Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Hang-Ten Hangmen

The Hang-Ten Hangmen
Official Facebook
Live at the Shameful Tiki, Rocket Rod Productions 2011
This is Boss!, Dionysus Records 2018

Surprise! Once again Dionysus Records has once again convinced me to do an extra installment of the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari. The label’s upcoming vinyl (and digital download) release of This is Boss! The lack of any obvious horror content, not counting the band’s executioner hoods, was a hard sell for me but it was enough to warrant a look into their previous albums. Thank goodness for that, because I liked what I found! The Hang-Ten Hangmen’s discography is filled with plenty of horror and sci-fi content, in addition to awesome energetic music and original spoken word segments. Said segments are often so incredibly produced and authentically written that I actually had to double check to see whether or not a few were samples from other works! So after talking with both the label and the band, I’m ready to close off summer with a double album review!

The Hang-Ten Hangmen’s origins can be traced to Canada in 2010. Vancouver, to be precise. 2010 also saw the release of their albums Terror Tube/Death Rattle/Beyond Damascus, Surfin’ & Swingin’ with The Hang-Ten Hangmen and the futuristic concept album Surf Banned! 2011 saw the release of more EPs and 2012 brought their first full album, Slaughter Beach Party. Naturally even more releases have been produced since then. In addition to being the house band for a Polynesian restaurant called “The Shameful Tiki Room,” the band has performed at Tiki Oasis and done their fair share touring.

Founded by the mysterious man known only as “Rocket Rod,” the Hang-Ten Hangmen consist of:

Rocket Rod: Guitar, keyboard and backing vocals
Boris Verbalotte: Guitar
Hombre Mysterioso: Drums
Mr. Chardonnay: Bass

I should note how this might not be the same lineup heard on the first album I’ll be reviewing, Live at the Shameful Tiki. The cover art for that release, Tales of the Hang-Ten Hangmen and Surf Banned only depict three members while their first two albums show four members. The above list of members came from the 2016 release Destination Saturn, which seems to have come out after the group’s call for a new drummer that year.

Although we hear some audience chatter at the beginning of “Zombie Stomp,” the opening drum beats and guitar work quickly captivate the previously distracted crowd. Although I admittedly can’t tell if it’s the audience or the band who occasionally yells “Yay!” at times. It’s a very moody track and the live nature of the recording provides an interesting audio effect. Speaking of effects, the musical one which closes the album is amazing. The soft cry for brains was a great touch as well! The drums which kick off “Jungle Sunrise” sound exactly like something you’d hear in an old Tarzan movie. The reverb on the guitars has an especially “exotic” feel which helps create the sense of trudging through a dense jungle. The surprise appearance by a tambourine also goes well with the vaguely “Middle Eastern” guitars. This track never settles on anything for too long and that’s not bad at all! The speedy and steady “Attack of the Trophy Wives” has a great buildup using drums, guitars and cymbals while “Cactus Alley” nails the feel of an old western. This is due to both the mood created by the guitar work and the other musical touches you’ll recognize upon hearing this. It’s faster than other western-inspired tracks I’ve heard, but that’s not a bad thing. It, like the other performances on Live at the Shameful Tiki, deserves all the applause it receives.

Jumping ahead to 2018, This is Boss! will mark the both the band’s first full vinyl album and their first “Hi-Fi” release! “Back Alley Rumble” is a tribute to the famous Link Wray track and has a rollicking feel which suits the title. As always, the guitar and percussion work are amazing and help make this an incredibly introduction to the album. It’s easy to imagine a bunch of stereotypical 50’s greasers cruising around town to this song. The title track, “This is Boss,” also references the 1950’s. In this case, it’s how “boss” was slang for “great” back then. The heavy percussion and reverbing guitars provide lots of power and plenty of variations. Although drums are the clear star here, the “This! Is! Boss!” chant was a great touch. “Electro-Matic Twist” provides a somewhat eerie feel to the opening “coo” before blasting into guitars, saxophone work, clanging percussion and sizzling snares. The interesting guitar work makes this a personal favorite. “The Wind and the Sea” is dead-on perfect tribute to spaghetti westerns thanks to the moody plucking. Although I’ve never heard a saxophone in a western track before, consider me converted as to wanting more bands to do so! I also enjoyed the nifty touches of vocals. Could it be that the band’s doing multiple western songs could be a reference to the appearance of hangings in such movies? Or maybe it’s just because spaghetti westerns had amazing soundtracks. “Beer Can” features an appearance by Mark “Malibu” Sanders of Mark Malibu & the Wasagas fame. It’s a real head bopper whose speedy opening and sax work layered in the background also bring the 1950’s to mind. Although the clapping hands might not be 50’s enough for some, I thought they were a welcome touch.

