Wednesday 13 of the Murderdolls, Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, and his namesake band has been bringing his own unique brand of horror metal to the masses for 20 plus years. Wednesday is currently on tour and blazing a macabre trail across the United States ahead of his new album Horrifier.
In celebration of Horrifier, The Duke of Spook was good enough to sit down with us. We discussed Chuck Norris, Wednesday’s horror roots, and what he thinks of the contemporary music industry. The exchange below has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Wicked Horror: So your new album Horrifier is coming out on October 7th on Napalm Records. The new single Insides Out is super heavy, so what can fans expect of this next album?
Wednesday 13: You know, I’m trying to set the scene up with the video so far, so with Hideous and Insides Out, visually they are little mini horror movies. The 3 singles you’ll hear before the album comes out, you’ve heard 2 so far, the next one is Good Day to Be a Bad Guy. So those are the 3 that I thought represented best what is on this record, without giving it away too much. So those are the 3 songs that stuck out to me as being ones, you know, that are most memorable. There is a lot of good songs on the record, I love them all. But it’s weird you have to pick a couple, you know, for the singles. So with those songs, I think when you hear that, you’ll get a good idea of what the record’s like. I don’t think we went too experimental on it. I think we kind of stuck to what we’ve been doing. To me, I think some stuff we did like Bad Guy, and maybe Halfway to the Grave, even has some old, earlier Wednesday 13 influences from the first couple of albums. And that’s probably because I actually wrote a lot of the guitar stuff on some of these songs. I haven’t done that in a while. So whenever I do write something like Haddonfield or Hideous, it just instantly has a Wednesday 13 kind of classic sound I guess. Classic Wednesday.
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WH: You are on the 20 Years of Fear tour, this is the second leg. What possessed you guys to want to come back and crisscross the U.S. again on a second leg?
W13: The reaction was so good the first time. We had been off of tour for 2-years with COVID. It’s impossible to tour the United States and hit everything in one swoop the way everybody likes. So, a lot of people complained “you didn’t play here, you didn’t play here” so here we are again. I still got people going “you didn’t play here, you didn’t play here!” This tour right now, were basically hitting all the spots we didn’t hit last time, or getting kind of close to it and celebrating 20-years, I call it 20 Years of Fear, it’s been longer than that if I really wanted to get into it. Murderdolls were 20-years ago this year. And that was when everything changed for me. That’s when I quit my day job and started doing this full time. There has been so much done in these 20-years. You know, Wednesday 13 was created in that 20-years. We’re on the 9th (Wednesday 13) album, 2 Murderdolls, 3 Bourbon Crow’s, Gunfire ’76, and before all that, you got 4 or 5 Drag Queen albums. So it’s a lot of stuff. The past couple of tours, we’ve been mainly playing a lot of the newer material, so it was fun to go out last time and play a bunch of older songs that people hadn’t heard in a while, and have the show stripped down and not be a big theatrical thing like I’ve been doing before. We’re kind of continuing that on this run as well. It’s not exactly the same. I changed the set up. I think this set list is a little darker, a little heavier, but it’s still got a mix of everything. You’ll also get to hear the 3 new singles as well.
WH: To piggyback off that, with such a vast career that has gone on 20-years plus, how hard is it to whittle down a set list?
W13: It’s the worst thing in my life. I hate it. There is about 4 or 5 songs on the set list I want to play every night, but then we’re playing for over 2-hours. Luckily this time, I picked, right now, I think… I’m looking at the set list as I’m talking, it’s on the wall over there. I think its 20 songs in the set list. And that’s the most songs we’ve played in a set in a while. I’m like “why is that because last time we played like 16 or 17 in the same amount of time?” I started looking at the songs we were playing, like some of these songs are the 3 and 4 minute songs. On the past tours, we were doing some of the ones that were longer, that took 5 or 6 minutes. You’re getting a lot more music on this one then I think, the last one. At least 3 or 4 extra songs. We changed the set up from last time as well. It’s not completely different, but there are certain songs we have to play or people get mad.
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WH: Your last album, Necrophaze which came out in 2019, I had read you had gotten sober around then. Congratulations on that, that’s amazing! Being in a band that always seems to be on the road, how hard is it to stick to that with always being out and being in that environment?
