Sean Yseult Interview: Former White Zombie Bassist talks her new band playing Housecore Horror Film Festival, and other creative projects.
Since leaving White Zombie, bassist Sean Yseult hasn’t slowed down one bit.
She’s created a clothing line, wrote a book, and is currently playing with Star & Dagger, which trades in White Zombie’s industrial groove for swampy blues rock.
With her band on tap to play the 2013 Housecore Horror Fest October 26th in Austin, TX, I took some time to discuss her love of horror films, her thoughts on the festival, and all her current creative endeavors.
SLIS: How did you get involved with the Housecore festival directly?
YSEULT: They just wrote us and asked if we wanted to be a part of it. My new band Star and Dagger opened for Down a number of times. It was great. We were very relieved that their audience liked us, you know? You never know when you play with a band like Down, or one of your heavier bands because the audience usually only wants to see the headliners so we were really happy that their audience took to us. Based on that, and that Phil and I have been friends now for 20 years…so I’m very happy they asked us to come play.
SLIS: There’s always been a connection between your interests in horror movies and music. When did your interest in horror movies start?
YSEULT: I think my earliest memory is me being barely able to crawl and turn on the television at some ungodly hour like, and I started watching this movie that stuck in my head forever.
It took me well into my 20’s to figure out what it was: Frankenstein Conquers The World, which is still one of my favorite movies ever. It’s pretty ridiculous, but it was terrifying as a child and I loved it.
And Creature From The Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, all those movies that you could catch on television back then…It just made a huge impression on me as a child. And shows like The Munsters or The Addams Family. Who didn’t want to be Wednesday Adams you know? Or at least I did!
SLIS: You’re premiering a video at the festival as well, correct?
YSEULT: Yes, my band are actually shooting it next week, right here in New Orléans. It’s for our song In My Blood which is the first track from our new record Tomorrowland Blues.
Our guitarist (Dava She Wolf) is obsessed with Stanley Kubrick, especially The Shining, so she wanted to make a video based on it. We’re really ambitiously recreating some scenes. We’ve already got a crazy CGI reenactment of the blood elevator scene which we’ll be in, and we’re recreating the hedge bush maze scene and the ballroom scene, and a number of other things. So it’s really fun. We’re definitely putting a twist on it, but trying to make it authentic as possible. Its fun to meet those challenges.
SLIS: I look forward to checking that out at the festival.
YSEULT: Awesome, I don’t know when that’s gonna première just yet. But it’ll be before one of the movie screenings. We’re looking forward to it too!
SLIS: I was listening to Tomorrowland Blues, and the biggest difference between this and White Zombie is its more bluesy. Is that a by-product of living in New Orléans, or were you wanting to go in a different musical direction?
YSEULT: Well I’ve always written pretty bluesy riffs…but they might have kinda gotten blended into White Zombie with everybody’s various styles.
But living in New Orleans all these years I’m sure has had an influence…For me a lot of my favorite bands were like Black Sabbath which to me are so bluesy..and also the MC5 and Blue Cheer…a lot of psychedelic 60’s rock. It’s not metal but its heavy. Those are big influences, and it definitely comes through more in this band . But maybe it’s also me and Dava writing together. But it’s definitely what I enjoy doing.
SLIS: I really like it and it’s cool to hear you in a different context.
YSEULT: Thanks so much. And you know our singer Von Hesseling has a real bluesy voice, so that kinda helps (laughing).
SLIS: So will you be playing any other shows in Texas while you’re up here for Housecore?
YSEULT: We’re flying in just for the fest. We thought about trying to book some other shows, but that would have impeded on our time enjoying the festival and we wanna be their for the whole thing.
I mean I’m dying to see Goblin…I’ve been a huge fan forever, and I love soundtrack music. The fact that they’re going to score Suspiria live is unbelievable.
SLIS: Yeah that’s amazing.
YSEULT: And Coffin Joe, who I met in Brazil when White Zombie were playing a festival…we had some time in-between and MTV Brazil took us to meet him. That was insane, we went to his headquarters. So the fact that I’m getting to meet him twice in my lifetime is insane.
SLIS: What other acts are you looking forward to checking out?
YSEULT: I’m really excited to see Phil’s new band The Illegals. He’s been playing their stuff for me forever so hearing it live is gonna be great.
And I love seeing Down…And of course EyeHateGod. It’s sad about Joey [drummer Joey Lacaze recently died from respiratory failure) but I hear they’re still going to play and it’ll be a pretty special show.
And I look forward to just seeing a lot of friends and hanging out.
SLIS: It’s a very audacious project Phil Anselmo has put together.
YSEULT: Phil never does anything small. He started House of Shock here in New Orléans, and that’s one of the biggest haunted houses in the world. And now he’s gonna start this. It’s definitely gonna be a hit.
