Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Haunted George and the Mohave Interview!

Steven George Pallow, aka Haunted George

By: Rich Tupica

Often times, a person's final home is the hot, dry desert because their body was dumped there after something horrible happened to them ... Haunted George is a man who prefers to live there - where he writes songs about caskets, piles of meat and being buried alive.
Steven “Haunted George” Pallow, 40, moved to the Mohave desert in Llano Del Rio, California because he “wanted away from people.” Since then he has been surrounded by Joshua trees and cactuses while penning songs that reflect the rugged terrain he calls home.
While recently he has made a name for himself as a one-man band, George has been balls-deep in fuzzy, primitive rock bands for over 20 years.
The Beguiled and The Necessary Evils, his previous bands, kept George busy during the late ‘80s and '90s - releasing albums on both Crypt and In the Red Records.
Larry Hardy, owner of In the Red, met George in the late ’90s at a Cheater Slicks show in Costa Mesa while George and James Arthur (former Fireworks) were forming The Necessary Evils.
Today, Hardy said Haunted George’s upcoming album (to be released on In the Red) has songs that beat-out his already impressive body of work.
“I've heard the rough mixes, it's not finished yet" Hardy said. "It definitely has some of the best songs he has ever written.”
“This one was recorded in a studio rather than George's home 8-track,” Hardy added. “You can expect it to be heavier, darker and gnarlier than his previous albums.” The new LP may be released on Halloween, but Hardy said it may be delayed until early 2009.

What city did you grow up in? What was it like?
I didn’t grow up in a city. I grew up in Santa Ana, California - it is a city about 35 minutes south of Los Angeles but it is geographically a huge area. The part of it that I grew up in is suburbs. Compared to what it’s like now though I feel like I grew up in the country. The cow pastures and orange, lemon, and avocado groves weren’t that far away. We used to play in them all the time and I’d see owls and California quail. That’s all gone now. It’s all built up with homes. It really depresses me whenever I go down there.

What music did you dig during your formative years?
My oldest brother was a Beatles, Doors and Rolling Stones fan so that was some of the first music that I was exposed to. In grade school on my own I started listening to KRLA (1110 am) a legendary Los Angeles rock'n'roll/oldies station that played nothing but rock‘n’roll and rhythm ‘n’ blues from the early 1950’s to the early 70’s. They had all these great DJs like The Real Don Steele, Emperor Hudson and Johnny Hayes.

Catacombs: Haunted George in Paris.

What about in high school?

By the time I started high school I had already heard a little from cool bands that my older brother turned me on to like the New York Dolls, The Stooges, The Ramones, Black Flag, and The Adolescents. He had known of The Adolescents early on because he went to high school with one of them. There was also a group of guys a few years older than me that turned me on to other bands like The Damned, Agent Orange, Fear, TSOL, and Stiff Little Fingers. Through another group of friends I discovered 45 Grave, Angry Samoans, X, Flipper and The Dead Boys. I would go over to other guys' houses and they would let me make tapes from stuff in their collections. We swapped records and taped each other’s stuff. Then later they could say, “Man, you didn’t even know about The Damned until I told you about them.” They could lord that over you in certain circles. I’ve found there has always been a sense of one-upmanship between music fans that you just have to deal with. Someone always has to show you that they are cooler and know more about music than you do. Music messages boards are rife with that shit.

What kind of punk did you like best?
I really liked the punk rock that had its roots in early rock ‘n’ roll. A friend of mine had this really sexy sister who seemed way older than us but was probably only 16 or 17 at the time. She was an ex-punk gone rockabilly. She gave us tapes of the Stray Cats, The Blasters but more importantly those King and Federal original 50’s rockabilly compilations. Those records floored me. I thought “Granddaddy’s Rockin’” by Mac Curtis was as punk as anything I had ever heard. The Charlie Feathers cuts were just so weird and otherworldly sounding. That’s when I jumped head first into rockabilly. Elvis’ Sun Sessions was something I listened to hundreds of times. Jerry Lee Lewis was like a god to me. I actually had a little shrine to him in the corner of my room with all these pictures of him that I had collected. I wasn’t into neo-rockabilly, just the original 50’s stuff. The newer bands never seemed to get that vibe that the original generation had - some did but it was few and far between.

The Beguiled!

