THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS VIOLENCE, BLOOD AND COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF FUN!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
Formed in 2015, VHS is a horror themed metal band from Ontario, Canada. Their melting pot of styles truly sets them apart from many of their contemporaries, and their connection with horror will be a treat for many. I got the chance to chat it up with vocalist/guitarist Mike Hochins about a good number of topics to include: the band, their connection with B-movies, upcoming music and a few top 5 lists.
Many Toilet readers should recognize VHS from episode 5 of the Toilet ov Hell podcast but not a lot is known other than the basics about the band. What can you tell us about the history of VHS? And what brought the band to where you are today?
Mike: The basic history lesson, eh? So the three of us have known each other for years. I’m the old fart of the band so I’m not sure exactly how many years we’ve known each other but it’s been a while! That said, we had never done anything music related together until we got together to play Gwar at a cover show with my brother is law playing the role of Oderus. At this point, I was only doing vocals in a different band and it felt good to play guitar again. So after we were done with the cover band idea, we decided to carry on playing music. I think it was my wife who said why not do a band about horror movies? It was something I’ve always wanted to do but never came together, this was the perfect time and it’s been a blast.
We pretty much started recording right away. We did the demos for “Fornicating in the Furniture Store” and “Hairspray and Bloodpsray at our first jam. From there we basically just demoed more tunes and released them online to see what people thought. Eventually, we put all of those recordings together for the Rewind of Die demo. Mike from HGPD was interested in doing something with us so we recorded a few bonus tracks and that was released as the Hi-Fi Horror (Uncut Edition) EP.
The rest of our history is pretty much covered below, so I’ll end this one on a cliff hanger….
For the folks at home, what does VHS stand for?
Mike: VHS stands for Violent Homicidal Slasher. It came after we had already had the name VHS picked out. I figured since there are other bands named VHS we should probably do something a bit different just in case anything happened to come of anyone else also using the name. It’s also pretty funny to sit around and think of other possibilities, and let me tell you plenty of comedic gold has been struck at band practice a few times!
Jumping right in, the first noticeable aspect of the band’s aesthetic is the love of the Horror genre. One needs to only browse through the track lists from the band’s discography and this becomes apparent. What is it that drew you to this genre?
Mike: I’ve been a horror fan for a long time and it is always the genre I come back to. The cover art, the gore, the music, it just paints a complete picture and to me, it is the genre of movie that speaks to me the most. Not sure what that says about me mentally but it’s the truth!
What initially drew me to the genre was the cover art and the forbidden feel of it. My dad would let us rent movies he probably shouldn’t and I also had a neighborhood friend who was a bit older than me that would watch horror movies. Pretty sure this was where I saw The Monster Squad and Godzilla: 1984 for the first time. They also had one of those super cool Godzilla inflatables that I’m still jealous of to this day!
Yea, like I was saying the cover art. I don’t think many other genres of movies have the same impact as horror movie covers. Sci-Fi would be a close second I guess. But you don’t forget the covers and even if you had a 50/50 chance of the movie being a dud with an awesome cover, you still wanted to take that chance!
Mike, as you are the leader of the band, were you the main driving force behind the band’s horror direction? Or are Andy and Jimmy just as much a part of this connection?
Mike: I guess I was the main driving force behind the direction as I had the name and a few demo songs done before we officially got together to see where the project would go. Jimmy is a giant horror nerd just like me but Andy is definitely the odd man out when it comes to horror. Not that he hasn’t watched horror movies or doesn’t on occasion still partake in a horror movie, he’s just not as addicted to the gruesome as Jimmy and I are.
What does a typical band practice consist of? Any sort of pre or post-practice rituals of watching certain movies, etc?
Mike: I really wish it was that exciting! It’s very seldom we actually have a band practice. I think we might operate very differently than a lot of bands. Most of the time we get together it is to work and record new material. Because we don’t play a lot of shows and generally don’t want to, we basically set up, learn a new song or two and try to get the scratch tracks recorded at the same time. It’s not uncommon for us to get a complete song or two finished in a few hours. I know most bands will learn an entire album’s worth of material and then start recording but this has been the method we’ve used since the beginning and it just works. It gives us that live “band” feeling we are going for and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.
As far as when we are having an actual band practice say if we have a gig coming up. We’ll generally play through the set a bunch of times, try to re-learn some songs if we are adding in something we haven’t played. We might only be a few years old as a band but we’ve amassed a lot of tunes already!
We don’t really watch anything at jam but I can say that there is always a lot of quoting going on. Usually The Simpsons but sometimes also It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I don’t get those ones though since I’ve never seen the show, I just stick with The Simpsons.
Screaming Mad Gore, your debut album, was released in April of last year. (For any readers in need of a blood-splattered good time, do yourself a favor and spin it a few times. – BtR) How has the reception been?
Mike: The reception has definitely been better than we had ever hoped for. I think we had just been together as a band around a year when the debut came out and we weren’t even really sure what we had until we put it together, added samples and listened to it as a block of music. The reviews have all pretty much been positive. There were a few weird reviews that compared us to bands that we really didn’t sound anything like. But that’s a pretty common thing in this day and age I would say. Overall the reviews were encouraging and seemed like we were onto something with this band possibly.
