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HAUNTED GEORGE

Spends Five Minutes with Eric Lastname...

My introduction to Haunted George, otherwise known as the one-man band of ex-Beguiled and Necessary Evils member Steve Pallow, came about two months ago. "The Devil's Canyon." A paranoid, nightmarish and altogether disturbed aural hallucination; each drum thud the lockstep of a weary fella who's lost himself in the twilight of the uninhabited desert; every space between beats a sparse landscape devoid of humanity, yet rife with fear and exaggerated panic. A creepy dirge that calls to mind pieces of American folklore, the extraterrestrial, the supernatural, murder. Y'know, a BAD TRIP. And not something you're bound to hear from any other one man band today. Naturally, I flipped out and had to ask the guy a few quick questions. He obliged...

TB: OK, first things first: You did some time in a couple pretty well-known bands before doing your one man band thing, right?
HG: Well I don’t know how “well known” they are but I played bass and sang some songs in The Beguiled and I played rhythm guitar and sang all the songs in The Necessary Evils.

Haunted George in the wild.

TB: So how did you end up from the Beguiled to the Necessary Evils to Haunted George?
HG: The Beguiled started in the mid-1980’s, broke up, got back together, broke up, got back together and finally broke up in 1994 just a few months after we toured Europe with Fireworks. Mike Ball, the guitarist for The Beguiled was killed instantly by a drunk driver when he was coming home from a Fireworks show in Santa Ana. That was such a tragedy because he was so talented and creative as well as having really good taste in stuff. He was constantly turning me on to some book or record that he’d come across. I was a total mess for about 6 months after Mike died. He was like my brother and I still miss him very much to this day. For years during The Beguiled, Mike and I wrote tons of songs with me writing the words and singing and Mike making the guitar riffs and the chord changes. For a rhythm section we had about 5 to 10 reel to reel tape recorders with various tape loops running making everything from straight beats and bass lines to abstract noise. We called it “The Sound Lab” and on the tapes we made Mike would call himself “Radio Brain” and I would call myself “Snuff Maximus”. When The Beguiled couldn’t practice for whatever reason we’d do Sound Lab. I have several hours “Sound Lab” recordings, some of it sounds like a regular band and some of it is completely abstract. After Mike died, James Arthur was dealing with the break up of Fireworks and he came out to California from Texas and it ended up turning into The Necessary Evils. A lot of the Necessary Evil’s material came from “Sound Lab” songs. Any Necessary Evil record that co-credits Mike Ball is originally a “Sound Lab” song: “Twist, Grind, Rock and Burn”, “Thrill Pill”, “State of Confusion”, “Motorwitch” and many more. The Necessary Evils lasted about 4 or 5 years and broke up because all the guys started moving out of state. I was also getting depressed playing punk/rock ‘n’ roll. I was feeling old and tired. After the Necessary Evils broke up, I kind of stopped playing music for a while. I hardly touched a guitar and stopped listening to any kind of music that wasn’t pre-1940’s country or blues. I stopped listening to any kind of Rock ‘n’ roll or Punk. It was getting to where electrified guitar was starting to sound foreign to me and stuff with drums in it was even stranger. I eventually picked up the guitar again and I started trying to write stuff that I could play and sing acoustically like Jimmie Rodgers, early Gene Autry and Cliff Carlise. At the same time I wanted it also to sound like stuff that I had written in other bands. I was really trying to write Western songs. Some of the songs sounded like an acoustic-folk version of the Necessary Evils and The Beguiled. Other stuff had a weird rockabilly/country/folk sound that I never really got to put into either of those other bands . During this time I was still doing abstract stuff as “Snuff Maximus” and some of it is acoustic guitar, Roland synthesizer, and tape loops over songs about murder and ghosts in the desert. How that turned into Haunted George is that I had already been playing a little with a kick drum. I had also done a thing that I’d seen John Lee Hooker do and that is to tap on a cutting board with hard soled shoes to make a beat. I saw him at the Golden Bear when I was in high school and he did that. They just put a spot light on him and the band took a break. He sat there by himself tapping his foot while singing and picking. It was the highlight of the set as far as I was concerned because all those guys in back up bands usually just are awful. So when I started doing Haunted George, I was going for that kind of thing; the lone guitar troubadour, just a guy with a guitar pickin’ and crooning, but I’m such a terrible guitar player I can’t sing so it doesn’t work. Sometime in late 2004, after hearing for a while guys like John Schooley, Bloodshot Bill, and King Louie, I decided to try out the fuller drum sound for myself. Once I did that it was an epiphany for me because it masked, a little bit, my lack of talent in the vocals and picking department.

