It’s just after midnight and you’re driving along a dark, deserted road. A rusted signpost reads Route 666, as you click on the old radio it tunes in some unusual sounds. It’s surf music…sort of. It’s not quite Dick Dale, or even Jack’s Marshall’s “Munsters” theme song. In fact, it has a certain urgency to it, as if you’re listening to someone being pursued – no, chased. Drenched in reverb, the Fender guitars spew forth rhythms that actually call Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” to mind. And off you go, driving further into the darkness, with only this ghoulish soundtrack to guide your way.
These eerie sounds come courtesy of a Massachusetts-based quartet known as Gein and the Graverobbers, who have recently released their third full-length CD The Passion of the Anti-Christ (2005, NecroTone Records, get it through Evilshop here). Looking as if they’re straight off of the set of a zombie movie, the band and crew have entertained fans at horror conventions, haunted houses, midnight horror movies and other live music venues since their inception in 1998. We recently caught up with lead guitarist Gein, who explained how this ghastly group is preparing a brief Halloween Tour de Corpse tour in support of Passion. So beware…they may be waking the dead in a city near you!
Dave Manack: Many bands that are known for creating “horror music” are usually classified in the metal, punk or goth genres. Gein and the Graverobbers, however, lies somewhere between surf guitar king Dick Dale and “The Munsters” theme song, yet your look is straight out of Night of the Living Dead. Talk about your style of music, and how you’ve been able to incorporate horror into it.
Gein: I’d say we are a surf band with punk and metal influences. All of the songs are instrumental, played with Fender equipment and drenched in reverb, but that’s about where the traditional surf style ends. We all grew up on punk and metal. Hell, a couple of us even had mullets back in the day! We like to play fast and aggressive. Being from the Northeast, none of us could relate to the laid back, California surf attitude. In New England the weather is bad, the people are mean and everything is fast-paced. I think a lot of bands from up here reflect that in their music. As for the horror theme, I noticed that a lot of surf bands would have a sci-fi, hot-rod or spy theme. I’ve always been into all things horror since I was a kid, so it just seemed natural to have our band be creepy.
DM: Your band has four CD releases, including three full-lenghts. Give us a little history on how the band was formed and how your sound has evolved between 1998 and now.
Gein: Well, we started in ’98, but over the course of a couple years we had some lineup changes. It wasn’t really until 2000 with the release of our EP Humanoids from the Deep when we started playing out regularly. Over that time our music became more aggressive and more complex. I think in the very beginning our sound was a little more like traditional surf music, just faster. We then started honing in on the creepy vibe. It was really over the last two records that our more metal side started to show and the songs started to get more involved.
DM: Your press release lists Dick Dale, Iron Maiden and Slayer as the parts that make up your intricate sound. The nod to Dick Dale is more obvious to read than the others…yet, in tracks like “The Hungry Grave” and “Unhallowed,” an unmistakable nod is given to the Slayer song “Raining Blood.” Are there other nods to specific songs or bands that can be found on this new CD?
Gein: Most of my Iron Maiden influence comes in the song structures. For example, having a lot of riff and tempo changes. There are no specific Maiden riffs that I can think of that made their way into one of our songs. Slayer definitely has amazing riffs and they are the kings of the break down. Slayer has a knack for writing creepy riffs with a good hook. It’s hard to play a real dissonant, brooding riff and not have it sound like Slayer. There are some songs that were also inspired by early Metallica (when they were a metal band).
DM: How did you arrive at your band name Gein and the Graverobbers? Do you find that most people know who Ed Gein was?
Gein: About 10 years ago I started getting really into reading true crime books. Eddie Gein definitely stood out to me. His impact on pop-culture, specifically on horror movies, is way more so than another murderer. Movies like Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deranged, Silence of the Lambs, etc., were all inspired by Gein. I think with the Gein murders there was a shift in horror movies away from being about atomic-born creatures like Godzilla to human monsters like Norman Bates. When we started the band I took on Gein as a stage name, the Graverobbers seemed to just come naturally. Most people have no idea who Gein was, or how to pronounce it for that matter. Although, I did have a couple of ex-Plainfield (Wisconsin, Gein’s home town) residents come to one of our shows to give me crap about the name.
DM: Is there particular significance to your song titles? “Black Sunday” is an obvious reference to the Mario Bava movie, but do any of the others apply to something specific? Do those titles reflect the overall mood of the song?
Gein: There is significance to our song titles. A lot of times I’ll write a song while watching a movie, so I try to write it as if I’m composing a score for the movie. If the film ranges from creepy atmosphere to a frantic fast pace vibe, I’ll try reflect that with the song. That was the case with “Black Sunday”. Other songs will be about specific killers, like Gemini and the Ed Gein-inspired “House of Skulls.” I also examined local New England lore in “The Phantom of Route 44,” and have referred to Satan and other occult themes (“9 Day Fall,” “Unhallowed,” “Into the Abbey of Thelema”).
DM: Gein and the Graverobbers was actually able to tour Eurpoe. What were some of your most memorable European tour experiences?
Gein: The coolest experience from the first Euro tour was playing for inmates at a prison in Belgium. The guys that were on good behavior were our roadies, and they served us dinner. Afterwards we had a few beers with them and they were really cool. They made all of the inmates sit down for the show. During one song a guy got up and started dancing. Instantly a few guards ran over and shoved him back in his seat…it was a blast! The highlight of the second tour was playing in Switzerland. At one of the shows we were the only band on the bill and we played to a packed house of 550-plus people. We ended up doing on encore that was about as long as the regular set.
DM: Tell us about your live show. It seems as if this is an area where you can really showcase your love of horror movies. How would you describe your live show, and what could a horror fan expect from the experience?
Gein: Myself (lead guitar), Sloth (drums), and Kemper (bass) have a Night of the Living Dead or Carnival of Souls look, while Myra (guitar) plays a slightly more spooky Marilyn to our Munsters. We have tons of props on stage—jack-o-lanterns, skulls, body parts, coffins. It really depends on how big the stage is. Sometimes we’ll have a couple of TVs on stage playing clips for classic horror movies. We always put forth tons of energy and we definitely feed off the crowd. Usually the end of our shows can get a little bloody.
DM: You guys seem to be having a lot of fun doing Gein and the Graverobbers. Is it sort of Halloween every day for you guys?
Gein: Yeah, it’s definitely been a blast. For me everyday is Halloween on and off stage. I’m all about horror all the time. It has been really cool playing shows and meeting like-minded horror fans. We always have a blast playing horror conventions and talking to the real hardcore horror fans.
Catch Gein and the Graverobbers on their Halloween Tour de Corpse tour! Here are some upcoming dates:
October 28th @ Ralph’s Diner, Worcester, MA
October 29th @ The Knitting Factory – Drop Dead Festival, NYC, NY
October 30th @ Grog & Tankard, Washington, DC
October 31th @ Goodfellas, Greensburgh, PA
November 1st @ Bottoms Up, Fort Wayne, IN
November 2nd @ Springwater, Nashville, TN
November 3rd @ 2500 Club, Detroit, MI
November 4th @ Phyllis’ Musical Inn, Chicago, IL
November 5th @ TBA, Cleveland, OH
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