camera, and they found it. They found the bag and it got put somewhere and they passed it up. And I was like, that’s… He stopped the whole show, for this moment. And I was like, “Man, that’s it.” We didn’t film it. I wish we had.

Vampiro: I forgot about that.

Michael: It was like what you’re saying about when he takes the call in the documentary, when he’s doing the conference call?

AIPT: Right.

Michael: That’s him all the time. You know what I mean? So it was like, it was just a natural evolution for her to be part of the documentary.

Vampiro: I remember. Yeah, I forgot about that. That’s power.

Not a power of Vampiro. That’s the tone of voice, “That’s my daughter’s camera. Give it back.” So the message is, it’s not Vampiro asking you a favor. That’s Vampiro’s daughter’s camera. I don’t give a f--k what’s going on right now. Get me that camera back. And the loyalty, because of what I’ve given to the fans. When I ask for something, which is never, the loyalty, because of my commitment to them, that’s what that moment was, and that’s power.

AIPT:  You are a very emotional person, yet you also possess a calmness. How are you able to balance the two?

Vampiro: I’ve learned, from being around, for example, with Michael. And one of the things, I’m a visual learner, so I’ve learned because I was a wrestler, so I know that our mindset is limited. When you’re dealing with creative people, you have to understand that you can’t go in there confrontational. You have to understand that you’re just going to take punches here and you’ve got to figure out a way to bob and weave and reword things so that that person who is in a moment of conflict will understand that you’re on their side.

So it’s an art. It’s not a technique. There is no solution. It’s just like the experience of going to war. It’s like, “If you don’t pull your gun out now and start shooting, you’re going to end up dead.” It’s an extreme example, but it’s like I’m telling you because I’ve been at war for 30 years and this is your first day on the battlefield, “Son, I need you to trust me.” “But I’m on, this is happening.” “I understand. Take your gun out and shoot. Because if you don’t, this isn’t going to go on. This is happening now.”

So you have to understand, you’ve got to be sensitive, you got to absorb that, but you’ve got to be strong enough in your character that they will listen to your voice and look in your eyes and believe that you’re going to guide them. How that happens. There’s really not a formula, I believe it’s just, you’ve had to have walked through the fire.

AIPT: And Michael, a few people mentioned that it’s sometimes very difficult to work with you. Did you have any difficulty working with Vampiro?

Michael: Let me think here. I mean, over the course of three years, no. No, not really. I mean there’s, there’s a couple… I think the only couple of moments of ours, just when I’m trying to explain some of my ideas or thoughts and that sort of stuff. And that’s just creative discussion. So I never do, I never had any of that sort of… Again, my job is just to be a watcher and I just don’t get involved in anything like that. I let the events unfold as they are and I’m just, you know-

Vampiro: Who said I’m difficult?

AIPT: Some people mention how your emotions sometimes get the better of you. During the documentary, there is a scene where you make it a point to apologize to fans and people that you may have offended when you were younger.

Vampiro: Yeah. But that’s two different things. Yeah. I mean, when you’re 22 years old and you come from living under a car and then all of a sudden you’re a god, it does things to your ego. So when you’re young and foolish, you make mistakes and you offend people. That’s one thing. So yes, I apologized.

Being difficult to work with I think it can be interpreted as, I’m an intense guy. And I know what needs to be done. And if I take the decision, there’s no other way. It’s my way, because I know. Don’t argue with me, because it’s just not going to happen. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’ve been Vampiro for almost 40 years and I’ve been on top everywhere. No matter how hard I’ve tried to been held down, because I’m driven and I believe.

So, is that difficult for lazier people who aren’t this committed? Yes. Does it offend people because of my intensity? Yeah. When I throw the TV monitor and I scream and I grab people and I just, “You stupid m----------r.” There’s a reason for it. It’s not because I’m a dick. It’s because you’re doing it wrong and I am not going to fail because you’re not understanding it. You’re either going to do it or you’re not. So, that does rub people the wrong way. Yes, of course. But I’m successful for a reason and I am not going to change. I mean when I was 21 years old and I was dating six girls at a time, yeah, I broke hearts. I was a dick. That’s different.

Michael: I want to comment on that. I think the big thing is that when you’re an intense personality, right? You have to remember that there are five or six other people in that room who are all the same thing. They’re all like that. So Jeff Jarrett, I mean that guy’s ego is like bigger than a house, right? You get him and everybody. So what happens is is that there’s this sort of thing that kind of goes on, right? And there’s backstage politics, and there’s all these sort of things. And once someone is trying to get at one or another and this and that, and when you’re running the show, you have to be like that.

And that’s why companies like WWE and things like that, they’re so, they have their ways and they’re like, “Just do it, shut up and all that, or not.” Otherwise, when you get too many cooks in the kitchen, it all falls apart. And that’s a big thing that happens. So you have to have people like Ian who take charge and say, “Guys, you’ve got to just fall in line.” You know, that sort of thing that you have to, otherwise this could fall apart.

And they don’t like it. And a lot of them don’t like it. And then when he’s barking at them and they got this ego, and they’re like, “Oh my God.” Right? And then of course you get all the chatter on the internet and this and that, and the trolls who have no idea what goes on in backscene, and half the time it’s all spin anyways. Right?

AIPT: That’s true, the internet made things a lot more difficult than it used to be. So, Dasha’s as much of a star as you are in this. Do you sometimes see parallels between you and her, and if you do, does it scare you?

Vampiro: I see a lot of parallels. It doesn’t scare me at all. I’m relieved, because she’s sensitive, she’s emotional, she’s grounded spiritually, morally. She’s curious and she’s willing to take chances, sacrifice. And she understands suffering and she understands how to overcome suffering. So I know she’s going to be okay.

AIPT:  What does the future holds for Vampiro?

Vampiro: I don’t know. I’m definitely not going to stop being Vampiro. Every time I’ve tried to stop and conform and find another outlet and do something different, my world falls apart. The more that I stay in the chaos, I play hardcore, I’m involved in wrestling, I produce, I write, I be Vampiro, my life is awesome.

AIPT: Where can people see Nail in the Coffin?

Michael: We hope to play, so we’re going to be playing some more festivals. We’re going to do the festival circuit first. And then we’re seeking US distribution, and hopefully from there it’ll find its way up to the audience.

Vampiro: If not, I’ll bootleg it and put it on Facebook.

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