TB: Was the one-man band decision a conscious choice, or did it just kind of happen that way?
Panther Howl, TBA on Hook or Crook HG: It’s a little bit of both really. I’m about the millionth guy on this one man band wagon. I can’t deny that. 2005 was really the year of the One Man Band. So many came out that now I think people are sick of it. The last thing I want to do I look like some loser that’s jumping on the latest rock trend, but two things happened that made Haunted George really take off for me; James Arthur started Hook or Crook records, and Myspace. When James started his label he came to me and said that he wanted to do a “Snuff Maximus” abstract/noise record. I never thought that I would ever have a noise record out on vinyl and was really excited about it. I told him, “I have this other stuff that I’ve been doing with guitar and drums too if you want to hear that”. Once he heard Haunted George he changed his mind to doing that. At one point the Hook or Crook LP “Panther Howl” was going to come out with an insert CD of 70 minutes worth of abstract space/echo noise called “Sounds from the Beyond”, but I think now that idea has been scrapped. Second thing is during all this; I found out about Myspace and started posting my music on that sight. Myspace is both really cool and incredibly lame at the same time. I don’t know anything about setting up a web site, so to be able to post songs and information is a beautiful thing. I can listen to other bands, we can contact each other. On the other hand, all the squares are just a bummer; guys without shirts on, wearing sideways baseball caps, holding up beers, making “gang” signs with captions like, “chILLin’ wIf mY hoMMeez n sUm sUdz”. That kind of shit just makes me want commit murder. Did you see that movie “Hostel”? I would pay the Russian gangsters good money to torture violently and slowly some of those myspace creeps... But I’m on there too, so what the hell.

TB: You described your stuff as "Sounds for driving in the desert at night" -- does it have to be the desert? I like to listen to this sort of stuff -- lonely, moody stuff like the Scientists or the Beguiled -- and drive around the woods at night.
HG: You have my permission to listen to it in the woods. I love the woods too.

TB: How does the landscape around you affect what you do, anyway? I imagine you live in one helluva desolate area.
HG: My nearest neighbor is about 3/4 of a mile away and I’m on a dirt road that runs about two miles till pavement. I hear packs of coyotes every night and morning. It’s very quiet. I don’t hear any traffic noise. I can see the Milky Way at night. I can hear a car coming from about 1/2 a mile away. I’m so used to the quiet that the low rumble of an engine, even a modern quiet one, will pop me up. Then I grab my rifle, peek through the window blinds and look at them though my binoculars while I scribble down notes and mumble. As far as it affecting me musically, one of my goals is to bring “western”, as in “country/western” into my music. My grandma lived in the Mojave Desert since the 1930’s and loved country music but always told me that she liked “western” better. When I asked her what the difference between the two was she said that country was about Honky Tonks, drinking, break ups, working a job, that sort of thing and western was more about being outdoors, the land, Indians, critters and things like that.

TB: Songs like "Graves in the Desert" and "Shotgun in My Mouth" certainly lend themselves to a dark, isolated lone-man approach... Do you think they'd work as well with a full band?
Art for the SSLD single? HG: They might, I’d have to try it out and see. I love to try some of my stuff with other musicians but getting people together can be such trouble. I just keep going by myself. That’s the truly great thing about a one man band. I can play whenever I feel like it; Sunday morning, Tuesday afternoon...whenever the mood hits. I don’t have to call a bunch of guys and arrange anything.

TB: What's your set-up like live? It sounds like there might be a few overdubs on the recordings.
HG: With the exception of the abstract/noise stuff that I do there are NO over dubs on ANY of my recordings! It’s all live! It’s also ALL mono. In fact, EVERYTHING that I record is done on this old, late 1970’s cassette recorder that just happens to have a great condenser mic in it. It looks like a little lunch box. One day the lunch box is going to crap out on me I have no idea what I’m going to do. As far as the live set-up, it’s a pain in the ass. It’s more stuff than you’d think. I have a little food cart next to me that I put all my effects boxes on so that I can reach over and tweak my sound while a play. I might have to strip it down and go rawer in the future because it’s a pain to haul around.

