As regular Rue Morgue readers will know, horror and heavy metal have long been comfortable, corpse-loving bedfellows. UK newcomers VIDEO NASTIES is the latest group of miscreants to stitch the two realms together, with debut album Dominion – released mid-quarantine on March 13 through APF Records – on skilfully merging bloodthirsty heavy metal with splattery samples, looming John Carpenter-style synths and frequent flights of grotesque imagination.
Rue Morgue’s Alex Deller caught up with VIDEO NASTIES earlier this year for a discussion on horror, metal, and just what makes this kind of band tick.
RM: How was Video Nasties spawned?
Rick Owen (bass): Our previous bands Iron Witch and The Bendal Interlude had shared a studio together and I’d been jamming some dad rock with Stu [Taylor, guitar] and Dave [Archer, drums] when we all had a bit of free time. By the time Bendal split up, Stu and Dave’s second band SSS had already gone on indefinite hiatus and they wanted to get something else going ASAP. Tommy [Lloyd, guitar] from Bendal fancied moving over to guitar and they asked me to stick around on bass. I introduced them to Damian [Von Talbot, vocals, formerly of The Magpyes) at a party and it all fell into place. A couple of jams later Video Nasties was born.
RM: What can you tell us about the album, Dominion?
Stu Taylor [guitar]: We wanted to do something different style-wise. When we started we were still unsure exactly where we were going. We began with mixing ’90s-style melodic death metal type riffs with upbeat stoner grooves. It felt like we were still limiting ourselves with this style and that ultimately after playing around with a few songs, we felt that we didn’t want to continue down that path. I was experimenting with harmonic minor patterns but with more scaled-back, punk-type riffs. This is how “Transvoltum” came about. I had the main riffs recorded on my phone for a while and just started playing them with the band one night. We pretty much finished the song by the time we left the studio. The rest of the songs just fell into place then in a similar way. We decided that we’d record the album ourselves. We toyed with the idea of going into a studio but decided we’d get better results by playing in a more familiar environment without the added pressures of time. We bought some new old gear for the session and locked ourselves in our rehearsal space for a couple of months, not really seeing the light of day – or any other humans for that matter. It was a fairly gruelling experience and wasn’t without its problems or setbacks. Once most of it was down I finished the rest back at my house before sending it to be mixed.
RM: Why do you think horror and heavy metal have been such comfortable bedfellows over the years?
RO: Black Sabbath… Black Sabbath summed it up perfectly. I think it was Geezer [Butler, Black Sabbath bassist] who said they wanted to capture the feeling people got from watching horror in their music. That first track on the self-titled album does exactly that: imagine hearing that for the first time back in 1970… Then you had artists like KISS and Alice Cooper embracing horror too and it just snowballed from there. It’s a tale of dark romance as old as time.
RM: Which came first for you – love of metal, or a love of horror?
RO: I think it was the music for me. I remember watching Candyman when I had just started senior school and not being able to use public toilets for months afterwards. Nightmare On Elm Street was another one that haunted my school years, but it was when I was introduced to zombie-themed Leeds thrashers Send More Paramedics a few years later I started getting heavily into zombie films and my love for horror grew from there.
ST: For me I discovered both at around the same time. I was 10 years old, in the last year of primary school when I was introduced to Nightmare On Elm Street at a childminder’s house. You don’t forget your first horror film. Watching the film made me feel nervous, excited and uneasy but also gave me a buzz. It was the first time I’d felt this mix of emotions. It was around this time that I first heard Iron Maiden at a neighbour’s house. He had the first eight records and I’d sit there listening to the albums on repeat whilst gazing over the amazing horror-inspired artwork, reading the lyrics about violence, folklore, horror and war.
Damian Von Talbot (vocals): Definitely the horror, I had no choice. My parents would let me watch horror films with them from an early age – around the age of five or six. I’m not sure if that makes them good or bad parents… Music came a little later around the age of 10. Like a lot of people my age, it went from Guns n’ Roses to Maiden to Slayer and then onto Cannibal Corpse and Carcass.
