Review and interview by Jordan Mooney.
Doctor Caligari are a perfect example of the surprisingly popular genre of Psychobilly Rock. They’re freshly dug up onto the scene (barely any rotting at all!), having come into this world in October 2012. Since then they’ve gained a small but devout following thanks to their rather nasty, dirty lyrics, thick juicy guitars courtesy of the band’s shredder, Johnny Horror, and deep snarling vocals provided by the mysterious ‘Mr. E’.
The band’s music is lustful and strongly inspired by the classics of Horror Cinema. It’s all rough and filthy, but, at the same time, has a strong polish to it, no doubt influenced quite strongly by some very experienced people responsible for beefing up the EP under the hood, from Andi Herr of Heyday Studios to Peter Maher of Top Floor Music, responsible for mixing and mastering respectively.
Their release, a self titled five track EP, impresses quite swiftly with its rather eclectic mix of lust, seemingly whisky fueled vocals and pure horror cinema, tongue firmly in cheek with catchy, deep riffs, the beauty of double bass strumming along behind and beats that’ll not only become caught in your head but morph themselves into your brain’s structure like a bassy parasite.
The first track, ‘Creepy Horror Town’ does what it says on the tin, sounding like a western that has gone a bit wrong, fornicated with a horror picture and never really recovered from the infection. We’re given a short tour of the aforementioned town, introducing us to the wastelands of the hamlet with a strong classic Country Riff. It is a sinister little setting, and with an excellent piece of pedal-steel-guitar acting as our solo. It provides excellent introduction to everything the band is about.
This runs into my personal favourite on the EP and the band’s first single, ‘She Likes it Spooky’. It is a simple formula, very common with your typical psychobilly record, telling of a young lady whom has an affinity with horror. With an incredibly, incredibly catchy bass-filled beat, this track benefits from simplicity. Deep, dark and dirty.
Following this is a pick up in tempo, ‘London After Midnight’ telling us of the horrors and thrills to be found in old London Town after nightfall. It’s a bit like a shot in the arm. It impacts strongly and takes a long time to fade away. It comes off as a lot more technically impressive than the two before it, but whether there is truth in this is, of course, another thing entirely. It feels like a headbanger, above all else, and while it’s not the finest track on the release its most certainly the meanest.
The next is a mix between the two – ‘Dirty Dead’, telling the story of…well, the dirty dead. It features a simple, strong riff, excellent drum work and a simple theme that to be fair has been done before – but it plays itself nicely, it knows how to hold the cards and it makes for entertaining listening.
The final track, (She’s Got) Corpses in her Bed, picks things up with an addictive repeated line, reaffirming that yet another twisted woman (there seems to be a lot of them in Cardiff, going by this record?!) has..well, got corpses in her bed. Simply speaking, she’s a little crazy, and with ‘monsters running through her head’ she seems quite intent on going on the odd killing spree. One will not judge in her hobbies, but making discounts from this the track is excellent, it’s catchy, loud, nasty and has a pretty high tempo – it acts as the grand finale, and all too soon the EP is finished, echoing in the distance as the brain recovers from…well, everything!
This EP is not a classic, nor is it trying to be – what it is, however, it is excellent at – an EP ‘mature folk’ will waggle a finger at disapprovingly. It is loud, it is dark, it is a sadist record about the insanity that surrounds a selection of women, vagabonds and towns. It is lustful, it is horrific and it revels in it without the slightest bit of doubt or shame.
This track is perfect for a night time listen, lights off, a lava lamp silently bubbling in the background, with headphones jammed on at full volume. It will not be the greatest album you have listened to in the past year, but it will be one you’ll keep coming back to. It’s a seriously impressive starting point, from instrumental talent to mixing, lyric writing to tempo, it knows what it’s doing and it does remarkably well at providing sheer entertainment.
I can safely say that after listening to the first EP from this group I’ll be keeping an eye – and ear – out for the next. No doubt I’ll hear it from a long way away. Try it. You won’t regret it.
Cat On The Wall: Who are you, how are you, how did you get in here and what on Earth is that ominous thick red liquid on your hands?! (Introduce yourself for our readers, please!) How is it that your band came about? How did yourself and Mr. E meet?
The band had an unusual beginning. It started out as a solo project of mine and wasn’t ever intended to be a “live” band. I had the songs written and recorded as rough demo’s at home and then searched for musicians to bring it to life. I worked with a session drummer by the name of Stephen MacLachlan and my good friend Joe Grogan (Graveyard Johnnys) played bass.
