Fright Exclusive Interview With HARLEY POE Vocalist Joe Whiteford!

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The only thing better than watching a horror film, is listening to amazing music that feels like little horror movies playing directly in your ears, at least for Harley Poe fans. We appreciate the haunting melodies that flow from a group of talented guys, who know exactly what we want to hear. I was fortunate to talk to the man behind the music, the gorehound, hellbound, horror movie lover himself, Joe Whiteford.

 So there’s a huge contrast between your early days in Calibretto 13 and of course Harley Poe so what inspired this shift musically?

I was younger, I had first started playing music and I was a Christian so I had a different belief system. I have first started reading music, so a lot of the Calibretto stuff was positive. I was trying to push my values and stuff, and as I got older, we toured a bit and just experienced life, and you know…finding out things you didn’t know when you’re 13 or 15, and I just started changing and getting new ideas.  I had always been a fan of monster movies, and horror movies, and that was just the next place to go. I just started singing about things that I enjoyed.

Harley Poe is a very unique band, and I love how you can tell that there’s a lot of punk, and folk influences, with a touch of horror, is that something you have always wanted to experiment with?, And are there any musical artists who have inspired your music into what it is today?

Well musical influences, as far as lyrically, I really love the cramps. They are one of my favorite bands. I just love everything about them, I love how they’re like “We don’t give a shit.” and I like the way he wrote, it was really clever and funny. And I like Tiger Lillies also, I love how offensive they can be. It’s like that’s what they’re out to do, is offend and it is funny. Those are the bands that influenced us,..and Johnny Cash, I was into a lot of his murder songs, he and older Harley Poe had a lot of songs about relationships and life, and Johnny Cash turned it into songs about killing his wife. When I became a Christian, I was introduced to punk rock through Christianity, I was really into Tooth and Nail Records. They had a lot of punk bands signed, and that’s how I got into MxPx and 90 pound wuss.  I prefer folk because I never really learned how to play guitar with a lot of distortion, I had an electric guitar and I would turn the distortion up, and make it sound punk rock but it never really sounded right because I never learned how to do power chords.   I like acoustic guitar, because you can hear what I’m singing, you can hear what I’m saying, I don’t have to yell. I like music where you can actually listen to the vocals. Acoustic makes it a lot easier and it also makes it a lot easier to travel. And you can setup anywhere, like in someone’s living room, and you don’t have to bring an amp. I just prefer it. I prefer fast in a lot of music. But I like it quiet. Which is funny because right now we’re recording three, 7 inches with horrorhound records and they are straight up punk rock. There are no acoustics in at all. We are all using electric guitar, electric bass, and drums. Just for fun, just to do something different. So considering I just said that I love acoustic, but our next releases are very punk and very rock and roll.

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You mentioned it earlier and of course anyone who listens to your music can already tell that you are a fan of horror films. Are there any specific horror films that have inspired any of your music?

Yeah, I guess. I love horror films, but I really don’t try and write about them. There’s a couple of exceptions like on the new album pagan holiday, we have Close the Door, which is about Pumpkinhead, and time of the month is probably inspired by Ginger Snaps…but I don’t know if horror films have really influenced me, I mean they must, I have a huge collection of them that’s all I watch.

You’re also an artist as well, do you find that it’s easier to create music or art, or is it about the same for both? Is there one that you prefer over the other?

