Halloween 2012: New Stop Motion Video! The Heavy - Can't Play Dead
Hey! Happy Halloween everyone!
First up: I hope that all of my east coast pals are staying as warm and dry as they can!
Second up: I have just a short post here to follow up on that "something is brewing for Halloween" teaser in my most recent mid-year missive, and I hope you all enjoy it:
Here's the skinny:
In one of my favorite projects to date, I was hired by British rock & soul band The Heavy to direct a stop motion video for their song "Can't Play Dead" (the lead-off track for their 2012 album The Glorious Dead). How exactly did this happen? They saw the "Halloween" video that I posted here last year! Yeah! Utter madness! Holy smokes but I love the internet.
So: because the guys in the band are so ridiculously cool, they (and their swell label NinjaTune) pretty much gave me complete freedom to play around with whatever spooky nonsense I wanted. As a result I really had a blast -- from the plotting to the sculpting to set design to the animation itself; the whole process was really just tons of fun. It was even profiled on Entertainment Weekly! Very crazy stuff.
And hey! I hope you like it too!
Annnnnnnd just for good measure, here's a gallery mixing a few "behind the scenes" stills in with production shots from most of the video setups.
If you click through to the complete Flickr set you'll find that I tried to spell out as many of the steps and resources in the text as I could, just in case anyone reading this is itching to give stop motion animation a shot. Do it!
In fact while I'm at it, let me just take special care to mention the fantastic "Animasapien XL" armatures that I used from Julian Clarke Studios, and the amazingly informative puppet-making "how-to" blueprint that Nick Hilligoss outlines in his YouTube video tutorials "Making Latex Build-Up Puppet Head" and "Make a Buildup Puppet". Great, great stuff.
News! Links! Thanks!: an update from the Summer of 2012
Well heya chums!
So I don't really know how many of you guys are still out there (and who could blame you?), but since I still get a fair amount of awesome emails and comments (and trust me, my perpetual amazement at the astoundingly cool readership of this this internet-ancient [not to mention "files deficient"] blog is a whole post unto itself), I thought it might be fun to do a little "not yet Halloween" type post.
What kind of post you ask? Well I dunno really, but I thought that since I've been sent and shown and run into so much great stuff over the last few months a mishmash of links might be nice, yeah?
(I mean sure, *ostensibly* my goal will be to share some links highlighting cool projects various "friends of Scar Stuff" have been doing, but secretly I plan on slipping in a few URLs that'll send you over to some junk I've been up to myself as well. Sneaky, right?)
If you've ever spent more than 5 seconds paging through the ads of a comic book from the 50's to the 80's you're going to be familiar with the terrain here, and what Demarais (who among zillions of other things is also the proprietor of the truly rad Secret Fun Spot site , and creator of an absurdly cool series of Film Family Portraits that you might have seen around) does is as overdue as it is simple -- he compares the promise of the ads with the reality of the product. That's right! Page after page of revelations regarding the Moon Monster, the U-Control Ghost, the Hercules Wrist Band, X-Ray Spex and more! more! more! Seriously, check this book out. And hey! Here's a nice interview with Kirk as well. You rule, Kirk!
In! Fact! Let's just give Trick or Treat Studios their own section, huh? If you've been following the independent mask scene at all you'll know that ToT has been assembled a truly dazzling line of talent under their roof. Justin Mabry (Nightowl Productions), Aaron Lewis, Erich Lubatti, Kelly Mann -- the list of amazing artists at Trick or Treat is huge. These guys have sculpted and designed some of the coolest independent (and often limited-run) monster masks of the last decade, and finding them all together and producing such fantastic work at affordable prices is very much cause for celebration. If you dig the mask scene but find yourself either disappointed at the mass-market selection or balking at the boutique prices, Trick or Treat is your solution.
And hey! S-P-E-A-K-I-N-G of monster masks, here's something I do now & then that I've really been meaning to throw onto Scar Stuff eventually: it's a collection of Monster Mask photos that I cajoled photographer Jackie Alpers into taking. Because I'm lazy, here's a re-run of the description I posted on my JasonWillis.com site:
"Ostensibly designed to showcase some of the really cool work being produced by the independent mask making community, probably somewhat closer to the truth is that I secretly wanted a decent excuse to act out various scenes and situations involving my ever-growing collection of creepy latex heads.
In fact hey! While I'm trolling for agents, I recently edited together a seedy & salacious book that would simply LOVE to find a publisher. It's entitled "Letters to Porn Stars" and is a (wait for it) collection of letters to porn stars and porn companies that spans a chronological range of about a decade, and an emotional range of about a billion light years. This (admittedly crazy expensive) version is more of a private press type Blurb edition, but all you legit publishers can just feel free to hit me on up! Oh yeah!
Man, I'm kind of the worst at marketing the stuff I do after I make it, huh? Okay, okay -- let's move on to some more people who AREN'T me:
So yeah, I hear what you're saying -- "Those monster mask pics are nice and all Jason, but they're really lacking something when it comes to the 'naked ladies' department." Well then! Why not check out Caleb Oglesby's "100% Not Safe For Work but Plenty Safe For Nightmares" series of Monster Girls? Pairing his amazing collection of monster mask latex with huge array of R-Rated models and settings, Caleb is clearly a man with a vision on a mission. Hi Caleb!
Another pal of mine who is consistently doing swell stuff is Mike Plante. He's got a fantastic distro for independent, avant-garde, cult & underground films called "Cinemad Presents", and runs a regularly updated blog that sheds even more light on the same scene. FROM there you'll find podcasts, video interviews and a lot more -- Mike is clearly a busy dude & he's doing great work when it comes to the world of personal and unique cinema. Goooo Mike!
And hey! Speaking of cinema (okay, admittedly I'm being a bit generous in my use of that term) let's talk a little more about ME for a sec, huh?
Here's a short film I made back in June of 2012 that profiles the perils and pitfalls of, you know, catnip. ABOUT TIME, RIGHT?
