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Santa Cruz’s Dark Ride Keeps Local Punk Frightful

Horror-punk group Dark Ride dabbles in metal, synth-wave

Emilio Menze uses the horror-punk of his band Dark Ride as a vehicle to write about the best and worst of life. COURTESY PHOTO

On the day before Halloween, local horror-punk group Dark Ride released their debut single and video “Anti-hero” with almost no warning.

The video features the group on a rooftop set similar to the closing scene in Ghostbusters, with a woman behind them dressed as Gozer, shooting lightning from her fingers.

Former Stellar Corpses guitarist Emilio Menze formed the group as a new solo venture back in November 2019. The idea of shooting a Ghostbusters-themed video as the band’s premiere outing was a no-brainer—he’s wanted to do it for as long as he can remember.

“It’s so ’80s and fun. Who doesn’t love Ghostbusters?” Menze says. “I grew up in the mid-’80s. I was used to seeing a lot of horror, and supernatural, and a lot of violent stuff. It was just normal back then. It’s always made an impact on me. And that scene is so cool.”

The song is pop-punk at its core. The words have a macabre edge, which matches the members’ mohawks and Danzig-style hairdos. “I am the last known survivor/A bloodline you’ve come to know/Your anti-hero.” These words are personal for Menze, who says they are about his stumbles and mistakes, and that he always eventually does the right thing, even if it takes him a really long time.

“What inspires me to write songs is the very best things in my life and the very worst things, but at the same time in terms of experiences or regrets,” Menze says. “I use the horror aesthetic to mask it, metaphors for what I’m talking about. Love, loss, fame.”

The single was followed shortly by the group’s debut self-titled EP, released on the most horror-punk of days, Friday the 13th. The remaining songs dabble more in metal, synth-wave and the spooky side of horror-punk. What is consistent is the dark themes that Menze uses to express his inner life, like on “My Best Friend’s Exorcism,” a title he got from a book he read on tour some years back. The book is about two teenage friends, one of whom gets possessed by the devil. The song is about what it’s like when a close friend turns out to be different than you expected.

“Horror-punk is my favorite genre. It’s what’s captivated me in music since I was 15,” Menze says. “I want to take horror-punk and expand upon it so it’s not so much a niche. I just took everything that I like in all music. I like punk and metal, and I love ’80s, too. And I love synth-wave stuff. I put it all in a blender, and this is what came out.”  

Menze was the guitarist in Stellar Corpses from 2006 until the summer of 2019. When he left, he had no plans to start his own thing. All of his songwriting had always gone to Stellar Corpses. With no place for his creativity to go, he eventually found himself looking for a new and more personal outlet.

“I was in that band for 14 years. It took all of my time and creative energy,” Menze says. “After I departed Stellar, I was pretty angry and frustrated over how unceremoniously my time in that band ended. I wanted this as a way to express myself, and also just to fucking feel like me again. That’s exactly what it’s been.”

These songs have been ready to go for some time, but with Covid-19, Menze was playing the waiting game to see if he could take these songs on the road. It became clear that touring wouldn’t be an option for a while, but he realized that he could release it on Friday the 13th immediately following Halloween—a horror-punk twofer!

He’s got lots of plans going forward. But rather than say anything, he wants to keep everyone on their toes.

“I’m prepared to not be playing shows for a long time. I’ve got a lot of cool tricks up my sleeve. But to be honest, I’m not big on talking about my plans until they’re already materialized,” Menze says. “I can’t stand when people talk a lot, but then do very little. I try to keep things a secret. I like to surprise people.”

For more information, check out facebook.com/DarkRideSC.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Alex

    January 19, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    Is there anywhere other than Facebook where one can hear Dark Ride? The blending of genres from the ’80s ( my childhood as well ) sounds right up my alley. Side note, a book entitled ‘In Defense Of Ska’ is long overdue, and I will be keeping my eye out for its release Aaron.

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