When you’re venturing into horror entertainment, your given name happens to be Bruce Campbell, and you’re not actually the sarcastic horror hero with the trademark chainsaw appendage, it’s probably wise to find a new showbiz handle to avoid falling under the shadow of that iconic chin. That was the decision made by a certain talented and energetic artist from Vancouver, whose reputation as “Ol’ Spooks” among friends led him to adopt the title SpookhauS as he set about creating a persona for his macabre musical enterprise.
Virtually a one-man studio concocting gothic, industrial and symphonic soundscapes, SpookhauS is now developing a strong following through his power of enthusiastic self-promotion – which includes giving away tons of free tunes to his many fans – and some diverse, atmospheric and often wickedly fun sounds. His music has found a home in some very intriguing places, from indie horror films to dark-themed promotional videos. His flamboyant public image (imagine Jim Morrison channeling Lord Byron while playing Dracula) has inspired more than a few regional artists, and if you also take a look at his visual creations, you’ll quickly realize this dude lives on the dark side 24/7.
The always-busy Bruce was kind enough to lend us some of his time, and spun many fascinating stories about his work, his influences, the dark arts and the allure of fear, which is exactly what we like to rap about down in these here catacombs. His is a tale of weird wonders and dangerous explorations, so if you dare venture into the dark domain that is the creative mind of SpookhauS, then prepare yourself, click through and read on!
FEARnet: So how long have you been creating dark-themed music?
SpookhauS: I've been into horror and darkness since I was five years old… however, I didn't apply it to my music until many years later. I started playing the bass guitar in my late teens; I didn't know what a bass was until I found out that's what Gene Simmons of KISS played, so I knew that's what I needed to play. I performed in many different bands, playing many styles, learning as I went. Through the years, my chops developed, and since I was naturally creative, my songwriting skills began to emerge. I explored many different instruments and began to understand their sonic possibilities – all tools to conjure up my creations. I understood the language of music through many years of exploring and knew that the language that I wished to express through my art was a dark one… and for the last 10 years, my writing, composing, recording and art have been dedicated to darkness and the world of SpookhauS.
Looks like you’ve learned to play quite an assortment of instruments...
I can play any stringed instrument, from violin, mandolin and sitar to stand-up bass. I'm not a bad drummer and can hammer something out on the piano…
What's your favorite piece of gear then?
The coolest and most difficult instrument by far is the theremin. The theremin is the oldest and first electronic instrument, and definitely the spookiest! It’s been used in countless Horror and Sci-Fi movies such as The Day The Earth Stood Still and in a few popular tunes like in the Beach Boys’ "Good Vibrations." You can hear it in such SpookhauS classic creations as “Faust,” “Captain Kronos,” “Lady Frankenstein,” "Dance to your Death" and many others.
In addition to playing most or all of the parts, you also record, mix and produce your own tracks... are you self-taught in that area too?
Like everything I do, I'm self-taught. It’s taken me longer to learn than, say, somebody who went to The Trebas Institute of Recording arts and walks out with a Sound Engineer’s degree, but I have no desire to apply my sound skills to some shithole nine-to-five job, and I'm not into paying off a 80,000 dollar student loan. I'm still learning [by] trial and error. Some of my creations sound sonically wicked… some not so much. The attention is placed on the songwriting process and the capturing of magical, mystical musical moments; it's a matter of hitting RECORD and coming up with the goods musically.
In some ways, I look at the recording process much like a musical instrument and the time that’s put into it and the familiarity with it can yield some killer results. I was frustrated in the past, not being able to properly communicate what I wanted to hear to a sound engineer in a studio… the end result of the mix was never what I "envisioned," and I knew I had to take things into my own hands. That was one of the primary motivating factors in my need to understand the art of recording.
Although you're mainly a one-man operation, you've also collaborated with many other artists… what contributions have they brought to the table?