A major aspect that drew me to the album and band was its unique diversity. One moment we’ll go from grindy powerviolence to NYHC-infused punk and then spin it around into some sweet Southern Rock riffs, as heard in order on tracks “Choke On It”, “Weight Reduction Through Terror” and “Hairspray and Bloodspray” respectively. Was this assortment of genres done intentionally? To show what the band was capable of, or am I way off the mark?
Mike: I don’t know if I would say it was done intentionally to show what we can do but from the start, I just wrote what I wanted to and didn’t care about sub-genres, just riffs. Having a drummer as awesome as Andy doesn’t hurt either. I’ll bring in riffs and he’ll hear it differently than me and add beats I would never have ever thought of. It moves the song in a different and awesome direction. Just to give you an idea of where my head was at when the band started. The first three songs I wrote were “Fornicating in the Furniture Store”, “Hairspray and Bloodspray” and “The Night He Came Home.” Three really different songs, so it was definitely right there from the start that I realized this band could do a lot of different things and it would work. Some people did like how diverse the album was while others didn’t. I’m glad you enjoyed that aspect of the album because album #2 really won’t be any different!
There are an excellent amount of movie samples utilized throughout the album that play directly into the songs that follow them. When deciding on the lyrical themes what did you rely on first? Did you find a sample you wanted to use or were the samples matched afterward?
Mike: The samples always come way after the lyrics. For the majority of the album samples, all went in right after the mixing process. One sample that did help to at least name a song was “Carnivorous Lunar Activities.” I had that in mind for the start of the song and that line in the sample really made me want to use the title. Most of the samples just came from wanting to use a lot of samples and looking for the right sample for the job. We never want to reach say a Mortician level of sample usage but I can say without a doubt they will definitely be used on The New Batch.
Shortly after Screaming Mad Gore the band’s music was involved with an independent horror film project called Frames of Fear. What was this experience like? Can we expect more involvement in the future?
Mike: Brad Twigg was the mastermind behind Frames of Fears and we’ve really hit it off with him. He’s been really supportive of VHS and we love low-budget gore so it’s a good combination. If I’m not mistaken Brad got in touch about using some of our music in a project and the idea to write a song specifically for a movie came about. I’ve always loved the cheesy movie tie-in songs that seemed to go hand in hand with films of all genres in the 80’s. So we found out more about his segment in the film called Wrestlemassacre and our tune “Wrestlemassacre” was born of that. It was a lot of fun to put together lyrics for a movie that wasn’t a cult classic and hearing our song over the credits in a movie was a very cool experience.
It also lead to us having music in Grindspoiltation 2, which is being released by Troma, as well as Killer Waves, which is an awesome throwback slasher flick from James Balsamo. I definitely think this is a cool way to get our name out there and be involved in some different projects. If time permits we definitely want to keep doing this in the future.
The following video has been dubbed NSFW:
Moving along, in November, much to my surprise, you released a teaser track entitled “Growing Pains” from your upcoming sophomore album The New Batch. It has been a few months now, how is the process going?
Mike: Yea we released “Growing Pains” at the same time we unveiled the cover art and announced we were doing album number 2 with Rotten Roll Rex. Slowly but steady we are finishing the album. Sometimes life gets in the way and you don’t get to the studio/jam space as much as we’d like, but this is just a hobby so it’ll get finished when it gets finished pretty much. Filming the video, and mixing/mastering the track also took up some time we could have been working on the rest of the album but that was still definitely time well spent.
Were all of the new songs written specifically with The New Batch in mind, or was it more of a Ramones, “we wrote a bunch of songs and split them into two albums” kinda deal?
Mike: Funny you said about the split into two albums thing. The vast majority of the songs were written around the same time as the Screaming Mad Gore songs but during the recording process, we decided to re-record the songs from the demo. They were basically rehearsal demos and we wanted to give them a boost in quality. “Hairspray and Bloodspray” in particular was one we felt we needed to re-record. So what that meant is that I had about 8 or 10 songs written that we didn’t record. I wrote a few more before we started recording and continued to write when we started recording the album.
After hearing a few of the songs, I can already tell we are in for a treat and that the new album will be a warm welcome to fans and new listeners alike. What are your major goals regarding this release?
Mike: I think we really haven’t had any goals as far as the music itself goes. Production wise we wanted the album to sound better. We did things differently with the guitar recording as well as the drums. I think anyone that has heard the two songs we’ve released so far as teasers for the album would agree that the production has improved. The only other goal really was to deliver a solid-looking album as well. We are really happy with the artwork we have commissioned for the release. Nev from Gruesome Graphx nailed the cover and we have art from Matt Slime, Ranarchy and Karl Dahmer for the booklet. It’s still a ways off but I’m already excited to hold this thing in my hands come the summer!
