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This Day In Metal Interviews Jeremy Spencer (Psycho Synner)
When the internet heard that ex-Five Finger Death Punch drummer Jeremy Spencer had a new band called Psychosexual and was now a rubber-faced, horned ghoul called Devil Daddy, comments sections rioted. Psychosexual released one album – Torch The Faith – and a handful of flamboyant music videos with Spencer in full Devil Daddy get-up and were savaged by online reviewers. Then, mysteriously, it all vanished without trace. Everyone reviewing the album now looked like they’d gone mad and just imagined this strange project. Months passed, COVID-19 shook the world, and then Spencer resurfaced, in the same make-up, but with a new name and a new band. He’d now be known as Grym Synner and his band Psycho Synner had some music to share with you…
What no one saw coming is that Psycho Synner had been busy in lockdown, recording not just one album but NINE, all of which would be released on the same day – 5th November 2021. There’s an arguable insanity to releasing nine albums simultaneously. Few bands have released nine great albums in total over decades-long careers, let alone all at once. But there’s also something ambitious and anarchic about trying. Rather than letting the haters of the Psychosexual album get him down, Spencer came back with a vengeance – there’s nine more where that came from, suckers! – and is clearly determined not to play by music industry rules any more.
The albums themselves are wonderfully unfashionable, loaded with 3-minute, chorus-heavy singalongs in a variety of styles – goth, metal, industrial, acoustic, psychedelic, new wave, you name it. The creepy lyrics delight in subjects like necrophilia, serial killers, stalking, sex cannibalism and at least fifty different ways to die. It’s like a 94-song Halloween party record that finds Grym Synner and his fellow ghouls having a grand old time, regardless of whether anyone else is. After a while, it’s impossible not to put your mask on and join in the fun.
Fascinated by this unique, defiant and oddly irresistible project, This Day In Metal sat down with Mr Synner himself for a chat about it all.
TDIM: I don’t remember another occasion where one band has come out with nine albums simultaneously. I’m curious as to what it was like when you were recording the songs. Did you just hit a point where you thought “okay, this is double album… maybe a triple album… naaah, fuck it, we’re gonna do nine!”?
JS: We just started writing and recording because of the pandemic and there was no place to play. We knew that once touring started again, there would be such a backlog of bands that were originally supposed to tour but couldn’t, who were finally going out, there would be no place for us. So instead of trying to break through live, I thought let’s just write and record until everything opens back up again. It never really turned into “let’s release nine albums!” It was more just “let’s keep going, we made this record and now I wanna try a different vibe for the next one”. So we would start a different album. They’re all their own entity, but they’re all different. I didn’t wanna make the same sounding record. It works for some bands but that doesn’t interest me. I wanna keep it fresh and do different vibes and experiments. So we just kept writing and writing and accumulated so much work that finally I’m like “okay, let’s put this stuff out”. After awhile, you want people to hear it.
TDIM: I know there’s kind of a back story to the albums, like how As The Demon Dances Under The Blood Red Sky is the “psychedelic” album, for example. Some have got an obvious vibe, like Killing You Softly being the more acoustic-y stuff, but it’s not always so clear. How did you decide which songs went on which album?
JS: I just wanted to try stuff. Like, “let’s do a psychedelic-ish type of album”. I always liked those types of record from some of my favourite bands. Pink Floyd did a lot of cool psychedelic stuff early on and, of course, it doesn’t sound anything like that. It’s more our version of trying to do that kind of thing. That’s one of my favourite albums actually, As The Demon Dances Under The Blood Red Sky. I just think it’s really creative and unique and we hit upon some kind of interesting sounds on that record. I really like it. But once we completed it, I was like “now I wanna do the heavy record, let’s do stuff that’s just all balls to the wall!”
TDIM: And that was Fuck In The Fire, right?
JS: [Laughs] Fuck In The Fire, yeah! Exactly.
TDIM: So you actually recorded them in order?
JS: Well, the way I broke it down on the paper, explaining what the records sounded like, is the order in which they were intended and they were recorded.
TDIM: That’s interesting. I couldn’t imagine how you’d sit down with 94 songs and then organise them so that makes sense. It reminded me a little of some of the things Prince released in the 90s, like Emancipation and Crystal Ball, where he’d just have these explosions of creativity and release quadruple albums and stuff. Do you feel like Psycho Synner was something that was bubbling up in you for a long time and just had to come out now?
JS: I mean, it must’ve been, but I didn’t really think about it like that. We were just on a roll. Like you said though, Prince. Prince and Bowie were huge influences on me because they’d make a record and you’d think the next one was going to maybe be a continuation of that and then they’d just throw that whole identity away and do something new. I was always fascinated by that, so that’s kind of how I approached this. Although obviously we’re not trying to be them! We could never be them! I just like how they’d take one vibe, throw it out there and then just chuck it for the next one. I always thought it was cool.