The peppy yet smooth “Sunset Strip” sounds like what you would hear in a driving montage from a vintage movie. It also features plenty of clapping hands and flows nicely into the next track, “Yeah!” However, that track quickly revs up to the pace we expect from the Hang-Ten Hangmen. The saxophone gets the spotlight, although the guitars do deserve some praise for having reverb which practically says “Yeah!” It would have been easy to just have someone say it, but it takes true talent and imagination to pull off something like that. “Boogaloo” combines jingle bells and super sweet guitars. Although the bells come and go, I think the other instruments still carry a feeling of holiday cheer. “The Incredible Hip Shaker” lives up to its name thanks to its expert use of the combination of instruments we’ve come to love over the course of the album. Then the Hang-Ten Hangmen surprise us with some expert organ work and drums which might remind you of rolling waves. The organ returns for “Last Day of Business,” which has a softer and more restrained pace than the previous tracks. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. “The Big Beat” picks things back up for the big finish. There’s plenty of shaking maracas and touches of vocals, along with what appears to be a crackling Northwest Airlines ad sample. If this was actually an original creation, then they did an incredible simulation despite my personally feeling it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the track. But if it’s an actual sample, then I think this is a creative step backwards for the band. The best comparison I can think of to describe my opinion is a restaurant who used to make gourmet quality meals with fresh ingredients suddenly adding portions of reheated TV dinners into their specials.

My complaint about one aspect of the final track aside, the music of the Hang-Ten Hangmen is not to be missed and the album lives up to its name. This is Boss! is scheduled for release in October, so try to keep that in mind while reading the upcoming Halloween countdown. They have plenty of other affordable albums to enjoy while you wait, so consider the albums reviewed in this article as the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully the Hang-Ten Hangmen will continue to be prolific when it comes to new releases!

Special thanks to the Hang-Ten Hangmen and Dionysus Records for use of the images!

6’+ Episode 235 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“Happy Birthday, Gravediggers Local 16. GdL16 turns 10 on Sept. 8. We celebrate with tracks from FORBIDDEN DIMENSION, LUGOSI’S MORPHINE, THE NEVERMORES, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, HAUNTED GEORGE and more. Monstermatt Patterson plays pin the tail on the Igor in the MONSTERMATT MINUTE, and Kraig Khaos slices up cake in the KILLER KUT.”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Happy 10th Birthday, Gravediggers Local 16

Ten Years ago, a post titled “Happy Halloween” popped up on a Blogger site. This meandering post, with its wayward sentence construction, was published as a declaration, that this corner of the Internet would be known as Gravedigger’s Local 16.

Who knew that ten years later, this site would still be here? The site would gain a domain name, migrate to a different platform and still have those outdated links in the top left. While the site will always remain in desperate need of a makeover, it remains functional, albeit a bit behind the times. That seems a bit fitting, since we’re in the business of “digging up” things often overlooked on the first time around.

Though I no longer write regularly for GdL16, there’s still a place in my heart for this little blog, and for the immense effect it has had on my life. Through GdL16, both Weird Jon and I have been able to connect with so many like-minded weirdos, all while trying to make the world just a little bit better for the spooky creeps out there. I personally have forged friendships with some amazing people through this site (and the subsequent podcast, Six Foot Plus) and for that, I am extremely grateful for GdL16.

In the early days ahead of this blog’s creation, it was decided that this site would name itself after a “gravedigger.” It was meant to be a show of appreciation for both the unsung blue-collared heroes in this world – a sanitation worker is far more valuable to society than any movie star, music act or politician – but also a way to celebrate a ghastly figure that sometimes, doesn’t get his or her due. Vampires are sexy. Werewolves are feared. Gravediggers are often there (just off in the background.)

And so, ten years later after that first post, Gravedigger’s Local 16 remains here, continuing to provide a little bit of creepy content to make your day a little bit better.

To all those who have contributed to this site over the past decade, and to every single reader who graced this small corner of the Internet, I have two words to say: “Happy Halloween.”

…and, Thank You.

The Edge of Time

The basics of aging paper are absurdly simple- use tea to stain the fibers and allow the sheet to dry. Like many others, I learned that method in grade school and have been using it with minor variations for decades. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it does a reasonably good job of reproducing the browning and oxidation of old paper.

With some minor tweaks tea staining can also recreate the darkened edges found in old documents. While your sheet is still damp simply sponge more tea along the edges, allowing the paper fibers to soak up more of the tannic acid in the solution. In essence you’re accelerating the natural process of wicking that causes the edge discoloration/oxidation in real fiber papers and parchments.

When trying to create the look of something truly old, like an ancient scroll, you also need to create the ragged edge produced when tiny fragments of paper break off over time. In the past I’ve used a deckling blade to produce that effect, but I think I’ve stumbled on a better method.

Previously, I would rip the paper along the deckling blade to get a rough edge and then begin the staining process. Now I stain the paper, wait until it’s almost dry, and then use the sharpened end of a bamboo skewer to flake off bits of paper. Just press the point of the bamboo into the edge of the paper and tear off small pieces using a flicking motion. It sounds tedious, but once you get the hand motion down the process goes quickly.

Here’s a look at the results using a standard sheet of printer paper. Just click through for a higher resolution version.


The skewer technique produced a wonderful worn edge, and the exposed fibers soaked up another sponging of tea to create the darkened oxidation border of old paper. Here’s a closer look.


