ACID WITCH “Every Day is Halloween!” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

It kind of goes without saying that the 31st of October is my favorite day of the year. And it has been since I first crawled out of a test tube. Who needs elves when you have goblins? Fortunately, I’m not alone in my love of All Hallows Eve. Other dark souls share this addiction.

Slasher Dave from Michigan’s creepy and innovative Acid Witch is one such character. I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy who lives Halloween 365 days a year. The new AW album "Evil Sound Screamers" is one massive paean to Halloween. You’ll find out all about it in this interview I conducted with him shortly after the holiday concluded….

Grab your plastic mask, your paper bag and get ready to go trick or treating with Slasher Dave and ACID WITCH!!!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: How did your Halloween go this year?

SLASHER DAVE: It was awesome. We decorated the house all fuckin’ crazy this year. We actually just got the house this year, me and my girlfriend. We just fuckin’ scared the shit out of some trick and treaters this year! (laughs)

WC:  Was there any theme to the house?

SD: Yeah, I built this façade and attached it to the porch. It’s hard to explain but it’s basically wood panels that look like an old, dilapidated house. Of course, I had the Acid Witch on it, one big painting of her and next to her I had a ghoul. And then just a graveyard in the front lawn with die cuts in the window and shit…

WC: What were some of the earliest memories you had of Halloween?

SD: Ugh! I have pretty early memories of Halloween because in my house, any holiday was a happier time. I remember mid-September with the heat going away…we lived in Michigan so it’s very up and down and you can really tell when the seasons are changing. I remember it getting cold and then just popping in these VHS tapes that were taped from the TV. My mom taped a bunch of Halloween specials for me and my sister. I still have the fuckin’ tapes! They barely work but the cool thing is that all the commercials are still on them from the late 80’s and early 90’s. That was basically the tradition when I was a kid. At Halloween time, just bust out the tapes and watch a bunch of crazy Halloween specials.

WC: I go back a bit further in time. Speaking of Halloween specials, I just saw on Youtube for the first time in more than 40 years “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special”, which was the first appearance of KISS on nationwide TV…

SD: Oh yeah, I’ve seen that!

WC: That was kind of a game changer for me when I saw them in action. I was kind of a hard rocker before then but that really tipped me towards the darkside.

SD: Oh yeah, for sure! You didn’t have the fuckin’ internet and social media, you didn’t know that Gene Simmons really looked like a fucking goof! (laughs) You only knew the character. Seeing that live and having the mystery of “who the fuck are these crazy looking people?”, that would be awesome! I couldn’t even imagine.

WC: I was still a grade schooler at the time. I lived way out in the sticks so going from house to house at Halloween was a big deal.

SD: They were all like a mile apart.

WC: Yeah. Do you see your band Acid Witch as being the protectors of the legacy of Halloween?

SD: We like to incorporate a lot of stuff from our past into the band. Other people might not get it but it’s our nostalgia, from when we were kids. We like to incorporate that and as much truth and genuine feeling that we had when we were kids. Me and Shagrat, the bassist who does most of the lyrics, we actually met when we worked at a haunted house. Years went by and we were both in punk bands and we would see each other and hey, what’s up? Until 2008 when we finally formed this band. We’ve always just loved Halloween and wanted to really show that in our band. If you read the lyrics to a song on the new album called “I Hate Halloween”, it goes into that territory of “if you hate Halloween, you got something bad fuckin’ coming”! 

WC:  It’s kind of important for us to preserve the memory of what it was because political correctness has taken a lot of the feeling out of it these days. Today’s kids won’t experience it like we did.

SD: They won’t experience it like we did. When I was a kid, I didn’t see shit you could decorate your house with at Home Depot. In a sense, a lot of companies are cashing in on it now. It’s not a bigger deal than it was in the past, but there’s definitely more consumerism going on now than what I had when I was a kid, which was going to Halloween USA and look for masks. We never had blow up gigantic cats and monsters and shit. It has changed to that these days. I’m not really into that, I’d rather just make something to put out in front of my house. It’s more fun that way. Sorry, I’m rambling. In answer to your question, yes, I do want to establish that we are the protectors of it. There’s a lot of themes on the new album like “Mr. Beistle” which is about M.L. Beistle from the Beistle Company. Are you familiar with Beistle Die-cuts for Halloween?

WC: Just barely. I know the name but the history is something I’m not really familiar with.

SD: Alright. On the first track of the album, other than the intro, we have a song called “Mr. Beistle” which kind of goes into that. In the early 1900’s, Halloween was just kind of like carve a Jack O’ Lantern, protect your harvest from evil spirits. Then M.L. Beistle came into the picture with his paper company and all of a sudden, he changed the face of what me and you know as Halloween. He brought witches and black cats and all this occult shit and made it available to the masses. That really shaped Halloween the way me and you know it now. 1919 was the year it changed.

