Ash Rothschild of Graveyard Rockstars: "I still can’t believe how much fun I’m having and how much I still enjoy it all!''

Shock punk horror rock with fun times and decent tunes...

Lately I’ve been involved with quite a bit of ‘shock rock’ in one form or another and as a result I’d supped my fill of the spookiness that permeates the genre and so I was a tad apprehensive about interviewing Sydney’s horror rockers the Graveyard Rockstars front-man Ash Rothschild. Would I be able to maintain an air of positivity when the faux cobwebs were choking the life out of me? Luckily a quick spin of their 2014 debut Doomsday put me in a better frame of mind; it’s punchy, groove-laden and full of chunky guitars – and there’s not a plastic vampire bat or hairy werewolf glove in sight, just honest to goodness fat tunes to get down to.

We immediately launch into a discussion about both the music and the line-up revisions with Ash pointing out that “We put a couple of things out when we first started and then we kind of started again because the guitarist and myself put together a new line-up and we just ditched all our old songs and wrote a whole new bunch.” I did note that on the album M.Ripper is credited with lead guitar but he’s noticeably absent from the line-up on your Facebook page. Ash clarifies with “He was with us up until about three or four months ago but he had some family issues that he had to work out so we’ve got a new guy in; Phil Bowley and he’s in a band called Melody Black with Leeno (Dee), the bass player.”

I mention my relief, having listened to Doomsday and mention the glut of spooky horror based stuff that’s come my way of late. Ash laughs, noting that “Most of it is shit, isn’t it?!” before commenting on the general reaction of reviewers. “We’re getting a lot of that reaction [relief] actually; reviewers see the name and see a picture of us and they kind of think the worst! But I think that’s something that we really like because I don’t think we sound anything like you’d think we would.” Yes, there's a kind of Wednesday 13/Manson/Cooper aesthetic but the album has a solid groove to it – particularly with opener Demonatrix. “That’s exactly right. We do like that look and that’s how we kind of started. We were going on that whole ‘horror rock’ thing and while that sounds a bit wanky, we wanted to be true to ourselves and the stuff that we were into musically was more slamming, groove-based, hard heavy rock and metal.”

And Graveyard Rockstars will be supporting Ace Frehley in Sydney and Melbourne during his Australian tour over April and May? “Yeah! It’s pretty awesome! We’ve never played with a Hall of Famer before so that’s pretty cool. We just found out that the Melbourne show is sold out so it’ll be a pretty cool crowd, which is awesome. It’s still pretty amazing to think that we’ll be playing with Ace Frehley – it just spins me out every time I say it!” And what about Graveyard Rockstars own tour? “As soon as we finish the shows with Ace we’ll be doing our own national tour, which starts in June.”

As it turns out, the band were meant to do the support for the whole of Ace’s tour but as Ash sadly points out: “Two of the guys couldn’t get the time off work. One of them is the biggest KISS fan that I’ve ever met so he was absolutely destroyed. When he said he could only do the two shows he was absolutely distraught – I don’t think he’ll ever get over that one.” But he brightens as he adds “But look; one show would’ve been great so two is a bonus!” We get into a huge rumination about the nature of bands having to do day jobs and we look back fondly on our younger days when, as Ash quite rightly points out “When we were younger – I should say when we were young – it was super-easy because you didn’t care and if you couldn’t get the time off you’d just quit your job.” The halcyon days of youth and all that…
I mention the band supporting The Misfits on their 2014 tour and Ash’s voice takes on an awe-filled tone. “Playing with The Misfits was, for me, a massive honour and I’m still spinning out about that – and the fact that there was a Black Flag member in there was the icing on the cake really…”

For his daily bread and butter, Ash runs the School of Rock in Sydney, “trying to pass on a bit of knowledge” to the next generation of musicians, as he puts it. Having been around the traps (Among other things, Ash fronted 90’s band Caligula and enjoyed a relatively large modicum of success and celebrity) are you ever tempted to destroy the hopes, dreams and ambitions of these fresh-faced young one? He laughs. “Sometimes! But a lot of the time I just say ‘Look, I’m 41 years old and I still, to this day, feel like I’m looking through my eyes as a 17 year old when I first started touring. I still can’t believe how much fun I’m having and how much I still enjoy it’ and I say ‘You might find that you do this for a year or you might never stop doing it – it’s a curse and a blessing!’ – anything that you’re passionate about; it never really leaves you. I always thought that perhaps there might come a time when I’d probably get sick of it but you know; my parents thought I’d probably stop dying my hair black and wearing eye-liner and that hasn’t happened yet!”

And after the June tour, what are the band’s plans? “We’ve started demoing a couple of tracks for the next album and we’ve got about three or four songs that we want to get up to scratch so we can throw them into the live set. I don’t know if we’ll have them ready for the Ace shows but when we do our own tour we’ll definitely chuck a couple in.” He teases me by mentioning “There’s another national tour coming up with an international act which hasn’t been announced yet so I won’t bother boring you with who that is.” Ooh! Saucy! And then what? “Then we’re trying to get ourselves to Europe. We were meant to go over there last year but we didn’t have the album out, so there’s talk of getting over there to do the festivals in the European summer and hopefully pop over to the UK while we’re over there. That’s definitely something that we’re really pushing for but it’s all just a matter of timing and money and that kind of stuff…”

I note that the band’s Facebook page lists Louisiana Voodoo, The Satanic Bible, Black Magic and Witchcraft as interests; is that for real or just some more of the band’s spooky aesthetic? He groans and then laughs, saying “I can’t even remember why I wrote that! I hate writing those things! They’re just so ridiculous and of course, you try to write something humourous and the joke wears off after about five seconds…’ So no interest in the occult? Suddenly it gets spooky, for real, as he admits “I do have a long history, as do a couple of the guys in the band, with the occult. Myself, I’ve just dabbled in the darker arts – the other guys are quite into it. I’m quite a staunch atheist so a lot of that stuff I find quite hard to digest but I borrowed a lot from that [the occult] for song-writing. I do find a lot of it very interesting but I do try to avoid a lot of it as it can seem a little too obvious at times…” It is a relief that the band don’t take the easy (read ‘clichéd’) option when it comes to song-writing. “When the band first started, myself and the guitarist, we had an idea that we wanted to start a band that has the look of The Misfits with the pomp of KISS and we wanted the theatrics of everything from Alice Cooper to Manson. Coming from a real punk rock background, the guitarist and I came together to write a dark punk rock thing. We dipped into the occult and vampirism and werewolves and al that kind of stuff, which is all pretty obvious and kind of clichéd, and we hit a brick wall.” He mentions how the band almost had to reimagine themselves and “We kind of thought ‘We’ll leave the name because we’ve started with that’ and it’s a bit camp and bit stupid –and we kind of like that. But when it comes down to the music and lyrical content, it’s probably creeping further and further away from that. I wouldn’t say we’re ‘high camp’ but it’s definitely tongue in cheek and it’s cool for the spectacle. We’re huge fans of the show and I think if you start believing that stuff’s real then you probably should have quit a long time ago. We have a great sense of humour about the whole thing and I think that’s the best way to do it because we really do this for the love and fun of it more than anything else, and you know; if you can’t have a laugh at yourself, who can you have a laugh at?”

Well, that one-legged tramp over there is looking like a pretty good target…