The Maddest Story Ever Told: An Examination of Spider Baby

Merrye Maladies

The Merrye Syndrome is a rare disease known only to afflict descendants of Ebenezer Merrye. An unfortunate condition developed from generations of inbreeding. Causing a mental regression and deformity, beginning in late childhood. It is believed the victim of Merrye Syndrome will de-evolve to a pre-human state of savagery and cannibalism. This ailment cast a shadow of shame over the wealthy family for many years, prompting them to live in seclusion as the bloodline dried up. The patriarch, Titus W. Merrye, dedicated his life to hiding the family curse from the world. This included his brother Nedrick, their two sisters, and his 3 children. Devoted servant, Bruno, gave a solemn oath upon Titus’ death to protect the skeletons in the Merrye closet.

Elizabeth, Ralph, and Virginia Merrye with Bruno

Emily Howe and her brother Peter are distant cousins and the only other known living heirs. Emily, hungry for the family fortune, intends to become the legal guardian of the Merrye children. They arrive at the unkempt mansion on short notice with her lawyer, Mr. Schlockier, and his secretary, Anne. Catching Bruno off guard, just as he was cleaning up another unfortunate mess created by the “kids”.

Children, We’ve Got To Keep Some Secrets Today

The Merrye siblings are actually young adults with the mental faculties of unpredictable children. Ralph is the nonverbal oldest child. With gangly limbs and brute strength, he crawls through the dumbwaiter shafts of the dilapidated house. Elizabeth is more put together, often called upon by Bruno to look after her brother and sister. The youngest, Virginia, is especially peculiar with an obsession with bugs and spiders. Often playing dangerous games with butcher knives and keeping pet tarantulas in a roll top desk.

When the unwelcome guests insist on spending the night, Bruno quickly hatches a plan in hopes of deterring them from seizing control of the estate. Plotting to host an unsavory dinner party for the outsiders and spare the Merrye children from becoming the object of public scrutiny. Hanging over Emily and her lawyer, he divulges the intimate details of the children’s austere lifestyle. Serving up a roasted cat Ralph had caught, toadstools and weeds foraged by Virginia, and pickled insects. Anne and Peter are unfortunate victims of circumstance and seem to pick up on Bruno’s subtle cues. Peter teases his sister, hoping she’d change her mind about staying the night. Sparking a self-referential conversation with Anne about horror movies. The pair coquettishly gush about their favorite monsters, but when she mentions the Wolfman, all the color drains from Bruno’s face. Dripping with sweat, he gravely warns them, “There’s going to be a full moon tonight.” The pair sheepishly glance around the room, making eye contact with each Merrye child. Devious grins cross their faces, like mocking portents to the dangers that lie ahead.

Bruno & Ralph

Just Because Something Isn’t Good Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad

Spider Baby was the feature film debut of the celebrated cult-film director, Jack Hill. Best known for exploitation films like The Big Dollhouse, Switchblade Sisters, and Foxy Brown. Hill shot the movie in the summer of 1964 with the original title “Cannibal Orgy or The Maddest Story Ever Told” as a joke. Due to bad press, the producers cut the film up in a panic. Halting the release for 3 years, as they were involved in real estate development and went bankrupt. Independent producer, David L. Hewitt, saved the movie from being lost forever by acquiring a theatrical print for distribution in 1967. Changing the title to “Spider Baby”, though it was alternatively billed as “The Liver Eaters” in drive-in double features. Jack Hill admits to writing a script for a sequel called “Vampire Orgy,” which followed surviving characters, Peter and Anne, on their honeymoon. 

Sig Haig plays the mute Ralph Merrye. Though he had no dialog throughout the film, his wild facial expressions made the monstrous man-child a loveable character. Haig appeared in many of Jack Hill’s films, including his debut in Hill’s UCLA student film, The Host. Haig is most beloved by younger fans as Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Beverly Washburn plays the oldest Merrye daughter, Elizabeth. Washburn had also appeared alongside Sid Haig in Jack Hill’s Pit Stop. But the biggest star of the Spider Baby movie is Lon Chaney Jr. as the family chauffeur, Bruno. Veteran of several Universal horror films, Chaney appeared as the Mummy in three pictures, the monster in Ghost of Frankenstein, and the titular Son of Dracula. However, he is best remembered as the cursed Larry Talbot who would transform into The Wolf Man.

Many horror fans are quick to notice the similarities between Spider Baby and House of 1000 Corpses, beyond the casting of Sid Haig. The Firefly clan are presented as a more perverse version of the Merrye family. Residing in a decaying house filled with trap doors, taxidermy specimens, and crucified ragdolls. 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was also influenced by Spider Baby. Mirroring cannibalistic themes and relatives mentally unravelling while trying to cover up sins of family. Even the oldest of the Sawyers met a fate similar to Titus W. Merrye. Finally, The People Under The Stairs also takes direct inspiration from Jack Hill’s film. A rich and incestuous family reside in a big creepy house with a basement of mutants. Even the character Roach eats up every scene, in spite of being completely nonverbal just like Ralph Merrye.   

