We leave you now with a man who, while may need an introduction to the uninitiated, will not soon be forgotten in the cold, damp recesses of our hearts. Percussionist, vocalist, player of all things not played by others, Michael Mellender...
Good day to you. Michael Mellender of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum here to answer the call of the horrific to you, gentlest of readers. We are in preparations to record our third studio album. What I can divulge is that we have a weeklong lockout at Tiny Telephone Studio in San Francisco's burrito-festooned Mission district, and are furiously scribbling notes to one another and plunking out soft scronking noises, culminating in what can only be described as a funky good time. Yes, initially, the findings thus far point to melancholy dirges, some jaunty little non-dance numbers and some Croatian folk melodies only now to be revealed to ears. Much of the material will not have had a chance to see the road at all, but will be debuting on the forthcoming CD, a definite departure for us.
What is horror to you?
The mouth of the soft earth opens, the fiery maw revealed at last. Horror is the invasion of surreality onto reality, or vice versa. The changing of rules. An abrupt end to your preconceived notions about gravity, weather and monsters. We all thought it was pure science, but even now the creature bears the face of my dearly departed wife as it kills and kills!
When was the first and last time you remember being really frightened?
I was plagued with nightmares as a young child, and any input of anything even remotely frightening (like, for instance, nail clippers) would feed into my rich nightmare landscape. I suppose this experience has desensitized me in a way to horror, and I was able to relax and enjoy it.
How do you feel horror as an entertainment genre - are you a fan?
Oh yes. I aspired to be a creature designer as a young person, but recoiled in sadness when I realized I'm not much of a visual artist. I sought out the goriest, most wicked aberrations of fake blood and latex that could be found. Movies like Reanimator, From Beyond, Dead Alive and Day of the Dead had this great hype of being the sickest, most blood splattered films of all time. But they were essentially really gory comedies. The truly horrific films were more character driven or artistic films. The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Alien to name a few. Anyway, I devoured them both with equal aplomb.
Is there any horror movies that just freaked you out as a child?
Not really. I sort of approached the genre as a scientist. However, I remember being really freaked out by the movie E.T. I stayed awake for three days, crying. I have absolutely no idea why I interpreted the obviously cute and cuddly alien totally geared for kids as this very real, malevolent space demon, terror-bent on consuming us all! I still don't trust that fucker.
What about now?
I had some hope when the recent promise of J-Horror movies was rearing its head, but sadly, beyond Ringu, I haven't found much that I like or that scares me. The Audition was really good, a Korean film from not too long ago, though it's not specifically horror. OH! And a film I saw recently that *really* took me back to the days of when I was a pissed-off loner horror fan in middle school was 'Slither.' I sort of wept when I saw it. I was really impressed.
Lovecraft is the source. He invented modern horror. Him and Poe I think are responsible for the whole damn thing. Lovecraft really angered people with his stories. He has these long, despairing passages that seem to take forever, where he's describing why he CANNOT describe the unspeakable evil at the heart of his story. He invented that pacing, of not being able to see the monster, not even at the very end of the story, and that's what made his stories so frightening. His tales contain true ambiguity, and the reader is forced to fill those holes with their own personal dread.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum have quite the darkness to their sound and look - to what degree do you like exploring the "dark" side of things, so to speak?
Darkness. Light. That's just our aesthetic. I think we are all deadly serious about silliness. And totally flippant towards seriousness, to which we extend the most grave reflection.
The staff at SPB will also be putting together their quintessential "Spooky Mixes" - what would you include on it?
The Skeleton by Art Bears. It's such a sad and beautiful song. With the Art Bears, there is no 'extra' music in the music. Everything that is there is there for a reason, and sits in the song with the least amount of effort. Perhaps they were very lazy people, these Art Bears. Anyway, The Skeleton - an epic non-epic partially addressing the pain of futility. Evocative as all get-out. I could listen to that song in an endless loop. Enjoy.
A European tour for Michael and the rest of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is in the works for the early spring of next year, along with a promise of touring their much beloved haunts across the United States in 2007. For more information, see www.sleepytimegorillamuseum.com
Meanwhile, the interviewer can currently be found waking nightly in a cold sweat after enduring marathon sessions of Dead Rising and Ghost Hunter viewings. He is also in exaltation since Let's Scare Jessica to Death has been made available on DVD.
Words: SPB's feature writer Kevin.
Graphics: Movie images copyright of their respective owners. Design by Matt.