For this year’s creepy soundtrack, Local Spins asked dark folk/gothic Americana artist Stovepipe Stover for his eeriest favorites, from Killer Klowns to a witch’s doo-wop ode.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Every October, Local Spins asks a Michigan musician for a Top 10 roster of their most haunting favorites for Halloween. Veteran songwriter and performer Justin “Stovepipe” Stover — who’s released a Halloween EP and dark country murder ballads — was the perfect choice (as you’ll see and hear below). Stovepipe stages an album-release show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room, with Emilee Petersmark (The Crane Wives) also on the bill. Details, tickets at listeningroomgr.com. Check out his own, “Halloween with Stovepipe” here.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
I cannot stress how much I love Halloween.
My earliest memories involve riding through the backwoods of Maine on Halloween night with my brother in the backseat of our parents’ Reliant K car, dressed as ramshackled ghouls born to a thoroughly blue-collar family, hungry for a plastic pumpkin full of Twizzlers and Reese’s, terrified that the next house might be instead haunted by someone who decided to hand out toothbrushes and/or pennies.
Halloween = Youth.
Some people never got over the time they first saw Topanga on “Boy Meets World” or the night they opened for Nirvana. I never got over Halloween.
Yes, I like it better than Christmas.
I’ve also always wanted to write this yearly column.
That being said, here are 10 songs to scare the ever-lovin’ heck out of ya.
1. Ramones, “Pet Sematary” – I am about to say something that is true: I happen to be loosely related to Tabitha King, who is directly married to Stephen King. I also grew up near Bangor, Maine, which is home to the aforementioned King of Horror. Growing up, we carried around “It” and, respectively, “Pet Sematary” like they were scripture. I was also fortunate to be raised by parents who liked movies and (aside from a couple uncharacteristically Puritanical years during Satanic Panic) had no problem letting us watch ones that had profanity, sometimes nudity, and, Lord bless ‘em, horror! My mom even drove past the cemetery outside of Bangor while “Pet Sematary” was being filmed on her way to work. So yeah, I saw this movie at way too young an age and I cannot be thankful enough for this (though the sister Zelda still scares the piss out of me). I first fell deeply in love with The Ramones directly because of this Stephen King-titled song. You don’t get better than that chorus.
2. The Dickies, “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” – Some of the best horror movies are actually quite terrible. Many refer to them as B-Movies. I refer to them as what I watched after school. Among the many wonderful, horrible ones is the legendarily bad, fun-as-hell “Killer Klowns From Outer Space.” The acting is dreadful, the script makes “Twilight” look like “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and the special effects are far from special. But it’s still one of the greatest terrible horrible movies ever made. And this killer track from The Dickies is the clown nose-colored cherry on top.
3. Silas J. Dirge, “Flowers on Her Grave” – I wish I could buy thousands of copies of albums from Netherlands-based country singer Silas J. Dirge and just give them to whoever I run into. His songs are lovely, flawlessly crafted, and truly horrifying. I put him right up there with Edgar Allen Poe, Mr. King and Bram Stoker storywise, while his music is as good as Hank Williams and kin. Silas’ songs feel like falling in love with the person of your dreams and then immediately getting disemboweled by them.
4. Echo & the Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon” – Songs that are included in horror movies become extra scary by default. This lovely, thoroughly autumnal and moonlit beauty was in the classic horror-time travel flick “Donnie Darko.” But it’s also the kind of song you want to listen to when you take an evening walk through a leaf-covered street.
5. Q Lazzarus, “Goodbye Horses” – Yes, its inclusion in “Silence of the Lambs” makes the song extra horrifying. But honestly, it earned its place in this classic movie by already being melancholy and unsettling AF. Honestly, I’m not even totally sure what this song is about. It could be about volunteering for UNICEF or skipping through a field of lilacs (and horses) for all I know. What matters is the overall mood of it, which is beautiful and scary in the same way that the “Bride of Frankenstein” is.
6. Weird Al Yankovic, “One More Minute” – I find the slow, fragile vibe of doo-wop music to be frightening for some reason. All the songs are about rotten, depressive breakups and stalker-level heartbreak. So I guess it makes sense. The genius who is Weird Al Yankovic brings this dynamic to the next level with his track “One More Minute,” which is essentially a mix of body horror and dark comedy. I mean, when it comes to the bizarre and unsettling, you can’t beat lyrics like: “Yes, I’d rather jump naked on a huge pile of thumbtacks/Or stick my nostrils together with crazy glue/I’d rather dive into a swimming pool filled with double-edged razor blades/Than spend one more minute with you.”
7. Patty PerShayla, “The Horror” – Local superstar Patty PerShayla has definitely broadened her musical offerings over the years. When she started, she definitely wore her horror influences on her sleeve. For instance, the song “The Horror.” It uses spooky metaphors to musically explore relationships, which are often incredibly scary. This continues to be my favorite song of hers and one that you should crank up during the Halloween season.
8. Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos, “The Devil” – Richard Edwards is one of the greatest living songwriters, and this is especially clear on this tune. Along with his great lyrics, his compositions are some of my favorites. A majority of his songs explore and challenge preconceived notions of “evil,” which is at the forefront of this track. The chorus is basically just Edwards yelling, “I’m not afraid of the devil,” and it’s incredibly convincing.
9. Twin Temple, “I Am a Witch” – A satanic doo-wop group (described as “the wickedest band in the world”). And they are the real deal, musically and theologically. As mentioned, something about doo wop has a unsettling, eerie feel. Twin Temple uses this to great effect. On “I Am a Witch,” singer Alexadra James praises the feminine divine, but does so with plenty of good ol’ fashion freaky feelings and horror-blazed affectations.
10. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, “This Is How We Do Things In the Country” – You can’t beat a good murder ballad. These historically rich musical expressions can make your Halloween season better. And there’s no better band to do this than Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. The Denver-based collective mixes goth, country and rock with literary influences such as Flannery O’Connor and Stephen King. The result is some of the best music you’ll ever hear.
BONUS TRACKS: Do check out Jack and the Bear’s “Gruesome Gruesome” series, Murder by Death, The Damned, Blood Ceremony, and of course, anything by Alice Cooper.
LOCAL SPINS 2021 HALLOWEEN PLAYLIST: Stovepipe’s Most Sinister Top 10 on Spotify
Copyright 2021, Spins on Music LLC