It was the NOLA Horror Film Festival 2019. The Prytania Theater had a small, scattered audience waiting to watch the final film of the evening. Before that movie played, a band was set to perform. Having attended NOLAHFF in previous years, I was intrigued about seeing live entertainment, especially of the musical kind, between films. This particular band looked promising, too. The stage was set with a real coffin and tons of flowers. It looked like an actual funeral. I watched the members roam around before they took to the stage, dressed in shabby Victorian clothing with punk accents covered in powder that flew off as they patted their jackets. It was like Adam Ant was wearing a Billy Butcherson Halloween costume. You know, Winifred Sanderson’s ex-boyfriend? In Hocus Pocus?
Anyway, Deadsled Funeral Co. launched into an exciting and varied setlist of punk songs, straight-up rock songs, and even a 1950s-esque sad romantic song that I was very fond of called “Moonlight Zeitgeist.” Like a crazed fangirl, I downloaded that song and turned it into my ringtone the next day. I even found the band’s Facebook page and messaged them about how much I liked their sound and their show. So basic.
Since that fateful night, I’ve kept up with Deadsled Funeral Co. and its mastermind, Boneghazi, also known by the mortal moniker of Justin Loupe. I was hoping to make it out to another show, but it would never come. Not long after Deadsled’s show at NOLAHFF, COVID-19 threw the world into a frenzy. Restrictions against gatherings shuttered venues. Deadsled Funeral Co. and Boneghazi’s more recently-founded acoustic duo Handsome Phantoms were silenced.
During this strange time, Boneghazi took up a different medium of entertainment; he started working with entertainer Stormy Daniels on her upcoming paranormal investigation show—Spooky Babes Paranormal Show. They toured the country throughout 2020 filming investigations in haunted places. It was on their tour bus, parked on the outskirts of the French Quarter, that I spoke to Boneghazi about the fate of his aesthetic-forward macabre music. His belief is that this break from live performance along with doing work contacting the dead has only strengthened his passion for making spooky, sad, and tragic tunes.
What is your history with performing music?
I’ve been a singer my whole life; I started off in the church choir. I had the voice of an angel or whatever you want to call it, until I hit puberty. Then I had the voice of Peter Steele or somewhere in the middle. I actually started playing bass because I had stage fright. I still do to this day a little bit. I’m from the Cut Off/Larose area, and my parents would drive me out to New Orleans for my post-hardcore and hardcore bands to play shows. It was super easy and simple. Not knocking anyone, but it took no talent on my end to play like that. My first show was actually at this place in Metairie called Cypress Hall/High Ground (R.I.P.). It doesn’t exist anymore.
So what direction did you go when you got out of those hardcore bands?
I think I was ready stage-wise because I did have a stage presence, and I wanted to put on a show. I liked being theatrical, but the band that I was in, I didn’t have that freedom. After that I was like, “I might do vocals in a band.” However, I psyched myself out last minute and joined a technical death metal band. It was just all screaming. I do that too sometimes, but there was no singing. It was a baby step towards doing what I really wanted to do. In the time of being in all these bands, me and my little brother were writing songs. We wrote together frequently, and it was more melodic stuff that I wasn’t playing in other bands. They didn’t want to hear it because they wanted to be heavy and brutal. There came a point when I quit the death metal band because it was boring. Not to knock anyone who writes screaming vocals, but it’s very easy. All you have to know is how many syllables to put over a beat. With melodies, it’s more fun. I like to do that. That’s what I’m doing with Deadsled Funeral Co., but still having that scary, aggressive approach on stage. I love a crazy show, but I also love pretty and well-put-together songs. Trying to marry that in the scene. They do have bands like that around, but none of them really look like we look. I want to bring that diversity together—make something different.
What other bands out there mix melodic music with a scary show?
There are three bands that really define the aesthetic I long for. This is very organic, and I’ve grown up and can discover bands from before my time. Ghost. They started off heavier, but they’ve gotten softer. There’s a band called Aiden that was on Victory Records. They were emo hardcore but very scary looking. That was the first introduction to goth for me. I’m not talking about Type O Negative goth. And My Chemical Romance; their older stuff was very raw and heavy. It’s a haunting aesthetic, and it’s romanticizing death in a way.
If you’re not talking about Type O Negative goth, what type are you talking about?
There are different facets of goth I feel. It’s really all the intention, the visual appeal, and the concept of what you’re writing about. I feel that’s very important. If you write catchy songs, more people are going to pay attention. Then you get them with the visuals. It’s very strange because there can be a band that represents themselves in a way of romanticizing death, and they can be very heavy. Then another band with the same message that’s very melodic and cool, and people will catch on and believe it. My Chemical Romance appealed to more people who had the same message as them. The Smiths, the songs are so pretty and nice, but Morrissey is talking about terrible things that he wants to do to himself and sadness. Goth to me isn’t what goth is according to purists that bear the title “Goth.” Goth is not about being able to recite Bauhaus or Christian Death albums. Goth to me is all about shedding light and falling in love with the romance of darkness and seeing the beauty in death and the natural decomposition of what once was a vessel holding life and energy. It’s the acceptance and appreciation of our own mortality.
Why does emphasizing sad stuff appeal to you? You actually seem to have a bubbly personality.
I love sad songs and slow, pretty songs so much. I feel like The Damned did that back in the day. They made the best punk music, in my opinion, because it had elements of old doo-wop and spooky Vincent Price stuff. “Moonlight Zeitgeist” is a song I wrote when I was listening to a lot of Tiger Army. That’s a product of that for sure. I also wrote that one because when I first started Deadsled, it’s not what it is now. I was really into horror punk, and the formula was you write all these songs about horror movies, and you have that one slow doo-wop song. That’s it.
So what’s been going on with Deadsled Funeral Co. during 2020 and now 2021?
