Andrew Goldfarb’s punk rockabilly project started with a name. Goldfarb stumbled upon the 1854 book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” by Charles Mackay. The book catalogues incidences of mass hallucination and hysteria, such as Dutch tulip mania, which was a massively popular but fleeting fad akin to our own moment of madness, Pokémon Go or Pet Rocks. He christened his group the Slow Poisoners, after 17th century French women who had a knack for poisoning their husbands. He has since whittled the membership down to just himself and travels the country as the Slow Poisoner, performing solo surrealistic rock with many horror and punk influences.
What influenced this 1950s campy horror movie look?
I’ve always been into horror films, and when I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, in California, there’d be these late night horror hosts that would introduce the movies. They’d have these really exaggerated personas, and I always found it very entertaining. And then when I started playing music, I wanted to bring that theatrical element into my performance. So I will introduce the songs by displaying paintings, and I’ll use a lot of theatrical props. In fact, for this tour, I’ll actually be building a monster onstage, during the later half of the set. I call it the “Ameri-Monster,” and I’ll play some political themed numbers, and I will build this large red, white and blue monstrosity.
So you’ve positioned the Slow Poisoner as sort of your own late night horror movie host?
Yeah, I’m trying to put on an entertaining show in that fashion, and create an atmosphere that’s a little bit surreal and macabre, which can be tough to pull off sometimes. On this tour I’ll be playing some very varied venues, including a barbershop, so it might be a bit of a challenge to get that atmosphere going, but then again it is a rock ‘n’ roll barbershop, so it should go OK.
You dig stuff like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the Cramps, how did you get into that music?
Well actually the first time I got interested in music was a little kid. I was watching a movie on TV called American Hot Wax, with Jerry Lee Lewis and Screaming Jay Hawkins. And Jerry Lee Lewis plays piano, and sets it on fire, while he’s playing the piano. He pours gasoline over the piano, and then sets it on fire, and then continues to play “Great Balls of Fire.” I remember as a little kid, seeing that was very exciting. That was actually when the music bug first bit me, and then, of course, Screaming Jay Hawkins coming out of his coffin.
Since I already liked horror movies, that made a natural connection with an interest in music — seeing him at work. Then when the punk scene evolved in the early 80s, in California, there was a lot of punk imagery that was associated with that. There’s a band called Fang in San Francisco that sang about werewolves and, of course, the Misfits.
Why stick with just one guitar and one bass drum?
Well for me, I found that the purity of my vision was getting diluted from having other musicians. The eccentricities of my style were not always going over well when I tried to bring other people into it. What really crunched it for me was when I played this one show at a bookstore. It was a trio or a four piece at that time, and someone that saw it remarked to me that it looked like I saw it remarked to me that it looked like I was the only one that had dressed up for the show. Everybody else in the band was wearing what was comfortable and then she said, “That’s what my grandma does,” and I think that made an impression on me. I felt like no one would probably understand what I was trying to do as well as I was. So it kind of made sense to strip it down to just myself.You have some pretty awesome looking music videos, especially for “Hot Rod Worm” that was done with stop motion.
What goes into that process?
Michael Granberry, the animator, is one of the animators on “Robot Chicken.” I knew some folks in Los Angeles that had some connections that were able to pull in actual professional people. That video achieved a much higher standard of production than most of my other videos, which I usually just do with cutting up pieces of paper in my cubicle at my day job, when no one’s looking. But for that one we actually got a professional animator to animate a worm, and we went to a soundstage, and had it professionally edited. So I feel like “Hot Rod Worm” is a good representation of my visual aesthetic, and can easily be found on the internet if you just Google Hot Rod Worm, I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing that comes up.
Slow Poisoner live at the Avenue
Friday, June 8, 8 p.m. Free Avenue Café 2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 492-7403 www.theslowpoisoner.bandcamp.com