The title of this week’s column does one of two things for you. It either sends a shudder of fear through your entire being, or it brings a smile to your face as you remember the theme song to Herschell Gordon
Lewis’ “Two Thousand Maniacs.”
As movies go, “Two Thousand Maniacs” has a twisted glee that’s missing from most of today’s films, and it is one of Lewis’ more disturbing works. The music at the beginning of the movie set the tone for the carnage that followed, and it is a song that most people have a hard time forgetting. If you have forgotten it, though, you can thank Smog Veil Records for bringing it back into the view of the cultural eye.
Smog Veil Records has been around since 1991, when Frank Mauceri actually ran it out of his living room in Cleveland, Ohio. The label has put out over fifty punk releases, with most of them related to Northeastern Ohio, though one of its latest offerings is a two-song single with the godfather of gore, Lewis, along with the Amazing Pink Holes and some other guest stars. The two songs? The themes from “Two Thousand Maniacs” and “Moonshine Mountain.” Brilliant? Oh yeah. Disturbing? Only for the memories.
I recently tracked Mauceri down for an interview about this single. I wanted to know what would possess a man to commit these classics to vinyl and CD. It couldn’t be a money-making scheme (Lewis may be doing well financially, but he’s no Spielberg, and not enough people know about him to rocket this single to any kind chart status.) So what was the reason?
“I’m a huge fan of HG,” Mauceri explains. “The Pink Holes and Ken from Video Wasteland asked me if I’d be interested in this project. I didn’t need to think about it.” Something else helped to sweeten the deal, though. “HG told me the two songs on the release are his all-time favorites and (he) would love to re-record them. I think HG really understands the trash-rock ethic espoused by the Pink Holes, Cramps — bands of that ilk. So it’s a perfect fit.”
That’s right. It’s Lewis on vocals with these two songs. The man sings, makes movies and helped define a genre. Apparently, there is nothing he can’t do — except reach people who think “Scream” is the height of horror films.
Releasing country-style songs into the punk rock realm is a risky endeavor, however. After all, the folks who like Discharge aren’t exactly huge fans of Hank Williams and his peers, and psychobilly and the like has seen better days. Mauceri dispels the notion that punks can’t appreciate the release and says that the reaction from people so far has been “great” and not at all surprising as folks seem to enjoy “ridiculous rock and roll.”
Mauceri doesn’t want to stop with this one release, either. “I’d really like to do a record with Ray Dennis Steckler,” he says, “because I always thought his films had a rock and roll irreverence to them, and I’m wondering if he could deliver that in the recording studio.”
While Mauceri tells me that he has no immediate plans for this, I know I’d love to hear the results, perhaps teaming the director with Nashville Pussy or The Dragons. I can’t say it’d be as good as the Lewis release, but it would be interesting. In fact, this could start a new trend in music. John Carpenter and the White Stripes. Ted V. Mikels and Mange. Roger Corman and Random Conflict. The possibilities are endless.
I’ve always loved movie soundtracks, but there hasn’t been a good one in ages. And while this isn’t exactly a soundtrack, it is two songs from Lewis’ movies with Lewis on vocals. That’s a win-win any way you cut it. For Lewis fans, this release is a godsend. Plus, if you really want to scare the crap out of your neighbors, borrow a van with a kick-ass sound system, park in their driveway at three-thirty in the morning and play the “Two Thousand Maniacs” theme at full volume. If that isn’t fun, then I don’t know the definition of the word.
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Posted on March 17, 2005 in Features by Doug Brunell
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