This Shock-Rock collective of like minded intelligent artists bring the world of film and performance together. Cinematic music with matching stage presence they will bring horror and delight to the masses. Death’s a party and your all invited, DANCE WITH US!
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you each born and where are you now?
Byron: I was born in Owensboro, KY and lived there for most of my childhood. I was a nerdy horror kid that got hooked at pre-school age, watching the late night horror host, Sammy Terry. Hearing my grandma Mildred tell stories of the ghostly history of my dad’s side of the family, and the current mild haunting at the house they lived in when I was a boy. Growing up I rented every horror VHS I could and was always building “haunted houses” with my neighborhood friends. We made spooky cassette tape recordings (some of which appear on the album). In middle school I started reading Lovecraft, Barker, King, and Koontz. This was also when I really got into music, starting with buying the cassettes of the Fright Night, Return of the Living Dead 2, and Shocker soundtracks. Then I discovered Alice Cooper and it was all over. I bought every Cooper tape I could find, rented VHS recordings of his concerts, etc. Looking for more dark music I soon discovered The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Afghan Whigs, and more. I also loved my mom’s tapes of Duran Duran and Billy Idol. In high school I was learning everything I could about film and shooting little horror movies. I also worked in various haunted houses as a monster performer. I also was in my first band as the front man. We played one epic show at a teen club in which we were kicked off the stage for being too vulgar and violent with our theatrics (I smashed a toy Millennium Falcon and said “fuck” a lot (I was 16). I lived in Orlando, FL from the tail end of High School through most of my 20s. In that time I took some college film courses, helped out on movie sets, and made my first feature, the vampire movie NIGHT. I also performed as Jack Torrance and a number of other Hollywood villains at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, Orlando. Those were fun times! While working as a movie theater manager I became friends with Jasyn and Courtney Bangert and through this friendship was brought on as the co-frontman of God Module. I spent 8 years in the band, mostly as a live performer, though I have some vox on the Empath, Viscera, and Let’s Go Dark albums writing some lyrics here and there. We played shows all over the world and I loved every minute! I also had a great time doing all video work for the band. Things changed and I eventually had to go and do my own stuff, but it was truly an honor as well as great adventure. I’ve been in Seattle, WA for the last 10 years and I love it here. While here I’ve directed a number of music videos for bands including Cylab, Endless Sunder, The Break Up, Legion Within, The Labrynth, some short films, and my second feature, The Anatomy of Monsters, now on DVD/VOD. Through all of this I became a close collaborator with my wife Shelly (costume designer for all of the aforementioned music videos, film) and Paul (Cinematographer on the videos and so much more). It worked out really well for us to create this band together.
Paul: I grew up in Alaska, but I have been in Seattle since late 1999.
Shelly: I have lived in the greater Seattle area my whole life. I made my actual escape to the city proper when I was 19 and never looked back.
Tell us the story behind the birth of the band:
Byron: For many years I had this idea of what my band would sound like. I wrote tons of lyrics, had a mountain of ideas, but kept it all on the side. I was busy in the other band along with work and film stuff. A couple of years ago I felt it was time to return to music and performance so I put out the word to a few well regarded musician friends. Paul enthusiastically answered the call. Being that I don’t make music, I approached this as a director. I told Paul my vision of a theatrical shock rock, darkwave type band with a fun, haunted house vibe, retro feel, but still with meaningful emotional content. I gave him a number of bands that I was influenced by, lyrics, song ideas, etc. He took all of that putting his own spin on it and gave me four demo tracks that fucking nailed it! While he had all of the elements I wanted, he also drew upon his own influences which I’m sure he will tell you all about. It was magic and we kept rolling with it. He would send me demos, I’d figure the words and how I wanted to sing them. Paul is also a badass guitarist and performs lead guitar live at our shows, along with his wild, screaming backing vocals. Shelly was classically trained on piano and has a beautiful singing voice so I really wanted her to join the band to play live keys and contribute to the vocals. She gladly did that and so much more, always being a sounding board for what’s working and what needs work. She also wrote her verse in “Another Night” and gave us some great scorching lyrics!
Paul: When Byron put out the call to start a new band he sited a bunch of references to the sound he was looking for. I was aware of some of them (anything from the 80’s) but had to do some research into the others (more recent electronic acts like IAMX). I come from a Punk/Metal background, so it was an exciting musical challenge to try to write material in such a different genre. I started working on four songs to start with, so Byron could get a sense that I wanted this to be a band that wasn’t locked into just one type of song or sound. All four of those original songs are on Monsters for the Masses (“Thirteen Ways to Die”, “Another Night”, “the Dance Macabre” and “Better in Black”) Byron was really into it so I kept working on new songs until we had what we felt was a complete album.