SLIS: I know you have a degree from the Parsons School Of Design and I wanted to know how your artistic background has impacted you musical style?
YSEULT: It definitely crosses over into what I’ve done musically. Rob and I did all the art and packaging for White Zombie…and for every band I’ve done, it’s kinda half the fun you know…For me I like a band where it’s the full package…like I always was obsessed with The Cramps…it’s not just the music, its their image… it’s a way of life…I like when a band feels like a gang you can join, you know? I like when a band creates that, so the visuals are very important.
With Star And Dagger we’re having a lot of fun with it being three girls in the band…And theres’ so many movies and historical references with three women. Like the three witches in Macbeth, or the three girls in Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. We made a video based off that.
On the cover of our record we played off Valley Of The Dolls…so that’s like three women who are basically gonna overdose and drink themselves to death!
There’s a bunch more…there’s also Witches of Eastwick. We were thinking about playing with (laughing)…so we’re trying to keep the visuals on a fun level (laughing).
SLIS: Do you think the internet has spoiled that somewhat since people aren’t buying as many CD’s or album’s anymore?
YSEULT: Well you can still see the imagery on the Internet so I don’t think it’s that different…but it’s not like back in the day when you could flip through records. But I remember when records switched to cd’s and we were all like “It’s not a big 12 inch record and I can’t see all the artwork” And now it’s down to nothing but what are you gonna do? You can at least make a big image that people can look at on a computer screen. When you download ours it comes with a booklet…so at least there’s that… that’s something (laugh).
SLIS: It’s always cool that there’s still an option for someone to have it in a physical format.
YSEULT: I like having something tactile in my hand. If it’s just on my computer, I might forget it’s there…I feel like I don’t own it, so it’s nice to have something in your hand.
We did get the record on vinyl…it’s on beautiful blue vinyl…and the advantage of being on vinyl is that there’s more artwork inside…and there is a game board designed by Dava on the back which is kinda like a Candyland gone wrong for adults.
Because again the cover is based on Valley Of The Dolls…so they have this horrible descent…as far as drugs and pills and alcohol…so the game board illustrates that and its pretty funny. It’ll be on a 12 inch record which looks like a real game board size and it’s really awesome. That’s a plus for getting the vinyl!
SLIS: I know you also have a custom coffin bass from Schechter. How much were you involved in the design process?
YSEULT: I drew it out….Mike from Schechter came to me and said If you ever want anything weird let me know because I’d love to build it for you. So I said I’ve always had the thought in my head that I’d like to have a coffin bass…so I drew it for him and that was that and they built it.
I’m not really a techie person..as long as there’s a volume knob and I can turn it up to 10…just as long as it sounds good you know? It’s great they made it customized to me so the necks really thin. Obviously I have smaller hands than most guys, hopefully (laughs) so it’s lightweight but still sounds superheavy and very powerful. I’ve gotten compliments from every bass player on the planet even like John Doe (laughs)…he’s like wow, that bass sounds amazing!
SLIS: I saw that and I was like I want one of those!
YSEULT: Thanks so much!
SLIS: You also have a website where you sell your designs; What inspired that venture?
YSEULT: My parents passed away and it triggered a whole flashback to my childhood, like when I used to draw a lot. So I started doing all these drawings ….I just thought these things would look good on something…I’d like them to be applied to something like scarves…and I made this connection to get them printed on silk, and they turned out great, so I ended up getting them in a lot of big department stores across the world.. And they did really well in Ltd editions…I’ve done it for a number of years. I still have them online but I’m not really doing the whole department store anymore. I’m just gonna do it myself now. That was just too much work (laughs).
SLIS: My wife is a big White Zombie fan and I told her I was interviewing you and she found your site online and was like oh this stuff looks so cool! She loves your scarves.
YSEULT: Thanks! My parents were very bohemian types and my dad cranked Rolling Stones and Hendrix all the time. They had a lot of very psychedelic 60’s rock posters all around. My mom even had Peter Max scarves and leggings…so I think that definitely influenced me. A lot of people say oh Peter Max! And I’m not trying to do that, but it’s just kinda how I draw… it’s kind of stream of consciousness. That’s just something kinda fun and I don’t know, maybe very therapeutic for me?
SLIS: I had a chance to look at your book I’m In The Band and loved it. What inspired you to put that out there?
YSEULT: It was after Katrina and I hadn’t lost everything…So I just thought I should put all this stuff down in one place because I have boxes of White Zombie paraphernalia and my photo albums and stuff I took backstage…and partying backstage with the bands…I just had so many good memories that it would be horrible if it all washed away if we had another hurricane blow through New Orléans. So I started putting that all together. I was just doing it for myself to be honest. I was just gonna get online and do like a little iBook you know (laughs)? But people were like this is too good you should share it!