Virginia & Elizabeth

Well Beyond The Boundaries of Prudence and Good Taste

Murder and mayhem running rampant through the night, the Merrye children have stirred a chaos that is no longer capable of being kept secret. Bruno has prepared for this moment for some time but never expected it to arrive so soon. He sets out to retrieve a “toy” that will put an end to the madness and protect the Merrye legacy. Peter and Anne manage to escape as a menacing version of “Itsy-bitsy Spider” plays in the background. The pair marry, inherit the family fortune, and have a daughter of their own, named Jessica. She looks nothing like either of her parents with big dark eyes, wiry limbs, and a long face that lights up when she spies a spider outside. Not too unlike her presumably distant cousins; Elizabeth, Ralph, and Virginia. Perhaps the rare Merrye Syndrome, though believed to be extinguished from humanity, lives on in the next generation.

Review: Kanye West – Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft & Joshua Chaplinsky/Donda Listening Party

The fictional character of Kurt Vonnegut, Kilgore Trout, was an unsuccessful sci-fi author. The origins of his fabricated misfortune started as a joke from one of Vonnegut’s editors, Knox Burger. Once suggesting that it was much more entertaining to hear the idea or pitch of a science fiction novel rather than actually read the finished book. This comment led to Vonnegut creating the professionally unlucky alter ego.

Naturally, Kilgore Trout’s name was the first to come to mind when discovering Kanye West – Reanimator. I had been searching the Chicago Public Library catalogs for local horror when this title was suggested. The novella was authored in part by H.P. Lovecraft and Joshua Chaplinsky. Admittedly having also started as a joke, Kanye West – Reanimator followed Trout’s formula of sounding better as a concept than as a completed book. Its creation was fittingly an experiment by Chaplinsky. Beginning this reimagining by first swapping out names in Lovecraft’s original texts. Details were updated to reflect the rapper’s personal biography and the classic horror tale clicked into place with hip hop history. Thus, creating a dark comedy that begged to be paired with Kanye West’s tenth studio album, Donda. Released a little over a week after Lovecraft’s 131st birthday.

Written from the point of view of West’s college friend and trusted confidant. The narrator recounts his days under the Yeezy spell as an accessory to morbid crimes against the music industry. Kanye West is fondly remembered by his associate as an eccentric genius turned mad scientist. Obsessed with reanimating a dead genre beyond “cookie-cutter pop and gangsta rap.” Spotify’s most played tracks of Donda synched eerily well with the book’s pacing. The song, “Off The Grid”, echoes in the corners of the abandoned farmhouse where the pair isolate themselves to perform experiments. Flesh meets machine as Kanye literally plugs tracks into corpses. Souls trapped within give birth to unique remixes as the abominations rise from their slab. West waxes hyperbolic of art beyond death with the auto-tuned screams of “God Breathed”. But never satisfied, he seeks out new subjects for experiments to match the success of The College Dropout. Including a run in with head of Roc-A-Fella records, Damon Dash, stealing the ashes of Biggie Smalls and the ever-present beef between West and Jay-Z. The novella’s crescendo is a scene straight from the controversial video for “Monster”. Yet it is the track “24” that delivers poetic justice and the cautionary tale. A discordant church organ unravels the song as Ye faces the consequences of playing god. Wavering confidence as he chants, we gonna be okay.

Kanye West – Reanimator was possibly the only release of Yolo House Publishers, in September of 2015. Consisting of the trio Cameron Pierce, Matthew Revert, and personal favorite, Molly Tanzer. Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of West’s music, his many struggles always manage to find their way into the public consciousness of everyday life. His controversies since the release of Kanye West – Reanimator have certainly eclipsed those that came before. Between West’s questionable political ties, divorce from tabloid queen, continued “shameless pillaging of imagery from Alejandro Jodorowsky”, and setting himself on fire among homophobes and rapists…one can only hope Joshua Chaplinsky will be inspired to resurrect the parallel continuity of the Reanimator sequels.

St Rooster Books: Stranger With Friction 1 & 2

Tim Murr walks the path of most resistance when it comes to DIY publishing. Having debuted his first collection Destroying Lives for Fun and Profit over 25 years ago before founding St Rooster Books. Managed with his wife Stephanie, St Rooster Books regularly releases anthologies and horror novellas. Uplifting writers with a unique flair for horror with e-readers or a print-on-demand service. Remaining loyal to the palpable connection with art, Murr also released the physical magazine, Stranger With Friction. A quarterly publication offering outsider literature for those inspired by horror, comics, and punk rock. 

The first few issues offer a variety of regular columns and personal essays. Diving into horror franchises like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and various albums of Black Flag and Alice Cooper. Chris Cavoretto of Werewolves in Siberia, contributes a dissection of punksploitation soundtracks like Repo Man and Return of The Living Dead. SWF also examines socio-political issues within the horror genre in an interview with up and coming indie director, Izzy Lee

Other steady purveyors of twisted fiction like “Neighborhood Watch” and “Secret Satan” is author Carter Johnson. Keeping the nightmares alive from the infected trenches of an apocalyptic suburbia to the cubicle walls of a literal office Hell. Jeremy Lowe also haunts the pages of SWF with “Macho Insecurity” and “Bury Them Deep”. A queer punk videodrome of self discovery and a carny possessed hearse taking on a hillbilly sex church. Others are newcomers, like Lamont Turner and his tale of mad science haunting a house with time warping mutants in “Cramps”. Reed Alexander writes “The Nightlife”, a thriller about a late night rave that turns into a cannibal buffet. There’s political prose from Erik Stewart and morbidly romantic poetry by Marcelline Block. 

