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Bastard sorcery: Shane Sanchez of Ghoul Poon.

Photo: Joe Putrock

Chainsaw Disco in the VCR Forest

Every day is Halloween for psychedelic audio-visual artist Ghoul Poon

By Josh Potter

“My mom has always told me, ‘You’re never going to make it anywhere with that name,’” says Shane Sanchez of his band Ghoul Poon. “But I’m like, dude: the Butthole Surfers. Jackie-O Motherfucker. Holy Fuck has songs in commercials.”

The formula’s quite simple: Take something Halloween-y and add something anatomical. You know, like “Ghost Tits,” or “Frankenstein’s Vagina.” Growing up in the Saratoga area, Sanchez and his friends would kick around these “fake crust-punk band names” for hours, without any plans to use them. It was mostly a joke when Sanchez, in 2007, scrawled the name Ghoul Poon on a CD-R he’d been up all night recording, experimenting with his drum machines and adding hazy reverb to twisted, chanted lyrics. The crazy thing is that it kind of made sense. Ghoul Poon’s music—and video work—is a dark industrial psychedelia, a bad-trip fever dream of “Fatal Biology” and “Psychic Car Ride[s],” a “Gay Satanic Picnic Sermon” not without humorous camp, but certainly not without some seriously disturbing shit.

As Ghoul Poon, Sanchez has been the portrait of a prolific DIY artist, quietly toiling away with broken gear, self-taught sensibilities, and a brain full of cultural minutia. He’s recorded more than 12 albums worth of material on his label Lofi Kabuki, most of which are available for free download (lofikabuki.bandcamp.com). He’s shot music videos to accompany a good number of them, which he recently culled for the DVD 100 Psychic Dreams. And he’s become a fixture on the local experimental-music scene, logging upwards of 50 shows at the Upstate Artists Guild, often in conjunction with the Albany Sonic Arts Collective. In the past month, though, Sanchez has taken Ghoul Poon to the next level. With full-time backing band Severe Severe, Ghoul Poon shared the bill on two of the biggest area shows this fall: Sleigh Bells at Valentine’s, and Dan Deacon and Lightning Bolt at Northern Lights.

“My older friends were coming up to me at the end of the Lightning Bolt show,” Sanchez says, “saying, ‘You guys sound just like the Butthole Surfers and Joy Division!’ And I was like, thank you, that’s exactly what I’m going for. It’s finally starting to come across live.”

Sanchez started out as a hip-hop artist, making dark beats for Sub-Bombin Records (often with Josh Carter of Phantogram) in the style of the Wu-Tang Clan. But then, in 2007, he says, “I saw the 77 Boadrum thing and it changed my life.” He’s referring to a legendary 77-drummer performance by Japanese noise-rock band the Boredoms in Brooklyn on Sept. 7, 2007. After that, he started listening to the band’s early material, as well as Sonic Youth, Suicide, Destroy All Monsters, Goblin, Joy Division, and plenty of early Butthole Surfers. The new influence posed a strange technical hurdle. “I listen to noise rock, but I don’t know how to play guitar, so I do it all with MPCs, samplers, Korgs and synths and stuff. There’s a hip-hop thing there, but it’s mostly No Wave.”

Onstage, the members of Severe Severe reconstruct the material with traditional rock instrumentation, but all of Ghoul Poon’s records consist solely of Sanchez and his gear. Bastard Sorcerer is his latest effort. Fuzzy bass lines rumble under pugilistic drum loops, while kitschy keyboards cradle Sanchez’s hypnotic free-associations. It’s certainly experimental, but hardly inaccessible. “At this point, noise is a genre,” he explains. “So if you can take this weird shit and write pop songs, that’s awesome.”

Central to Ghoul Poon’s sound, and especially Sanchez’s video work, is analog nostalgia, a preference for the raw, flawed, real-time aesthetic of the pre-digital age. “I’m in the last generation of people that remembers what it was like before everything that you watched was on YouTube,” he says. “What I do is very VHS. I make a lot of music, but mainly what I want to do is audio-visual.” All of his videos, which he uses for projections during Ghoul Poon shows, are shot on a handheld video camera he got when he was 14 and edited on a broken VCR. The quality is grainy, the colors are oversaturated, and the scenarios are low-budget surreal. He points to Harmony Korine, Andy Warhol and PFFR (creators of Wonder Showzen and Xavier: Renegade Angel) as influences, all artists with a knack for making the viewer feel more than a little uncomfortable.

