FEARnet is not ashamed to profess a total geek-on for the smart, twisted humor and retro-fitted electro-rock of LA band Creature Feature. It's been almost a year to the day since we first covered their debut album The Greatest Show Unearthed – which continues to sell like hellish hotcakes as the band tours relentlessly, ensuring that Halloween lives on year-round for evil boils and ghouls (to borrow a phrase from dear Uncle Forry), powered by the jet-black fuel of serious rock 'n' roll. But dammit, we've missed hearing from these guys lately!
Thankfully, frontman Curtis RX detected our secret signal from the depths of the FEARnet music catacombs and heroically responded to our call for a little impromptu meeting of (disturbed) minds.
FEARnet: Legend has it Creature Feature was born out of a conversation you guys had at a party a few years ago...
CURTIS RX: Creature Feature was born on Halloween night 2005, and as soon as we started talking about the idea, everything just fell into place. It's strange how you can toil on ideas or with writing music and then, one night, everything just clicks. That's how Creature Feature was: Erik had been tucked away in his laboratory writing crazy drum-and-bass carnival music and I had been tucked away in my laboratory writing screenplays, short stories, and songs about creatures and premature burials. That very night, we sat down and began working on the collective songs.
From there, did you conceive the whole look and sound of the band pretty much as we know it today, or did the concept evolve and... you know, mutate?
Of course, with every abomination, it beings to mutate and destroys a town or two, leaving only rubble in its wake... but that's what happens in any good horror story.
Clue us in on your songwriting process... do you collaborate equally on each song, trade off writing or composing duties from one song to the next, or what?
It's really a mixture of every song writing process you can think of. Sometimes Erik will have a full song mapped out and I'll create the vocal melody and guitar parts over that. Sometimes, I'll have a full songs worth of lyrics and melody, then he'll write to that. Sometimes, the skeleton of a song will be written on guitar, then we'll start layering everything over that. It's just a Frankenstein mixture of everything. I think it's a smart idea to try ever possible avenue of creativity and attack the songs from different angles, because it gives them a unique feel.
What were your favorite instruments or pieces of gear in the studio?
Our setup really hasn't changed much over the years. Erik's weapon of choice is the Korg MS2000 and a host of crazy plugins and programs for recording. Mine was a Gretsch double anniversary hollowbody guitar, which has since been retired after eight years of faithful service, and a whole host of amp combos and pedal setups.
Do you use the same gear on the road?
Erik uses the same synth and has a rack full of samples and processors [but] I've scaled back – I don't even use effects pedals live anymore. My newest setup is a Fender Jaguar plugged straight into a Soldano head, and it works like a champ. Getting good live sound is already a difficult feat, but now we just tend to cut out the fat and try to get the clearest, most uncluttered sound we can.
Speaking of gear... I keep lots of weird toys in my recording studio for inspiration, monsters and robots and stuff. Do you guys do that too, or am I just a big dork?
[Laughs] if you're a dork, then I guess we are too. I'm a huge collector of 'things,' especially vintage film posters, so we have some of those framed around our studio, along with some action figures, toy dinosaurs, Halloween decorations, all the amazing fan art we get on tour, and a few actual move props I've collected over the years. I also have an extensive collection of movies on Beta, VHS, Laserdisc and DVD, so we also take frequent breaks to watch horror movies. Some people call that "putting off work', but we like to call it 'research'. I think having the stuff that inspires you around you at all times when you're working creatively is a must... it just seems to open up those pathways so strange creations can creep in.
The tracks in Unearthed share a "Dark Carnival" theme. Was it conceived as sort of a loose concept album, or is each song designed to stand on its own?
It's a little bit of both... The Greatest Show Unearthed is inspired by Ray Bradbury, who invented the whole genre of "Dark Carnival" and it does trickle into the other songs a bit. We thought of the album as like an audio collection of macabre tales that tie together with a singular story, like Creepshow or Tales From The Crypt. We would like to delve into full concept albums sometime in the future, but it's a huge task to do it properly.
