I’ve made no secret of my fandom for The Theatre Zombies in the past. For my money, they are one of the best bands in the genre today, and without a doubt one of the most underrated. You can check out the Stereo Terror review of their album Before Daybreak here filled with praise. And now, I’ve recently had the opportunity to speak with the frontman of the band Rob Harms Belmont, who as you will see with this interview is certainly a different kind of horrorpunk when compared to many of his contemporaries. So without further a due, I am thrilled to present the newest Deadhouse Interview!
Who are you?
Well, my name is Rob Harms Belmont. I am the singer, guitarist, main songwriter and graphic artist for the band The Theatre Zombies. The last name “Belmont” comes from the video game series Castlevania, which I have loved long before I got into horror music.
What is your current project?
The Theatre Zombies has been my band since 2008. We first started in our drummer’s garage in September of that year. We originally had another guitarist and I just sang, but after a few practices we decided we needed to move in a different direction. I have been playing guitar and singing ever since. The Theatre Zombies was first conceived as a joke band, as only our drummer Tommy knew how to play an instrument. We all worked together at the same movie theater. We would joke that there were zombies who lived in the dumpster behind the building. The theater had zombies, hence the name The Theatre Zombies. This was back in 2001 when I was 16. The theater was also definitely haunted. It was in an old building that had abandoned apartments above it.
I always wanted to learn how to play guitar but never got around to it for this reason or that, and it wasn’t until spring of 2008 that my brother, Michael Van Buren, and I went to a local Sam Ash Music. I bought a cheap ass guitar and he got a bass and we set forth on our journey. I had been singing since I was little. I did a lot of school chorus stuff over the years. I even sang the lead as Aladdin in “A Whole New World” at my eighth grade recital. I bought a guitar just to write songs with no intention of playing it on stage, but things change over time. I definitely owe a lot to my bandmates, Mike and Tommy, as there would be no band at all without them and also to our original guitarist Khalid who helped us get started. As for why we became a horror band, it’s really just a merger of things I loved. I liked horror movies, I liked horror video games, I liked horror stories, I liked horror imagery, I liked punk rock & metal music, and I grew up in a small New England town. It just kind of came together that way and that’s where I found my voice.
When and how did you first discover the horrorpunk genre?
I had heard of The Misfits when I was a kid and was scared of them for some reason. I don’t know why but I thought they were some kind of evil band or something. It makes no sense to me now. I have a friend Erik who was really into them and wore Misfits shirts from time to time but I didn’t really think about it. The first actual Misfits song I heard was the Metallica cover of Die Die My Darling, and then Last Caress/Green Hell. I really liked it but still didn’t pursue it. I have never really been into music. I know that’s hard to understand considering I am the front man for a band ha ha. It wasn’t until my brother and I saw the music video for American Psycho on some public access show that we finally went out and bought the album. This was probably around the year 2000ish. Ever since then I really liked The Misfits. I like both the Danzig and Graves eras. I wish the best for Jerry Only, but he has yet to knock it out of the park with any of his songs.
What are some of your favorite bands in the genre?
Well, in my opinion, no one can talk about horrorpunk without bringing up Blitzkid. My personal favorite horror band. I am so glad that I got to see them live a half dozen times and share the stage with them. They gave us one of our first decent shows. At that show I sat with TB and we discussed the Jerry Only Misfits, Blitzkid‘s past and present members and various other things. He was super cool to me even though I was just some random at the time. I have also gotten the chance to talk with Goolsby on multiple occasions and he has always been an awesome dude to me. Every once in a while someone will tell us we sound like Blitzkid, and while that is not our intention, they are definitely an influence, and I take it as a compliment. I still follow Goolsby‘s solo stuff. I’m into it and can’t wait for his full length album.
The only other major horror bands I listen to are Calabrese, Silent Horror and Darrow Chemical Company. As for the other bands of the ex-Misfits, I’ve listened to them all and none of them have really hit the mark for me sadly. I also listen to Stellar Corpses, Kitty In A Casket, Tiger Army and probably some others. Occasionally I’ll hear a song by a band that I like, but the rest of their stuff doesn’t intrigue me.
As for slightly lesser known horror bands that I like, definitely check out The Renfields, The Big Bad, Cavaverman, Children Of October and Eaten Back To Life. And although they only had one release I am aware of Revisited has a really good album.
How about bands outside of the genre?
I basically only listened to Metallica and Weird Al growing up. That’s no joke. I had the Pearl Jam album Ten which I liked as well. The Spin Doctors instantly remind me of being a kid. My brother and I had babysitters who watched MTV constantly so I heard a lot of grunge music as I was a wee lad in the late eighties and early nineties. I listened to Depeche Mode a lot too and some Morrisey. I also listen to a lot of movie soundtrack/ambient music stuff, especially when I draw or do other projects.