I experimented with some internal wear and the results were generally good. The only thing I wasn’t happy with was the paper bunching seen along the edges of the wear spots, particularly the one slightly left of center. The fix for that is easy- once you’ve made your initial tear use the skewer tip to rip small flakes toward the center of the hole instead of ripping outward.

This all might seem a bit picayune, but it’s the little details like this that help make a convincing prop. Live action props are the most difficult kind to create, more so than anything on stage or film, since they’re subjected to minute, detailed examination. Paying attention to the edge treatment not only produces something that looks more realistic, but feels more realistic.

This article originally appeared at Propnomicon.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Zombie Surf Camp

Zombie Surf Camp
Official Site
Zombie Surf Camp, self-release 2009
Halloween 2010 Live, self-release 2010

Not much is known about Zombie Surf Camp. The basic details are that the band formed in 2005 in San Diego, California and its members consist of:

Moon Zoggy: Vox, synth and theremin
Resin A. Gain: Bass, vox and piano
Raul DeGul: Guitars
Gene Poole: Drums

Now would be a good time to point out that “vox” is short for “vocals.” The band’s official Facebook page claims their origins lie in a group of surfers who accidentally got caught up in a nuclear waste spill on a beach near the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Their self-titled debut album was released on Halloween in 2009, so you know I had to check that out.

Zombie Surf Camp opens with an incredibly catchy little ditty called “What’s Eating You?” The titular question is practically howled throughout the track. The band’s punk influence is obvious thanks to the guitar work (not that I’m complaining, mind you) and the use of reverb reminds us this is still a surf song. Appropriately retro-style guitars and oddball effects set the tone for “Flipper,” whose lyrics tell of dolphins killing humans due to pollution. “Sewage” features narration in which Resin A. Gain encourages Moon Zoggy to discuss things he hates. Its speedy, reverby guitars are joined by great drum’n percussion work which leads into the guitars and theremin work of “Surf Zombies R Go!” You have to listen to “Corpse in a Barrell” (sic). NOW. It both piles on the reverb and displays some amazing guitar work. It’s the closest the band comes to an instrumental in this album, with Moon Zoggy’s throaty “Goldthwait Growl,” laughter and other interjections replacing the lyrics you’ve come to expect. The catchy “Now, I Am a Zombie” details the radioactive origins of the band. It’s got guitars, percussion…you know the drill. It even has some theremin cameos, too! “The Kelpie” features fast and heavy guitars mixed with crashing cymbals. I couldn’t make out the lyrics, but assume
they’re about the mythical Scottish creature the track is named for. After all, the lyrics for “Midnight Sun” are about the land associated with the natural phenomenon. It’s heavy on percussion and that’s not a bad thing! “Surf Zombies on Parade” starts off fast and furious, but slows down the guitars, adds some reverb and gives the drums an almost reggae-like feel. Even the singing slows down to a conversational feel! But this is Zombie Surf Camp we’re talking about, so things pick back up pretty quickly. Both singers get to showcase their skills in “Culture of Life,” which also displays some great keyboard and musical effects. “Remains” opens with some slow, moody guitar work and has an interesting militaristic drum break. Sadly the lyrics are a bit hard to understand in this (and other) tracks. Similarly, “Wet & Wreckless” has moody and slow retro-stlye opening and I did have some trouble understanding some of the lyrics. Thankfully, I was able to understand enough to realize this was about the victims of a female zombie stalking a beach. The backing zombie groans and the humorous surprise at the end were perfect touches.

Minor nitpicks about lyrics aside, Zombie Surf Camp has a lot going for it. It’s got captivating performances, an awesome blend of surfpunk and plenty of amazing endings to tracks that you don’t ever want to end. In addition to its original CD release, Zombie Surf Camp put it up on Bandcamp as a “Name Your Price” download, so you have no excuse not to give this a try. Speaking of Bandcamp, let’s look at the other album they put up there!

Halloween 2010 Live consists of live versions of selected material from the above album and their 2010 release Reefbiter. I think you can figure out when they released this particular album. “What’s Eating You? (Live)” is longer than original and proves once and for all that I need to see Zombie Surf Camp perform live. Somehow they managed to make their music even more mind-blowingly awesome and this time I had no trouble understanding the lyrics. This would also prove true for the majority of the album. Moon Zoggy’s introduction to “Zombie Twist (Live)” is killer and the song as a whole blew me away. I can only imagine how the crowd reacted to this. “Wet & Wreckless (Live)” is shorter than original, but that might just be due to its superfast music. It should be noted how they slightly toned down the lyrics for the live performance. “Don’t Run (Live)” is a new personal favorite thanks to its pacing and heavy opening guitar work. “Monster (Live)” features some blazing fast guitars combined with drums ‘n cymbals for one hell of a ride. The lyrics to this were admittedly a bit hard to understand, but that doesn’t stop the song from kicking ass. “Disco Diablo (Live)” changes things up with creepy guitars and some interesting musical variations. You might remember this from our 7th anniversary episode and there’s a reason it was selected for that episode. It’s because it ROCKS! However, it seems to cut off someone talking when the track ends. But, to be fair, it’s a free album so it’s not like I can complain a lot about that and not look like a total douche.

