HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM… Southern Culture on the Skids

Rick Miller & Co.
are getting
Zombiefied all over
again: Miller examines his life-long horror fetish, with a cameo from The
Editor.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

Rick Miller’s sittin’ in his Kudzu Ranch studio trying to
fix a fuzz pedal that, when it’s workin’, “sounds like a 60-pound bee.” The
reference betrays Miller’s fascination with old horror films, an affinity
well-known by fans of eclectic hillbilly-rockers Southern Culture on the Skids.

 

 

“I always loved Halloween because I could just watch endless
streams of horror films,” he recalls. “Every Saturday morning there was a
double feature of Roger Corman films, some sort of indie 50’s sci-fi, or
Universal horror films from the 30’s. I used to just live for that stuff.”

 

 

That’s one reason SCOTS often draws from the horror/sci-fi
well, as on Zombified, a
limited-edition horror-themed collection the band self-released in 1998. The
eight-song EP featured songs about vampires, zombie babes, the devil,
undertakers and more, and fans lusted after it like the shufflin’ undead crave
guts. It quickly went out of print and was fetchin’ big bones on eBay and
Amazon until now.

 

 

Several years ago SCOTS was
asked to soundtrack horror legend Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat. It was a huge honor, natch, but the
band dragged their feet getting songs to the filmmakers. “When I finally [sent
them], the guy said, “It’s already done – it’s gone straight to video,” laughs
Miller. “So I was like, ‘Oh, shit.'”

 

Rather than allow the tunes to
rot, he pumped up Zombified (SCOTS.com/skidmart)
for reissue. Now it sports a wicked 13 tracks, including “Eyeball You Later,” a
Link Wray-style instro called “The Creeper” and “Bats Are Sleeping,” a solo
number from little Jack Miller. Papa Miller says he and his five-year-old boy
are bonding over some of the same stuff he liked when he was a kid. “We love
cartoons, man. That’s our thing. We watch all the Looney Toons and Ren &
Stimpy
– all that stuff, man. We have the best time together. Mom doesn’t
understand.”

 

***

 

BLURT: It’s good to see you’re reissuing Zombified. I remember picking up the original release in Salt Lake City, like 12
years ago.

RICK MILLER: Oh my gosh. Salt Lake City. What a
crazy place, man. We always had fights at Salt
Lake City, we – and things got stolen. Go figure, the
city of Mormons.
[laughs]

        If you’re not Mormon, you’re really
bad. [laughs] Nah, I mean – we always had a great time there, but I remember
there was these guys there that made an incredible neon  piece that said “Southern Culture on the Skids.”
Some guy tried to grab it and run with it from our merch table. They tackled
him and I think he got the crap beat out of him in the parking lot, you know,
before the police came.

 

That’s Southern Culture fans. [laughs]

Yeah, exactly. But they made,
the brothers made us another one and they covered it barbed wire so it wouldn’t
happen again. I said, well, that’s a tough one to ship, you know. And I mean I
don’t know if I can have that in my house. (Laughs.)

 

Yup. That night I actually, uh, that was when I bought the original Zombified.

Oh, man!

 

I always loved horror films and monsters. I didn’t know I could love you guys anymore, then I saw that.

Oh, yeah, and that’s like my
favorite one. I really love Zombified,
and it was just, you know, it never available in stores.

        It came out on, on an Australian label,
and then we just said, well we’ll sell it at shows ‘cause we didn’t have a
label or we didn’t have anyone interested in putting it out at the time or we
were with Geffen and we weren’t gonna give it to them. So we just started
selling it ourselves at our live shows. And once we ran out, we ran out, and we
haven’t had any for so long.

        Then we got contacted to do this
soundtrack for this movie called Blood
Feast 2: Buffet of Blood.
They were very nice guys, but they didn’t stay in
touch very good. We’re very good communicators, and we were quite busy, so we
wrote some songs but when I finally got ‘em to ‘em, the guy said the film was
already done, it had gone straight to video. [laughs] So I was like, oh shit.

        So, we’ve had a few kind of Halloween
songs sitting around in a can for awhile, we thought, “Well, let’s reissue Zombified and put five new songs on it. And
some of ‘em are from Blood Feast and
then some of them were relatively recent recordings so, anyway, now it’s a full
LP.

 

I remember the first time I watched the original Blood Feast. There’s something special about Herschell Gordon Lewis
gore. I’ve seen
some gory films –
these are some of the craziest, but the blood is clearly red paint. I wound up
seeking them all out in my Psychotronic
Video
Guide

Oh yeah, man, that’s an awesome
book. I’ve got that, too, man. I’ve got a first edition. I have sticky notes on
all the pages and stuff – you know, stickin’ out where I can go right to it and
find stuff. It’s a great book. I keep wondering if there’s like an updated
version. I’m sure there must be, but I haven’t seen it if there is one.

 

Do you have The Gore Score?

No, I don’t. What’s that?

 

Uh, Chas Balun, who put out Deep
Red
magazine and wrote for
Fangoria, rates a bunch of films
according to general quality and also the amount of gore. It’s basically like a
fun book to get into. But I wonder if you’re less about gore then you are camp
and schlock.

Well, you know, I like, I’m
not, I like some gore films, and I mean some of ‘em that are really creative
like, I thought Re-Animator was
awesome. You know, and what are some of the other ones? Oh God, the guy that
did The Hobbit, he had –

 

Oh yeah! Dead Alive and Bad Taste.

Yeah, those were awesome, too. I
mean, I kinda like the creative ones. I really love that movie that was out a
little while ago that was called Henry:
Portrait of a Serial Killer…
I like a blend of humor with the gore and stuff
and I like things that I’ve never seen before, like in Re-Animator, that guy holdin’ his [decapitated] head, you know – performing
oral sex on the chick? I mean, that’s a cinematic first!

        You know what I mean? I’m not so into
the just kind of the repetitive slasher films, like the Halloween films. I do like them, but not where it’s just kind of
the same formula repeated over and over and over again without any variations,
you know what I mean?  I do kind of like
the schlocky stuff a lot too, ‘cause I like the humor whether it’s intended or
not. That’s why I love Herschel Gordon Lewis movies. Or Russ Meyer. And I like
Mario Bava, just ‘cause I love the look of his movies. And of course Barbara Jewel
was in a lot of them. She was pretty great. [laughs]

 

That’s cool. Have you by any chance heard of the film Hobo with a Shotgun?

No, huh-uh. Is that like a
Troma film or something?

 

It sounds like it, but it’s not. You know that film Grindhouse, where it was a double feature with Death Proof and Planet Terror?

Mm-hmm.

 

This was one of the fake trailers, like Machete.  It came out on DVD in July and it’s beautiful. It looks just like one of those 1970’s exploitation
films. But it’s a little more vivid. And it’s one of the sickest, goriest films
I’ve
ever seen, really disturbing,
but it’s also got this dark humor.

Yeah, remember that movie Man Bites Dog?

 

Oh, yeah, that’s the serial killer, the French guy, right?

That was kind of that way to me.
It was funny at times, and then it was so disturbing, too, you know. Honeymoon Killers is another one that
was kind of like that when I first saw it. Have you ever seen that one?

 

I haven’t.

Oh, check out the Honeymoon Killers. It’s not necessarily
a horror movie, but it’s about this couple that, uh, a lonely-hearts thing
where the guy would get involved with like older women that had some money and
stuff, and then his wife would uh, do away with them. It’s pretty good, and
it’s filmed in black and white and it’s from the 1970’s or maybe the 80’s. It’s
really good.

        Anyway, so yeah, [Hobo] sounds really good. I’ll have to check that out. Recently, I
haven’t been able to do a lot of that stuff because I have a young child and I
just have been really busy with music and making a living.

        He just turned 5. He’s in kindergarten
this year. It’s great to hang out with him, too. We love cartoons, man. They’re
our thing. We watch all the, all the Looney
Toons
and Ren & Stimpy – all
that stuff, man. We have the best time together, watching that. Mom doesn’t
understand.

 

Getting back to Blood Feast and
Zombified, I remember hearing some of
the songs from Zombified in the film,
but aren’t there some songs in the movie that aren’t on Zombified?

