VHS “Blood Sucking Beasts!”
By Dr. Abner Mality
Vampires have taken many forms over the millenia. From demonic walking corpses to cultured European nobles to bloodsucking teen gangsters to...unfortunately...sparkly high school nerds, these living dead have always been with us. That includes music and popular culture. What type of music is better suited to exploring vampires than heavy metal?
There are more than a few vampire-obsessed metal bands out there. One that really caught the Good Doctor’s bloodshot eye recently is Canadian band VHS. As you might suspect, these cats are fascinated by the sleazy horror of the VCR era of the 80’s. On their newest pile of putrid plastic, sanguinely titled “I Heard They Suck...Blood”, VHS turns their attention to vampire movies in all their myriad forms (naturally excluding the abominable “Twilight” films). I ask you, who better for Wormwood Chronicles to speak to?
That’s where Mike Hochins comes in. He’s both guitarist and vocalist for VHS, a band straddling the fence of death metal, punk rock and sleazy thrash. He’s the guy to ask about the blood-drinking living dead. And that’s just what we did…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to VHS! Let me ask first, what was your earliest horror film memory? Did your horror fandom come before your metal fandom?
MIKE HOCHINS: Hmmm.....the earliest memory I can think of is watching movies at a neighborhood friend's house. I remember watching “Godzilla 1984”, “The Monster Squad” and a bunch of other flicks. They had one of those awesome blow up Godzilla inflatables. Aside from that I remember scouring a few local mom and pop video stores and loving all of the horror covers. This is where I first discovered Jason Voorhees. Must have made an impression because my favorite series is still “Friday the 13th”.
WC: What’s the history of VHS? Is this the first serious metal band for all of you?
MH: We've been together since around 2015. If you want to call us a serious band this is defintely my first serious band as far as working with labels and releasing music consistently. We basically jammed one day and recorded a few demos. It was a ton of fun and we just kept going with new songs. We didn't play more then a couple of times live in the first few years but managed to release a demo and our first full length. We definitely got bit by the bug of recording music and have managed to stay super busy and release a ton of music in the 6 years or so that we have been a band. No plan on stopping anytime soon so hopefully people want to hear more from us!
WC: The new album revolves around vampires. Out of all the films covered, which one to you is the most influential and your favorite?
MH: My favorite vampire movie is probably Dracula: Prince of Darkness. It was the first Hammer movie I ever saw and Christopher Lee is my favorite portrayal of the Count. I'm not sure if any one movie influenced the trip to Transylvania but definitely Near Dark and The Lost Boys helped to push us in that direction.
WC: Could you see yourself doing theme records fo other monsters like werewolves and zombies on future efforts?
MH: I definitely think we will continue with themes in the future. I'm not sure if we will ever tackle a zombie album since they have been done to death already in death metal. A werewolf themed album could defintely be a thing to explore though. There are a ton of great werewolf flicks and a lot that probably haven't been used for inspiration yet. “Bad Moon”, “Silver Bullet”, all of the Spanish werewolf flicks, “Dog Soldiers”, “Teen Wolf”.....might be an option for sure!
WC: Of course VHS is primarily a death and thrash metal band, but you can hear punk and straight up hard rock in your music. Who are some of the punk and hard rock bands you draw inspiration from?
MH: My love of heavy metal was pretty much solidified at a young age. I was a huge fan of KISS, MOTLEY CRUE, AC/DC, SKID ROW before I was even 10 years old so that style definitely comes out in VHS quite regularly. Punk I got into around 12 or 13 I guess. It was around around time of the GREEN DAY/OFFSPRING boom but I have always been a pretty obsessive person so I would dig deeper and started listening to everything from ska punk to Japanese hardcore. I'll always have a soft spot for the Fat Wreck Chords albums of the 90s and NOFX will be in my top 5 bands of all time regardless of genre. So basically all of this stuff combined with death metal and some thrash gives you the VHS sound.
WC: What influence on VHS do you think would surprise people the most?
MH: I think the punk influence might surprise a few people, especially given that we tend to take influence from the more pop punk side of things. I also think people might be surprised by how influenced we are just by pop music. I always try to keep VHS as catchy as possible and I defintely steal some song structuring and how we always have a chorus from pop. We are definitely a metal band but we aren't afraid to wear our influences on our sleeves regardless of what genre they come from.
WC: There’s a cool sax solo during “The Frog Brothers”. What’s the story behind this and could you see yourself injecting more sax and other unexpected instruments in future music?
MH: The sax solo basically came about because anyone that has seen “The Lost Boys” knows that the concert at the beginning with the shirtless glistening sax man is one of the most iconic moments of the film. So when the vampire theme came up and “The Lost Boys” song called "The Frog Brothers" was taking shape I knew I wanted to get a sax solo happening. We did try to contact the man himself, Tim Cappello, who played in the movie but never got a response. We threw it out to the internet to try and find a sax player and it turns out one of our fans had a son named Elric that was an accomplished sax player. He was really into the idea so we sent him the song and discussed ideas about the solo and he nailed it. One of our favorite parts on the album for sure.