W13: For me, when I stopped in 2019, basically I was the drinker guy. I wasn’t a drug guy, smoke weed. I just got really depressed and I kind of let the booze get the best of me there, and I quit. And when you say “Oh I quit drinking” and then people say “you’re sober, you’re sober.” I still smoke weed, so to some people that’s not considered sober. But for me, I had to realize what was bothering me, and drinking was something at the time that was bad for me. But to answer your question how hard is it? It’s no harder than being at home and wanting to drink, I mean you’re surrounded by it, but there is so much going on during the day to keep me busy. I look back at videos of me when I would go onstage and be drunk, out of shape and not into it. I don’t want to ever look or sound like that again. So that’s the motivation of not wanting to do it. I don’t like to use the term sober too much, just because I still smoke weed. I love my weed. That’s why my nickname is Weedsday. I know some people have a problem with it, I don’t so far. I also didn’t start smoking until I was like 33. I waited, like some people will try it, I never even tried it. So that’s why it is still new to me.
WH: Horror is obviously a huge inspiration. What led little Wednesday 13 down the macabre trail and embrace horror? What was it that got you into it?
W13: It was in front of me instantly. I’m basically a television kid. I’m a kid that sat in front of the TV where your mom would say, “you’re gonna go blind, you’re too close to the TV.” Which everyone is doing that with their phones now, everybody is going blind, so it’s true. But no, I was a TV kid. I loved cartoons and I would sit in front of the TV during my time growing up. Just the way they broadcast stuff on TV would be Munsters, Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker Show, Addams Family, Munsters again. So the monster aspect thing of it, I was always intrigued in it. I collected G.I. Joe’s and all kinds of toys. They had all the Universal Monsters’ figures and I would make G.I. Joe fight Dracula. So it’s always been kind of a thing for me. As I grew up, I got to grow up watching all these great horror films. I saw Creepshow when it first came out on cable and debuted on HBO. I had to have been 7years old. I shouldn’t have been watching it. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, all the movies I watched at an early age. I won’t say my parents let me watch them, it was one of those things, they went to bed and I watched the movies. Watch them all night. We had an illegal HBO/Cinemax hook up in the early ‘80’s. Anything that was on, I just watched it. I was infatuated. I lived in the country. I didn’t really have anybody near me my age to play with, so I was really in my own head and imagination. Seeing movies and entertainment like that appealed to me. Once I started making music and learned how to play guitar, listening to bands I like, I’m like “alright I’m gonna write my own songs”.
Most people say write what you know about. What do I know about? And that’s why all my bands have always been that sort. I really went straight for it with Frankenstein Drag Queens, Murderdolls and Wednesday 13. It’s all I know about. And I’m pretty well knowledged on it. I grew up on it, still growing up on it. The ‘70’s and ‘80’s is my genre man, it’s my favorite. My favorite music, that’s what I try to carry on with in my sound and image. My favorite bands were Alice Cooper, KISS, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P. and that’s what I do in my own way. I try to carry it on in that same spirit or imagery. Everything is just influenced by those two decades.
WH: What is the most underrated horror film of all time?
W13: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I can answer that. But, I will tell you a film that came off horror as a kid. Terrified me in the early days of watching cable. I was a huge Chuck Norris fan when I was a kid. This was before Chuck Norris went into fucking Walker, Texas Ranger, which I think ruined it for me. There is a movie that he did in 1981/1982 called Silent Rage. I don’t know who the fucking director of this was, he obviously loved Halloween, but he somehow worked Chuck Norris into this plot. It’s about a guy who basically, this guy fucking hacks his lady up with an axe. Like way worse than Jack Nicholson ever would, like almost in The Shining. Chuck Norris goes to the house, shoots the guy. He’s dead. He goes to the hospital, and it’s like some new age hospital, like futuristic kind of hospital. The doctor decides to put this serum in this guy and makes him invincible. He comes back at night, and he’s after his doctor and he’s chasing people down and he can’t be killed. Like it’s creepy. There is one scene where the guy is laying on a table, and they take a scalpel and cut his chest open. Then it just closes back and he does not talk. He’s creepy. His name is John Kirby, and to me, that guy was as terrifying as Michael Myers. He’s tall and lanky and it’s all in the dark. Just imagine a horror movie that Chuck Norris gets to kick the fuck out of people in. And it’s got a great soundtrack! It’s all synth. This guy was really influenced by John Carpenter and somehow made a cool movie. So that’s my most underrated, what I call a horror movie, that people should know about. You can find it everywhere, it’s great. It’s got some cheese in it, but I like a little bit of cheese on my movies.
