bryan demory is certainly the biggest, baddest-looking krampus i think we’ve ever had at krampuslauf philadelphia. he has been coming since 2012, all the way from virginia (and yes! even in the blizzard of ’13)! he handcrafts his costumes and incorporates authentic components from europe as well (like the thirty-pound hairy krampus suit that is now out of rotation, but which i hope to see again someday).
bryan talks in this installment with tom coombe (aka “ow tow” to béla and claudia, ie “uncle tom”). they THOUGHT they were recording their conversation a few days ago but technology got the better of them, so they did it again! (that’s why you will hear tom refer to “the last time” they talked at the beginning of the interview.)
a virginia accent and laugh are a marvelous thing, i have come to learn.
listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.
TC: This is Tom Coombe. And, I thought we’d get started. I think the first question I asked last time (when it didn’t record – ed.) was how you had heard about Krampus in the first place?
BD: Okay. Yeah, I had a friend who had actually been to a Krampus parade in Bertchesgarten, in Germany. And he had bought a suit, and mask, from Austria. And it wouldn’t fit him, so he basically he handed it to me. And that was about the beginning of it. That was about to six to eight years ago, I think?
TC: When did you start actually wearing that suit out in public?
BD: Oh, right after he gave it to me.
TC: But that’s not the suit you wear now when you go to events, right?
BD: No, this was the big white furry one, that was real mountain goat, and after a couple years of wearing it I guess the salt in my sweat has eaten up some of the leather inside. So, I repaired it once, and then I kinda retired it. So what I wear now is something that I built.
TC: Talk a little bit more about that, if you don’t mind.
BD: Basically I take synthetic and real hair, that you can buy in hair stylist’s places, and I sew them in strands on a vest. This way it avoids the leather and having to treat the leather, and the problems leather can cause, which, body heat and sweat – I wanted to avoid that, and I basically made – I took an under-armor shirt, and applied this stuff called Dragon Skin, that is like a silicone base, and that looks like skin once it solidifies; and it’s kind of a rubbery thing. So my arms look bare, but they’re actually under the shirt. And I made leather cuffs, I wear leather pants, I made these big leggings to cover my legs, and I have little curly-toed, they look like elf-boots, but they’re quite sinister – and I have, you know, the belt with many bells, and children’s shoes, and things like that hanging from it.
TC: How long does it take to put the whole thing together?
BD: It’s kinda hard to say because I keep adding and taking away. The mask itself – that takes about three months to put those together. From just getting the supplies and the horns to the – my mask also has real boar tusks in it, and horse hair, so you gotta get all the stuff in, and then you gotta do all the digging. And carving. And since I’ve had it I’ve carved different designs on the forehead, I’ve added a very long goatee to it, so it’s something that’s always changing as well. You constantly add and take away. So… years? (laughs)
TC: Is making costumes for events, this kind of event, is that something that you had been doing before?
BD: No, and it’s kind of a great way to get into creativity in other things. I come from a long line of artists, and it’s not just drawing and painting, it’s – if I’m not building something with my hands – I told someone the other day, if I’m not working with my hands, I’m dangerous. (laughs) For about a week I’ve been working on a suit of leather armor, that I’ve made for myself, and it’s really served no general purpose other than to keep from being bored.
TC: Do you ever anticipate wearing it out anywhere?
BD: Yeah, maybe… you never know. If I take the Krampus mask off, I look like a barbarian, ‘cause I have this big beard now. So I thought, well, why not build this big barbarian outfit, and that’s what got me into building this chest armor piece out of, like, twenty pieces of leather. It’s been fun.
TC: Did you know about Krampus before your friend had given you the suit?
BD: I had no idea! My mother’s from the Alps, and she never mentioned it, but she suffered under it! And after I told her about it, she: “Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” And I think she’s like, some things, you know, I guess the beatings she got, she wanted to leave in the past! (laughs) I don’t know.
TC: When you say, “She suffered under it,” do you mean that she was threatened with Krampus as a child?
