Count Beetle have been knocking out dark, weird folk for two and a half decades. And yes we know that ‘weird folk’ is an actual genre – be assured that this is not the case here, it sounds nothing like that stuff, this really is weird folk. ‘Intimate’, maybe, but not in the usual sense. Certainly not in a relaxing way! What’s that? You’ve never heard of them, anyway? Pull up a chair and let them tell their story, with growls, ominous rumbles, and creepy string noises from the undergrowth…..
Top illustration by Chadwick St John.
How did Count Beetle come to be…?
It is a long-story never told. To make that long story shorter for the very select few who have read the others, let’s just say Count Beetle started out 26 years ago with a few other members and stayed in the deep fogs of obscurity every since then. Now it is still Me, Teddy Horse, and Count Wynston as the brothers beetle. We reside in the Ozarks, somewhere in the tangle wood and back roads of Arkansas…
You’ve just released a Count Beetle album on vinyl; “The Ratter of Dale”. What can you tell of about this release? What are some of the songs dealing with here? There seems to be a running concept or theme of certain things like rats..
It’s terribly limited and it’s color is ghastly green. There’s tales, characters, certain roles played out in the lyrical and voice over a dark folklore of rustic acoustic music; bare and like that of an old, unfinished, skeleton house- perhaps the poverty of sound and of the see-through-the walls atmosphere of said things.There’s a theme of rat and man; their relationship throughout the years. There’s a them of both. The song “Dale Foots” and “The ratter of Dale” are of the same or different characters of men who are ghosts. “Dale Foots” narrates to you his great fall and “The ratter of Dale” shows you the way through through his own hunt for rats evermore by way of the shattered lantern light he holds to guide you through. “Roy Cecil and the fireball” is about a man who meets a foxfire spook light and trades places with him on the open road whereby he assumes the role of a harasser and romancer to the travelers on the night roads. The other songs deal with the rats; one about a rat man, a whistler, a were thing…an artificer. “The brains of rats” are the rats talking, rising up against man with fever and sore. There’s a literary sense to a lot of my writing, concept wise. The album has a medieval sort of feel at times, as well. Rufus Arcane worked with us on the production and he and Wynston recorded the percussion, drums.
What literature inspires Count Beetle? ‘Rats In the Walls’ by Lovecraft?
Rats in the walls is a good one to be sure but not a inspiration for The Ratter album. Gary Gygax’s first edition work of the RPG AD&D is an inspiration on the song “Rattus the Boiler” and opened many doors of the mind and greatly. And the strong medieval pull of these things. But where did that come from? Folklore, I’d say and old lore…I could mention works of Machen, Howard, C.A Smith all day- in that some of this is in the same lines as weird horror of an old style but, again, I think the collective works of folklore is ensorcelled within, and the same things that inspire many authors…The night, the old wind, the glow of fireside and the storyteller of auld. The empowerment from old, lost, vanished things; the nostalgia. Also the literary,poetic sense itself and the use of language more so than the author itself must be stated. The old folklore of the Angels, Jutes, Picts, Gauls, Northmen, and such is a strong call…I write a lot of songs starting with a poem and title first. I would have to say the earliest influences were definitely Poe, though. One of my favorite books for years is the Wind in the Willows by Grahame. The way of the animals used like in folklore for this story was an elemental sort of thing common to us all. It’s all…elemental.
What can be said of your first album, “Clairaudience”, is it still in print?
It has yet to see a second press. It came with a scroll with artwork and lyrics by Chadwick St.John who did production on it with us too. Griff of the old doom band, Cathedral, added a mix and production to one song. The timing sounds off a bit at times, like nervous unease or the heart palpitations of a dying man and it has a good, old analog sound that is atmospheric. It was first released in March 2011 and can now be found at our bandcamp in digital format. I have included some of my writings as bonus material in pdf format for those who support our work there. I would like to see it re-released on cd or vinyl one day. As of now i am putting all the physical formats of any of this work out myself, independently on my own.
Tell me a bit more about the place you live, the Ozarks. Does the landscape and history affect the music you create?
There are many great things in the Ozarks; old places, wild places, vast woods, oaks, hollows. Skeleton houses, thorn wooded deep and night molds. Many places to make camp and fireside. There’s also hot summers with thick, evil humidity and lots of insects, poisonous snakes, tics, mosquitos, fleas, spiders. The nature gives a great atmosphere for a lot of great things in certain times and seasons. Electrical storms is something inspiring and I must not go into a rant here on this matter. I have gotten literary inspiration from farmer’s almanacs or wort cunning and anything that has to do with herbs and things.There is a certain poverty here (*points to heart) that is akin to the poverty of sound I have mentioned sometimes, and a very lost, stranded feeling-An outright feeling of being marooned or a stranger and this can be used like a spade to earth. But I have an interest in Celtic things just as much…Ancient, auld things. There is just as much are atmosphere from real and phantastical things of Scottish, English, British things…there is a tie to this, surely.
There is a strong tradition of folk music there, albeit quite jolly music…are you carrying on a darker interpretation of this music, and if so, are there any modern artists ( last 80 years should do it ) that are inspiration?
Perhaps some of the folk here seeped in on us but as I mentioned before I see most of them coming over here from the old world, from our ancestors. Last 80 years? There are some Artists I really like and could certainly praise but none I would like to point out as inspirational for this particular sound. Maybe authors unknown in traditional folk ways.. I’d say we carry on the stranger, darker side of it that is somehow folk and doesn’t adhere to any real rules.
How would you describe the sound of this music to the uninitiated?
The stark music of outsiders and strangers. It is certainly weird and obscure. I would describe it as a sort of dark folk with Celtic and medieval sorts of motes and built on a unorthodox structure in a certain sound and principal that has nothing much to do with alot or any other music around. There is a feel for the magic worship of things auld and lost, things vanished or that never were atall.
It is said you have two albums coming out in the next few days under “Teddy Horse”. Why? What can be said of these two albums coming out at once? What is the differences in this and Count Beetle.
A: Count Beetle is still active, but more slower, like the trickle that forms some weird cave. We have even aged some of the songs like wine. With Teddy Horse I move faster, and it works as a new project to keep up with the fountain burst of ideas that drown me. The difference, I cannot quite say other than I also write weird horror, poetry, etc and sometimes draw from and try to connect this with the writing. The first album is “Night Blue” and is a homage I made to the night. The second is “Songs of Spring” which is a spring collection. The cover I had in my head and Rufus Arcane pulled it right out and we are proud of the symbolism and its connection to the overall work. The cricket passing the saw on the cover of the album has significance. The songs on there include auto harp on two old traditional covers, “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “Loch Lomond”. There is also a ending outro song by played Rufus Arcane that we worked on in concept together.Both albums are written and performed in a very live, fireside manner and have a rustic approach to the recording methods. Both can be had on cd by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.