By WILLIAM J. WRIGHT
Matt Montgomery, best known to horror punk fans as Piggy D. as Wednesday 13‘s axman, has spent the past 16 years laying down thunderous grooves as the bassist in Rob Zombie‘s band. Last March, Montgomery picked up a new fiendish moniker as Count D., the host of Gibson TV‘s METAL AND MONSTERS. A shocking new venture for the legendary music brand famous for such iconic guitars as the Les Paul and the SG, METAL AND MONSTERS examines the ghoulish synergy between extreme music and the horror genre. For the first show, the Count took fans back to Elm Street for interviews with the Springwood slasher himself, Robert Englund. Vocalist Don Dokken, whose band wrote and performed “Dream Warriors,” the hard-rocking theme song for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 also dropped by to reminisce with Englund and Montgomery about the heady days of ’80s metal and horror.
RUE MORGUE recently caught up with Matt Montgomery to talk about METAL AND MONSTERS, his love of the horror genre, and the upcoming Rob Zombie summer tour.
Let’s talk about the show you’re doing with Gibson. How did METAL AND MONSTERS come about, and how did you get involved in it?
I met my co-director and producer, Todd [Harapiak], at a John Carpenter show. I went to see John Carpenter two years in a row at the Palladium. He would play Halloween night. And we met there – as romantic as that sounds! (laughing) We just stayed in touch, and he reached out and said, “I think you might be the guy to host the show, fusing these two things together. What do you think?” And we spent two years [planning it].
Our pandemic project was casting and finding a location. We were location scouting for the first year, getting the crew together, and really shaping what would be the aesthetic of the show. And looking back on it now, I’m glad we had all this time because I felt like it couldn’t be one of those things we rushed into production. Sometimes, everyone gets hot and heavy on an idea. Like, we gotta do right now! So we really had a good fermentation time to really kind of let it become what it needed to become. I feel like it worked, at least the first half, out of the gate. We made our point – that’s for sure. I feel like we established what we’re trying to do and the intent of the show.
Why do heavy metal and horror seem like such a natural combination? Why do those genres seem to go hand-in-hand for so many fans?
I feel like as violent as they both can be, they’re both oddly safe spaces for some of us. They both require a very broad imagination, not only artistically and aesthetically but what they’re both, at times, trying to say.
I think if you’re going to be any kind of a hard rock or extreme metal fan or any fan of science fiction, fantasy films, or horror films, it requires a brain that can suspend disbelief. Maybe a person is tapping into different emotions – people who aren’t repelled by the dark sides of humanity. I mean, maybe even some people that are attracted to the dark sides of humanity, kind of grim to say, but I’m sure there are those people. I think, as an artistic form, they go hand in hand and complement each other because they give you a glimpse into an emotion or a world that you don’t necessarily always see from your perspective every day.
You know, here I am; The sun is shining in California. It’s a beautiful day outside. There’s nothing horrible going on, and no one’s screaming at me. There’s no serial killer stalking the neighborhood, right? Or not nobody haunting my dreams, at least not at the moment. So it’s interesting how we choose to go to these places. And we choose to get yelled at by Randy from Lamb of God, you know, or Corey Miller. For me, rock music has always had a license to explore the fantastic. From Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper and even the Beatles, you know with “Yellow Submarine” and “Sergeant Pepper,” really going back to roots of the roots of music.
Horror you can trace back to silent film and all of that wartime emotion and state of the world mirroring itself in the art that was produced by Hollywood at the time. So it’s interesting how people like both. If you have the brain to appreciate a Carcass record, you’re probably the same customer that can even appreciate the classic Universal Dracula or Frankenstein. If you’re that guy sitting at home listening to Linda Ronstadt records, and you only watch rom- coms, either one of those might be a stretch for you.
What sparked your interest in both the horror genre and metal and what caused you to begin linking them in your art?
I saw three things that really made an impression on me when I was young. The first movie I saw in a theater was Star Wars in 1977; I was one and a half. It rewired my brain. And then as soon as you could put those action figures in your pocket, I had them. I was looking at Darth Vader hot off the press. And that unlocked my brain in that I wasn’t looking at a teddy bear. I wasn’t looking at even a Smurf. I was looking at fucking Darth Vader who’s all black and menacing and has this menacing voice. Even watching the first Star Wars now, I have the same emotion I had when I was a little kid. I can’t get enough Darth Vader. You keep watching that movie for Darth Vader– at least I do.
I remember my brother babysitting me and Psycho being on television. And I’ve just remembered the silhouette of Norman coming downstairs and seeing the house in the background and I remember the lightbulb swinging when Vera Miles discovers Mother in the basement. I was maybe 5, and it just burned a hole in my brain. And I didn’t know what it was until I was in my preteens, and I watched Psycho all the way through and I went, “Oh my God! That’s that thing I keep remembering.” The light bulb swinging and those empty eye sockets, and it’s still chilling. UHF channels on Sundays would run marathons. You know, it was Bruce Lee or it was Three Stooges or it was Godzilla. And I remember one time they ran all the Frankenstein movies in a row, the Universal ones, all through House of Frankenstein – like four or five movies – and they tinted them green. That left an impression on me, and I just remember feeling so sorry for Frankenstein because he didn’t have anyone until they made him a mate, which didn’t go how anyone thought it would. You kind of felt bad for him.
Scooby-Doo was a big one. Scooby-Doo really spoke to me as a child. The villains in Scooby-Doo were something that was just so attractive to me. I fell in love with Daphne. That was love at first sight. I’m still in love with Daphne. My wife just has to deal with it. Some of those Scooby-Doo villains, man, were so wacked. Yeah, there was the robot in the amusement park, but then there were some that were just really creepy. That, I found interesting because Scooby-Doo was on every morning; Scooby-Doo was on every afternoon. And you got a different monster every day.
I was an artistic kid, I loved paste and glue, construction paper and markers, and crayons and that stuff. Like most kids, one of the first things I would do is I would make monsters out of construction paper and I would hang them around the house. I just love surrounding myself with colorful, fantastic beings. Years later, I had an older brother that was into KISS and Van Halen and rock ‘n’ roll. The rest of the family kind of loved show tunes and gospel music and pop. I had all those records growing up. I saw Alice Cooper when I was 14 years old, not knowing anything about him. He was on his Trash resurgence. “Poison” was a big single. I had been to rock concerts before, but I’d never been to a concert where the lights went out, somebody lit up marijuana around me and my dad. And my dad never smelled pot before. All the girls started taking their tops off. I’m 14 years old. And I’m really close to the stage. I saved up my lawn money to buy these seats at the music hall for months. And when [Alice] busted out of a big trash can, and in the middle of the show, he did “Welcome to My Nightmare” and There’s Freddy and Michael Myers and Jason all running around on stage, man, I was doomed from that moment. I was like, “Well, this is what I’m gonna do. I just got to figure out how to do it!” I want to not only be that guy, I want to work with that guy. I want to get involved. Like, how does he know Freddy? How does he know Jason? How does he know Michael Myers? And then I went back and said, “Oh, Alice Cooper did a Friday the 13th song.” And I found the Welcome to My Nightmare record. Alice Cooper’s really the reason I bothered getting in the music business.
Speaking of Freddy, in the first episode of METAL AND MONSTERS, you chat with Robert Englund and Don Dokken. Were there any interesting moments that didn’t make it into the show?
I was maybe 11 or 12 when A Nightmare on Elm Street was on cable. My dad sent me to bed when Tina got killed. If you had told me then that at 46 I’d be sitting across from that guy, I would have told you you’re fucking high! That’s not something I could have ever predicted in my life. My life has oddly kind of operated like that.
I had two hours with Robert. We were waiting for Don to get there. Robert was early, and I had time with Robert just in the green room. We just talked like we kind of knew each other for 50 years. It was really weird. And he told me all kinds of stories about his work on the series and his other films. I’m a big fan of his Phantom of the Opera. I was a big V fan when I was a kid. That was a big TV show I grew up with. You know, he played Willy, the friendly alien. I wish we filmed that. I wish we filmed that two hours because I just sat on the floor and let him go and asked him questions. It was like being able to ask Santa Claus questions or something. “What’s the North Pole like? Do you really feed all the reindeer?” I felt like I could ask him anything and he would answer. It was just it just a fascinating moment in my adult life. I don’t know if it’s fascinating to anybody else. But it was fascinating to me. And I really wish we filmed it. I have one photo of us from that moment. I was sitting there on the floor with all my Fangorias and horror mags that I had when I was a kid. I have a Phantom of the Opera magazine, and I have a free poster magazine from [A Nightmare on Elm Street] part five. Crazy stuff right? I’m on the floor with these magazines I’ve had since I was a kid, and he’s right there. It just was one of those really surreal moments. I wish I recorded some of it in my brain, you know? Some stories that even if I did remember all the details I shouldn’t repeat. But, man, was that an adult highlight for sure.
