Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview with Wind Hawk: "Playing songs I truly love to a capacity crowd of die-hard horror rockers. There's nothing like that and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Wind Hawk is a busy man.  He's constantly staying creative and has his hand in numerous projects.  He's the former guitarist for Utah's horror punk band, DieMonsterDie and contributed his guitar work on their upcoming album, October 21st 1976.  Recently he's enrolled back into film school and is currently writing a screenplay. Wind Hawk worships horror and we here at Something's Lurking welcome him with dead, lifeless arms.  I hope you will do the same.  His new band, Shadow Wind Hawk and the Morticians can be found here: 

1.  At what age did you decide you wanted to be a musician?
You know, I don't think it was ever really a conscious decision on my part. I began to take playing guitar seriously (around age 12 or 13) and was introduced to Social Distortion, The Cramps, Dead Kennedy's and Agent Orange by a friend of mine in middle school, Sam Roberts. Sam showed me how to play a power chord for the first time and my 7th grade music teacher (Judson Armstrong) showed me how to play some open chords and a pentatonic minor scale. Suddenly the door to the world of rock n' roll was opened. It was instant love. I became completely obsessed with the electric guitar. Since that time I have never stopped playing and over the course of it all I eventually ended up where I'm at today. It was never a case of 'when I grow up, I'm gonna be a real musician'. It was simply my love of the guitar and of all things punk rock that pushed me into being a musician. I spent much of my teenage years daydreaming of being in a real working punk band. The fire that I had to do it one day lead me to where I am. I'm certainly no virtuoso and I'm not really striving to break new ground in music. I'm just being myself and doing what I love for the love of it.
2.  Have you always played guitar?
Hah, no. The first instrument I ever owned was a Mexican made Fender Stratocaster that my step-dad gave me for my 10th birthday. I also had a little Pignose travel amp. I remember being in awe of how fucking cool the Strat was and at the same time I had no idea what the fuck to do with it. I couldn't play anything at that point. But I knew right away that I had to figure it out somehow. So a couple years later when I started middle school, I started taking some lessons from the school music teacher, Judson. I also picked up whatever I could from my friends who were into punk rock. It just went from there and I never quit. I got to the point where I'd listen to songs and teach myself how to play them by ear. Long story short, I've been playing electric guitar for roughly 10 years now.

3.  Who were some of your earliest influences in music?
Oh man. There's a lot of them, but I'd have to say the main ones were Social Distortion, Agent Orange, Nirvana, Bad Religion, The Dead Kennedy's, The Ramones, NOFX, The Misfits, Type O, Danzig, Pearl Jam, Pantera and White Zombie, among others. When I was a kid my dad would blast "Nevermind" by Nirvana and "Vitalogy" by Pearl Jam through his old stereo while making dinner. I was a child of the 90's and inevitably grunge has remained the earliest influence on me as far as rock n' roll goes.

4.  Tell me about some of your earlier musical projects? 
When I was in high school I came up with the idea to start a punk band called 'The Gravedancers'. That never went anywhere though. We really had no direction or any clue of what the fuck to do to write a song. Throughout High School I remained without a musical project but kept on playing my guitar. Shortly after I graduated High School, I joined the long tenured Salt Lake City Horror Punk / Shock Rock outfit DieMonsterDie as their new Lead Guitarist. A couple months after joining DMD, I started as lead guitarist for another SLC horror punk band called Zombiance, but left after playing three shows with them to put all of my time into DieMonsterDie.

