Interview with Scott Harris of hororhaus
We talked at length about the movies that made a lasting impression on you while I reviewed your project’s debut CD. Discuss some of these movies and how you express those impressions through your music.
Although my top favorite horror movies of all time are Nosferatu (1922) and The Exorcist, here’s some commentary about the movies that influenced the first hororhaus EP entrance.
What I find trippy and disturbing are the background sounds that many people miss because they aren’t listening to it on a headset. I have rediscovered these movies on DVD/Blu-Ray which further sharpened my perspective of my favorite 70’s B horror movies. I used to stay up late for horror movies in my grade school years which aired on local NYC channels. There is something super creepy about those movies and the memories I have of watching them at a young age sparked my interest in horror and the paranormal. What I set out to do with hororhaus is to take you on a trip through what I might be thinking while watching these movies, going off on a 4-5 minute 80s electronic tangent and then getting back to the movie. My mind often drifts while watching movies – I’m so glad rewind and pause was invented!
The third track nonataya is influenced by the original made for TV movie ‘Gargoyles’ from 1972. It was often aired on NYC TV in the 70s in the daytime on Sundays. I remember watching this movie at a very young age, probably 7 or 8 years old and the opening line from the movie pretty much freaked me out, and I used that opening dialogue in the track which I re-tracked the dialogue myself. I recorded it straight over the actual dialogue to get the timing and inflections right. The original dialogue was done by Vic Perrin who was the control voice from the show The Outer Limits. The opening line was ‘The devil, was once the most favored of angels serving the lord’. Somehow anything possession and devil based scared the shit out of me as a kid. It wasn’t so much the vampire/zombie movies/slasher movies that freaked me out (although I love that genre). From a young age, I read Revelation from the bible with my dad and viewed it as a crazy horror story nightmare and it set me on a pattern of being intrigued by the facets of heaven and hell. The appearance of the Gargoyles sort of gave me the same chill as the Sleestak did in Land Of The Lost. Grayson Hall (largely known from Dark Shadows, which I am a huge fan of) is in the movie too who is an underground icon. The whole banter back and forth about demonology was freaky to me. Typical with the hororhaus format, I wanted to represent this movie in the EP and wrote around some of sound excerpts and dialogue from the movie. While some of the hororhaus tracks have full lyrics about a story happening within a story with the excerpts being the reality and the actual bulk of the song being the subconscious, this only has vocal commentary from me making an observation about the movie.
For axe killer, I used another movie as a template called Silent Night, Bloody Night. It’s one of the first slasher movies ever and is co-produced by Lloyd Kaufman (who went on to do Troma Films). The beginning of the movie always freaked me out – they show a man set on fire and the scene ends with the Christmas song with a creepy organ. The beginning sequence of the movie shows a woman driving in a car listening to the radio which has a newscast on, stating there is someone who escaped from an institution still at large and as the storyline progresses, a man and a woman axe killed. I wrote a story for the song within the story, about a femme fatale that escaped the asylum and is looking for the man and woman who crossed her. They lyrics are the inner monologue of the character before she gets her revenge. The movie itself is creepy and weird, and filmed very low budget. David Carradine has an appearance in this movie, part of the cast were former Warhol superstars and also stars Astrid Heeren who was a 60s fashion icon.
The last track, never leave (ending?!?) is influenced by the original made for TV movie Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. The sounds of the gremlin creatures are terrifying and weird, satanic at worst. The movie left a huge impression on me. Revisiting the movie, the acting isn’t great at all; but the whole premise of something being walled up inside your house and hearing noises in the walls always scared me. It’s almost as if the house represents the non-subconscious and what’s behind the walls is your subconscious, capable of all types of mayhem. For this movie, the walls feel literally like they are closing in on you as you can’t escape. This, like nonataya, is a narrative. At the end of this track which ends the EP, you can literally never leave. This sets the tone for the next EP. Added in is a variation of the roach killer in the old roach motel commercial – Roaches check in but they DON’T CHECK OUT’. I changed it to ‘YOU CAN’T CHECK OUT’ which I felt was a nod to that time period but summed up the ending of the EP.
You are also the current drummer of the goth metal band Vasaria and played on their new promotional video. How long have you been drumming for them and what have you contributed to them since you joined?
