ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 12, 1995
It’s not hard to figure out where Forbidden Dimension is coming from when you check out the Calgary horror-rock trio’s latest disc, Somebody Down There Likes Me. The cool cartoon cover art by singer-guitarist Tom Bagley (stage name Jackson Phibes, as in The Abominable Dr. Phibes) depicts a blue-headed creature with pointy ears and yellow fangs holding up a monocle-type object made of an eyeball, bone, and a bloody claw. In the background a sexy babe in black cavorts atop a grandfather clock that doubles as a stand-up coffin for some glowing-eyed zombie/vampire.
And when you get to the song list, you discover titles that’d never appear on a Michael Bolton album, such as “Martian Graverobber”, “Ghoul Next Door”, and “Madam, Your Grave Is Ready”. Yup, somewhere along the way this Bagley character got a little bent.
“I was probably about eight years old when I kinda got into [horror],” says Bagley, on the phone from his day job at a Calgary graphics firm. “I was a little kid livin’ in Toronto, and I used to go through the Toronto Star every weekend and cut out all the ads for the grind-house horror movies. We’re talkin’, like, 1973, ’74, so there was a whole lot more that was playin’ back then at all of the sleazy, all-night movie theatres. They used to have these dusk-till-dawn horror marathons, so I used to cut out the really lurid ads, and then I was buyin’ all the monster magazines that were available back then. It was a different time than now, for sure. There was a way different flavour to everything.”
Nowadays Bagley still looks to the papers for inspiration for Forbidden Dimension’s sick ’n’ twisted boogie, but instead of on the movie pages, he finds all the ghoulish fodder he needs in the news section, what with the unspeakable antics of human monsters like Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. Or he’ll pick up ideas from true-crime books.
“ ‘Ghoul Next Door’ is one song that was sorta based on current stuff I’d read,” says the 30-year-old rocker-artist. “I had just read a book called Raisin’ Hell or something, and it was, like, an A-to-Z of satanic crime in America, with the idea of these totally regular-looking suburban kids going on these murder sprees that were kind of inspired by some dubious source.”
Although Forbidden Dimension’s dark approach is reminiscent of early Alice Cooper, Bagley says he was more inspired, musically at least, by groups like Sweet and Blue Oyster Cult, the latter being his all-time favourite band. And, of course, he was into Kiss, whose influence can be seen in the gruesome facial makeup the group wears onstage.
Local fright-rock fans can check out the band—which also includes drummer Carl Pagan and new bassist Rudy Rue Morgue—at the Pit Pub on Thursday (October 12), or better yet, at the Hungry Eye on Friday the 13th. But don’t show up expecting a stage cluttered with guillotines, mangled mannequins, or other accoutrements of the shock-rock trade.
“We’re not so much into props,” says Bagley, “but we get ghouled up, and just sorta get out there and rock out. We try to keep the volume level insanely high, and to get people off just on the music itself.”