5.  When did you begin playing horror punk?  And why?
From a very young age I was drawn to and enamored by the traditions of Halloween (Samhain) and subsequently horror films. When I was around the age of three, I would stay up late with my father watching old episodes of the 60's soap "Dark Shadows". I remember hiding under the coffee table and banging my head on it whenever Barnabas bared his fangs on camera. As I got a bit older, the Horror VHS section of Blockbuster became a paradise for me as a child. First I absorbed the Universal Monsters and Vincent Price drive-in movies over and over again, renting them constantly. I connected with the monsters; I felt for them. Then around the age of 10, on nights when my parents weren't home I began to sneak in viewings on tape of slasher flicks like John Carpenter's 1978 film "Halloween" and Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre pt. 2" from 1985. Because of this early fascination I developed, horror has always been pretty deeply ingrained in my psyche. When I had first started listening to punk rock in middle school, the infectious energy and raw power of the music spoke to me in a similar way as the horror films did. It was angry music for the outcasts, for the people who chose to remain outside of normal society, who wanted listen to something other than the typical boring pop bullshit. It was amazing to me. At that time I was young, angry and never very popular in school. I never felt like I fit in; from the time I was born I had a very rare birth defect which prevented my adult front teeth from coming in and by the age of 13 I still had no front teeth. I faced a lot of ridicule from other kids for that all the way until I underwent surgery to have the teeth pulled down in 8th grade. Because of my feelings of being an outsider punk was more than just music for me. I adopted it as part of my identity. I started sneaking out to all ages punk shows at Lo-Fi Cafe in Salt Lake where I saw bands like Throw Rag and Lower Class Brats. When I later discovered how both horror and punk rock blend so seamlessly…it was immediate fascination and love. I wasn't aware of horror punk actually being a genre / scene of its own until I saw a great (now dissolved) SLC horror punk band called Left For Dead. They played the parking lot of Rocky Point Haunted House in SLC when I was about 14 years old. I knew of and loved The Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, but had no idea there was a whole group of bands out there actively playing music that was specifically horror / b-movie themed. At that show my friend Parker won a copy of Horror of It All, Vol. 1 in a raffle that Dr. Cyclops Records was having. He let me burn a copy of it and that's how I heard Calabrese, DieMonsterDie, Lugosi's Morphine and The Rosedales (among others) for the first time. I became obsessed with the concept of blending horror film imagery with rock n' roll right away; I craved it and wanted more. So when I caught word that DieMonsterDie was actually local and were playing a big all ages gig opening for GWAR, I knew I had to see them live. I went to the show with Parker. It was bloody, gothic, romanticized horror / shock rock like I'd never seen in my life. I stood in the front and got sprayed with stage blood and after DMD came off stage, we immediately approached Zero Delorean who obliged to take a photo with us. It was during this time that I began dreaming of a day when I too could throw my hat in the ring and take the stage with a monster band of my own. I remained friends with DMD and followed them around the local circuit at their live shows, screaming along with them at all of their all ages gigs. Little did I know that my friendship with Zero and later with Shane Diablo (Meatwhistle), would later lead to my one day joining DieMonsterDie as the 3rd guitarist in their long history.

6.  Give me a list of horror punk/rock bands you've played with.
As an active member, I've played lead guitar and sung backing vox for DieMonsterDie, played lead guitar for Zombiance , played guitar and sung backing vox for Argyle Goolsby and I currently sing lead vox and play guitar for my new band, Shadow Windhawk and the Morticians. I've shared the stage at shows over the years with bands such as shock rock legend Lizzy Borden, The Independents, Darrow Chemical Company and Captured by Robots…over the summer at GNO (where I played guitar for Argyle Goolsby's debut solo gig) we shared the stage with Order of the Fly, The Cryptkeeper Five, Lurking Corpses, Serpenteens, Nim Vind, The Big Bad, Sardonica, VAGORA, Black Cat Attack, The Renfields, Kitty in a Casket and many others.

7.  Of all these projects which do you have the fondest memories?
That's hard to say, man. I've had a lot of good times with every band I've been a part of. I loved every minute of being in DieMonsterDie. We played some wild live shows together and made an angry, brutal album last Summer. Our gigs were unlike anything I've ever done with anyone else. It was always bloody, intense, raw and loud as shit…just insane. DMD was everything I love about horror punk. However I think the fondest memories of my career to this point were made at Ghouls Night Out Fest '13 last July. I met a lot of genuine, great people in the horror rock scene at that show and got to perform alongside a lot of truly amazing bands. Being there as a member of Goolsby's solo project at his debut solo performance is something I'll be proud of and remember for the rest of my life.

