Producer/director/performer Joe Gallant is happily continuing the "dirty" tradition of adult films — in the most literal sense of the word. The taglines on his box covers flash like psychedelic neon on an adult arcade storefront: "Nasty ATM... Explosive Enemas... Relentless Filth... Made With Love in NYC."
"It's something I enjoy watching and experiencing and doing," says Gallant, with delighted enthusiasm. He quickly adds, "Look, I don't want to promote any kind of disease or ill health here, but if a girl blows a milk enema across the room, I happen to think it's hot."
Variously referred to in the press as a "smut monger," "porn impresario" and "one weird guy," it's easy to pigeonhole Gallant as The Village Voice did in its 2004 Best of New York issue, listing him as the "best remnant of old Times Square sleaze."
But it's not just about filth. For Gallant, there is a message in the medium. The extreme content and concept-driven films of his Manhattan-based Black Mirror Productions may have limited audience appeal: They are as far from the conventions of mainstream porn as alternative can get. But Gallant dislikes being narrowed by convention.
"It's not shock value," he claims. "If there's any message in Black Mirror, it's that people get messy in real sex, and that's exactly why I don't sanitize my scenes."
To get a broader take on his offbeat erotic vision, it helps to understand the concept of pornography as fine art.
"You know, it's the only art form that causes you to ejaculate and your heart to race and your body chemistry to change," he says. "No other art form can do that; can create that kind of power. I think that people don't quite realize what they have, and I think they could show a little more variety with it. It's a tremendous art form."
With titles like "Times Square Trash," "Manhattan Girls" and "Sleazy NYC Sex," the influence of New York City's gritty urban landscape is central for Gallant. Nostalgia for the 1970s pre-Giuliani, pre-sanitized New York where he grew up still sparks his creativity as an artist.
"From 1975 to 1977, everything happened," Gallant says. "I became immersed in music and sound and exploration."
Gallant, 48, is an established musician and sound technician. A 14-year stint as a sound designer for the daytime soap opera "The Guiding Light" earned him an Emmy Award in 1996.
Working as bassist/bandleader/ composer with his 22-piece orchestra, Illuminati, he has produced several albums, including "Skin" (1990) "Code of the West" (1994), "Blues for Allah" (1996), "Live Vols. 1 & 2" (1997-'98), "Terrapin" (1999) and "Shadowhead" (2001). With influences as diverse as Debussy and Talking Heads, Gallant coined the phrase "chambertronica" to describe some of his music. "Blues" and "Terrapin" are best known for big band arrangements of Grateful Dead classics.
"It's unlikely that I would have become as committed an artist as I am if I had not been initiated into the multi-leveled codes of their music," says Gallant, commenting on the Dead's influence in an interview for Jambands.com. "It's equally unlikely that I would have developed into a restless, searching mind and awestruck spirit if I had not been exposed to their powerful social alchemy."
Gallant began his journey into the world of adult entertainment by checking out live sex shows in the Times Square joints in the 1970s. In a New York club, he met and began a relationship with 1980s adult actress Trinity Loren, which prompted him to switch focus from music to hardcore. He describes Loren's style as "very hot sex combined with a sort of giggly, earthy quality. Just gorgeous." Their affair continued until 1998, when Loren died in her sleep from an accidental prescription drug overdose.
Gallant's various careers were sidelined by a six-year heroin addiction, until he became clean and sober.
"Sobriety took root like a concrete foundation in April 1985, and has been the reason I'm able to accomplish things," he says. "It's the reason there wasn't a memorial service for me."
"I felt like I was given the keys to the kingdom [when I joined forces with VCA/ Hustler] — to actually get a budget and start writing scripts and creating films. I did some really good ones for them."
After producing three films out of a nine-film contract ("Contract Girl" [originally a Black Mirror production, purchased and distributed by VCA], "Ultra Vixens NYC" and "Killing Courtney Luv" — Gallant then opted out, citing corporate politics and creative differences as the cause for his departure. He wasted little time in releasing two Black Mirror features at the time of his resignation.
"Fan Base," Black Mirror's first all-gay production, was shot with a cast of New York City amateurs. "It's really a good movie," he says. "I like it a lot... It was an experiment to add to the Black Mirror catalog."
"Ghost Town," a reality-based feature, includes a cast of Los Angeles pro talent and fresh amateur faces from New York. The premise: What would happen if a bunch of porn stars lived together for a summer?
The talent featured in "Ghost Town"? "Olivia Saint, Sharon Wild, Aria Noir, Montana Gunn, Dino Bravo and a new girl from New York named Daphne Parker," Gallant says. "The movie has got a lightheartedness to it. There are no body functions. It's just a really sweet movie, and it's so clean that IVD distributed it, and that's a first."
By the end of the year, he'll be finished with Black Mirror's latest project, "Atomic Skullfuck Orgy," described as a post-modern allegory based on the Patty Hearst kidnapping.
Gallant has other projects in mind as well. "I want to do four half-hour Super 8 silent porn films, each with a separate chamber score. I'd like to take that to Berlin where there's an arts festival in the spring."
Another album with Illuminati also is a possibility. And if New York has been his evil Eden, he's craving the bite of a different apple these days. "I feel like the perfect life for me would be to shoot in San Francisco and New York," Gallant says. "So, I'm just trying to figure out how to make things work on both coasts."
Gallant bristles at the current political climate and the concerns over looming 2257 regulations and a federal obscenity task force. "It isn't about eliminating underage porn, it's about prosecutions... it borders on fascism," he gripes.
In terms of artistic expression, Gallant likes fighting filthy-dirty. "I really believe that true pornography, particularly amateur pornography, is the last rebel outpost in society," he says. "I intend to create a body of visual work that's brimming over with electricity, heat and joyous release."