WC: There was a time in places like rural England and Ireland and Scotland when this wasn’t really a fun holiday, it was an occasion of fear. The old pagan ways had lasted and become part of Halloween. People then were genuinely afraid to go out that night. They thought they were gonna get jumped by a spook!

SD: Yeah. Back then, a lot of people farmed. If you lived in a part of the country that got winter, your vegetables are gonna die. You had to have the best year that you possibly could and have a huge harvest for wintertime.

WC: If you didn’t, you starved. As different as we think now is compared to when we grew up, it was much more different going back through the centuries.

SD: When I was a kid, I was afraid of people putting razor blades in candy. The media scare of just watching your candy and then being afraid to go outside because a ghost is going to fucking kill you is crazy.

WC: Let me move to the musical part of the new album. You experiment a lot more with synthesizers and samples on the new record. What were some of your influences when it came to synths and the like?

SD: Tangerine Dream. John Carpenter, obviously. I do a lot of music in his style with my solo side project. I do instrumental synth soundtrack type music. John Carpenter’s always big. I didn’t approach any of the synth on this album to try and get it to sound like one particular thing. We really tried to create sounds that matched whatever the song was. We really tried to almost score the lyrics.

WC: There was a lot of diversity to the synth sound on the album. A lot of horror-themed bands are very monolithic in their approach, where it’s all one particular style  But the synth sounds here were very diverse and I think that was something different for Acid Witch compared to your previous albums.

SD: I would agree. Previous albums we did have synth, but a lot of it was more like organ music. We kind have ditched the Deep Purple organ sound and went a little more synth on this record. As far as the samples go, all year long if I’m watching a Youtube video or there’s something old on that VHS tape my parents made for me back in the day, I just write that shit down. I have a huge list of samples I still want to use in the future. Shagrat has a bunch. I just wanted to go crazy with synth and samples on this album because not a lot of people are doing it. I don’t know, I feel like it adds to the story of the whole album

WC: You’ve done something unique in the extreme metal world in that you’ve established your own sound.

SD: We did shit that an extreme metal band would be afraid to do. And that’s what we really pushed with this album. Try to do something you haven’t heard a lot of. Except for King Diamond of course, because King’s stories and themes are similar. He has little skits on his albums and that’s what we tried to do here. Put a little skit between songs to add more of a story to it.

WC: Acid Witch had its origins in a sludgy doom type of sound. Is that still going to be a part of Acid Witch or is it going to recede more and more?

SD: As technology progresses and gets cheaper, it gets easier and easier to make a really good sounding record. On “Witchtanic” and “Stoned” albums, we really didn’t give a fuck as far as production goes. On this album we wanted to keep that old production to where it’s still kind of murky and dense but with the synthesizers and high pitched frequencies going on , it sounds a little more 3-D.  There’s all these frequencies going on. In the future, as far as production goes, I want to keep that dense, murky, doomy sound but I wanna get fuckin’ weirder!(laughs) We did some really weird shit on the new album. There’s a lot of “reverse instrument” throughout the entire album. You might not hear it right away but if you listen hard enough, you’ll hear that we did weird reverse effects on vocals, instruments, everything. So yeah, I would like to get crazier with production. Not necessarily have it sound like fuckin’ Rob Zombie album or anything, but really try to dive into more experimental sounds.

WC: One of the songs on “Evil Sound Screamers” is about a character from Michigan folklore, the Nain Rouge. Tell us a little bit more about him and what he means to you.

SD:  It’s kind of a cool urban legend. Being from the Detroit area, you have to go up north a bit to get the weird Michigan stuff. As far as Detroit goes, it hasn’t had a lot of urban legends like that but if you read about the Nain Rouge, it’s genuinely fucking creepy. Just a little red dwarf seen before something bad happens in the city. He’s almost a kind of protector and a being that warns you that something real fucking bad is coming. It’s been seen by lots of people in Detroit…just a red dwarf skipping down by the riverbank. It’s always creeped us out a lot.

WC: Sounds a little like the Mothman, a weird creature that always appeared before some kind of terrible disaster.

SD: That movie actually fucked me up when I was younger. (chuckles)

WC:  Have you ever had a real supernatural experience in your life? Or is everything just from stories and legends?

SD: No, I’ve had some. Shagrat’s had some. We’ve all had some pretty weird shit happen. For me personally, I’ve had 3 or 4 ex-girlfriends of mine say that they see an old man with a huge grin almost going up to his eyes floating above me when I sleep at night. I always thought it was bullshit. But one night I woke up and I almost felt like I was in a dream. I opened up my closet and that face, it flashed really quickly at me. I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t know if I was half-dreaming or whatever…

WC: I’m quite interested in the paranormal and investigate it. 