Shelly: Byron is always cooking up fun, crazy ideas. He has a burning passion for performance and one day finally said, “Hey, I’m making a band.” My involvement came naturally. What was he working on? How was the vocal melody going to sound? What if you tried rearranging some of the words in the verse like this? You can really only ask so many of these questions and start singing parts together before you are completely looped in.
Shock Rock, Synthwave and Darkwave are some words fitting to your music, describe your sound in more detail:
Byron: An acquaintance of mine in Germany wrote me the other day. He just listened to the album for the first time all the way through on headphones and noted that he dug the album and that it sounded like it was literally recorded in the 80s, not like it’s trying to sound retro, but like it’s from the past. I loved that! Our sound is like Alice Cooper, a goth Billy Idol, Depeche Mode, 80s synth movie scores had a monster baby! It’s theatrical, emotional, fun. It’s like watching John Carpenter’s Halloween or James Cameron’s Aliens. It’s a wild ride and you’re having a blast but there’s also a real emotional, meaningful journey as well. The lyrics to this album represent my life so far from monster kid, to endlessly enthusiastic, eternally optimistic graveyard loving horror person I am today.
Paul: I wanted to create music that was nodding to the eighties without being an exact copy of any one band or a being a devoted recreation of the sound people associate with music of that time. Instead I wanted to use synthesizers and programmed drums to create the feelings you would get from listening to the sound tracks by Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter or Cliff Martinez. I also added a lot of the “Rock” to the album because I love playing guitar and I can’t help myself.
Shelly: I really love the music that Paul wrote. Each song is very distinctly its own and has its own vibe but everything somehow pulls together cohesively.
What’s it like now to be a musical artist in Seattle as compared to the 90’s?
Paul: I moved here in late 99, but my experience of playing music in Seattle has not changed in that time. Seattle is full of a lot of amazingly talented people playing music in any genre that you can think of. The upside to that is that there are always a lot of great bands to see. The downside is that the shear number of bands playing around town on any given night can make it hard to break through and get people to come out to watch you play.
Shelly: I wasn’t in the music scene in the 90s (although I’m sure my parents have some totally embarrassing home movies of me singing or playing the piano back then). For me, the real difference is that preforming in a band is very different from playing classical piano. The parts I’m playing now are a lot more technically easy but then it’s more challenging to learn because there is no sheet music and the sections I play aren’t really set. It’s up to me to pick the melody or sections out of a much more complicated composition that will work with the rest of the music.
What does your live setup consist of?
Byron: Currently it’s me on lead vocals, Paul on guitar with backing vox, Shelly on keyboard and vocals. The drums and atmospheric sounds are currently done as a backing track but we’re not ruling out a future drummer. When possible, we add theatrical lighting, spooky backdrops, and other fun things to our shows to make it feel like a haunted house.
‘Better in Black’ would make a great anthem for Dark Beauty! Everything is better in black! What are some special moments during filming that comes to mind?
Byron: Thank you for the kind words! Shooting the “Better in Black” video was so much fun. We shot the bulk of it in one day at The In-Art Collective, a local artist commune and gallery. They were very accommodating and it’s a super cool place. One of the funniest things was the “orgy” scene. I thought it would be hilarious and a cool visual if when I’m talking about “There are those that will tell you… it don’t get better than this” that we cut to a Top shot looking down at me, shirtless in a sea of writhing scantly clothed bodies, with hands and feet on me. We couldn’t quite gather a “sea” of people so we did it as a medium shot with the hands of five good friends grabbing at me. During some of the takes their ruffling my hair, possibly picking my nose, lots of goofy stuff and it was tough not to laugh.
Paul: I love shooting and working on film and video projects. Even when you’re tired and moving way too fast it’s always super fun. That video was great because we just had a loose outline of ideas and the run of this really cool location, so we where free to be creative and improvise things to do on the spot. A case in point was the shots of each of us singing into the mirror in the creepy bathroom. We where shooting something else and noticed that the space had a bathroom that looked like the Closer video. We all looked at each other and said, “Well, we have to shot in there now. We have no choice.”
