Kool Kat of the Week: Josh Robins of the Invincible Czars Gets Cozy with Count Orlok at the 100th Anniversary Screening of NOSFERATU at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse Oct. 7

Posted on: Oct 3rd, 2022 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Austin-based experimental rock ensemble, the Invincible Czars will be creeping into Atlanta for the first time on Friday, Oct. 7 during The Springs Cinema & Taphouse’s Fright Nights film series. The Czars, touted as “one of the best silent film orchestras in the nation” by Alamo Drafthouse, guarantees a fangtastic time will be had by all as they horrify the masses with their haunting live score to the world’s first feature-length silent vampire movie, F. W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922). Atlanta is one of many stops along the way on their 2-month Nosferatu Centennial Tour, which bleeds into 49 cities across the US and Canada by Halloween. Information on this exciting and deadly event can be found here!

The Springs’ Fright Night Film series runs through Oct. 31st and their killer line-up can be found here!

ATLRetro caught up with Josh Robins, founder of the ensemble, to chat about the tour, about what inspires the Czars’ wickedly weird tunes, and what it is about film scoring that makes him tingle! And while you’re taking a gander at our little Q&A, why not check out their killer Nosferatu Tour teaser trailer here!

ATLRetro: We’re super excited that Atlanta is one of the many stops on the NOSFERATU CENTENNIAL TOUR 2022, running through Oct. 31! What can our readers look forward to during the Fright Nights film series screening of NOSFERATU at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse on Oct. 7th?

Josh Robins: We like to get the audience involved and we like to joke around.  So, there will be some interaction and humor. They’ll also see the world’s first vampire film with our soundtrack performed live by 5 players on violin, keyboards, flute, bass clarinet, guitar, bass, piano, drums, and sound effects. We also have great pants.

Can you tell us a little about the tour? We see that there have been regular band line-up changes throughout the years. Which band members will be participating in the tour?

Yes, we’re more of a collective than a band with permanent players these days.  We’ll have Phil Davidson – violin, keys, glockenspiel; Skunk Manhattan – piano, bass guitar; Louis Landry – drums, sound effects; Josh Robins – guitar, bass guitar, sound effects; Zelda Younger – flute, bass clarinet, synth.

How did Invincible Czars come together? What inspired the band’s inception?

The original line-up is LOOOONG gone. I started the band in late 2002 to try to play some of the music I’d been creating on 4-track tapes in my bedroom. I wanted to combine rock and classical instruments. The first line up didn’t last long. In 2004, the first really cohesive line-up came together. By then we were much louder and heavier, and we’d dropped a lot of the Eastern Euro influence leaning more toward metal and prog rock.

What exactly is “Czar-ified classical music?

Classical music played the way we play it — usually with some humor, weirdness, and a lot of rock.

How long have you been playing music? What did you do before? Still have a day job?

Everyone in the band has played music since childhood. We’ve all had various day jobs over the years. Most of us teach. Some are just pro musicians. I take day jobs as needed and run the band. Sometimes I go for long stretches with no day job. Otherwise, I build decks, nanny, edit video, etc. etc. between tours.

We see the band began doing silent film tours back in 2012. Can you tell us what inspired the band to start accompanying silent films?

The Alamo Drafthouse began hosting silent films with live local bands in the late 90s. I was a fan of those shows but I thought I could do a better job than most of the bands who just seemed to play their usual rock music with the movies as a backdrop. Some were great and I thought the entire concept was something that people could get into even outside of Austin. I asked the Alamo if we could do one and they said yes. We started with AELITA, QUEEN OF MARS (1924) back in July 2006.

Care to share a little about your composition process?

Hard to nail down a single process. It usually starts with one person’s idea that gets bounced around and changed by everyone either in person or by sharing files. I like to plug in my guitar and record ten ideas quickly. That’s how I came up with several of the NOSFERATU themes—just by improvising based on how I felt about images from the film. We also tend to refine through workshopping or just performing.

Which silent film is your favorite to accompany? And why?

These days it’s NOSFERATU because we’ve put so much work into it!