SD: Oh cool! Where are you from?

WC: I’m in Northern Illinois, almost exactly between Chicago and Milwaukee.

SD: You’ve been to Michigan a couple of times, then. I got another story for you, a place you might want to visit. There’s a little town in the middle of Michigan called Salem. There’s an old graveyard there that we always drove by and never actually went to until a couple of years ago. We ended up breaking into the graveyard late at night and checking it out. It was so old, there were graves dating back to the 1800’s. The caskets underneath are kind of exhuming themselves because of the land movement of the past hundred years or so. Michigan used to be very marshy. There’s these bumps in front of these old graves. I was in the graveyard by myself and I noticed these little mini-graves everywhere. They almost looked like rocks because they were so old. I got my flashlight out and looked at a lot of them. A lot of them just said “BABY”. They didn’t have any names. There must have been a sickness or a plague of some kind. There was a whole huge part of the graveyard where the graves just said “baby”. As I was looking at these tombstones…it was fall…I don’t know if it was the wind, but it sounded like there were babies crawling on dry leaves. That really fuckin’ freaked me out! It really sounded like babies crawling all around me.

WC: Being in a graveyard, especially an old one, it puts you in a certain frame of mind…

SD: Yeah, you can easily spook yourself.

WC: There’s a place not far from where I live that is next to a nursing home. If you go behind the nursing home, there’s very few traces left, but it used to be what they called a potter’s field. That’s a place where very poor people were buried, people who didn’t have money for monuments or markers. There were a lot of ex-slaves who were buried there. It’s a very strange and eerie spot, for sure. Moving on now, who do you think the ultimate Halloween metal band is, besides yourselves?

SD: That’s kind of a hard one. I wouldn’t really put Alice Cooper in metal, he’s more hard rock. As far as metal goes, yeah, I would say King Diamond is it as far as the keyboards and synthesizers on his album. Listening to a King Diamond album is like watching a movie. I would definitely say King Diamond, I would agree with that.

WC: He’s a great storyteller. There’s another band you had a connection with called Hooded Menace, They have a very eerie sound and they’re all about the Templars from the Blind Dead movies. I always thought they were some of the greatest creations ever in horror.

SD: I love those movies so much. I don’t know if you know Billy Nocera, who kind of created Hooded Menace. He was a huge fan and still is of those movies. Yeah, it’s a very cool concept.

WC: I don’t there were any horror characters better suited for doom metal than the Templars. They were slow and deadly. It’s amazing how horror in metal has grown from Alice Cooper and Kiss to entire subgenres devoted to horror and the supernatural. What would you say your favorite film to watch on Halloween is?

SD: Does it need to be a film? Because I would say that mine is “The Night Dracula Saved The World”, which is a Halloween special I grew up watching. I could put that fuckin’ show on at Christmastime and still feel like it was Halloween. It brings me back to when I was a kid. But as far as an actual movie goes, Halloween 3 or Halloween 2.

WC: That’s a unique answer! Do you have any sort of live plans behind the new album?

SD: No. The last couple of shows we played were one off shows. Our drummer fucked his back up real bad. That was our live drummer, Charlie. On the new album, my old friend Phil Warren played the drums and we quickly started practicing with him once Charlie fucked his back up. Right now we’re in a kind of transitional phase of figuring things out with the band. I hate touring in the winter, but come springtime, I think that’s when we’re gonna hit it hard.

WC: If you could have dinner with any three people from history, who would they be?

SD: Well, I’ve had breakfast with one of them and that’s Robert Englund who plays Freddie Krueger. Probably John Carpenter, that would be an awesome one. Let me think. Frank Frazetta might be really interesting and cool. 

WC: What was the last release you picked up just because you wanted to hear the band?

SD: Probably the new album from Exhumed, “Death Revenge”. I’m a big fan of Exhumed.

WC: That was based on the story of Burke and Hare, the grave robbers.  In the history of Acid Witch, have you ever had a Spinal Tap moment where things went really wrong that you could share with the fans?

SD: Oh yeah! The whole last fuckin’ year of playing shows!(laughs) Whether it’s a string breaking on my guitar in the middle of a song or the direct inbox that my keyboard goes into on stage going out live. Whenever that happens, I really don’t know what to do, because I cue the band with it. Once that is cut out, you’re up to just looking at each other blankly.(chuckles) Yeah, I’ve had a couple of those moments.

WC: Any last words for the faithful out there?

SD: Yeah, keep trick or treating, keep doing drugs and keep having fun!