Lastly, a Publisher Spotlight is featured on Sam Richard of the kindred indie press, Weird Punk Books. Richard talks about origins and upcoming releases of the erotic occult variety. (Checkout their tribute anthologies to GG Allin and David Cronenburg.) 

For those that dabble primarily in weird cult genres, Stranger With Friction is worth picking up from St Rooster Books. If not inspired to submit to the magazine itself,it is a must read to further introduce yourself to the many voices of indie horror culture. 

You can pick up Stranger With Friction #1 & #2 HERE and peruse other releases by St Rooster Books. Check out the latest The God Provides by Thomas R Clark!

Review: Kids of the Black Hole – A Punksploitation Anthology

My first introductions to punk rock were exactly as Tim Murr described them, “pink mohawked parodies on TV shows like Mama’s Family.” Or perhaps it was a young Johnny Depp “Speaker Diving” to Agent Orange on 21 Jump Street. The fascination with these cartoon portrayals led me to seek out other punks on film. Low budget movies with actual bands performing punk rock soundtracks and even real punkers as extras.

Anyone with a special devotion to punksploitation has a story of the influence it had on their life. Return of The Living Dead took place on the day I was born, and I’ve sampled many lines from Repo Man for mixtapes, over the years. Tim Marr shares the same love for the subgenre that I do. Curating a small collection of original short stories inspired by classics of the 80s like Suburbia and Dudes. St Rooster Books released the (hopefully the 1st of many) anthology, Kids of the Black Hole.

Sarah Miner’s “Black Thunder” is a fast-paced tale of mad science. Flesh crazed Gipper clones terrorize a dive on the outskirts of town. A band of punks on tour deliver a splatter fest with excellent one-liner cheese. Chris Hallock continues the theme of surreal tour life with “Urchins”. A punkrock girl finds her true voice after a gig. Facing off with Nazi skin heads as newly crowned queen of the Philly CHUDs. Paul Lubsczewski’s “I Love Livin’ in the City” is a hard-boiled fleece. A punk gang prowls through strange city streets, ready to pounce on poseurs for a good time. But amid the flames and dead bodies, who is hunting who? “Skate or Die” by Jeremy Lowe is a demonic cumming-of-age nightmare. Weird kids gotta stick together and take back their power when friendships are threatened. Even if it means unleashing hell on your hometown with Satanic skateboard Droogs! Tim Murr concludes the anthology with “What We Do Is Secret”. A spooky crush drags a musician into the middle of necromancer feud. Caught between a swamp witch and a death cult, this story proves that sometimes punk rock can save your life.

I certainly hope to see more volumes of punksploitation anthologies from St Rooster Books in the future. The title, Kids of The Black Hole was taken from a song of the same name off the Adolescents’ blue album, as a tribute to the late bassist, Frank Soto. It’s sloppy good fun for lovers of weird fiction and the horror show of subculture.

Available on Amazon here.

Review: Nick Shoulders “Home on the Rage”

Returning to social media with a “divorced” status is catnip to incels from high school and rando friend-of-friend fuck boys. This is how my quarantine started in spring of 2020. Messages from strangers wanting to get to know me better while simultaneously talking down to me about music. The only good thing to come of these inevitably blocked conversations was my introduction to Nick Shoulders. A don’t-call-me-country, country musician from the Ozarks. With yodeling vocals that rival Roy Orbison or Slim Whitman, and the guitar skills to flawlessly pull off a surf cover of The Stooges “No Fun”. The music of Nick Shoulders amplifies the nostalgia I feel every spring for the rural Midwest. Dreaming of running barefoot on gravel roads and chasing lighting bugs.

I’m incredibly critical about modern country, having grown up in the cornfields on the Iowa/Missouri border. One easily tires of trendy mullets and embroidered western shirts on art students idolizing white trash aesthetics. Nick Shoulders is anything but new wave redneck, challenging perceptions of what punk and country are and how they overlap. Acknowledging ancestral sins and noting how we’ve veered far from the righteous path with greed and “progress”.

Putting the ‘try’ in ‘country’.

Home on the Rage is Nick Shoulders’ 3rd album, sans a full band backing him. Bare bones tracks of his eerie howls and coyote-like yips over guitar. Beginning with the song and first single, “Turn on the Dark”. It tips off the listener that this release is much heavier than Lonely Like Me or Okay, Crawdad. It’s an exploration of a hateful heritage blossoming into apathy and hypocrisy with lyrics like,

“How can the land of the free be the home of the slave?”

Home on the Rage is a smothered rage of isolation as Nick makes himself right at home in these shadows. Picked apart and examined closely in quarantine. Haunting whistles to the boogers and haints of the wilderness, sharing their pain and loneliness as history repeats itself.

“Every war is a rich man’s war and every fight is a failure.”

Home on the Rage offers one dirge right after another. Each mourning the pre-Covid19 world left behind and the melancholy hope that we can do better. The album closes with “Twice as Bright”, a relatable ballad of helplessness. Leaving you at the crossroads to face the deep chasm of mistrust and the strength to move forward.

Home on the Rage is available on all streaming platforms as of April 20th.

Bandcamp. Facebook. Youtube.

The Rise of the Drive-In Mutants

“We are drive-in mutants; we are not like other people.”

In a small hotel conference room that stank of weed, a sea of right hands were raised in pledge. Some hands were parted as Vulcan greetings and others posed as devil horns. The audience was being sworn in by taking the drive-in oath.

“As long as one drive-in remains on the planet Earth
We will party like jungle animals
We will boogie ’til we puke
The drive-in will never die”

Long before I was ever thought of or before the term was invented, my father was a drive-in mutant. A rock n’ roll hippie of the 70’s, that regularly took in the creature features at the local drive-in each weekend. I didn’t know until later in life how much he loved the spook shows and Midnight movies. The very same cult films that I too would come to love in my life. In the mid-90s there was no greater bond between us than to make popcorn on a Saturday night and watch TNT’s Monster Vision. This was my introduction to Joe Bob Briggs, the premier drive-in film critic. Joe Bob would host the double feature and offer obscure trivia and cheap jokes. Usually, my dad would fall asleep before the second movie and I’d be left with my own prepubescent fears in the darkness of our living room. These Saturday nights are some of the happiest memories I have with my old man.

Monster Vision was officially cancelled in 2000 but the man behind Joe Bob, John Bloom, maintained an official website dedicated to his alter ego. His own work had inspired me over the years to continue to pursue writing and film making. Naturally, I did my best to follow his career with mailing lists to stay on top of his columns and events.

A few years back, John Bloom met horror enthusiast, Diana Prince when she attended one of his signings. The two became friends right about the time he was approached for the umpteenth time about a new show. Admittedly going along with it for a free lunch, he was introduced to AMC’s new horror streaming platform, Shudder. The idea was to resurrect the character and continue to host horror films. Unsure at first, Diana Prince encouraged Bloom to accept the offer. Convincing him that the fans were numerous and hungry for a return. When the funding fell through at the last minute, Prince helped secure resources to make the show happen. So as Bloom prepared to get back in the saddle, he asked Prince to be the new mail girl, “Darcy”.

Joe Bob Briggs officially returned in the summer of 2018 with a 24-hour marathon called The Last Drive-In. The response was larger than anticipated, with thousands overloading and ultimately crashing Shudder and AMC servers. Fans were tuning-in to the loading screen of doom, unable to watch the marathon. The few that could log-on got to witness Joe Bob give an emotional sign off at the end. Expressing gratitude to all the fans over the years, as he hung up his spurs. But breaking the internet was good news for Joe Bob, as it prompted Shudder to bring him back with 2 holiday specials and a regular series.

March of 2019 a reoccurring Friday night double feature with Darcy the mail girl. While the first season was airing, Joe Bob hit the road with his one man show, How Rednecks Saved Hollywood. A 2-hour cinematic lecture about the true identity of rednecks and their impact on film, from low budget to mainstream. I caught Rednecks in Milwaukee that spring, learning history of the films my dad loved of hillbillies and moonshiners.

The line to meet Joe Bob was wrapped around the block on that frigid Wisconsin evening. He arrived in a hearse from a local funeral home to a roar of applause from the crowd. When the line finally rotated through, I stood star struck before the man I grew up watching on Saturday nights. He shook my hand and signed my book: To Krystle, a drive-in kind of gal.

2020 ended up being the revival year of the drive-in with Corona virus closing theaters across the country. Reaffirming what Joe Bob has been insisting all along, the drive-in will never die. The Shudder network was generous to everyone on lock down with a second season of The Last Drive-In. Citing more viewers than ever before, fanfare flooded social media with official and unofficial merchandise. 4 more holiday specials were released and promise of a 3rd season.

February of this year, an invitation was broadcast to fans on all platforms. The first ever Joe Bob Drive-In Jamboree, a 3-day event at the Mahoning Theater in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. Scheduled for later this summer, the Jamboree includes an indie festival for guerrilla filmmakers called “Mutant Fest”. The underfunded and DIY directors were encouraged to submit their horror films. All submissions from low-budget to no-budget welcome.

When Joe Bob and Darcy were announced as guests for the fan convention, Days of the Dead, I decided to attend myself. I was curious what such a gathering would be like for fans and celebrities during Covid. If local numbers stayed low and vaccinations continued to roll out smoothly, this would be the first horror convention in Chicago since the pandemic started.

At the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, employees were cased in plastic at the front desk. Hand sanitizing dispensers lingered in a few corners but there was minimal direction for convention attendees. The main requirement was wearing a mask properly at all times. An unquestioned rule that very few broke. After ping-ponging back and forth between will-call and volunteers, I found my way to the main room. For a few hours, I chatted up strangers and vendors, waiting for my scheduled photo op with Joe Bob and Darcy.

Considering it had been a while since the last convention, everyone was a little rusty on opening night. The photographers had given me the incorrect time slot but were determined to make it right. Runners and organizers would zip back and forth, reassuring me, “Don’t worry kid, we’ll get you a photo with Joe Bob.”

“And Darcy.” I would add every time.

There would be no Last Drive-In without Darcy.

