It is a truth universally acknowledged that horror and hardcore music go together like bread and butter — just ask Rob Zombie and John 5. But who else has ventured into that holy rock and roll realm, aside from the Misfits? Ladies and gentle-ghouls, I give you Calabrese: a blistering punk rock band of killer riffs and vocal harmonies who knocked our faces off at a tiny club show last year singing about hell, blood, and the living dead. Our lives were forever changed. And it turns out that the band — brothers Jimmy, Bobby, and Davey — are a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with; being brash, opinionated Italian dudes who love monsters, much like FM’s Executive Editor (except for the dude part).
Famous Monsters. If someone who has never heard of you – no idea what Calabrese is, or what you do – asked what the band is about, and you had one sentence, what would you say?
Davey Calabrese. I’m going first! Gritty rock and roll with a horror edge.
Jimmy Calabrese. Mine would be… horror fanboys make music, sounds good.
Bobby Calabrese. I would say… Calabrese? They’re that one band with the really good looking guitarist.[everyone laughs]
FM. Okay, you’re allowed. So, you’re brothers. There have been a lot of fake brothers in bands over the years. But you’re real brothers! Which is both a blessing and a curse, I imagine. Does it change your dynamic, make songwriting harder or easier?
DC. Um, we probably would have been broken up by now if we weren’t family.
JC. It’s true! So many points of drama, just like any other band. But we know we’re going to see each other at Christmas and Easter, so we might as well keep the band together. It would make for really awkward family events, otherwise. We’re kind of trapped…
BC. It’s a mafia contract.
JC. Calabrese. Once you’re in, you’re in for life.
BC. Blood in, blood out. I want to be quoted on that. [laughs]
FM. Did you guys influence each other growing up? What was it that got you into horror, classic monsters, all that kind of stuff?
JC. Well, being the eldest… there’s a waterfall of influence coming down from me. I’m actually shocked and amazed to be talking to you right now, because it was Famous Monsters of Filmland Issue 126 from 1976, the cover of “Mr. Sardonicus Grins Again”. I still have the issue. The guy with the big smiley face. I’ve never actually seen that movie, but the image is burned into my face.
JC. I had this friend in first grade, Ben Barr. He was like the magic boy who came into my life and changed my world. He gave me that issue, and I had it in grade school and pored over it again and again, just constantly. It was my first foray into the monster world. Also, at the time, the horror host Son of Svengoolie was on WGN, and he would play all the old movies, like THE MUMMY. Then I’d go to the library and pick up books about old horror movies, look at images of KING KONG. But yes, FM was our first major influence.
FM. We are honored to have kicked off your horror stint!
JC. It’s been a love affair ever since. It felt like it was meant to be. It brings joy into my life, the whole horror genre. Especially monsters.
BC. I agree. I got into it because of Jim! He was older and passed on his knowledge to me. I vividly remember — it haunts me to this day — one night we rented three movies, locked ourselves in the bedroom, and watched them back to back. It was EVIL DEAD 2, DEAD ALIVE, and…THE OMEN? No, not THE OMEN… the Christopher Walken one? What was the name?
JC. It wasn’t very good. [laughs]
DC. Our boy Danzig had a cameo in it. That’s all I remember. [Ed. Note: It’s THE PROPHECY. So close.]
FM. So you started with EVIL DEAD 2? How old were you?
BC. Ah, eleven? Twelve? That was the start. And I passed it all on to Dave, and here we are.
JC. We also used to play the scariest game when it came out — RESIDENT EVIL. We’d turn off the lights, get jacked up on Mountain Dew, play until two in the morning. Oh man, that game. It’s like you’re in a survival horror movie.
FM. So you’re all really into the horror and monster thing. How entwined would you consider that sensibility with the band? Your imagery is largely horror related; you’ve got zombies and vampires and living dead designs and your earlier albums all feature horror art. How important is all that to your identity, and if you overhauled your image, would you still even exist as a band?
DC. I’ll take this. Um… I don’t know.
FM. You can’t say that!
DC. It makes us unique!
JC. There has to be some type of darkness. With the last album [Lust for Sacrilege], we kind of stripped everything away — the bright colors, the crazy monsters, and just got down to the basics, and you could still tell it was us. Maybe being Italian there’s an anger within us, a darkness that only the Catholic church can absolve. Like going to confession. [laughs] I just think that’s who we are — the black leather, the demons. When we get together, that’s what happens. Maybe it’s a brother thing. We get together and a kind of toxic masculinity comes out. [laughs]
DC. Monsters are cool! And you can always be like, what kind of shirt do you want today? Well, what kind of vampires do you have? What kind of skull can we use?