WH: Out of all your songs which one is your favorite to perform live? Do you have a favorite?
W13: At the moment, just because playing something new is fun, today we did a sound check and we played our new song Insides Out. That’s my favorite one to play right now. Just because we’ve worked on it for a year-and-a-half, you know, recording it, hearing it in the studio. I just always imagine what it will sound like when we play. Can we make it sound as good as the record? And it just comes off like Godzilla’s dick swinging. It’s just so heavy and so easy for me to sing and it just pummels. I can feel it every night, and people who don’t know the song are just like “whoa!” Some people say this is the heaviest song that you’ve put out and I’m like “I don’t think that’s true”. It’s definitely got a heavy theme to it. When I listen to a song like that, for someone to go, “That doesn’t sound like Wednesday 13, that’s too heavy!”, when I first heard KISS do God of Thunder, I didn’t know that was KISS. Like it was so heavy. It was mean. When I heard Twisted Sister do Captain Howdy and Were Not Gonna Take It, I was like “this is the same band doing “Burn in Hell?” So that’s how I approach that song. That was when those bands made a heavier thing and it’s simple, it’s heavy. It’s the heaviest song we have that’s not like full on metal. It just makes you wanna move your head! It’s that head banger!
WH: A lot of your songs, obviously we talked about this a little bit ago, your horror influences. You have songs like Carol Ann, Haddonfield, American Werewolves in London and now your new album Horrifier has a track called Return to Haddonfield. How do you decide which films will get the Wednesday 13 treatment and is there any particular way you decide?
W13: It’s always random. The last couple of records I tried to steer away from trying to write about certain movies. Just because I feel like I had covered everything before. But on this album, we were writing the music and I always try to come up with some of the music first. So Return to Haddonfield I had the music. I’m playing acoustic guitar sitting on my couch, and it’s around Halloween, and they are showing all of the Halloween movies over and over again. I’ve always been a big fan of those. So I’m just playing guitar and I was singing the chorus. At first it was just going to be a Halloween song. Just about Halloween, not necessarily the movie. Then I started watching it and I was like, “man I fucking love these first 2 movies. They are so good!” And I was thinking I’ve already wrote a song about Haddonfield but what if I make a Return to Haddonfield?! I used a couple of the lines and lyrics from that, so if you’re familiar with that song and you hear this, you’ll love it because it’s a sequel to it. It’s kind of fun. I did that with my Screwdriver song, I called it Screwdriver 2. I don’t know many bands that do that. Metallica did Unforgiven 2, but that’s the only one I can think of right now doing a part 2 to one of their songs. It’s a different way to approach, and for the people who have heard that song, it’s one of their favorites on the record. So,if you love Michael Myers and Halloween, then it’s ear candy.
WH: Your stage shows are very visual with masks and props. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration for some of your stage show?
