Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Traveling Vampire Show - A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir

Since we had such a fun time remembering our first album, 13 HALLOWEENS, I thought we’d keep the trend going and bring you an insiders look at our second album from way back in 2006. So once again, hit play on your CD player and join us as we take a look back at THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW!

In 2006, we hit the studio hard and heavy with our follow up CD, THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW. The guitars, even though they are heavy metal-ish, still had a punk feel and the drums, even though they were triggered, don’t sound overbearing. Bobby also added a lot of little guitar over dub solo parts that really spiced up the album. THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW was our biggest sounding album to date and had a more "produced" feeling. It truly felt as if magic happened in the studio that time around. Bobby mentioned, he could die happy since we, at least, had such a great album under our belts!

Bobby about to rock the mic!

We wanted this album to sound different than 13 HALLOWEENS and since we recorded the MIDNIGHT SPOOKSHOW EP and 13 HALLOWEENS CD with Aaron Carey, we decided to find a new engineer and studio. The place that we kept hearing about at the time was Mind's Eye Studio ran by Larry Elyea, AKA Larry Love. I believe this location was the first for Mind's Eye. The studio was built into half of a residential house. You would pull into a normal looking middle class neighborhood, but hiding within the normal facade was the musician’s playground, Mind's Eye. I believe they converted the garage into the studio.

Larry using that newfangled Pro Tools.

The process for recording was the same as the first record. We recorded master tracks for the drums while Bobby and I played scratch tracks. After the drums were finished, I laid down the bass line and then Bobby put down the guitar tracks. The last piece of the puzzle was the vocals, which always feel rushed since they are the last to be recorded. Since this was a digital studio, we were able to record on the weekends for about a month. The benefit to having the breaks in-between meant we didn't get burnt out nor did we get ear fatigue. We were able to listen to the music and our performances with fresh ears each time we started recording again.

The isolation room.

While on tour last January in Reno Nevada, we stopped at a random Starbucks before a show and shot the shit about what we could remember about THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW.

“So, guys, what do you remember about the studio?” I asked.

Davey was the first to respond. “Clean, nicely decorated, and they had a nice couch. I know, 'cause I slept on it."

Davey sitting on the comfy couch.

Bobby chimed in. “It was tiny. I remember Larry loved big dogs and he let them roam around in the studio and it was very scary cause they were big and I hated it and he didn’t care. Ha! The studio was connected to his house so the dogs would pop into the sound studio and I’d be like ‘Oh my God!’ or they would be there in his house when you had to take a leak. Oh man!”

Jimmy laying down the bass.

I reminded them that the studio was basically two rooms. One room had the control center and the other held the isolation booth.

Davey adding more cowbell to the mix.

“I thought Mind’s Eye was cool,” Bobby recalled. "The number one reason we wanted to record with Larry cause what he was doing sounded really cool. At the time, AFI’s SING THE SORROW just came out and we thought Larry could make us sound like that. It didn’t, but it sounded really good. Ha! Larry had me use Krank amps and those amps were kinda big at the time and they were really expensive but now they're really cheap 'cause no one wants them. Ha! It sounded really good, though. More of a metal type guitar sound, but I thought it sounded pretty neat.”

Davey-tude.

“The drums were easier to record this time around since we’d been in a studio a few times before.” Davey, now buzzing from his coffee, quickly said. “No click track on this album, it was really hard to do since we never practiced to a click.”

I leaned forward in my chair. “Since we were old pros at this studio thing, this time we came prepared, we brought comics (for the boring parts), drinks, snacks and packed our lunch. We learned it wasted a lot of time making the drive to pick up food, not to mention trying to decide where to eat!”

Comics!

“Concerning the bass,” I said. “It was run direct into the board. Nothing too fancy was added to the bass sound. We just found a nice beefy tone and stuck with it for the whole album.”

Just call me the "Bass Line Killer".

“I’m not sure if we kept any guitar scratch tracks,” Bobby said sipping his coffee. “Probably not, we had multiple guitar tracks, at least two and the most four. Larry did help with some of the solo parts, like with INSIDE THIS COFFIN. I had a little end lead and he said it wasn't ‘creepy enough’ so he re-wrote the guitar part I had. The funny thing is, I can’t even remember the original way I played it.”

Bobby strums the studio guitar.

“I do remember we doubled the guitars on the bridges which makes the album sound bigger and heavier.” I said pulling my chair closer to the group. “Larry had a few tricks up his sleeve for guitar that helped,” Bobby recalled. “I think he made fun of me and my singing to make me sing better...he’d call me ‘marble mouth’ so I had to keep doing the singing over and over again to get it to sound better. He made fun of me but it worked. He would stop the track and try and guess what I was saying and then laugh at me because it sounded completely different than what I was singing.”

A fresh faced Bobby.

I laughed at the memory of Larry hassling Bobby. “Luckily, I learned how to pronunciate when I sang in my band during high school, 'cause they were really on me about pronunciation. I think being in grade school and high school choir also helped me with that as well. Also, with the vocals, we doubled each of our voice so it was in a sense tripled on the choruses so it gave a huge gang-vocal feel.