RM: While there have been a fair few synth acts directly lifting from the likes of John Carpenter, bands like Video Nasties who incorporate soundtrack elements into more traditional heavy metal structures are more of a rarity rarity. Tell us a bit about where the sound – and the idea for it – came from…
DVT: My musical background is more rooted in grindcore: 45 songs in 12 minutes, that kind of stuff. So it’s nice to have a chance to work with more traditional structures. On the next album, I’d like to see synths incorporated into the songs more rather than just complimenting the songs, but we’ll see how well this album does and if we can afford a full orchestra next time…
RM: One song is directly inspired John Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness, while the others are drawn from Damian’s imagination. Tell us a bit more about the lyrics.
DVT: The band came together from our love of horror and John Carpenter so it seemed natural to use JC as a springboard for lyrics, but I’d never want to be too influenced by just one artist. The lyrics range from knife fights to zombies making sweet love after a successful soiree. I don’t think I could get away with those subject matters in any other field to be honest…
RM: While both horror and metal can convey serious themes, they can also revel in pure escapism and fantasy. Is singing about zombies or the antics of serial killers a form of escape for you, considering how fucked up and awful the world is?
RO: It’s not like we’re not political people – in this day and age it’s very important to be politically savvy with how easy it is for the media to manipulate news, but we wanted to keep that out of the music. “Drone Eagle” touches on how close we are to Armageddon, but I wouldn’t call it a political statement by any stretch… more a nod to The Running Man, Soylent Green and Escape From New York.
DVT: The main thing for me was writing lyrics that weren’t too heavy or personal. We all said when we started the band that we wanted to write songs that are fun to listen to. Alright, the lyrics may be about piano wire hangings, undead fortification and drinking urine, but at least someone is having fun there…
RM: What are your favourites in terms of the official ‘video nasties’?
DVT: Evil Dead is a personal favourite of mine. It was one of the first horror films my parents forced me to watch.
RO: For me it has to be Tenebrae and Zombi. Tenebrae has that slick Argento style and amazing score from Goblin, while Zombi has zombie versus a shark. Need I say more?
ST: Yeah, I’d have to agree with Tenebrae. Also have to add The Beyond and The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue.
RM: Which are your favourite horror soundtracks? And do you have any favourite moments where metal crept into horror? and (b) rock/metal incursions into horror films?
RO: Goblin are favourites of mine, so pretty much anything from Goblin. Thom Yorke did an amazing job with the Suspiria remake, and I’ve also been digging The Haxan Cloak’s Midsommar score and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score for Mandy (which actually ties in to part two of the question as it features Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O))) on guitar). It’s also worth mentioning how metal/punk the Demons OST was, and big shout out to Slumber Party Massacre II for being so bat-shit crazy. A gang of teens stalked and tormented by this ’50s greaser with a guitar/drill super weapon, it even turns into a musical at one point…
DVT: Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Wojciech Kilar is a long-time favourite of mine along with John Carpenter’s The Fog.
RM: The album artwork definitely has a Fulci vibe – can you tell us a bit about that, how you discovered Alexandre Goulet and what kind of brief you gave him?
ST: Alex had just finished working with the band Dopethrone when we were looking for a suitable artist and the sleeve really caught our eye. The idea was to capture that 80s horror vibe, to give a throwback to that feeling you had when you walked into a video shop and picked up a VHS off the shelf. We wanted the artist to create a film-looking cover that included aspects of the lyrical content.
RM: There can be a tendency to look back at the glory days of the ’70s and ’80s, so which modern genre film-makers do you particularly admire?
DVT: For me Ari Aster and Robert Eggers are absolute masters of their craft. The imagery they use in their films stays with me long after I have watched them. I am so excited to see what else they come up with.
RO: A favourite for me at the moment is Panos Cosmatos. Both Mandy and Beyond The Black Rainbow blew me away. Visually stunning, amazing scores and a real sense of melancholy that runs throughout.
RM: When it comes to a quiet evening in and a 90-minute horror flick, are you more likely to go for splatter, schlock or deep existential dread?
DVT: If we’re talking about a quiet Sunday evening in and there is the creeping dread of an impending Monday morning at the back end of a wild weekend then I would opt for a more jovial classic like An American Werewolf In London or Fright Night over Begotten or A Serbian Film.
RO: Splatter for me right now, and teen-splatter at that. I’ve just finished the Scream franchise again and can feel Final Destination coming up next I think…
“The band came together from our love of horror and John Carpenter so it seemed natural to use JC as a springboard for lyrics”