Thrills, chills, and music that kills: Vancouver musicians get into the Halloween spirit
Some people might call it something of an unhealthy, not to mention unholy, obsession. But really, what’s wrong with spinning Ministry’s “Every Day Is Halloween” three times a day every day of the year with the exception of Christmas? And as sure as you will die—one by one—if you head off to that cabin in the woods with friends, it’s okay 365 days of the year to projectile-vomit extra-chunky split-pea soup on unsuspecting senior citizens, especially if they happen to be dressed up as priests.
The same goes for dressing up like the Hamburglar and taking a window-booth seat at Burger King, arguing up and down that Saw is a sweet couples’ film and turning your workplace garbage can into a bobbing-for-apples station all summer.
Why do all these things? That’s easy—because Halloween is truly the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you live on pig brains and cow intestines because they make you feel like you’ve just stumbled off the set of The Walking Dead.
The good news is you aren’t alone. As sure as the Great Pumpkin is the only deity worth worshipping, the following local artists also enjoy the only time of year when watching all 42 installments of the Halloween franchise back-to-back makes perfect sense. To that end, we asked them how they’ll be celebrating the season, grilling them on their best-ever Halloween costume and getting them to reveal the songs guaranteed to get them doing the Monster Mash. A good chunk of them can’t get enough of “Thriller”, to the point where they start spinning it on Valentine’s Day. No trick—it’s that great of a treat.
Steve Mann gets right into the spirit of Halloween as the singer of the Holey Sheets, a seasonally themed Philoceraptor side project that just released a double-fuzzed garage-pop outing titled Twist, available on Bandcamp until November 20. For optimum enjoyment, pop a tab of Green Sunslime and listen to “The Creature” and “I Killed the Party” while watching an old black-and-white horror film with the sound off.
Killer costume: “My best costume was Fear and Loathing–style Hunter S. Thompson. Couldn’t find a cigarette holder so went with Pixy Stix before descending into the university-town mass hallucination. Fuzzy memories include making out with a mummy, funnelling beer with Bugs Bunny, ghostbusters with gin-and-tonic proton packs, being sweaty, intimidating locomotives, Duffman, and the rising sun.”
Graveyard smash: “ ‘Do They Know It’s Halloween?’ by the North American Halloween Prevention Institute—NAHPI. It’s got an organ and guitar solos, David Cross screaming, a star-studded sing-along chorus, not to mention the individual contributions of Beck, Sum 41, Nardwuar, Arcade Fire, and many more! Also, the video has made it impossible to look at Buck 65 and not picture his creepy zipper-faced blacked-out hand puppet saying, ‘And everyone will understand the true meaning of Halloween.’ ”
Nikki Nevver’s Facebook page lists her interests as “kissing after midnight” and “crying in the rain”, which says a lot about where she’s coming from with her nu-romantic bedroom-pop project, Terror Bird. The fact that Nevver, who’s been based in Hamburg, Germany, since this past June, has released a song called “Costume” is a pretty good indication that for her, every day is Halloween.
Killer costume: “One year, I decided to dress as a man for Halloween. I have a very round face (and I didn’t know about face contouring yet) so I put on really big eyebrows and a mustache. I had already used black duct tape to tape my boobs down when I realized I looked like a freaky, girlish version of Charlie Chaplin. Looking at myself was like eating pudding with shards of glass in it. Getting the tape off was quite painful.”
Graveyard smash: “I would want to hear ‘The Killing Moon’ by Echo & the Bunnymen. It’s a very romantic Halloween song. You could be dressed as a hot nurse and walk in slow motion toward the person dressed as the Grim Reaper while listening to this song.”
Tocha Restrepo spends One Life Animal’s debut disc, Sleep and His Older Brother Death, examining the long slog that is life and the inevitability of what awaits us all in the end. When not dabbling in proggy grunge-coated metal with her bandmates—guitarist Tom McIlveen and bassist Shawn Penner—the singer can sometimes be found moonwalking on a broomstick to Rob Zombie.
Killer costume: “I’m pretty excited about one of my costumes this year. In the fine, time-honoured tradition of girls getting as slutty as possible for Halloween, a girlfriend and I are dressing up as a massive pair of breasts. One year, I would love to try that ‘gored’ costume idea where you use iPads to make it look like you have a hole right through you. Since I am a poor musician, I would need sponsorship for that one. Hint, hint, Apple…”
Graveyard smash: “The only possible answer to this question is ‘Thriller’ by MJ [Michael Jackson]. But any Halloween playlist that I would put together would also include ‘Dragula’ by Rob Zombie and ‘(Don’t Fear) the Reaper’ by Blue Öyster Cult. I would also throw in ‘Cypress Grove’ by Clutch. For the witches.”
Cam Pipes is lead howler for the mighty 3 Inches of Blood, whose latest, Long Live Heavy Metal, is perfect for whatever mayhem—goat sacrifices, devil worshipping, or pumpkin cherry-bombing—the season calls for.