How did you find out about The Cramps?
One day when I was 14 years-old I was with these six guys jammed into a VW bug yelling and being stupid and I heard this music on their tape deck. I started yelling over them, “Hey, Shut Up! What is this?” It was “Human Fly” by The Cramps and it just blew my mind because it was a marriage of all this stuff that I was into but that the people in scenes kept separated. You see, back then if you were a punk you listened to GBH, or you were a mod and you listened to The English Beat or something, or you were a rockabilly and you listened to The Stray Cats, or you were something called a New Romantic and were gay but most people didn’t jump around between scenes.
I’m sure there were a lot of people that did but for the most part you were either one or the other. The Cramps didn’t seem to be following that rule. I remember driving around with these guys and everybody asking, “What do you want to do?” and I said, “Let’s go to the record store!” That day I bought two records; 'Songs the Lord Taught Us' and 'Gravest Hits.' That changed my whole attitude and from then on I just considered myself a rock ‘n’ roller.

What else were you digging back then?
Shortly after that I saw the 1967 movie "Riot on Sunset Strip" and that opened me up to 60’s punk and psychedelic bands like The Chocolate Watchband, The Seeds, The Standells and The 13th Floor Elevators. I began collecting surf instrumental 45s and LPs too. I liked the hit surf instrumentals I’d heard on KRLA and Agent Orange, who I had already seen a few times, mixed surf into their music; they did covers of “Pipeline”, “Miserlou” and “Mr. Moto”. Original surf records were still fairly easy to find being how Southern California was the epicenter for that scene in the early 1960’s. If you looked you could still find plenty of stuff by Dick Dale and the Deltones, the Chantays, and The Lively Ones. I started collecting records in thrift stores, used record stores and garage sales. I just started digging deeper and deeper into more obscure music.

So were you were getting bored with just punk?
Punk was starting to suck. When “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies came out all the hard-core bands jumped on this trend of playing real slow, dirgy and Sabbathy and then going real fast. All these jock-surfer guys that people now call “dude-bros” were into it. You’d go to a show and eight guys would beat up one guy because he looked different and wasn’t wearing the proper “punk” uniform. I was saying to myself, “Well, this is fucking gay.”… And it was. I remember getting together with “punker-girls” that dressed the part; they had Mohawks or Chelsea haircuts, safety-pin earrings and bondage pants. At their house I’d start digging through their tapes and records and seeing shit like The Cocteau Twins and Depeche Mode.
Most of the older punk guys that I hung out with that used to go to shows at the Masque and Florentine Gardens were embarrassed by it and would say, "Oh man, it didn’t used to be like this.” They all got into old American Blues, Country and Jamaican reggae. Around this time I got a whole stack of my Grandpa’s 78’s. Ernest Tubb’s “Nails in my Coffin,” his version of “Thirty Days” and the Hank Williams records got me into Country Music. I got really into the Blues too. That was the big common denominator when we started The Beguiled - we were all big fans of Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter. That’s the first stuff we started playing. The Beguiled started while we were all still in high school. We sounded like the 1963 version of The Rolling Stones in the beginning.

Necessary Evils!

You live in a "remote area", describe the landscape and why did you pick that location?
The landscape? On the front cover of the “Pile O’ Meat” record I’m standing next to some Joshua trees with my Silvertone guitar. That picture was taken by my wife, on my property, with her back to our house. That’s what my property looks like; Joshua trees, Juniper trees, Cholla cactus. We chose to live out there because I’ve always loved the desert. My Great Grand parents moved out here in their teens. They homesteaded property in the Mojave Desert in the 1930’s. Since I was a baby visiting Grandma and Grandpa meant going out to the desert. I just always loved it and wanted to live in it. I’ve lived all over different parts of the Los Angeles area - Hollywood, Long Beach, Burbank, Van Nuys. I had enough of the cities. I wanted away from people.

How often do you write music? What inspires you to pick up the guitar or write lyrics?
It varies a bit. I usually go through spurts with song writing. I write lyrics first. I carry a notebook with me and write down lyrics in verse form as if it is poetry. Later I sit down with my guitar and just play. I might record myself doing that and when I listen back to it I find parts that I like and then match it up with some lyrics. I really don’t know what it is that inspires or motivates me. If I did I’d focus on it and write more stuff. Hiking around and being by myself in nature for several hours works sometimes, but it usually happens after some kind of extreme emotional experience whether good or bad. When I get into a writing spurt now I try and take advantage of it and milk all I can out of it because I really can’t force myself to write stuff when I’m in a dry spell.

What are you doing when you're not dealing with music? Any other hobbies?

