Interview-Shadow Windhawk: “There’s a lot of beauty in dark things!”

Horrorpunk/horror rock scene is very small and underground. Like any other scene, the quality differs from artist to artist. But, there are some people who dedicated their lives to horror and one of them is Shadow Windhawk. His music is chilling piece of horror but also heartfelt emotions. I came to love his work through his records and he is also very friendly and great fellow. It was an honour to do an interview with him for this webzine. Check it out and check his music.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR BAND TO THE PEOPLE THAT ARE READING THIS AND NEVER HEARD OF YOU?

I call my music ‘sounds from beyond the mausoleum’. I’ve always considered myself to be a horror punk / horror rock musician and I’m not afraid to embrace that and own it one hundred percent. But at its core, everything that I create is really just rock n’ roll fused with horror imagery. There’s a little goth, doom metal and death rock in there, too. Shadow Windhawk and the Morticians as a concept was formed back in May 2013 with the idea that all things related to my band and image would have a funerary theme, blended with a passion for horror films.

WHAT IS SO BEAUTIFUL IN HORRORPUNK? COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU CAME TO TOUCH WITH IT AND WITH UNDERGROUND SCENE IN GENERAL?

There’s a lot of beauty in dark things, in aspects of life that aren’t considered ‘normal’. Like a lot of children I discovered the beauty of horror with the Universal Monsters; The Creech, Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein. The earliest influence on me though, came from watching old tapes of Dark Shadows with my father when I was around three or four years old. Jonathan Frid commanded my attention whenever he was on the TV screen playing Barnabas Collins. He taught me to both fear and love the idea of vampires. When I was quite young my father took me to a screening of Phantom of the Opera (starring Lon Chaney) at a tiny theater in SLC which was then called ‘The Organ Loft’. The screening featured live musical accompaniment on a very old Wurlitzer Organ. The organist, Blane Gale, is a master at performing the film’s score live; it was a very formative experience. Lon Chaney mesmerized me completely.

_mg_0251(photo by Adam Judd of Horrorshow Pictures)

A bit later, I began watching films that featured Vincent Price – the Roger Corman Poe films, Edward Scissorhands, Last Man on Earth and House on Haunted Hill. He also was a big influence on me at a young age. I started getting into horror punk when I was around 12 years old or so. As the cliche goes, it was (ironically enough) a Misfits recording that first brought the concept of punk mixed with horror imagery and b-movies to the front of my imagination. A copy of ‘Legacy of Brutality’ on CD. I bought the record at The Heavy Metal Shop in Salt Lake City. That lead to my discovering Samhain and Danzig, respectively.

I wasn’t fully made aware of the actual scene or genre outside of what Danzig has done until a year or two later, when I first met the guys in DieMonsterDie at some of their shows in SLC. Through meeting them, a door was opened – I started finding out about all sorts of underground bands that were horror themed. Back during the Myspace days I ended up listening to a lot of horror bands like Left For Dead, Blitzkid, The Horrifics, Creepersin, Nim Vind, Ghoultown, Psycho Charger, The Epidemic, Calabrese, The Rosedales, Serpenteens, The Creepshow, The Spook, Zombie Ghost Train, The Other, The Crimson Ghosts…the list goes on and on. I was immediately addicted to it and obsessed over old horror movies. Days off from school were frequently spent in the shelves of Hollywood Video, pouring over old VHS and DVDs. Absorbing pretty much anything I could find. I remember my room gradually becoming like a mini museum of horror things. It was more than just a passing fancy for me. For whatever reason it’s always been what makes me happy. I’d spend time figuring out the chords to Samhain and Misfits songs, too. Had this Mexican made Fender Stratocaster that I got for my 10th birthday and a tiny Roland Cube solid state practice amp. I would bang around on that thing for hours. Really have to thank my parents for tolerating that, I’m sure it wasn’t any fun to listen to.

A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT I KNOW SAY THAT REAL HORRORPUNK SCENE DONT EXIST, THAT EVERY BAND IS JUST A MISFITS RIPOFF! WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THAT? HOW COULD THEY BE PROVEN WRONG?

There doesn’t need to be another Misfits. Anyone who believes that horror punk has never evolved past the Misfits just isn’t paying much attention to it. And that’s cool, it’s certainly not for everyone. As you know, there have been a lot of fantastic bands with original ideas and recordings who are considered to be horror punk and sound nothing like Misfits, you just have to know where to look. I think that my music speaks for itself and it’s definitely not just a copy of another band. Sure the influence will always be present, Glenn Danzig is a personal hero of mine and I’ve always been outspoken about that, but when I’m writing and recording Shadow Windhawk material I’m never doing it with the Misfits in mind specifically. Shadow Windhawk and the Morticians is its own thing. If I can say anything about my vocals, it’s that they don’t really sound like anyone else’s. And that is one of the most important things for me as an artist. I have no interest in being someone else, I just do what I love and don’t quit.

SHADOW WINDHAWK RELEASED QUITE THE MATERIAL UNTIL NOW. WHAT IS RELEASED AND HOW COULD THE OLD AND NEW FANS BUY IT/HEAR IT?

Before I started doing SWATM I put out an EP in 2013 which is just me and an acoustic guitar, performing live in the studio. It’s called ‘Tales From the Black Lodge’. I did it at a tiny little recording studio in the mountains back in Utah, at a place called Annex. All in one day, live, because I was broke and wanted to do as much as possible with what little I had. The following year I released my debut album, “Casket Spray”, in the Winter. It was received very well, much to my surprise. That really threw me into the scene in a big way. Before I knew it, I was funding a 12” vinyl pressing of the record and speaking to 90’s Goosebumps illustrator, Tim Jacobus, about creating cover art for the album reminiscent of the book covers he did when I was a little kid. Casket Spray got a 4 and a half star review in Rue Morgue Magazine last year. I followed that record up with a second, called “Cremation Garden”. That one came out in May this year. Currently I am pressing it to 12” vinyl with artwork by Scream Factory / HorrorHound Magazine cover artist, Joel Robinson. At the moment I am also preparing a 7 inch vinyl release for my two singles that never made it to physical format – “Unpleasant Dreams” and “The Never Dead”. That release is called “Exhumed” and is currently being crowd sourced with IndieGoGo. As of this interview the project is 10 percent funded and will be open until Dec. 31. If the project meets its funding goal, the 7” will be out early 2017 on random colored vinyl, a concept I’ve dubbed “Trick or Treat Bag” vinyl. Generally speaking, you can get most of my merchandise (when it is in stock) at shadowwindhawkandthemorticians.com. I’m also on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

_mg_5459 (photo by Adam Judd of Horrorshow Pictures)

I UNDERSTAND THERE IS AN INTERESTING STORY BEHIND THE SHOOTING OF YOUR VIDEO FOR THE SONG HALLOWEEN ’63 CONCERNING A HEARSE AND THE MICHAEL MYERS HOUSE AND ALL THAT. TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

Halloween ’63 was shot in November 2014 and released in December. It was primarily shot inside the old location of Castle of Chaos Haunted House and the Michael Myers House from Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. That particular version of the Myers House is located in the Avenues of Salt Lake City, only a few blocks from my old apartment. It was also used as the reference for the house that appears in the vinyl artwork that Tim Jacobus painted for my first record, Casket Spray. The hearse seen in Halloween ’63 and in my second video, 1428, is a 1988 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser that I was driving at the time, it belonged to my friend and SWATM guitarist, Tony “Mr. Drinks”. That’s actually how the two of us met was over that car. Both videos were directed by my friend, Adam Judd. He has a production company based out of SLC called Horrorshow Pictures.

HAVE YOU EVER PLAYED IN EUROPE WITH ONE OF YOUR BANDS? WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EUROPEAN AND THE U.S.CROWDS?

No, I still haven’t performed live in Europe yet. But from what I’ve seen, live shows are a bigger deal for Europeans than they are here in the States, generally speaking. Touring in the US, you’ll play to much smaller crowds every night and there’s fewer options for smaller touring bands as far as actual music venues go.

_mg_0065 (photo by Adam Judd of Horrorshow Pictures)

YOU ALSO PLAYED THE GUITAR FOR DIEMONSTERDIE FOR A WHILE. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES ON PLAYING WITH THEM?

I was barely 18 years old when the call came from DieMonsterDie asking if I wanted to audition for them. I was thrilled at that time and took it all very seriously, but my first audition completely sucked. I was nervous as fuck and stumbled all over everything. They kept me on though, and for the first time I actually felt like I was doing what I loved the most. Horror rock was what I’d always wanted to do. My first real show on stage was opening for Lizzy Borden with DieMonsterDie. The club hated the fake blood; one of my fondest memories of that show was the janitor literally following behind me on the stage with a mop when we were finished with the set. Shortly after that gig I stopped using sticky blood for shows; it had gotten inside the pickups of my Strat and totally destroyed the thing.

YOUR SOLO WORK IS ALSO MESMERIZING, IT IS A NICE PIECE OF ACOUSTIC HAUNTING MUSIC. BESIDES THE EP THAT CAME OUT A WHILE AGO, WHATS WITH THE NEW MATERIAL?

Thank you very much! The acoustic EP was a one off thing for me but I have many acoustic songs that I haven’t recorded and would definitely consider doing another acoustic album if that becomes an option at some point. I did an acoustic track for my second album, Cremation Garden, called “Mae”. It’s themed around an incredible 80s vampire western by Kathryn Bigelow, called Near Dark.

_mg_0144 (photo by Adam Judd of Horrorshow Pictures)

WHAT IS PLAYING AND TOURING WITH THE LEGENDARY ARGYLE GOOLSBY LIKE? I BET IT IS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE TO SHARE THE STAGE WITH A PERSON THAT INSPIRED SO MANY.

Yeah, it definitely is. It’s great. Touring with Goolsby has always been a big honor, as Blitzkid was one of my favorite bands as a kid and still are. Like I’ve said before, listening to Five Cellars Below back when it first came out was a life changing experience. Just one of those memories that I’ll always look back on as helping me realize that horror punk was what I actually wanted to do. I’ve learned a lot playing guitar for Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight. Sometimes it can be a bit surreal. Like when we play As The Rope Bridge Sways live, that always really takes me back to when I was like 13, 14 years old.

LETS TALK HORROR. ANY PREFERENCES IN THE MANY SUBGENRES OF THE HORROR? MINE ARE SLASHER AND HAMMER HORROR BUT ALSO I AM A SUCKER FOR FOUND FOOTAGE!

Hammer Films are fucking great! Christopher Lee scared the shit out of me as Dracula when I was a kid. I love all sorts of sub genres within Horror, but my favorites are still 1970s / 1980s Horror, Horror Comedy, Giallo and Silent Era / Classic Monster Movies. My favorite actors are Lon Chaney, Sr. and Vincent Price, my favorite directors are Tod Browning, Wes Craven and John Carpenter. It is really tough to get super specific though, because there’s so many different aspects of the genre that I enjoy. I love shitty movies and great movies, both for different reasons.

WHAT IS BETTER IN YOUR OPINION-GREAT HORROR MOVIE OR NICELY WRITTEN HORROR BOOK? I MEAN IT IS REALLY HARD TO DECIDE ISNT IT?

Oh yeah. It really depends on the story that’s being told. Some stories are served better by a visual format, others are better on the written page. I’ve always stood by the notion that books are superior to film adaptations, for the most part. Though there are some exceptions. But I enjoy reading horror novels and watching horror films equally. My favorite author is Clive Barker.

WHAT IS LIFE IN AMERICA LIKE? DO YOU LIVE WELL? IS IT REALLY THE PROMISED LAND? DOES THE AMERICAN DREAM EXIST?

That’s tough to describe to some one else, at least for me. I would say I live well, but that’s a matter of perspective I suppose. I honestly don’t need much to be happy in life. Making music and being able to travel around when opportunity knocks is really a privilege, and while I don’t travel *all* the time, I’m certainly very fortunate to be able to when I do. So I can’t complain. But I’m not any different from the average person. I work shitty day jobs, pay bills and don’t make much money at all. Nothing out of the ordinary, there. There’s a lot of people who get all salty about the subject but personally I wouldn’t say that America is the promised land. The American Dream in my opinion is a myth that’s been perpetuated to keep working class people motivated and ‘in their place’. It just doesn’t exist for most of us. Nobody really miraculously becomes rich by playing by the rules of the system and going to college and paying their dues. People get by, sure. But there’s this delusion of grandeur that America is where you can be a movie star or a rock star and hit it big with the huge house and the nice car, etc, etc. From what I see in our society today, the rich just get richer and the poor get poorer. And now, with the election of Donald Trump, things here are more tense than ever. Coast to coast it is tense. The election cycle this time around was insanely venomous. The fabric of the democratic republic that America always prides itself on being is torn, and that’s obvious to a lot of people now I think. Racism and prejudice are being revived in disturbing ways; Trump undoubtedly stoked the fires of the Neo Nazis and the KKK during his campaign, it doesn’t matter what he says about renouncing them. What’s done is done. And it all has inflicted more damage to this country than most will admit. It’s a confusing time, not just for America but for the world in general.

_mg_5446 (photo by Adam Judd of Horrorshow Pictures)

I KNOW YOU ARE A BUSY MAN. WHAT WILL THE FUTURE BRING FOR SHADOW WINDHAWK AND HIS BANDS/PROJECTS?

I have a lot that I’d still like to do as Shadow Windhawk; I am currently working on my third album, The Funeral Cortege, which is the final part of what I call The Funerary Trilogy – Casket Spray and Cremation Garden being the other two parts, respectively. I’ll be making more videos with Adam and his Horrorshow Pictures company. At the moment I’m deep into the process of funding and pressing quite a lot of vinyl records (at least by my standards, as far as business goes I don’t press large numbers of physical albums). The Cremation Garden 12” vinyl will finally be coming out very soon, and if funding goes as planned I’ll also be doing my first 7” vinyl, called “Exhumed”, which will feature the two stand alone singles I’ve recorded over the last three years – Unpleasant Dreams, my tribute to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and The Never Dead, my Phantasm themed track. The 7” will be dedicated in memory of Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man. The campaign for the 7” is currently taking place on IndieGoGo. There’s a lot of other cool stuff up for grabs on there that I’ll be working on if the goal is met. Supporters can check it all out here:http://igg.me/at/shadowwindhawkexhumed.

THANK YOU FOR THE INTERVIEW. IS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY AND I DIDN’T ASK YOU?

You’re welcome, any time. Thank you for having me. The only thing I’d like to add is that Donald Trump doesn’t represent my values as a human being. Being an American, I feel it’s important to have that be known among my listeners and friends in European countries. Trump is an example of everything that is wrong with my country.

 

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