Thursday, July 29, 2010

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Shag! and The Art Of Tiki

With all of the focus on Tiki music here at the Local, it's all too easy to forget its artistic side. Thankfully, Google Books makes it just as easy to jog one's memory on the subject.

Let's start with Tiki Art Now! by Otto Von Stroheim and Robert Williams. In addition to its great information on all things Tiki, it kicks off the art with Dr. Alderete's "Acapulco Tiki," wherein an El Santo-style luchador kicks back with a Munktiki brand "Kreepy" mug. It's the perfect way to unwind after a hard day of wrestling monsters! The other pieces of art in the preview are a mix of cool and spooky, normal Tiki and horror Tiki.

The book's striking cover art is by one Josh Agle, better known to his fans as "Shag." In case you're wondering about the name, it comes from the combination of the last two letters of his first name with the first two letters of his last name. Supposedly he adopted that alias in order to make it look like his band at the time, The Swamp Zombies, could afford to hire someone else to do their albums' cover art. In fact, a large part of the band's creation was due to his desire to make the album art!

His simple-yet-detailed retro style has made him a smash hit, both in the world of Tiki and the art world in general. There's even an exotica CD devoted to songs inspired by his work! Which is quite appropriate, seeing as how he was a founding member of The Tiki Tones.

But there is more to Shag than Tiki. As noted here, Mr. Agle does not want to be known as "just a Tiki artist" as they are only one of the many aspects of his work. His official website describes artwork as a "blend of hot rods, tiki heads, skeletons, voodoo lounge, and kustom kulture all rolled up in a swanky package." His long list of influences also includes (but isn't limited to) 60's culture (mildly NSFW), spies, thieves (I'd love to see Shag's take on Lupin III), blaxploitation, horror, and martial arts movies. And, as noted earlier, he often combines these to create unique and interesting (and spooky) works. If anything, Shag is a "rooms you wish you had in your home" artist.

For more on his work, please check out the following links:

Shag: The Art of Josh Agle
by Josh Agle, Colin Berry, and Billy Shire.

Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag
by Shag

Shag, ltd., fine art limited editions: a catalogue raisonné
by Shag, Douglas Nason, Jeremy Cushner, and Greg Escalante

Don't just look at the art, either. Those books are filled with fascinating interviews and writings on Mr. Agle's work. I especially liked his observation on Tiki bars in Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday uEtsy: Handmade Horrors

['s tagline is "Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade." Coincidentally, there's a lot of spooky on Etsy, and each Tuesday, we highlight one of the sellers. If you're looking to spruce up your look, redecorate your tomb or get a gift for that special something in your afterlife, is a place for spooky econo.]

Handmade Horrors (

Sometimes, you're going to make a mistake. And that's fine. The odds are that you, reading this, are likely human. Or human-esque; a good portion to count, is what we're getting at. And with that, you're bound to screw up.

Which is not really the kind of thing we want to lead into when discussing Handmade Horrors. Handmade Horrors gets it right, which is, by the book, the opposite of making a mistake. In fact, if you look at the work at their shop, you would petition Merriam-Webster to list 'Handmade Horrors' as an official antonym of 'mistake.' Someone flashes that Murky Skull Faceted Gem Necklace and you'll say "that person is getting it--whatever he or she does--right."

But we here at the local fall under the human side of things, or close enough. So we're prone to the mortal folly of making mistakes. One of which, we were clued into late last week when Doc Killian came by, he corrected at a terrible, how you say, faux-pas, that we've done for a while.

Seems 'Freakshow' isn't so much an adjective of sorts for our man Bernie, but the gentlemen's last name. From suffix to prefix. Yep. Doc showed us the birth certificate and all.

What does this has to do with the Count Rockula Necklace you're going to buy from Handmade Horrors so you can show up at the next psychobilly show to woo that creeper man or roller girl of your black velvet dreams? We suspect that Bernie Freakshow did the same to win the still-bloody heart of his lovely wife, Loretta--the one she was still gnawing on when he came over to ask for a dance.

You might catch the eye if you were wearing these Greaser Skull Earrings. I don't know what Loretta had on the night she became Mrs. Freakshow. It probably was still wriggling but what can we say? It was a wedding. You don't need to be as bold as Loretta but wearing these earrings will say you cater to a boldness that is rocking in its own way.

Granted, not everyone could find wedded bliss the same way that Bernie and Loretta did. Some people don't like psychobilly and prefer punk rock. Look at this pin from Handmade Horrors. Totally rad, right? Bust heads, break hearts, looks fantastic.