8.  This past summer you were on the east coast playing with Argyle Goolsby.  Tell me about the overall experience.
It was a blast. Goolsby is a fun guy to be around and play music with. He's a very talented performer and musician. Being asked to participate in his first solo show was quite an honor. It was a lot of work preparing for it, but I was happy to give it my all and it was worth every minute. It helps too that the material I learned for the gig is stuff I absolutely love listening to in my free time. Just all around it was one of the best experiences I've ever had, as a guitarist or otherwise.  Playing songs I truly love to a capacity crowd of die-hard horror rockers - walking on stage to their screams - there's nothing like that and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.
9.  What are your thoughts on the current horror punk scene?
It seems to be getting larger all the time, which is cool. At the core of it there are some truly great, unique and gifted people. Some of the nicest people I've met are involved in the scene in one way or another. I am thankful that a niche exists for those of us who like their horror imagery infused into rock n' roll. As I've said, it is a great marriage of imagery, music and the raw energy of punk rock. I hope it continues on forever.

10.  Favorite band in the current scene?
Hard to say. If you place Danzig and Doyle in the scene, I'd say that still remains the end all. The Misfits set they played on the recent 25th anniversary tour was one of the best horror punk sets I've ever experienced. It doesn't get anymore classic than that, I mean for fucks sake those guys invented the scene. Fast, brutal, energetic, catchy. Glorious. Outside of that I'd say the best bands in horror punk today are The Other, Nim Vind, Goolsby and Darrow Chemical Company.

11.  You share some of my love for all things horror.  What are some of your favorite horror films?
Ah, this is a tough one…I love so many horror films. All kinds of sub genres. Among my favorites of all time are Dracula (1931), Phantom of the Opera (1925), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Last Man on Earth (1964), Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), House of Dark Shadows (1970), Horror of Dracula (1958), Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dellamorte Dellamore (1994), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Halloween (1978), Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), Return of the Living Dead (1985), Friday the 13th pt. 6: Jason Lives (1986), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Shawn of the Dead (2004) and The Invisible Man (1933). An honorable mention that isn't truly a 'horror' film (more a comedy) would be Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988).