FM. You can never have too many skulls. It’s a known fact.
BC. Going off what Jimmy said, I think it’s true that we can’t imagine really playing any other style of music, or singing about anything else. Singing about love? We’ll sing about dark love. Murder, death, destruction! It’s just how we did it, and what we like to sing about. A lot of our stuff is influenced by the Italian horror. We have a song called “New York Ripper”, which is a cool movie [Ed. Note: After the 1982 Lucio Fulci film Lo squartatore di New York]. It’s just cool! We can’t help it! Darkness is cool.
FM. Obviously we agree there.
DC. Because Jim here was like, yo! Let’s do something like the Misfits. No one’s doing anything like the Misfits. And that was that. [laughter]
JC. Okay so we did say that, but first I said Bobby, let’s start a band, and he was like, yeah, let’s form a band with the music we actually listen to. Because in all the other bands I was in, I would always compromise. I would compromise my vision just to be in a goddamn band. And that got me nowhere.
FM. It certainly works for you guys! I discovered you making a playlist called Famous Monsters of Music — each of the songs on the playlist has a different monster in the title. I realized when I got to the end that I didn’t have a living dead song. I wanted something a little less obvious than “Living Dead Girl”, even though we all love “Living Dead Girl”. So I went on iTunes and just seached “the living dead”, and “Ride with the Living Dead” came up.
BC. Hell yeah. I’m actually pretty surprised that’s the song that did it. [laughs]
JC. And you know what’s great about playing the music that you love and being yourself, is that’s who you attract! We don’t just attract fans, we attract friends. Like when I used to be in other bands, the people that would come to the shows were… I was like, I don’t like these people. This music is attracting people I don’t like. But people come to Calabrese shows, and it’s like magnets being pulled together. It’s a thing.
BC. But hey, if you do have any other suggestions on types of music we could play, that would be great. [laughs]
DC. Maybe some dubstep? We tried dubstep.
JC. I mean, it would be nice if we attracted millionaires.
FM. Well, one of my favorite films is CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, so clearly you need to write a song called “Cannibal Holocaust”.
JC. There’s a million dollars right there.
FM. You mention connecting with people, and I think that’s really important, especially nowadays with — I have to say it — social media, and you guys also have a YouTube channel. How has the rise of that technology made it easier or maybe harder to connect with your fanbase? Does it make everything more fun, or do you wish you could just do it the old fashioned way?
BC. Old fashioned!
DC. Okay, I can field this one. Bob wants old fashioned, but for me? Social media rules! Like, holy crap. It levels the playing field for anyone who wants to be some sort of artist or anything. You can reach anybody across the world! Like, we have a hardcore niche, and let’s say somebody in Germany likes that. They can find us! The internet, baby. It freaking rules. And yeah, we have a YouTube channel. We just like to have fun.[Ed. Note: These vids ain’t kid friendly. Language warning.]
JC. We rode the social media wave from the beginning with MySpace! We saw the potential, as struggling nobodies, of reaching out through social media. For normal people, it doesn’t make sense. But for anyone promoting anything artistically, it’s…
DC. You can’t escape it.
FM. I agree. It makes it easier to find things you may not otherwise have known about.
JC. We like to read biographies of old punk bands and how they used to do it – Black Flag, the Misfits… sending out letters, fan clubs, Glenn [Danzig] actually writing back to people. Just knowing what punk bands had to do back in the day, like how did they even… how did they even find where to go in the city? Like okay, I gotta drive from Arizona to New York using a map to find a sh-tty little club in the middle of nowhere. Old punk bands… we salute you. The cream of the crop rose to the top because they had to be dedicated to figure that sh-t out.
FM. Let’s do some rapid fire. Favorite horror movie! Go.
DC. The EVIL DEAD series slash ARMY OF DARKNESS.
BC. SUSPIRIA. And no, I didn’t see the new remake trailer. Pfft.
JC. I’d say it’s my favorite because it’s the most influential and the first movie that scared me — HALLOWEEN. I’m very much looking forward to the new sequel.
FM. Favorite classic Universal monster?
DC. Creature from the Black Lagoon.
DC. Oh f–k, that guy too.
JC. Creature from the Black Lagoon.
DC. Uh, I take mine back. Dracula.[everyone laughs]
BC. Dracula’s the hot one.
FM. Bobby, your motivation is becoming distinctly more transparent as this interview goes along. Okay, favorite album of your own?
DC. All of them!
BC. I’ll go with our fourth feature full length album, Dayglo Necros.