I’m still writing, but I’ve kind of taken a break from that… The last time I rehearsed with Deadsled was on my birthday, August 6th. That’s because we rented out a room specifically for it because that’s what I wanted to do on my birthday with the dudes. Obviously, nothing was happening last year, and I traveled a lot with the Spooky Babes Paranormal Show. Too much to really sit down and prepare for a livestream. With that being said, I still needed to create. So I’ve gone on to do a lot of acoustic stuff. That’s how Handsome Phantoms was born. Me and Keegan Scythe, the other guitarist for Deadsled, started Handsome Phantoms right before COVID hit. The only show we’ve had with an audience was on Valentine’s Day 2020. Being on the bus so much, I got gifted an acoustic guitar by Stormy, and I just started writing a bunch.
Having an acoustic guitar helped you write more?
It’s helped me out tremendously writing acoustic songs. I did it here and there, but it’s a whole different monster. It’s more vulnerable. The songs have to sound good; you can’t hide behind tones or whatever. If you’re writing a punk sound and it sounds sick, make it acoustic and it sounds way different. If you can write a song on the acoustic guitar, and it’s a good song, then it’s just a good song no matter what.
What is it about acoustic music that makes it more vulnerable to you?
Acoustic is more impactful. I feel like whenever there’s acoustic and you can hear all the notes, you don’t have to wonder about what you’re listening to. Whenever it’s electric, it’s chaotic, it’s all over the place, you already have this anxiety about it mentally. Like, “I don’t know what’s really going on, but I’m experiencing it.” But with acoustic, once you can hear everything and know what’s going on, you can feel it more. It strikes you on a more personal level. I love sad, slow songs too. I can’t give up playing shows for Deadsled or writing for Deadsled, but I’m very excited to do the Handsome Phantoms acoustic record. I’m very proud of it already. I’m such a sucker for slow music that sometimes I just want to listen to a whole record of slow songs.
What’s some of the best slow, sad music you like right now?
The latest thing put out like that was Lana Del Rey’s record Norman Fucking Rockwell!. But besides that, the band that I listened to growing up that did a lot of acoustic stuff was Bayside. They did a whole acoustic record that’s very slow, sad stuff. There’s a band called Smoking Popes… they’re slower, they have some acoustic songs, but it’s so self-deprecating and pathetic. The gist of what I’m doing with Handsome Phantoms is pathetic, tragic love songs. It’s very pathetic, but I love it so much. It’s very self-fulfilling. Our first show was on Valentine’s Day 2020, and Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that I’ve never been a fan of until I found the pathetic sadness of it. I want to incorporate that. Whenever we’re in Walmart, and it’s Valentine’s Day, go down the Valentine’s aisle and see all the hearts and lovey stuff. I really like that vintage Valentine’s Day style, so mix that with a little sad death. And I think it’s beautiful.
I can see you have some dead flowers around here. How is death, especially sad, tragic death, beautiful?
I feel like death is the only thing that’s promised. The only thing that we know for sure is that we’re going to fucking die. There have been so many people and so many cultures that fear death so much that they try and make it to where it doesn’t exist until they’re faced with it. It’s natural. Someone passing is sad, but the mourning process is different in certain cultures. Death is something that people want to forget about. You don’t go to cemeteries because they’re too spooky; but whenever you die, you’re going to be bummed when no one comes to visit you because they think cemeteries are too scary. It’s something that I feel like needs to be normalized because it lights a fire under your ass. Death is inspiring. It all ends eventually, so it’s the mark that you make here that’s important and can live on. I don’t want to be the biggest band in the world or be the most famous person, but I would like to make a mark somewhere that can further the progression of whatever is happening in this scene over here or just making a difference in that way. I’m not going to tell you what you should do about appreciating the darkness in life, but I will ask that people make it normal or think about it more often. It’s healthy to have a little fear of death, but all-in-all if you start to normalize it, you’ll be less scared of it. And if you’re not scared of death, then what else is there to be scared of? You can just live your life. Cemeteries are very gorgeous. I have a lot of flowers for Deadsled props. They’re all organically harvested from cemetery trash cans. I go cemetery dumpster diving for flowers.
How did people react to your shows with all the dead flowers, costuming, and sad songs?
We have a very wild show for how melodic we are. Whenever people were coming out to shows specifically to see us, we had a lot of mosh pits and shit. You sit down and listen to our EP, maybe the last song you can get rowdy to. But kids were doing it for every single song. There was one point where friends of ours broke stuff during our sets. I have one friend who broke his wrist, fractured rib, all this crazy stuff. I’m just reminiscing on when shows were a thing.
Now that shows are becoming a thing again as venues are allowed to host them, what’s next for Deadsled Funeral Co. and Handsome Phantoms?
It’s all still in the works. I want to nail it. For the longest time, I saw all these bands during quarantine, they were putting out new albums and doing all this crazy stuff. As an artist, you see that and it makes you feel lazy. “Shit, dude, I wish that I was doing that.” I was busy doing the Spooky Babes Paranormal Show and on a tour bus for a year. It’s cool too because doing the paranormal show is about discovering more stuff about the afterlife. With Deadsled, it’s the awareness and appreciation of death, and then with Spooky Babes, it’s the afterlife. I feel like that will help the progression of Deadsled because my experiences will make my writing more raw and genuine. I’m not writing a fictional story. I’m writing something from personal experience.
Deadsled Funeral Co. headlines Southport Hall on Wednesday, October 27 with Wasted Creation and DJ Scythe. For more info on Boneghazi’s bands and upcoming shows and streams, check out @boneghazi @deadsledfuneralco and @handsomephantoms. For more info on The Spooky Babes Paranormal Show, check out @spookybabesshow and spookybabesshow.com.
photo by Emily Hingle