THE SPITS & THE INFLUENCES ON HAUNTED FANG CASTLE
In 2010, Scion AV released a project with the Spits where the band recorded an EP of new material called Haunted Fang Castle. It was accompanied by an illustrated children’s book that listeners could use to follow the story.
In the Scion Garage Zine that year, (now ex-) Spits drummer Lance Phelps broke down the childhood influences behind this one-of-a-kind project.
Scooby-Doo was a huge influence on Haunted Fang Castle. In the original Scooby-Doo, they were these groovy teens hangin’ out in a van, and they always had these great musical interludes when they were getting chased. There would be these montages right after Scooby would yell, “Rets get outta here!” But in the style of the artwork, they did a really good job of capturing a moodiness and darkness that was very much for kids. We liked how they would always have these blurry backgrounds, and the colors and the tones were very subdued. That makes my hair stand on my head even now. I always liked the one episode where there was the glowing green deep-sea diver. Oh, and that Tiki episode was great, when they were in Hawaii and there was the scary witchdoctor, and Shaggy and Scooby pretended they were barbers and sat him down in the chair and put a cloth over him and went through a whole skit and then took off bookin’.
Thundarr the Barbarian
After the original creators of Scooby-Doo kind of folded their hands, their next project was Thundarr the Barbarian. Seeing it now, you notice the same style of animation. It was a huge influence on Haunted Fang Castle, because of its post-apocalyptic setting. It’s set after a nuclear war—thousands of years later—in this world of swords and sorcery coming up from the chaos. After technology is destroyed, magic comes back into the world. It was only on for two seasons in the early 1980s, but because it was done by the same team that made Scooby-Doo it had a much older feel to it. The backgrounds were almost like they used watercolors for it. Cartoons now are in these simple, primary colors. It’s amazing to watch Thundarr as an adult and see how tripped out it was and how this is what they were showing kids. So many of the cartoons from that time are actually way more intelligent and show more artistry than what’s going on today.
Story Books and Records From Childhood
At first we knew we wanted to make Haunted Fang Castle childish, and it developed from there. We first wanted to do a coloring book, but then we got into the idea of these record books from when we were kids that would ding when you turned the page. I had one called Spiderman vs. The Wolfman that was really freaky and scary. Of course, there was also Dungeons & Dragons. I never played it, but I liked going through the monster manuals and reading about the different spells and creatures.
Post-Apocalyptic Films From the 1970s and 1980s
Movies like Class of Nuke ’Em High, Mad Max and The Terminator are a constant for us. We reference this stuff a lot, even if it’s not referenced verbally. Growing up, those movies had a pretty big impact. Mad Max and The Road Warrior—they’re both classics—but the second one, The Road Warrior, is when the bad guys are really mutated. But yeah, anything dystopic, like A Boy and His Dog kind of stuff that talks about the ravaged wasteland of the future.
Psychedelic Music, Psychedelic Artwork and KISS
We wanted to tie in a late-1960s psych rock influence with this children’s book. There was all kinds of artwork from this era. We sent the artist [JJ Rudisill] a bunch of black light posters. We sent him David Mann stuff, the guy who did the biker posters for Easy Rider, and Peter Max stuff from Yellow Submarine. With the music, 13th Floor Elevators are always gonna be a big influence, as well as any Roky Erickson stuff. We’re all huge Dead Moon fans, and Fred Cole’s earlier stuff like Lollipop Shoppe definitely played into this. Music Machine was another influence. KISS was a definite influence, because they had action figures (they had everything) and their own comic book. For us, this was a chance to do something outside the regular Spits repertoire and draw from our childhoods of the late ’60s and ’70s.
As told to Brian Costello.