Of all the musical genres currently in practice, there are very few that are as simpatico with the horror genre than metal. Between the extreme and oft-violent subject matter in each genre, as well as the visceral emotional reactions that they both seem to reach from their core audience, the two genres seem complementary to one another on many fundamental planes. And although the overlap in fans is not strictly within one another, there is such a significant crossover to inspire one of the most anticipated horror festivals of the year: The Housecore Horror and Music Festival, which goes from October 24th to the 27th at Emo’s, Antone’s and Dirty Dog in Austin, Texas. This particular film festival blends together horror films like The Evil Dead, The Beyond, Cannibal Holocaust, The Manson Family and more as well as prolific musical acts such as Down, Gwar, Whitechapel and Goblin to give horror and metal fans an experience like any other before.
However, the festival isn’t solely dedicated to showcasing the myriad names attached to the bill; rather, the festival also aims to show off some lesser known but unique bands and films to a whole new audience. Among these bands is Dead Earth Politics, one of the only bands to play the Housecore Horror Festival that is from the town of Austin itself, and has been blowing away audiences for the better part of a decade with their unconventional sound. Using hard rock influences and rarely falling in line with the sound of their contemporaries, Dead Earth Politics is a refreshing new face and voice to the metal landscape, and likely will catch the eyes of many horror and metal fans at the Housecore Horror Festival. Frontman Ven Scott took time of his steadfast preparation for the concert to talk to Diabolique about his sound, his influences and his love of horror…
DIABOLIQUE: You’re the frontman for Dead Earth Politics, which is one of the few bands playing at the Housecore Horror Festival who are spawned from the Austin area. What exactly was it about the Housecore Horror Festival that attracted your participation?
VEN SCOTT: Well, the fact that there’s an all-metal festival that is in Austin proper is a big thing for me, personally. Austin is, of course, claims to be the live music capital of the world. If you throw a dime [in Austin], you’ll bounce it off a musician. We’re chock full of festivals: we have Fun Fun Funfest, South by Southwest, things like that. But there are no festivals that have any clout as far as national reach that cater to only metal and hard rock, and there are few festivals in terms of South by Southwest and Fun Fun Funfest that really reach out to local bands. That’s not really to speak ill of those festivals; that’s just to indicate the biggest separation between Housecore and those larger festivals, at least to me as a Austinian or Austinite or whatever.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you feel that there might be less pressure on you and the rest of Dead Earth Politics, considering the festival takes place on your regular stomping grounds?
SCOTT: No, not at all. Just because we’re playing in Austin doesn’t mean we’re going to be playing in front of the same audience. In fact, I would say the pressure is probably higher because we are at home and the fans who aren’t familiar with us and have their wristbands and paid good, hard-earned cash for their wristbands are going to be standing in front of us, going, “Oh, okay. So you guys are the best metal band in Austin? Let’s see what you’ve got.”
It’s that moment where we’ll win them over, hopefully, and start a long-term band-fansor band-friends relationship. Because it’s our stomping grounds, we have to prove it. We’ve got to prove why Austin is our stomping grounds.
DIABOLIQUE: One of the more distinctive elements of the Housecore Horror Festival is that not only does it have this heightened metal crowd but there’s also that fundamental horror presence. Are you a horror fan at all?
SCOTT: Oh yeah, absolutely. In fact, one of my fondest memories growing up is that in third grade, my parents would feed me coffee so that I could stay up to watch Elvira: Mistress of the Dark every Friday night. I’ve been a horror fan, both with gore horror though I’m also way more into psychological horror, for as long as I can remember.
DIABOLIQUE: Is there any horror movie specifically playing at the festival that you are looking forward to seeing?
SCOTT: Man, I’d have to go through the list. A lot of the movies that are going to be playing are either so new that I don’t think anybody’s heard of them or they’re obscure enough that only the die-hard horror fans know about them. I am a horror fan but I don’t seek out the dark crevasses of the genre to find those obscure, left-field horror movies. So I think my issue is going to be making enough time to see as many of these as I possibly can. Honestly, between the music and the movies, I don’t know how I can breathe or eat or sit down.