TDIM: One of the things that interests me about this project – and indeed Psychosexual before it – is that it only exists online. You’ve not played live, the records are being sold online, streaming online, all the videos were online. And you’ve kind of shaped what’s out there because you deleted all the Psychosexual material and came back with Psycho Synner. Do you feel like you’re sort of… sculpting the “reality” of what the band is in a way and rewriting the history?
JS: Yeah, I mean, it’s intentional what I want out there and what I don’t want out there. When you first try things and first becoming a band, you’re finding your way. You don’t know exactly what it’s gonna sound like or where it’s gonna go and a lot of my favourite bands were the same way. Their first records weren’t my favourite but then they evolved and developed into what they became. So when we threw out Psychosexual’s first recordings, we didn’t put much promotion into it and we just kept writing and recording and then I was like “ah shit, I wish this would’ve been the first thing that people heard because it feels right”. So that’s why I pulled down the old stuff and started anew and changed the name. Psychosexual just didn’t fit any more. When we first started, it was all more sexually charged lyrics and we started to get away from that more. There’s still songs about sex but it’s more like vampire-y, fantasy, horror movie stuff, moreso than straight-up Prince sex stuff! [laughs] My original project was actually more pop-based, like, new wave oriented and Prince style but once the guitars started happening, it grew darker and more sinister and Psychosexual didn’t fit any more.
TDIM: Before Psychosexual even, you made a series of erotic horror short films, is that right? Have they also been taken offline?
JS: No, they’re coming! I have three feature films. I put out some single scenes just to give a little taste but I wasn’t ready to fully launch it yet. I’ve been working hard to get this band launched and now it’s finally happening, I can turn my attention back to the “Ladykiller TV” series and I will put those films out. I’m in talks actually, as we speak, about putting them out so I don’t know how much longer it’ll be… but they’re comin’!
TDIM: Ahh, I wasn’t sure if I’d missed them and they’d gone.
JS: Nah, it was just a couple of scenes we put up and I thought “now they’ve had their little taste, let’s pull it down and then we’ll give ’em the full thing”.
TDIM: So back to Psycho Synner, who actually played on the records? It’s, uh, not entirely clear.
JS: There’s three others. Shawn McGhee – we call him “Crucifier” in the band [laughs] – he’s my co-writer. He and I write everything and the rest of the guys are some local Vegas guys who fit their roles great. It’s lucky when things fit and everyone gets along and it’s fun, and we have that camaraderie and all that. But Shawn and I are the writers.
TDIM: Yeah, obviously, you all use pseudonyms and masks on the publicity. Do you think becoming “real” and taking it out of the internet and onto the road might ruin the mystery?
JS: Nah, because I mean, if you go to see KISS, you know who they are and what they look like. You’re going there to have fun and live in fantasy land for two hours and have a good time. It’s spectacle.
TDIM: How long does it take you to get into the full Grym Synner make-up?
JS: [laughs] Man, I’ll tell you what, when I first started that, the first time it took SIX HOURS. I’m like “I can’t do this, this SUCKS!” So now we’ve figured out how to cut some corners. Like, I shave my head and I don’t wear a bald cap any more because that took a loooong time. Now we have it down to 70 minutes, which is still long enough but it’s much more doable.
TDIM: I thought it was a nice irony that the first character you played onstage was Jesus in Godspell [in a high school drama production] and now you’re the Devil!
JS: [laughs] You gotta run the whole gamut, man!
TDIM: I take it you’ve got a plan for a very theatrical stage show, is there anything you can share with us, in terms of what we can expect?
JS: Well, I’m trying to pull off being able to use fire. That usually gets pretty pricey for new bands but I’m trying to figure that out. I’m trying to make it as close to KISS as possible without having KISS money! [laughs]
TDIM: Yeah, I saw KISS a couple of years ago on the End of the Road tour and the pyro was insane. They came out and did Detroit Rock City and it was just all pyro, the entire song, and I was like “woah, that’s literally just the first song!? Where are you going to go from there!?” And it just kept going. It was insane.
JS: My previous band (Five Finger Death Punch), we got to play for six shows with KISS in Europe and we were standing on the side of the stage and the pyro’s going off and after a while you’re, like, getting PTSD and shit [laughs] but it was so cool because, in between songs, Paul would come off and, like, talk to us and I’m like “fuuuck, it’s Paul Stanley, man!”