Are there any films you’d like to compose scores for that you haven’t yet?

HAXAN (1922), THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED (1926), METROPOLIS (1927), FAUST (1926), SHERLOCK JR. (1924) and films made by modern day filmmakers who need music.

Which artists do you consider your influences? Have they changed over the years?

We tend to like metal, post-rock, punk, classical and prog. I love Mr. Bungle, NoMeansNo, Louis Armstrong, Neko Case, Tchaikovsky, Rev. Horton Heat. We all seem to like bands like Primus, Fantomas, Faith No More, etc. And of course, film composers like Bernard Herrman, Ennio Morricone, Wendy Carlos, and Danny Elfman.

It seems many musicians are influenced by particular musicians or a particular type of popular music (the art being the whole), but a film’s score tells a different kind of story, as accompaniments or pieces or carriers of the whole. Can you tell our readers what it is about film scores that influence you and the part they play in carrying a film?

Music can set a tone for a scene the same way dialog can and because it doesn’t necessarily clutter dialog, it can do so with or without actors talking. In real life, we feel various emotions but when you’re watching an actor (onscreen or in person) it may not be clear what the character is feeling. The music can help the audience understand how the character feels and that helps put their lines or actions in context.

Is there any particular film score that influenced you the most before you began composing your own?

It’s hard to pinpoint one. As a kid of I loved John Williams scores for STAR WARS, EMPIRE, and RETURN OF THE JEDI. I loved BEETLEJUICE and PEEWEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (both Danny Elfman) and started really paying attention to soundtracks when I was a tween back in the mid-80s.

What are your top five favorite film composers and the film scores they composed that moved you most?

Bernard Herrman (PSYCHO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST); John Williams (STAR WARS); Danny Elfman (PEEWEE’S BIG ADVENTURE); the various composers from Twlight Zone episodes from the 1960s; Henry Mancini (PETER GUNN)

What are your top five favorite RETRO films you’d recommend to our readers?

ROSEMARY’S BABY – still one of the best and surprisingly Satanic for the 60s; THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE; THE CAMERAMAN (Buster Keaton); ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Disney version); THE STING

Any other music you’d recommend to our readers?

Opposite Day – the best band in the galaxy!

What are you looking forward to most during the Fright Night Film series screening of NOSFERATU?

It’ll be our first time to play in Atlanta so I’m very excited to meet some new people and finally spend some time there!

And last but not least, what are the Invincible Czars currently working on? Anything coming out soon (after the tour of course)?

We’re finally releasing our Iron Maiden tribute “The Gospel of the Beast” this winter.  It’s been sitting unreleased for over a decade! In the spring of 2023, we’ll release a reimagined version of Modest Mussorgsky‘s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for which we combined forces with an Austin band, Bee vs. Moth! And we’ll also bring our soundtrack for DR. CALIGARI back to cities in the US and Canada in the fall of 2023.

 

 

All photos courtesy of the Invincible Czars and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Taking A High-Speed Ride with Hot Rod Walt of the Psycho-DeVilles to the Star Bar and Beyond

Posted on: Jun 29th, 2011 By:

Hot Rod Walt takes a ride on Paul "Stubbs" Diffin's bass. Photo courtesy of Hot Rod Walt.

Hot Rod Walt, aka Walt Richards, may have roots in Jersey and Florida, but since parking in Atlanta in 2006, he’s quickly become one of Atlanta’s hardest working rockabilly/psychobilly singer/guitarists. He has 200 original songs, and his main band, the Psycho-DeVilles, which also features Paul “Stubbs” Diffin (Blue Cats, Big Six) on bass and Steve “Burnout” Barnett on drums, have been racing ever since 2002 when they crashed OUT OF THE GARAGE AND ONTO THE STREET, the title of one of their four CDs. Their three other recordings have equally in-your-face titles: PSYCHO CADILLAC, SUPERCHARGER and NIGHT PROWLER. They’ve toured the US and Europe and shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the Retro Revival.

Left to right: Paul, Walt and drummer Steve "Burnout" Barnett.