Shelly: I not-so-secretly have a mischievous streak a mile wide. I love sneaking up on people and giving them a good scare. For me, it was fun to play a creepy ghoul that stares at you a little too long as they walk down the hallway and disappear or hide in the closet to spring out and swarm their unsuspecting victim. Fun fact: for this shoot, we got to “kill” Natalie, Byron’s sister. His whole family has guest starred at some point in some project has now been “killed”. Time to start working on my side of the family.
If we were to go out on a Saturday night in Seattle, where could we find you hanging out?
Byron: If we’re not at home watching movies with the cat, there are a number of awesome Seattle nightspots I like to haunt. Saturday nights at The Mercury (Seattle’s only full time goth/industrial club) are fantastic. DJ Hana Solo rules! There are a lot of great dark DJs in Seattle and you can find spooky nights at different venues almost every night of the week! Shout outs to Major Tom, DJ Savak, Mikey Shadow, DJ Jades, Seraphim, DJ Shane and Paul Aleinikoff!!! I also like Revolver Bar, a cool spot that only spins vinyl. I like to go there and pretend I’m Adam from Only Lovers Left Alive. Did I mention I’m a horror nerd and I love vampires?
Paul: If I’m not playing a show I’m probably at home watching a movie with my beautiful, sweet and incredibly supportive wife.
Shelly: There is a very cute speakeasy in town (if you know where to find it) that has a fun 1920s vibe and serves great drinks. The Mercury is an old standby or sometimes Kremwork. We also enjoy catching late night dinner and movies.
What’s in your iPod?
Byron: I’ll give you a list below, but you might prefer this. I like making playlists. Here’s some things that are in the current rotation: “Carbon Black” by Amelia Arsenic. “Never Enough” by Aesthetic Perfection. “I Give to You” by Nitzer Ebb. “Here in the Black” by Gary Numan. “Came back Haunted” by Nine Inch Nails. “Special K” by Adrian H and the Wounds. “Nighcall” by Kavinsky. “Opening Theme” to The Return of the Living Dead, “Tribulations” by LCD Soundsytem, “Party Up” by DMX, “Dressed in Black” by Depeche Mode, “Haunted When The Minutes Drag” by Love and Rockets, “Give In To Me” by Michael Jackson, “Monologue” by She Wants Revenge. What’s literally on my iPod: White Lies, Aesthetic Perfection, David Bowie, I AM X, Depeche Mode, A place to Bury Strangers, She Wants Revenge, Marilyn Manson, Danzig, Misfits, Adrian H and the Wounds, Hocico, God Module, Dismantled, Afghan Whigs, Alice Cooper, AFI, And One, A23, Blaqk Audio, Birthday Massacre, The Break Up, Clan of Xymox, Calabrese, SYSTEM SYN, The Cure, Combichrist, The Cramps, Del Shannon, Din [A]Tod, The Faint, Ghosts in the Graveyard, Ghoultown, The Guest Soundtrack, Icon of Coil, Imperative Reaction, Johnny Cash, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Ladytron, Ministry, Michael Jackson, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, VNV, Toadies, Violent Femmes, Stromkern, Howling 2 soundtrack, Skinny Puppy, Sisters of Mercy, Seabound, Radiohead, Placebo, Rabia Sorta, Pill Brigade, Orgy, No Doubt, Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails, N.E.R.D., and a collection of just about every classic Halloween-centric song ever made (Monster Mash, Werewolves of London, Hush Hush Hush, Dead Man’s Party, etc…
Paul: Here’s a playlist to get me fired up for writing, recording and playing shows with Ghosts: “Board up the house” by Genghis Tron, “Ice to never” by The Black Queen, “Peek-A-Boo” by Devo, “Wrong Flavour” by John Carpenter, “122 hours of Fear” by The Screamers, “Bedazzled Fingernails” by Mastodon, “Don’t Change” by INXS, “Helpless Automaton” by Men at Work, “Die, Die My Darling” by The Misfits, “Guilt Trip” by Kanye West, “Wanna Fight” by Cliff Martinez. Some of the stuff on my Ipod: Planes Mistaken for Stars, Mastodon, The Misfits, Screeching Weasel, Fear, Dillinger Four, Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Black Flag, Black Star, Mos Def, NWA, Metallica, Pig Destroyer, Orchid, Charles Bronson, Clipse, Wu tang Clan, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Anaal Nathrakh, 1349, DMX, the Impossibles, Digger, Sunny Day Real Estate, Elvis Costello, Nirvana and so many more…
Shelly: I honestly listen to Pandora most of the time when I’m out and about. I love finding new sounds and new music. Having said that, here are some of my go-tos: Nine Inch Nails, Ladytron, IamX, Gary Numan, Sister of Mercy, David Bowie, Aesthetic Perfection, Amelia Arsenic, Mindless Self Indulgence, Garbage, Fever Ray, Marilyn Manson, The Birthday Massacre, Ayria, Joy Division, The Cure (and so on and so forth).