I liked their first album but I LOVED Halloween 2010 Live with every fiber of my being. It’s a Halloween treat better than any candy bar and you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy! Here’s hoping Zombie Surf Camp has more albums in the works. Now excuse me while I go check their tour schedule…

Special thanks to Zombie Surf Camp for use of the images!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Hawaiian Spotlighters

Hawaiian Spotlighters
Official Site (Label)
Mauna Kea Breeze, Dionysus Records 2017 (Original release date: 1964)

You may recall how I briefly brought up this album last year as a preview of sorts for the 2018 Freaky Tiki Surf-ari. Mauna Kea Breeze might not have a single shred of a horror connection but it’s still worth discussing due to its importance to the Tiki scene. The original pressing was one of the most sought after and expensive albums in the Tiki revival. It turns out that rarity was due to it being pressed by the vinyl equivalent of a vanity press service. With only 200 copies in existence, actually finding a copy was tough work. Scraping together enough money to afford it was no easy task, either. But the winds of change started blowing in 2015. That’s when exotica expert Jeff Chenult managed to snag a copy. Enchanted by the music he acquired, he scoured the internet trying to find members of the band. It was a hard search but his perseverance paid off when he located Al Pabilona Junior on Facebook! Al Pabilona Junior had played drums in the band with his father and other family members as “Al’s Spotlighters.” The band played several weddings and other such events in Hilo, Hawaii before the family moved to California and the band became known as the “Hawaiian Spotlighters.” This was also around the time they decided to record Mauna Kea Breeze. Mr. Chenault quickly got Dionysus Records involved and arrangements were made for a full restoration and reissuing of the album through its Bacchus Archives label.

The opening track “Adventure in Paradise” is everything you could want from old school exotica. The opening percussion and chimes build up to a cymbal clash, which takes us into a world of soft vibes, various bird calls and even more chimes. There’s also moody saxophone and piano work mixed in with some unusual percussion work. The inclusion of “Misirlou” might surprise you at first. Although popularly thought of as a surf song, it’s actually a traditional Eastern Mediterranean song Dick Dale decided to do a cover of. There’s plenty of hand cymbals and piano work, but the guiro work is the star. “Un Like No a Like” appears to be a misspelling of “Ua Like No a Like.” It features guitars and extra soft percussion which carry the listener through the rest of the track with only minor contributions from other instruments. “Yellow Bird” is both soothing and calm thanks to its blend of soft guiros and vibes. That said, the vibraphone work does pick up once the guitar strumming guitar and interesting percussion effects join in. “Beautiful Kahana” has an equally beautiful opening using complimentary guitars rather than dueling ones. Although other instruments are barely heard in the background, it’s not a bad thing in this particular case. “Filipino Love Song” is proof positive that music doesn’t have to use a ton of instruments to be enjoyable. In this case, all you need are dreamy vibes and bouncy guitars.

“Mauna Kea Breeze” was composed by Bill Pabilona and appears to be the sole original track on the album. It’s got tons of chimes, guiros and claves combined with frenzied bursts of guitar work. It’s one of those tracks which keeps the album from getting too relaxing. “Sweet and Lovely” features a sensational old school cymbal buildup (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it) and a mix of vibes and piano work. As someone who used to play drums, I was very fond of the use of snare drums in this track. Even if we put the rarity of the album aside, it’s tracks like “Kawohikukapulani” which make it easy to understand why this album was so sought after in the Tiki scene. Its opening vibes and soft, slow guitar are so smooth the track feels like a musical Mai Tai. Similarly, listening to “Caravan” will have you imagining moving horses. It all but screams “Freaky Tiki Surf-ari” thanks to its mixture of guitar reverb and exotic percussion. We’re talking bursts of hand cymbals paired with some really cool guitar effects (and variations). “Nola” is another track that’s best described as “bouncy and light hearted.” It’s all thanks to the masterful use of guitar work and snares, along with touches of reverb. “Harbor Lights” uses musical instruments to fill in for the sound of boat horns and the effect is perfect. It’s close enough to make you think of a busy port but just different enough so you know they didn’t just dub in some stock sound effect. The musical buildup of soft, slow guitar and vibe work leads to the track’s normal volume (and pace). But you’d better believe it picks up for end! It’s a great closing to a great album.

Mauna Kea Breeze was quite an experience and I mean that in the best way possible. One listen will make you wish the band had released more albums. Each and every one the the cover songs gives the original versions some serious competition. It also doesn’t hurt how the restoration makes it sound like everything was recorded yesterday. Although you can only purchase Mauna Kea Breeze as a vinyl LP, it does include a digital download code you can enjoy even if you don’t own a turntable. Unlike the original pressing, this edition of the album is readily available in several majors retailers. Oh, and here’s another bit of interesting news: Al Pabilona Junior is still performing! He’s in a band with his daughter Olivia and it’s called “The Good Vibes Duo” (formerly “Undertow”). Some sources even refer to the band as the newest incarnation of Hawaiian Spotlighters! But even if it’s not the same band, it’s nice to know Hawaiian Spotlighters’ musical legacy lives on.