Speaking of speed, in just the past two weeks, Stubbs literally lit his stand-up bass on fire at Rockabilly Luau (June 18; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on founders Chris Mattox and Jessica Vega here), and the band also shook up the Dixie Tavern in Marietta last Saturday. This weekend, they’re playing the Star Bar with Los Meesfits, Whiskey Belt and singer/songwriter Gail Linda Lewis—yup that’s Jerry Lee Lewis’s younger sister though she’s not riding any coattails (just ask Van Morrison). On Sunday, acoustic side project The Hot Rod Walt Trio heads outside the perimeter to play Brookstock at Wings and Brews in Jackson. Then they’re in-town at The Five Spot with The Seranaders on Thurs. July 7, and on Sat. July 9, they swing back to the Jailhouse Brewing Company in Hampton.

Pink and Blue Cadillacs from Hot Rod Walt's collection.

When Hot Rod Walt isn’t singing and strumming, true to his name, he hand-stripes and rebuilds custom cars and motorcycles and has accumulated a fantastic fleet of vintage wheels. That talent has earned him TV spots on Discovery Channel’s AUCTION KINGS, auctioning off his 1960 pink Cadillac, and CAFÉ RACER, which also included a band profile, on Velocity.

ATLRetro asked Hot Rod Walt to slow down long enough for a quick interview about guitars, automobiles and this week’s Star Bar show…

How old were you when you first picked up a guitar and what mischief did you make?

I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was around 12 years old. I will never forget being so stoked about it and I can still smell the smell of the wood and glue and paint it was made of. I didn’t come from a musical family so having an instrument seemed very exotic as a kid. I also remember my little brother and I fighting that day and my father threatening to smash my new prized possession !! (He would have done it too).

Hot Rod Walt doesn't miss a beat while Paul sets his bass on fire again.

Then a friend of the family got me an old Teisco electric with a chrome pick guard and that was it………. I was a rock star !

Why rockabilly/psychobilly, and how did you get started singing songs about hot rod cars and mean women?

I have been writing songs since I was able to write. I still have my first song I wrote in pencil as a very small child. In high school, I had some bands and always did my original songs with them. But at about 23 years old, I had moved to Florida and started an acoustic duo called Acoustic Boulevard. We had 85 original songs, no covers. Put out a nice album that did pretty good. I did that for about eight years. Then we put those 85 songs on the shelf, put on electric guitars and wrote 50 or so new songs and started an alternative type band called Slick Riddle. We put out three albums and had a great following in Florida.

Now to finally answer your question—I always loved rockabilly. My parents had given me all their Elvis 45s when I was a kid and I played them on my Fisher Price record player. I about wore them out!! I still have those records today in my 1962 Seeburg Jukebox. When the Stray Cats came out, I was very excited. I used to follow a band out of New Jersey called the Razorbacks. However it wasn’t till years later that one of my customers introduced me to The Reverend Horton Heat and Social Distortion. This is when things started to really change for me. I started digging and found this huge underground of music I never knew existed.

So I started the Psycho-DeVilles as a side project. It shortly became my only band and it skyrocketed. I figured that you can age gracefully playing rockabilly and that I can play this music till I’m dead.

I do write about hot rod cars and mean women. I have had over 100 hot rod cars through the years and I have known a few real meanies. Bangin’ gears in a ’32 is inspirational. So is divorce…

Have you played with Linda Gail Lewis before? If yes, when and where, and what’s she like? If no, are you and the band excited about the opportunity?

The Psycho-DeVilles played the big [Viva Las Vegas] Rockabilly Weekender in Vegas this past April, and Linda Gail was on the bill as well with Jerry Lee. She really tore it up, a great performer and a very sweet lady. Turns out that my bass player Paul Diffin did some recording with her when he lived in San Diego and they are friends. In fact,  they now both live in Acworth, Ga. So I put her on this bill with us at the Star Bar July 2nd. It’s gonna be a blast!!

You certainly play with an energy that rivals Jerry Lee Lewis, though he’s burning up a keyboard and you a guitar. Did Jerry Lee Lewis influence your sound and staging?

I love playing with energy !! I was heavily influenced by all the Sun Records performers. But I really do it because I want people to be entertained and come back for more and wait to see what we might do next. Give people something to look at “and” something to listen to. I don’t like to go out to see a motionless band so I refuse to be one.

Do you and the band have anything special planned for this Saturday’s show?

We have nothing super special that we will be doing but I think the entire event will be very special. The Los Meesfits are from Athens, Ga.. They are a salsa-styled Misfits cover band and lots of fun. Whiskey Belt is a guy/girl honky tonk duo with one of Atlanta best guitar players, Rich DeSantis. Of course, Linda Gail with a special appearance by her daughter Annie Marie Dolan. And then us… and you never know what might happen at the Star Bar!!

What did you think about the Rockabilly Luau and how’d you like to see that evolve? Other than Bubbapalooza, I don’t think I’d heard such a great line-up of so many quality local and regional Retro-inspired musicians in Atlanta this year—that is, before the monsoon hit.

The Luau was a great event. The folks that put it together really did a top notch job organizing and running it. Real pros for sure. We are really looking forward to next year’s event and we are already booked!! And yes, there were some great bands on the bill. I think that next year there are some real big surprises in store for us. Stay tuned.

You certainly play a diverse selection of locations—both in and out of the perimeter. What’s different between playing the Star Bar or the Five Spot and those suburban and out of the big city locations?

We do play a lot of shows—75-100 shows a year all over the country and beyond!! We even played Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium and Holland in 2010. I am now booking a Euro tour for Sept. 2012. We love playing all gigs, the concert type venues where there is a rockabilly scene, and the honkytonk biker bars outside the perimeter. We just do our best to keep the people there all night till the bitter end. I would rather play music than do anything else. I’m pretty sure my bandmates feel the same way.

How many vintage hot rods do you own now, what are they, and what are you working on right now?

I have always kept many cars on the road, usually 10-15. I currently have a ’32 Ford Roadster, ’32 Ford 3 window, ’34 Ford 5 window, ’51 Merc coupe, ’51 Merc Convertible, ’36 Plymouth coupe, ’64 Falcon convertible to name a few—and several more and motorcycles, too! I am currently doing the upholstery in a ’51 Plymouth Slantback that I chopped the top on last year for a customer. Red and black tuck and roll.

I seem to recall that you customize your guitars, too?

Yes. I am a Pinstriper. I pinstripe cars, guitars and bikes almost every single day. I am flying to California to the Fender Custom Shop and hand striping 10 special edition Hot Rod Walt Pinstriped Gretsch Guitars. Pretty cool !!

You have one fantastic rockabilly wardrobe—especially your jackets. What’s your favorite place to shop for clothes in Atlanta?

I make all my show clothes myself. I have some vintage stuff that I find randomly. But I usually find a halfways cool suit at Goodwill and then customize it to a Western style or ’50s style coat. Since I am an upholstery guy, I have industrial sewing equipment and just make whatever I want. I have quite a huge collection of suits. I always want to make a new one for every show!

Any other news you’d like to share about you or the Psycho-DeVilles—more upcoming gigs? Next new recording?

The Psycho-DeVilles are very busy and are always adding shows to our schedule. I also have a side project called the Hot Rod Walt Trio, where I play mostly acoustic stuff. Be sure and go to our official Website to keep up to date on all the latest: https://www.psychodevilles.com

We are also going back in the studio again to make our fifth Psycho-DeVille record. I have written 15 new songs for it. Actually a few of them are some tunes that I wrote many years ago that never got recorded. We hope to have a new album out by fall. We also have some more TV shows coming out this year. Stay tuned to CAFE RACER TV for my “haircut episode” on Discovery HDTheater.

What question do you wish someone would ask you, but they never do, and what is the answer?

I just want to say thanks to all our loyal friends out there. And want to thank Atlanta for being such a great place to play music ! I especially want to thank Steve and Paul and Roland for their great musicianship and loyalty.

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