If I had twice the amount of hours in a day I’d still be busy from when I got up until I went to bed. I work and that means, now at least, that I commute into the city. So that right there takes up the majority of my hours in a week. Other than that I like to paint and draw when I have the time. I like to hike and camp. I rock hound - collect rocks- and have been dabbling in taxidermy. I like to black powder shoot. I have some replica 1860’s pistols and they’re fun to shoot off. I have an old ’58 Chevy truck that I work on and a 1947 Plymouth Business Coupe that is in pieces that I want to get running one day.

So, you are also working on a film, too?
In the last six months I’ve been working on and off on a movie I’ve been shooting on a mini-DV camera. It started as this little five minute short and now it’s at 45 minutes and I keep adding to it. I’m shooting it without a script so I keep coming up with ideas and tagging them on to the story. I’ve been making it with my wife. It’s just the two of us doing everything. I’ll make costumes and props, set up a shot, tell her what I want to do, then she shoots it and I walk around in the scene doing whatever. I edit it at work when nothing is going on. The movie was taking up a lot of my extra time… so much so that I was actually putting music stuff on the back burner. I’ve had to stop the movie so that I can focus more on the music.

Who are you pulling for in the US presidential race and why?
Politics? I hate it when I hear musicians give their opinions on politics. I can’t stand hearing from people who most of the time can’t even hold a shitty job tell me how they think the world should be run … my own opinion included. You asked and I dodged the question. I think that all three are big “One-Worlders” so I’m not for any of them. If I had to pick the lesser of the three evils I would go with John McCain because I think he wouldn’t take away my gun rights and raise my taxes as quickly as the other two are just dying to do.

Would you say you are Republican?
I’m really not a Republican because I don’t think America should be “spreading freedom” around the world; it just gets us in these messes and we blow a bunch of money. I also think if people want to smoke weed or shoot dope then I don’t think the government should be there to protect them from themselves. I think a lot of Republicans are so business oriented that they don’t look at the U.S. as a country of people, but as a market. Their allegiance isn’t to the flag or the country but to the dollar and when if the buck craps out hard enough, like it’s doing, then where will their allegiance go?

I take it you are definitely not a Democrat!
I am definitely not a Democrat! If I wanted to go along - just to get along and have people like me, I would just call myself a “progressive” and be another guy for “peace.” No one would give me any shit about it. Peace? Saying that you are for “peace” is like saying you’re for “goodness”… What the hell does it mean? I work in Hollywood now and everybody is some NPR listening dickhead. They love to talk about how “compassionate” they are but no group in the world is more viciously cutthroat when it comes to business than the people in Hollywood.
All my life I’ve been preached to by leftwing pains-in-the-ass; teachers, bosses, television and movies, musicians - It has never stopped no matter where I go or work. I swear they are worse than the most preachey born again Christians you will ever meet. All these old hippies constantly proselytize to me or these guys I work with ask me, “Dude, did you watch the Daily Show last night?” and I’ve told them a million times that I don't get any channels. I only use my TV to watch DVDs. The Daily Show? These people think he’s some cutting edge outsider. No one has their nose jammed up Hollywood’s asshole more than that guy; he fucking hosts the Academy Awards!

So, what do you want from the government?
I just want the government to leave me alone: pave the roads, kill the crooks and put out fires. I don’t think I should have to pay taxes for schools. I don’t have any kids. If the people that chose to have them didn’t care enough to get the money to educate them why should I care? If you care about them so much then you can go pony up the money. I won’t stop you. “But then all the people would grow up and become criminals…” In Los Angeles they already do and isn’t that why God made the gas chamber anyway? All this socialism is much more about taking power and keeping people down than it is about “helping out your fellow man”. It’s Christian morality repackaged by these people that say they want religion out of politics. They want your and my money for the same reason the most crooked and creepy preacher does; for themselves and their friends. They’re actually worse because they do it at gunpoint and can put you in jail if you don’t comply. These people don’t have altruistic goals. I think the government run school system in California actually has very nefarious intentions. I think that they are intentionally trying to dumb-down the next generations in order to make a permanent lower class of ignorant consumer worker-bees.
Maybe I’m just reacting to all the people immediately around me; I do a lot of hippie-friendly things like hiking and shopping at Trader Joes. I do have some hippie in me and I let it shine. When I hike I always carry a trash bag and pick up trash. I recycle. This last Spring Equinox I even found myself in the mountains in a natural hot-spring full of naked hippies chanting mantras in the light of a full moon. I joined in and was cool with it. I’m OK with socialism just not forced at gunpoint. Where I live there used to be a Socialist community that existed from the teens to the 1930’s called “Llano Del Rio”. Everybody that belonged to it volunteered like a co-op and had a little duty that they would do for the good of the group. It eventually fell apart because of infighting. My problem with socialism is that I’m sure that there were some guys that busted their ass from sun-up till sundown wading through shit fixing toilets while there were other guys that said, “My job is to be the camp bard; I’ll wake up late, play the guitar, make funny jokes and screw your girlfriend while you fix toilets.” Fuck that.