I have been playing with Baron Misuraca since 1991 on and off in various projects. Once the name Vasaria was used, I was the drummer since that day one, so I guess that’s 1994. My contribution was writing the drum parts and co-arranging much of the songs that would eventually be used on the Vasaria self-titled album on Century Media Records. What I wanted to do was bring my old- school 70s style drumming to the fold instead of just approaching the drumming in a straight up metal direction, to make it more early Sabbath/Budgie/St. Vitus-like with a single kick drum ala a classic John Bonham style setup. No china crashes, no excessive toms, no double bass drum with a going back to basics approach. I did the tour with Das Ich overseas in 1998 and we prepared for a second album release. I demo’d 4 songs for Century Media (recorded at my house) and then we recorded the album (which I co-arranged) in Brooklyn in late 1998. I left the band in 1999. Vasaria continued with different band members through the 2000s. Fast forward to 2016, the three of us (Baron/myself/Chuck Lenihan) talked about doing a reunion video for Ugly As Sin released in 2016. At the end of 2018, we spoke about putting together some demos recordings with Matt LaBush (Evan Strumar) who played keyboards with the band for a time before Vasaria was signed.and he also plays guitar. We got together for a few rehearsals in the beginning of 2019 with Evan on guitars and began re-working 6 songs with the incorporation of death metal tunings and some hardcore punk/early thrash/early black metal stylings. Baron and Chuck Lenihan (from Crumbsuckers and the original Vasaria guitarist from the first album) have been doing Carnivore AD together and Chuck is also on the new Vasaria demos. For these demos, I am playing drums and mixing the audio.
What is it about movies with satanic themes and themes of possession that made such an impression on you? In what ways does this account for Nosferatu and The Exorcist remaining your favorite movies to this day?
The whole scenario of humans being altered by a dark alien force is such a weird freaky concept. I saw The Exorcist at 11 years old and I’ve been getting over it. But now, I just enjoy it for the amazing film that it is. The dark side always seemed so intriguing. Ever since I was very young, I was asking for black shoes which my Mom would never buy for me AND were impossible to find for kids shoes in the 70s, everything was so brown, yellow and orange. I guess I’ve been making up for lost time ever since.
Nosferatu 1922 is an amazing film and I love the jagged old black and white film look which makes it super creepy. I don’t think there is another movie that was ever made that was as creepy as Nosferatu. I’ll never forget seeing it on UHF in the late 70s, it was so weird - it feels ancient and it perfectly captured vampire horror without the Romanticism. I used to sync up this movie with Bauhaus’ 1979-1983 compilation in the 80s when I had it on VHS, but these days I use Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger album on repeat as the soundtrack while watching on Blu-Ray. The movie has an X-factor to it, just like The Exorcist does; there is something unexplainably dark about it. The reason these are my two favorite horror movies is because I feel they are the best of their type and time period. For possession movies, there’s nothing better than the Exorcist or for vampire movies that look like it’s actually from Bram Stoker’s period, the original Nosferatu.
How close was the debut hororhaus EP to your own thoughts, especially the thoughts you have while watching movies?
I wrote/performed/recorded/produced the EP completely sober, so it’s very close to my thoughts about the feelings I had when watching those movies and drifting off to another place in my head while I watched them since I was very young at the time. Hororhaus is 100% an escapism fantasy for me, it has no reflection on my own actual personal thoughts and how I view the real world. The lyrics on the EP are a narrative and in certain cases are about revenge in a dark blues lyrical way. I don’t see much difference between lyrics via Johnny Cash in Folsom Prison Blues, The Doors’ The End, Guns N’ Roses I Used To Love Her and hororhaus’ lyrics for hearse or axe killer. Murder ballads are an old folk and rebel country standard. The femme fatale is vindicated, liberated and is convincing in the world of hororhaus.
Hororhaus will never be political and it is meant to throw you into my inner auditory perception of horror mixed with my love of electronic analogue sounds when I was a teen, listening to new wave and post punk and my love of electronic music. It’s a reflection of the stimuli directly in that horror bubble.
It seemed like TV before cable with the start of the serial Dark Shadows (of course we have what came before with other shows like The Addams Family, The Outer Limits, The Munsters, Twilight Zone) spawned a genre of horror on TV that was a just a part of 70s culture. Creature Feature, Chiller, late night horror TV, Sunday afternoon movies, Saturday morning Godzilla movies, King Kong and Godzilla movies over the Thanksgiving holiday – horror was all over the place. Maybe even more than it is now since everything is so over saturated with too many choices from cable to countless streaming on demand channels. Probably it had to do with the dark side of acid, sensationalism, angst and frustration of the late 60s with Charles Manson, The Velvet Underground and The Doors, the end of the Vietnam War, Rosemary’s Baby and Anton LaVey being on TV which just sort of seemed normal since these subjects were just as a part of the mainstream culture. NYC news was filled was insanity stories including David Berkowitz (the Son Of Sam/44 caliber killer), Watergate, The Iran crisis and local NYC horror stories. Culture movies like Jaws, The Omen and The Exorcist were big time money makers. KISS on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special and Gene Simmons spitting blood in teen magazines also brought this into the very mainstream. Sci-Fi horror kids shows like Land Of The Lost and Return To the Planet Of The Apes contained a lot of freaky elements. Local horror commercials for The Haunted Mansion At Long Branch added insult to injury.