12.  You said recently that you're going back to film school.  What is your favorite aspect of the filmmaking process?
Yes, I am going back to film school to finish my degree at the University of Utah. Filmmaking is a magic I've admired and adored since I first saw all of the Universal monster movies on VHS as a kid. I also have very fond memories of going to see the Star Wars Special Editions on the big screen with my dad and I remember walking out of the theater thinking how I wanted to make movies of my own one day. There was nothing like that. I loved it. I have an interest in just about every aspect of the process of it and would love to one day have a career in basically anything to do with it, outside of producing. To this point, I've studied makeup, acting, film history and theory at the University and I am returning now to study directing, screenwriting, cinematography and production. However it isn't clear to me as of now which I would want to do most. Directing is what most people acclimate towards in film school, however, that is a hell of a job. Not saying that I wouldn't one day try my hand at it. But it would take a great deal of planning and funding to get a picture off the ground. A massive undertaking. In a perfect world, I would like to be a screenwriter but again, everyone thinks they can be a screenwriter. It's another extremely rough job. Usually it takes a lot of failures to get a screenplay bought by a studio and getting options on properties for adapting into a screenplay is very difficult and expensive. To be an actor that makes enough bread to live on, you pretty much have to be in the Screen Actors Guild and that is extremely expensive and tough to break into as well. So honestly, to make it in film you gotta have equal parts luck, talent and motivation…and ultimately a lot of it does come down to who you know. So it's going to be interesting man. I definitely feel I have it in me to break into cinema with a fully original picture of my own, but damn…writing / directing is a hard game to play. It's gonna take a lot of work to get there and I'm still plugging away at college, but ya gotta start somewhere and that's what I'm doing, damn it!
13.  I know it's early but can you tell me a little about your upcoming solo project:  Shadow Wind Hawk and the Morticians?
Absolutely. We are a three piece horror punk band, all of us are locals here in Salt Lake City. The band is: Rich Misery (Burn Your World, Curseworship) on Bass, Trip MD (Seventking) on Drums and yours truly on Guitars and Vocals. I attempted to start the band up for the first time in June 2013, after I was told that DieMonsterDie would be on hiatus. Initially it was conceived as a 5 piece, balls out experimental project with death metal incorporated into it. However with 5 guys involved it kind of became a situation of too many cooks in the kitchen. When I got back from GNO we tried to get ready for a couple shows I had booked, one opening for Darrow Chemical Company in August and one opening for Calabrese in September. But things just felt a bit forced initially and I had to bow out of both gigs. I think it was just a bit too soon for me coming out of DMD and to be honest I was feeling burned out from having just recorded with DMD and with traveling for the Goolsby gig. Stikki, who had stuck with me through everything with DMD wanted to stay in the Morticians as bassist but had to bow out to finish his degree, which was definitely a mature decision on his part. Stikki is an absolutely fantastic bassist, I have loved every minute of being in DMD with him and it was fun trying to get Morticians going with him, but he has a growing family with two adorable (very young) kids and his bigger goals for them had to come first. So I shelved the project for a few months to take a break from music. In October, I began to write a new EP which was to be my first all electric solo release, following up my acoustic live solo album, "Tales From the Black Lodge". I wrote a bunch of brand new material and decided to call the new EP "Casket Spray" (referring to an arrangement of funeral flowers which sit atop caskets and coffins). Before I knew it, Halloween passed by and I decided to call up Rich and Trip to see if they would be interested in being my rhythm section for the new release. They both were very enthusiastic and said fuck yeah, so we met up at the rehearsal room (where October 21st, 1976 had been primarily written in), which Rich's band Burn Your World and I had continued to keep after DMD moved out in June. I showed them the new songs I'd written on my acoustic and they took right to them like fish to water. Before I knew it we were blasting out wicked, full on electric versions of these tunes that were born on my acoustic guitar. After the first rehearsal we agreed that this would be the final lineup of Shadow Windhawk and the Morticians and that Casket Spray, rather than being a solo release, would instead be released as our debut EP. We have been making huge leaps of progress in the short time we've been a fully functioning band, I can't even describe how awesome it is to have bandmates who not only support my vision but encourage me to go all out with what I'm writing and who want to work on the same timetable. These guys genuinely enjoy playing music with me and we have a great time working together, which has made a world of difference from a creative standpoint. We have fun. Casket Spray is a heavy, dark, doom metal tinged horror punk EP. It's going to be a big surprise for most of my listeners, hopefully a good one. I've never done anything like it before. When we're in the room working on it, the music just flows out without being forced at all. It's great. Rich and Trip add a lot to the songs and create a good dynamic that needs to be present for a three piece to function well. They're also both around my age and are just as hungry as I am to make a mark on the horror punk scene with this band. I look forward to doing a full length with them one day that is much more a collaboration than a solo record, although just because much of Casket Spray was written initially by me doesn't take away at all from their contributions to the songs. The songs all began as one thing and have since evolved into something even better. A lot of that is thanks to Rich and Trip working on them with me. And now that we have a solid lineup that has that drive and motivation I've been looking for, we're already booked to go into Boho Digitalia in SLC for the weekend of February 1st and 2nd to record our new EP. I've never been more excited to go to the studio, I can say with certainty that this record is gonna be a total blast. I've had a ton of fun already just rehearsing it with the guys. "Casket Spray" will be available digitally in March 2014 via Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and Spotify. You can expect it to see a physical release of it shortly after that via my indie label Black Flame Records, on small batches of CD and possibly 10" mixed color vinyl, with our debut live gig to be announced in the relative future as well. Oh yeah…we also have t-shirts that are available now through the merch section of my bandcamp page:

14.  If you could bring back any horror icon from the dead and get the chance to work with them, who would it be?

Vincent Price, without question.  That man was an actor of the highest caliber.  All class.  Inimitable.  I would do anything to bring him back and work with him, in any capacity.

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