So yeah, the video is called "Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?" and it's a faux 1970's drug educational short largely inspired by the amazing archives that have been unearthed by the fine folks over at Something Weird Video over the years -- for a totally ridiculous project I honestly had a very great time putting this together. If you've got about 7 minutes to spare, won't you please give it a look see?
Ah hell, this is getting really long, isn't it? Tell you what -- let me just cram a couple of other little video shorts I've been doing in here as well and call it a day:
Here's a bogus "Old Timey" cover of MDC's 1982 hardcore classic "I Remember" that I did up in the style of the late 1920's vintage jazz/crooners -->
and here's a trio of time lapse setups that sorta represents a smattering of some of the junk I've been playing with in that arena -->
Okay is anyone still reading this? I should stop, huh?
Man! I swear that there are about 100 more things I want to share here (I'm making more & more music videos! People are hiring me to direct things! It's really cool!), but this is already about 5 times longer than I'd guessed at when I started typing. Much love to you all, and I hope to have one or two special treats ready for you come Halloweentime.
And seriously -- thanks again for all of the kind emails and sentiments over the years -- for a bunch of ghouls, monsters and banshees, you are also all truly, truly awesome.
**** Psst! Visit the official Golden Records Facebook Page for a free download of the "Halloween" MP3! It's a "Limited Time Only" type deal so act fast! ****
Hey everyone, it's great to see you all again! I certainly hope that the last year has treated you kindly and that you're all doing well in your various crypts, lairs & decaying manors.
Okay, okay -- let's get down to business, huh? October is finally here and that means it's time for another one of my annual "Halloween projects that I'm using as an excuse to try new stuff" posts. Yeah! All right!
Since I figured that whatever I did would be unlikely to match the over-the-topness of last year's Eerie Publications/ Johnson-Smith "Horror Record" mashup (and let me just pause here to say that the reaction to that video was absolutely mind-blowingly amazing to me. Tweeted by Harry Knowles! Championed by Poison Ivy! Played in-house at the Alamo Drafthouse and Cinefamily theaters! I don't think I could ever have predicted such an awesome collection of responses for something so replete with severed heads and werewolf-on-vampire gore, so thanks again one and all) -- wait, where was I? Oh yeah -- since I doubted I could mimic THAT vibe, this year I decided to try and take things in a less gruesome direction by giving myself a project that might teach me a few new tricks while simultaneously paying homage to another (and slightly more kid-friendly) corner of my mental Halloween time-machine brain.
I'm sure that by now most of you have come to the same conclusion as me: time to make a stop motion video for one of my favorite childhood songs and shoot the whole thing using an iPhone and the "Hipstamatic" photo app. Perfect!
Okay so here, (if you're interested that is) is way too much info around what that little story looked like:
Choosing the song was actually easy enough -- ever since I was 5 or so I've been in love with the Kay Lande and Wade Denning "Halloween: Games, Songs and Stories" record (here's my Scar Stuff write up from March of 2006), and as far as children's Halloween tunes go I think the opening track comes pretty damn close to perfection. So yeah -- song: check.
The decision to use the iPhone actually took me a bit longer to get to, but it made total sense thanks to some evolving patterns in my creative projects/art/WhateverYouWannaCallIt over the last year or so. Basically I've been playing with the idea of using my phone as a kind of creative Swiss Army Knife; shooting video of random events so I can do more editing, getting reacquainted with the idea of always having a camera around, and generally just trying to approach every day as having the potential to become a document-able project of some sort (the results aren't always pretty, but now and then I will post examples over at my JasonWillis.com site.)
In particular I found that I was having a lot of fun using the Hipstamtic photo app on my phone, and quickly enough my to-do list became rife with time-draining ideas like "Gridstamatic Collages" (which are cubist type grids composed of multiple square images that kinda-sorta form a whole when taken in at once, sometimes in conjunction with a hardware accessory like the macro OlloClip lens [also used here in the Halloween video]), and "Tucson Motels Are Anxious for Your Patronage" (which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like).
So all that was missing was the stylistic component, and since I-have-always-loved-but-have-never-done-any-stop-motion, I finally decided to mix everything together and give this combo of elements a shot (well, more like several thousand shots). I started out with a few crude photo tests in the second week of September, and just last night I managed to export the complete mess via Final Cut Pro. It was a little more intensive that I thought it would be (see the "Post Mortem" below), but I genuinely had a great time and I truly hope that you guys dig the results.
And hey -- Happy Halloween everyone!
This project was a huge amount of fun, but it was also just WAY the hell more work than I thought it would be. In fact to all you professional stop motion folks let me just say: Holy Crap! You are clearly wired with much more patience than I am. Wow.
Another thing that I didn't really factor in is that the Hipstamtic app can only (currently) process a maximum of 9 photos during any given stretch. That certainly slowed some image capture sessions down but to be honest those pauses were usually pretty helpful because I ALSO needed way more time to build the little characters, props & environments for every scene in here than I had initially envisioned. Obviously I need to work on both my time estimate and time management skills.
Still, and with all of that said, I'd totally do it again. The end result is almost exactly what I hoped it would be: a mishmash of styles, aesthetics and techniques, all wrapped up in a 60's-70's home-movie vibe. I had fun, I learned a huge amount, and I had a good excuse to buy a whole bunch of cheesy Halloween toys. All in all I'd call that a pretty win/win/win scenario; I heartily recommend that anyone so inclined give it a try.
Fiends! Boils! Ghouls! So forth! Gather 'round while I spin a tale of... ah hell let me just jump right in -->
So what we've got here is an annual Halloween post that comes wrapped up inside of a link to a project I just finished. How about THAT for a set-up opening sentence! No?
Okay, okay let's get down to the specifics:
This is a short film I made which marries the audio from the probably the WorstBest Halloween record I own (which as you may remember I mail ordered from a comic book ad when I was 8 or so) with the crude and gruesome cover art favored by the company that gave me the most nightmares as a child, Eerie Publications. I know, I know -- "At last!" right?
Some (general) technical info:
It was primarily created in three programs:
Photoshop: This was the most time consuming part. I did lots and lots of visual prep work like eliminating cover text, completing any truncated images (like if there was only half of a vampire or something because it hit the end of the cover page), breaking components out into separate layers and then creating new art that would fill in the holes left by moving those elements around, and so forth.