With much of Ghoul Poon’s material, discomfort can quickly turn to outward horror. Two cannibals hack bloody limbs from a mannequin cop; someone performs close-up oral surgery with a monkey wrench; a faux-Indian holy man conducts perverse funeral rites with accumulated garbage. “I love cheesy ’80s horror,” Sanchez says, “but what I really love is crazy ’70s exploitation [like Blood Sucking Freaks, the original Last House on the Left, and Brazilian horror director Coffin Joe]. It’s all this shaky-camera, campy bondage. Clearly [the filmmakers] are having fun, but you wonder, where did they find these actors and actresses? I’m not that dark of a person, but for some reason I’m totally into that.” He names David Lynch, Werner Herzog and Alejandro Jodorowsky as equally influential.

Every October, Sanchez says, he tries to watch 31 horror movies. It’s a sort of ritual brain-warping, the culmination of a year’s worth of exploration into the darker recesses of the human psyche. And it’s a lot of fun. For three years now, he’s used Halloween as an occasion to draw other local bands into the horror, compiling and releasing Ghoul Poon Presents Do the Fright Thing. “The first one was me realizing a lot of people had Halloween-themed songs,” he explains. For the second and third volumes, he actually solicited material from certain bands. Horror-theme aside, Do The Fright Thing is one of the more comprehensive local-music compilations available, pairing B3nson Records acts (like Desperately Obvious, Beware! the Other Head of Science, Barons in the Attic, and Scientific Maps) with Sub-Bombin artists (like Oddy Gato, Lo-fi LOBO, and Firefighter Font) and others like Skeletons in the Piano, Grab Ass Cowboys and Matthew Carefully. “I’m very into local music,” Sanchez says. “There’s great hip-hop, punk, weird electro, crazy noise. I hit up everyone I can think of.” This year, he made the project national, inviting bands from Seattle, Milwaukee, Brooklyn and Boston to contribute. And it’s all free on his website.

“The only way you’re going to make money [these days] is touring,” Sanchez says, explaining why he extends his DIY approach to music distribution. “That’s why my output is so crazy. I’m not going to get signed or have a big break,” he says, less in agreement with his mother’s observation than in response to the humble plight of the contemporary indie musician. “The last 10 to 15 years is the only time in music history that no new music genre has been born. I try really hard not to listen to anything new because I don’t want to be influenced. I just want to be original.”

Ghoul Poon will perform at 51 3rd Street in Troy tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 29) at 7 PM with Casper Electronics and Sam Sowyrda.


ROUGH MIX

After the Fall

PUNCHING OUT All good things must come to an end, it seems. The Brian Patneaude Quartet will end their weekly residency at Albany nightclub Justin’s this Sunday, after a most impressive eight-and-a-half-year run. Saxophonist and composer Patneaude says “having a weekly forum to perform jazz music is an incredibly rare occurrence these days,” and that he feels “incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity for so long.” While Patneaude will continue to maintain his busy performance schedule around the region, this Sunday is your last chance to catch the group—who will become a quintet for this occasion—in their soon-to-be former habitat. Visit justinsonlark.com for more on the club’s jazz programming.

HOLIDAY ROAD You might remember the fine young men of After the Fall from the diary of their European exploits that ran in last November’s Local Music Issue. The trio who never sleep are in the middle of another busy fall: Their new album Eradication dropped earlier this month; they’ll celebrate with a release party this Saturday at Valentine’s. Next week, they’ll return to Gainesville, Fla., for the massive punk-themed Fest 9. That’s followed in November by some Canadian dates, then shows in Central America in December. Keep up, if you can, at myspace.com/afterthefall518.

The 2010 Local Music Issue hits newsstands Nov. 4.

PEACE JAM For those who like to have politics with their guitar music from time to time, Women Against War will present singer-songwriter David Rovics tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 22) at the Delmar Reformed Church. Rovics is an internationally recognized performer whose songs have been featured on Democracy Now!, the BBC, and Al-Jazzeera. He’s also an essayist whose work has been published on TruthOut and CounterPunch. He’ll perform at 7 PM Friday to benefit WAW’s Afghan Well Project; a potluck dinner will precede the show. Contact Sybil Stock at 489-3245 for more information.

LONG TIME COMING If you’re a music fan, there are no two ways about it: You have got to like Sam Cooke. And thus, you should enjoy what the Sanctuary for Independent Media has planned for next weekend (Oct. 29-30). Sam Cooke: Where You Been Baby? is a one-act play, by Kingston-based dramatist Michael Monasterial, that follows the great soul voice from his early days in Mississippi through his work in the Civil Rights Movement and his untimely death. The show is gearing up for a run in New York City, so this is your chance to say you beat the hipsters and tourists to the punch. Visit mediasanctuary.org for more on the production.

—John Brodeur

Let us know about local-music news and happenings for inclusion in Rough Mix: E-mail tips and information to tigerpop1@yahoo.com or metroland @metroland.net



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