Q&A: Axeslasher’s Justin Lascelle on Gory Video for “FRIDAY THE 13TH”-inspired “The Drifter’s Warning”
Axeslasher vocalist/guitarist Justin Lascelle doesn’t mince words when FANGORIA queries him on the impetus behind the “splatter thrash” band’s roiling, raucous beast of a debut, ANTHOLOGY OF TERROR, VOL. 1: “By horror fans for horror fans.”
“The entire thing is homage to evil, gore, and sexy camp counselors,” Lascelle adds. “If you like razor sharp riffs, bone-shaking low end, and unashamedly dirty vocals, this EP is going to be your new favorite shit.”
FANGORIA readers will, of course, determine the latter for themselves—a free download of ANTHOLOGY OF TERROR is currently available via the Axeslasher Bandcamp page—but as to the former, the video for the FRIDAY THE 13TH-inspired track “The Drifter’s Warning” should prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lascelle and co. are hardly lazy dilettantes when it comes to dishing out true genre love…
FANGORIA: So this track hearkens back to Ralph from FRIDAY THE 13TH, right?
JUSTIN LASCELLE: Ralph was certainly the main inspiration for the track, but on a larger level I felt like “The Drifter’s Warning” was one of the last horror tropes to be honored in song. I’m a big believer in the power of the riff, so I tend to write music before lyrics. I want the song to bang as hard as it can without vocals before I even attempt to shape the message. Anyway, the inspiration for “The Drifter’s Warning” came to me one night when I was watching FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES after smoking a mountain of hash. I was feeling analytical and started writing down the key elements of a good slasher: prior evil tied to a specific location, unlikable teenagers offered for slaughter, a kick ass villain, and of course an old crazy drifter that warns the unlikable teens about the prior evil and cursed area. I realized there hadn’t really been an ode to the drifter, so I started basing the lyrics around that idea. The drifter’s warning is usually the point of no return for our young ‘protagonists.’ If the teens actually heeded the drifter’s warning they’d save themselves a lot of trouble, but then we wouldn’t get to watch them ripped limb from limb and really who wants to watch a movie like that?
FANG: The clip has kind of a carnival of horrors vibe to it, so obviously you wanted to do something not-so-literal.
LASCELLE: Correct. I actually hate when a band makes a video that tries to shape how you’re supposed to perceive the song. To me, the song and the video are two separate pieces of art. The song tells one story; the video tells another using the song for pacing. The guys and gals at Hivemind Films came up with this concept of a bunch of rich assholes sitting around and unleashing zombies on an unsuspecting group for sport and ran with it.
FANG: That said, it’s a very stylized bit, so…did you draw on any particular films for inspiration?
LASCELLE: While not an 80s slasher, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL—1959 not 1999, goddamnit!—is clearly a main inspiration with a little bit of DAWN OF THE DEAD thrown in for good measure. The next one will have a decidedly slasher vibe to it….
FANG: Do you recall which horror films and/or albums first sparked your interest in the genre?
LASCELLE: FRIDAY THE 13TH scared the ever-living piss out of me as a kid. The USA network used to run a marathon of the series every Friday the 13th and I can remember very clearly not being allowed to watch it, or any other horror movies as a kid. As these things often go, I was staying over at a friend’s house one Friday the 13th and his dad put the marathon on. I was shocked and glued to the set. It was almost like I had never even considered that a being could exist only to kill. I was fucking terrified at first, but I couldn’t stop looking. From then on I was hooked on horror. I watch the FRIDAY THE 13TH series every year to this day. I’m lucky enough to live with a beautiful woman who also enjoys leading a spooky lifestyle, so between her and I, we’re always alternating between old classic horror, 80s slashers, 90s teen scream, and 70s exploitation.
As far as albums go, you’d be hard pressed to look at our band and then look at Ghoul and not draw some comparisons. SPLATTER THRASH and WE CAME FOR THE DEAD are huge inspirations to me personally—the music, the imagery, the back story. They have such a rich mythology. I can’t get enough Ghoul! Early 2000s Razorback Records also get constant play from me. Splatterhouse, Frightmare, Engorged. Goddamn, I love thrash about killing people!
FANG: As a band of old school horrorheads, how psyched were you guys to have a video set with all these practical effects and old school gore flying around?
LASCELLE: Man, any time you get to be on set is a treat…especially if there’s babes and blood involved. I was actually pretty hands-off with the shoot, though. When it comes to art, I like to let people I work with run with whatever concept they think is best. I think that’s how you get the best work from someone creatively. As an artist myself, I know how easily inspiration can be killed by a client asking for changes so I didn’t want to be the guy looking at dailies going “We need more TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE HERE, there isn’t enough Troma there.” They were free creatively and really went for it and nailed it.
FANG: There’s a lot of nutty shit going on during the live show that is woven in and out of the video narrative.
LASCELLE: That footage is from [the] Denver Black Sky [festival]. We were one of the earlier acts in the night and I really knew we’d have to make a fucking spectacle because there were so many incredible bands on that bill. We started the set by pushing some meathooks into the back skin of this crazy fucker from New Mexico and then suspended him from a lighting truss over the mosh pit. As soon as he was up we started the set and I started spraying blood all over the crowd from what basically amounts to a supersoaker with a severed head attached to it. I hadn’t actually tested the blood canon before that moment so I had no idea how far it would fire. To my grisly delight I was able to spray people all the way in the back of the crowd as well as up on the second level balcony. No one was safe! Not even the guy suspended from his back skin! I was able to hit him in the face and mouth with a geyser of blood from the stage. I think people were a little hesitant to mosh under him at first because they were fearful his skin would give out and he’d fall thirty feet on top of them… But they eventually warmed up and gave us an incredible, blood soaked and slippery pit for the whole set.
FANG: Any plans for a follow-up?
LASCELLE: Absolutely. I knew those guys were talented, but I had no idea we’d get something this fucking cool. I can’t wait to start the next one with them. “The Axeslasher” off of ANTHOLOGY OF TERROR VOL. 1 is just begging to be made into a gore-soaked slasher video.