I’ve interviewed Robert. He took me out to dinner and got me smashed – just beer after beer. I sat at the table beside Robert just in awe of him. I also had that moment where it was like, “I can’t believe I’m talking to Freddy Krueger.” As you said, he’s an icon like Santa Claus.
No kidding! He’s my generation’s Vincent Price. He’s the closest I’ll get to being able to touch that part of Hollywood and film history. For someone whose first monster was Frankenstein, a stitched-together reanimated dead guy, but then, my generation’s horror icon is a burnt child molester with knives on his fingers. How far we’ve come in 50 years! And you realize, when you’re talking to [Robert], this classically trained actor who grew up as a child actor and in theatre and all of these things, you realize the intensity and the intelligence that you have to have is not in his schooling. And one of the things I tried to convey in the interview was how versed he is in Method and in all the actors that came before him. The fact that he borrows from people like James Cagney, I find endlessly fascinating. Because he’s not just, you know, a throw-and-go guy in makeup just trying to get through the scene. He thought about that shit. He thought about all of those poses and all of that delivery, especially in the first few movies before they really became caricatures. What a frightening idea for a villain! And to bring that into the world, into the ’80s, really took somebody special. Not everybody could have played that part. You know, we’ve all got our favorite Michael Myers and our favorite Jason and stuff. There’s only one fuckin’ Freddy Krueger.
From the way we dress to tattoos, horror fans and metalheads really make the music and the genre part of our lifestyle. How do you explain that to people who just don’t get it?
It’s so hard to explain. You see people with Freddy Krueger tattoos and you go, okay, [Freddy] was a horrible human being. Frankenstein was a victim. You know, he’s like, “Wait, I was dead. And you guys put me back together and you want me to walk around and now you made me a bride? Right? But Freddy Krueger was a horrible human being – I mean, the scum of the earth. There’s nothing worse in the world than somebody that’s convicted of those crimes. But I was just looking at it this morning, I have a talking Freddy Krueger doll sitting on my shelf that says (imitating Freddy) “pleasant dreams” when you pull the cord. “Let’s be friends.” What the fuck was that doing next to Pee-Wee Herman and Ed Grimley in 1990? Like I said, the people that are okay touching that and going, “Oh, man! I gotta get the doll of the burnt child molester with knives on his fingers that talks to you!” If you’re that guy, you’re kind of in on the joke of humanity … you’re one of those people that’s just kind of in on the fallacy of being a human being walking around on the Earth. We’re just flawed. All of us. You know, we’re just damaged and flawed people who are not going around the Earth bumping into each other. Most of us try not to kill anybody. We’re trying to be good people. But every now and then somebody takes all the bullets for all of us. Somebody can even achieve hero status and become a t-shirt and become a catchphrase and become an action figure or movie star. And it penetrates everything that we, at the time, understand as acceptable human behavior. Some of us are okay with it, and some of us aren’t.
And I understand because, now being a parent, that last Halloween movie was brutal. I mean, more people died in the first five minutes of that movie than I think in the whole franchise all together. The difference between Frankenstein and Freddy Krueger is 50 years. Think about the distance between the first Halloween film and that Halloween film – how desensitized we’ve become and how, I hate to say it, morally corrupt we’ve become. So we go, “Oh, well, what’s going to put butts in seats is watching this guy kill 50 People in the first five minutes. I’m not knocking the film; It’s very well done. But that’s not the Halloween films I grew up with. I’m not saying it was okay to just kill 10 people in the first movie or whatever or part four. This is where we’re at. Art really is imitating reality and humanity – almost in real-time. I mean, even the difference between the last Halloween movie and the one before it – there’s a different scale at play there. Shit shifted in those years. And producers of the movie said we’ve gotta raise the bar. Going back to Freddy, you think about Freddy from the end of Freddy’s Dead to when he came back in New Nightmare. That was Wes Craven also pushing the needle and going, “Okay, how can I make him scary today? What’s gonna upset people today?
New Nightmare really strips Freddy down to the essentials. No jokes or one-liners. It’s a brilliant film.