Which brings us back to the idea of the beginning. Sometimes, we break things and we have to apologize, or, to a point, extend said apology in a physical exchange. A 'gift exchange,' if you will. Won't say it's Christmas in July because well, it isn't. Or at least it won't be in about four days but that doesn't make these Ribbon Bracelets any less attractive (that might make them MORE attractive. Will wonders ever cease?)

What we've been trying to get to is that Poinsettia Freakshow is not that bad of a girl. And we may have hurt her feelings last week so we have to get her a gift. Mainly because Freakshow Bernie (sorry, old habit, and everyone just calls him 'Freakshow') is one of the better independent contractors in the six-county district and we don't want him to sour on us. And, mainly, because Poinsettia is a nice girl. She does brighten up the Front Office when she's around, whether we like it or not. We haven't picked out a gift yet but we think Handmade Horrors has a good idea.

Don't tell anyone. We have a reputation to uphold.

Handmade Horrors would like to note that Greaser Skull, Count Rockula and Punk Skulls designs are by: See what else Handmade Horrors has to offer you. They're also on Facebook, Livejournal and they even have an official page you can check out as well. Buy something, look snazzy and come back next week for another Tuesday uEtsy.

[ed. Like the article states, we are prone to mistakes. We accidentally listed this week's uEtsy as 'Homemade' instead of 'Handmade' Horrors. We have since corrected it.] 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday uEtsy: Zed's Zombie Ranch

['s tagline is "Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade." Coincidentally, there's a lot of spooky on Etsy, and each Tuesday, we highlight one of the sellers. If you're looking to spruce up your look, redecorate your tomb or get a gift for that special something in your afterlife, is a place for spooky econo.]

Zed's Zombie Ranch (

Chances are, you own or will own your own house someday. Or you'll come into possession, albeit temporary, of a yard. You think we here at the Local would encourage you to dig it up, bury something (preferably, something dead) and place some kind of marker, be it stone, tree or upturned rusted pickup, on top. Well, until 1922, that was pretty much standard Local policy. Wasn't enforced, just highly encouraged. 

Thankfully for our property values, the official Charter was amended with new leadership and since then, it's perfectly fine to decorate your yard with things other than stones and burnt out Fords. It makes sense that being practically in the landscaping business (y'know, just with dead bodies and all) we tend to take our yards and various patches of dirt with some serious consideration for looking good, or at least, not causing landlords and neighbors to call the city in complaints. While some of the more zealous of those out there might talk about seeds, watering schedules and fuel injected riding lawnmowers, we here at the local prefer to outfit our lawns with some nice art. 

This is why we want to give big thanks to Zed's Zombie Ranch and the fine work produced by them. Well experienced metalsmiths and leatherworkers have produced some really fine pieces that will make your lawn stand out, in a good, non-violating city ordinances way. 

Take, for instance, this piece. Sasquatches, as you might not know, are highly ritualistic in their burial procedures and have been strong allies of the Local since near its inception. If we were to let Freakshow Bernie's younger daughter Poinsettia write here, as she's been begging, we might say "We <3 Bigfoot." But, until she gets her shots and promises to stop covering the Union shovels with glitter, she's not allowed a hundred yards near the Front Office. But Bigfoots? Bigfoots are all welcomed to drop by so we like this piece, which is highly functional as well as artistic. It says 'POINSETTA, ARE YOU A BIGFOOT? NO? WELL LOOK AT THE SIGN. GO BACK HOME, GIRL." 

We're thinking of getting the 'Go Away' sign for the front door, because all of Zed's Zombie Ranch produces signs both for mounting in your yard or mounted on your wall/door. Look at that piece of metal work. Fantastic. Who needs 'beware of dog' or 'trespassers will be shot' when you have something that says 'the ancient nameless evils born of this old land will rise up to dance their play across your burning flesh if you ring my doorbell while I try to take a shower.' 

Of course, Zed's Zombie Ranch's products aren't all about telling you where and where not to go. Sometimes, you want people to gather together and party. What better way to invite them together with a skeleton knocking back a cold one? Goodness, we don't know any better way. If you do, better tell Zed because until then, this skeleton is sitting as king of the hill.

The images you saw at the beginning of this week's spotlight are featured on t-shirts, a new medium for the fine folk at Zed's Zombie Ranch. Who doesn't like a t-shirt? No, we're seriously asking. Why does everyone think the questions we pose are rhetorical? Maybe we just want some answers, for once. 