Special thanks to Dionysus Records for the review copy!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Dawn “Sophista-Tiki” Frasier

2018 marks the second time the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari will get to spotlight someone in the Tiki scene who’s finally getting wider recognition for their contributions to said scene. Last time was for a musician who was part of the original rise of Tiki culture and this time marks an artist who was part of its modern day revival: Dawn “Sophista-Tiki” Frasier.

To paraphrase Critiki, Dawn Frasier has been part of the Tiki art scene even before there was a Tiki art scene. She had been painting Tiki art and collecting Tiki items (in addition to Mid-Century Modern furniture) during the 80’s, at a time when such things had fallen out of fashion and could be obtained for next to nothing. She spent part of the early 90’s living in Fiji, where she was inspired by the patterns on tapa cloth. This inspiration stuck with her as she continued hone her craft upon returning to Seattle in the 90’s. The revival of the Tiki art scene started in 1995 and you had better believe Dawn Frasier was still doing her thing. Otto von Stroheim’s Tiki News magazine was a factor in the Tiki revival. He hosted various parties and art exhibits in Los Angeles and kept doing the same after moving to San Francisco in 1996. That was also the year he saw some of Dawn Frasier’s tapa-inspired works in a store window and sought out the artist behind them. She then appeared at Exoticon and was also part of an art show called “Exotica Primitiva: Then and Now” with notable Tiki artists Shag and Bosko. The event, which was von Stroheim’s first group Tiki show in San Francisco, was put together to promote both the release of Tiki News #8 and the reissuing of Martin Denny’s Forbidden Island and Primitiva on CD. Unsurprisingly, Ms. Frasier’s artwork also appeared in that particular issue and she went on to provide artwork for Tiki Oasis (another von Stroheim creation). Her work appeared in other exhibitions, solo shows, books, magazines and conventions over the years that followed.

According to an interview given in volume 9, issue 1 of Tiki Magazine, a joking dare from fellow artist Ken Ruzic led her to primarily paint in only two colors for a year. But she enjoyed the results so much that she continued to work with blues and greens for many (but not all) of her “Moodxotica” paintings. Complaints from some galleries about having to deal with the glass coverings on her watercolor paintings led to her doing more work with acrylics as well. The 2000’s saw her creating her “Sophista-Tiki” brand and doing work for Party Partners (who she still occasionally does work for).

That all sounds great, right? Sadly Dawn Frasier had to put up with a lot of crap in the Tiki scene. And I’m not just talking about usual stuff artists have to deal with (although she had to deal with that too). Most retrospectives and looks at the history of the Tiki revival flat out ignore her. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been a fan of her work for years and had no idea of her role in the revival until recently. You know there’s a problem when the person behind an annual Tiki celebration like the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari failed to notice the importance of Dawn Frasier’s work despite having previously looked into the early days of the Tiki revival. But it gets worse. Sure, lots of artists have to deal with trolls, but how many of them can say they’ve had a troll set up fake websites designed to look like their official web presences? Dawn Fraiser can and thankfully it looks like she finally managed to get them all taken down. Her being left out of a major art show and a book about the history of the scene was particularly hurtful for her. Her announcement that she was leaving the Tiki scene in 2017 was fueled by that, stalking and a particularly nasty situation involving someone ripping her off. She is planning on releasing a magazine which will give all the gory details on why she left the scene (and the complete history of her involvement in the world of Tiki), so I dare not say any more. What I will say is how she noted how the harassment and fake accounts stopped after her announcement of leaving the Tiki scene. She also remarked on how, after awhile, people started appreciating her work again and how some of the techniques she had been criticized for are now starting to gain acceptance among other artists. Hopefully this will be covered in the magazine as well.

But Dawn Frasier can never truly leave the Tiki scene. She may have stopped attending shows to sell art, but I understand that she still submits paintings to certain Tiki shows and still has supporters in the scene. Her appearances on BossaNova Life and Tiki With Ray alone are proof of the latter (along with proving her contributions to the scene are getting more attention). Besides, how could any Tiki fan resist her paintings, prints, clothing, fabrics, rugs, party decorations and various other goodies?

So here’s to you, Dawn “Sophista-Tiki” Frasier! We here at Gravedigger’s Local 16 salute you for all of your hard work and contributions to the Tiki revival (which eventually led to the creation of the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari). Just in case the funny business with the fake websites starts up again, here are direct links to the official Sophista-Tiki Facebook, Etsy and Instagram accounts.

