Interview With V.H.S. : Canadian Horror Metal Band, Violent Homicidal Slasher

I am a self-described underground horror fan, foodie, craft beer enthusiast and death metal freak, so I was thrilled beyond imagining when I got the chance to interview Mike Hochins from Canadian metal band Violent Homicidal Slasher (AKA V.H.S. – check out my review of their album, A Very Merry VHS Xmas here) to find out what gruesome shit these guys are made of and what makes them tick.

PopHorror: How was V.H.S. conceived?

Mike Hochins: It all started with a bloody ritual one full moon… just kidding. Andy, James and I were playing together to do a Gwar cover set, of all things. We really enjoyed playing together, and my wife threw out the idea of keeping jamming with them and doing a horror movie-themed band. I’ve been a fan of horror movies for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always really dug horror-influenced metal, so it seemed like a great idea. I wrote a few songs, and everything came together very quickly and was a lot of fun. We threw those first few demo songs up online, and the response was better than we anticipated. So we ran with it. Two full lengths, two EPs and a bunch of splits later, and we are still going strong!

PopHorror: The band’s obvious sole inspiration is horror films. What are some of the current and past favorite films horror – or even non-horror – you guys have been watching?

Mike HochinsI have my moments when I really stay away from newer horror, but I have actually been watching some lately, and strangely enough, I’ve been enjoying the movies I’ve watched. Just watched Terrifier the other day, and it was super fun and super gory. Can never go wrong with a killer clown slicing and dicing people. Also went to see The Meg in theaters, and it was a lot of fun. Could have benefited from a bit more gore and an R rating, but was enjoyable nonetheless. As far as older movies go, my favorites are changing all of the time.

Night of the Demons, Graduation Day, Slaughter High, Not of This Earth, Return to Horror High and Night of the Creeps, I’ve watched in the last little while and loved every minute of them. Some of my all time favorites are The Beyond, Evil Dead 2, Phantasm 2, The Monster Squad, Robocop, Braindead, Tenebre, Deep Red, Suspiria, Friday the 13th 6: Jason Lives, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Madman, An American Werewolf in London and about a million more.

PopHorror: There has been a collaboration with V.H.S. and indie underground horror filmmaker Brad Twigg (Wrestlemassacre 2018, Killer Campout 2017, Frames of Fear 2 2017), where you’ve recorded songs for Wrestlemassacre and Killer Campout. The song “From The Scrapyard To The Graveyard” from Killer Campout is featured on your latest full length album, The New Batch. Explain how you guys got hooked up with doing stuff for Twigg.

Mike Hochins: It’s been a long time since I started talking to Brad, so I don’t remember the exact details. It was through Facebook, and I think we just started talking about music and horror movies. I’ve always wanted to do some songs for a horror movie, and it came about that we wrote “Wrestlemassacre” for Frames of Fear 2. Next up, we did “From the Scrapyard to the Graveyard” for Killer Campout, and I think this song definitely came together to be something cool. It was our first music video, and it also features Dave Ingram on guest vocals.

PopHorror: The band is originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Explain the metal scene there. Is it supportive or relatively non-existent? Ontario is really bringing some great bands to life, such as Existential Dissipation, Blood Of Christ and Ruptured Birth. I’ve also been digging stuff by Blastomycosis, Fumigation, Deity, Archspire, Abused, Human Compost… It seems many come in, and unfortunately, just don’t hang around for a long period of time. Share with us some of your favorite Canadian death/grind bands and what we should be checking out.

Mike Hochins: Thunder Bay has a strong music scene for sure, but the metal portion is a bit hit or miss. We have had some killer bands that come through town, but show attendance is sometimes lacking. I appreciate any and all hometown support, but have always looked way past the borders of our city for promoting V.H.S. Canada has always been a hotbed for metal, and right now, it is really thriving. Definitely a big fan of a lot of the bands you mentioned. Blastomycosis, Blood of Christ, Human Compost, and Brain Spasm are all favorites. G.O.D. is a killer grindcore band. Their last full length, Body Horror, was amazing. Tomb Mold is really blowing up right now, and they are well deserving of all the attention. Really enjoying Acid Cross as well. They just released a full length called Murder Manor earlier this year, and it’s an awesome album of black metal-tinged thrash but with more than a few nods to Motorhead.

