Apologies for ripping-off the Kerrang! interview below, but there was so little material about the band on-line, I thought it was worth a scan. Oh, and they later changed their name to “Fabulous Monsters” for legal reasons, shortly before disbanding for unknown reasons. Shame… they make me laugh, and there’s too little fun in the music world these days… for some reason only the Japanese seem to understand that…
“The Beastie Girls” – From Kerrang! circa 5/98 (Words: Joshua Sindell)
Duff McKagan leans back against the bar of Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour club and stares in abject disbelief. The object at the erstwhile Guns N’ Roses’ bassist’s gaze? The three wildly dressed masked women on the stage gyrating madly to their own sound.
The fanged Vampire Girl jabs away at her guitar’s strings, churning out twangy surf-rock riffs. Over on drums, the tall and green-wigged She-Zilla stands and pounds away, slamming her snare drum as her tail sways gently behind her. It’s the final song of the Famous Monsters’ set – a cover of the Cheap Trick chestnut ‘Clock Strikes Ten’ – and lead guitarist/vocalist Devil Doll beams as she watches her band bashing out the final chords.
The horned lass in the tight red outfit quickly thanks the crowd for their warm, if slightly astonished, applause and the trio swiftly head upstairs to their dressing room, passing their tourmates, sci-fi garage rockers Man Or Astroman?, on the way. Duff McKagan decides that this is his cue to depart as well. But not before the bleached-blond one hesitantly approaches Kerrang! with an important question on his mind. “Say,” he says, a quizzical expression contorting his face, “wasn’t Sean Yseult from White Zombie supposed to be in that band?”
The next day, we’re gathered at the expansive Silver lake home of While Zombie guitarist J. Yuenger. J has offered the costumed creatures a place to crash before they continue their tour up the California coastline. When the Duff McKagan incident is related to the outlandish trio, the Famous Monsters howl with laughter.
Devil Doll smiles a knowing smile. Sean Yseult – for it is indeed she, her corkscrews of lime-green curls tightly coiled under a red wig, plastic horns on her head and a pointy tail waving behind her – is having the lime of her life. For the White Zombie bassist, Famous Monsters are a chance to return to her trashy, garage rock roots.
A non-stop party straight outta the Crescent City of New Orleans, the Monsters have given Yseult a break from the Zombie’s thunderous sounds and unbelievably lengthy touring schedules. For their part, both She-Zilla (Carol Cutshall) and Vampire Girl (Katie Campbell) claim that they’ve never heard of Devil Doll’s other band – although they admit to having seen the movie of the same name.
Will this project cause any conflict between the two camps?
“I think there’s room for two bands on this planet,” notes Devil Doll. Her two colleagues nod vigorously in agreement. It’s a rare moment of seriousness for the threesome. Famous Monsters refuse to be addressed by their real names or remove their masks. All three claim to hail from a planet called Monster Island, but say they’ve now “emigrated” to Earth. They have, quite clearly, superglued their tongues to their cheeks.
”We’ve come down from our Monster Island planet to try to inhabit Earth for a little while, explains Devil Doll with an impressively straight face. And play these songs that we just wrote a couple of months ago.”
”We knew that Cheap Trick were from here!” exclaims She-Zilla.
All three of the Monsters name the legendary Chicago band as their all-time musical heroes.
”We had a hard time finding a place on Earth that was comfortable,” Devil Doll continues. We finally came across New Orleans. It was just like Monster Island: a 24-hour party with lots of monsters, ghouls and drag queens.”
Vampire Girl: ”And fiends!”
She-Zilla: ”And graveyards!”
The Famous Monsters’ sound is a whacked-out mix of creepshow instrumental themes and ’60s surf sounds. Songs like ‘Vampire Cosmonaut’, ‘Murder Beach USA’ and ‘Destroy Puny Earthlings’ are rollicking examples of their single-minded (and simple-minded) pursuit of hauntingly good fun.
Famous Monsters first came together three years ago. Back then, they had a male drummer by the name of Frankie Stein.
They released a seven-inch single, ‘Monster Girls… Are Go!!’, on US indie Estrus Records and then promptly disappeared. Of course, now that they’ve emigrated to Earth they’ll be able to put out their self-titled debut album in October on Bong Load Custom Records and take their creepy-music-for-party-people ethic to the world at large!