When I started SpookhauS, I wanted to utilize female vocals, so I created “The Witches of Spookhaus” and invited many beautiful and talented young ladies to collaborate and show their dark side. Dorothy Godlinski, Tania Gosdnach and Suzanne Rushton all lent lyrics and vocals to many a SpookhauS creation; some highlights include Dorothy singing some nasty German lyrics on "Countess Noir" and Latin on "Xantus Fillius"… Tania's ghost-child vocal [is heard] on "Cemetery Playground," and haunting breathy lead on "Vampyre"… [and] Suzanne's ghostly high-pitched stylings on “The Tingler” and “Cuzin Belac.” I collaborated from afar with voodoo rapper Papa Zombie from Georgia and horror rapper Jerry Horror from New York, both adding words to my beats. Future collaborations [will] include Jerry Vain from Las Vegas, and black metal singer Sanguis Morbis here in Vancouver.
What’s the story behind your involvement with the Brotherhood of Satan?
Well, I knew if I created dark music that the Devil would come a-knockin’, and indeed he has! The Brotherhood of Satan are the oldest secret society and date back thousands of years to the beginning of man’s life on earth. The high priests and priestesses have ancestry connected to Satan himself, [who] is believed lived on this earth and [still] lives on this earth. The Brotherhood makes the claim that their time has come, and I have helped them promote themselves by supplying them with music for their promotional videos and for an upcoming DVD release. [It’s a] very interesting group that breaks many of the myths and ridiculous Hollywood misconceptions attached to Satan and Satanism… I am a card-carrying member, by the way.
You've provided music for horror films Rain of Flesh and Lost Suburbia. How did you come to be involved with those productions?
Like many of these projects, I've made many good contacts with people from all over the world online. MySpace has been my launching point and my vehicle to get the music and the good name of SpookhauS out there and to meet like-minded and creative folk. Rain of Flesh is being produced in Germany, with a slated release date of some time this year. This trippy, gory, big-breasted “monsterpiece” features some early SpookhauS material and some music written specifically for the movie, including the theme song. Lost Suburbia is a movie out of New York and is a four-part, real-life ghost story docudrama. SpookhauS music appears in the episode “Mary's Ghost,” including a song I composed for my Halloween Thirteen album and features Tania on vocals [for] "Witches Brew.”
What’s your musical connection to Ghoul-Girls.com?
I recently composed a theme song for them.. they’re a burlesque troupe of bodacious babes doing light stripteases, dressed (and undressed) as classic monsters and femme fatales. They've got still photos, calendars and vids with classic horror themes [and] they are using various SpookhauS creations for their vids. The theme song – which features the theremin – has a Munsters, Groovy Ghoulies, Hilarious House of Frightenstein vibe to it. I think it compliments the salute to b-movie Horror, the rawness, sexiness and charm that is The Ghoul Girls.
On your MySpace you state you're actively seeking a record deal. Any offers?
Some smaller indie labels have made some offers, but none of real interest to me. Sometimes I wonder if I really wanna be attached to any label… I mean, recording a studio album with top-notch engineers and mass distribution would be a dream come true, but at the end of the day I'm answering to the man... there's always a price to pay. I'm taking a different approach, not focusing solely on producing an album of music and then getting distribution and then touring… I'm thinking of writing quality music and getting it out there, specifically online, specifically downloadable, so it can reach many people… and when people like the music, they tell others, and so on. That’s how I've made connections with various projects through word of mouth... I get great satisfaction producing music and connecting with people that dig it. That’s why I do it, to make connections with people that love the dark side.
Have you considered self-releasing?
There may come a time that I may decide [to], but it isn't a priority. I've self-released my music by putting it online for all to hear. I distribute promo cards locally and promote online on many music, horror and goth sites. I do have one self-released album to date, produced entirely by myself, all artwork and layout on the package as well. It's called Halloween Thirteen and can be purchased on my MySpace… a definite collectors piece, and only a few copies left!
So what's next on your calendar?
Lotsa stuff… finishing the theme song for Rain of Flesh, auditioning musicians for the SpookhauS band and getting out on the streets and parks of Vancouver and playing my electric “Spookolin.” If you’re in Vancouver, keep your ears open for the mysterious mystical sounds of my mandolin and follow your ears to a pale, gaunt but very alive figure playing there… and please leave him a tip or some good drugs!