At the beginning of March, VHS released their first proper music video for the new song “From the Scrapyard to the Graveyard”(gotta love these song titles). And in proper Horror stylization, appears to be filmed with a handheld VHS camcorder and is interjected with playful scenes of brutality and gore, reminiscent of classic slasher films. If I am not mistaken this is intended for an upcoming movie from Fuzzy Monkey Films?
Mike: Yea, the song is about an upcoming film from Brad Twigg called Killer Campout. It’s a throwback to 80’s killer in the woods flicks and we were excited to contribute a song to it. The video coming together was definitely a lot of fun. We recorded ourselves playing the song in our jam space a bunch of times, sent the footage to Brad who edited our footage and then put in unused footage from Killer Campout. We are really happy with how it turned out. We actually didn’t film on VHS, but Brad sent the video to a fellow film maker named Richard Moog who has a way of playing video through a VCR which in turn gives it that worn VHS look. It really matches us perfectly and it’s very cool to finally have our first proper music video out there.
This one isn’t safe for work either:
As our readers and viewers may have noticed Dave Ingram, the voice of Benediction among other, performed guest vocals on that track. You’ve mentioned that there will be more guest appearances of The New Batch, anyone else you can reveal at this time?
Mike: What the hell, here’s a tentative list. Obviously, Dave Ingram is already announced. He’ll be on “From the Scrapyard to the Graveyard” as well as “Growing Pains.” Tentatively, Tobi from Sewercide, Jeffery from Troglodyte, Maniac Neil, Bob from Brain Spasm, Kam Lee, and Stevo of Impetigo fame are all planned. Whether or not it will all come together is left to be seen but this is the list of who I am hoping to be on the album!
As you mentioned before the new album will be released via Rotten Roll Rex. Screaming Mad Gore was released on CD through Splatter Zombie Records and on cassette through Sulfuric Diarrhea Records, so after a little bouncing around what made you go with Rotten Roll Rex?
Mike: I think we basically went with Rotten Roll because it seemed like a step up for the band. While we aren’t expecting anything or have any delusions of grandeur, I definitely enjoy what we do and want to get it out to as many people as possible. Patrick and Splatter Zombie Records did an awesome job getting our name out there and I’ll always be grateful that he took a chance on us and was willing to invest in us so to speak. We’ll see what happens. Marco from Rotten Roll has been super supportive and excited every step of the way so far so I think the album will do a lot of great things for us.
Rotten Roll is only handling the CD version of the album so we’ll once again be looking for a label to do the cassette version and we would love to get the album on LP as well but I know we are a huge investment for a label since we are a small band and we don’t tour. But I’m still trying to find someone to help with vinyl and I’m not giving up the fight anytime soon!
After The New Batch, what is the next step for the band? Where do you see yourself?
Mike: Well it’s tough to say for sure but I think after The New Batch is out I’d like to concentrate more on getting a few splits out there. We haven’t done any vinyl yet and I’ve been in contact with a bunch of bands about doing some splits so hopefully, a few of those will come to fruition. We are also doing some music for Brad Twigg’s upcoming full-length version of Wrestlemassacre. This will be our first time tackling some instrumental music so I’m excited to see where that will take us!
NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF!
Top 5 Horror films
- Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
- A Nightmare on Elm St. 3: Dreams Warriors
- The Monster Squad
- The Beyond
- Bride of Re-Animator
Maybe not the list of unknown movies people would expect but a lot of these have been favorites of mine since I was a kid and they remain favorites now! I could probably do a top 5 for every nook and cranny of the horror genre but these are my go to top 5 for when I feel like watching something that I love.
Top 5 Horror villains
- Jason Voorhees
- Freddy Krueger
- The Tallman
- The Klowns from Killer Klowns from Outer Space!
Maybe this list is a bit by the numbers too but just like my favorite flicks a lot of these are still favorites from when I was younger. That said, it also made me realize that a lot of my favorite movies don’t even really have a villain!
Top 5 Onscreen Deaths
- Sleeping bag to the tree from Friday the 13th Part 7. This is an obvious favorite as we have a song title dedicated to it. Some people laugh at this scene, some people cringe, but either way you look at it, it has a lot of impact, pun definitely intended.
- The puppet master death scene from A Nightmare on Elm St. 3. This one is super cool and the fact that the other characters are watching when it happens makes it have even more oomph.
- The raft scene in The Burning. Practical FX are awesome but even cooler when they manage to pull them off on a brightly lit sunny day. This scene is brutal and visceral and Tom Savini is in fine form here.
- The infamous axe scene from Tenebre. Argento was known for bloody violence but this scene has always stood out to me. The entire movie has a lot of axe violence but the contrast of the white dress and the gallons of blood just makes for an awesome visual experience.
- Captain Rhodes ripped in half in Day of the Dead. This scene definitely inspired “Choke On It.” This one is particularly satisfying because it is well deserved. Day of the Dead as a whole is a gory masterpiece.
And finally, what is your favorite Manowar album?
Mike: Really? Man well, this is embarrassing. I can honestly say I have never listened to an entire Manowar album and really haven’t heard much of anything from them. Does the Anal Cunt cover count?
In this case Mike, it certainly does count!
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