How well has your drumming style blended with Baron and Chuck since you joined Vasaria? Does your experience with Das Ich help you work with a goth metal band?
I think the thing that really works with is that me and Baron have similar childhood experiences and musical influences beyond metal as we’re from the same NYC area (he’s from Brooklyn and I’m originally from Fort Lee, NJ right by the George Washington Bridge - it might as well have been The Bronx). We’re both huge fans of goth, hardcore and 70s punk, thrash, Elvis Presley, KISS, Black Sabbath, Planet Of The Apes, Hammer/Universal/Silent horror, 70s dance music, 60s psych music, 50s rockabilly; it runs deep - so we are coming from the same angle. Chuck is a great lead guitarist – and although I have not spent a lot of time with him over the years; he’s into a lot of 70s music so he gets my beat language.
Das Ich tour in ’98 was an interesting experience, it was my first ever euro tour. I got along with those guys really well, Bruno Kramm is very talented. It’s interesting, the euro metal/goth bands (even black metal bands) are fans of electronic dance music so we all connected on that a lot. We listened to a bunch of 90s electronica on the tour bus. Me and those guys (and their crew) were all into Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, Massive Attack and the like. Das Ich although they have a touring drummer, are industrial darkwave and have no guitars, so they were different than Vasaria since everything we did was in a rock band style. What I did learn from them is that they were extremely professional and on top of everything they were doing and I wanted to be like that too with my playing. Some people may not know, but when I was playing live shows with Vasaria, I used a click track and the band played to me. So I was always right on top of the music and making sure we were tight. We had a no-partying before the show policy so we’d come off as good as we could every night.
What appeals to you about the murder theme of certain compositions that you emulate with hororhaus? Some other examples are Judas Priest’s “The Ripper,” AC/DC’s “Jailbreak,” “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix (copyrighted by Billy Roberts) “Kim” by Eminem and “I Don’t Like Mondays” by Boomtown Rats.
The murder theme is only part of two of the tracks for the EP, hearse and axe killer, which were triggered by the film audio excerpts. I am a fan of true crime history and find it fascinating to delve into the psyche of the insane. The murder theme in old blues, folk and country are just extreme revenge stories and they directly influenced what I wanted to write – simple lyrics not meant to dazzle or be overly complicated. For both of these tracks, the murderer is a femme fatale; and she’s seeking revenge on who has wronged her. Out of the songs you picked here, Hey Joe has the most in common with where I was coming from. I’m looking to invoke imagery that you can use to your imagination without being overly harshly graphic and meant to be chilling/eerie. It’s supposed be more of a Tales From The Crypt style narrative, a twist of fate. The audio excerpts used are meant to be more graphic as they bring clarity to the lyrics.
Did you have the chance to visit The Haunted Mansion at Long Branch, New Jersey before its demise? If so, what was the experience like?
I was lucky to have gone to THMALB and it was early October in 1980. I went with a friend and his dad drove us. It was the most amazing haunted house I ever went to and so well done. I remember they had a lot of rooms (it was 10K square feet) and they had Lizzy Borden in one room with a bloody knife, rats that ran on your feet in the dark, vampires around the corners when you’d turn. I was almost 13 when I went and wish I could have gone again a few times. I wish I could have experienced Brigantine Castle but it was a bit of a farther drive away from the George Washington Bridge.
Was the Das Ich tour the sole time you visited Europe or were there other occasions you got to tour there? Who were some of the bands you got to meet there?
I’ve been to Europe 3x in my life, but would love to spend more time there. The first time I went was in 1997 to Gothenberg Sweden to record drums for the Century Media released Vasaria album. The second time was within 2 weeks from returning from that trip to witness a wedding in Paris France. Within 2 weeks I spent 7 days there and time flying back and forth. The Das Ich tour, we were on a tour bus with the band where we played many clubs (some weeks 7x a week) and went from the northern tip of Germany to Austria and Switzerland and then toured our way back up north to Munich. I think we were there for 28 days. I didn’t get to meet any bands sadly; as I was so focused on playing and doing whatever sightseeing I could. We only opened for Das Ich and the clubs we played were darkwave/goth clubs where they had the live show until 11pm and then it would often turn into a club with DJs.
How often have you performed with Vasaria since you joined them, that is to say prior to the Covid epidemic? Anything particularly worth talking about in this interview?
