But the real point is that musicians are all in some way exhibitionists, and no other holiday celebrates that idea as well as Halloween. No matter how much we may whine about or falsely attempt to deny it, most of us want nothing more than to get up on stage and do whatever the heck we want (in whatever way we may need to do it) as often as possible. In a way, Halloween gives everyone else license to do so as well. The streets, the office parties, the evening get-togethers become the stages, and otherwise reserved folks are allowed to look and act as ridiculous as they can imagine. Plus, New Year’s gigs certainly pay better, but that end of October show is inevitably much more fun. Unless some intoxicated fellow in a rubber pig mask stumbles into your mic stand, in turn smacking your microphone into your teeth mid sentence. But that’s a whole different story.
I asked a few local musicians some Hallow’s Eve oriented questions, and got some typically off-kilter answers. Question number one: what rock star/musician type would you like to be for the holiday, or dressed up like as a kid. Second; what’s your pick for “scariest” (which for musicians has a few different meanings) Halloween album. Luke Webb, singer/songwriter/guitar strangler for Sylva’s Shiner Miners was flipping through the “Best Of” issue of the Mountain Express when I asked him the first question. Without missing a beat, he just dropped his finger to the page with the “Best Local Band” section, the winners of which were Custard Pie. “Custard Pie,” he deadpanned. “Yeah, that would be pretty cool.” I never made it to the second question, as we were quickly derailed into a conversation about why the same bands win such awards every year, how Sylva doesn’t even seem to be part of “WNC” to many entertainment publications that tout their allegiance to the area, and so on.
Brian McClure, bartender extraordinaire at Mill and Main restaurant (as well as a fine percussionist) initially answered with “Jim Morrison.” But returned a few minutes later and swapped the lizard king for Zeppelin’s monolithic beat constructor, John Bonham. “Bonzo, definitely” he smiled. Scariest album? “Ummm... Master Of Puppets, on more levels than one,” he said, referencing not only the pervasive anger and dark subject matter on much of the album, but the band’s whiplash musicianship. Songs like “Leper Messiah” and “Damage Inc.” were veritable steamrollers of late 80’s thrash and rage, but Hetfield and the boys also displayed an as yet unheard knack for melody and drama on songs like “Sanitarium,” or the HP Lovecraft inspired “Thing That Should Not Be,” which was as creepy and disturbing as anything they’d done up to that point or since.
Multi-talented singer/guitarist/banjo player/entrepreneur Jacob Ebert surprised me by answering question one with, “Prince. I mean, if you’re going to look cool for Halloween, he’s about as cool as it gets.” Okay, so how about the “scary album” thing? “That Rolling Stones album, Their Satanic Majesties Request. That’s pretty scary, right?” Jody Cooper of Hoss provided the response I’d been anticipating since the start, though I personally had always favored Ace Frehley. “Oh, I guess it’d have to be Gene Simmons.” Scariest album awards went to Rob Zombie for Hellbilly Deluxe. Now that’s rock and roll, Halloween style.
As for me, well, as much as I love the holiday I don’t often participate as fully as I should. One year I decided to dress up like the Edge from U2. I had the black skull cap, permanent five o’clock shadow, fancy wraparound sunglasses, leather coat... the works, as they say. I even carried around a digital delay pedal to complete the image with a little “inside joke” humor. My musician friends got it, but everybody else thought I was going for the “AJ McLean” look. He’s the guy from the Backstreet Boys. Not exactly what I intended in the least. My pick for scariest album? Without a doubt, Paris Hilton’s “solo” album, for no other reason than the fact that such a thing even exists. Oh, the horror!