Devil Doll ponders her fascination for the surf-rock sound, eyes wide behind her crimson mask.
“Maybe, down in Hell when I was a baby, I got influenced by someone surfin’ on those fiery waves!” she improvises wildly. “I dunno, is anybody dead from (US surf legends) The Ventures? I must have been raised on that music somehow.”
That, or she’s been inspired by the clutch of instrumental bands, like the aforementioned Man Or Astroman? and Guitar Wolf, who’re currently burning up the club circuit in the US.
“I just picked up the guitar a few months ago and started writing all these songs, and I’m not really sure where they came from,” she insists. “We might have had a satellite dish beam down some interplanetary sounds to us on Monster Island, possibly when Man Or Astroman? were flying by.”
We’ll take that as a ‘yes’.
”I’ve been hitting and destroying things all my life,” interjects She-Zilla, twitching restlessly, “and the drums were the first thing I could find that I could hit and not destroy!”
With White Zombie currently in a coma – what with mainman Rob Zombie preparing for the release of a solo album and a tour -this is the perfect lime for Sean, er, Devil Doll to express herself in new and unexpected ways.
“I’m enjoying (playing lead guitar) immensely,” she says, fiddling with her tail. “I just have these little melodies in my head and it’s nice to be able to play them. I’d played some of them on a four-string bass guitar, but it just doesn’t make a nice sound. It’s good to be able to play chords. And I especially like the whammy bar on a guitar!”
It’s a beauty of an axe, too, with a glittering red finish and Devil’s pitchforks printed all along the fretboard.
As for Zombie guitarist-in-residence J, looking youthfully clean-cut without his dreadlocks, he maintains that he isn’t the slightest bit threatened by his bass-playing bandmate’s move into his territory.
“Not at all,” he laughs, happily picking at a guitar in another room of his house, decorated in eccentric fashion with dozens of fez hats. ”But I do think I’m the only member of White Zombie not totally into the surf music thing… although I do like it.”
The Famous Monsters now have their claws extended and sharpened for mass destruction on a global scale.
“If we can handle the climate here on Earth we’re going to stick around,” deadpans Devil Doll, “because people so far have been very nice, and New Orleans is very conducive for our music. I think we’ll be around for a least a year, or 10, or a 100.”
“But there’s other things I want to do!” wails She-Zilla, tearing at her green hair.
“Such as?” asks Devil Doll.
“Well, I’ve always wanted to be a… manicurist! I love to rock, but I do have other interests.”
Do Famous Monsters write their songs with a certain type of fan in mind?
“They’re especially for teenage boys in Japan,” replies Vampire Girl, her smile showing off her fangs.
Devil Doll: “We’re hoping that Tokyo enjoys our music.”
Have audiences been screaming out for ‘More Human Than Human’ or ‘Thunder Kiss ’65’?
“No,” says Devil Doll, “but we keep hearing of this thing called ‘Freebird’.”
“All animals should be free,” concludes Vampire Girl with an air of authority.
Have people been yelling out the name of Devil Doll’s alter-ego, then?
“No, but I’ve heard a few people yelling out ‘Godzilla’ a few times,” she grins. “They must like She-Zilla’s Daddy a lot.”
In Kerrang! 705, Rob Zombie talked at length about his solo album and his Zombie-A-Go-Go record label. Zombie-A-Go-Go is devoted to releasing records by surf-rock bands such as LA combos The Bomboras and The Ghastly Ones, but Rob claimed he had no idea what Sean was doing or of the Famous Monsters’ existence.
“That’s interesting,” ponders Devil Doll, “Our guitarist J knew about it.”
Our guitarist? Don’t you mean White Zombie’s guitarist?
“Right, right,” she laughs. “And I later found out that Rob was trying to get a lot of the bands on the Estrus label for his label. But I don’t think he knew who Famous Monsters were. Very interesting. ”
With that, the three Monsters rise to take in what’s left of the LA sunshine. We idly inquire where they got their fabulous costumes from.
“Costumes?” they cry in unison.
“They are our outfits,” snorts Devil Doll. “We’ve been wearing them forever!”
“This is my favourite outfit,” smiles She-Zilla.
“She-Zilla,” gasps Devil Doll, “it’s your only outfit!”
In the Night!!! (1998) – Bong Load
Around the World in 80 Bikinis (1999) – Estrus