Motion: This is the program that allowed me to do all of the animation in XYZ (or "3D" you could say) space. Here's the part where I'd move the images around like pieces of paper on popsicle sticks inside of a shoebox stage (well at least that's how it felt to me) and sync them with the audio.
Final Cut Pro: This was what I used to do the final editing together of the various scenes, add the transitions (like the cross fades, etc), and to do the final exporting to video.
All of this took me about 4 weeks from start to finish, which accounts for more than a few false starts and obsessive tweaks. This was actually the first project I had ever attempted to do in Motion and while it turned out to be waaaay more work than I had initially bargained on, I really had a lot of fun.
(Oh, and yeah -- I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was going to have to cut the flogging scene; Eerie Publications just didn't have a single decent whip-heavy cover that I could find. Too tame for their tastes I guess.)
Okay! Hope you folks enjoy the video & my fingers are crossed that I'll see you all again next year!
Well hey there everyone! Nice to see you, nice to see you.
So I've gotten a lot of really great and supportive emails lamenting the lack of activity (ahem, not to mention *files*) here on Scar Stuff, and while I've done my best to catch up with most of them I figured that it's probably well past time for me to post a somewhat more public explanation regarding my absence/ silence/ total lack of awesomeness/ etc.
The short story is that a while back (after a brief period wherein Blogger had inexplicably frozen the site) I was hit up w/ a "Cease and Desist" demand concerning an OOP file I was sharing, and since I preferred to pay for bandwidth and host things myself (rather than utilizing a file hosting service like Rapidshare or whatever) my provider was hit up as well. After a day or two of reflection this led me to decide that I might as well go ahead and delete the majority of the files here and essentially close up (virtual) shop. To be honest the timing wasn't bad; I was finding spare time in my life to be in short supply and since my original intent wasn't much more than to get the "share ball" rolling (trust me, I succeeded *well* beyond any initial hopes I might have conjured up) as well as connect with other like-minded folks, it all seemed to be something close to kismet.
That said, I wouldn't have traded this experience for anything. While I'd never intended for Halloween records to be my main focus (no, really), before I started up Scar Stuff I can't say that I'd ever found anyone else who cared much about them. When I'd tour the US with one of my bands I'd hit the used record stores to see what kind of weird/ spooky audio they had, and was usually met with a response something akin to "meh". When I'd poke around on line for info (or audio) I'd inevitably come up completely empty handed. Yet as soon as I started posting vintage Halloween records myself the response was instantaneous and overwhelmingly positive; across the board I was met with a highly receptive and enthusiastic audience who were anxious to share tons of fascinating info, memories and experiences around this junk. Whether emailing me directly or using the site comments I honestly received nothing but scads and scads of positive feedback (certainly I never had any trouble w/ "trolls" or anything of the sort), and in the intervening time I've seen my LP rips and cover scans (credited or not, I don't really make a distinction), not to mention dorky *passion* for this stuff spread rapidly all over the world. Not bad!
Another awesome side effect that I didn't expect: I've scored simply tons of cool stuff thanks to the great folks I met here. Over the duration of Scar Stuff's activity people would send me records (either digitally or physically) on a regular basis, and whenever I managed to aquire some long wished for childhood item (like the Gayle Records "Haunting" 7", the Moon Monster poster, or a 16mm print of the Centron Halloween Safety Film in which I had a role as a kid), I was guaranteed a built-in audience of like-minded folks to share it all with. Very, very cool.
So yeah, that's pretty much it. The files are indeed gone but they were snatched by so many folks that I'd think with a little digging people should be able to scare them up online somewhere. Over the years I've occasionally ripped sets of 4 DVDs composed of the Scar Stuff files which I've given to cool people who have hit me up and are working on like-minded projects. As a kind of final "giving back to the community type" thing (and to show my appreciation for all the great stuff this project has brought me), if some enterprising soul out there wants to set up the infrastructure for a "sharing tree" along these lines I'll be more than happy to kick out the first 10 or so sets. To be honest my organizational skills are horrible when it comes to that kind of thing, but for the 2009 Halloween cycle I'll be happy to kick start what I can. It's really a one-time seasonal offer (as I'm sure I'll find that my intentions rapidly fall behind my situational reality), but don't be shy about cooking it all up if you think you can swing it; sharing has been the whole point.
And again, thanks for all of the emails and kind words everyone; I'm glad to say that I'm doing fine. As for me, these days I'm mostly busy with work and a few other projects I've been tinkering with (a book composed of letters to porn stars, a music documentary that I'm v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y piecing together, some new drone/ psych/ audio nonsense, etc), as well as plain old general life. It's good.
While it's still very much a work in progress, I thought a few folks might enjoy seeing what I've scanned in from my collection of (real, physical, paper -- I ignored digital versions even if I created them) flyers. As it turns out there are actually a few more to come (I just found another small pile), but this is easily the lion's share.
My history with these things is pretty casual/ non-obsessive really. I'm not sure why exactly, but I started grabbing them off of utility poles & record store counters when I was around 10 or 11 years old, then securing them all over my bedroom walls with a wretched substance called "Fun-Tak" (you'll see a lot of oily corner spots as a result). Around 1985 I started making them myself (both because I loved the music so much and because it got me in to the shows for free) and this early design work, along with the little photocopied Punk Rock 'zine I was doing at the time, were most certainly my entry points into the world of graphics -- the field in which I work today.
Of course like most folks who've gotten bit by the Punk Rock bug, these flyers represent a mere fraction of the time I've spent in loud dark rooms (though I didn't see every single show pictured here either), but I'm still both happy and amazed that I've somehow held on to as many as I have. Hope you have fun checking 'em out!
As part of CRAZY CROSSOVER MULTI-BLOG LIMITED SERIES TIE-IN, I feel duty-bound to alert you to a recent post over at the mighty Secret Fun Blog.