DIABOLIQUE: There are very few figures in metal that are as influential as Phil Anselmo, from his time with Pantera to his work with Down and The Illegals. What do you think it is about Mr. Anselmo that speaks to and influences bands like Dead Earth Politics?
SCOTT: Well Phil, specifically in recent years, has had a tremendously unfair reputation thrown at him, and he’s picked himself back up and shown that he’s still humble and a force to be reckoned with. I think being that figurehead of being above everybody is a character that, we as bands, play onstage, but that’s a hat you take off when you get off of the stage. I think that because Phil can take himself off of that pedestal and be a person and still be the legend that he is onstage, for me, puts him back on that pedestal. It’s like, “Wait a minute, you’ve done this and you’ve done this, and you’ve got this legacy, and yet you’re able to get off-stage and talk to people individually as a person and not a stereotypical rock star.”
That’s what really gears me towards the bands that are playing that I’ve met in passing, shook hands with and whatnot. None of them are prima donnas, and that’s something to aspire to. It’s like it’s rock ‘n’ roll; you’re not likely to play Budakon, ever. Have some realistic expectations of yourself and be a person; make music to make music, not to be a God.
DIABOLIQUE: Is there any band that you’ll be sharing the stage with at the Housecore Horror Festival that you’re looking forward to meeting for the first time?
SCOTT: Not just one band. There’s A Band of Orcs, Lord Dying, Crowbar, Down and Gwar. I want to see if I can live through an encounter with Oderus Urungus.
DIABOLIQUE: One of the more interesting aspects of Dead Earth Politics is that the band has a very unique sound in terms of the orchestration and progression of the music. What do you think it is about this particular sound that works best for the band?
SCOTT: The best thing that works for Dead Earth Politics when we write [music] is whatever sounds good, which is much of the reason why we have a “rock” sound and an almost old school influence. In fact, if you get a chance to see us when we perform, one of the things we like to profess is that we’re a metal band but we have a rock ‘n’ roll show. We like to engage the audience, and it’s a lot easier to engage and keep interest when you have a variety of progressive influences; anything from death metal to hair rock to whatever.
You have to find your balance in there, but whatever works is whatever grooves and touches us. Whether the rest of the world hears of us or not, we’ve been in this business for 8 years and we’re going to keep continuing this; maybe because we’re too bullheaded to quit, but also because we don’t pigeonhole ourselves. Our guitar player doesn’t come in with a riff, or I don’t come in with a riff, and then hear somebody say, “Wow, that’s really good, but that’s not the Dead Earth Politics sound.” I think that’s very important in the world of subgenres. If you expect something, you lose flexibility as an artist and you also open yourself up to disappoint your fans more.
DIABOLIQUE: I think that’s a great mentality, especially considering that by allowing an open-minded atmosphere with your collaborative history, you’re working as not only a band, but in tandem as a team.
DIABOLIQUE: Is there anything that you find to be atypical of other frontmen, metal or otherwise, that you consciously avoid incorporating into your sound?
SCOTT: Anything that I can’t do, especially anything that I can’t do live. There are a lot of things that I’d absolutely love to do and, in fact, there’s quite a bit of material that we have now that we’re going to record in our 3 song EP this weekend, and it’s probably different than anything else you’ve seen from us on the internet, with the exception of some videos of our live performances. Of course, in terms of pigeonholing, I am allowing myself a great room of experimentation, with the encouragement of some of my bandmates. There’s very little I won’t try.
The only things I will not do is anything that requires so much effort that it’s hit or miss. I have to be able to do what I do, whether it’s growling, screaming or grabbing the grapefruit, like [falsetto screams]. I need to be able to do what I do 90-95% of the time, because our show is never going to be a 100% performance from most people. I’m not Ronnie James Dio, and I don’t pretend to be. So that’s pretty much it: anything that I can’t do or approximate when we record, that’s what I don’t push out. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll; you have fun and you do what you want to do and what feels good.