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Krektones

The Krektones
Official Site
The Krektones, Family Night Records 2012
Megaladon, Family Night Records 2014

Hailing from North Carolina, the Krektones were founded in 2009 by artist and musician Jason Krekel. The Krektones consist of:

Jason Krekel: Guitar
Henry Westmoreland: Trumpet and saxophone
Dave Gay: Bass guitar
Lance Wille: Drums

Mr. Krekel has performed in Krekel and Whoa (formerly Mad Tea), Sufi Brothers, Snake Oil Medicine Show, Firecracker Jazz Band and the Kings, so you know he has some serious skills. The same can be said for the other members. Not only have they played with Krekel in some of the previously mentioned bands, but they also bring a combined mix of experience from Freakwater, Stump the Host, Drunken Prayer, the Unholy Trio, the Reigning Sound, the Parting Gifts and White Heat. The band’s influences include the Ventures, Link Wray, Jerry Cole & His Spacemen, Tav Falco and far too many other bands to list here. In other words, prepare to have your socks knocked off!

The band’s 2012 self-tiled debut kicks things off with “Twisted Troll.” Its potent mix of guitars, percussion and saxophone sets the tone for the album. “Stop,” or as the cover refers to it, “Stop And Think It Over” brings in some trumpet work (along with some tambourines and guitars hanging out in the background). It has a wonderfully retro feel and if you pay close attention, music itself seems to tell listeners to “stop and think it over.” In “El Burro,” heavy guitar, percussion and trumpet work combine to show a Herb Alpert influence. The tone does mellow out a bit after the start, but I doubt anyone will complain given the greatness of the track. “Vamp Camp” starts off with bat sound effects, which lead to moody, slow saxophones, guitars, drums and even a surprise appearance by an organ. If you like the Moon-Rays, you’ll love this! The Krektones is the definition of “short and sweet.” There isn’t a single bad song in the bunch and my only complaint is how there aren’t more songs!

The band released Megaladon two years later and it’s every bit as awesome as its predecessor. The title track “Megaladon” uses a sweet percussion buildup and quick bursts of guitars to imply a Jaws-like shark attack. Judging from the shark creature on the cover, this seems to be a reference to a mutated Megalodon. The speedy guitars create a sense of something massive speeding under the waves. The drums and trumpet work are also not to be missed and the naval sirens at the end were the perfect touch. “Krekstar-1” is soft ‘n mellow at first, but picks up from time to time. I appreciated how the band used interesting guitar effects used to create an “outer space” feel rather than simply use a theremin. “Eradicator” has a drum buildup like many a surf classic. It’s fairly loud, it’s pretty speedy and it’s a definite must for your playlist! I especially love the ending buildup (despite not ever wanting the track to end). “Sinister Urge” takes its name from an Ed Wood movie and is appropriately moody and dramatic. It’s like something you’d hear in an old crime drama. If you close your eyes while listening, you’ll soon find yourself driving in a patrol car. But since this is inspired by Ed Wood, things sometimes take a turn for the wild.

Both albums prove the Krektones are not your average surf band. Each album is catchy and never wear out their welcome. I’m also happy to report they’re still touring and urge you to check them out if you get the chance to. If you can’t, pick up their albums. You won’t regret it. Here’s hoping the Krektones will unleash more amazing albums in the years to come.

Special thanks to the Krektones for use of the images!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Swinging Sounds From Beyond The Nether Regions

Creepxotica
Official Site
Swinging Sounds From Beyond The Nether Regions, Dionysus Records 2017
Creepxotica Featuring Rachel DeShon, Dionysus Records 2017

2017 was a busy year for the Creepy Creeps’ side project Creepxotica. Not only did they release Swinging Sounds From Beyond The Nether Regions on vinyl and digital download, but they also released Creepxotica Featuring Rachel DeShon on those formats as well!

Swinging Sounds From Beyond The Nether Regions kicks off with “Pungee Stick,” whose name is a play on both punji sticks and how the term “Fiji mermaid” was slowly twisted into “Feegee mermaid.” It starts off with moody guitar work mixed with steady drums and vibraphone variations. Horns and wordless female vocals (it feels so odd to type that phrase outside of a “Music to Haunt By” review) put in an appearance, as does a sitar! Said sitar dominates much of the track. Notice how I said “much” and not “all.” “Shanghide” is both a play on the term “Shanghai’d” and a mix of rousing drums, touches of guiros, sitar and other interesting musical touches combined with guitar work. The saxophone and flute work are nothing to scoff at, either. The band’s musical origins come to the forefront “Surf Fink,” thanks to the wet-sounding reverb from the guitars. There’s also plenty of sax to go with the drums and percussion. It’s surf with just a touch of exotica. The title of “Turkish Delight” will either make you think of candy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or the Robot Chicken sketch about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But hopefully listening to it will make you think of fast drums and slow, moody guitars combined with interesting percussion work. There’s also some great use of a sitar, organ and saxophone for an extremely funky for the end. “Meat Ships” has a soft, moody opening which quickly becomes bursts of sitar, guitars and percussion that only slows down for the last leg of the track. Vibes start off “Luau at Loi’s,” along with guiros and the occasional guitar cameo. The organ which takes over much of the track might distract you from the track’s soft bongo backing. In “Repeto,” pounding guitars lead to soft organ work and sweet drum work. Its energetic feel and sweet finish have me surprised this wasn’t the closing track. “Rekrul Reef” also starts with guitar work, but it’s just as mellow as the vibes and percussion. But it does pick up a bit at times, especially when the saxophone and organ make their appearances.