We showcased at bit in 1995-1996 but once the album was completed in 97’; we had to put together a band for the tour which included Carmine Matilliano (who I played with back in the early 90s and we were in Blackthorn together as a 3 piece with Baron) on guitar and Vanessa Twyford on keys (who also was in Blackthorn at one point - we did not play in Blackthorn together). Chuck did not do the tour. Once the unit was solidified, we did the tour, recorded a second record and also played a bunch of NYC shows together. We didn’t play much outside the NYC area, there may have been a few Chiller Theatre conventions we played in NJ and DC. After 1999, there was 1 show I did with Vasaria (I think it was in 2003) after Vanessa and Carmine already left; but I haven’t done a show with Vasaria in almost 20 years.
In closing, some hororhaus updates. I have begun tracking for the 2nd EP titled “evocation” which is centered around a possession recurring nightmare I had as a young adult. It will be deeper, more trippy and scary than the 1st, still incorporating the same elements but moving a bit away from movie dialogue sampling and replacing that with my own sounds and dialogue. The first track “ouija” I am hoping to release on 10/30/2020 with a second single before the holiday season (after Thanksgiving) with the EP release early 2021.
Where else worldwide would you like to tour in the future, if circumstances allowed?
I would love to go to the UK and back to Berlin Germany to play. Paris France too.
Tell the readers about “Adversary” the quarantine video you and Vasaria recently released. Why was this particular song chosen and how did you go about recording and mixing the tracks?
The video footage that appears in the Adversary video for each member was shot by ourselves, on our own. I can’t speak for the other guys, but my footage was shot with an Ipad for the side shots and the straight shots were shot with my Iphone. My daughter helped me with the filming. There was only 2 live shots. I shot it with red lights because I like the way red looks.
The song was chosen by Baron. We only have 2 songs mixed that are new (we are working on more mixes/recordings), so it was either this or Predestined Horror. We recorded the tracks individually on our own, in our own studios and then I mixed them through GarageBand.
How much of the nightmare you had will you be recapturing on the next hororhaus EP? While this next EP will be more personal, what movies will you be drawing inspiration from?
I always thought about either writing a short story or novella about it, but I’m going to try to capture the whole nightmare in the EP. Some of the storyline I will be altering and changing around. There are going to be either 6 or 7 tracks, I have them rough sketched out. For movies, I guess the dream was indirectly influenced by movies like The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, The Omen, The Possession Of Mrs. Oliver, and Audrey Rose. Stories like The Black Cat (Poe) definitely influenced the dream. I don’t know really if the dream is a reflection on anything personal; but it is more personal in that it’s all about this crazy recurring dream I used to have. The lyrics will be straightforward yet vague and won’t go into a huge amount of detail; but will be basically a concept EP.
Describe some of the experiences you had performing in those countries you visited?
All of the tour in every city was great – being in Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg were probably the most interesting places. The audiences were very receptive and cool to us. I think the weirdest place we played was in East Germany, which was beautiful but very militant. We were performing some weeks 7 nights straight which is a crazy amount of days to play with no break in between. At one point, someone got a bad 48 hour virus and passed it to everyone in the bus, which included the 4 of us, Das Ich (4 of them), roadies (probably 4 with the sound guy) and a driver. I remember being sick and wishing for a steam room which eventually did find us, in a hotel we stayed at for one night during a couple day break. Playing those shows were a bit of a blur – I just drank water for 3 days straight and couldn’t eat. Some of the stages were amazing – like Music Hall Of Williamsburg size and some of the stages were crazy small and very cramped. As we never played overseas, all the of the clubs were new to us.
Is Vasaria planning to make more quarantine videos?
Yes, we should be working on the production for another video in the coming weeks. I’m currently mixing another song. Hopefully before Halloween.
Do you expect your music, lyrics and releases to become darker and more nightmarish as you continue to write and compose?
The first EP is just the beginning, I am planning to do 5 EPs total for the project. I’m not sure what will end up happening by EP 5, but it could become completely dark progressive based, with an intro track and outro track being dark ambient but still using analogue 80s sounds as a template. The next EP may have a little bit more that dark prog feel than the first EP, but we’ll see how it comes out. I don’t plan to ever use horror graphic gore lyrics or profanities; I’m more into poetry, dark blues lyrics and creating tension through sounds. I want the music to be listenable and catchy but still very haunting. Yes, the plan is to get darker as I go along but still rooted in what I did with the first EP. As someone recently described the first EP – “You’ve merged so many genres together – it’s very creative and never knew I could be frightened and want to dance at the same time”. That’s exactly what I want to accomplish with hororhaus.