An interview with John and Bret of Beneath the Cellar
Justin (Apathy) Stankus
Beneath the Cellar was founded in the summer 2006 in Orange County, CA. Though the original lineup has since moved on, lead singer and guitarist and founding member Johnny Macabre still has the band marching on at a incredible and strong pace. Since the additions of bassist Chris and drummer Bret, the band has achieved a tighter sound and are currently in the studio fine tuning the new songs for the new and upcoming record. Beneath the Cellar has been one of my all time favorite horror-punk bands and I keep wondering why a band that is so good and has so much has not been signed yet. Honestly all I can say is there’s truly great things to be heard with this band, if you haven’t checked them out yet please do. For I have been a devoted fan since hearing them back in 2007. But let us finally begin!
We’ll start the interview off with a simple: what’s your name and what do you do in the band?
J – Howdy, I’m Johnny and I vocalize and play the guitars
B – I’m Bret and I play drums
What was both of your musical “moments”? When did both of you realize that making music is what you wanted to do for a living?
J - I have wanted to make music since I was in grade school. Ever since I picked up the guitar I wanted to write music and express myself.
B – When I was in high school before I ever played drums, I saw Joey Jordison of Slipknot do a drum solo and I said “that’s what I want to do”, haha.
So this question could be directed at you both but how did Beneath the Cellar come about? How did both of you end up in the band?
J - I started the band with a few friends in late 2005. We really started it just to have fun and play music, it evolved into what it is today over time. Members have come and gone but it has always been the project that has been close to my heart. lol…
B - I was a fan of BTC before I met any of the guys. Long story short, made friends with them and the original drummer couldn’t do it anymore and I already knew the songs from obsessively listening to their CD so I was asked to join.
“Beneath the Cellar” is on my list of my all-time favorite band names. Is there a story behind the name and why was it chosen? Was there another name that almost made it and if so would you tell us?
J - The name was kind of inspired by Henrietta from the movie Evil Dead 2. You know, she was buried beneath the ground in the fruit cellar haha. Why that came to mind I don’t know, but we all agreed on the name and it just kind of stuck. We were toying around with too many names to think of at first, to tell you the truth I don’t even remember them, I don’t think they were very good haha.
Obvious horror fans, what was it about everything macabre and the imagery of horror that brought you guys together to start a horror-punk band? What were your “horror defining” moments? Whether it was a comic, movie, cartoon, band, video game, etc. and why?
J - Actually we never intended to be a horror punk band at first. I think it probably manifested from what I was listening to during the time when the band started. I’ve always loved anything and everything Danzig and I was/still am a huge Blitzkid and Balzac fan. For the first record at least those were my two biggest influences on the music side. The lyrics were formed more from personal anguish lol. I definitely am always inspired by horror, it’s the genre I identify with them most. Although we haven’t had too much artwork done yet I am always inspired by comics, I still collect to this day. Art has always been something I enjoy doing when not working on music.
B - My mom showed me a book on Jack the Ripper when I was much younger and since then I’ve had a fascination with anything related to horror or the macabre and I love music why not do something that incorporates both.
I cannot stress enough how much I love the album guys! I especially cannot get enough of the epic tune known as , “Taste for the Blade”. Was/is there a story behind this song? It is my favorite so I must know. What are your favorite songs to play and why?
J - I wrote the song about my sister who passed away from ovarian cancer in 2005. It is basically about her and my feelings following her passing. I have never been religious but it was a real loss of god kind of time for me. Right now my favorite stuff to play is the new stuff that’s gonna be on the new record. As for the old record I like to play True Hell and Ali Baba probably the most.
B - I also like playing the new stuff but my favorite to play off the old record are probably True Hell and Devour and Console.
Another thing I love about the album and the band is your vocals John. Most horror-punk bands have no shortage of Danvig vocals (Danzig/Elvis hybrid) which isn’t a bad thing to me, but sometimes it gets pretty old. But to me at least it doesn’t seem like you were trying to achieve those exact kind of vocals though I can still hear a big influence. I have gone on to say that besides the great Danzig and TB Monstrosity that your vocals are my favorite in horror-punk so far, especially on, “True Hell”. Is this how you’ve always sung? Or did you purposely try to steer clear of most of what the other bands were doing?
J - Truthfully I think I learned to sing by belting out Danzig songs while i’m driving lol. But what was important to me was not to mimic any artist and kind of make it my own. I think people will see that my vocalization has evolved when they hear the new record. Not that I’ve totally dropped my old style but I have tried to vocalize more natural as I’ve continued to perform, I feel like it’s always changing for the better.
Bret, who are your biggest influences when it comes to drumming? John, who were/are your idols when it comes to the guitar?
B - I grew up listening to a lot of metal and watching Joey from Slipknot got me into drums but my list of favorite drummers is endless. If I had to narrow it down to 3 it would probably be Ray Luzier (not a huge Korn fan but the guy kills the kit), Travis from Blink, and Shannon Lucas form The Black Dahlia Murder.
J - You probably wouldn’t be able to tell but I am influenced a lot by a plethora of artists. Everything from Paul Allender from Cradle of Filth to Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers. Recently I’ve been inspired a lot by Die from Dir en Grey. Obviously I am influenced by a lot of horror rock but I like artists who continue to progress and change with their playing.