Perfect pitch!

During the mixing of the album we had time to kill so we cut out “back patches” from botched shirts that our old t- shirt printers screwed up. It was a pain in the ass to hand cut all those shirts with scissors, but we didn’t know what else to do. We didn’t want to trash them.

Making lemons out of shit shirts!

A lot of song titles came from book titles that Bobby and I were reading at the time. We were obsessed with the horror author Richard Laymon. The songs, although they were named after his books, were not so much about the books but more about the imagery and the “aroma” of his twisted tales. We've made it a fact to never have any blatant horror movie lyrics. It seems too boring to title the song after a movie and then just sing about the story line. “It’s hard to tell if we matured from the first album cause I don’t remember any of it.” Bobby recalls. “I don’t remember practicing it or writing it. I don’t remember a single damn thing. The only thing I remember is that I wanted to do the classic thing of watching a horror movie with a guitar and have it magically write a song, like DANZIG would be sitting in his NJ basement writing HORROR HOTEL. I was watching the movie THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS and I wrote the little riff and chorus for VAMPIRES DON’T EXIST, so it actually worked! But it never worked again, 'cause it’s too forced, too fake.”


For this album, unlike 13 HALLOWEENS, we chose not to include the lyrics because we wanted to add some mystery. What we remembered about the MISFITS was that all the copied tapes that were passed around of their music never had any lyrics. This was back in high school before the internet, and so much time and speculation was spent trying to figure out what the lyrics actually were. We hoped people would do the same thing with our music and they did!


“The demo of the songs for THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW was done on a 4 track cassette recorder,” Bobby remembered. “We posted some of those demos on a secret Myspace page for the bare-bones fan club. It was hard at the time to send demos out so we put a few demo songs on Myspace and gave the members the special link. The demos are still up there if you can find it. People said the demos sounded like AFI so I was super stoked. It would be interesting to hear those again.”


The process on how we find samples for songs has pretty much been the same from the start. Before we go into the studio, we record a demo of the songs on a 4 or 8 track recorder and then we find movies that fall into the Public Domain category. We would sit and watch all these crappy movies, or just listen to the movie while we did other things. We would listen for an actor to say something cool/emotional/creepy or a sound that jumped out at us. Once we had the samples, we then start pasting them into the demo versions of the songs to see if they can enhance the music or the meaning of the song. We've also combined several different samples to make a "new" sample. The process is pretty "trial and error" but it's really fun when the samples and music blend together for the perfect fit.


“Tom Bagely created the album artwork,” Bobby said. “We liked his work that he did for FORBIDDEN DIMENSION and for the stuff he did for the Canadian pop punk band CHIXDIGGIT! When we originally contacted him to create the album art, he couldn’t do it, but then at the last minute he was able to do it for us!”
Bagely's rough sketch.

I should mention that our long time pal, Andrew Barr, drew the inside panels, the cd disk art and did the art design for the layout. 

Barr's first idea for the CD insert.

We thought it would be fun to have a giveaway for the pre-orders, so we bought shrunken heads that we signed and shipped out with every order. It turned out to be a pretty cool idea that people liked.

I can't believe we still have one sitting at Calabrese Manor!

During the Traveling Vampire Show era, back in 2006-2007 we used to have some really amazing Phoenix Halloween shows. Our buddy, Kelly Carcinogen, who was on the road with us remembers his first CALABRESE show which was a Halloween show. It was one week before he moved to Arizona from Alaska in October 2006.

Bobby Halloween 2006.

“HOUR OF THE WOLF, a phenomenal hardcore band from Prescott AZ played first,” Kelly remembers. “They dressed up like lumber jacks with fake beards and flannel shirts and they did a great cover of HORROR BUSINESS. It was awesome.”

Jimmy Halloween 2006

“Then ZOMBEAST played and had blood covering all over themselves. The bass player Brian had a bass string wrapped around him like Eerie Von. That was really cool. But when CALABESE played, it was really awesome, it was my first show. You had the green lights, and throughout the set you would throw out handfuls of hard candy into the audience. I got hit in the face a couple times by the candy. Ha! You guys had a fake skeleton at the end of the show that Davey tossed out into the crowd. People were grabbing it and it tearing it apart. People were running around with skeleton arms and parts. It was awesome!“

Davey Halloween 2006

Bobby finishing his coffee, sits up with a memory. “During the Halloween show, this dude wanted to film it, I’m not really sure why, but it was cool. I think Youtube was just starting to get big back then. I don’t know what he was planning on doing with that, but he recorded it. He did put up the cover of Halloween on Youtube. We recently saw him at the Salt Lake City show and I asked why he never put the rest of the show on the internet and he said he got lazy. He said it was still on his computer and he still needs to find it. I told him it would be cool to see it.“

“We gave away 100 dollar gift certificates to Inkbomb Tattoo,” Davey recalls. “Also horror movie DVDs and other stuff for a raffle. We went all out and made it a big Halloween show!"

For this last section of the blog, I listened to each song and will share with you all my thoughts and memories. You, too, can play along at home and listen to each song while you read. Sometimes when we play a song, I get the impression of a color. If I had to describe this album as a color, I'd say it had a blue/purple aura to it.