Killer costume: “The best costume I ever had was in 2000. I was Darth Maul from Star Wars. I went all out on this one—cloak, pants, boots, gloves. Everything except the double lightsaber. I even shaved my head so I could do the makeup right, and I did it all myself. I took the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver that afternoon and did my costume up before I got on the ferry. I got some pretty awesome looks from people on the ferry, most of whom were not in costume yet.”
Graveyard smash: “While both the Misfits’ and Mercyful Fate’s songs titled ‘Halloween’ are appropriate for the playlist, they don’t strike me as party starters. AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ jumps out at me immediately because of its recognizable opening riff, infectious sing-along chorus, and the mere mention of hell. It’s appropriate for any Halloween party.”
Leanne Chapman plays bass in Demian, which features fellow former Certain Breeds member Jen Riego on vocals and keyboards, along with guitarist Sunny Dhak, who previously played in 3 Inches of Blood and Pride Tiger. Demian’s atmospheric gloom will have you wishing for rainy days that never end.
Killer costume: “As an adult, the one where I had a fake crow on my head pecking at my forehead with blood running down my face. As a child, I was a cowgirl and my friend was a cow. I dragged her around all night by a rope tied around her neck.”
Graveyard smash: “ ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ by Bauhaus seems like an appropriate song for Halloween.”
Kaylee Johnston makes a great case that she’s ready for the candy-dipped electro-pop spotlight with her latest single “Gone”, which is lovingly engineered to appeal to those who can’t get enough of Katy Perry and the ever-awesome Robyn in their diets.
Killer costume: “I dressed up as Kung Fu Panda one year. That was probably the best costume—and best Halloween—of my life! I had it all: the onesie with the sewed-on fur, the ears, and the samurai sword, which I threw in to put my own twist on things. It was the bomb.”
Graveyard smash: “ ‘Thriller’!!! Is there any other answer to that question? On top of that, MJ is the man. Hearing ‘Thriller’ a few weeks before Halloween is kind of like when you hear ‘Let It Snow’ a few months before Christmas, except the feeling is a little more badass, and you know it’s time to break out that Kung Fu Panda costume yet again.”
Sally Dige was a shoo-in for our Halloween photo shoot, what with her platinum tresses and a way with mascara we haven’t seen since Siouxsie Sioux’s heyday. Turns out, though, that Dige is currently plying her Batcave darkwave in Berlin—which, after Transylvania, is probably the best place for it.
Killer costume: “I was always one of those hodgepodge Halloween dressers because dressing up to me wasn’t something that I only did once a year. I remember I wanted to go out as a Granville Street clubber once, but after stepping outside and seeing how freezing it was, I thought ‘Forget it.’ I don’t know how those women can do it, in the coldest of winters with barely anything on! Yikes.”
Graveyard smash: “Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’! It is just the best Halloween—and otherwise—classic song ever! I don’t think it needs any further explanation as to why it is so great!”
Jody Glenham mixes up a potent cocktail of torchy retro-twang and gauze-swaddled pop-noir on her new seven-inch, “Between You and Me” b/w “Dreamer”. Prepare to be enchanted.
Killer costume: “For about five years straight, I dressed up as a witch: green face paint, pointy hat. Sometimes we’d get one of those fake funny noses. My mom was really big into making costumes. My favourite one she ever made was a Michelangelo Ninja Turtle costume for my brother. It had a big headpiece, and she stuffed the suit with tons of padding so he didn’t have to wear a jacket over top. Winnipeg was always freezing cold by Halloween.”
Graveyard smash: “Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ is the best! And the scariest. I remember being terrified of the song as a kid. How is that even possible? Vincent Price’s creepy laugh still gives me chills. He’s the master of spooky thrills.”
Conor Brandt sings and plays guitar in Good Grief!, a band that sounds like it should be sharing a festival bill with Swervedriver, Seaweed, and the Doughboys circa 1993. (He also plays bass in the Rampant Lion, which sounds like a good idea for a Halloween costume.) Bassist Chris Jaggers and drummer Shane Wilson round out the trio.
Killer costume: “One year I went as Magnum, P.I. My friends and I ended up at the Yale for some reason. It was full of cougars who must have been huge fans of Magnum/Tom Selleck in the ’80s, ’cause they were all pinching my ass and staring at me like I was fresh meat. Guess I got a taste of what girls go through when they get ‘creepy eyes’ from men. At the end of the night, I had to walk home from downtown since I couldn’t get a cab. It was freezing cold that year, and made worse by the fact that I was only wearing Magnum’s signature tropical shirt, summer shoes, and short-shorts. I figured the best way to stay warm was to run. I always smile thinking about how people riding home in taxis that night would have looked out the window and seen Magnum, P.I. jogging across the Granville Street Bridge.”
Graveyard smash: “For scary, nothing beats Black Sabbath’s ‘Black Sabbath’. This song is just soooo badass! It’s still scary, like, 40 years later, even though metal has become way more brutal, violent, and often ridiculous since then. When all the flower children first heard Black Sabbath, they probably soiled their bell-bottoms.”