Oh yeah… I’ve [also] finished a script for a short comic book based on my anti-Xmas carol, Satan Claws is Coming to Kill. I'm working with a talented local Vancouver Artist, Rob Macabre, to bring Satan Claws to life in the pages of a twisted comic book that will be released this Christmas. We're gonna see if we can put it online on MySpace, but its high gore content might render it deleted…
I think it’s pretty much a given you’ve been influenced by horror movies…
I’ve been watching horror movies since I was a little kid. I started collecting horror movies about 15 years ago – I have well over 600 horror movies on VHS, some that may never see DVD status. I have a bunch of DVDs, but kinda gave up on collecting them. My first horror movies were the Universal series, shown on TV’s Monster Matinee. The original black & white classic iconic monsters were my introduction to the world of horror. The movies didn't scare me, just fascinated the hell out of me! As the years went by, I got my parents to take me to see all the Hammer horror films in the second-run theaters and drive-ins, and Christopher Lee defined the modern vampire for me… as well as the modern Frankenstein monster. But again, these movies didn't frighten me. I just wanted to be a vampire – and not just for Halloween!
Which movies rank highest for you?
The Exorcist made every other horror movie before it look like a child's cartoon! That movie scared the shit outta 11-year-old SpookhauS and left an everlasting impression. With that said, I would have to say The Exorcist ranks Number 1. Next would be another devil movie, Rosemary's Baby… no gore, nary a drop of blood, but a brilliant horror movie with an inspirational soundtrack by Krzysztof Koneda. Just hope it doesn't get remade and butchered like so many "re-imagined" [or] "rebooted" horror classics.
Some other faves would be Satanic Rites of Dracula – the editing and story line are unique for its time; Frankenstein [1931 version] – Karloff, James Whale and [makeup artist] Jack Pierce’s monster was pure genius; White Zombie – Bela Lugosi Rocks it, THE first zombie film... I have a color version and an extended version on VHS if any one wants to borrow it...
Dawn of The Dead [1978 version] – all Hail Romero, Goblin and Savini! An American Werewolf in London – the definitive mix of horror and comedy; Nosferatu [1922 version] – watch for a version with an original SpookhauS score; Halloween [original] – a milestone in horror films; Texas Chainsaw Massacre [original] – I saw this movie on mushrooms, which wasn't a good idea... I'm an old-school classic horror movie buff.
So you’re really not into the recent horror trends then?
There’s a bunch of newer horror films I dig… but just not worth mentioning, really.
We like to ask artists about their greatest fears, but you told me that very little scares you. Surely there’s something out there (or deep inside) that shakes the SpookhauS?
As FDR said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." I used to have a lot of fears and insecurities, but I was ignorant, naive and self-centered. I fear nothing now. I don't fear death, because I am spiritual, but not religious. I don't fear pain. I've experienced much, and anticipate more to come. There is so much fear that exists out there – fear that extends beyond the Hollywood machine that churns it out as entertainment. The fear exists in our real lives and is projected and sensationalized through our media, TV and government. To put fear in the general populace is a way to control... 9/11 proved that... [and] organized religions show that the fear of God works wonders in controlling.
Fear is a very strong primitive emotion, and because we live in a proper society where the lions are kept in cages, our natural fear becomes suppressed, artificial fears are created and phobias begin to exist. But fear creates adrenaline and many other chemicals that act like a drug within the brain, and needless to say, creates a high or rush… a little bit like sex. Think about it… that’s why some people love roller-coasters, horror movies, bungee jumping, sky diving, getting tied up and... well, you get the idea. Others, however, can't handle fear and can be reduced to violent panic attacks – sweating, trembling, nervous, pathetic wrecks.
Would you say experiencing that ecstasy of fear is part of the reason you chose your creative path?
I love the rush it gives me. It makes me feel like a kid – the ultimate rebellious statement, the ultimate drug. To be in the horror business, one has to have a broad understanding of what fear is. One has to face his fears and find out what creates fears in others. SpookhauS encompasses fear, horror and darkness and draws from it to create many pieces of music, aural sculptures and soundscapes. Ghostly like a faint whisper in the night breeze… aggressive like a wild zombie feeding on raw flesh… beautiful like an ancient gravestone in a forgotten graveyard. There is so much beauty in darkness… there is so much beauty in fear.