Sunday, May 20, 2012

Interview with Matt "Pathetic" Feltwater about Ghouls Night Out

At the beginning of the millennium a kid by the name of Matt "Pathetic" Feltwater started the very first horror-rock-festival: Ghouls Night Out. After three successful GNOs in the USA the fest became cult. Not only in America but worldwide people know the fest and appreciate what it did for the scene. Today, nine years later GNO returns. So we talked to the founder, Matt "Pathetic" Feltwater about the history of GNO, what it took to bring it back after such a long time of silence and what the fans can expect from this years Ghouls Night Out.

Graveyard Greaser Gang: For those who don’t know GNO: Can you explain what it is?
Matt Feltwater: Ghouls Night Out is a festival that showcases the best horror rock in America. Eventually I'd like for it to move to a more global scale. But for now baby steps, one thing at a time. Gotta think bigger and bigger and the more people who get behind it the grander the scale of the show. 

GGG: How did you start booking shows?
MF: I started booking shows when I was 14. I wrote for a fanzine so I had access to a lot of local bands. At that point I was wide eyed and naive but believed in what a lot of the bands I listened to preached so I figured fuck it, if I want to see a show I might as well do it myself. I grew up in the hardcore and punk rock scene, so this is in my blood and its what I believe in. 

GGG: Where did the idea for the first GNO-Fest come from? Tell the newer fans of the history of the Fest.
GNO started in 2001: I was at the Misfits 25th anniversary show in New York City and while I was at that show I decided, you know what there's a trillion horror inspired bands out there that are WAY better then these knuckleheads. What if I put on a show that brought the best of them together? So it started as an idea in the back of my head in New Jersey that year. I got home to North Carolina I got to work on it. Originally it was put together to showcase not only horror rock, but punk rock, hardcore and everything in between with a bunch of horror rock bands thrown into the mix. Eventually though, it morphed into an all horror rock fest. The show went for 3 summers in a row, but eventually due to me being overwhelmed and being one person dealing with all of it I put it on the back burner. Part of it was the fact that I laid out the format and then a few other fests that took the same idea popped up and I couldn't compete with it. I didn't have the time, resources, or money to get into a turf war so to speak. So I put it on the back burner for awhile. 9 years went by and I always had the intention of bringing it back, but never really pushed myself to do it again. I did a show in November of 2011 with the Doomsday Prophecy, and JV Bastard and myself started talking GNO and how it needed to come back because the horror rock scene had become unfocused and lacked a clarity it had a decade earlier. so I started some small work on bringing it back, shortly after that Blitzkid announced their intention to retire as a band, that's when I knew it was time to bring it back. Not because it needed to be done, but more so because I believe in loyalty and I'm loyal to those who have ever believed in me. Blitzkid in the early years supported me, so I felt if there was EVER a time to give them the support back it was to give them a send off of epic proportions. And so that pretty much catches us up to speed, I think.

Front and Back of the GNO1-Shirt

GGG: The first GNO was in 2001. What was it like to have such a festival back then?
MF: The first GNO was in Columbia, South Carolina at a venue called Uncle Doctors. Back then it was your average run of the mill festival, but due to the buzz it created on the internet that year it morphed into something all unto it self. The show these days is much bigger then any band, person, or single fan. it's a beast all of it's own. it has a cult like status and following these days. Which I very much apperciate, and it's all due to people like you guys and everyone else who is into this scene that believe in this show. back then, it was just a dream these days it's a reality.

GGG: How was GNO2 compared to the first one?
MF: GNO2 was the morphing point for everything, when it turned from just a fest into a horror rock fest. The first one was moderately successful, but the internet had started buzzing about it. Back then there was no social networking, so cultivating the internet fans together was a lot harder. But somehow it started there. When I decided to do it again bands started coming out of the woodwork to be a part of it. I was getting swarmed by bands I never heard of, trying to weed out the crap from the stuff worth showing to the world which is no easy task in and of itself. I helped put together what I thought was a show that put all the best of the best in one place at one time. The turnout became something of legend, as it was a meeting place for a lot of the 'net heads for the first time. Little did I know at that point what I did, because I was more concerned with making sure the show worked out. Running this thing isn't exactly a cake walk, but I do it for the fans. When I'm in business mode its hard to stop and take it whats going on around me. but yeah it became something of a cult legend at GNO2.