Your musical style involves lots of layers and textures, sound effects, vocal treatments and so forth. How do you recreate this atmosphere on stage?
Early on, that proved to be the hardest part – figuring out how would could produce all this music and layers in a live setting, especially since we toured for quite some time as a two-piece without even having a live drummer. Now, we tour with live drummers, and Erik plays both the bass line and his lead lines through his synth and triggers all the other parts like sound effects and samples, and I've learned to combine different vocal lines and merge guitar parts together.
How did you guys get along with tour-mates like Wednesday 13, The Birthday Massacre, Schoolyard Heroes and The Vincent Black Shadow?
We get along great with all of them. The great thing about [touring] is, by the end of it, you've all become one large collective band. You end up sharing everything, piling everybody into one hotel room, trying to find the best food places, hitching a ride in the other band's van... It really does become like an extended family, and no matter how tired you become and how ready you are to just get home and sleep, you're always sad to see it end. Schoolyard Heroes, in particular, have become great friends of ours and we're pretty sure that we were all separated at birth. We've toured with them quite a few times already – and will continue to until the dinosaurs return to rule the earth once more. We also had a great time touring with our friends Tub Ring from Chicago. Before, during, and after each show there was a tent setup outside with a cooler, barbecue grill, beach chairs, etc. It turned every show into a Tiki beach party and felt like a crazy college road-trip.
Tell us a little bit about your production company, Last Man On Earth.
Last Man On Earth Productions is something I've had going for awhile now. All throughout my childhood, I was filming cheesy movies with my friends, horror movies, kung-fu movies, fake commercials... that was the birth of the film company. We're also producing and releasing all the Creature Feature music videos through Last Man On Earth.
Any film projects currently in the works?
When we're not touring, I'm writing all the time... I've written a few movie scripts and one of them I plan on turning into the first full-length film toward the end of next year. It's a huge project to take on, but nothing good ever comes easy. Next year will be an exciting time for Last Man On Earth Productions and eventually I'd like for it to become much more than just a film company – possibly publishing writing and creating apparel too.
You've also been promoting your talents as composers of movie scores, which is very cool. Have you had any offers?
Right now, it's just little jobs here and there in between tours, some B movies and such, but what I think would be really interesting is to make the jump to composing video game music. A lot of the unique and fresh ideas are in video games now instead of film. There isn't much weird cinema being made anymore, and it's a real shame... people are just rehashing the typical “kids on a road-trip get attacked by mountain people” plot, or the whole “torture people to the brink of insanity” thing. If you really look into video games, there's a wealth of new talent there.
You've worked a lot with artist Gris Grimly – he designed your album art, and you contributed a song to his DVD Cannibal Flesh Riot. Have you planned any other projects with him?
Yes... Gris Grimly is a wicked genius and we all live in the same whimsical horror-filled world. We've always planned to work more with Gris... there are few things are on the horizon and it's just a matter of time. On a funny side note, there are a lot of people who think Gris Grimly and I are the same person... but if you examine photos, our sideburns are distinctly different.
Now for a very important question: who would win in a kung fu match-up, Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu, or Cropsy the Caretaker from The Burning?
That's a great question... that match-up has never even entered my mind. I guess I would bet my money on Nosferatu, since he has the whole vampire lore on his side, but it would be a grisly match. All in all, I think Cropsy would still take a few chunks out of Nosferatu with his gardening shears before ultimately biting the dust. There's still an infinite amount of variables though: is it daylight outside? Does Cropsy plan ahead and use his shears to make sharpened wooden stakes? Has Nosferatu fed lately? Is he sluggish from overeating or is he weak from lack of sustenance? I'll get to work on a thesis for this and we'll met back here later to discuss this situation in further detail.
We'll definitely take you up on that one. In the meantime... what are you working on next?
We're taking the rest of the year off and a few months in 2009 to work on a new album, which we'll have information on early next year. If time permits, we also want to knock out a few more music videos and some webisodes that we've been planning on doing for quite some time. After that, it's touring, touring, and more touring.... rinse, lather, and repeat.