Animated banner from back when people did this kinda thing.

1. Death Eternal

This was a great time for the band and this album captured a part of that. People started coming out to shows and following us around and sang our songs. We were actually growing a fan base. This song always rocks the house. This gave the kids a chance to mosh, jump off the stage and go insane.

2. Voices of the Dead

This song has touched a lot of people. I've been told how it has personally got people through tough times. To me, that's the most rewarding, to hear how our music has touched another person and has helped them. We shot a music video for this song which was also a huge success for us. I wrote about the music video on this part of the blog HERE. I have so many good feelings when I hear this song. I can see countless faces singing this song with us at shows. It's always been a great way to close a show.

3. Vampires Don't Exist

I remember hearing this song when it was done in the studio and loving it. I just knew it was going to be a hit and it was.



4. Inside This Coffin

In the first verse I was trying to build a CALABRESE Army by turning the youth of America against their parents and to follow us. I love singing those lines at shows.

5. Night In The Lonesome October

This song reminds me of playing shows in Hollywood for some reason. We always got good support in California

6. Come Alive

I love hearing this song cause I wrote this back in an apartment I was living in with my sister in Illinois. This was before the band was even an idea. Back then the beginning sample was from the movie Young Frankenstein. This was the same apartment I would have dreams about playing bass for the MISFITS. This was also the time when I first heard Michael Graves sing for the MISFITS and I was so disappointed that I gave away my copy of the CD to Bobby. I thought that should be me singing on for the MISFITS (I have now made my piece with Michael's vocal style and now enjoy it). I'm much more happier that I created something new with my brothers instead.

7. Children Of The Night

This is another song that's a good example of our evolution of song writing. We started off with four chord songs with catchy “whoa” choruses (mostly because I was the main riff writer) but once Bobby started mastering the guitar, he was able to create some bad ass guitar riffs which has taken us to a new level.

8. Saturday Night Of The Living Dead

A classic Calabrese song if there ever was one. It has a killer intro sample, the theremin in the bridge, along with a group chant and a great pun in the chorus! All in one song!

9. The Young Princes Of Darkness

We named this song after our pals in ZOMBEAST. They had a band before ZOMBEAST called THE YOUNG PRINCESS OF DARKNESS. ZOMBEAST was the next coming of DANZIG and we knew they were going to be huge, but like a nuclear reaction the band became too powerful and exploded. I remember coming up with some of the lyrics for the chorus on the drive back from Flagstaff after a show with ZOMBEAST.

Even more animation!

10. Darkness, Tell Us

It was bound to happen, a song about Oujia boards. I think it was in Denver that a fan gave us a homemade Ouija board. We have the best fans ever!

11. Your Ghost

Another song that has touched our fans. Kids that were in high school when this album came out are now telling us how this song got them through tough times. When I hear this song, I can remember sitting in my bedroom writing the lyrics and at one point I left the room to do something else when inspiration struck and I instantly ran back in to try out a line for the verse, "She's into the paranormal, black cats and the occult."

12. The House Of Mysterious Secrets

"We'll just drink you blood" is one of the lines that fans love to scream. What a great song to end the album. I wrote some of these lyrics while in a different band back in Illinois. The lyrics represent the situation of those times.

Tour poster.

It seemed like we really captured some magic with THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW, it felt good, it sounds really good and it holds up to the test of time. It was really awesome.

6 comments:

  1. Jimmy! Loved reading this post so much! It's really quite lovely to read the behind the scenes stuff. :P I myself really love Children of the Night and, my absolute favorite song, Your Ghost the most out of the whole album. Not to say I don't enjoy the whole album, but... do you ever just hear a song that clicks with you? Well, that's what it's like for me. Well, I think I'll stop pestering you for now, it's 4 in the morning here anyway! But I do hope you and your brothers and the rest of your family are doing well! Hoping to see you all in concert here in El Paso, TX soon (I've missed you all these last few times! The last time I saw you was at Badlands Billiards if y'all remember that!) :) Much love Jimmy! -Tori ❤

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember when I heard this album for the first time and I loved it! "Your Ghost" is still me favorite song, even with the new album, that song has always meant so much to me! Thanks for giving us an inside look Jimmy! See y'all soon I hope! - Jenni M.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write this information down. I know it has taken me about 20 minutes to read and must have taken much longer to write. I have recently started interviewing artists and am amazed at the stories behind the music...every time. Musicians are one of a kind and cannot be replaced. Thank you for your weekends in the studio, the months away from your families and friends and the undying love and passion you put into your music to make it unique. And finally to allow your fans to feel like they are with you on your journey. I think that is the fun of being a fan...to live through you!
    Teri***Keep Rockin!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the kind words. It's fun to share this kind of stuff. We have so many stories to tell so cool that we have people who want to hear about it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. If you go to myspace and search for "cult of horrors" you can find 3 demos from the travelling vampire show. Rawer sound, just as you would expect.
    Thanks for this, great to read and it has inspired me to give them all another listen.
    Rich from england.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love that you guys are doing this, gives a good insight into the process, especially the song notes.

    ReplyDelete