For most of his life, Bill Heintz has dedicated nearly every waking hour to New Orleans’ punk rock and horror communities. While Heintz was still in high school, he and older brother Richie formed the chaotic horror punk band The Pallbearers, a longstanding New Orleans fixture currently in their 22nd year. Switching effortlessly between guitar and drums, Heintz also currently performs with six other bands, including seldom serious oddballs Dummy Dumpster and instrumental surf fanatics The Unnaturals, helmed by longtime girlfriend and collaborator (and ANTIGRAVITY contributor) Jenn Attaway. For over a decade, Heintz’s label Sheer Terror Records has helped to document the New Orleans underground scene, one CD at a time. As part of local horror movie company Terror Optics, Heintz has produced and acted in independent local-centric horror films since 2001, such as Attack of the Cockface Killer, Stabbed in the Face, and Goregasm. This jack-of-all-trades has taken on almost every imaginable task, including designing art, screen printing shirts, and booking shows. In 2009, Heintz finally found a way to utilize all of his skills at once by founding Creepy Fest, held annually at various venues across the city, showcasing a manic collision of punk and horror. With Heintz at the helm and lots of help from those communities, Creepy Fest has grown to become a five-day marathon that might go down as the crown jewel of his efforts.
It’s late on a Wednesday night when Heintz finally has time to meet up for coffee at lower Decatur Street fixture Envie. That week, he plays three gigs—each with a different band—in addition to handling the mountain of tasks that come with his other obligations. Still hungover from his gig the night before, Heintz opens up about his days as a heavy metal kindergartener and how he has dedicated his life to depraved, gory flicks and loud, fast music.
You play in a million bands, run your own record label, do your own illustration work, co-own a screen printing service, produce independent horror movies, and put on your own annual punk fest. Is there anything I forgot?
That about covers it, really. That’s pretty much everything. It’s a lot. Keeps me busy, you know?
Is there anything you don’t do?
Ah, I don’t know… It’s pretty much anything with music, movies, and art. I stick to that. More specifically, punk music and horror movies—and art kind of just ties into all of that. I thought that originally was kinda my calling, the art. Drawing fliers is sort of how I got into booking shows and stuff. So it kind of segued into getting connections with the scene, and then just playing in the bands. Booking shows, getting to know club owners, different bands and just over the years, it all kind of stacked up and Creepy Fest is the result of that.
Do you ever sleep?
Not enough, that’s for sure. I’ll squeeze in like five or six hours a night, something like that. Generally, every day I have a really long checklist of things I want to knock out, and usually I just stay on it. And when it’s done then I can cut loose and party, go to a gig or whatever. But it’s pretty much every day there’s a really big checklist… and it’s fun stuff, so I don’t mind doing it. I guess the only problem is, none of it is very profitable. It’s punk music and horror movies, especially independent horror movies. They’re not money makers, but it’s what I want to do with my time, so it’s worth pursuing.
That is the punk/DIY mentality.
Yeah, totally. It doesn’t appeal to everyone. But we have such a great scene in New Orleans that there’s enough to keep you busy.
You had mentioned that you started getting into things through the art. How did you and your brother Richie initially get into punk rock?
Richie’s ten years older than I am, so he got me into metal pretty much since I can remember. I remember being like four years-old listening to “Shout at the Devil.” Going to kindergarten, he’d put Ozzy and Ratt buttons on my uniform, which was both good and bad. It was good in a way because it was sort of identifying myself but, at the same time, I was very alienated as the only metalhead at a Catholic school. That was tough, but as I got older and I was able to start bands when I was about 13, everything started gelling more. I was meeting more people into the same stuff and I pretty much went straight punk rock around when I was 12 or something like that. I’ve actually never played in a metal band, but I grew up on it. But yes, it’s pretty much just punk and I guess surf rock. I also do the scores for movies, so I guess in a way that’s somewhat of a composer role, with a sort of punk approach to it.
You were 12 or 13 when you started getting into bands. What was it like during that time of your life, getting involved in that?
It was cool. I had played guitar since I was eight, but I couldn’t find people the same age that wanted to start bands, especially what I was looking to do. When I was 13, I met some like-minded people and we formed a band called The Leftovers. We couldn’t find a drummer and our other guitar player was way better than I was, so I was like: You know what, man? I’m just gonna take the two hundred bucks I’ve been saving up and go get a cheap drum kit. That’s pretty much where it started. For about a year, I really sucked and we just did Misfits covers and stuff like that, but I just stuck with it and caught on. I was self-taught. I just listened to a lot of my favorite records and took it from there. In those days, we were playing backyards and stuff; and then when I was 14, we started playing record stores and eventually bars. I was always tall, so I never really had a problem. I didn’t get carded much. So I was 14, drinking pitchers of beer at Monaco Bob’s, playing with The Penetrations—that was my band. It was a blast. It’s kinda weird looking back because now it’s been like 25 years or something, and to think that I actually made it through high school doing that. The Pallbearers formed when I was still in high school. We’ve been going 22 years now, so it’s just crazy thinking back. In a way, not much has changed. I’m still doing the same stuff, just with more connections and better equipment.
“A lot of times people get a negative image of punk but it’s pretty communal down here. If somebody’s in need of help, everybody steps up, and I love that.”
The Pallbearers are now old enough to drink.
Yeah, it was pretty odd when the band turned 21. I was like, “Holy shit!”
When you first started, did you realize it was something you were going to keep doing forever?
Yeah, pretty much. I plan to. Once I get too old to play hardcore drums, I’ll probably focus more on filmmaking, because that’s something we do continuously. We’ve been making movies for almost 20 years now with Terror Optics. It’s just all childhood dreams. I wanted to make movies and play in bands. Of course, I pictured it on a bigger scale, but I find having full control over what you want to do, it’s worth it to tough it out and sort of be a starving artist in a way.
Starting a band is sort of easy because you can find some other folks who want to start a band with you, but making your own films is probably much more difficult. How did you first make that leap?
Well that started in our teenage years. We used to make goofy skits with camcorders and stuff like that in the backyard. When I was about 20, I met Jason Matherne. He directs all our movies and we pretty much have been the core of Terror Optics since it started. We had a mutual friend that wrote a script called Attack of the Cockface Killer, and it was very much like a Troma movie. They came to me because they knew I was obsessed with horror movies and they were like, “Check out this script; it’s just sex and murders. We need something.” So I helped put somewhat of a story to it. We formed the company Terror Optics at that point in 2001. Like everything, it started very extremely low budget and somewhat poorly done, but our first movie just got re-released by Wild Eye Releasing, so it’s on DVD. I guess it’s maybe 18 years ago since we made it, and it’s a laugh riot. Obviously it’s cheap, but it knows what it is. Now we’ve done five feature films and with each one, production value goes up quite a bit, as well as story content, characters. Everything’s more developed. I’m working on a sixth script right now, so I think we’re going to shoot a werewolf movie in Arabi. So that should be fun.
The Bills (photo by Gary Loverde)
All your stuff is filmed locally and always has local content to it. Is that important to you?
Yeah, definitely. It’s embracing the city because all the movies have been around New Orleans. Sometimes, we’ll go film in Slidell. We’ve probably done a little in Mississippi here and there, but the core of it is all around the city. Pretty much all the movies take place in New Orleans, and utilize local bands and artists, even though we don’t have much for a budget. Most people are donating their time, myself included. We’re not really making money. Eventually our DVD sales might stack up where we’ll make a few bucks, but nowhere near what we put into it, so it’s a labor of love.
Is there any particular reason that you’ve always kept that very local punk focus with the soundtracks?
It is on purpose, to promote our scene in a way, or parts of our scene. Of course a lot of it is because it’s our friends and we want to showcase their talents as well. I think the filmmaking is the most fun because the movies, music, art—everything comes together. Storytelling. It allows you to put everything into one project. As far as using the local bands, it’s definitely on purpose because another goal is making a really cool soundtrack that ends up being a New Orleans underground music compilation. That’s kind of a bonus that comes with the movie, so we’re going to keep that going too.
So like Repo Man. [laughs]
Yeah, I’m very influenced by Repo Man and Return of the Living Dead, these horror/sci-fi movies with punk soundtracks, and that’s a big part of my influence, those two films specifically.
Were there any particular people around you who really helped spark that passion for doing things independently and DIY?
Generally most of my taste I got from my brother growing up. I took it and ran with it and got way into horror movies and punk. As far as doing the DIY approach, it was mostly out of necessity. I never really had much money myself, didn’t know people with money, but am going to figure out a way to make all this happen. So it sometimes might come across cheap or whatever, but it exists.
At this point, you’ve been doing stuff for so long. Is it important that you maintain those DIY ethics to what you’re doing?
Yeah. With Creepy Fest, there’s a certain structure. It’s sort of fallen into somewhat of a mold that I try and keep, where it doesn’t get too big. It’s very much a dive bar type festival. I’ve reached out and got T.S.O.L. and 45 Grave, but that’s Dead Boys. I’m not looking to get Warped Tour or even Punk Rock Bowling or anything like that. I like it to be very much a local festival and then have friends from out of town come in and play. But a big part of it is just showcasing the scene here. I’m not really looking to have somebody step in and sprinkle a bunch of money on it and get a bunch of big bands. I would like to maybe have a little more room to play with getting bigger bands because most of the time I put my ass on the line. I take my tax return and put it into Creepy Fest, and hopefully I’ll make it back. Usually, it comes close. I pretty much always lose money, but the money doesn’t go to one place. It gets divided up for the bands each night, so it has nothing to do with the money at all. The shirt sales are the thing that helps me balance out where I don’t lose too much.
When you first started Creepy Fest, did you foresee it being this long-standing annual tradition?
No, not at all. The first year was in 2009 and it was really just three shows. It was about a dozen bands—all local—and it was really just to promote the release of our soundtrack for Creepy Dean. That’s where the name Creepy Fest came from. But the next July came around and it was kind of like, let’s do it again. There were more bands, new clubs opening up, stuff like that. And once I did it two years in a row, it’s like: OK, well now it’s an annual thing, let’s keep it going. I thought about making last year the last one because it was 10 years, like: Wow that’s impressive. Maybe let’s just stick a fork in it before it gets out of hand. But then this year, everybody comes up to me at shows talking about, “next year at Creepy Fest” this and that. I’m like, “Well, I guess we’re not stopping. Let’s keep it going because it is a blast.” And I think it’s a good way to see where the scene’s at. Every year, it’s checking which bands are still around, which ones are new. I always want to get more bands, but this year it’s at about 50. Eventually, I’ve got to just pull the plug and be like: I can’t really handle any more than this. I have help, though. My girlfriend Jenn helps me run the whole thing. A lot of people contribute; that’s a big part of why I keep it going too. It seems like a lot of people go out of their way to help me keep it going, so I don’t see it stopping. I’d like to get to 20 years now. At that point though, I guess I’ll be getting older and probably will be like, “Fuck this.” Not “Fuck this” necessarily, but you know what I mean. It takes a lot of my time and energy. Maybe I need to figure out a better way to delegate or something. Every time I’ve tried that, it backfires and I end up just doing as much as I can myself.
Dummy Dumpster (photo by Dan Fox)
What are some of your favorite memories from Creepy Fest over the years?
It’s hard to say. Last year when T.S.O.L. played, that definitely stands at the top, because for one it was the most money I ever put on the line to fly them in. And it was risky, but it worked out. Having T.S.O.L. come play their first two albums to a completely packed house, that was just amazing. I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe it. I remember from the second year, for some reason, there was a lot of crazy shit going on—a lot of fights, which usually there are not too many fights. You see a lot at punk and metal shows, but it seems like people just generally want to have fun because it’s Creepy Fest, so maybe they’re not being as much of an asshole. I remember some crazy fights from over the years though, and that’s not saying that’s a favorite thing, but it sticks out. Just the chaos that gets created—like fucking Hollis [Murphy] dumping a full trash can on the entire crowd at Circle Bar. You’ve got nowhere to run. [laughs] The craziness reaches this level of energy. 45 Grave coming in was a big one. That’s one of my favorite bands, so getting to meet Dinah Cancer and having her play was kind of surreal.
This year, Creepy Fest has Lydia Lunch, right?
Yeah, which is pretty awesome too because I grew up listening to her music since I was a kid. This time she’s doing spoken word over a soundscape. She just came and did her music a few months ago, so this is kind of cool. It’s a little change of pace and I think it brings a different element to the festival, which I really like. It’s mostly a punk fest with tons of bands, but I like to keep a film element. I’ve always wanted it to have a little bit more of a horror convention vibe to it, have more horror vendors and movie screenings and maybe some horror celebrity appearances. This year we have Ari Lehman from Friday the 13th and Geretta [Geretta] from Demons. It’s a good foot in the door to maybe expand on that idea for the festival, but horror conventions generally don’t do too well in New Orleans, which is strange. That’s why they never come here anymore. It’s a very horror-based city, but, at the same time, there’s a million things going on. I don’t know if it’s people not promoting properly or what, but I’ve talked to the guys that did Mad Monster at Sheridan a few years back and asked, “Why don’t y’all come back to New Orleans?” They were like, “Eh, we lost our ass on that.” It’s like damn, you should have let me know. I would have promoted. I think a lot of people don’t know the right way to promote in New Orleans. It’s hard to say what is right and wrong, but you’ve really got to get out there to talk to people. It’s still old-school, handing out fliers. Of course, you’ve got to do all the social media promotion, but it’s not an easy city to promote in, because there’s so much competition too.
Would you say that’s the most frustrating part of doing stuff in New Orleans?
Somewhat. I guess there is a lot that’s frustrating because it’s just a crazy city, especially around here in the French Quarter. Parking’s a bitch and you get a lot of wasted people, stuff like that. You’ve got to deal with a lot of shit. Crime is horrible. But, as far as getting people to the shows…I don’t know if I’d use the word “frustrating,” but it’s definitely one of the biggest challenges. It’s one thing to get some bands together, secure a venue, and then run sound, but is anyone going to be there to check it out? For example, this weekend I played a show and I had six or seven friends playing shows at six or seven other clubs around town. It was like, “Damn, where’s everybody at?” They’re scattered all over the place. But it’s a great thing about the city: you never run out of stuff to do. But sometimes you end up booking things the same night as some huge event and it’s like, “Oh shit, wish I would’ve known about that.”
In March, Richie got hit by a car, right? How’s he doing?
Yeah. He is much better. He still has a long way to go. He’s not able to work. He broke his neck and cracked his skull so he has to really make sure he’s healed up before he does too much. He’s finally able to get out a little bit, which is great; but we still haven’t done anything with Pallbearers yet. It’s screaming hardcore. You’ve got to watch the brain because he did have a clot in his brain, guess he still does. So we’re basically taking our time before jumping in there. We’ve been working on a new album. Me, Severin, and Mark are just writing a bunch of new songs so, when he does come back, we’ve got a whole new album. It’s the best stuff we’ve ever written. But I’m happy to say he’s all there, he’s aware and he’s finally moving around, getting out of the house a little better. We threw a few benefit shows for him and that’s really helped him and his friend Woo. A lot of other people in the city came together for them, to help them out and that’s awesome. A lot of times people get a negative image of punk but it’s pretty communal down here. If somebody’s in need of help, everybody steps up, and I love that.
The Pallbearers are still listed as performing at Creepy Fest. Do you think Richie will be up for that by then?
Yeah. The plan is we’ll probably just do a short set. I do some singing and Severin does some singing in The Pallbearers, so we’ll probably divide it up. Santos has a good sound system, so we don’t have to worry about him having to scream his head off trying to hear himself, so that helps a lot. We’ll be playing in some way, shape, or form, just probably not extensively. That will be our comeback show.
How do you feel that New Orleans influences what you do?
