26th April 2017
Ghoultown: all hail the undead kings of Gothabilly!
Imagine Iron Maiden meeting Johnny Cash at a horror convention and you’ve got Texan Gothabilly icons Ghoultown. Ramblin’ Man’s Malcolm Dome loves their racket from the crypt – and you will too…
They’re from Texas and play what is quaintly termed gothabilly. But have no doubts, there’s nothing novelty value in Ghoultown. What they do is deadly serious – or, should that be undeadly serious?!
The band were started in 1999 by Count Lyle, a vocalist/guitarist who had previously been in cult doom band Solitude Aeturnus. Wasting little time, Ghoultown released debut EP Boots Of Hell the same year. Since then, they’ve toured with the likes of Rocket From The Crypt, DRI, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Misfits (whose bassist Jerry Only has even guested with them live).
The band’s debut album Tales From The Dead West came out in 2001, since when Ghoultown have put out a further three records, with the latest, Ghost Of The Southern Son, imminent. In addition, they’ve had songs featured in horror films American Nightmare, Slice Of Life, Hallow’s End and Headcheese.
The Ghouls have also written a song for horror mistress Elvira, and their video for Drink With The Living Dead has become a YouTube sensation, with close on two million views to date.
Ghoultown – Lyle, Jake Middlefinger (guitar), Lizard Lozario (acoustic guitar/backing vocals), Randy Grimm (trumpet), Santi (bass/backing vocals) and Dalton Black (drums) – are riding into Ramblin’ Man, ready to spread their Texan zombiefied riffage. And the Count now opens the tomb on the treats in store!
What does ‘gothabilly’ actually mean?
Well, that’s not a term we came up with ourselves. There was a label called Skully Records who did three compilations under the gothabilly title a couple of decades back. This encompassed music that was psychobilly, rockabilly and contained horror elements – that sort of thing. We had the tracks Fistful Of Demons and Wicked Man on the Gothabilly: Razin’ Hell record (released in 2000). But the term seemed appropriate for what we are trying to do. All we have done is add in some metal and also spaghetti western motifs to the style, and off we went. So, we can never lay claim to inventing the genre, but calling what we do gothabilly sure fits well!
Where do the band get their influences?
We have always had some spaghetti western influences in there. The soundtracks to those films, and also the movies themselves have really inspired us. This gave the band the visual aspect of who we are. But then, I listen to so many different types of artists, from Johnny Cash to Iron Maiden, and that comes through in some respect in everything we do.
You also have to add in a little punk, and sometimes what we come up with sounds like Mercyful Fate riffs done in a rockabilly style! There’s even a little dual lead guitar stuff on the album, which again highlights the Maiden aspect of who we are.
The band have had cameo roles in a few horror movies. Would you like to do more of that type of thing?
There have been a few times when film companies have approached me or the band with the idea of us having roles in something they’re in the process of developing. But for various reasons, so far this has never worked out. But maybe in the future, this will finally come together. I’d also like to have the opportunity write a script for a horror film, and also to compose a full movie soundtrack.
You’re about to release a new album, the first in almost a decade. What took so long?
What happened was that I decided to take time out in 2010 to write a book (under the name Lyle Blackburn). In the past I have written for various music magazines, and also for a horror magazine called Rue Morgue (the Count does a monthly column titled Monstro Bizarro). I got a publishing deal almost immediately for this book (which was in the cryptozoology field – he might well be the first musician to appear at Ramblin’ Man who can claim such a distinction!), and then things just took off from there. I have been so busy working on this side of things that, while I was also getting songs ready for this album, it inevitably got heavily delayed.
How many books have you now written?
I’ve done four in all. But I also started getting calls from TV companies, asking for me to get involved with some of their shows. So, I have been working on series like Monsters & Mysteries In America, which I produced, and also Animal Plant for the Discovery Channel. In some ways, this has helped the band, because my profile has ensured that the name Ghoultown is now known to people who would never have thought of checking us out before. But it’s inevitably meant that I’ve not had the time to devote to the band in the way that I would have liked. Still, I’m not complaining, because it has certainly kept me very busy over the last seven years.
Has the Ghoultown image changed at all since the early days?
Not really. We have always had what I would call a dark country image. We have western clothes which are cut up, and then we add in spikes and studs. But our look is so much a part of who we are, and so individual to us that we can’t just go into a store and buy them off the peg. All of what we wear has to be made by us.
What difference will fans see and hear on the new album as compared to previous records?
I’d like to think that with each record we become a little more defined in what we do. I believe this time around we have a better idea than ever on our sound. The songs are better constructed.
In our early days, we were experimenting a lot more to find our niche. That’s not necessary any more. We know where we want to go, and that is with a heavier approach. You’ll hear a strong, more powerful production than we have ever had previously, which suits the material and our attitude. We have cut back on the rockabilly content, and accentuated the driving rock style. That suits where we are right now. But if you like what Ghoultown have done before, then you will love this.
What type of people are attracted to Ghoultown?
Our fans don’t fit neatly into any category. We get such a wide range of people who enjoy what we do. For a start, there are metalheads, and then there are punks. We also have those who enjoy the spaghetti western themes in our music. Because what we do is different to anyone else, you can’t say we have fans who come from one area of music – we get them from across the board. There are even those who only like Ghoultown. That’s part of the charm we have!
Have you seen a rise in bands influenced by you?
I don’t think there are really bands who you can say sound like us. Yes, there are some who have covered our songs and have even tried to mimic the way we look to some extent. However, so far I have to say there is nobody else who’ve done it in quite the same way as we have. I reckon it’s hard to do things the way Ghoultown have, so there are no others out there who you can point at and say they have followed in our footsteps. We are the only band in this genre. So, Ghoultown are unique.
Would you ever consider working with an orchestra?
That is an idea we would love to pursue in the future. We have had two horn players onstage before, and that gave us an extra dimension. And if we ever get the chance to collaborate with an orchestra, then I feel we could something really cool. It would be a great challenge for us. The only problem is finding the money and the time to make it happen. But we will keep this on the back burner for the future.
You wrote a song for Elvira. Are there any other horror icons you’d love to write a tune for?
The Elvira connection came about because her manager saw us playing live at a horror convention. He liked what we did, and so arranged for us to meet Elvira, and we clicked with her straight away. So much so that I wrote the song Mistress Of The Dark for her. But then, it went even further when we did a video for the track, and Elvira agreed to be in it. That got us a lot of attention, so it would be very cool to do it again with somebody else of that stature.
I love horror films, but really cannot think about which other stars from the genre I’d like to write a song for. You see, I reckon it would have to be somebody who combines horror and the western. So, if there is ever a horror western with a horror icon in it, then I will be there offering my services to write a suitable song!
Will you play any new songs at Ramblin’ Man?
There are 13 tracks on the new album, including an intro, and I feel certain we will do a couple of these at the festival. But I also know our UK fans will want us to play their favourite songs in our set. So, that’s what we’ll mostly do. As yet, we have no idea how long our set will be, but if you like what we do already, then you can almost guarantee that you will hear it when we get onstage.
You’re on the Outlaw Country Stage. So, what can people expect from you?
I would describe us at the outlaws of Outlaw Country! If you like that type of music, then you’ll already know there is a lot of variation in the genre. But we are the most extreme of the lot. Our music is darkly western, and I can assure everyone who comes to watch us that we will be different to anything else you’ll see on that stage.
Ghoultown play the Outlaw Country Stage on Saturday July 28. Get your tickets here.