Top 5 favorite Horror movies:
Byron: This list always changes. I have hundreds of favorite horror films! Let’s see… Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and James Wan’s The Conjuring.
Paul: John Carpenter’s The Thing, Jaws, Psycho, Miracle Mile, and The Silence of the Lambs.
Shelly: That’s hard! Suspiria, The Return of the Living Dead, American Mary, Ginger Snaps Back, Trick ‘r Treat, American Psycho, Let the Right One In, The Cabin in the Woods… Oh wait, you said five.
If you could pick any nightclub in the world to perform live and have the budget to produce a stage show, where would that be and go into detail about what you’d produce?
Byron: I want us to play WGT in one of their giant venues. With an unlimited budget we would transform the stage into an ever transforming haunted house set with moving backdrops that change for each song, crazy costumes and cool lights. That would be awesome! I love performing in any venue of any size, and while I would love to have the crazy theatrics, I know the main thing is the three of us and our performance. If we have that, we have everything we really need. Give us some mics and sound and we’ll go apeshit for you and have a fun time!
Paul: The venue doesn’t matter to me. I just want a crowd of people that are passionate about the music. In fact, I would like anyone reading this to answer this question for us… where would you like to see Ghosts in the Graveyard play?
Shelly: For me, it really is more about creating a spooky atmosphere that appeals to all of your senses. How cool would it be to go through a haunted corn maze and in the middle is a crazy murder house stage? Let’s ignore the logistical nightmare here.
What pisses you off about the world?
Byron: Oh man! There are so many things that trouble me… let’s see. Our current scary political situation in the USA has me worried. A cheesy 80s American Psycho style movie villain just got elected president. That’s really strange and concerning. The fact that racism, fascism and hate is still running rampant in the world terrifies me. I fear for the state of our environment and the future of our planet. Everyday things that piss me off: Rude people, people that belittle others, mean people, hateful people, people that rape and murder, people that make fun of other people, internet trolls, people that are cruel to animals, anyone that intentionally does harm to anyone else. I want us all to realize we’re in this together, all human beings of all backgrounds, belief systems, gender identities and sexual identities. We must come together as a species and move forward to better ourselves and our planet with love and compassion in our hearts. I dream of the Star Trek future. I wish for a world where all of the scary monsters and violence were the things of stories, art, and escapism. Let your demons live in music, movies, games, books, stories and paintings. Let the world live in peace and good will.
Shelly: Willful ignorance; Blind followers who get whipped up into an emotional frenzy and the twist people who seduce them to discriminate, to bully and to hate. Anyone who abuses animals or hunts endangered species. These are truly worthless people who have nothing to contribute.
What’s next for Ghosts in the Graveyard?
Byron: We’re in the middle of shooting this crazy music video for the song “Needs”. It’s all about addiction and obsession told through the lens of vampirism. We’re shooting this one all with cell phones and low rez cameras to give it this unique feel. We also were able to shoot some scenes in the Paris Catacombs! We’ve invited horror film people, dark music people, fans and friends to film their own “dead by vampire” clips and send them to us to put in the video! We’re getting some great stuff! We’re also working on what could be a huge tour announcement for early 2017. Fingers crossed that it all works out!
Paul: I’m working on writing music for our next album. Spoiler alert, it’s super rad.
Shelly: Same thing we do every night; try to take over the world.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Byron: It means so many things to me: a club pulsing with bodies, a sea of beautiful humans dressed in black, dancing the night away, having the time of their lives. Walking through an ancient cemetery, admiring the beautiful design of these monuments to lives once lived. I think of the many gorgeous men and women that do gothic modeling many of which you display in your magazine and online. I think of black lipstick. I think of the first time I dyed my hair black, put on makeup and went to a NIN/Manson/Jim Rose concert. I think of late night drives, scary stories and kisses in the dark. I love it all so much I should make an album about it… oh wait I did!
Shelly: It’s the special kind of magic when night falls and anything is possible.