GGG: GNO introduced bands like Mister Monster, Blitzkid and The Cryptkeeper Five to one another for the first time. Had it not been for this fest these bands may have been completely different as they grew to share resources artists and concepts. Have you ever looked at it like that?
MF: Like I said, when I was in the moment I didn't realize what was going on. Looking back though, it formed a lot of bonds for a lot of bands. And I'm thankful for that, it was sort of a swap meet/social network for these bands before social networking existed. A lot of tours happened because of GNO. I feel like I had a little to do with a scene uniting, and I'm not an ego maniac. I don't search for acknowledgement or praise, but at the end of the day if I helped allegiances to be formed and helped organize something bigger then myself then I feel like my job is done. Because most importantly to me it's about finding like minded people and giving them a place where they feel like they belong. That's what my first punk show ever gave me: a home and a family where I felt like I fit in. So if I can do that for someone else, then I can say my job has been done. That's what is most important to me beyond anything else. 

Mister Monster and Blitzkid at GNO1

GGG: Why did the GNO-festivals stop all of a sudden?
MF: I'm not going to sugar coat it, GNO takes a LOT of work to do. It's stressful, and consumes a lot of my free time. I dont really make a lot of money off doing this. I do it because I love it, and I do it because the people that go to it means something to them. I knew all this back then, but I was 23 when I stopped doing it. It ate literally 3 years of my life up, and I was getting fed up especially after the 3rd year when a similar festival popped up and basically tried to run me out of business. I poured my heart and soul into this thing with little no financial gain (which isn't what this is about anyway. but when you have to start digging into your own pockets and aren't at least breaking even then there is a problem), and I felt like after doing work for the fans I got fucked over by someone who was busy capitalizing on my work and reaping everything I busted my ass to organize. The fans decided that year that said festival was "the place" to be that summer so I lost out on a lot of the traveling fanbase and it really hurt the turn out. So at 23, I became a little disillusioned about it. I thought to myself, you know what fuck it if someone has the resources, the time, and energy to do my concept and do it better than me, more power to them. Take the ball and run with it, I have some living to do. So I went home, started doing what I always did booked small punk rock, hardcore, and metal shows. I was happier this way, I didn't have to sit in front of the computer hours at a time to make sure the festival was being taken care of. I got to be a 20 something year old kid, and do the shit I wanted to do. So that's what I did, I went and lived my life.

GGG: What spawned the revival of GNO?
MF: Once I gave up GNO I got to watch the horror scene from a far in some respects. So I watched said festival mentioned above have one strong year, then stumble and fall. I got a little bit of self gratification from that, because I've always been of the mindset if I do something I'm going all in and giving more of myself then there is to give. That's how I came up in the scene, life is cruel if you can't rely on the ones you love. I LOVED this scene and I felt betrayed by it, so I was a little bitter and just wanted nothing to do with it for awhile after that. Time heals all wounds, and as I got older I thought to myself that GNO needed to come back, and I tried a few times but never more then actually kicking the idea around. Then I had a conversation with one of the people who has always been in my life one way or another, JV Bastard. He motivated me, and made me realize it's been WAY to long since I did one of these. He gave me support and acted like my backbone through this process of resurrecting this thing. At first I wasn't really sure there was even a desire for something like this show anymore, but through the process I've obviously been shown differently and I'm more then happy with how things have gone. This show is for Blitzkid, since they believed in me back then and I feel they deserve a pot of gold at the end of their journey and if I can facilitate said pot of gold then so be it. This show is also for ALL THE FANS who BELIEVE in this. This is YOUR show. I do it for YOU.I did this for you guys, and as long as you keep supporting and believing in it, then it will live to see another day. So stand together, speak as one, there is strength in numbers. I believe in GNO and I hope all of you do too.