Creepxotica Featuring Rachel DeShon has an interesting backstory that involves an Elvis impersonator, Tiki Oasis and a lecture. Seriously. Robert “El Vez” gave a lecture about exotica pioneer Yma Sumac at Tiki Oasis 14 featuring performances by opera singer Rachel DeShon and Creepxotica. According to the album’s press release, it went so well that plans for an album were quickly formed. Said album is a mix of Yma Sumac covers and original compositions.

In “Gopher” (also called “Gopher Mambo”), rousing horns and percussion join cries of “Hey” from Rachel DeShon. But don’t think for a second that’s the limit of her contribution to this track. She contributes plenty of other vocals including some surprisingly birdlike cries. The instrumental solo and vibraphone work are both appreciated as well. All in all, it’s very catchy. Drums and maracas join soft vibes and horns in “Goomba Boomba.” There’s bursts of sweet guitar work and some interesting audio effects, but Ms. DeShon takes the spotlight once she begins her amazing performance! It’s worth noting how most of the lyrics she’s singing on this album are in another language! “Five Bottles Mambo” has a very distinct surf feel and the opening instrumentals are rather jolly. The vocals are nicely blended into the mix and, as nice as it is, the next track is actually one of my personal favorites. “Progxotica” features swingin’ horns and vibes with a steady guitar backing (with some soft space sounds thrown in for good measure). A surprise false ending leads to wordless vocals, sitar and more pronounced sci-fi touches. “Cumbia de Creep” has a funky, sci-fi tone at first but then becomes more peppy and bouncy. Rachel DeShon nails it (as always). Creepxotica’s use of drums and horns also show they’re nailing it too.

Whether you’re a diehard Yma Sumac fan or a complete newbie, Creepxotica Featuring Rachel DeShon is definitely worth picking up. The same can be said for Swinging Sounds From Beyond The Nether Regions. Well, except the bit about Yma Sumac. Both albums are winners and should be sought out immediately. And I’m not just saying that since I left out the cover art again…

Special thanks to Dionysus Records for the review copies!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Return

“Delayed. Decayed. But never afraid…”

I hope you don’t mind my quoting Strange Jason, but it just fit this situation too perfectly! It’s taken me a bit longer than expected, but the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari is finally here. Here’s a look at last year’s installments if you need something to hold you over while waiting for this year’s first Freaky Tiki Surf-ari review:

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Return
Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Voodoo III
Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: 6’+ Episode 207 is Up!
Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Jason Lee and the R.I.P.tides
Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Music From The 6th Floor
Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Creepy Creeps

But I assure you, you won’t have to wait too long for that first review. Oh, and let’s not forget the customary free exotica download! This year’s selection is a wonderful fusion of exotica and surf called “Midnight in Exotica” from the band Go!Tsunami. It’s part of a free album called SurfGuitar101.com 2009 MP3 Compilation, so feel free to treat yourself to some surf music as well. You deserve it for being so patient!

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Black & Green Dice

One thing I noticed while researching my article about Q Workshop’s “Halloween” and “Bloodsucker” dice sets was just how many licensed dice sets they produced for big name role-playing games. With official dice sets for Pathfinder, Numenera, Fudge, etc., it’d probably be easier for me to list the major RPGs Q Workshop doesn’t produce dice for! Thankfully, Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu would not fall on such a list!

In fact, Q Workshop has a huge selection of styles to choose from! In addition to the black and green set I’ll be reviewing today, they also offer the same design in beige and black, black and glow-in-the-dark and green and glow-in-the-dark colors.

They also have metal Call of Cthulhu dice (designed by the creator of the “Halloween” dice set), light blue Azathoth dice, yellow Hastur dice, red Nyarlathotep dice and dice based on the legendary Horror on the Orient Express campaign which come in a black and purple design. I must stress each one of these sets has its own unique design and how they are not simply the Call of Cthulhu dice design with a new color scheme. There’s even a green and black “Outer Gods” Cthulhu variant featuring a different Cthulhu design!

It was hard picking which set to review, but in the end the “black and green” set won. I can’t say no to such cool-looking dice. Especially since the design glows an eerie green under a black light! I defy you to look at the full sizes versions of the images below and tell me these aren’t awesome:


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Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: 6’+ Episode 234 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“It’s time to get away from it all with the annual Freaky Tiki Surf-Ari. Swim up to the bar while we play tracks from ZOMBIE SURF CAMP, CREEPXOTICA, ASIMOV COCKTAIL, KAVA KON and more. Monstermatt Patterson’s grass skirt catches fire as he tries to hula in the MONSTERMATT MINUTE, and Kraig Khaos goes nose-to-nose with a shark in order to play another KILLER KUT.”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Q Workshop’s Halloween and Bloodsucker Dice

I recently got in touch with Q Workshop to see if I could obtain one of their licensed Call of Cthulhu dice sets to review. During our correspondence, my contact there asked if I would be interested in reviewing two dice sets associated with their latest Kickstarter campaign: “Halloween” and “Bloodsucker” dice. As if the answer would have been anything other than “HELL YES!” I wasn’t the only one who thought highly of those dice sets, because the campaign was funded within four hours of being posted! I’ll have more on that later, but for now let’s get to the dice:

As you can see, I did get some Call of Cthulhu dice for a future review. You can also see the changes in packaging style. The boxes are smaller for their new dice and the days of fitted plastic trays for the dice are now over. The size of the dice remains the same and the change in packaging size only cut down on wasted space. I was admittedly concerned about the dice getting scuffed up since they’re loose in the box, but thankfully that wasn’t the case for any of the dice sets. Part of me wishes they could use some cardboard strips to keep the dice from bumping into each other and another part of me admits that most purchasers will throw them into a dice bag where they could get potentially scuffed anyway. But since they all arrived in perfect condition, I’m not doing to dwell on it.