Y'see, over a year ago Kirk posted an old ad that I'd nearly forgotten ("Chimp Artist Will Paint For You!"), but which had captivated my imagination as a kid. As a direct result of some of the info passed along in the comments for that post, I ended up buying a pair of supercool paintings made by Cheeta the Chimp which now grace my bedroom walls & give me no end of delight. After emailing Kirk again to express my thanks (they really are pretty rad), he casually mentioned that he'd one day like to see all the other junk I might've collected & hung up around the house.
Well a project like that sounded kinda cool to me, and to be honest I figured if I did it first I could more easily coax him into doing the same in return (based on what little he HAS shared I'm confident that it'd be worth it -- this public "calling out" is merely phase two of my plan). So yeah, even though the idea had to fester and turn around in my brain for over a year I eventually got it together and took the snaps (figuring that for the end of the story and mostly happy to cross one more item off my mental "to do" list -- my head seems to work on a one-for-one basis at times and to make room for a new idea an old one must be acted upon).
Well THEN, thanks to what I will assume was something of a momentary lapse of judgement, Kirk asked if he might actually be able to share the gallery with his readers on the always-awesome Secret Fun Blog.
What happened next? Sorry, but in true crossover fashion you're just gonna have to follow this link to read the rest of the story...
Well I usually don't post stuff like this, but my audio server is tragically out of bandwidth for the month (I'd allotted myself a bit more than $200 for Oct & was crossing my fingers that it would hold out, but I got over 7,000 uniques yesterday alone with lotsa repeat traffic so it looks like I'll really have to up the ante next year). Anyway given the situation it seems like it might be a good time for me to dip into some personal nostalgia in visual form, and to that end here's a quick trip down some of my own spooky memory lane:
The first pic you see is me & my brother Craig on Christmas of 1978. As you can tell I'm proudly modeling my (Sears Wishbook bought!) Famous Monsters sweatshirt here (and while you can't see it, he's actually sporting a Dawn of The Dead shirt himself). I later rebelliously wore this sweatshirt for my 3rd grade yearbook picture; partially because it was my favorite, but mostly because my teacher forbade it & claimed she'd yank me out of line if I dared to come dressed for such an important day with the visage of a decomposing ghoul on my person. She didn't do a thing, and in the finished shot you can clearly see the corpse reaching up out of the bottom of the image. I thought that was pretty cool.
UPDATE: Three pages of ads for the Warren shirt line (Famous Monsters #129, Oct 1976) 01 02 03
Next up it's me flexing my "artistic talent" in public for the first time. In Lawrence KS where I grew up, the downtown merchants allow kids from local grade schools to paint tempra recreations of pictures (that they cook up themselves) on the windows of their businesses for Halloween. It's a really cool program and makes shopping downtown during the Fall extra creepy & special. Somewhat amazingly, this still goes on there today, and you can even see a short video clip about it here.
So back in 1980 I entered a drawing into the competition for the first (& only) time, and here you can see me proudly standing next to my finished piece "Rotting Corpse (with one "Tales from the Crypt" inspired eyeball) Hanging from a Noose in a Graveyard Above a Bloody Axe While a Bat Flies Toward the Full Moon". Extra cool was that as I was painting it, a newspaper photographer came by & took some snaps of me at work (though these aren't those), and I ended up getting a big picture in the paper for my efforts (I think he picked me partially because he thought my painting was good, and partially because he thought it was funny that it was painted over half of an Air Force recruiting office window. Well and maybe because I looked like such a hippy). Oh, and you probably can't tell, but I'm wearing an iron-on t-shirt design that I ordered from the Johnson Smith Novelty Company showing an undertaker excavating a corpse above the words "I Want Your Body". This was by far my favorite shirt in 1980; I guess I had a thing about the rotting (sentient) dead.
...and to cap it all off here's the (Yeah! That's right!) FIRST PLACE PRICE that I won for my efforts. Naturally, to inspire my current visual output, to this day I have this rather prestigious award proudly displayed on the walls of my home office:
You know, it seems that sometimes my lifelong desire to hold on to weird junk from my past (either physically or as memories) can pay off in unexpectedly cool ways, and the reaction I've gotten from far & wide to this blog is easily the most amazing example of that I've encountered in my life to date. Thanks so much to everyone for making this stuff more fun for me than ever before, and a heartfelt wish to you all for a really, really Happy Halloween (oh and don't worry, I should still be here throughout the rest of the year sharing some of my other audio obsessions.)
Richard Taylor "Nightmare", "Horror", "Terror", "Fright" (Major/ Random Records, 1962)
Acting as both an addendum and a slight re-cap of two earlier Scar Stuff posts (feel free to check out my earlier entries on "Nightmare" and "Terror"), here's the complete 4 LP run of Edgar Allan Poe stories narrated by Richard Taylor. Well, probably the complete run -- an additional record entitled "Strange" (Random cat #40) is mentioned on the back cover of some volumes in the series, but I can't find evidence of it anywhere else (I'd love to be proven wrong here, so if anyone has a copy please drop me a line.)
Mr Taylor's sketchy profile claims him as "one of the newest sought after 'thriller' actors on the scene today", with producers allegedly finding "his sinister voice mystifying and full of suspense, and in direct contrast to his handsome appearance". Now this all may well be true, but what really strikes me in his delivery is the breathy, manic and nearly unhinged quality he gives these readings. In the best parts (like when the character is all worked up), there's a real sense of low-budget madness coming across -- kinda like the archetypical creep in the cellar was awarded a recording contract or something.
These LPs were initially issued under the "Major Records" name (here's an early ad), but over the years could be more commonly found with the "Random Records" logo attached to a generic cover design (hand stamped in the upper left corner with the word "Nightmare", "Horror", "Terror" or "Fright"). While these dime store sounding recordings got their start in life at the beginning of the "Monster Kid" boom in the early 1960's (they were heavily advertised mainstays in pages of Famous Monsters, Horror Monsters, Mad Monsters, Monster World and probably 50 other magazines with the word "monster" in the title), amazingly enough as late as 1981 you could still pick them up in the back of FM for only $1 each. Since I've already shown the classic early '60's ads on Scar Stuff a couple of times, here's a slightly more "contemporary looking" variant that ran in Creepy, Eerie & Vampirella after Bill DuBay took over as their editor and changed up the art direction in the early 1970's.