W13: Looking around the room and seeing what’s not nailed to the floor most of the time. Like I said, I kind of toned down like the mask stuff. I did it in the video and I was doing that for a couple of years. But like I said, I’ve toned back a little bit of the crazy theatrics because I get bored sometimes. Sometimes I wanna do it and sometimes I don’t wanna do it. But, I still have my costume changes, and still have my “FUCK” umbrella, which is like my Thor hammer. Most of the time ideas are out of boredom, something I’ll see on TV, like the umbrella thing. That’s kind of a thing I’m known for. The original idea of that came from watching Wile E Coyote cartoons. He had an umbrella and lightning hit it and he’s sitting there with the fucking guts of it, smoke coming out, and that’s what I used to do. I did this in like 1995. I used to come out with my old band, I would come out onstage and just have an umbrella that basically looked like it was a bit burnt. And it looked cool you know. We were on tour with Murderdolls supporting Papa Roach, during that nu-metal kind of thing in the middle of Europe, and the audience just was not into us. We were like “how can we rile them up?” There was an umbrella in the corner, and I was like, “what if I just write FUCK on that thing? That’d be a cool little thing to walk around. You know, bad luck having an umbrella indoors, I’m alright with that”. We started doing that every night, and that’s how we won the crowd. So it’s literally little ideas, bored, sitting around. It could be from movies, cartoons, it could just be anything. There is no formula for what I do. I wish there was, it’d be a lot easier to do, like “oh let’s start here” and literally just looking around the room. Someone asked me about Dead in Hollywood, because it’s the 20-year anniversary of the Murderdolls, like “How did you write the lyrics to that?” I’m looking around my room, I lived in my parents’ house, I was 18 or 19 when I wrote that song. I’m playing like [mouths guitar riff] look over and there’s a Frankenstein poster. “Hey Frankenstein” and then there’s Dracula. Dracula I heard you suck. Oh cool that works! Look around, there’s Vincent Price! Dr. Phibes! It was literally looking around my room at posters and I was like “cool, I’ll write a song about all my favorite dead people from movies and stuff”. It turned out good. Stupid ideas like that, work for me.
WH: You’ve been in this business over 20-years, so from when you first got into it, until now, how has the industry changed?
W13: Fucking sucks. It’s always sucked. It just sucks in new ways now. I don’t know who has said this before, but I got into music to be in a rock and roll band. I didn’t want to be in the rock and roll business. But unfortunately you have to play that card game with everybody. And for me, what record deal number am I’m on at this point, you know? I’ve been through the indies, I went through Roadrunner, I’ve been on Nuclear Blast, and now we’re on Napalm. It’s not necessarily the label’s fault, the industry changes and people download everything now. Nobody wants physical product anymore, so that’s another thing. I think that’s the biggest thing, the bands use to get big money to go record. Now they don’t even get a quarter of that money and then their music is allowed to be downloaded for like pennies. And they say well that’s just how it is! Don’t make it right. I love it that my music is available for people to stream but for me, if I love a band, I’m still a nerd for a lot of bands, I buy their physical product. I buy their t-shirts. If I listen to it on a streaming thing, I am still supporting them by buying. There are some people who don’t do anything except listen. They miss out on a band like us that has such a visual thing to offer, especially with our album covers artwork. It’s just as important as the music. Just imagine listening to Halloween the movie or watching it, you know what I mean? It’s a lot better to be watching it.
WH: If you could go back, is there any advice that you would give yourself 20 years ago, or even to any up and coming musicians now?
W13: If you want to get into the rock and roll business, being in a band or working for a band, the things that I didn’t know back then, I was doing day jobs and stuff for years before I did the Murderdolls. If I would’ve known what I know now, I would have been on tour right out of high school. Working with a band setting stuff up, learning, making those connections while still doing my band. And believe me, there are so many bands looking for eager people to go out on the road. You don’t have to be a professional to go out with a band. And you can make money and travel, and that’s the best experience you can get. I don’t care what kind of education, college degree, you got, “wow you do fucking math?” Travel the world and learn to be a citizen of the world. Give respect to everywhere you go and that’s the best education you can get. That’s how I learned everything, by being in a rock band and going out and touring the world seeing people and meeting them. That would be the advice I give. You don’t have to go to work at McDonald’s or wherever. If you want to do that, fine. You don’t have to wait until you’re in a band to go experience touring. You could be a merchandise person. Bands always need eager people. And once you’ve learned something and you’re good at it, you’re a professional at it. I didn’t really know that. Let’s just say I wanted to stop playing music, I’d be a great booking agent or tour manager, I learned all this shit from music you know? Music is my be all end all for life and I’m glad I never lost sight of that.
WH: And my final question is probably the most important. Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
W13: Yes. Absolutely. I always watch it around Christmas time.
You can keep up with the Duke of Spook himself on Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, and Twitter. Be sure to catch Wednesday 13 and the rest of the ghoulish gang on the 20 Years of Fear tour, haunting a city near you.