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6’+ Episode 233 is Up!

2013 Logo IconTo quote the description given at the new listing:

“Rest In Peace, Pete Pardalis. We celebrate the life of the Tombstone Brawlers/Omega Men bassist by playing music by the bands, as well as tunes from Pete’s friends and fellow NYC musicians. Hear tracks from the MEMPHIS MORTICIANS, THE OTHERMEN, THE AFTERBIRTH, THE SPASTIKS, and more. Monstermatt Patterson pops in for another MONSTERMATT MINUTE.”

Remember to email 6′+ (contact at 6ftplus.com) or leave a comment below about the show, whether you liked it or not. Tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, but above all – enjoy.

You can find all episodes of 6′+ over at the official site as well as on iTunes and Stitcher. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Cards of Cthulhu Bonus Packs

As I noted in my review of The Cards Of Cthulhu: Beyond The Veil Expansion, some might be disappointed with not getting a larger amount of extra dice and experience tokens (both copper and silver). Thankfully Dan Verssen Games offers two bonus packs for use with either the expansion or the original The Cards Of Cthulhu game! But I’ll also show you other games you can use them with, along with potential usage in homemade haunted houses! Let’s check out the dice first:

The bonus pack dice are on top and the dice from The Cards Of Cthulhu are on the bottom. The bonus dice have the design stamped on rather than engraved, but this does allow for brighter colors.

The dice come with ten regular experience tokens, each packaged in its own little bag. Speaking of coins:

The coin bonus pack includes ten regular experience tokens and five higher value experience tokens! Unlike the dice, the bonus pack tokens are exactly the same as their counterparts from the boxed board games, right down to the metallic “clank” they make when you plunk them down.

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The Cards Of Cthulhu: Beyond The Veil Expansion

Having released The Cards Of Cthulhu,
Dan Verssen Games could have easily rested on its laurels and moved on to creating other games. Thankfully they went the extra mile and created The Cards Of Cthulhu: Beyond The Veil Expansion. This expansion introduces Nyarlathotep to the game, along with some new Horrors to aid the infamous Outer God. Thankfully, it also include some new followers and Investigator cards (along with plenty of items) in order to give anyone who plays a fighting chance!

Here is the new board:

And here’s everything you get with this expansion (not including the new instruction book):

One new element of play are the Investigation cards. Drawing one or more will require you to either discard them and pay a penalty or to investigate. Investigating can get you rewards, but requires you to roll a certain amount in order to succeed (and avoid being wounded). Thankfully, this expansion gives you plenty of new followers who can investigate and take the risk for you. In fact, two of the new followers are none other than Herbert West and Randolph Carter! Choosing to play as the “Detective” Investigator also gets you a special bonus when rolling during investigations. Another type of new card are ones which increase the difficulty of accomplishing certain tasks on each board. You have to pay experience tokens to get rid of them, but boards can take more than one of this kind of card and you have to pay to remove each on separately. This can become an issue if you have any gate cards in play. I neglected to mention them in my last review, but gate cards require you to draw an extra number of cards for each gate in play and you have to pay experience to get rid of them! Thankfully you get five new high value tokens with this expansion (along with a new rules sheet tailored for this version of the game). Let’s take a closer look:

The silver color does help set them apart from the copper tokens from The Cards Of Cthulhu, although I personally think the patina effect on those tokens looked better. Since The Cards Of Cthulhu: Beyond The Veil Expansion requires you to already own The Cards Of Cthulhu in order to play it, there are no extra dice included. You can certainly play this without using the cards from the original game, but you can also combine the decks if you want to. In fact, the expansion cards call have “Veil” printed on the bottom front of the cards in case you need to separate them from the regular cards. The instructions include the illustrated rules, sample game demonstrations and numerous new rules for both solitaire and multiplayer games to further enhance its replay value. I tried out the traditional and “novella” methods of solo play and had fun both ways. In fact, I racked up more wins playing this version than I did playing The Cards Of Cthulhu for my last review! Sadly, no short stories are included this time around. Dan Verssen Games has hit it out of the park once again with The Cards Of Cthulhu: Beyond The Veil Expansion. But that’s an admittedly minor quibble. Those upset that the expansion doesn’t include more tokens or extra dice will be happy to learn bonus packs containing those items are available separately (but aren’t required to play this).

Special thanks to Dan Verssen Games for the review copy!

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