As for stuff I listen to nowadays other than the horrorpunk bands I listen to there isn’t a whole lot. I like a couple bands albums here and there but I am not particularly dedicated to any. I like Coheed And Cambria‘s album In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth. I like the band Fair To Midland‘s album Fables From A Mayfly. I like the album Thirteenth Step by A Perfect Circle. I also listen to Type O Negative. I think the only pop music I like is Ellie Goulding.
As for punk bands outside of the horror banner I love The Ramones, who are another huge influence on us, as well as Teenage Bottlerocket. I like Fenix TX, The Lillingtons, Masked Intruder, The Ataris and Green Day‘s album Dookie. I like some stuff by Screeching Weasel and The Queers. Maybe some Cock Sparrer and The Adicts too. I also like RetroWave music or whatever they want to call it. It’s basically eighties sounding synth stuff. Megadrive is my favorite band in that genre currently.
There are a couple of local bands that we play with a lot that we really like such as Cry Havoc (CT), Sadplant, Two Fisted Law, Funzzle and Welter.
What are some of your favorite horror movies?
Talking about movies is always hard for someone who has spent a good chunk of their life working as a movie theater manager and projectionist. It is so hard to narrow down things to a list. I can tell you that I like most of the major seventies/eighties slasher movies. I think the original Halloween is probably my favorite slasher movie of all time. There is something about Michael Myers that really freaked me out as a kid. I was never really afraid of Freddy or Jason. I like A Nightmare On Elm Street parts 1 through 4. I don’t really have any positive feelings about the rest, although I did watch Freddy’s Dead like a million times as a kid. I have seen all of the Friday The 13th movies but none of them really stand out to me.
Vampire Hunter D, which may or may not have inspired Castlevania (my favorite video game franchise) is an awesome movie and book series.
I love Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead and Day Of The Dead. The Evil Dead trilogy. I also thought the Evil Dead remake was pretty solid. Shaun Of The Dead is one of my favorite movies.
Return Of The Living Dead scared me when I was a kid, but now I realize it’s a comedy. American Psycho, which I have also read the hundred times more disturbing book.
I watched The Lost Boys and The Monster Squad on a continuous loop when I was a kid, mainly because they were on the same VHS tape my Mom made. I also like some David Lynch movies.
As an adult I really enjoy silent horror movies. Nosferatu, The Phantom Of The Opera, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and The Man Who Laughs being some of my favorites. I also love the old Univesal monster movies, Bride Of Frankensein being my current favorite. I like Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While I love the concept of werewolves, I’m not sure there is really the definitive werewolf movie. I like An American Werewolf In London, and the pseudo remake An American Werewolf In Paris. I’d like to see a werewolf movie where the wolf is a hero character and not just a mindless beast.
Other movies that are just jumping to mind are John Carpenter’s Vampires and The Thing. From Dusk Till Dawn. Shadow Of The Vampire. Interview With The Vampire. Alien and Aliens (on that note I must mention that I am a huge fan of Metroid and Super Metroid which could be classified as space horror since it was so influenced by Alien. My current best time in Super Metroid is 47 minutes)
Modern horror for the most part hasn’t done anything for me. I thought The Babadook was good, The Conjuring was pretty decent too. At the writing of this I haven’t seen It Follows but I have heard good things.
As for horror TV shows, I watched all of Dexter. I currently watch American Horror Story and The Walking Dead (I also read the comic). I was practically raised on The X Files.
While not a movie, Silent Hill 2 is my favorite horror video game, and it has been a major influence on my music.
How about non-horror movies?
Oh god, this question is impossible. I’ll try to boil it down to movies that I have watched a lot. The Crow jumps to mind. The original Jurassic Park was on in my house probably every day for a once I got it on VHS. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Batman and Batman Returns. Robocop. Honestly most super hero movies I’ll give a shot, with my favorites probably being Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Iron Man, Watchmen, Sin City, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, X-Men 2 and X-Men Days Of Future Past and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’m looking forward to Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. I didn’t really like Man Of Steel though. The Daredevil TV show was really good. I personally think the Daredevil
Director’s Cut is a really underrated movie.
Some more recent movies that I have enjoyed are Whiplash, Gone Girl, Gravity, Birdman, Nightcrawler, No Country For Old Men, Children Of Men, Drive, 300 (and I actually liked the sequel a bit), Inception and The Prestige. I thought Interstellar was cool. Mad Max Fury Road will probably end up being my favorite movie of 2015.
Back To The Future, anything by the Coen Brothers, Beetlejuice, Bill And Ted, Braveheart, Bringing Out The Dead, Kevin Smith movies, The Craft, City Slickers, Dark City, The Departed, Edward Scissorhands, 8MM, Eyes Wide Shut, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, The Fifth Element, Fight Club, Four Rooms, Galaxy Quest, Gangs Of New York, The Goonies, Ghostbusters, The Gate, Hook, the Indiana Jones movies, the original Karate Kid, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, the Mad Max movies, Lost In Translation, The Matrix, Silence Of The Lambs and Red Dragon, Million Dollar Baby, the first four Rocky movies and Rocky Balboa, Minority Report, The Princess Bride, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, The Wrestler, So I Married An Axe Murderer, the original Star Wars trilogy, Super Troopers, the animated Spawn show that aired on HBO, Streets Of Fire, Taxi Driver, Willow, Yellow Submarine and Signs. This list is nowhere near complete but it’s at least a chunk of it.