And next thing you know I had a agent and a book deal and it’s actually in its third printing.
YSEULT: And I heard you and J. Yuenger [White Zombie guitarist] are putting out new White Zombie merchandise?
YSEULT: Yeah, we got a new manager for White Zombie. We’re obviously defunct but there’s still things that need to be managed with a band like ours. There hasn’t been any merchandise available…if you look at all the other bands that were around when we were around, selling as many records as we sold, you can always buy their t-shirts and we had nothing (laughing). So we were trying to remedy that and we finally did. We’re having the old designs reprinted from a company called FireBrand.
We have a website now called whitezombieofficial.com and you can click on that and it will lead you to the merch also. There’s going to be more and more we just have the first wave now.
SLIS: So are there some legal hoops involved with that?
YSEULT: Well you know Rob just doesn’t really communicate with us much…but the three of us are the band. J. and Rob and I are writing partners and equal partners in White Zombie. So technically J. and I can do whatever we want, but we like to get Rob’s blessing…and that can take a little while…so we just had to coördinate with him and his manager.
SLIS: For what its worth it was you and J. Yuenger’s sound that captured my interest in the band. Rob’s solo stuff just doesn’t have the same appeal for me.
YSEULT: Well we did write the music…we wrote the music and we played the guitar and bass so yeah it is the sound of White Zombie, so it’s not gonna ever be the same.
SLIS: Well I wish it was! I miss that sound.
YSEULT: Well thank you I appreciate that!
SLIS: So going back to the festival, why does heavy metal and horror coexist so well?
YSEULT: I’ve been asked this before and I don’t have an exact answer, but maybe something about the adrenaline rush that both metal and horror trigger? And of course with metal bands there’s just so much horror imagery..it just seems natural…you don’t have like metal bands tied in to romantic comedies (laughs).
SLIS: I know earlier we were talking about classic horror movies, are there any new horror movies that have captured your interest?
YSEULT: I hate to say it but I’m stuck in the past. I don’t really like a lot of the new stuff…I’m not a gore fan so much…unless it’s really silly…like Herschel Gordon Lewis stuff…I just love like classic monsters and ghost stories…like The Shining and things that are more based in cerebral fear than just like somebody running around just killing people.
That just kinda bores me. So yeah there’s not a lot of new stuff that I like that much. Some of the Paranormal Activity stuff I like ok, but not a lot of the newer stuff unfortunately.
SLIS: I read a piece in Revolver where you listed your 5 favorite horror movies. What other’s besides what we’ve discussed would you add to your list of favorites?
YSEULT: Well Jodorosky’s film’s aren’t exactly horror moves but they’re horrifying, I was gonna list one of his films. The last movie I saw I’m trying to remember but there’s like a field of rabbits and the next time you see them they’re all laying like their dead (I think the movie is El Topo). Because some plague has killed everything and everyone’s murdered…and then there’s like troops of mutant deformed people. The things he includes in those movies, it’s horrifying but beautiful. I like that combination.
And also Vampire Circus. I love that movie! Its one of my favorites…it’s a crazy Hammer film….its kind of beautiful imagery and stuff but its kinda twisted….theres this circus in town and one of the people turns into a panther…and one of them turns into a vampire.
SLIS: I have vague memories of staying up too late as a kid and seeing that movie!
YSEULT: I caught it on TV, too, and I was like what the hell is this movie…I’ve been kind of obsessed with it ever since. And also any movie with Peter Lorre like Mad Love or M. He was such a great villain.
SLIS: M is such a disturbing movie, especially for when it was made.
YSEULT: I mean being a pedophile is pretty horrific! (laughing)
SLIS: And I was curious, since you were playing music in such a male dominated genre, do you ever have any female musicians come up to you and say that you were very influential or inspiring?
YSEULT: Yes I get that a lot, and I get it from a lot of guys too which I love…That’s awesome y’know. Cause I never wanted gender to matter when I played bass….I just wanted to be a really great bass player and an integral part of the band…I’ve been with this new band out on tour…and also did my first horror convention this past weekend…so it’s an equal amount of girls and guys came up to me and have said that which is always nice to hear you know?
SLIS: Well I can’t wait to check you guys out at the festival. It’s been a pleasure talking to you!
For more info about the Housecore Horror festival lineup and tickets, click here for the official Housecore Horror Film site. And if you’d like to own Tomorrowland Blues or Sean’s book I’m In The Band, you can order via iTunes and Amazon below:
[amazon_image id=”B00C3MKAR6″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Tomorrowland Blues[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”1593762992″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]I’m In the Band: Backstage Notes from the Chick in White Zombie[/amazon_image]