Thankfully, both guests agreed to reshoot before their scheduled panel. Down to the last minute, here came Joe Bob Briggs, ten miles tall in his bolo and boots. Darcy glided beside him in an ethereal evening dress. Both kept their distance and masks remained on at all times through the convention. As part of convention rules, every guest had the right to set their own boundaries for contact with fans. Joe Bob had previously admitted on Diana Prince’s own podcast, Geek Tawk that he had contracted Covid in the beginning of 2020. An experience I’m sure neither wanted to repeat. They said little if anything during our reshoot before quickly moving on to their panel. I thanked everyone nervously, and followed behind them from a distance, taking a seat in the far back.

Right out of the gate, Joe Bob shared that he and local horror host, Svengoolie had been plotting doing a show together at the Music Box Theater. In summer of 2019, both hosts were hinting on social media that they were working on a project. Plans were put on hold due to the pandemic and according to Joe Bob, “Svengoolie is not coming out of his house until Covid is over.”

Joe Bob goes on to announce he’s looking to produce films and has been reading different horror anthologies that come out each year. While admitting that most are not film material, he examines each “in a certain weird way” that could possibly change them into film material. His Mutant Festival this summer is a manifestation of that, as well as uplifting the underdog film makers.

A few days before the convention, Joe Bob had gone to social media reminding his followers of the upcoming deadline for Mutant Fest. Seeing this, I had considered a short film I had helped create in 2013. Friends and I were inspired by an email received from a Joe Bob mailing list. After years of forgetting, here he was in my inbox asking for screenplays and scripts from his fans. Our short was never finished and years later I am the sole owner of the remaining footage. With a run time of 6 minutes and 51 seconds, I updated the movie the best I could and submitted it to Mutant Fest.

I have no delusions about my humble no-budget horror short, but I’m optimistic for horror in general. During the end of his panel, he marveled at how horror has become mainstream in the last 20 years. Diana Prince is now a regular columnist for Fangoria and John Bloom is a man with a vision for avant-garde directors struggling to get their films made. The Last Drive-In has really helped Shudder take off, and the team behind it will likely do the same for the future of horror movies.

The 3rd season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs airs Friday, April 16th only on Shudder.

Bugger Banksy

When Exit Through The Gift Shop premiered at Chicago’s Landmark Theater, the city’s hipsterati were pissed into a frenzy when Banksy’s graffiti was discovered in quiet folds of the city. What followed in the summer of 2010 was the stress and congestion from gawkers trying to snap photos for social media. Debates of mural preservation or vandalism came into play. Chicago’s Graffiti Busters turned a blind eye and real estate developers raced to catch a ride on the coattails of street art popularity. But this all consuming crazy train of Banksy hype is to be expected in a major city. What if the eccentric artist paid a visit to an unlikely rural community with simple folks leading quiet lives? Small ponds ripple high and wide just the same.

In the South Wales Valleys are the deep scars of collieries closed in the 80s and the blue-collar communities that suffered as a direct result. Through struggle and adaptation, their economy crawled forward with fringes of tourism and unusual imports. What is a working-class lad without a side hustle? This is where we meet Glyn and his best mate, Kev. Childhood pals you likely remember from your own school days of smoking and goofing off.

Glyn enjoys a self-sufficient existence far from most people on the family farm. He maintains the front of tending to sheep while moonlighting as a profitable bud tender. Comfortably playing his part in a local black market that serves its community well enough. So when Banksy arrives with a thoughtless gift for the side of Glyn’s barn, the hot take attracts the wrong kind of attention. Suddenly the reclusive luxuries enjoyed by the hapless skunk growers are gone as social media lights up. Between thirsty journalists, locals trying to cash in, and art-scene charlatans, Glyn and Kev are left to sort out the chaos and protect their business.

Author Roy D Hacksaw was inspired by his own experiences with the 3-ring circus on the heels of Banksy’s Barton Hill installation on Valentine’s day of 2020. He completed the novel in 16 days while on lockdown. Quick read and a cheeky laugh, Bugger Banksy examines both sides of the coin on guerrilla-graffiti’s much larger impact.

The Scene That Would Not Die: 20 Years of Post-Millennial Punk in the UK

Punks of a certain age are nostalgia junkies in spite of what they may tell you. Fond of orating personal experiences of formative years regardless of creative inclinations. Others are record keepers, documenting their scene through a camera lens, fuzzy tape recorder, or Xeroxed fanzine. At the turn of the millennium, the manner of capturing these moments was transformed seemingly overnight as the internet became more common. The DIY community had to evolve with the rise of social media, YouTube, and Bandcamp. 4-track recorders were replaced with laptops, cut n’paste became photoshop, and Facebook invites were favored over street teams posting show fliers. Even though punk remains a highly debated Schrodinger’s Cat, the scene continues to thrive through adaptation.

“Punk is never past tense,” writes British author and UK punk veteran, Ian Glasper. Sometimes known as “Slug”, Glasper has played bass for numerous bands such as Decadence Within, Stampin’ Ground, Human Error, A Flux of Pink Indians, and Suicide Watch– just to name a few. Glasper is also an ambitious historian of the UK punk scene, referring to himself as a “docu-mentalist”. Appropriately so as he started with Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980-1984, published in 2003. Another 4 books followed to cover the mid 80s to present, ending the series with The Scene That Would Not Die: Twenty years of Post-Millennial Punk in the UK. Written factually as an encyclopedia but reading as comfortably as a fanzine, the book delivers 650 pages of 111 bands, 350 photos, and over 200 fliers. Glasper lets the personalities of the musicians he interviews shine through in a comfortable setting. The bands respond by sharing their stories of origin, the impact of social media, and classic drunk-punk anecdotes that come with the territory of playing gigs and touring. 