I watch Game Of Thrones but I am way more a fan of the books. I guess it should be mentioned that I am a huge Dragon Ball nerd.
I also watch pro wrestling and my brother and I are trained wrestlers. We used to wrestle on the indies a long time ago but haven’t really worked consistently since 2007 or 2008.
The Theatre Zombies have been around for quite some time now and have a very solid back catalogue. Do you have a favorite album of song that you have done?
I think our best has yet to come. When The Theatre Zombies first started Mike and I had no experience whatsoever (except my slight singing background). Our drummer Tommy has been playing in punk bands for years but never in a horror/pop punk band. We have grown a lot as musicians over the time that we have been together. I think it is important to stay ambitious and hungry. To try new things and evolve. I would never want to alienate our fanbase, so I don’t think our sound will ever completely change, which I think is a good thing.
We often get asked about The Midnight Run, which was our first real studio effort. I am happy people enjoy that album. We had a blast making it. J.V. Bastard of too many bands to name told me that he liked our sound, but our songs had no substance.
With Before Daybreak I tried to write more songs with personal tones to them. For instance, Lonesome Vampire Tale is about a break up I had. Shattered Memories is about dealing with the death of a loved one. Planet Of The Dead is about my disgust with peoples obsession with technology. What We’ve Become follows a similar theme of walking a path to self ruin.
Before Daybreak is the album that kind of put us on the map for a lot of people. It is sometimes criticized as having a sameness to the songs. I feel like that is really in a lot of ways my fault. I went into the studio with such a seriousness that I didn’t have fun. It felt like work. In a lot of that album was just “good enough”. I will never let that happen again. That album could have been better in my opinion. I am grateful for the doors it opened though and I still love a lot of the songs off of it.
For In Early Mourning we went in with a completely different head on our shoulders. This was the first time that I had recorded a demo version of almost every song on the album before even going into the studio. We spent almost two years working on those songs in our practice space, and even then after recording them we listened to them for a couple of weeks, went back in the studio and changed things and added things to make it even stronger. It was a true labor of love. I am very proud of that album.
Things have been quiet on The Theatre Zombies front for a little while now. You recently announced a new album on Facebook called “A Name Whispered In Fear”. What can fans expect with the new album?
What I hope to achieve with this new album is what I hope every time we go into the studio, which is to better than our last album at the very least from a production standpoint. I always want to push the envelope and create a better overall product. On In Early Mourning we had female backing vocals (provided by the lovely Ashley Ball) for the first time and the inclusion of other instruments outside of the standard guitar/bass/drums. I really want to do more of that. I want to have guest vocalists. More effects, more ambience. I want to set the mood just right. I know the album won’t be finished until we know that we have done all we can.
As for the songs you can expect a fairly good variety ranging from more pop-punk to metal. We definitely haven’t slowed down as blisteringly fast 300BPM songs have kind of become our signature.
Song topics range from medieval themed horror about ancient gods and men, curses and black magic. Teenage lovers lost in a nightmare. Space horror. Serial killers. Being lost at sea. Feeling stuck in life, self-destruction and more.
We plan on going into the studio around March of 2016 with the album being released soon after. We plan on going with our long time producer and friend Tom Gardner (www.riftstudiosnyc.com) to record.
Anything else that you have planned for horror fans in the future?
Honestly I would love to go on a real tour which is something we haven’t done as of yet. We tried to set one up a few years ago but it didn’t come to fruition. Maybe in the coming year we can piggyback our way onto a tour. It’s hard because the majority of the band has full time jobs. If you are in a band similar to us don’t be afraid to contact us to set up shows. I think us heading out to the Midwest is a real possibility for 2016 so keep a look out for that. I would also love to go to Germany and play some shows. That’s a huge dream of ours.
New album, some new merch. I am always open to merch ideas if people want to suggest some.
We just hope to continue to grow, and expand our fanbase.
Finally, free reign. If there is anything else you’d like to share with the fans, go right ahead!
If you are reading this and you have thought about starting a band or learning an instrument, then do it! I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 23 years old and regret not starting sooner. Don’t let doubts stop you. You can get a decent guitar to start with for practically nothing nowadays and singing is free.
I hope I can inspire other people to live their dreams and be happy. Happiness isn’t about making money, it’s about being passionate about what you do, whatever that may be. If you love what you are doing it won’t matter if you ever make a dime, and I can tell you this: for a low level musician there is no money. So be passionate! It doesn’t matter if you’re the best. If you show you care, others will care too.
I want to thank Rob again for taking the time to speak with The Deadhouse. Be sure to head over to Facebook and give the page for The Theatre Zombies a like right here and head over to their BandCamp page to pick up all of the band’s releases!