PopHorror: I first heard about V.H.S. when you released the Christmas E.P. A Very V.H.S. Christmas, and I was instantly floored. Christmas material was something that was definitely needed. A solid death/grind Christmas themed album is something still relatively untapped in the scene, and one that uses Christmas horror films like Jack Frost, Gremlins, and Don’t Open Till Christmas is better yet. What was your inspiration to do Christmas material?

Mike Hochins: I forget how the exact idea to do the XMas EP came about. I think I wanted to do a Christmas song, and then I kind of got carried away and ended up writing an entire EP worth of material. I’m sure some of the inspiration came from Frightmare, as they have a Christmas-themed song on both full lengths that they’ve released. They are one of my all time favorite bands.

Putting the EP together was a lot of fun. I always like our songs to focus on the fun B-movie side of horror as opposed to being gross and shocking, and this release definitely let me have a lot of fun. I’ve always been a fan of movies that take place in a certain season, and horror movies are just better when they are set in the fall or at Christmas time. I’m definitely glad that you enjoyed the EP! I was a bit apprehensive that people just wouldn’t get it. I thought there would be a bunch of hardcore metal guys raising their eyebrows and laughing at the idea of a Christmas-themed EP, but the reaction has been awesome.

PopHorror: What is next for V.H.S.? Are you touring or have any upcoming material in the works?

Mike Hochins: No touring plans right now or probably ever, unfortunately. We are looking at setting up a few more local shows before the end of the year, though. Lots of new material in the works right now! Finishing up a split with Abhorrent Funeral which will be released on Give Praise Records on CD. Also finishing up a three way split with Organ Trail and Goremonger, which will be a released on CD by Dirty Needle Records. We are also finalizing the songs for splits with Oxygen Destroyer and Offal, which will be released next year. A couple of other splits are in the works as well, but nothing we can announce just yet. We are also doing a tape version of the Xmas EP later this year as well. I guess I’ll also start working on writing for a third full length one of these days as well. I definitely like to stay busy, and this year has been insanely busy for the band, as far as releases go.

PopHorror: I’d love to see a full film soundtrack done by you guys. I think that would be a great idea, especially since you specialize in horror death metal. It could only be pure gold. Has there been any thought put into this? Maybe hook up with Twigg and do a CD soundtrack that could be included with the film?

Mike HochinsThis is definitely something I’ve thought about doing, and I actually did plan to do some instrumental tracks at one point in time, but it just didn’t come together. I think it would be a lot of fun to try and see what we could come up with. I’m a huge fan of Frizzi and Carpenter and would love to take a crack at doing something heavy yet creepy and soundtrack-like. Slasher Dave actually does an amazing job writing horror soundtrack-type material and would definitely be someone I’d look to for some inspiration. Goblin would be something that would definitely end up being an influence as well. I think I’ll need to spend a week watching a bunch of Fulci, Argento and Carpenter flicks and just see what it inspires me to write. Having that style mixed with death metal riffs could be something really cool, I think.

PopHorror: Since you guys are Canadian and love horror movies, what are some of your favorite horror/canuxploitation films? Shivers Entertainment from Canada just did a crazy double Blu-ray release of an unheard of Canadian zombie gem titled Yesterday, which was shot in 16mm and looks promising. Severin did a legit Blu of The Changeling. Then we have stuff like Massacre Up North, Little Devils, Urban Flesh, Cathy’s Curse, Meat Market, End Of The Line, Turbo Kid, Deadline, Necromance,Self Defense, Death Weekend… Some of my favorites! (laughs)

Mike Hochins: Definitely a big fan of Canadian horror but embarrassingly enough, I’m not that familiar with a lot of newer Canadian horror flicks. I’m definitely a big fan of The Changeling. I just watched it a week or so ago actually. Deadline is great as well. Bought that a very long time ago on VHS and loved it. Then there are the usual suspects like My Bloody Valentine, Visiting Hours, Black Christmas, Curtains… I’m actually a really big fan of the Ginger Snaps series as well. The first movie was definitely the strongest, but all three are worth checking out. Pontypool was a pretty great surprise when that came out… a definitely different take on the zombie genre. I also recently watched Dead Shack, which also took the zombie genre in a different direction and had some cool gore.

PopHorror: Is V.H.S. a project you can see yourselves doing for a long time? Do you think the band would ever take another direction in style, or is horror where all of your hearts are firmly planted? What do you think of other bands which have used this similar aesthetic such as the most famous being Mortician who are pretty hot on the meme scene right now it seems! (laughs) Bands like Gruesome Stuff Relish, Gruesome or past bands such as Frightmare or Impetigo. What are some of your current favorite horror inspired death metal bands?

Mike Hochins: I definitely see V.H.S. existing for as long as humanly possible honestly. Even when we had some lineup issues and people taking breaks, I still kept the band alive by collaborating and using drum programming. So, one way or another, the band will keep going in the future. I really don’t foresee us changing direction anytime soon as far as the horror theme goes. It’s what we started with and it really has been a lot of fun to write lyrics and music about some of my favorite movies.

As far as other horror-themed bands, I really can’t get enough. Mortician, Impetigo and Frightmare/Blood Freak are huge inspirations and pretty much the reason this band exists. Gruesome Stuff Relish is another favorite, and I’m really into Gruesome as well. Been a huge Exhumed fan for years, and I always keep up with Matt Harvey’s other projects. Current bands that I am into that are horror inspired would be Squirm from the UK, Gore Shriek, Offal from Brasil, Oxygen Destroyer, Cardiac Arrest, Organ Trail, Cropsy Maniac, and FKU, who just brought out a brilliant album called 1981, all about horror movies released in 1981. I’m sure there are others, but that’s all my brain can think of right now.

PopHorror: You guys do some great lyric videos to accompany your songs, my favorite was for “The Mutilator,” but I can’t seem to find the video anymore on YouTube. The video for “Grizzly” was equally as cool. How do you feel about the change of modern media to online sources such as YouTube, Spotify and Bandcamp as opposed to hard format such as cassettes, vinyl and CDs? Do you find modern media helps the band more to get exposed easier or do you feel it also hurts the band by making it easier for people to bootleg the material?

Mike Hochins: I’m definitely a big fan of physical media, but I’m also not oblivious to the fact that bands need to try to stay current with new ways to help promote and get the name out there. In a perfect world, if everyone that checked out something on YouTube or Spotify, and then bought a physical copy of said release, bands would probably be in a somewhat better place. That being said, some people just don’t want a physical copy anymore. For those people, everything imaginable is a button press away. Both of our full lengths have been on torrent sites before the albums were even released, so if someone wants to bootleg it, it’ll happen, no matter what you release or what formats or mediums you use.

Does a torrent even count as a bootleg anyway? I’m not entirely sure, but at the end of the day, I’m just happy that people are listening. We are a small band, so it doesn’t hurt us much at all. “The Mutilator video was actually taken down after I received an email from the lawyer of the director of The Mutilator, Buddy Cooper. The gist is that we didn’t have permission to use the footage and needed to take down the video. I did end up corresponding with Buddy Cooper, and in the end, he was fine with us using the footage. Honestly, I’ve been meaning to re-upload the video, but just got sidetracked promoting the new album and working on material for splits. I’ll get it back up again soon.

PopHorror wants to thank Mike Hochins for chatting with us. Stay tuned for more reviews of upcoming V.H.S. releases, as well as all of your horror news, reviews and interviews!

About Richard Taylor

Avid gore/horror/underground/brutal death metal/comic fiend. Got into the good stuff in the nineties by tape trading the likes of Violent Shit, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Apocalypse, The Beyond, Guinea Pig series, Men Behind The Sun etc. Have written for a bunch of sites some now defunct and some still going such as Violent Maniacs Cage, ZFE Films With Attitude, Mortado's Pages Of Filth, Severed Cinema, Goregasmic Cinema, Extreme Horror Cinema and Twisted Minds.

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