By Patrick R. McDonough
Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Welcome back, folks! This is part two of our conversation with the boys from Ink Heist. For those who didn’t read Part I yesterday, I strongly recommend “unfucking” that . Let’s get a little competitive for this question, boys. If you two are on a Horror Quiz gameshow. Who’s winning? Who has a more expansive knowledge of the genre?
Rich: That’s a good question! It sounds like a cop out answer, but I think it could go either way. There are a lot of movies and books Shane knows about that I don’t and vice versa. We’re always recommending stuff to each other for that reason. But if I were forced to choose, I would obviously have to pick myself right? [laughs]
Shane: I think the outcome would be thus: if we’re talking cinema or TV, Rich will kick my ass handily every time. Until recent years, I’ve never been a huge fan of visual media, not even when it comes to horror, always preferring the written word or song over film or TV. Rich is much more well-versed in the visual aspects of the genre. When it comes to fiction, I tend to believe the results would be exactly the opposite, for the simple reason that I am way older than Rich and have had a lot more time on this planet to compile a raw, uneducated sort of knowledge on the subject that only a similar amount of time and devotion could hope to equal. That said, I have mental issues that get in the way of memory sometimes, so I often have to dig for things in the dusty past.
DHR: Fair assessment, fellas. Is there a dream guest you would like to have on the pod? I’m talking the biggest names in horror. It doesn’t even have to be an author. For example: Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, or perhaps C. Robert Cargill.
Rich: That’s a great question! On the literary side of things, I think it would be cool to do a joint interview with R.L. Stine and Tim Jacobus. Their work together on Goosebumps inspired many people as kids to not only become readers, but become interested in horror for the first time. Robert McCammon would also be another dream guest of mine. Also, I think everyone would love to talk to Stephen King and Joe Hill.
As far as other horror creators, Rob Zombie I feel would be a really interesting guest as well as Eduardo Sanchez, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Barbara Crampton, Guillermo Del Toro, and Robert Kirkman. And how could I forget Kane Hodder, and Robert Englund? I also think it would be cool to talk to Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as they wrap up the 15th season of Supernatural. I could probably continue on for a few hours!
Shane: Hmm, Peter Straub and Clive Barker both come to mind, as do the great Joe Lansdale and Ramsey Campbell. And if we’re totally dreaming, Shirley Jackson and Jack Ketchum. I don’t have a lot of interest in King or Hill just because every major, non-indie rag out there has had one or both of those guys a number of times now and it begins to feel pretty cliché after a while.
As for others. Art the Fuckin’ Clown, baby! In all seriousness, it would have to be someone with a lot of knowledge/credits in the realm of storytelling to interest me. Rob Zombie, Chelsea Stardust, and Jeremy Saulnier all come immediately to mind.
DHR: Any of those guests would make for such a fun show! What type of horror sub-genre do you tend to gravitate towards?
Rich: I love all types of horror and don’t really have a “go-to” sub-genre, but I do have a particular fondness for horror stories that mix elements of crime and noir as well as traditional horror stories. John Foster’s Mister White is one of my all-time favorites and one I think needs a lot more attention. Another excellent one is Alan Baxter’s novella, Manifest Recall. I pretty much love everything [laughs]. I also like books that mess with traditional structure, like Brian Kirk’s Will Haunt You or Marisha Pessl’s Night Film.
Shane: Much easier to tell you what I don’t gravitate toward than what I do. I don’t tend to dig steampunk even if it’s horror flavored. I don’t do heavily romance or erotica themed work, and urban fantasy, unless you’re Alan Baxter, it’s a hard sell for me too. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit as long as there’s a good, well-written story involved.
DHR: Do you have a preference when it comes to books? Kindle, hardback, or paperback?
Rich: I don’t have a preference and will read in any format. I will say that Kindle formats are easier for reviews because I came up with a color coding system using the highlight feature that makes it A LOT easier to take notes and look up later. As far as my personal books, I usually prefer physical copies. I’m a big collector of vintage horror and nothing beats hunting for them in various bookstores.