I was initially intimidated by the size of the book, right out the gate. Knowing nothing of the UK’s hardcore scene aside from a few classic staples. Yet I embraced my education and read The Scene That Would Not Die from cover to cover instead of picking and choosing. At the end of every chapter, Glasper provides a select discography of each band and even links where you can learn more and listen to the featured musicians. Perhaps it took me longer than it should have to finish, but I used these provided resources to properly familiarize myself with each group. Engineer Records and Earth Island Books just announced the release of a 56-track compilation album to accompany the second run of the book, which I snapped up pretty quickly.

Being in awe of his creative gumption, I reached out to Ian to pick his brain about his writing process and bookshelf. He welcomed the opportunity with incredible warmth, just like any old friend from your own local scene.

KR: Everybody sort of has a story of where their creativity first bloomed. How did you get started writing? How did that evolve into your start for Terrorizer back in 1993?

Ian: Well, I always liked reading, and writing seemed to come relatively easily (compared to maths, haha!) I used to love all the James Bond books when I was a pre-teen, and remember writing a story for English class which involved a quite gratuitous torture scene, that prompted questions to be asked about what I was being allowed to read at home. If only they knew… but more on my love for horror later!

Anyway, I got into punk, which was very empowering, and you were encouraged/inspired to pick up a guitar or a pen – or both, in my case – and create your own art. I started doing a xeroxed fanzine in about 1985, called Little Things Please Little Minds, writing off to bands with generic questionnaires and stuff. My friend’s mum would photocopy them where she worked when the boss was out for lunch! I did five issues, before I got too busy with the band and stuff, but it planted the seed, for sure.

Then I was ordering lots of records from Rob Clymo, who ran a CD distribution out of Cornwall in the early Nineties, and I was always asking him for obscure hardcore and metal imports, so he knew I was into the scene. When he started up Terrorizer magazine, he asked me if I wanted to do a hardcore column, and the first “Hardcore Holocaust” ran in # 3. I did my first full interview the following issue, and then contributed to every single issue until it folded a few years back.

KR: Your first book was published in 2003 and there have been 5 other titles that followed in the next 17 years. That’s no small feat, considering your music career and personal life. What kind of writing process or disciplines do you utilize? Do you have a strict writing schedule daily?

Ian: Well, they were all pretty big books, and each took about two years to write, and I had a year off here and there. But you’re right, I have a full-time job, and only write – and play music – in my spare time. As well as the six books since 2003, I’ve recorded six albums and six EPs… the number of the beast, right? On average I probably do two hours a day writing, or thereabouts. Although back in the Noughties, I would get insomnia quite frequently, so I’d be up really early and/or late, and did a lot more than that. But I don’t have a writing schedule as such, yet even when I don’t write anything, I always try to do something every day towards whatever I’m working on, even if it’s firing off emails, chasing up photos… it helps to know you’ve done something positive to progress your project every day.

KR: So what do you have sitting on your bookshelf? What do you like to read regularly or what are some of your influential favorite reads?

Ian: I’ve always read horror fiction, since as long as I can remember, and a lot of my favourite books are from that genre – but I’ll save that for the next question, haha! I’ve kind of grown up with Stephen King though, and his books have evolved away from straight horror, and I’ve followed him on that journey. I pretty much pick his stuff up as and when it’s released and devour that; I love his work because it’s really easy to read – he doesn’t make everything convoluted for the sake of it – and he fleshes out such believable characters. But right now, I’m reading a non-fiction book, Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, which I like to do now and again, just to feed my head a bit, and after that I’ve got NOS4A2 to read, by Joe Hill, who is of course Stephen King’s son. I also really love to read musical biographies/autobiographies, and have recently finished books on Sick Of It All and Therapy?

KR: I had read that you were a big fan of horror and sci-fi comics as a kid, do you still partake in the genre? Care to name some favorites that stick out in memory?

Ian: Yes! This is pure escapism for me. I love horror films, and I love horror books. I got into horror fiction when I was a kid, devouring all the works by pulp novelist Guy N. Smith, who sadly died very recently. From there, I moved to James Herbert and Shaun Hutson… I was reading a couple of books a week all through my teens, probably hooked in as much by the graphic sex as the gore and violence, truth be told. A few times I would stay up all night reading if I was really engrossed in a book. I’ve already mentioned Stephen King, who is a master story-teller, but some of my other favourites were Graham Masterton, whose early books especially were wildly imaginative, Robert McCammon, H.P. Lovecraft, Brian Lumley, Whitley Streiber, Clive Barker… the list is endless. As far as sci-fi comics go, well, I’m not a massive comic fan, truth be told, but as a kid I consumed 2000AD and Action… gratuitous violence and escapism was my calling, I think.

KR: Considering that 2020 was a lost year for many around the globe, it did provide ample time to reflect and freedom to create. How did you keep yourself occupied during quarantine? Did you work on any new projects, writing or musical?

Ian: Well, the new book, The Scene That Would Not Die: Twenty Years of Post-Millennial Punk In The UK, really came together after COVID kicked in. It gave me something to focus on, and seemed a great way of reminding people why we love underground music so much when there were no gigs… I say that as if it’s past tense, but at the time of writing, there are still no gigs, and I just hope we get back to interacting in that way soon. But needless to say, I had a bit of extra time for editing and proofing and everything, and I got it over the line just the right side of the deadline (I wanted it out before the end of 2020 – so the title actually made sense, haha!)
I also kept myself sane by writing lots of music and lyrics, and a lot of that ended up being used by Zero Again, the new band I’m in, that basically coalesced during lockdown. We bounced ideas back and forth and we were chomping at the bit as soon as the rehearsal studios opened to play together. We did two months of hard jamming and then recorded a dozen songs just before they shut everything back down again. Which was great timing really, because we’ve since released all those songs, as two EPs and a track for a compilation, whilst we’ve been unable to get back together to play. Having that material recorded has helped keep the band ‘active’ whilst we’ve been unavoidably inactive.

KR: The past 20 years saw rapidly advancing technology, forcing DIY scenes to adapt and evolve. What do you think the face of punk is going to look like post-pandemic?

Ian: Hopefully much like it was before, but we’ll cherish local gigs and bands just a little bit more. The thing that’s really in question is whether we’ll be able to gig internationally the way we used to… and that’s partly due to the pandemic, and partly due to Brexit, I suppose. But mainly the pandemic. We’ll have to wait and see, but I hope that upcoming young musicians are still going to be able to drag themselves around the world on a wing and a prayer like we’ve enjoyed doing these last three or four decades.

KR: What advice would you give to novice writers out there looking to evolve their craft?

Ian: I would just say: be yourself, and let your personality shine through, because a few honest words are worth a thousand that are less so. And keep chipping away at it – if you’ve got a book in you, don’t stop until you’ve got it out, because if the last year has shown us anything, it’s to make your own ‘luck’, because you can’t take anything for granted, and you certainly can’t sit back and wait for opportunity to knock. As Nasty Ronnie from Nasty Savage once said, “Life is short at its longest…”

You can get your own copy of Ian Glasper’s latest book at Earth Island Books.

Eulogy for a Dive Bar

It felt like centuries had passed by my cave before I emerged pale and pink-eyed from
whiskey and song; but the outside world and everyone in it was just as disappointing as they
ever were.
Fuck this city.
I traveled the endless cracked sidewalks of a shitty neighborhood, covered in smashed
tequila bottles and pornographic chalk drawings. A salty shuffle down a glittering path of
remorse and the whole time I’m crying under my black aviator glasses.
Walking around and crying.
It had been a weird day—after an even weirder night.
Several cans of RC were consumed to remedy the best/worst emotional hangover I’ve
encountered within a burning inch of memory. Most of that morning was spent scrubbing off all the sharpie X’s on my arms. I had held my brother down and scribbled them across his cyclist calves too. Intoxicated punk rock Voodoo rituals, I’m sure, just like throwing flaming matchsticks at one another. At this rate, we’ll surely kill ourselves before Halloween.
Well who the hell knows, man?!
The world may never know and God Damn I’ve been drunk a lot.
I was just so happy to have a few days off in front of me that I never bothered to look at a
clock or put the bottle down. Every last one of us pulled up our britches by studded belts
missing teeth and moved onto other dive bars. New mud holes, new shit spoons, and alters of watered-down liquor bottles to pray at. Burning through every poor-to-hip neighborhood from the South side on up, trying to find a place of our own. We sank every dive between here and there that had its moment of catching on just to fill the empty space in our heads and make us feel like we were part of something again.
The ghosts on those walls had a language that caught the beauty and viciousness of ordinary
talk. The plain-speak of thieves, vets, addicts, and terminal disciples that shave in the gutter.
Talk that has a fine, incisive, and dramatic tone to it. And we clung to those words like high
school hangers-on that never made it out of their hometown. Never noticed all the beautiful evenings we wasted in stuffy bars. Never considered that you’d end up on the floor after rocking on loose bar stools with loose women and air guitaring to Bad Company on cue sticks.
I might as well have been God Damned Ed McMahon, handing over my whole paycheck to a different bar each week. And in the morning, only the matchbooks and re-entry stamps will remember where I’ve gone.
There is a point for every old tavern when all the geriatrics start dropping off like flies. Lie
down and die from snuff and rotten livers or they quit drinking on doctor’s orders and hen
pecks. And then our generational blahs invade. Those soldiers of cool and idolized white trash that have fucked up one too many times in the night club district and consistently whined about
bumming smokes.
Fixies for Trixies, Wugazi, and “Jaymo-soco, bro.”
High fives for low lives, blood guts and fire trucks.
Feeling fired and inspired.
A/A propaganda, Buddhism for dummies, and Dharma Bum squat cults pushing up Daisy
Cutters.
Most are waiting for the moment when you stop talking to go on about their own
lives and it’s always a piss and moan twist and shout. Too many overusing the word “like”
and deploying fat jokes at their own expense. Even a polite laugh was a trap.
And here I was in my third decade feeling like a thing from another planet. Only capable of
relating to half humanoids that made careers of singing about isolation like Mark
Mothersbaugh or David Byrne.
So you move on. You move on because they’ve filled every booth and bike rack. Even the
can overflows with their top 40 hits. How cruel fate’s hand is when she puts a dollar in the jukebox.
Trapped in our own personal Hell of a spinning room, the night will roll upon that “break
down” hour. I told the truth and dispensed otherworldly advice, slurred and running to new
depths in circles and circles. Chasing its own tail and carving a gigantic ‘O’ into our brains.
Secrets and sins confessed. Discord, Manipulation, and Girlfriend Island.
These are truths channeled from another realm entirely. Some Shamen can unlock things with tortuous physical acts like sweat lodges or sun dances. Us scumbags consume our weight in cheap beer. So there are no longer arguments about the secret of life. Pretty sure we got it figured out…as long as we are able to find a pen to write it down before it’s forgotten.
Maybe it’s no secret at all.
Winter never fails to turn to spring.
The sun never fails to rise and shine an unflattering light onto our faces.
Hangovers get harder and every morning we notice pasty beer bellies dotted in bad stick n pokes, hanging over screaming hems. Cigarette lines scratched into lips and eyes and coal and makeup smeared across sunken cheeks. Another 7am Sunday morning glimpse into the future where we still lack any sort of direction. Errant ambition.
We could easily just drink away the rest of our youth…
Never giving up the dope, the wine, the stage, or measuring out insomnia through Nick at Nite TV shows, even after the landlord fixes the gas leak.
Under fed and overgrown from bad habits and characters into cardboard caricatures to hang on oily walls. Another brood of seasoned barflies that will live and die by law of the taverns.