Flyer for GNO-X
GGG: What is most important to you about the GNO experience, what can people expect?
MF: It's a coming together. The friendships that are made, and to me more then music friendship is the most important thing in my life. I never really got along with my family, so the music scene is my adopted family. I have a lot of family in the scene. People I would defend and fight for, the lasting friendships that have been afforded to me through this show is what is most important while bonding over the music we love. I heard a bunch of stories over the past few months of other people that have life long friends because of this show, and that to me is the most gratifying thing. It's pretty moving to hear of these people that have stuck together through the years and all met because of a show I did. Expect to met new people, dont be shy to talk to someone you dont know at the show chances are they probably have a lot more in common with you then you realize. We're there for the music, but we're there because we love this music and we love this scene. Some will move on and "grow up", some will always be here. Cherish the friends you make at this show, it's probably to me the most satisfying thing about the show.

GGG: What’s the difference between GNO-X and the previous ones?
MF: Other then it being 9 years removed since the last one, it's business as usual. Not to much has changed, showcase the up and coming bands, put together a group of headliners people want to see, and let the good times roll.

GGG: Tell us about the compilation CD for the festival. Will it really have new songs from all bands playing?
MF: Originally the cd was going to feature all exclusive material, but as I quickly found out the recording process for a band is pretty expensive in and of itself. So the cd isn't completely exclusive material, that being said there are quite a few songs on the cd that are exclusive to it. It's not just the bands playing the festival either, it's horror rock bands that couldn't make the show as well as some new up and comers. I listen to it daily and I'm pretty proud of it, it's a testament that this scene is alive and well. It's also a pretty kick ass cd by itself just musically. There's a lot of really catchy tunes on this thing, and will be a very nice companion to the original compilation I put together ten years ago for GNO2. It features some great cover art by Jake Hades from Robot Monster, which I can't wait for everyone to see.
GGG: In the meantime we all know what bands will play at GNO-X. Are there any bands that you personally miss on the lineup?
MF: There's some bands that were part of previous ones that aren't around anymore. I know one of the guys from the After Life Kids recently passed away. Loosing a solider that was helping to fight the good fight always sucks. But we have to honor guys like that and keep showing up, the show has to go on. We mourn, but this is part of the healing process.
There's bands I want on the line up but do to financial limitations can't be part of it. But each year I do this the show gets bigger and better, it's a kind of a sky is the limit type of thing the more the word gets out and the more interest we garner for the show, the more opportunities will come to get the bands that are currently out of reach onto the stage for everyone to enjoy together.

The first GNO-compilation "Song To Murder That Special Someone To"

GGG: Tell us some of your favorite active horror bands?
MF: Way to many to list! I really dig the Casket Creatures a lot lately though.

GGG: What about the classics: What Horror bands won your heart from the start?
MF: I mean we gotta go back to the obvious the original Misfits and Alice Cooper are huge influences in my life. They started me down this deep and dark twisted path so I always give them respect.

GGG: What does "Horror Rock" mean to you?
MF: For me personally it's not about wearing make up, or playing punk or rock n roll or whatever. It's about playing music you love and paying homage to the darker things in life, or in some cases the campy things in pop culture that I love outside of music. Anything that pays some sort of respect musically to the things I love outside of music is like a double win for me. Because then you put into a class of it's own. You can preach in your music about life and the shit that goes on in that, and I LOVE THAT. But when you write songs about the things that have gotten me by on a personal level outside of the atrocities of mankind and the terrible shit we do to each other as a society then you transcend that into something else. I know when I was little, monsters made me feel better about myself. They didn't judge me, and they were misunderstood which I used as an analogy looking at myself. I was nerdy, I didn't like sports when i was younger I liked comics, sci fi and horror movies, stuff of that ilk it was where I always felt at home and myself; comfortable in my own skin so to speak. So when a band plays a song talking about something like this, it holds a special spot in my heart.