What do you think about Obama?
Obama scares me because all the wrong people are cheerleading for him and he seems like a snobby asshole. At least if he wins it will be interesting and shake things up. I heard his spiritual advisor/guru/astrologer say that whites and blacks have different brains. White people dance on the 1st and 3rd beat while blacks dance on the 2nd on 4th beat! I guess if you’re “progressive” then black racism is good racism. May we all live in interesting times.

Can you tell the readers about Snuff Maximus?
Snuff Maximus is this alter-ego, side project that I have been doing since the early 1990s. It’s more abstract-sound track and experimental kind of stuff. I used to team up with Mike Ball (guitarist from the Beguiled) and we used to do stuff together on thrift store bought tape recorders. I stopped doing it for a while after he died - but in last eight years or so I’ve been doing a lot more of it. Originally the Hook or Crook LPs that came out were going to have Snuff Maximus CDs included with them but for budgetary reasons the idea got scrapped.

Is there any Snuff for sale?
I still haven’t officially released any Snuff Maximus stuff except for a couple of cuts on some my Haunted George records. In the last couple of months I’ve made about five hours worth of Snuff Maximus stuff; a four CD set of just meditation sounds for my wife. She was looking for some records to just zone-out and meditate to and I said, “Wait, I’ll make you some.” So I made these gigantic tracks based on the rhythm of the human heartbeat. It slows down a little bit every few minutes. I did another one based on the rhythm of meditative breathing. This was different for me because it was the first time that I was making “music” - if you can call it that - that had a very specific purpose to it. James Arthur (guitarist from the Necessary Evils & Fireworks) has jumped into this kind of stuff too in the last couple of years. He made of really wild sounding atmospheres for my little movie that I was talking about earlier. There is some of his stuff will make you literally sick to your stomach. Somewhere he found these old recordings that hunters use to attract larger prey; the sounds of small animals suffering. He’s incorporated these into his soundtrack recordings for me and it has worked out nicely because my movie is kind of a psychedelic horror movie.

On tour, is it nice being a one-man band (with a 2nd guitarist) rather than traveling with a full band, like you used to?
Yes and no. It’s easier but with a bigger band there are more people to talk to, help haul equipment around, watch the crap you might be selling and there are more guys if ugly things start to happen. On the other hand, a smaller group has less people to track down when you need to get going, there’s more room in the vehicle, people will be more likely to put you up and feed you and you can save a lot of gas money using a smaller car. Jimmy and I have done trips up to San Francisco in a sedan.

What is a typical day like for you?
For a little while now I’ve been working down in Los Angeles so it’s like this - I usually get up at 6:30, feed my critters, make coffee, drive down to LA, work on some movie project doing either picture or sound work, walk around at lunch either to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery or Amoeba Records, come back, do more Avid or Pro-Tools stuff, then I might go over to Jimmy Hole’s place and practice music or go home, practice music, eat some food, then go to bed and fall asleep in front of a DVD or book around 11:30 or so. On the weekends I try to go hiking or something that involves being outdoors. When I worked for the State Parks I was up at 5:30 and home by 2:30 because my work was only 15 minutes from me. Then I had way more time to paint, hike, or play music during the middle of the week. I miss that.

What is next for Haunted George? I hear there is a new LP on the way.
I am leaving to go to Europe with the Lamps in about a week. When I come back I will record the next LP with Jimmy Hole. This will be my first LP that has somebody else on it other than just me. I am pretty excited to start it. I wanted to wait till after we got back from Europe to record this. I’ve already got more than enough material for the new record written and Jimmy and I plan on playing those songs live first so that they will be nice and tight when we come back to the States.

