When you go to a show by local shock rockers Metal Hertz, you know what you're in for: decapitations, virgin sacrifices, stakes through the heart and gallons and gallons of blood. Not to mention the most elaborate collection of chainsaws this side of Jeffrey Dahmer's basement. The band - vocalist Jeff Parks, drummer Nathan Mahom, bassist Brien Barr and guitarist Trampas Boynton - combines wild theatrics with thrash metal, always striving to top themselves with over-the-top stage antics. A horror show in convenient concert form.
The shock rockers of Metal Hertz in a typically bizarre series of on-stage antics.
Their next big show is, naturally, Friday the 13th, at Birdy's, starting at 8:30, $5 admission. They'll be headlining, along with Creep, Faceless and Freesmut. Parks and Nahom, high school buddies, go back the farthest.
"We never even imagined getting together in a band," Parks said. "When I went to college I learned how basic a lot of stuff is out there, how many people get together as bands, and how many people do it as gathering. When we got back together after college, we tried to do something that was good music, good metal, sounded good to us. When we try to do a show we want to make it worth the money for people to come to see us. The hardest thing to do in a band is get people to get out there. We like the mosh pit, mainly. When we pick out a ticket to see a show, we buy it for the mosh pit. So when you're on stage it's a compliment."
Naturally enough for a film-obsessed band, they record just about everything, with three cameras at every show, just in case something really wild deserves recording for posterity. They've also hooked up with the local horror maestros of Dyer's Eve films, who will be directing their first video, with this show as one of the locations. And that's only the beginning of their film aspirations.
"We're trying to make it so we can make a documentary, Spinal Tap kind of thing, with a storyline behind it, so it's sort of like a horror flick at the same time," Parks said.
"A lot of other bands we play with, we've caught their eye and their fans' eye because of the shit we do," Mahom said. "A lot of the shows we do, people see it that came for someone else and they're like, 'Damn, they're fuckin' crazy.' It just gives them something to watch four guys dance around on a stage playing. And it gives us something to do besides practice, building all this stuff. We're always coming up with new crazy things."
Crazy things? Don't get Jeff Parks started on THAT: "We've got a couple of coffins we built, a couple of chainsaws, one from Germany; we've got a sacrificial stake we sacrificed my fiancee on once. We try to keep being original, staying away from masks and stuff. I think it's cool that we have the option to select from different artillery for each show. Our fans are always waiting for the next thing we're going to come up with. We decapitated a corpse and splattered blood all over the drum set that was there. (pause) We probably shouldn't have done that."
Though much of their influence comes from the obvious major players in their field - Pantera, White Zombie, Alice Cooper - they take their influences from all over.
"Sometimes we'll be in the garage playing some blues, some funk or whatever," Parks said. "When we're on stage we stick with one sound, one genre, mainly to keep the mosh pit moving. What you hear that sounds good in your head is what we're trying to put in guitar. That's the cool thing about playing music: You take every sound you've ever heard and try to use it as your tool."
And, of course, there are horror movies. Old, B-grade, Christopher Lee horror movies.
"Even if it's a cheesy story, they've got a gallon of blood in every scene!" Parks said. "Some of the camera angles they used back then, they don't do anymore. A lot of directors are starting to bring it back, like Oliver Stone. It's all point of view, point of perspective. It's the same thing with the music. From being on stage, for us, it's kind of a downer to see how easy it is to set up and still have people grooving on it - the reality of how easy it is to be Rob Zombie and be these people that you've looked up to for a long time. You see that all they've done is what you could have been doing all the time. People just don't look at themselves as being that, because they think it's too hard. But the main thing is just trying hard and working to it."
Their music playlists are planned out before the shows but frequently thrown out while they just go off on a bizarre tangent.
"Music is a form of communication: communication with the crowd, communication with your band members," Parks said. "We've got a set that we can play for an hour and a half, but every time we make up a song, a lot of times people can't tell if it's improvised. We did a four-hour show a few weeks ago where we had 90 minutes of material, but the other band never showed, so we just had to keep stretching it out."
Sometimes the stuff they make up as they go along catches on better than stuff they've actually written.
"On the set list we typed up, sometimes there's words that don't register, so we just make up a song around those words," Parks said. "That's how we got 'Jack Daniels.' Now people are always asking, 'Play the Jack Daniels song!' So we're trying to go back to the recordings and come back up with it. That's what's great about recording your shows; it's just as good as being in a studio as far as I'm concerned."
They spread the word primarily through word of mouth and the Internet.
"It's been easier with the Internet to do it that way," Parks said. "You can make your band look so much bigger than it is if you have a Web site. Those things have helped out. We've had some invitations as well for things like Battle of the Bands because we're on those contacts. The main way to get any shows and get involved is to make those contacts and keep pushing it. The first time we got together, before college, we did two shows at the Emerson and then they shut us down. It's weird, though; if you keep at it you're either a nuisance or somebody they really want to come back because you're persistent."
For a while it was difficult to practice their loud, raucous sound in the middle of Indianapolis, with disgruntled and/or religious neighbors calling in reports about the Satanic psychopaths in the neighborhood.
"It got to the point we were offering the cops burgers and drinks," Parks said. "We could time it to where the cops would get there in half an hour, halfway through the set."
Nowadays they practice in a tool shed in Parke County - a desolate faraway place, full of chainsaws and machinery, great for inspiration. And in the midst of things they say they try to stick to their roots as fans looking for a wild show, and sticking with Indianapolis for the long term.
"When you're playing up there, you don't feel like a superstar," Parks said. "You feel like a guy who just walked up there out of the crowd, and everyone's out there waiting to get entertained. We're all hard workers when it comes to work. We don't quit our day jobs for what we're doing. We don't plan on going to Hollywood with it; we just want to stay in Indianapolis and keep on doing what we're doing. If anybody notices, they'll come to us. That's where we're at."
For more info: www.metalhertz.net.