Shane: In most cases, I gravitate toward Kindle, just like Rich, though I take that step further and apply it to my own books. I have a limited amount of space so digital normally wins out when available. The huge exception being first edition paperback horror of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
DHR: I’m right there with you two. I have a fondness for collecting paperbacks, as well. Do you tend to listen to music while reading or is silence your soundtrack?
Rich: I usually read in silence. As far as writing, I usually listen to playlists I’ve made on Spotify. I traditionally listen to stuff like punk, hardcore, indie rock, pretty much any “underground” genre.
Shane: Silence in all instances. Reading, writing, reviewing, whatever else. When music is playing it owns my attention fully even if I fucking hate it. Maybe especially if I fucking hate it.
DHR: Favorite author(s)?
Rich: Oh, too many to list! If I’m going with contemporary authors, these are some of my favorites: John F.D. Taff, John Foster, Ania Ahlborn, Laird Barron, Josh Malerman, The Sisters of Slaughter, Hunter Shea, Alma Katsu, Brian Kirk, Alan Baxter, J Daniel Stone, Gabino Iglesias, Jonathan Janz, Kathe Koja…I could go on forever. The Horror genre is full of incredibly talented authors and it’s a great time to be a horror fan. Some authors that recently released their debut that I’m really excited about following are Laurel Hightower, Shaun Hamill and Caitlin Starling.
Shane: Jack Ketchum, Caroline Kepnes, John F.D. Taff, Lee Child, Megan Abbott, man, so damn many. And they’ll all be different ones tomorrow. Except Ketchum. He’s been at the top of the list since 1984 so that’s not likely to change soon.
DHR: Favorite horror-based film maker? And do you have a favorite horror television series?
Rich: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead immediately come to mind. They’ve released 3 films so far – Resolution, Spring, and The Endless – which are all essential viewing as far as I’m concerned. I also love Robert Eggers, Ari Aster, Jennifer Kent and Ana Lily Amirpour. It goes without saying I love the films from some of the obvious masters, but I figured I’d list some newer directors. Not strictly horror, but I think people NEED to check out Shane Carruth. He only has two films at the moment – 2004’s Primer and 2013’s Upstream Color – but they’re just stunning. Particular Primer, which was made on a budget of $7,000 and is probably the best time travel film out there.
As far as horror television, for my money, the best stuff is coming from outside the US. Marianne, Black Spot, Les Revenants, Dark and Jordskott are captivating television shows that are dark, ambitious and essential. All of those are available on streaming as well for anyone interested.
Shane: Jeremy Saulnier (some argue him to be a straight crime director but some are wrong), Benson and Morehead, Zombie, always with the Rob Zombie, The Soska Sisters, Damien Leone, Stardust.
TV: I’m in full agreement with Rich: Foreign TV is kicking America’s collective asses when it comes to horror pretty much across the board, with Black Spot and Dark being huge favorites. The one American exception to that statement is the brilliant rendering of Creepshow on Shudder.
DHR: I wish I had Shudder just to watch Creepshow. I love the first two films. What horror-based podcasts do you listen to?
Rich: I’ve been listening to them more lately, but my go-to’s are Final Guys, This is Horror, The Horror Show with Brian Keene and a new one that just launched-Staring Into the Abyss. I also just started listening to The Bastard Title with Angel Luis Colón which is fucking great. It’s not strictly horror, but it IS one of the best literary podcasts you’ll find online.
Shane: Pretty much the same subjects as Rich across the board here, adding on Aaron Mahnke’s Lore.
DHR: Duly noted. Is there a tradition that you have during October? Any particular book, movie, or show you tend to watch on Halloween?
Rich: No real traditions, but I do love everything Halloween and watch and read anything horror I can get my hands on. As a kid though, I watched Ernest Scared Stupid almost religiously. I think I need a rewatch of that soon. I wrote about it years ago for SF Signal and had a blast.
Shane: Not historically speaking, no, but I do have a new-ish tradition over the last three years of watching at least 31 horror films in October, and I almost always re-read a favorite King novel in the witching month, but didn’t get to it this year. Too many great indies out there to let small fries like SK get in the way.