GGG: What would be your advice to the up and coming Horror bands?
MF: Break the mold! The Misfits, Samhain, all those bands that came before obviously set the guidelines somewhat but nothing is set in stone to say: OK THIS MAKES YOU HORROR AND THIS DOES NOT. I mean there's the simple stuff, like there obviously is a little bit of a formula. But look at a band like Darrow Chemical Company for example, they're "horror rock" but in a completely different respect. They're writing about the horror that is real life, it doesn't always have to be wolfmen, zombies, and things of that persuasion. We obviously know these guys have the clout to back all that up because of the bands they've been in before. but you don't have to box yourself into a certain style or mindset to play horror rock. And for all you singers out there stop trying to be Michale Graves or Glenn Danzig: number one because you're not and number two be your FUCKING SELF. I heard those guys before, i don't need to hear them again. There's nothing wrong with being inspired by these guys, but for shitsake take the ball and run with it don't just settle for a copy cat sound.

GGG: And who should we be looking out for?
MF: There's a few bands that are out there that either have been around for awhile or are newer I really thing are doing some good things. Zombina and the Skeletones are classic, and one of these years I REALLY want to get them onto GNO. That's one of the dream bands that I want. As far as newer bands there's a few worth checking out: The Casket Creatures are really fun and catchy. Black Cat Attack from Canada is doing some interesting stuff within the genre. and the're the Renfields who have become like my new favorite find lately. They're super fun, super campy, very in the vein of the Ramones but with absolutely ridiculous stage costumes that don't take themselves so serious. It's a good time. Then there's Robby Bloodshed. This kid is the future of horror rock remember that name. In a few years he's gonna make some waves in this scene as long as he keeps doing what he's doing.

Mr. Pathetic, Mr. Byrd, Mr. Goolsby, Mr. Trioxin GNO1

GGG: What does the future hold for GNO?
MF: There's definitely another installment being planned for next year, I'm looking into returning to a possible two day format again like at GNO2 & 3. I have some ideas for who I'd like to see as headliners next year, but it's too early for anything solid just yet. I would like to put a certain few bands back together for GNO, and without being super obvious about it *COUGHGOTHAMROADIMLOOKINGATYOUCOUGH*, I think the fans would dig it. There's a few other tricks I have up my sleeve, but obviously I'm not laying all my cards out on the table yet. The future is bright, as long as you guys keep wanting to see GNO and let me know you want it, I'll keep doing it. I'm not letting it go anywhere until I know I've done everything I've needed to do as a service to the horror rock scene. Obviously we still have a pulse, a very undead pulse...but a pulse none the less.

GGG: Anything you’d like to add?
MF: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, it's much appreciated. There's a few people I couldn't have done this show without, Liz Gruesome (go get tattooed by her ya assholes!!she's AWESOME), my bro til the end J.V. Bastard, and Steak Sauce (the person not the A1) you guys are my aces. Thank you for believing in this sometimes more then I did and helping me everytime I stumbled. And most importantly to all you people going to the show, driving long distances, flying in from other countries, and things of that nature you guys inspire me and give me strength. That is fucking awesome and I love all of you for it, without you this show isn't possible. It's YOUR show, go have fun at it! make friends, share laughs, share some drinks, sing along together this only happens once a year (and it's been a long while since the last one) cherish the simple things. You never know when it'll be your last time to do that. I give my blood, faith, and loyalty to you all. Thanks!!

GNO on the internet:

1 comment:

  1. I honestly don't think this lineup could be topped. I mean, GNO always has good bands but the part where Matt says about financially there are bands he couldn't get.. Who? There's no one. Aside from flying in some European bands this lineup really couldn't get better. It's the absolute best! Can't wait for it

    Great interview - didn't know the original GNO lineup so that was real cool to see. And yes.. Gotham Road - you know it makes sense!