It’s so good. It’s fantastic.
I don’t know where [the genre] is going to be 20 years from now. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to watch it. I see things with a little bit of a different lens now, just trying to move through the world protecting myself trying to protect my infant daughter, you know. I see things differently now. Would I send her to bed when Tina gets killed? She’s not going to watch that movie until she’s 15 years old. You know, I’m old enough to realize what’s going on because I see why my dad sent me to bed. You want to shelter everybody just enough to protect their psyche and protect their view of the world. We were all taught to be afraid of strangers. We all heard the story about the kid who went missing in the grocery store or whatever. Don’t get in a car with random people. It’s a different world now.
Metal players ranging from Tony Iommi to the legendary Randy Rhoads famously played Gibson guitars. It seems like metal has always embraced Gibson, but the brand has only recently been pushing its heavy pedigree, thanks largely to well-publicized partnerships with Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. Why is Gibson suddenly going full-bore into the metal market?
There’s a team of Todd Harapiak and Mark Agnesi, especially, coming on as part of this rebirth of Gibson. And Cesar [Gueikian], our leader over there, he’s a metalhead, man. All these guys are. All these guys grew up with all the good stuff. And there’s a real effort to celebrate people like Mustaine while they’re above ground. We can make Hendrix Strats all day long, but he’s gone. There’s something about embracing where Dave Mustaine is now, where Bill Steer is now, where Kirk Hammett is now. It’s really cool.
It’s really cool. And it kind of restores my faith in the big music instrument business that there’s other guys out there like me that are still as passionate about all these artists, and about their legacy and really about their future, too, that they put their money and their machine where their hearts are. And that’s been one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed as being a guy on the sidelines with Gibson now for a couple of years. I edited the Dave Mustaine Icons episode. And watching it go through the process, watching how much these guys really care – not just about the quality of the content, but preserving the legacy and telling the story of all the hard work these guys have done. There’s a reason why we’re still talking about Dave. There’s a reason why we’re all excited about the new Megadeth record because it’s gonna fucking kick ass! He’s been kicking ass since 1982. And he’s still here. He’s still shredding, and he’s still making great music.
And it’s so cool to see guys who could be chasing whatever down, you know, down some trendy rabbit hole put their time and energy and power behind this stuff because they really passionately believe in it. And the ripple effect of that has been fantastic. Because as soon as those guitars hit the market, they’re gone. As soon as they announce, “Here’s the new signature model for so and so,” it’s sold out. There’s other guys like you and me out there that are sitting there with a catcher’s mitt just waiting, right? They know it. Everybody’s got their niche. All the manufacturers have their own clientele, but to really dial it in and take your time and care about what you’re doing –it just reads from outer space. Look man, I’m a freelance guy, you know. I’m not paid to say anything, but I’ve been around. I’ve been in the business now for 30 years, and I’ve been friendly with all the vendors. I love all my guitars equally. But it’s so cool to see people put their hearts in there. And that’s really what METAL AND MONSTERS is.
Can you tell me about some of the upcoming guests, both from the horror world and from the music world?
I can’t, but we’ve got more in the can. We shot a bunch. And it’s a continued exploration. You’re gonna go, “Holy shit! really? How’d they get him?” Again, it surprises even me.
What can you tell me about the upcoming tour with Rob Zombie?
We got out at different shows last year, I think we maybe did seven or eight around this new record. Well, it’s a year old now, but it’s still new to us. It’s gonna be cool to just play not in front of a festival crowd where you’ve got to kind of play just the hits. Not that we’ve ever really been that band. I think we had three new songs in the last set anyway. But it’s cool when you’re playing in front of an audience that’s there to see you. They’re not there to see the 50 other bands as well. That’s gonna feel fun. We haven’t done that in a few summers. And, you know, all the other bands on the bill kind of speak to the same audience, so we’re expecting to have a good time. This is going to be a fun, fun way to spend the summer. We got out a little bit last year and did some weekend stuff, but to get out on the road and get into it, you know – write fin setlists, get all the muppets out, and put the big show – is gonna be super fun.
“I was an artistic kid, I loved paste and glue, construction paper and markers, and crayons and that stuff. Like most kids, one of the first things I would do is I would make monsters out of construction paper and I would hang them around the house. I just love surrounding myself with colorful, fantastic beings.“