TB: Where the fuck did you come up with that riff for "The Devil's Canyon"?
HG: Out of nowhere...Off the top of my head. A lot of times I write lyrics ahead of time and then I set them up in front of me, grab my guitar with nothing planned note-wise and they just come out on the first or second try. “The Devil’s Canyon” was one of those.

TB: Why the Lamps cover?
HG: Monty Buckles is incredible and the Lamps are a great band. We might do a split single together and so I learned four of their songs. I played live with them and played “Rototiller”, “Ron Campbell” and “Hot Plate”. They played my song, “Gonna Lynch You”. I can also play “Bertha Walt”.

TB: Favorite ghost/supernatural story?
Haunted George live. HG: My favorites are the ones that come from people that you wouldn’t expect. I met an ex-cop out here in the desert. He lives in his car because he got major back problems and his wife left him after 20 years of marriage while he was in the hospital. His car seat is the only place he says that he can rest comfortably and get a good night’s sleep. So he lives off his pension, traveling from park to park and sleeping in his car. He told me all kinds of crazy stories about abandoned, haunted buildings in Los Angeles County and the high desert. He said that in the 70’s and 80’s there used to be an abandoned movie theater, built in the 1920’s that they would get calls to. The police would pull up and hear a movie playing and lights on and then when they went in there was nothing. He said that every cop knew about this place and just ignored the calls after a while, but they would always send new guys over there to freak them out. He said the guys would come back ashen faced and quiet. This guy is great. I want to tape record him before he’s gone one day. Once in the middle of talking, he looks out to the horizon and says, “You know, this old desert is a graveyard; Indians, Chinese gangsters, Mexican banditos, mobsters...They’re all buried out here. When Judgment Day comes and the dead rise this place is gonna be shoulder to shoulder with the tormented...” I was in awe after he said that. I repeated it to myself and then said, “Hang on, I’ve got to get something out of my truck” and then I immediately wrote down what he just said in a notebook. Another recent one is my boss is a construction chief with the state of California, real high up on the chain of command but a complete redneck, desert rat. He told me about seeing “a weird lookin’ dude with a dog chewed mullet” running around a job site 3 days in a row while he was working a job near the ocean in Ventura County. On the third day they were digging a trench for a pipe and came across a Chumash Indian burial site. They had to stop construction and he ended up reporting it to a Chumash Indian Museum. He tells me, “There’s the fuckin’ dude with that dog chewed mullet in a painting on the wall! A fucking chumash Indian, they all had that fuckin’ dog chewed mullet! I told them to transfer me to different job.” When I told him that I knew an Italian girl that lived in a 400 year old villa and claimed the ghost of a disembodied hand tormented her family he laughed and looked at me like I was crazy. I could go on and on. I love weird campfire stories; stuff that people swear is true. I also like stories about curses and things like “The Suicide Table” where seven men all committed suicide after loosing their fortunes at some certain Faro table. A lot of punk types that I know don’t like old people or Christians or physically disabled people and I find that some of the most bizarre stories come from these folks. I meet people when I’m working, we’ll get to talking, after a while I’ll turn the conversation in a certain direction and I start hearing real wild and crazy stuff.

TB: What do you have coming out officially? Is there a Hook or Crook single forthcoming?
HG: It’s going to be a full LP called “Panther Howl” with 13 songs on it. I have a 7” single with four “songs” coming out on Solid Sex Lovie Doll some time soon. One of the 4 cuts is noise track that was recorded as “Snuff Maximus” in 1992. I also have my own “label” that is called Dimension Zero, but it’s really just me pressing up CD-R’s at home. On Dimension Zero I have a full catalogue of stuff.

TB: Any tour plans in the works?
HG: No. Not yet...But there’s aways tomorrow.

Check out some of Haunted George's tunes at his Myspace page, and if you know what's good for you, jump on the LP and singles as soon as they see the light of day.

Interview by Eric Lastname, duh
Pics provided by Haunted George (live pic by Robyn Ginsburg)
Hook or Crook Records




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