I saw an ad of his on joinmyband when I was looking for a vocalist, he was looking for musicians to record with and I thought he may be interested in what I was trying to do. Luckily he was – he sent over a few rough samples of how he thought the lyrics should be sang and we were in the studio shortly after.
COTW: We note there’s only two of you that are ‘officially’ members. Is there a reason you’re only a duo?
DC: That’s not entirely accurate, the “confusion” is based around the drummer and bassist playing on the E.P not being official members, in a lot of the coverage we received early on, I was having to correct people when it comes to the line up – it’s proved to be easier just to list me and Mr. E as official members for now until the coverage of the debut EP ceases.
Gwyn Jones has played drums (and has known Mr. E for quite some time) at all of our gigs. He and I are currently working on the drums on new songs and he’ll be drumming on future releases.
Joe played bass on the E.P and at the band’s first gig but wasn’t ever an official member. Recently Gary Tyrrell-Lynch (Jake Allen) played with us – we’re hoping to solidify that position, but having people who know the songs that can be called upon in the meantime is working.
COTW: Your band is very evidently influenced by horror films. Are there any in particular that inspire you the most – and any you find particularly influential as a whole?
DC: The first horror movie I saw as a child (I’m not using that term loosely) was a Nightmare On Elm Street and I’ve pretty much only watched horror movies since then, so that has to take some credit overall!
I wouldn’t say there’s a particular film or series that I found inspired the music the most, but there are certainly elements of individual films that inspired or was referenced in the songs.
For example “She Likes It Spooky” is inspired by a line by Trash in “Return Of The Living Dead”, as is the opening of the middle 8, but the rest of the song is completely unrelated.
“Creepy Horror Town” takes inspiration from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but as an example, there’s no mention of Leatherface. “(She’s Got) Corpses In Her Bed” is obviously inspired by Rob Zombie’s 1000 Corpses/Devils Rejects films, but from the perspective of somebody is deeply in love (or maybe lust!) with Sherri’s character Baby..
COTW: What musical inspirations have developed Doctor Caligari? Is there anything you would say is comparable to your own music?
DC: It’s quite difficult to say as this is somewhat or a combination of everything musically that has ever interested me. When I was growing up, my dad would only play Rockabilly,Rock N Roll & Doowop – it was the only music that I was aware of for quite some time.
My intention for the project at one stage was to be more “horror punk” as I’m a massive fan of the genre, with the misfits ultimately being the biggest part of that, however that’s followed very closely by a much lesser known (somehow!) band called Mister Monster.. However I was listening to more and more psychobilly and things progressed down that route. Lyrically I see the style being influenced from 50’s rock n roll.
Comparison wise: we’ve been likened to Demented Are Go & The Cramps (which I can understand). We seem to cross genre’s fairly well too, our fanbase is made up of psychobilly, horror punk, gothabilly and steam punk, so hopefully we have plenty of scope to continue to interest new people.
COTW: Your first EP has been, It would be fair to say, rather successful – On the other hand, you do a lot of live performances. Which has been the better experience for you?
DC: Well the recording side was very educational and I like to think I’ve learnt a lot which will be of benefit moving forward.
We’ve had some great experiences playing live, our first gig was at Abertoir (the horror festival) shortly after a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture show, around 200 people were dressed in their finest Rocky Horror attire – it was a great atmosphere and an incredible to be a part of.
We also played at Bedlam Breakout 15, which is a twice annual Psychobilly festival, this featured some of the biggest name in the genre, so it was a privilege to be included. I was amazed to spot people knowing the lyrics and singing a along.
COTW: Can you give us a glimpse into your plans for the future? Is another release on the way?
DC: We’re going to film a video for “London After Midnight” which could well coincide with a re-pressing of a 7” single as our first pressing sold out very quickly and we get emails asking if happen to have any left quite often..
I’ve got a batch of new songs which is forming the basis of a follow up E.P, which we’ll release on Halloween. As we are self funded, recording 5/6 tracks makes a lot more sense for us than say a traditional “full release”. Hopefully we’re operating on a quality over quantity basis!
We’ll pick a song of the E.P and make a video for that too on release, or maybe before. Video has proved to be a very useful promotional tool for us, so I’m keen to continue make more!
COTW: And in long term, what do you hope to achieve with Doctor Caligari? Big city stadium performances? Taking over the world? Or simple little concerts that make everybody happy?
DC: To be honest I’ve achieved more than I ever thought it would, it’s come a long way since the original demos! I would love to travel and play in different countries in Europe and play in some more festivals. But if the music reaches more people and they enjoy it, then that’s good enough for me!