BD: Yeah. Most people around her age, and I’ve known several Austrians that say the same thing, that they all – if they’re from that mountainous area, they all know what Krampus is, and you know, he has different names in different regions, I talked to a guy from Serbia the other day, and he even called it Krampus, so that was interesting. Yeah, I’ve talked to many, more, older Austrian people, and they’ll definitely tell you they know what Krampus is.
TC: Knowing that about Krampus, do you feel like there’s a burden on you to portray the character with some sort of respect?
BD: Yeah, I guess. To me it’s – I like the traditional stuff, I like the wooden masks, I like the use of that, and to study it a little bit, you know, because you get some interpretations, you don’t know, okay, this guy says this, that group says this, you know, it gets confusing, so – you grab what you like the best, and you run with it, and I’m not a leading authority on it, by any means! It’s just about dressing up. But it’s just a lot of fun. I’m one of the guys who likes to dress up. I don’t cosplay, but I do Krampus.
TC: You said that you had been to the Philadelphia Krampuslauf, and the one in Richmond as well. What is it about Philadelphia that’s kept you coming back?
BD: It’s good people, it’s fun people, you know – I only see them on Facebook here and there, so I get to see them in person, and see each year the new creativity and new things that people come up with – it’s just a good atmosphere. You have the nice walk, and then you have the fire dancers and stuff like that, so it’s just a fun thing to be involved in, and there are cookies, there’s a fire, there’s just friendly faces – you know, it’s real brief, but you know, it’s a good time. And it’s dark, so you don’t really get to see everybody, every time. So each time, you might see somebody different.
TC: I kinda feel like the briefness of it, and the fact that it’s not a huge “event”, even though a lot of people have come to it, is part of it’s charm.
BD: Yeah, I agree as well, I mean – you don’t want something to get too big. Same reason that I like to go see bands in small clubs. You know, it’s more intimate. The bigger it is, the less you see the people you wanna see… it’s small enough, it’s good enough, and, you know, more people come every year, but I like it the way it is. It’s perfect.
TC: I’ve never gotten the sense that this is something that’s gotten “too big” or gotten out of control, or has been commodified —
BD: Right right. Yeah, I agree totally. It gets frustrating because when you realize the true whole thing about him (Krampus) is – he’s not a cool dude you wanna hang out with, you know. He has one purpose, and one purpose only. So – I laugh when they make guitar effects and beers about him – you know, that’s a bad way for him to get famous, is on beer, or guitar effects… he’s gaining popularity, I watched the History Channel the other day and they had this… horrible… rendition of him, but at least they mentioned him and stuff. You know there’s people partnering him with Santa Claus, and that upsets me, because they’re totally disregarding St. Nicholas, and, you know, the American way, let’s take something and bastardize it and mess it up a little bit… yeah, it’s frustrating, but you know, there’s nothing you can do about it.
TC: It’s upsetting to see him partnerered with St. Nicholas, or to see him separated?
BD: I see him partnered with Santa Claus. The Americans are always partnering – all, the “anti-Santa”… he has nothing to do with Santa Claus. The only thing I can tell people is “Hey, stop putting Santa Claus and Krampus in the same sentence.”
TC: With that in mind, I was wondering if you’ve seen the trailer for the… I guess there’s gonna be two Krampus movies.
BD: Yeah, and, you know, I got mixed feelings about it, you know, it looks fun, and like I said, you just wonder, how they’re gonna make it… I’ll go see it before I see other movies. It’s just gonna be interesting to see, and it’s gonna open the door for more people to figure out what he is… at least they’re using him like a bad guy, like he’s supposed to be.
TC: I think if Krampus was solving crimes or things like that, it would probably take away from the character.
BD: I’ve even seen him as a bad guy on “Scooby-Doo”, so, there you go. He’s gaining popularity.
TC: I think he’s definitely arrived, yeah. Bryan, thank you again.
BD: No problem!
TC: And again, I look forward to meeting you in person someday. (How did you MISS him? – ed.)
BD: Yeah, well, just look for the glowing eyes, there’ll be two of us this year, so come up and say hi.
TC: I will. Thank you again.
BD: Thank you!!