Music is different. I normally don’t sit down, and set out to write anything. I’ll just be driving, or hanging out, and I’ll get a melody in my head, and take my phone out and record it. Then later on, lyrics will come to me and I’ll just sit down and write, and finish the song. I will usually finish it in one sitting. Other times, I’ll write a little bit, write the lyrics, and have a melody and put it down for months, and come back and finish it out of nowhere. Or I’ll have a song, and it’s pretty much done, but something will be wrong and I’ll just make it into something completely different. Musically, Greg also has a lot of good ideas, he will either speed it up or slow it down, or do this beat instead. Music is a different process. It’s a pretty easy process, it doesn’t frustrate me, and it comes pretty natural. As far as music over art, I think I definitely prefer to draw, illustrate, paint and sculpt. Even though I think drawing is the hardest thing for me to do, I can’t just really draw from my head, it never turns out the way I think it should. I can sit down and write a song about myself, but when it comes to sitting down and drawing, I need to research and find colors, or images that I want before I can actually sit down and do anything. And sculpting, I’m still a beginner, I’m trying to get to the point where I feel really good about what I’m doing, but I guess it’s the same thing with music too, I never took singing or guitar lessons. We got Wes, our guitar player, that guy is an amazing guitar player, I could never comprehend what he does, and I could never play like him. I picked it up so I could learn how to play songs, not to be an awesome guitar player. I guess I’m not very disciplined. I do it my way, and if it’s wrong, well. I’m finding out my six year old son is a lot like me, he doesn’t want to listen to what I have to say. He’s very stubborn.

I think that’s a young boy thing. My son is close to his age and he’s the same way. He’s a lot like me too, so that’s probably why. (laughs)

Yeah! They’re set on their ways, man. That’s it, they are doing it this way, and forget what you say to them.

 There’s no reasoning at all.

Yeah, no reasoning. Exactly. (laughs) And that’s fine when you’re six years old, but when you’re 35, and you’re there’s no reasoning. You’ve got problems. You gotta shape up, or grow up.

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If you weren’t making music, or creating art, is there anything else you could see yourself doing? Or better yet, is there anything else you would like to pursue?

Nope. (laughs) Right now my wife does her thing, and I bring in money through art, and music. I’m a stay at home dad, I work from home. One of my boys is in school, the other will be in a couple years, so I will have the house to myself everyday then and I won’t have to worry about feeding them, or stopping what I’m doing to make sure they are ok. I can just work straight all day long, and work on whatever I need to be working on. Or I think I could just go out and get a job, quit playing music, I’ve been doing music for a long time, and its fine as it is, and good things happen for us, but there’s never an “Oh awesome, we’re breaking out.” It’s always kind of for fun. I like to think, well maybe when the boys are in school, I could get a job as an exterminator. I don’t know why exterminator is the only thing I could see myself doing. Or maybe a trash man. I don’t know.

I just have to make a Cramps reference right now. You can be a Garbage man…

Yeah there you go. When I was a kid, I always wanted to pick up garbage. I thought “Well, that looks fun.” Going around, and watching garbage get smashed in the trucks. I guess I would want an active job, and moving around a lot. Exterminator, trash man…constantly moving around and traveling.

Right on. Ok, so this is my last question, and it is mainly for your west coast fans, because we would love to see you guys live. Is there any chance Harley Poe will ever come to California anytime soon?

You know, we get more emails from California than anywhere. It’s always California, asking “when are you coming down here?” In my old band, we used to go to California once in a while. We all want to go out there, we all want to do a small tour, and hang out for a bit. It’s tough, man. It’s a long drive and it would be at least a couple weeks on the road, and we don’t like to be out of work for more than a week at a time. We have been talking about it, we all wanna do it, and we are making plans to do it next spring. It’s just a lot of preparing, we all have kids, and jobs and stuff.

Well, if you guys ever do make it out here, you guys can totally crash at my house. I live in a creepy, haunted house with a doll that is supposedly possessed. So I think you guys might like it.

Oh Super! (laughs) And that’s a thing too, we don’t know what the fan base is out there, we don’t know if it would take all our money, time, and resources getting out there, and then five people are going to show up. That’s our fear, being so far away from home, and it not being a successful tour. If it comes along, then yeah, we would definitely be out there. It just kind of depends on it working out.

 

*Editor’s note: Icons’ own Justin Lafleur and his husband Daniel and zombies in Harley Poe’s video for “I’m a Killer”, so check it out!

For more info on HARLEY POE, visit their official site here.

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