Of course it influences me quite a bit, like a lot of the horror history here—they call it the City of the Dead. Being a horror fanatic, that really ties in. The party atmosphere ties in as well, and I think the general kind of sense of humor that a lot of people in the city have is a big factor. I always try to keep things not too serious. You’ve got to have a sense of humor about all this shit, about life in general. I think that ties into my music, my movies, and even shows—banter in between songs or whatever. There’s a lot of things that are “only in New Orleans” and that’s very true. I’ve lived here my whole life and when I go on tour, go out of town, it’s just not the same. I end up missing home really quickly, whether it’s the drinking laws or just the culture, what have you.
“You’ve got to nurture the gigs: be there to make sure sound is running and make sure the bands know where they’re playing on the gig. You’ve got to have a little bit of a structure. You can’t just throw a bunch of shit and hope it falls in place.”
Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on?
Right now, we’re working on a new Pallbearers album; it’ll be a full-length album. So, as soon as Richie’s healed up we’ll be hitting the studio for that. Pretty much all my bands are working on a new album. The Split()Lips are writing some new music. The Bills are pretty steady. We’re mostly playing gigs right now and just keeping on. With Dummy Dumpster, Mike writes insanely fast. He writes so much in fact it’s hard for me and Izzy to keep up with. He has these concept albums that almost come and go because we can’t even keep up. We’re putting together a 50-song CD right now, which I think we’ll be able to fit 50 songs on one CD because the songs are kind of like mood swings. With Terror Optics, we started working on a new script right now and it looks like we’ll be making a werewolf movie probably during next year. We’re trying to make it a little quicker because our movies usually take almost three years from beginning a script to end of editing. Hopefully this one, we’re trying to do it within a year altogether. Maybe we’ll keep that up—trying to do a movie every year. Maybe even more if possible, because we’ve been honing the craft for a long time. There’s no reason we couldn’t cut a couple corners and make quicker projects. [I’m also] working on keeping shows going. It looks like Flipper is going to be coming in November, so I’ve been talking with some friends about trying to take an old school approach to it, go rent out like a VFW Hall instead of just throwing it in a bar. Go rent a hall and set up a table, sell drinks, total old school. Maybe that’ll catch on, a return to that type of booking. I’m hoping that works out. We’re gonna test the waters with that show.
On the set of Stabbed in the Face (2004)
Would that mean it would be all-ages?
Yeah, that’s another thing because I really don’t know too many venues that do all-ages. For Creepy Fest, I always try and do at least one all-ages show. The past few years, it’s had to be at Parisite Skatepark, which is great. I love bringing the skating into it as well, because I’ve skated my whole life. But also it’s starting to see a lot more younger kids showing up at the Parasite gigs, so hopefully that’ll kind of bleed into Creepy Fest more as well. But there really needs to be more all-ages options… maybe renting the halls is the answer. As long as people show up.
As somebody who has been doing DIY stuff for so long, what advice would you give to a young person who’s interested in getting involved?
Do it because you love it, not because you’re trying to make money. And be prepared to put in a lot of work. It kind of takes over. Every time you go out, you’ve got to be talking about shows, giving out fliers, talking to bands about booking up shows down the road, stuff like that. But you pretty much got to jump in headfirst and you’ve got to nurture the gigs: be there to make sure sound is running and make sure the bands know where they’re playing on the gig. You’ve got to have a little bit of a structure. You can’t just throw a bunch of shit and hope it falls in place.
Creepy Fest 2019 will take place Wednesday, July 17 through Sunday, July 21, at multiple venues around New Orleans, featuring Lydia Lunch’s Verbal Burlesque, Geretta Geretta, Dummy Dumpster, Manatees, Submachine, Vomit Spots, Die Rotzz, The Unnaturals, Crossed, Dem Nassty Habits, Trampoline Team, The Pallbearers, Joystick, Future Hate, Before I Hang, Reagan Era Rejects, and lots more. For more info on Creepy Fest, check out facebook.com/creepyfest. For more info on Sheer Terror Records and Terror Optics Studios, check out sheerterrornola.com and terroroptics.com. (Transcription by Michelle Pierce)
top photo Gary Loverde