DIABOLIQUE: Considering that the Housecore Horror Festival is going to play to a crowd of thousands, as it’s one of the most eagerly anticipated events of this year to fans of both scenes, are you at all concerned that your unique sound may not go over with the unfamiliar crowd?
SCOTT: I think there’s enough variation [in the line-up] that I think we’ll be accepted. In my case, one of the things I’m most proud of is going into situations where we’re surrounded by scene kids, who are into breakdowns, or death metal groups who are into death metal shows strictly, and we come out and our music is able to win over the majority of the crowd. If you’re a true appreciator of metal, chances are you’ll like several genres of metal. The best metal bands out there, the ones that everybody loves, may take their influences from many genres. [“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott] was a huge KISS fan, and there are a lot of die-hard metalheads out there who, for some reason, shun KISS. So I actually never really worry about that because I’ve always been able to walk away from a show that’s been strangely put together and go, “Yep, we did it again. We won these people over again, and we shouldn’t have, for all intents and purposes. But we did.”
DIABOLIQUE: The life performance element of metal is always unique because it gives you such a rare platform to experiment that you may not get in a recording studio. Are you planning to do anything new or out-of-the-box at the Housecore Horror Festival?
SCOTT: As far as the live show goes, as well as this being the first Housecore Horror Festival, we strive to make this as easy on the event organizers as possible, so we’re not going to be adding a whole lot of stage elements. The bulk of our material is going to be the aforementioned “new” stuff. That, in and of itself, isn’t a full 180 degree turn; there’s still 40-45 degrees of the old Dead Earth Politics. So that is going to be an experiment altogether.
DIABOLIQUE: As a fan of horror, are you more driven towards tension-based horror or gore-based horror?
SCOTT: Tension-based. I love the psychological [horror]. The Changeling, from the ‘70s, still wigs me out and there’s really no gore in that at all. Interestingly enough, I consider Lovecraft’s stories to be more tension-based. Of course, when he’s translated to the screen, there ends up being more gore and a lot more visceral, frightening aspects that reflect what that reader interpreted in their mind when they read The Case of Charles Dexter Ward or something like that. I find anything that has to do with madness, insanity and self-reflection to be the horrific stories that make me cringe.
DIABOLIQUE: As a frontman for a metal band, you’re obviously versed in the worlds of music videos and songwriting. Have you ever considered tackling horror films for yourself, or even horror literature for that matter?
SCOTT: You know what? I haven’t actually thought about that in a while but there was a time when I was aiming to be a film director. I had been performing and acting since I was about 10, and there was a time where I wanted to do what the Full Moon Entertainment people were doing, like The Lurkers and a lot of H.P. Lovecraft stuff. I wanted to direct film and I ended up really wanting to direct horror, but I haven’t thought about that in a long time. But yeah, I would totally be down to write and/or direct or even perform in a horror film. Get covered in colored syrup? Yeah, let’s do it!
DIABOLIQUE: Do you guys have anything else coming out? Other events planned besides the Housecore Horror Festival?
SCOTT: Yes, we’re going in to record our new EP, which is going to be called Queen of Steel, and it’s going to be our 3 song EP. We’re also going to record our performance at the Housecore Horror Festival, so everyone who sees us is going to be in a music video.
For more on the Housecore Horror Film and Music Festival, including to purchase tickets and check out the full line-up and schedule, you can visit its official website, Facebook and you can follow the festival on Twitter: @HousecoreHorror. For more from Dead Earth Politics, you can visit their official website, Facebook, Youtube and you can follow them on Twitter: @DEPAustin. Make sure to check back here at DiaboliqueMagazine.com for more on the Housecore Horror Festival and Dead Earth Politics!