How did you hook up with Hook or Crook, In the Red and the other labels you have worked with? How did your songs get from the desert to those labels?
James Arthur originally started Hook or Crook as a partnership with Chris Owen. I didn’t really know Chris at the time but now I consider him a good friend. James doesn’t really deal with Hook or Crook anymore. It’s Chris’s label now. James wanted me to do a Snuff Maximus record for Hook or Crook but then he heard the Haunted George stuff and wanted to do that instead. That was “Panther Howl”. By the time the second record, “Pile O’ Meat” was ready, Chris and I had gotten to know each other and were friends and so I went with him again. He’s been great and I have nothing but good things to say about Hook or Crook. I’d love to do more stuff with Chris but I’m going to do the next record with In the Red because Larry asked and was so good to me during the Necessary Evils days. Other labels have just contacted me and we’ve worked something out.

Where do you record your music?
I record the stuff in my garage, pick out the choice cuts, then run them though an equalizer and send them to whoever is putting it out to master. I’ve been pretty easy about doing singles. In fact, I haven’t turned down anybody that’s asked me yet. I just have one provision - it’s got to be a jukebox single… meaning a 7” single with the big hole in the center, running at 45 rpm. It has to be able to play in an old jukebox and if it doesn’t have those three things then it’s no good. That’s my rule but I’ve bent it a couple times when push came to shove.

Since you have the name "Haunted" in your name, do you believe in the paranormal? If so why?
I do actually believe in the paranormal. I think 99.9 percent of the time that you hear someone claiming to have had a supernatural experience it’s totally bullshit wishful thinking on their part or they are maybe insane. That being said I believe that there are things out there. I don’t have an explanation for them myself but I have been exploring it for most of my life in one way or another either through religion or what people call the occult sciences.

Have you ever seen anything suspicious with your own eyes?
I’ve had two very real experiences involving what could be called ghosts or spirits; one that I won’t go into detail with here was with a group of people in an abandoned house at night. We all saw and heard the same thing lasting close to a minute and then the house suddenly started swarming thick with flies. The other event also involved another person; I had a vivid dream where a friend of mine that had recently died visited me. It was very realistic. He sat there and talked with me for what seemed like several minutes. I asked him questions and he answered them. Then he told me that he had to go but that he was fine and not to worry. I just thought it was a dream but a few weeks later one of my friends told me that while experiencing a 102-degree fever he had a vision that was bothering him. What he described to me was exactly what I had seen in my dream with this mutual friend of ours sitting down, talking and saying many of the exact same things that I had heard him say. That could be a coincidence.

What about UFOs?
I’ve had two experiences with UFOs. Now, I’m not saying that these were flying saucers with aliens from another planet, I’m saying that they unidentifiable flying objects. First; my wife and I saw this huge fireball that buzzed by our car on the freeway one night and then disappeared. We both shot up and said, “What the Hell was that?” The second event was by myself. I again saw a fireball shooting through the sky while driving on the 101 Freeway through the Cahuenga Pass… not quite flying saucers over Hollywood. It must have lasted six or seven seconds. I even time to roll down my window to get a better look.
Now all those things I just described could be explained rationally in one way or another I’m sure but really I choose to believe in it just the same way an atheist chooses to not to believe. William S. Burroughs used to claim that he had sex with daemonic entities and he said -I found the exact quote here - “If we are going to investigate incubi and succubi - daemonic entities with sexual intentions - seriously, I really feel that we must begin by admitting that psychiatrists have no more objective proof that they come from our imaginations than priests have that they come from the devil…”- that is my attitude. Plus a lot of atheists that I’ve met are really humorless uninteresting people.

I hear you have a crystal ball, how do you use that?
I have a crystal ball that I practice scrying into - meaning I am trying to see visions in it. The other day I took it to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and went to the Cathedral Mausoleum that houses the Valentino Shrine. Out of nowhere I saw a witch riding on a broom and a demonic laughing face. The witch was straight out of a comic book. It was so weird. It was a classic comic book witch almost exactly like the one on the back of the “Pile O’ Meat” record. The laughing demon face looked like something from an old B&W 1930’s Popeye cartoon. I watched both of these visions, lasting about three or four seconds each and then jumped back and realized what had just happened. I tried for several more minutes to do it again and couldn’t get it to happen. Again, these things could be explained as things happening inside my head or a waking dream but even if that is just the case then it is still happening in my reality and is real to me isn’t it?


Three albums that influenced the sound of Haunted George
1.) Jack Starr “Born Petrified” (Norton Records)
2.) Link Wray and his Ray Men “Jack the Ripper” (Swan)
3.) Louise Huebner with Louis & Bebe Barron
“Seduction Through Witchcraft” (Warner Bros.-Seven Arts)

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