Yeah, there were some from a
single we did called Santo Swings on Zontar
Records.         And then there was some that was just some instrumental incidental
music that we just fed him early on ‘cause we couldn’t use anything from Geffen.
They wanted too much money, so we said there’s some that we could re-record,
and then we’ve got old singles and a bunch of – I just sat out here one day and
just did a bunch of incidental music that I thought might work for it. And, you
know, we did try to do our take on kind of the tracks with kettle drums and
stuff like that, you know, from, uh, from some of those movies and stuff.

 

Wasn’t there like a, a slow creepy version of “8 Piece Box”?

There was, yeah. It was kind of
an instrumental – But we might’ve given him some outtakes. There could be
something like that on there that are like close to that, you know what I mean?
That we just said, “Use this, don’t worry about contacting Geffen.” I’ve gotta
be honest with you, I haven’t looked at that in about four years.

         So I forget. But I will tell you one
thing, though, you know that one scene where the guy gets, gouges the eyeball
out with the spoon? We wrote that song on Zombified,
that’s on a the new comp. It’s called “Eyeball You Later, Baby.” That was
supposed to go over that scene, but it didn’t make it. The film got put out
before we could get the song to ‘em. [laughs]

 

Is there ever gonna be, do you think there’s a possibility-I know some
of these
songs are on other
releases, but would there be like an EP with that rare version of
“8 Piece” and –

Yeah, well we were thinking
about doing Zombified the re-release
of Zombified like an old paperback,
like an old pulp paperback, where one side of the album would be, uh, Zombified and the other side would be Blood Feast. We just didn’t have time to do it and I couldn’t get in
touch with the guys from Blood Feast. I don’t know where they’re at now.
I know the one guy had a heart attack or something. So I just have lost touch
with them all. We just decided to reissue the Zombified because we just didn’t want to get in any problems.

 

Alright, now, uh, is it me or are werewolves kind of criminally
underrepresented
on Zombified?      

Very underrepresented. But we
did do a song called, “Werewolf.”

 

Yeah, I think it’s on Halloween
Hootenanny
isn’t it?

That’s right. It’s that
Halloween compilation that Rob Zombie put together. But again because Geffen…
We couldn’t use it for anything and we didn’t want to re-record it ‘cause it’s
already out there. And we were already re-issuing stuff that’s on Zombified, so anyway, yes, they are very
underrepresented on Zombified. And I
agree they should be more – maybe we’ll do a “Werewolf” single.

 

Yes, please. That’d be great.

I think we should put out a
single every Halloween. Don’t you think?        

 

Oh yeah, certainly! For stuff like that, you know, I think you guys
would just rake in the dough-not that that’s the important thing but I mean
the, the fans would appreciate it, too.

Well, we’ll do that, man. We’ll
do a single for next Halloween. It’ll be a werewolf single.

 

Now let’s do kind of a memory-lane thing – can you tell me your first
like trick-or-treating memory? Or your wildest Halloween story.

Well I think my wildest
Halloween was where you, you know, got thrown in like juvenile detention
because you were caught like, you know, vandalizing public property or
somebody’s house, you know. I think I mean we all went through those stages at
12, 13, 14 years old. But I think my, my, uh –

 

Sounds like you got caught, man. I never got caught.

Yeah. I got caught man. You
know why? Because we used, this liquid snow to write all this stuff on things and
we left a trail of it going away from the guy’s house. And we were all over at
our buddy’s house’s staging garage, you know, and his mom came out and she said
the police had called and we were all supposed to stay put. [laughs]

        Well, they took us in their patrol car
and delivered us to our homes and had long talks with our parents. I think they
gave us a citation, and we had to go to court with our parents and of course we
had to clean everything up and pay for anything we damaged, you know. Stuff
like that. We didn’t go to juvenile hall. I’m kind of glad we didn’t actually.

        As far as, uh, Halloween – well, I
remember stringing firecrackers – you used to be able to buy firecrackers that
you could pull and they would pop, they were called poppers and they were, but
they were like, they were more like firecrackers than just little- We used to
string them, like, we’d get like 30 of ‘em all together, and we’d string them
across the road on Halloween. People thought they’d got a flat tire, things
like that.

        We were jerks. Somebody probably
could’ve gotten really hurt. Pranks was our big Halloween fun, you know.