Oh and one last warning before you get going, side one of "Fright" (aka "the House of Fright") is missing a few lines right at the tail end, but it really doesn't detract much from the story, which is a two part adaptation of "The Fall of the House of Usher".
Okay! Let's get those "Eerie Midnight Ghoul Parties" started!
Hey everyone! Well this week has been a lot crazier than I thought it would be, but I'm still planning on getting my act together enough to post a few more pre-Halloween audio goodies. In the meantime however I figured I'd issue a stop-gap in the form of some visual treats, specifically several scans I've made of (mostly) monster-related mail order items from the 1960's.
Some background: The majority of these come from Charlton Press' "Mad Monsters" & "Horror Monsters" magazines, and a smaller percentage are from even less common mags like "Modern Monsters" (Prestige Publications), "3-D Monsters" ("Fair Publishing" -- actually Myron Fass!) and "Monster Mania"(Renaissance Productions).
Warren Publications and the Captain Company are represented by a few pages from "Monster World" & "Spacemen" (most of the "Spacemen" ones are at the end of page 4 -- some cool stuff I'd love to check out there), but for the most part I tried to avoid the big guns (Famous Monsters, Creepy, Eerie, etc) since many of those ads are readily available online (case in point: here's a great Flickr set.)
I also avoided using anything from the 1970's (Monster Times, Castle of Frankenstein, House of Hammer, etc etc), but I bet I eventually break down & just start scanning everything in. That's how this stuff always starts, isn't it? Anyway, enjoy!
Gayle House Records "The Haunting" (Gayle House, GH-101, 1971)
You know, the last year of my life has been absolutely amazing in terms of fulfilling my childhood comic-book dreams. Nearly everything I'd ever lusted for in those (already) out of date pages has fallen into my lap. Abstract art paintings done by a chimpanzee? Check! That Super-Cool "Giant 'Life Size' Moon Monster Poster" I'd dreamt of for so long? Check! With all of this good fortune sailing my way, what could be left?
Well truth be told, there was only one more "top of the list" type thing I could think of. One more thing that (casually but persistently) still preyed on my comic-book-ad-loving imagination. That's right -- the record described in the ubiquitous early 1970's ad with the cloaked ghoul commanding the reader to "Invite Your Friends Over For A Haunting". Sooooo rad looking; it just HAD to be great. I mean -- how could it not deliver the goods? Just look at that fantastic copy:
"Just imagine how scared your friends will be when you flip out the light and they start hearing creepy sounds like the howl of a wolf, a creaking door, chains rattling, and then a man's voice telling them that the house is haunted and they are to die -- one by one. They'll be scared stiff when they hear footsteps coming across the floor, the sound of people fighting, glass breaking, hideous laughter, terrible shrieks and screams, eerie moaning and then more footsteps, more screams... Each person in the room will think that he is going to be the next victim."
Man. How fucking awesome was this record going to be? Why, completely and utterly off the scale of awesomity, naturally. So yeah; I'd poked around for this one pretty frequently over the years, but the few people I could find who'd actually heard it assured me that it was both "pretty bad", and that it was "basically the same as the Johnson Smith Novelty Company 'Horror Record'". Naturally the first statement made me want it all the more, but the second statement actually gave me pause. In fact the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me that a single company might well have churned out just one 7" 33 RPM record's worth of spookiness in the early '70's, and then licensed it off to a few mail order companies simultaneously. Yeah, that's probably what happened. Oh well, it was still a cool ad.
Well as it turns out that's not what happened at all. In fact as you'll soon be able to discover, not only are the sounds on the Gayle House single unique, the record has a freakishly lame and astoundingly perfect charm all its own. It even manages to scrupulously follow the rules of the mighty Rip-Off Halloween Record genre (those being: a totally half-assed "story telling" side, and a banded "sound effects" side using most of the same audio library just without the narration), while still happily amplifying both their cheapest AND most exploitive qualities! Yeah! I honestly don't want to spoil it for you too much (Threadbare plot! Terrible narrator! One sound effect repeated ad nauseam! Children in peril!), but believe me, as far as I'm concerned it was more than worth the 30+ year wait. And hey, it even works just like the ad said it would!
Oh, and one more side note, here's a link to the current owner of the PO Box featured in the ads. My guess is that they probably don't have a lot of leftover "Haunting" records laying around but hey -- you never know.
Samhain "Live At The VFW#18 in KC, MO Aug 21, 1984"
In keeping with the season and my desire to get some more of my old live recordings out there, here's a complete Samhain show I taped way back in 1984. I've only copied this off one or two times over the years, but (as I've seen it pop up on a few tape trader lists since then) I guess that was enough for it to start making the rounds. However the good news is that this is the first time it'll be taken from my original source cassette so even the biggest Samhain fans out there will at least be getting a sonic upgrade.
So let's see, how to frame this? Well I guess it'd be easy for me to open up by casually bragging about how I snagged a copy of the Misfits "3 Hits From Hell" single (ahem, 1st pressing with Fiend Club insert, if you must know) for 10 cents at Kief's Records in 1981. Sounds pretty good, right? Well it's accurate and everything, but to be honest I had no fucking idea who they were at the time. None. In fact I only bought it because it WAS 10 cents, the Misfits logo on the insert was swiped from Famous Monsters magazine, and I noticed that the skull on the back was nicked from the 1972 Amicus "Tales From the Crypt" flick (which had blown my mind during its 1978 re-release). So no, I wasn't the hippest 12 year old in the world or anything, it was just total blind luck. Kinda de-cools it, I know.
Of course that single was GREAT and I played the hell out of it, but somehow I still managed to keep the Misfits pretty low on my radar over the next few years. In fact I was out of the loop enough that by Sept of 1984 I didn't even know the band had been broken up for almost a year -- not till I saw the flyer for this show which announced that "from the ashes of the Misfits" something called Samhain (which my friend Andre kept telling me was properly pronounced "Sow-ween") had risen. So while I was curious enough to wanna check 'em out, my investment level wasn't terribly huge. Really, I was more pumped up about catching 7 Seconds (who were on the same bill) for the first time. Kinda de-cools it, I know.