JC. Let’s say I had a favorite… if I had to choose… Sophie’s Choice… it would be The Traveling Vampire Show.
FM. What about your all time favorite record that somebody else put out?
DC. Danzig by Danzig.
FM. I think I saw that coming.
JC. First one that comes to mind is Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe.
BC. Type O Negative, October Rust.
DC. That covers our bases! Danzig, Peter [Steele], Rob.
FM. What is your absolute favorite thing about your job?
DC. I’ll go heartfelt and say… the fans. If it weren’t for them, we’d be nothing. They can say something else. [laughs]
FM. It’s the drugs, surely?
BC. We don’t do drugs! This is a Christian household![everyone laughs]
BC. My favorite part is probably writing the music.
JC. Well, they took some good ones. But I’m gonna go one step heartfelt-er and say… spending time with my bros. Every goddamn tour is a family vacation and it’s great.
FM. Aw, that wins the cheese award.
JC. It’s like hey, I can write off Christmas. I can write off my trip to Disneyland. We’re business partners, so everything is a write-off. I love it!
FM. Related to the last question, is there anything you’d want to change about your current career? And you can’t say money.
JC. I’d like to change my band members!
DC. That contradicts your last statement. Umm… I don’t know. Bigger venues?
JC. What do we want to change?
DC. More followers on Instagram.
JC. We wish you were here with us! That would be a wonderful life!
FM. Aw, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
BC. No offense, but I’d prefer to tour with Metallica.
DC. A tour with Ghost AND Metallica. Double bill. We’ll let them open for us.
BC. Yeah, Calabrese will be hitting the stage at 4AM.
FM. If you could make a movie using your music as the soundtrack, what would the movie be about?
BC. It would be about vampires in the wild west.
JC. Copyright 2018. A Blumhouse production. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Soundtrack by Calabrese. Starring Calabrese. Cameo by Bruce Campbell.
BC. And I’m the lead in the cowboy hat.
FM. Of course you are.
JC. Horror spaghetti western!
FM. Where can I invest in this? Take my money, as they say.
DC. We can do over the phone payments. [laughs]
FM. We talked about your monster art, and obviously Famous Monsters is really into the art angle as well, since that’s what people remember — the classic cover art. What’s the process of art creation for you guys with album covers and t-shirt designs? Do you have any artists that you like to work with or do you just do it all yourself?
DC. Our go-to guy for photos, let’s plug him: Andy Hartmark [https://www.instagram.com/andyhartmark]. The album you found us on, Born With a Scorpion’s Touch, he took that cover photo, and we just added some art process to it. He takes all our photos. And the majority of our music videos. Great guy. An old standby is Andrew Barr [http://andrewbarrillustrator.tumblr.com], we’ve used him a lot from the beginning, for [our first album] 13 Halloweens, and our first t-shirt designs. Another staple for us is D.W. Frydendall [http://www.dfrydendall.net/]. He did a lot of our classic designs. Basically if it looks cool, it’s all we need.
JC. Because of the internet and because we have such a great fanbase, we’ll seek out artwork. Sometimes we’ll reach out to someone and they’re like, oh yeah, I know you guys, that would be cool! And sometimes just fans will make artwork. Like the Dayglo Necros artwork was actually a poster for a show [by Monster Mark, https://www.instagram.com/monstermark138/] that turned into our album cover.
FM. I love that you get stuff from your fans, that’s great.
JC. Yeah, we just steal it. [laughs]
FM. What can we expect from the future, aside from your July shows, and when are we getting a new record?
JC. We are glad you asked that!
DC. Yes. Time to plug. July 13 and 14 we play with Zombeast. Soon after that we’re going into the studio for album number seven! Full album, hammers, jammers…
BC. Vast! Dark!
DC. Still working on it. So we’re gonna visit our people and then hop into the studio. And when we’re done we’ll shoot a whole bunch of music videos, do a whole bunch of behind the scenes stuff, more photos…
JC. More YouTube! More Calabrese coming at you on the internet, waves of it. Waves of blood.
BC. Tidal waves of death!
DC. Social media! Add us, we’re “Calabrese666” almost everywhere.
FM. That’s not subtle.
DC. It was actually chosen because there are a lot of Calabreses out there.
BC. “Calabrese69″ was already taken.[laughter]
FM. Well, I am very excited!
JC. Thank you once again for putting out a great magazine! For keeping it going! We know it’s had its ups and downs, but hopefully with you at the helm it’ll have a long future. Thanks very much for keeping Famous Monsters alive. This has been full circle for my life, which is the joy of horror!