        But I always loved Halloween because I
could just watch endless streams of horror films. Television, too. I mean. I
grew up in a little town called Henderson, North Carolina and, uh, uh…every
Saturday morning, there was a double feature of a, uh, like a Roger Corman,
like some sort of indie 1950’s sci-fi and some serious Universal horror films
from the 1930’s, you know. So, uh, I used to just live for that stuff. Matter
fact, I remember when we got our first color TV, I got up just to watch the
fuzz.

        But that was, I think, probably my
favorite memory was just watching all those great movies, like the whole month
of October was so great, you know.

 

Alright. What is your first memory of being terrified in a film and
your first memory of being grossed out?

Well man, probably the first
terrifying moment, really – I’m sure this is true for lots of people, was when
you watched that house land on that witch in The Wizard of Oz. And those flying monkeys freaked me out.

        I couldn’t turn away from it. I, you
know, I’d cover my eyes, then I’d look right back – you know what I mean, it’s
like one of those things. And I remember getting really scared – I loved Famous Monsters of Film magazine.

        I’d just learned how to read, and I got
my mom to buy me one and I remember I’d read it and then I’d just be frightened.
I couldn’t sleep for weeks. And I remember doing the old, uh, I love the old Aurora models. I built
like every one of them, uh, Wolfman, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera. As far as
being terrified, that was probably it.

        One movie that really scared me the
most – I saw it at my grandma’s house; she had a big house and we were upstairs
– was the original Haunting. You
know, with Claire Bloom and Julie Harris and Russ Tamblyn. That’s a really scary movie. I remember watching
that when I was probably about the same age as the Famous Monsters thing, man. I had to sleep on the floor; I couldn’t
sleep upstairs because it was too spooky.

        But yeah, that was probably the most
terrifying, was that. Starting with Wizard
of Oz
, but The Haunting stuck
with me for a really long time.

       And then as far as grossed out, let me
think, man… I think probably Night of the
Living Dead.
I saw that when I was in junior high. It was the first time
I’d seen people eating body parts, like pullin’ intestines out and stuff.

 

Yeah, they don’t have a ton of gore in NOLD,
but there’s the one scene where you can see that floppy flesh like chicken skin.

Yeah. I think that was it. The
first time I’d seen anything that graphic. You’d see lots of severed heads and
stuff like that, kinda fakey and stuff, but that one was kinda grisly, you
know? I just remember in junior high it was abuzz with it: ‘Have you seen Night of the Living Dead?’ And if not,
‘You gotta get your mom to take ya.’ That was the hardest thing. [laughs]

 

Yeah, my mom took me to see An
American Werewolf in London
when I was eight, so I had it pretty easy.

Those transformation scenes were
really great. That was somethin’ that really grabbed my attention, too. Alien, the first time that thing pops
out of that pod? That was a good shocker. Oh, you know some of the Fulci movies
really disturbed me, too.

 

Yeah, City of the Living Dead!

Oh yeah, and god what was the-I
think there was one where there was a rainstorm of maggots.

 

You know, in COTLD, when she
pukes up her intestines? That’s the only time I’ve ever almost puked in a
movie.

Yeah.

 

Fulci’s zombie movies are some of my favorites. Speakin’ of zombies,
I’ve always been curious as to your favorite type. In “Zombified,” you’re
talking about the classic voodoo zombie. Then you have the Romero shufflers and
the viral 28 Days Later runners.
There’s some controversy over which is better and whether the viral ones are
zombies at all. Where do you stand?

Well, lemme think here, man.
Really The Mummy was a zombie, too,
if you think about it. Raised from the dead by a high priestess or a witch
doctor or hoodoo guy. I don’t know, man. I think the virus kinda stuff is the
scariest to me ‘cause it’s kinda plausible. That’s the cool thing about
zombies.

        Some of my favorite zombies to watch
are the ones from outer space. My favorite zombie/sci-fi was one where they
lived in a cave and they planted a little thing in people’s heads and all of a
sudden it would be – God, what was it? And there are two movies. In one, there
was a little kid whose parents got turned into zombies. There was a sand pit
and you’d disappear into the sand and come back totally zombied out. And the
guy that ran the whole thing was from outerspace and was just like a head in
kind of a turban with little octopus hands that floated in a bubble. Yeah.

