For me, Halloween and October, I'm like Santa Claus," Wednesday 13 says. "It's my busiest time of the year."
The Santa Claus of Halloween is a fair title for the horror rock legend: Wednesday 13 has spent the last 20 years making a name for himself by embracing all things spooky and camp, from his signature growl to his darkly sarcastic lyrics. Even his moniker is a homage to horror — a combination of Wednesday Addams and the Munsters' home at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
Much like the guy in the red suit, Wednesday 13 finds that Halloween is all work and no play: he's currently in the middle of a cross-country tour ahead of the release of his seventh solo studio album Condolences, due in January. On Halloween, he'll play Hollywood's Whisky a Go Go. The Halloween-season tour will also bring the rocker back to his North Carolina hometown when he plays Amos' Southend on Oct. 5. Returning to a Charlotte stage brings back memories for the rocker, who started performing locally in the '90s as the frontman for Frankenstein Drag Queens.
"We used to terrorize Charlotte as much as we could," he laughs. "I worked at K-mart on the weekends and I'd go, 'I got a big show coming up in two weeks, I gotta get everything I can.' I'd come out with every dumb thrift-store prop from baby carriages to stuffed animals to smoke bombs to using pyro in clubs before that was banned. It was fun times."
Though Frankenstein Drag Queens helped put Wednesday 13 on the map, it was his 2002 collaboration with Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison that really launched the small-town Carolina native into the horror rock stratosphere. The pair teamed up to create Murderdolls, a splashy, campy, glam rock outfit that sparked an instant fan-frenzy across the globe.
"We got to tour with Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, all over the states. We got to tour with Guns N' Roses all over Europe. We played with Ozzy at Ozzfest — it was us and Korn and Ozzy Osbourne at the O2 Arena [in London] where Michael Jackson was rehearsing," Wednesday recalls fondly. "We did a lot of stuff in that really short time."
Unfortunately, the project was short-lived: "As long as Slipknot was a band and Joey was involved with that, it was always at the mercy of Slipknot and what they could do."
The duo eventually joined forces again in 2010 for a follow-up album and tour, but the reunion would prove equally short-lived.
"Joey and I haven't spoken since our last show in April 2011," Wednesday says when I poach the subject of a reunion. "I saw he's recently been out in the press and he's doing well. I haven't spoken to him, but just like that last time — I hadn't spoken to him in eight years when he called me up out of the blue and we did a record. Stranger things have happened, and if it happens, it happens.
"No matter what me and a guy in a band have problems with, at the end of the day is it really that bad that we can't go out and play for thousands of fans all over the world that want to hear us?" he adds. "That's silly to me. Kiss does it every day, and they don't like each other!"
Though the Murderdolls' door may have softly closed, another door opened with Bourbon Crow, an acoustic outlaw country side project that draws on Wednesday's Carolina roots.
"At first, I didn't really tell people it was me at all. I think a few people were like, 'What are you doing? Country?' and then they actually heard what it was."
Though it may have been an unlikely transition for fans, they followed, and when he went back to the studio to put out another solo album as Wednesday 13, he brought elements of Bourbon Crow with him.
"Having to sit down and not have a big band behind us, and do acoustic stuff, and strip my voice down to what it actually is and not do my typical Wednesday 13 voice I do on the record, I've gotten more comfortable with my voice, more confident with it," he says. "So now when I go back and listen to the new album, I think, 'Wow, I would have never done that if I hadn't done Bourbon Crow and done my voice like that, because I would have never been confident to do that.'"
"In my twenties, I was closed-minded and I was like, 'I wanna listen to glam rock, punk rock.' If it didn't have a certain look, I wouldn't even give it a shot," he continues. "Now I listen to everything, and I think that's what made the music evolve and give it the big sound that it has."
Wednesday 13's evolution doesn't end with vocals; his material has become noticeably more serious in recent years, and Wednesday says Condolences may be his darkest and heaviest yet.
"The campiness is kind of gone off of this record. It's definitely heavier, and definitely the best produced sounding thing I think I've ever recorded. A lot of people go, 'He's serious now!' Well, I'm 40 years old now. I'm growing with the music, my band, everything, and this record definitely has some experimenting with different sounds and things," he says. "The sense of humor is still always there, but maybe not as campy as it's always been, and sometimes that comes off more serious."
Matching the heavy sound is the album's heavy subject matter: "The theme is death, and it comes from everything from the point of view of a killer, the point of view of being killed, and the whole record ends with the title track Condolences and that's like the funeral."
"It's just a dark, weird record, kind of inspired by basically everybody who seems to be dropping around us. I kept seeing, 'Condolences, sorry for your loss,' and I saw that, and I themed the record around what's in the air right now."
Despite the election year and the recent string of controversies plaguing his home state, the singer — who has dabbled in conspiracy theories and satirical anthems like "Elect Death for President" on previous albums — has opted out of the banter for Condolences: "I chose the high road. I'm not going to get involved in that. There's nothing political on this new album at all."
That said, the singer doesn't shy away from reflecting on North Carolina's tumultuous state: "I tell people all the time that the best education I ever got was leaving North Carolina, traveling the world, touring, doing what I'm doing, meeting different people from different countries and seeing their culture, and coming back to North Carolina and going, 'Wow, what a fucking closed bubble I lived in for so long.'"
"Not trying to sound like I know better or I'm better than anyone, but I've seen a light, I've been out. There's a bigger world out there. It's bigger than North Carolina."
But as the altered adage goes, You can take the shock rocker out of the Carolinas, but you can't take the Carolinas out of the shock rocker: "I always like to put a little nod in there to where I'm from. The South is always in me."