Is there any new material in the works? Can we expect a new album anytime soon? What can fans expect from Beneath the Cellar in the near future? Spill some guts!
J - Definitely!!! The new record is pretty much already written we are just working out the kinks in the songs. We are also supposed to be putting out an exclusive track on an upcoming horrorpunk comp. As for the record it’s gonna be coming out in the first quarter of 2012 for sure!!! Expect great things!
B - The comp is Rest in Horror From Monsterfiend, and that should be out early next year.
If someone stumbled upon this interview having no idea of who you guys were. How would you describe Beneath the Cellar? Why would you suggest people check you guys out?
J - That’s a hard question, I guess if you had to compare us to other groups you would probably start with bands like The Misfits, Blitzkid, The Spook, AFI. I don’t know where people would put us, we just do what we do and hope people enjoy it. I guess the best way would be to listen to the music haha. Why should people check us out?? Because we fucking RULE!! lol
B - I hate describing the band haha, because it’s not just horror-punk, I like to call it melodic punk.
What has been your favorite show since starting the band?
J - Probably playing with Blitzkid, or this big festival show we played at the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles before they closed it down. That was the best live sound setup we have ever had.
B - Opening for Calabrese in Vegas. Not necessarily cause it was an amazing show but just all the fun I had before during and after the show. It was an awesome day.
Speaking of shows! Now I have to ask, are there any big scale tours in the works for you guys? Is there any chance of fans seeing you guys on the East Coast anytime soon?
J - Possibly, the real reason we don’t tour much is money. We would love to tour all over but we just don’t have the cash. Unfortunately we are a poor band lol we have to do everything ourselves while still sustaining a place to lay down at night. But it will happen eventually i promise!
Last question when it comes to shows but who are some of your favorite bands to share the stage with? If given the opportunity who would you guys love to tour with?
J - I love playing with Order of the Fly, they are really great people, Calabrese is also really fun to share the stage with! I would love to share the stage with the Butthole Surfers!!
B - I like playing with The Order of the Fly, Calabrese, Stellar Corpses and The Wreckin Kats. If given the opportunity I’d like to tour with Wednesday 13 or Blitzkid.
Do either of you possibly have an awesome/crazy story you could share with us dealing with life on the road?
J - I’m pretty tame I guess, as i’ve gotten older I don’t really like to get trashed at shows anymore so I keep it pretty calm I guess. I’ve had a lot of substance abuse problems that kind of keep me from getting out of hand lol. Bret is a different story, that boy loves to get trashed!
B - Like I said Vegas was fun but I don’t think I can share details, haha. One of the funniest though was probably when we played San Diego. I got plastered after the show and don’t remember much till after I woke up and apparently I had given out my debit card and ended buying booze for everyone and had a bottle of wine and a 30 brick leftover. I was broke for a week after that.
John, has any of your lyrics ever struck a nerve with friends, family, or loved ones?
J - I think my mom and dad had a lot of emotions come out because of the theme of my sisters death driving the first record.
If you could tell/suggest 4 bands for your fans to check out who would they be and why?
J - The Rosedales, The Melvins, OSI, and Despairs Ray
B - The Order of the Fly are a great band and awesome guys (and gal), Murderland has some bitchin’ tunes, I’m really digging the Darrow Chemical Company stuff and My Buddys in the Wreckin Kats put on a rad live show.
Your top 3 horror movies. GO!
J - Night of the Living Dead, Gozu, and Shaun of the Dead
B - Return of the Living Dead, Flesh for the Beast, and anything with Vincent Price.
Where can fans/potential future fans get a hold of your merchandise?
B - We should have merch in the next few months if all goes well but you will be able to pick up our merch at http://www.theskeletoncrue.com.
The band has been around for a few years now. During this time what is the most important things each of you have learned personally? As a band what has Beneath the Cellar learned?
J - I’ve learned a lot about myself, too much to write. I’ve learned that I have a bad drug problem and I’m terrible with money lol. As for the band we have learned to let everyone have their own influence, it really makes the songwriting process go a lot smoother.
B - I learned to stop drinking before playing a show haha. And don’t leave gear lying around without someone watching it. I lost a stick bag I just got for christmas with $100 worth of brand new gear and unused sticks at a show.
When it comes to horror based music or horror-punk in general there is no denying that every band takes a big influence from The Misfits and rightly so. But my question is, if you had to exclude them, then who is the biggest influence on the band?
J - For me I would have to say Balzac and Blitzkid.
B - I’m a huge Bliztkid fan, especially when they happen to have a good drummer haha.
Since starting the band how do you feel the your music has progressed?
J - I feel that we have progress tremendously as a band and as separate musicians. The new songs are more progressive than anything we have ever done before, I think we all fell like were doing something thats gonna be really special.
B - I didn’t start the band but I know playing in BTC has pushed me to be more creative with my druming.
In closing I want to give another big thank you to John and Bret for taking time to do this interview! But before we let you go, is there anything you’d like to add? Anything to say to the fans?
J - To everyone who has been there for us in one way or another to help us out we really thank you, you are what drives us to keep going. And also I would like to thank you for interviewing us, much thanks mate!!!
Big thanks to everyone that supports what we do, Fans, Family & Friends, we couldn’t do it without you.
Hope you all enjoyed the interview!