DHR: Ha-ha. Of all the 80’s/90s slashers, if they all had a Super Smash Bros. type battle, who do you think would come on top?
Rich: In the real world? Jason. Even though his head was alive SPOILER ALERT he did best Freddy. As far as I’m concerned, there is no other answer.
Shane: Anyone Kane Hodder has ever played. Though that trio from The Devil’s Rejects would give him a damn good run for psycho cred.
DHR: Wow, Shane. I didn’t even consider the Firefly family. Nice answer! Do you decorate your house for Halloween?
Rich: A little, but nothing too extreme. I do have some plans for future Halloweens though!
Shane: Not really. Our interior decor is horror-centric year round so not much to do there, and we avoid decorating the exterior in hopes of avoiding giving anyone the mistaken impression that we want them ringing our doorbell with something other than a pizza.
DHR: Yesterday you guys talked about a new project where you’ll be releasing original content from invited-authors. The first being John F.D. Taff. Could you recap that?
Rich: We’ve always wanted to publish original fiction, so it’s been a long time coming. We came up with a format that celebrates “spontaneous creation”, and we just let the authors run wild with whatever moves them. John’s story was fantastic and we have two more already lined up that we’re incredibly excited about. We’re taking things slow right now so we don’t over-extend ourselves, but it’s an aspect of the site we expect to grow rapidly as we move forward.
Shane: See my answer to question one.
DHR: You both are book worms. Is it unreal for you to be interviewing authors you love?
Rich: It was at first. Most of our early guests were writers that we were already familiar with from our years covering the community, so we were pretty comfortable as we found our footing doing the podcast. As I mentioned, the authors that we cover are extremely supportive and friendly, so any jitters we have are entirely our own. We also run a pretty informal format, so I will say it has been a bit unreal getting to know our guests outside of a traditional interview setting. We usually come up with a few talking points to keep things organized, but mostly it’s just a friendly conversation. For anyone thinking of running a podcast or even branching out into interviews, go for it. Most authors are happy to connect with readers, so it’s definitely worth it.
Shane: There have been some more surreal than unreal moments, but for the most part, it’s all very chill. Many of our guests have been people that one or both of us has known for years and whose work we know as well as the insides of our eyelids. The more unreal ones are coming in the forms of some future guests that will be guaranteed to knock your fucking socks off. Wait for it…
DHR: I am absolutely excited to see what’s to come. In one of your episodes you mentioned a co-written story, possibly of novella length. Can you tell us anything about that?
Rich: I don’t want to spoil too much since we’re still in the early stages, but I can say it centers around an incredibly fun protagonist Shane created for another project. It has a pretty terrifying witch, magic mushrooms, a curse and plenty of mayhem. It should be a lot of fun and it’s unlike anything the two of us have tried writing before.
Shane: What he said.
DHR: Again, I cannot wait to see what you two are cooking up! Would you like to make a shout-out to anyone?
Rich: Oh man, now I know how people feel at those award shows
. I hate to forget someone, so I’d like to just give a shout-out to all of our guests and anyone that has ever visited Ink Heist, whether it be through the site or the podcast. None of this would be possible without all of you and we’re proud to be a part of such a tight-knit community. Though I will give a special shout-out to Erin Al-Mehairi and Tony Rivera and Sharon Lawson of Grey Matter Press. They were some of my earliest supporters when I first started reviewing horror fiction, even before I really “established” myself as a reviewer. Also Brian Kirk and John F.D Taff for trusting us with their innovative releases for their respective books this year.
Shane: Yeah, man, pretty much everyone who has supported us over the course of the last 7 years, both jointly and separately and, always, of utmost importance, it’s the readers and audience members who come back week on week, share all our tweets, talk about the website and podcast. We couldn’t do any of this without those people and we are indebted to them forever.
Also, my brothers and influences, Josh Malerman and John F.D. Taff. Those guys mean the world to me and their support has been a bottomless well for me.
DHR: Shane and Rich, again, thank you for letting me interview you! Dead Head Reviews loves your podcast, and wishes it to have many long years.
Rich: Thanks for having us, it’s been a blast!
Shane: It’s been great being here. We’ll do it again someday!