-Originally Published in Wonderlust Literary Zine 2015

Hedge Riding the Sidewalks of Chicago

The grinding wheels of freight trains were haunting cries of ambient soundscapes
polluted with graffiti. I watched them crawl along the horizon from my window with my
pumpkin spice coffee as silhouettes of parking lot gulls weave across a grey sky on the morning
of October first. Halloween season was here. The face of it has changed as I have gotten older,
making celebrating more difficult. Living alone in a post Covid19 Chicago raises the challenge
to be merry and spooky even higher. We’re all desensitized to fear of the unknown after 6
months of existing in an apocalyptic horror film. I was determined to celebrate by any means
necessary this year, hell bent on tricks and treats.
With the weather unseasonably agreeable, I decided to start off the month of October
with a trip to the legendary Haunted Trails in Burbank. A Halloween themed year-round
attraction that has been entertaining kids and kids-at-heart since 1975. Reopening in early June
along with Covid19 guidelines, they offered weekly deals to keep business rolling and asked all
patrons to wear masks.
Pulling into the parking lot on a weekday afternoon I was greeted alone by the iconic
fiberglass Frankenstein statue. At first, I wasn’t even sure it was open as not a soul occupied the
park. Even the arcade, loud as ever with every game blaring its pitch, was void of humans. I
wandered for a bit before coming across sleepy teenage employees, surprised at the presence of a
customer trying to treat themself to a windy round of 18-hole mini-golf. The course is decorated
with statues of vampires, ghosts, and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. With no real skill
and not keeping score, I whacked my little green ball through giant skulls and mini haunted
houses at my own pace before buzzing around the go-kart track solo a few times.
Arcades can be a little disorienting to begin with but without screaming children running
in circles around you it’s easy to be consumed by a game and lose track of time. That’s exactly
what happened to me in the Batman driving game and other spooky themed amusements. I blew
a small fortune on ski-ball until my frustration of losing got the best of me. Looking around and
finding the floor vacant, I boldly cheated by walking up the lane and plunking balls in the highest
score slots. The only other occupant was a young attendant at the prize station. She’d look at her
wristwatch frequently and time herself wiping down games with disinfectant, but otherwise it
was a ghost town.
Seemingly hours later I had run out of tokens and felt proudly smug about being the only
patron of the afternoon. It’s weird to have a beloved entertainment institution all to yourself so I
decided to mark the occasion in the photobooth. The irritable 19-year-old inside of me posed
smugly with a vape pen for each photo, puffing away and flipping birds like the punk I used to
be. But the vapor cloud was bigger than I realized when I stepped out to collect my photo strip.
Billowing out from behind the booth’s curtain. I did my best to wave it away casually just as the
security manager stepped out of their locked office. She was in her early 20’s, still a baby but
with tattoos and a serious disposition evident even with a mask. I decided to cash out my tickets
and leave while I could as the weed was quickly starting to turn to paranoia in my brain. Perhaps
the security manager could sense this or maybe she had watched me get high in the photobooth
or cheat at ski-ball like a miscreant. Whichever it was, she escorted the sole attendant to the prize
counter and stared holes through me.
I picked out as many sugary treats as I could from my ticket total, all the while white
knuckling the counter just at the security manager was doing the same. Nervously eyeing the
Bride of Frankenstein tattoo on her forearm, I silently scolded myself for trying to be punk in my
late 30s. Dripping sweat and getting light headed, I collected my candy and made a bee-line out
the door to the car. I sat there for a bit in a sugar buzz, wondering what the big deal was in the
end. It’s not like my parents would have been called or much of anything else besides maybe
getting kicked out. Even a ban from Haunted Trails seemed unlikely. Overall, it wasn’t a bad
start to the month of October and the Halloween season.

Originally published in Haunted Emporium Magazine October 2020