So you now have an assignment. Get a yard. Don't have one? Use your neighbor's. Don't have any neighbors? Make 'em. Buy one or five things from Zed's Zombie Ranch. Decorate the yard. Sit back. Check out Zed's Zombie Ranch's new blogspot site and come back next week for another Tuesday uEtsy. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Waitiki 7

The Waitiki 7

Official Site

New Sounds of Exotica, Pass Out Records 2010

Hello, my name is Rapanui and I'll be your server for the evening.
Waitiki is dead, long live The Waitiki 7!

After their 2005 debut album, Waitiki released two more albums, 2007's Rendezvous in Okonkuluku and 2009's Magic Island Sounds: The Wedding Album, before departing from this mortal coil (figuratively speaking). However, its mission and spirit lives on in the Waitiki 7. Confused? Perhaps I should let band leader Randy Wong clarify the matter:

"We were asked by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Germany to assemble an all-star group for their Wassermusik festival that summer, and The Waitiki 7 was born. Second we wanted to expand our scope beyond music, because we were starting to do tiki consulting, mixology (craft cocktails), and other stuff. Lastly, with The WAITIKI 7, we wanted to go after the jazz/world market which meant a more "serious" approach to the music. We need to create a separate identity for that sound because a lot of "serious" music critics etc. would scoff at a band that was as "silly" as our previous quartet work."

Whereas the original band's lineup consisted of:

Tim Mayer
Brian O'Neill
Abe Lagrimas Jr.
Randy Wong

The Waitiki 7 consists of:

Tim Mayer
Helen Liu
Zaccai Curtis
Jim Benoit
Abe Lagrimas Jr.
Lopaka Colon
Randy Wong

Despite the sharing of members from Waitiki, this is a new and different band. But although the tone may change, but the music is still great either way. Think of Charred Mammal Flesh as an impromptu jam session among friends at a private barbecue while New Sounds of Exotica is how the same friends (along with a few who missed the party) play for a big club gig.

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Waitiki


Official Site

Charred Mammal Flesh, Pass Out Records 2005

Yum!  Oh, and that pig looks pretty tasty too.
In our last exotica installment, I shared a story about the origin of the song "Bwana" (and about the use of animal calls in exotica) that had been told to me by an exotica musician. Since he went unnamed in that in order to help build interest for this particular installment, it's time to give the man his much-earned credit: Randy Wong, the founder of the band Waitiki (and Waitiki International LLC).

Waitiki was formed in 2005 with the goal of introducing (and reinventing) classic exotica music for the listeners of today. Their debut album, Charred Mammal Flesh (subtitled "Exotic Music for BBQ") shows the band's method of going about this: a mixture of covers and original music.

And what exotic music it is! The liner notes instruments including (but not limited to): upright bass, vibraphone, marimba, melodica, and reeds. Given that I have no idea what some of those instruments sound like, some of my music descriptions are based on my best (careful) guesses. But while I don't always know what I'm hearing, I do know what I like!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Witches in Bikinis

Witches in Bikinis

Official Site

Witches in Bikinis, Second Wind Productions 2005
A Scary Kind of Love, Second Wind Productions 2008
All Hallows Eve, Second Wind Productions 2009
Special Edition Sampler CD, Second Wind Productions 2009

Taking their name from the first song they ever recorded, Witches in Bikinis burst onto the scene in 2005 with their songs that mix serious and silly. The combination of bikini-clad female singers/dancers in colored wigs and a trio of musicians makes for a unique musical experience, be it listening to one of their CDs or catching a live performance. Why the bikinis? Well, besides surf music being one of their influences (along with rock and pop music), let's look at this quote by Michael Dale (from a review of the group) that sums it up quite nicely:

"Combining three beloved staples of 60’s pop culture – the girl group, the beach party movie and the low-budget horror flick – 'Witches in Bikinis' perform catchy and funny original songs, with arrangements heavy on the goofy rock/gothic sound."

For this entry, I'll be reviewing the previously mentioned discs in a somewhat order different than what I have written above. I'm doing this in order to recreate my original listening order and because the samplers foreshadow several things about WiB's full albums (as effortlessly switch from one musical genre to another).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Arthur Lyman

Arthur Lyman
Bwana √°/Bahia, Collector's Choice Records 2008 (Original release date: 1959)

During my last exotica album review for the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari, I briefly touched on the use of sound effects in exotica music. To quote the Wikipedia entry on the genre:

"Additionally intrinsic to the sound of exotica are bird calls, big-cat roars, and even primate shrieks which invoke the dangers of the jungle. Though there are some standards which contain lyrics, singing is rare. Abstract, sirenish ululations, chants, vocalized animal calls, and guttural growls are common."