      That’s another example of totally cheesy
effects that were really disturbing in its own way, you know? Golly, man. Oh!
Something Invaders. Invisible Invaders! That’s it.

        And there was another one where there
was a ray from outer space that made people who’d only been dead about 48
hours, become alive again and crawl out of their graves. That was a good one,
too. And those were 1950s one, and they all had the outer space/sci-fi thing
goin’ on. And of course there’s the 1970 thing with kinda of the possession,
the demonic zombies. You know what I
mean? I guess that’s more like possession, with the demons.

 

And the Fulci zombies were sort of both the voodoo/demonic variety.

Yeah, and those Italian guys –
the Church always seems to enter into it, somehow, or their Catholicism. Which
kinda makes it creepy, too.

 

Yeah, like the (Argento-produced) Michele Soavi film The Church.

There’s always a priest that
ends up workin’ for Satan or somethin’. That’s pretty scary stuff, too. And
then the virus stuff. But that can be kinda dumb, too, because a lot of it’s
big-budget stuff, which is so-so.

        But I love all the Night of the Living Dead, Dawn
of the Dead
, all that stuff. That’s great, too. Speakin’ of gore and
zombies, I love the scene in FILM where the zombie gets too close to the
helicopter blade and it slices the top of his head off like baloney, man!
[laughs]

 

How about the zombie vs. shark scene in Fulci’s Zombie?

Yeah! That’s right, that’s
right, that’s right. That was another cinematic first. All that stuff’s great,
man.

 

So what about shufflers vs. runners? Got a preference?

The fast zombies remind me too
much of MTV. I’m not sure I like them. It’s shocking, they’re so fast, but I
kinda like the shuffling zombies, myself. They’ve got a nice rhythm to them.
You get some really nice shots of exploding heads.

 

I agree. It’s all about building terror, and this mounting dread that
leads toward this shocking, grisly end.

They’re gonna get ya. They just
keep comin’.

 

And the runners –

You don’t have time to think
about it! It’s an immediate release of action, and then it’s over with. It’s a
let-down. The slow building of the
zombies – I like it.

 

You know our editor, Fred Mills, and he said to ask you about some of
the Halloween shows you’ve done in the past.

I think the weirdest Halloween
show we ever did, Fred was at. It was in maybe the 1980s at the Milestone in Charlotte. It’s an old
house and the first time we played there, we got down there and it was locked
up. It was run by an old Vietnam
vet named Bill Flowers and, while we were diggin’ around, tryin’ to find
another entrance to the club or at least see if anyone was there, we found this
guy sleepin’ in a sleeping bag. The place looked deserted, like it had been
condemned. Boards on the windows. We thought it was a homeless guy, but it
turned out to be Bill.

        The opening bands, he used to send them
to get beer with a shopping cart, down to the Foodland. And he’d sell them
later to make a profit. It was part of the gig if you were an opening band, for
a while.

         But we played there on Halloween and
somebody was givin’ out tabs of acid at the door. It was pre-Ecstasy days, you
know. [laughs] So it was really strange. Fred might have a picture from that
night of this one guy who had his arms stretched out, staring at the ground. He
looked like he was reaching for something, like he could feel the music coming
from my amp. We must’ve been doin’ some feedback stuff or somethin’. [Ed. Note: oh man. I remember that particular
SCOTS-fueled Halloween very well….
]

 

Fred says your sax player dressed up as a werewolf?

Yep, uh-huh.

 

Were you in costume?

I think I was, but I don’t
remember. We were wonderin’ why the crowd was actin’ so strange. And it was
Fred Mills that told me what happened. But it wasn’t Fred givin’ out the acid. [Ed. Note: I’ll take the 5th on
all that.
] The Milestone, the
shows back then, was legendary.

        It might’ve been the show where we had
to scrounge up a PA. We ended up using a broken custom amp head and … we found
a broken monitor somebody had put under the stage to hold it up. We had to go
down the street and steal some old retread tires to replace it, then set the
amp and the blown monitor speaker up onstage on some beer cartons and that was
our PA.

        We
kept gettin’ shocked, so somebody took their sock off and put it on the
microphone. It smelled so bad.             Those
were the types of shows we had there. You never knew what you were showin’ up
for.

 

An edited version of this story also appears in issue #11 of BLURT.

 

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