I got a chance to sit down and chat with Count Lyle from Ghoultown recently. Ghoultown is one of the best horror punk bands in the business. Hailing from Dallas Texas, they’ve been dealing their own unique brand of western horror rock for over a decade now, and are going stronger than ever. In 2010 they worked with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and recorded a special song and video for her. They’ve been on successful tours in Europe and America, been featured in movie soundtracks, and even had their own comic book.
Howdy Lyle – thanks for spending some time with me here. Ghoultown has been around for a while now, and in fact you were one of the first folks I encountered on the web when I began my horror host gig back in 1999. I believe that is about the time Ghoultown got their start too, correct?
Right. We played our first show in the spring of 1999.
You were in some other bands before Ghoultown. What were those?
In the early ‘90s I was in band called Solitude Aeturnus. It was more or less considered doom metal. We did some albums on Roadrunner and Pavement, two big metal labels, and toured around the U.S., Canada and Europe. Solitude continued on – to this day – but I left to start a horrorpunk band called The Killcreeps in 1996. We did one album called Destroy Earth.. It’s out of print now, but you can get it digitally on CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/killcreeps).
While doing The Killcreeps, we started writing some dark western type material, which was really unique. When we disbanded the The Killcreeps in 1997, I wanted do a band based on that dark western sound and came up with the name Ghoultown for it. That’s how this all got started.
Describe Ghoultown’s sound for folks who may not have heard you before.
It’s kinda hard to describe since we are a mix of many elements like psychobilly, metal, punk, spaghetti western, horror. To make it simple I always describe us as a mix between Johnny Cash and Rob Zombie. We exist in the crossroads right between these two, if there were such a thing.
I’m guessing you’re a big Sergio Leone fan, based on the look and sound of Ghoultown?
Oh yes, definitely. I love spaghetti westerns, especially Leone’s trilogy… The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and all those movies. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be like The Bad. I used to wear my dad’s black cowboy hat around all the time. With Ghoultown I pretty much merged that image with music.
You have a distinct horror vibe to Ghoultown, and many of your songs based on horror movies and horror themes. Have you always been a horror movie fan, and if so what are some of your favorite horror movies?
I love horror movies too. I always thought the spaghetti westerns had a lot of horror elements, so both genres really influenced the concept of Ghoultown. I’m a big fan of all types of horror movies really. As a kid, my dad first got me into the old Universal monster films. I like the b-movie horrors from the 1950’s, love the Hammer movies from the 60’s, the slashers of the 70’s and 80’s, all the way up to horror movies of today. It’s really hard to name favorites, but if I had to I would say The Shining, the original Halloween, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Creature From the Black Lagoon, King Kong, Psycho, just to name a few.
Did you have a horror host in your area growing up?
No, we didn’t really have one here in the Dallas Ft. Worth area, that I knew of at least. We live in the bible belt, so it was probably too evil for local television. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when Elvira came around that I knew of horror hosts.
How did you come to work with Elvira, and what was that experience like?
We were playing an acoustic set at a horror convention VIP party where Elvira’s manager happened to see us. He loved the band - even in our acoustic element - so he told Elvira (Cassandra) about us. The next day I was hanging out with some friends of mine at the convention and someone ran up and said ‘Elvira wants to meet you, get to your booth.’ I thought it was a joke, but just in case I headed back to our booth where the Ghoultown girls had been selling t-shirts and CDs for us. Sure enough, Cassandra came by with her entourage and talked for a few minutes. During that time she suggested I write a new song for her. I had a short meeting with her manager later on and came up with a plan to write a song and maybe shoot a video if it worked out. Two weeks later, I sent them a demo of the song, which they liked. From there we recorded it and decided to do a video. I called up our friend Gris Grimly out in Los Angeles and asked if he wanted to direct. He was excited about the opportunity, so once he was on board we headed out to Hollywood and shot the video. Cassandra was able to hook us up to use the Magic Castle out there, so that’s where much of the video was shot.
She was great to work with. She’s very personable, always laughing and making jokes. She worked very hard on the project, even though obviously it wasn’t a high paying gig. We’ve become good friends since this, so I’m really honored to have had the opportunity to work with her.
So the final product, the Mistress of the Dark DVD, includes the video, a making of documentary, and some other crazy stuff that Grimly had us shoot. It’s sort of like a bizarre take on an old 70’s variety show. Like a horror version of the show Hee Haw. It’s pretty crazy and campy, just like you would expect from Elivra. It was a cool experience.
Are all the members of Ghoultown big horror movie fans as well?
Some of them are, but they aren’t into as much as I am. I’m probably way over the top compared to most people. My office at home is like a museum of monster toys and posters. In fact, if you look real hard at our Mistress of the Dark DVD, there’s a hidden Easter egg that has a tour of my collection.
You’ve had some music featured in different movies, including American Nightmare and a short film called Headcheese. Is that something you enjoy and would you like to do more of that?
I really like writing songs for movies. I would love to do more, if it comes up. I’ve also been approached a few times about scoring an entire movie, but unfortunately none of those projects ever got off the ground. Maybe one of these days the right movie will come along.
Tell me about the Ghoultown comics. I never saw those – what were they about?
It was something I did about 10 years ago. I had developed a horror western comic series that got picked up by a small comic publisher here in Texas. The comic was called Ghoultown, but it focused on completely different characters than the band members. We appeared occasionally in the background, but it was a stand-alone story on its own. The outlaws were sort of like insane vampire cowboys, set in a post-apocalyptic old west. The company published two issues of a four-issue mini series and then stopped doing comics. Since I no longer had a publisher, it just sort of stalled and died there. I just didn’t have time to pursue comics without a publisher helping me. I had my hands full running our label and doing all the business, so we sold up the issues we had and that was that.
I caught you guys a couple of years ago here in Nashville at the Goon Anniversary show at The Cannery. You guys were great and the crowd really dug you. I have to tell you, man, you’re a pro – all the shots of tequila you were doing onstage and you never missed a beat! Guess free shots are just another perk of the business, huh? (laughs)
Oh yeah, we don’t make any money at this so we gotta take what we can get. Luckily I like tequila, although if the fans are in a real buying mood, it can get out of hand. But we are trained professionals, so we can handle it. However, it shouldn’t be tried at home.
Seriously though, I’d been looking forward to seeing you for a while and you didn’t disappoint! So what are the future plans for Ghoultown?
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we’ve not been able to play very many live shows lately.
We did a European tour last summer, but other than that we’ve only played a couple of one-off shows in the last few years. In the meantime, I’ve mainly been working on some videos for some of our songs from the last two releases. We’re working on a video for “Drink With the Living Dead” that is gonna be all art and animation. It goes along with the story in the lyrics. We’re also in the planning stages to do a possible video for “Return of the Living Dead,” which is an older song but we recut it on our Mistress of the Dark E.P. Maybe one for “Werewolves On Wheels” too.
I also notice that you’ve been doing some writing for Rue Morgue magazine.
Yep, I recently started writing for the horror mag, Rue Morgue, so that’s been cool too. I do articles and reviews for the printed magazine and I also have a column called Monstro Bizarro on their online staff blog. Fans can check that out at: http://rue-morgue.com/blog/archives/author/lyle/
Thanks again my friend, and we have to get you ghouls back up to Nashville sometime soon, maybe even for one of our Horror Hootenannys one year.
Hell yeah, we hope to rock Nashville again. It was a great time and great show!