Last Halloween we premiered the track "The Corpse Grinders" the third installment in Monsters of Drumstep, an annual EP series from electro-house sensation FIGURE, and that one went on to place on our Best Horror Albums of 2012 list. We eventually caught up to FIGURE creator Josh Gard after he completed the European leg of his world tour to talk about his fascination for monsters and all things horror & sci-fi, and how he integrates those loves into his roof-raising brand of electronic dance music.
So Josh, how did the European leg of your tour go?
It was great over there! It's my third time overseas,but this time was the best run by far. I had some awesome food and had three days in London to run around... didn't find Jack the Ripper, though. [laughs]
It looks like you were packing the house at those gigs.
Yeah! I was very pleased the shows over there had such a good turnout.
Describe what audiences can expect from a FIGURE show.
It's hard to explain in detail what people can expect, but I can just say that I love controlling everyone's energy, up and down... making things chill out for just a couple of minutes until I bring something in completely from left field. I was a DJ before all the production stuff, so I always get off on breaking new records out to people and watching people hear things for the first time.
When can we expect Volume 4 of your Monsters EP series?
This Halloween... unless I get too busy! I might give tons of new Monster stuff away here and there, and not really follow my normal format of releasing the EP around Halloween.
You've paid tribute to all kinds of classic and modern movie monsters in your music, but what other themes inspire you creatively? For example, I picked up a lot of sci-fi homages in your Destruction series.
Yeah, the whole Destruction project was really fun. I basically took old comic book pair 45's, mainly from the Power Records vault, and sampled them in a storytelling manner. Just like the pairing of synths with themes from the Monsters releases, with the sci-fi samples it was really fresh to make all the spacey laser sounds for the bassline to fit the theme. I plan on doing more sci-fi stuff for sure.
Of all the monsters, robots and aliens you've written songs about, what are your personal favorites?
I'd say monster-wise, it was “Frankenstein,” and sci-fi wise, it was "Must Destroy.” That's a general space-battle-themed song.
Were you a "monster kid" growing up – reading horror magazines, collecting toys, videos, etc?
Well, the actual horror movies came along later, but honestly for about five years all I would watch is The Addams Family, Beetlejuice and Ghostbusters – the movies and cartoon series alike. As a kid, that's what spawned it all. I couldn't stand the “normal” cartoons like Angry Beavers, and thought Disney movies were trash. I wanted something with a dark edge. All the Universal Monsters action figures would have constant wars with my Ghostbusters toys; they didn't like each other much!
You said your love of horror movies came along later... was there one particular flick that got you hooked?
The first Nightmare on Elm Street. It was the first real horror movie I saw, and it changed me right away. All I wanted was to watch gory things for years to come. I loved how scared they made me; I got off on talking to the monster you thought was in the room at night. I wanted something to creep up on me and make its mark.
I keep monster toys, models and posters in my own studio for inspiration. How about you?
Oh lord! Yeah, the toy and picture thing is actually kind of an issue. I seem to always run into a collection someone is selling, or friends or family will buy me random presents. I actually just moved into a new house last year, and when I built the studio I properly padded the walls, so sadly I couldn't hang up all my pictures and whatnot. I do have some of my favorite movie posters and over sized action figures sitting around the house, though. We have this long corner cabinet in the kitchen that has everything from a signed Dragula model to mummified bats!
I can totally picture that. So what inspired you to bring the monsters you love into your music?
Honestly, past the obvious love for horror and sci-fi, it's more from growing up on underground hip-hop and all that. All the nerdy turntablism stuff that always had vocal samples from old movies or story records, that was always my favorite part.
Since you've loved Universal Monsters since you were a kid, are you more into classic horror?
I will watch any type of horror movie, but I think I gravitate more towards plots that could actually happen... I like to be able to toss myself in there and have it still make sense to me.
Do you have a personal favorite?
The Shining. That will always stand alone to me... that and the original House on Haunted Hill. There's just nothing like Vincent Price; he's the one person I wish I would have been able to meet.
What's the best horror film you've seen recently?
I actually have been so busy on the road and all that I haven't seen a new horror movie in a while, but I really dug the whole idea behind Cabin in the Woods. The CGI looked like shit at the end, but the whole twist was great.
What's your take on the ongoing wave of horror remakes?
I don't hate them... but I don't love them. I get excited to see scary movies, so I'm not against remakes, but it would be nice if people could just come up with new concepts that can hold their own. I didn't think The Thing remake was utter shit... I enjoyed it, but I'd rather just watch the old one. The new Freddy film was so bad though, I actually left halfway through.
I've heard that from quite a few people, actually. But I've been noticing the tide of popularity shifting a bit, especially with the remakes of Maniac and Evil Dead coming up.
I actually have my fingers crossed for the new Evil Dead. I hope it will be shown around here...
I think they managed to steer clear of the NC-17 finally, so it should open up everywhere.
Good. My small-town Indiana theaters don't really like testing the waters.
When will you be recording again?
I'm actually in the studio right now, working on a new remix for someone. I have my next EP fully done.
Can you talk about that one yet?
I can't announce what label it's on yet... all I can say is that it's looking to easily be my best release yet. The label behind it is one of the best, in my opinion. I have underground legend Del The Funky Homosapien on two of the tracks, which makes me more than attached to the project. Other than that, I have about thirteen more songs outside of the EP, just sitting on my desktop finished and ready for something. I'm not sure where all the other music is going, but It will all be out sooner than later.
Drop by the FIGURE Soundcloud page for a mountain of free tunes... like this remix of "The Grave Yard" by Dr. Ozi.