The horror connection is rather obvious. How did such sounds make their way into the style? Well, there are a couple different stories on the matter. This says that it all started at a Martin Denny band performance at the Shell Bar at the Kaiser Hawaiian Village (now known as the Hilton Hawaiian Village). During one of the performances, frogs from a nearby pool began croaking and stopped only when the music did. When the frogs started up again, some of the band members began responding with bird calls. Denny knew they was onto something when someone asked about the song with all the animal noises the day after and soon incorporated them into the act. In an interview with Time magazine, Arthur Lyman said that he started doing bird calls after getting a little tipsy during one of the Denny group's performances and according to the product description here, percussionist Augie Colon started doing calls (which he learned to use while hunting) after joining the Denny band in order spice things up and quickly got the other members doing it as well.

One exotica musician I spoke with while preparing notes for a future review commented on the situation, noting that both men did bird calls for the group and felt that it was a case of spontaneity. He also humorously noted that any arguing over who started the bird calls is akin to "arguing who's older when you've got a set of identical sextuplets."

In 1957, after several years of working with Denny, Lyman left to start his own band. He released his first album that same year, Leis of Jazz. The CD I'll be reviewing is a reissuing of his fourth and sixth albums, Bwana √° and Bahia.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday uEtsy: Blood Bath

['s tagline is "Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade." Coincidentally, there's a lot of spooky on Etsy, and each Tuesday, we highlight one of the sellers. If you're looking to spruce up your look, redecorate your tomb or get a gift for that special something in your afterlife, is a place for spooky econo.]

Bloodbath (

'Your Flesh is Dying For It!" boasts Bloodbath, and to be honest, we think they're right. Word from Doc Killian down at Serene Pastures says that the Hernandez kid, what caught in a bad motorcycle accident, was seen clutching a bottle of BLOODBATH Morbid Moisture BODY LOTION in the autopsy photos, despite no internet access at the mortuary and Killian's practice of sending the orderlies out with oak table legs on any solicitors, lawyers or postal workers. Seems that the Hernandez kid's body was dying for a bottle of Morbid Moisture, literally and figuratively.

We don't really encourage you to go off and be that extreme, unless you've master the ability of post-mortem purchases. Last time we checked, VISA tends to frown on corpses buying stuff. So while you're alive, might as well take care of yourself in the best way possible. Why not try some of Bloodbath's fine products? Take, for example, these Sugar Scrub Cubes. Stripping away the stank of a job well done is vital if you want to make friends, influence people or not be pelted with rocks when you show up at the front office to clock in the next day. It's just an idea, because dang, if we don't have plenty of rocks.

One might think that the Vegan Perfume offered here might look like a tin of snuff or a car of sardines, we're thankfully glad that it isn't either and would encourage any of you (snuff, chaw and sardine fans alike) to put down those tins and pick one one of these. In according to the phrase, 'a little dab will do ya,' we'd like to see more dabbing of Bloodbath products and less salted fish smelling like tobacco.

People die every day, throughout the year. It's a fact we all know but it's one that we here at GdL don't like to admit, mainly because it means working in the winter. The ground's pretty hard. Sure, bodies smell less atrocious due to the forgiving cold weather but it takes Freakshow Bernie's backhoe to get a good six feet down into the ground. And he doesn't let anyone else drive it, it being his pride and joy. That means waiting out in the cold for him and 'Norma' to do the heavy lifting. And that means - chapped lips. Thanks to Bloodbath, there's some fashionable and flavorable relief waiting for us come the first freeze. Morgue-A-Rita- Margarita goodness, Gasberry Lemonade, Screamsicle and Candy Corn are some of the offered flavors that might save your lips or encourage you to eat them.

We're fans of soap, here at the Local. So it's great that Bloodbath also includes some coffin shaped products meant to keep you clean, whenever you're finally forced (by pitchfork) into a shower. Take care of yourself, peoples. You have plenty of time to stink when you're dead.

Wonderful products to be had by all, and we encourage you to go have some. Hit up Bloodbath at their Etsy store or their official blog. And come back here next week for another Tuesday uEtsy at Gravediggers Local 16.