Would we use sax again? I think we would, but it would have to make sense. Maybe we could tackle some Italian giallo flavored music that would need some sax on it? I always have a million ideas but only have so much time!
WC: You’ve got some guest vocalists on “I Heard They Suck...Blood”, Trevor from BLACK DAHLIA MURDER and Dave from BENEDICTION. How did their participation come about and have you ever met them in the flesh?
MH: Guest vocals have always been a big part of VHS. We started on our first album and aside from I think one album we have continued this each album. Trevor and Dave have actually both been on albums before this one so it was awesome to have them come back. I have not met Dave yet but we played a few years ago with THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER so I have indeed met Trevor. He kissed me on the cheek and I haven't washed it since.
WC: Naturally you guys are devoted to the great days of VHS movies. What would you say is your most prized tape possession?
MH: Unfortunately most of my collection resides in Rubbermaid bins in my basement right now. I'm not sure if I have anything of too much monetary value but it all has a lot of sentimental value. Takes me back to a different time when a lot of the movies so readily available now were only available on bootleg tapes acquired through trading. The world feels a lot smaller now but finding a hidden gory gem used to feel like finding a needle in the haystack. I defintely miss those days but have to admit streaming does make it much easier to discover new gems or old gems you haven't seen before!
WC: I think VHS would be great live with such bands as ACID WITCH, GHOUL, CARDIAC ARREST. What’s your favorite gig and band to play with?
MH: We haven't played a great deal of shows but it's a toss up between opening for THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER and opening for SOULFLY and TOXIC HOLOCAUST. There was more people at the SOULFLY show but meeting the dudes from BDM was definitely a memorable experience.
WC: How much live experience does VHS have?
MH: Honestly I'd say we have played 10-15 show. We've played with a lot of great bands and had some great turnouts. Playing live has always been secondary to writing new music though. I have a short attention span and always seem to be thinking about the next step, next song, next album. I don't like to give myself too much down time.
WC: The pandemic affected every band in the world. Did it force you to become more active and creative when it came to songwriting?
MH: We are a pretty prolific band as is so I'm not sure if the pandemic makes us write more music but it definitely has changed how we write music. We normally would hash out ideas together in the jam space and record the songs pretty much right after wrote them. Now we are mostly writing and recording at our own homes and sharing files back and forth. We are still writing a ton of music and that won't change any time soon. It has made us approach things differently but we still seem to be able to bang out a new album every year.
WC: Have you got any ideas in mind for what comes after “I Heard They Suck...Blood”?
MH: We definitely have a few ideas of where we want to go with the next album theme wise. We are leaning towards either a giallo themed album or an album about sword and sorcery movies. Once I start writing some music we will see where inspiration takes us. We have done a ton of music this year and need a bit of time to recharge our batteries. We have an EP coming out next year and a few other splits planned so we will defintely stay busy even if a new full length hasn't been started yet.
WC: You guys sound like you would have been a perfect fit for the old Razorback Records label. How much influence were their bands on you and did you ever have contact with them?
MH: I am a huge fan of Razorback Records for sure. I was in contact with them pretty much right from the start of the label due to my zine at the time. The first bunch of releases from the label are pretty much untouchable. GHOUL, ENGORGED, BLOOD FREAK, FRIGHTMARE, and FONDLECORPSE are all amazing bands and definitely influenced VHS a ton. We were also very influenced by RIGOR MORTIS, IMPETIGO and MORTICIAN as far as horror themed bands go but I will never hide my love for Razorback Records.
WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?
MH: Hmmm...this is a tough one. Off the top of my head I would say Randy Rhoads so I could pick his brain about guitar playing and gush about how much of an influence he is on me. Secondly probably Lucio Fulci. I'd be interested to talk about Italian horror movies and if he had any idea how revered his movies might be one day. Would be fun to get some insights into the gore scenes and what it was like on set watching the blood fly. Third I would probably pick Stevo from IMPETIGO. One of my favorite bands of all time and he is a cool motherfucker. Would be awesome to shoot the shit and meet in person!
WC: Has VHS ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went haywire that you could share with us?
MH: Fortunately we have not had any Spinal Tap moments that I can think of. Only thing I can think of is having to record a few of our albums wearing winter coats and hats due to our jam space not having heat. Being able to see your breath and not being able to feel your fingers doesn't make it easy to record guitar tracks! Maybe would set the right mood if we were trying to record black metal I guess!
WC: Any last words for the fiends out there?
MH: Thanks for the interview and the great questions! Hopefully people will check out our new album and party with us in Transylvania. The response has been great so far as we appreciate all of the support. Follow us on our social media sites if you are a horror and metal fan we are always down to chat about gore and death metal!