TDIM: Amazing! [laughs] But yeah, of course, you’ve been on the other extreme of the music industry with a band like Death Punch. You went through the corporate machine with that, the full major label experience, whereas Psycho Synner is kind of the opposite. I can see you’re really excited to get all this music out there and have creative freedom but do you think there’s a downside to self-releasing and independence, with no gatekeepers?
JS: Well, I mean, I think if you have the right team of people in place, you can pull off all the same things that a label would do. They’re doing the same role, they’re just not at Atlantic Records or whatever. I’ve gone through different people and I’ve found the right team. I’m very confident and comfortable with everyone and it’s important to have good people that know what they’re doing and are veterans. Even though it’s not a major label machine, they’ve all had that experience so everyone’s taken their knowledge of what they’ve learned and are applying it to this.
TDIM: I get you. All the skill of the majors, without the bullshit.
JS: Yeah, I don’t care about all that, I’ve done that. It doesn’t interest me to have to be on fifteen other people’s schedules [laughs]. I want it to be on my schedule. I already tried it the other way and that was really great but I wanted to try a different way this time and that’s why we’re doing it this way.
TDIM: What’s the response been like so far, to Psycho Synner?
JS: It’s mixed. I mean, people are supportive and they like it and then some people think it’s terrible. You can’t please everyone but that’s fine. I did it because I like the music and I like doing a project and achieving goals. In my last band, it was mixed too. It was very popular but it was also very hated! [laughs] I’m kinda used to that, it’s nothing different and we’re an easy target because we wear prosthetics and make-up so people go “ARRRGH YOU SUCK! Even before we hear the music, YOU SUCK!” There’s always going to be that kind of response and that’s okay. Like I said, we make the music first and foremost for ourselves. You hope other people like it and if they don’t, then you’ve made a record that you can listen to.
TDIM: Or you’ve made nine records that you can listen to!
JS: [laughs] I mean, I like writing and recording music. That’s what I like to do with my life.
TDIM: Actually, that reminds me. In your book, Death Punch’d, you mention that you hate editing and doing all the post-production stuff. And yet now, here you are editing nine albums?
JS: Heh. Well, Shawn is the guy that does that. But I’m with him, you know, so all I have to do is make suggestions but he’s the one who’s turning the knobs. Which is much better for me because I got tired of the editing shit. I just reached a point where it’s not satisfying but Shawn does such a great job and I’m really lucky to have him.
TDIM: In general, where do you think metal is, in 2021? Is it in an exciting place, a bleak place, somewhere in between?
JS: It’s somewhere in between. I mean, it’s just that rock and metal is not popular like it was. It has its loyal legions of fans who will always be there but, as far as the mainstream goes, kids under 20 years old, they don’t even really listen to rock and metal, they come from a different generation and a different style of music. I don’t know if that will ever change and go back to a rock band that’s really super-popular and it changes music again. Like, say, when Guns’N’Roses came along, it changed everything. There was a huge switch in the music industry. I don’t know if that’ll happen again but it’s going to take someone who comes out with the total package. I think it’s gonna take people at labels that are finally a certain age to where they remember it from their brothers or something, and they’re like “oh, I like that style of music, let’s bring that back and push it!” That could happen but I just don’t know when.
TDIM: You’re right, everything comes around. And the fact that there’s still so many great people making the music keeps it alive until then. Okay, so finally, on THIS DAY IN METAL, we like to have a “Did You Know?” section at the bottom of our posts and the comments always rip us to pieces and tell us the facts are too obvious. I know this is difficult, since you’ve told us almost everything imaginable about yourself in your book, but what’s an interesting bit of trivia that no one will know?
JS: Let’s see. Well, you already mentioned that I played Jesus in Godspell, which is about as ironic as it gets! [laughs] But… you know… I’ve been buying a lot of records lately and I just bought Olivia Newton-John’s Greatest Hits. I LOVE HER. She’s one of my favourite female singers ever, I always thought she was great. I went to one of her shows and got to meet her backstage and stuff and she was really nice. People may not think of me as the type of person who’d listen to Olivia Newton-John but I’ve been listening to her lately, yeah! [laughs]
TDIM: That’s an excellent fact. How do you feel about her movie, Xanadu?
JS: Ha. It was really cheesy and fun but I liked it for what it was. It saw it when I was so young and then I revisited it as an adult and was like “wow, that was really cheesy but I love it man, because I just love her so much! [laughs]
TDIM: Well, I think Olivia Newton-John is a perfectly strange way to end this.
JS: Yeah, no one will see that coming! [laughs]
TDIM: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. And good luck with everything!
JS: Thanks! Thank you for having me here, I appreciate it, man!
You can buy and listen to Psycho Synner’s albums via their official website: