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Does the world need another 'Monster Mash'? Eban Schletter is counting on it

October 24, 2008 |  4:57 pm

Maybe "Saw V" isn't your style. Maybe, instead of some hack-and-slash and blood-and-guts, the idea of dancing witches, merry vampires and lounge rockin' "devil dolls" holds a bit more appeal. If so, "SpongeBob SquarePants" composer Eban Schletter is your man.

His latest release, "Witching Hour," takes its cues from novelty monster songs (think "Monster Mash") and runs with its haunted theme for 22 tracks. Along the way, the "Witching Hour" embraces plenty of theramin and dresses up its vintage rock 'n' roll sounds with theatrical vocals and spooky brass lines. At times, it comes off as a soundtrack to some unreleased children's film, and much of it doesn't feel all that different from the "Grim Grinning Ghosts" theme that permeates Disney's Haunted Mansion ride.

The cartoonish romp focuses on a cast of Halloween regulars, including dancing skeletons, zombies and headless hitchhikers. And they're voiced by a diverse cast, including singer-songwriters Jill Sobule and Grant Lee Phillips, and a number of comedians, including "Kids in the Hall's" Dave Foley and "Mr Show with Bob & David" vets Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins.

It's also OK with Schletter if you call it a novelty record.

"I tried to make it a little arty," Schletter says. "Novelty records get a bad rap. For the most part, they’re just novelty. ‘Monster Mash’ is just silly fun. But a lot of times, they’re moody, and that kind of takes you to a place that’s beyond the silliness of it. I wanted to do something artful, but they are novelty songs. As silly and goofy and as blatantly retarded as these can be, hopefully there’s a nice poetic sense to this."

There is a theme than runs through the project, and it plays out in real time, with cues at the 30 and 60 minute mark. While recorded as an album, Schletter admits his ultimate goal would be to turn these tunes into an animated special. No real surprise, as much of the music is inspired by the horror film soundtracks he absorbed as a child.

Says Schletter, "So why does the world need this right now? I was a huge horror movie fan as a kid. I went through a huge splatter-movie phase, with 'Friday the 13th' and all those movies from the '80s with people just getting hacked up. I watched tons of those. But at this point, the horror genre has gone so far in that direction -- the way brutal direction. But if you look at the ‘Frankenstein’ movies, there’s such a beauty to it. It takes you to this place that’s cool and creepy and beautiful. The poetic, literary element of horror has been lost."

There will be more on Schletter next week in Calendar, and he will perform "The Witching Hour" at 8 p.m. on Oct. 29 and 30 at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets are $10.

In the meantime, enjoy a less-than-poetic take on novelty monster songs, courtesy of much-missed "Mr Show," which Schletter worked on.

--Todd Martens