Rockin’ In Horror: An Interview with Jonathon Santiago

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Anytime you can make a friend based on a discussion of the soundtrack to the film Insidious, it’s been a good day.

Some months back, I had the opportunity to interview a bunch of the awesome ladies (and two gentlemen) of the Death Maidens, a horror/sci-fi model agency based out of Elgin, Illinois. One of the fellas present at the gathering was Mr. Jonathon Santiago whom, unbeknownst to me at the time, just so happens to be a horror encyclopedia as well as one of the most driven and energetic musicians on the scene today.

Santiago takes the stage for the popular electronic rock band V Is For Villains. As lead guitarist, Santiago plays under his alter-ego, Fallon Flynn. Alongside his brother, lead singer Nick, the Santiagos have enjoyed an impressive run with their band. If you’ve never heard of them, or more importantly, never heard their music, I urge you to give their website a looksie and turn the volume on your speakers up to eleven.

When he isn’t rocking out, Santiago is a living, breathing, outgoing horror fanatic. Raised on the groy stuff from a young age much like myself, it takes a truly unique person to enjoy playing a murdered Santa Claus for a photo shoot and it’s not everyday you hear of someone enthusiastically gushing about his idea to hold a zombie apocalypse laser tag tournament. But with Jonathon, this is exactly what you get and then some.

After a quick chat about our mutual love for the James Wan/Leigh Whannell instant classic during that fateful Death Maidens interview, I asked if I could pick his brain a little deeper and lo and behold, we came up with an interview. Enjoy…

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1. As a youngster, what was the film that began to sow the bad seed within yourself and turn you into the horror aficionado that you are today?
That’s a tough call. It might be the original Nightmare on Elm St. That and possibly Aliens. Even though Aliens feels a bit more into action than Alien, it still had this palpable sense of that NOWHERE around you was safe, even if it was quiet. A classic.

2. You and your brother are quite close. Growing up, were you two always working alongside each other on projects?

Actually yes we always worked well together. I remember when we were both little, we’d script out our action figure battles and build “sets” with them and rehearse the dialogue and even used the BGM sound options on SNES and Genesis game carts to provide sound effect (one of us manipulated the figures and the other would fire off the sounds as rehearsed) and then we’d have our family come in and put on a show for them. Looking back, I’m not shocked that we do what we do today.

3. How did your parents take to the fact that their boys were traveling down the foggy road of horror early in life?

Well our father did special effects makeup, so we had someone responsible there to explain to us that what we were seeing on the screen was rubber, paint, wax, etc. Even at a really young age I understood the difference between what was real and what was not. Thinking about it now, I feel like my father is a good argument for why horror films don’t make kids psychopaths. We watched the most horrid films of the time at incredibly young ages and we both turned out to be relatively well tempered gents.

4. V Is For Villains is one of those bright, up and coming bands that has seen its popularity increase immensely thanks to Facebook and Youtube since the band’s inception in 2010. How important is it to utilize social media as an underground band these days?

It’s more a necessity than it is just important. If you don’t make a presence in at least one of the major social media networks (facebook, twitter, youtube) then you’re likely to get overshadowed by others promoting themselves on these modern platforms. On a personal level, I’d just as soon not have a facebook account because I don’t care for social media, but what I do requires it so I partake in as much as I have to. It definitely has helped us spread the word and it shows in our draw and what we sell at shows.

5. I can’t help but feel there’s a nice twinge of Alice Cooper’s passion in your music, from the fantastic stage show V Is For Villains puts on each night to the catchy beats and raucous lyrics. Who are some of your major influences as an individual musician?

Yeah I suppose there is a bit of that in there. Really any musicians who have been mad enough to put on full costumes and do this strange thing. My influences are broad and there are a lot of them so I’ll keep it brief but when I was a kid I loved Nine Inch Nails and KoRn (for very different reasons). I also grew up listening to the Beatles and Frank Sinatra. My father is a long time musician and performer as well so we always had a music element around as kids to encourage us.

6. With V Is For Villains so in touch with the horror genre, has the band ever considered doing soundtrack work for any indie horror projects?

Actually yes, it would be great to work on projects like that. Our previous, now defunct, band actually did supply the end credit music for a horror flick called The Fear Chamber so we’ve worked on stuff like that before. Given my love for horror though, I’d love to do it again and more often.

7. What does the new year promise for the band?

We’re going to be trying a lot of new things. We’ve got some bold plans, one of which will attempt something that I don’t think any other band has ever tried, but I can’t talk about it until we get the rest of the fine details hashed out. Otherwise you’ll likely spot us playing a lot of comic, sci-fi, anime, horror, and steam punk conventions. We did that with the second half of 2012 and it turned out to be wonderful. We just put our first record, Evolve or Die, out in June so we likely won’t be releasing anything new just yet, but we are writing and recording rough ideas.

8. It’s been a rough go over the last few years for Hollywood horror, save for Insidious and Cabin In The Woods (to name a scarce few). What are some of your favorite horror films of the last two or three years?

Yeah, sadly it’s been a bit of a dry well where quality is concerned but the two that come to mind (aside from Insidious and Cabin in the Woods, both of which I love) are probably Trick r’ Treat and, oddly enough, the Night of the Demons remake. I usually despise remakes but I had a lot of fun with that movie. The only other thing that comes to mind is Tucker and Dale vs. Evil but that’s not really a horror film I suppose. I just dug it.

9. It seems mainstream horror these days has no respect for the classics that preceded them. What are a few of the timeless “rules of horror” that you see broken too much these days? Two big ones of mine would be there hasn’t been a truly iconic monster in years and, to go hand in hand, there hasn’t been a truly bad ass horror hero for audiences to latch onto in just about as much time.

I totally agree. I have this discussion with my brother from time to time about how I miss the iconic figures of horror. The odd thing about that though is that times are so much different now. Just as the Universal monsters scared a generation once they seem almost silly in contrast today. We showed my 17 year old niece the original Nightmare on Elm St. and she laughed her head off. It didn’t frighten her in the least. It’s really hard to make modern horror icons that leave an impression because we’re living in the time of the internet wherever everything can be explained. Half of what made movie monsters/slashers so scary was the mystery and there isn’t a lot of that anymore. It seems to me that the rules are starting to lean toward being less scared of a defined being and more afraid of an idea that you can’t see or control.

10. If you had the chance to run your own all-night horror movie marathon, what films make the cut and why?

Ah, this is a killer. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to screen but I think in the interest of diversity it’d be (in no particular order), A Nightmare on Elm St., Hellraiser, Candyman, and Insidious. I’m a sucker for atmosphere and even though Candyman isn’t considered to be horror by some people I still feel like that movie is exhausting in a scary way.

11. Any last words?

Thanks for having me on for the interview, it’s been fun. Feel free to check out the band on Facebook or virtually any other social media site, and you should really have my brother on here one of these days. Compared to him I’m a horror movie novice. Cheers!

I would like to thank Jonathon for his time and I wish all the best to V Is For Villains!

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