Flash forward to the show: 7 Seconds went on first and they WERE great; easily the best time I would ever see them over the course of the 80's. They played a very tight set to a packed floor and when they were done I enthusiastically picked up a copy of the "Nuke Your Dink" single (from Kevin) and a semi-slick fanzine called "Hard Times" (from some other guy) outside the hall. Samhain seemed to be taking forever to set up and when I finally wandered back in I noticed that the crowd had kinda... changed. Instead of the "hyper youth" that had been all over the place 30 minutes earlier, these older looking folks were up front and a bunch of local KC punkettes were confusing me by busily screaming the word "Mommy!" over and over (I hadn't heard "Walk Among Us" yet). All of a sudden Samhain started playing and to be honest, I didn't know what to make of them at first either; a lot of their music was slower (with melodies hidden more deeply inside the dirges) than most of what I'd been listening to, and what the hell was this "harmonizer" that they kept demanding be turned on? Where were all of the catchy pop choruses? Did I like this or not?
Well by the end of their set I'd figured out that I liked it a lot (perhaps you can make out some of the, uh, insightful conversation my friends and I are having during the encore clapping), and I played the hell out this tape that fall and for several falls to come, sparking a real obsession. Coming across more of this kinda stuff was somewhat hard in those days (I remember driving for well over 2 hours to the house of a guy I didn't even know so that I could try and convince him to dub me a crappy 10th generation tape of a few Plan 9 singles), but 23 years later the magic of the internet allows me to easily share my little time-travel memory trip with YOU. All Murder, All Guts, All Fun!
Okay Educational Short Film Fans! Direct from 1985 I present "Halloween Safety [Second Edition]", yanked straight from the Centron/ Coronet film vaults. Produced 8 years after the original, this was also filmed in my hometown of Lawrence, KS and stocked with local acting talent & scenery.
Really more a complete reworking than a "second edition", the difference in both era and production aesthetics is apparent within the first few seconds of the film's un-spooling: check out that killer montage of awesome dime-store masks flying through the air! Yeah! This is immediately followed up by some great & simple shots of kids walking around in cheapo store-bought Ben Cooper & Topstone getups, which felt just perfect. I mean, maybe I'm just speaking for myself here, but despite the fact that on the real Halloween night in 1985 I was busily enjoying something billed as "The Scum Of The Earth Costume Party", seeing those kids parade about in their outfits more than managed to resurface plenty of decade-dormant memories. Sadly none of my childhood regional Midwestern candy faves show up during the treat sequences though -- where the hell are the Cherry Mashes & Valomilks? Ah well, I guess you can't have everything.
So anyway, settle back from the vantage point of 22 years worth of hindsight and help yourself to loads of quality advice on pumpkin carving, fire hazards, costume functionality, mask visibility, street crossing etiquette, vandalism & mayhem, treat tampering (bear in mind that this was only a few years after the 1982 Tylenol murders), and more -- all told against a sub-Michael Jackson soundtrack by an animated Jack-O-Lantern narrator!
Okay! Just amazing! I finally (finally!) acquired a 16mm reel of the Centron/ Coronet Halloween Safety educational film I appeared in back when I was 7 years old! It had been so long that I could scarcely remember a thing about my involvement, and mostly questioned whether or not it would turn out that I was even really in the damn thing after all. But as of today, for the first time in 30 years, I can confirm that: yes, yes I am. The grand screen-time-total of my glorious film debut? About 14 seconds. 14 seconds of complete fucking Halloween awesomeness.
So the basic deal is that in 1976 I was asked to be in this thing by a casting scout who visited my grade school and picked me out of my 2nd grade class's outfit parade. My costume was a homemade Creature From The Black Lagoon getup with a thin rubber mask ordered out of a comic book for the head, and my previous year's Sears-bought "Planet of the Apes" suit turned inside out, dyed dark green and accented with darker green hanging cheesecloth (which was supposed to resemble seaweed) for the body. Well as it turns out -- and I had completely forgotten this 'til I started watching -- I wasn't actually allowed to wear my rubber Creature from the Black Lagoon mask in the film at all, since a key safety point seems to be that masks are oh-so-very-unnecessary for Halloween fun. Instead (and this all came rushing back to me) they had some make-up dude come in & paint my face like a graveyard ghoul -- it looks great! Really crude and minimalist but still completely in step with my cheesecloth-covered-costume, which now looks to be the dismal shroud of the roaming undead. Man, I totally should have ripped off that look for my costume the following year.
So anyway, what actually happens in those earth-shatteringly historic 14 seconds of mine? Well basically you see me put in a set of vampire teeth (with a giant strand of drool stretching from my hands to my mouth) and then start to apply some white face paint to my lips. Next we cut to a "Halloween Party" scene, and here I remember initially being in front of the whole group only to be shamefully sent to the very back after trying to eat a cookie before the camera started rolling. As the scene pans around you can see me talking to a couple of other kids for a few frames (at least 3 of them were grade school pals of mine) and then... well that's pretty much IT for me actually. Totally incidental! Totally forgettable! Totally worth the three decades wait!
...and then don't miss the REAL full-length 1977 version, where you can watch a reasonably creepy Witch costume devolve into an utter wreck of reflective tape and white fabric over the course of 11 minutes.
You guys are pretty fucking amazing. So many astounding emails & comments -- I am fully blown away. For real.
Well okay, you win. Since it's quite clear that I've pretty much got to come back for Halloween this year, I'm now on the hunt for a decent hosting situation. Once I've got that together (a few options are in the works) I'll re-up all the old files and then get to work on adding some cool new ones (assuming, that is, that the rest of the increasingly astounding blogs which keep popping up haven't already beaten me to it. It'll be tough, trust me.)
In the meantime I guess I should point out (to any of the fine folks who have emailed me directly & might've missed the links hidden within the comments), that the lion's share of the files I encoded, along with plenty more I wish I had, are actually already being capably hosted on a variety of other super-cool blogs run by some terribly committed people. While I don't have a full list handy, here (off the top of my head) are a couple of good places to check (please feel free to add more in the comments):
And as good as those are I know that if you search a bit you'll find even more are out there as well -- I honestly can't even being to keep up with all the badical new blogs I've seen with even the most casual of searches.
Actually that kinda brings me to another small point I should at least mention: My main goal with this whole Scar Stuff project was really just to get these records back into as common a circulation as possible so that everyone could enjoy them, but during the process of trying to achieve this end I was really wiped out by the sheer volume of new audio that came at me from all angles as a result. So cool!
In fact it strikes me that the obsessive collectors here on the internet have an inborn anxiousness to play against type (read: creepy greedheads using arcane knowledge & rare media as a tool for wielding power over similarly inclined, but less flush, folks) -- in my clicking around I mostly have seen them happy to scattershot a kind of guileless generosity, all of which couldn't make me happier. In fact speaking of generous, if you like the stuff I was posting you probably should check out the Power Records Project Yahoo group -- there are a few people on there who have REALLY set the bar high for friendliness & sharing (Hello Leland Dugger!). Poke around a bit & I doubt you'll be disappointed.
Okay! So I guess now the hunt is on for some place to spend my file-hosting money. Any suggestions while I encode a few LPs & do some research? Thanks for a year of well-wishes & I promise I'll talk to you guys soon!
Hey everyone -- just a quick note to let you know that the files aren't gone for good or anything, there's just some behind-the-scenes server craziness that's been going on. A-Number 1 Superfine Scott, the astoundingly gracious fellow who actually HOSTS the files has, in point of fact, been all over it, and there will probably be a full return to form within a week at the very outset. Sorry for the holdup, but we oughtta be back in business soon.
Back when I was about 4 or 5 my parents introduced me to a really cool series of books written by John Ciardi and illustrated by Edward Gorey. They were just spilling over with imaginative stories and poems, and I would stare at the fantastic art for hours either while reading them or begging to hear them read. While many of the pieces were enjoyably creepy and otherworldly, a particular favorite of mine was entitled "What Night Would it Be?", which dealt directly with (surprise!) Halloween. Man, I could run that one over in my head forever.
Well as a short treat (since the great day is now upon us), here's a recording of Ciardi reading that very poem with his young son John. It comes excerpted from the album version of "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You" which was released by Spoken Arts back in 1962, and to complete the experience the perfectly creepy Edward Gorey art is bundled up with the zip file in a variety of sizes.
Well hello there everyone. Nice to see you, nice to see you. So since it's looking as though I'm probably not gonna have the time to adequately post much more before Halloween hits, this is probably as good a moment as any to thank everyone for all their amazing support & interest over the duration of this blog (the astoundingly cool & impressively rapid unearthing of an educational film I acted in back when I was 7 years old is only the most recent example of the great folks that are out there). I'll probably be pausing for a bit here as well but don't worry too much about the hiatus -- I'm not closing up shop or anything. I'll just be taking a short break in order to wrap up a few other things before I get back into the swing of it here.
I also figure that when I return I'll probably concentrate at least a little more on some of my other aural interests for a spell, if only to try & get some balance in place after my mad dash towards Halloween 2006 (okay, okay -- maybe it wasn't really a "mad dash", but you know what I mean). I've still got more creepy sounds to share though, and I sincerely hope that I've rekindled some old memories here as well as helped to provide fodder for new ones. Seeing this stuff pop up in various mixes and comps over the last few months has been amazingly cool (like right offa my turntable & into the spooky gestalt or something), as has the proliferation of all the other great blogs trading in a similar currency. There are a lot of dedicated people out there who are sharing half-forgotten and oddball stuff like there's no tomorrow, and it warms me to the depths of my little baboon heart. I love the internet.
Okay! If I get a spare moment or two in the next couple days I'll throw at least a few more things up but if not, I hope you enjoy spending time with what's already here. See ya real soon, and Happy Halloween!
Now while these two appearances share a few similarities (I'd suggest that both try to inform and entertain the viewer for example), the main difference as I see it is that I can easily watch "A Return to Boobsville" all day and night on a variety of formats, but "Halloween Safety" vanished from me the day it was made and remains lost in my own mental limbo. I thought I'd catch a break when I was still living in Kansas and Centron threw out tons of their old film around 1992, but a friend of mine salvaged much of it from the dumpster behind their offices and nothing turned up. When "Carnival of Souls" came out in a hotshit double-disc Criterion Collection edition I hoped that, among the other Centron educationals, "Halloween Safety" might appear (there's a spooky thematic bridge there, right?), but no dice. Hey I even asked Something Weird Video to poke around when I was designing box covers for them, but they didn't find a thing.
These days I can barely remember anything about the experience, but here's what remains: in 1976 I was asked to be in the film by a scout who visited my grade school and picked me out of my 2nd grade class's outfit parade. My costume was a homemade Creature From The Black Lagoon getup with a thin rubber mask ordered out of a comic book for the head, and my previous year's Sears-bought "Planet of the Apes" suit turned inside out, dyed green and accented with darker green hanging cheesecloth (which was supposed to resemble seaweed) for the body. I'm pretty sure my screen time is totally minimal and all I really recall is that I told a "Halloween joke" in a party scene, I was scolded for being too rambunctious at one point, and I marched around a bit with the other kids -- that's pretty much it.
So by now I'm sure it's rather obvious that I, you know, need to see this again, right? Well I'm hoping that through the magic of the internet, I can finally close in. From what I can sleuth out through Google it seems that a number of schools claim the title in their collections, and for a while a company called "Magic Lantern" even stuck up a short clip (that's where the picture for this post came from) culled from the 1985 "Second Edition". To be honest I don't really know if the '85 release is a re-editing of the '77 version or if it's 100% unique, but seeing that clip was the closest I've gotten to this thing in years. My question now is: can anyone out there help? Perhaps some obsessive educational film collector or someone with access to a school film library? Anyone? C'mon now! Just hit me up!
Heh. Man, I sure hope that after all these years it turns out I'm actually IN this thing.
George S. Irving "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz" (Caedmon, TC1794, 1986)
I could probably do with a cleaner copy of this record, but since it contains some great stories I decided to post it in time for Halloween rather than seek out an upgrade (and if one comes along I'll just swap out the zip file).
UPDATE: The ass-kickingly generous Dr. Terror was gracious enough to upload a totally great sounding rip in the comments section here, so I've separated out the tracks, re-tagged it & uploaded it w/ album art over the original zip. If you downloaded the earlier version (sourced from my static-laden LP) I think you'll find this new version to be a drastic improvement. Thanks again Dr. Terror!
UPDATE II: Some folks were having trouble extracting a few of the files, so hopefully the third time's the charm here
Sourced from folklore scholar Alvin Schwartz's 1981 collection of the same name, "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" features a familiar batch of concepts at work (opener "The Big Toe" is even mentioned in the liner notes as "having almost as many variants as storytellers"), but Irving is clearly having fun with the material and the addition of background music makes the LP almost seem more like an early '70's Troll record (click here and here for examples) than many of Caedmon's other offerings. Still it IS clearly Caedmon -- the literary angle is high, and the mix of jokey quick sketches and creepier bits work well together in conjuring up the intended sleep over/ campfire/ dark room vibe, making the album well suited for kids who like a few hackles.
"So put on the recording, sit back with a friend (or alone, if you dare), and let your flesh crawl. AND TURN OUT THOSE LIGHTS!"
Eddie And The Monsters "Whatever Happened To Eddie?" (Rocshire Records, XR95041, 1983)
The mighty Butch Patrick's band! Direct instigators for the Mtv "Basement Tapes" series (which as a wee lad introduced me to the greatness of Lubbock, TX's New Wave finest, the Nelsons, but that's another story)! Creators of this great novelty Wave-O tune beloved by many a Dr. Demento listener! Fronted by the coolest kid in Munster-land (not to mention Lidsville)! Pointlessly tied up in rights-issue nonsense & shockingly nowhere to be found! He's the kid from Mockingbird Lane!
The Haunted House Company "Halloween Party Planner Flexi" (Haunted House Company, 81081, 1981)
In the tradition of the Spearhead Marketing "Halloween Party Instructions & Story" single that I posted some time ago, comes this form and function flexi designed to be used in combination with your own live-action Halloween party. I doubt I could describe it any better than supercool sexploitation expert Terry Thome (who was kind enough to send it to me) did in his email, so let me just quote him here:
"The set had everything needed to throw a Halloween party. Part one of the record is called "NEEWOLLAH, The Witch Story" where "Neewollah the Witch" tells her story of how she became a witch. Part two (on the same side) is the "HAUNTED HOUSE TOUR"; the idea here is the host sets up a room in advance with fabric hanging from the ceiling (cobwebs) and peeled grapes in a bowl (eyeballs) and such. Then, during the party, kids are blindfolded and led through the room while the record plays and they feel the grapes and are basically hit with objects to simulate a haunted house. I never went through with the party, but I played the record enough. Actually, I'm surprised the record plays as well as it does considering it hasn't been treated with the best of dignity through the years."
...and that about sums it up. In fact the only thing he really left out is that it's a sure bet "Neewollah"'s voice is going to drive you to tear all of your hair out by the end, and that's probably just perfect.
The Creed Taylor Orchestra/ Kenyon Hopkins "Shock" (1958), "Panic" (1959), "Nightmare!!" (1962)
From well known film composer Kenyon Hopkins came these 3 cool albums of stories-in-sound, released in 1958, 1959 & 1962 respectively. Well described by Tony Maygarden as "lots of spooky sound effects over tone poems with a jazz beat", the first two were recorded for ABC (while Hopkins was semi-moonlighting from Capitol under the "Creed Taylor Orchestra" moniker), and the third was released by MGM under his own name. Over the course of the three albums Hopkins mostly depicts the short tales utilizing his compositional skills, throwing in extra layers of library effects and the occasional voice-over to fully paint the picture. The end result, somewhat in the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" tradition of the day, is both creepy & classy. Hey! Just like you!
"If you were expecting a little dinner music, perhaps you've come to the wrong place. Then, again, when was the last time you had us over?
...and just to round things out, here's a pair of Famous Monsters ads:
This rare French Horror-Psych-Prog LP largely made the audio rounds about a year ago thanks to it's inclusion on the Nurse With Wound list; and assuming you're the kind of person who thinks they might enjoy a little French Horror-Psych-Prog in your life now & then, it's well worth the half an hour you'll need to invest in digesting it.
The work of Jean-Pierre Massiera (a guy behind an awful lot of interesting/ experimental audio), it can been seen as a pretty logical progression from the fantastic & spooky-themed Les Maledictus Sound project which he also helmed (and in fact was similar enough in vibe that the "Les Maledictus Sound" CD re-release even contains a "Horrific Child" excerpt). Weaving Krautrock-esque prog around a spacy horror-soundtrack atmosphere (complete with sound effects lifted from a variety of sources you'll probably recognize), it's a really hypnotizing and singular listen -- and the guy who gave me this file even included a few giant scans of the front & back cover along with the audio. Très bien!
Mort Garson "Black Mass/ Lucifer" (UNI, 73111, 1971)
A great proto-prog (okay, okay -- I'm really just making terms up now) Moog album from 1971 that's been fairly well documented elsewhere on the web, this was the brainchild of Mr. Mort Garson, working under the conceptual name of "Lucifer". While I know it's mostly just hard to imagine a major label running with something this "out there" today (making it an excellent companion to Louise Huebner's "Seduction Through Witchcraft" LP from 1969), the real surprise for a lot of the folks I've played it for is the compositional tightness of the songs, and how enjoyably it all works as a whole. Not just a cultural artifact from the early 70's, it's got some genuine creepiness to it as well that could easily be seen as pre-figuring a lot of the sounds Goblin would employ only a few years later.
Note: As a bonus for folks who may already have this in their collection I've also included scans of the complete liner notes in with the zip file. Written by Michael Owen Jones Ph.D. (still a professor of History and Folklore at UCLA), they never seem to make the rounds when this record is shared, which is a shame as they're almost half the fun.