As if naming their band after an obscure slasher wasn’t enough, Seattle dance punks Killer Workout also named their new EP Four : Three after the aspect ratio for old CRT television sets. ’80s inspired new wave meets goth dance jams, horror movie appellation, and cinephile references? I was in from the get-go, and that was before I’d even taken a listen to the band’s music—which, for the record, is catchy, definitely danceable, and very suitable for the prom scene in any Canadian tax shelter terror you can think of.
As if that wasn’t enough, in the lead-up to the release of Killer Workout’s new album this Friday, June 26, the band’s released two videos. Each utilizes footage from classic horror pictures to make the connection even stronger, with “Figure It Out” pulling from the 1979 Abel Ferrara film, The Driller Killer, and “Too Late” pulling from both Manos: The Hands of Fate and Invasion of the Bee Women. Way back in April, I got on the phone with the band’s drummer, Bob Husak, to talk about all things Killer Workout, as well as horror movies and VHS.
Cinepunx: Was naming the band after the film a group decision?
Bob Husak: Yes? We were originally called The West—for a number of years, actually—and we had a hard time with that name because it’s a cardinal direction, and it’s impossible to look us up, and kinda boring. I think we just settled on it because it was the one thing that we came up with that nobody hated.
We kinda just decided to be a little more fun, all around, instead of just taking it so seriously. The name change was part of that decision. Since pretty much all of us are into cheesy b-movies and that sort of thing, and just gravitated toward that. We thought Killer Workout was a good idea, also, because we’re kind of a dance-y band. We were all fans of that movie, anyway, and I think it might’ve been Anthony [Darnell, keys and vocals] or Adrienne [Clark, keys and backing vocals] who actually came up with it, but we all approved of it.
The sound of the band also dovetails nicely with the sound of the movie soundtrack, which is a bunch of high-energy bops. Did that factor into it?
Right. I think that’s how it all came together and fit. We actually wanted to cover the first song in the movie, “Only You Tonight.” I don’t know why we haven’t done that yet. It’s such a good song.
You have this EP that’s coming out, which also references straight-to-video movies in its title. Is referencing VHS and direct-to-video slashers all a part leaning ever more into the idea of the band being more fun?
The original idea for the band was taking it more seriously. We wanted to be like New Order or another serious band, but we’re not really like that. We’re all—but me, more than anyone else—super-obsessed with VHS and ridiculous b-movies. I have been forever. It was just sort of, “let’s be who we are,” instead of trying to be something else.
How did you come to be part of Killer Workout? I know that, prior to this band, you were part of another fairly storied Seattle band, The Blakes.
I was with the Blakes for—Jesus, forever. Like 10 years or something? More than 10 years. It’s been a while now, but I think what happened was that band was just sort of winding down. The other two guys in the band are brothers, and they moved back, together, to where they were originally from, Maine, and started families. I was just sort of left without a project.
Anthony, the singer of Killer Workout, was unemployed at the time. He’d lost his job, so he started coming to my house every day, and we started recording demos, and we roped Adrienne in at some point. Reed [Griffin, guitar] used to produce stuff for the Blakes, so I just called him up and asked if he wanted to play guitar. It just all came together pretty organically. We went through a couple bass players, and then we ended up with Jon [Swihart] a couple years down the line. That’s how we became the West—just me and Anthony making demos—and it just kind of went from there, and then just organically morphed from the West into Killer Workout.
You used to own a record shop?
I used to, a long time ago. I sell stuff online, like records and VHS tapes, but I don’t own a record store, although I am close with a bunch of people who own record stores. My favorite local record shop is called Daybreak. My friend R.J. owns it, after he used to work at another one called Jive Time for maybe 15 years. He left 3-4 years ago to start his own store, so that’s probably the one I’m closest with.
Is it dangerous to have close connections with people who own stores?
It is. It really is. I have a weird thing with collecting, where I’ll go through cycles where I just drop tons of money on records and whatever else. [sighs] I have this problem with being a completist, where I’ll just want everything, then I’ll realize that I’m spending all my money and I’ll just go through this weird cycle of getting rid of everything.
Everyone says, “why don’t you just have three or four shelves of stuff that you’re never going to sell, because you love it so much?” and it never works out for me. It’s always like, binge and purge, I guess. I had a killer VHS collection two years ago, and I just purged it all. Most of the good VHS that I have had, I got in thrift stores. Obviously, the good stuff is becoming scarcer.
The thing about VHS collecting is that you either pay through the nose for it, or you pay nothing. There’s really no middle ground, right?
Are you pretty deep in the game?
Oh, no. I just buy stuff for my brother. I stick with the record habit and the DVD/Blu-ray problem.
I’ve gotten into the Blu-ray habit, myself. All of these companies just have these great sales. It’s like, “okay, now Severin is putting everything at 50% off for a day, so now I have to spend $300.” [laughs] I have a friend in town who’s a really serious VHS collector, who has all the shot-on-video stuff. He has a whole room devoted to it, so every time I see it, I’m like, “why don’t I do this?”
Given that you deal in VHS, when you’re out digging, do you look for stuff that will sell, or also stuff that will sell and maybe you want to watch at least once?
Both. I’ve been doing records for so long that I can just glance at the records and know what I want, but there’s also all the crazy private things, or international things that I’ve never seen before. With records, like you said, there’s going to be stuff that I just have to buy because I want to hear it, but records are getting more and more scarce in thrift stores, as far as good stuff, which is one of the reasons that I switched to VHS. As of three or four years ago, you could still go to thrift stores and find amazing VHS—crazy ’80s horror stuff—without even trying, and now that’s starting to dry up.
It depends on the price, but I’ll buy just about anything cool on VHS, because it’s so easy for me to flip them, and it’s just fun to watch weird special interest stuff like odd Christian puppet things. It’s just fun to see things you’ve never seen before in the wild.
One of the things I wanted to ask was about the fact that there are two health club-themed slashers. In addition to Killer Workout (aka Aerobicide), there’s also Death Spa. They both have positives and negatives. Which do you feel is the superior film?
[sighs] That’s a good question. That’s a deep question, because David A. Prior? His whole catalog is just nuts. You can’t deny it, although I think I like Death Spa a little bit better, because the deaths are so crazy. I really like the fish death and the workout equipment stuff. I was just thinking about this, but the house that the guy has is just so hazardous, with all these ledges and stuff, where you could just easily die. They’re both just so ridiculous. The end of Killer Workout is so ridiculous. Man, that’s such a hard question, but I’m going to go with Death Spa as being the superior movie.
What I appreciate about Death Spa is that it starts out looking like a slasher, but then swerves to become a supernatural killer computer thing.
Right. The way they set it up is almost like a low-budget Nightmare on Elm Street—not necessarily in the plot, but in the way the have the kills. I love the party at the end, too, where it just goes on forever even though people are dying. Shit’s hilarious.
That’s both of them: people keep dying and the club doesn’t shut down!
That’s a running gag in Killer Workout, right? There’ll be a body bag being carried out, and then it cuts directly to an aerobics workout. They don’t shut down for anything. Nobody cares. I feel like the opening of Killer Workout inspired Death Spa, with the malfunctioning tanning bed—as well as Final Destination 3, where the two girls get burned up in the tanning bed. I feel like they must have watched it, and taken that element for Death Spa. There are some other really great workout deaths in horror movies, like in Happy Birthday to Me, where that guy is lifting weights.
Now, nobody’s touring right now, but I know that Killer Workout is promoting Four : Three by releasing a bunch of music videos, right?
Yeah, they’re all videos that are edited together from public domain videos. There’s a Driller Killer one, a Plan 9 from Outer Space one, and we’ve got some more songs in the can, so hopefully we’ll be doing some more videos. It took so long to get this one out that we’ve been writing more songs. We’ve recorded three more, so hopefully we’ll get another EP out, sooner than later.
Killer Workout’s Four : Three is available at Bandcamp.