October 31 Frontman King Fowley: ‘Websites Are A Thing Of The Past’

By Catherine P. Lewis

King Fowley (center), of Deceased and October 31, talks D.C. metal history, gentrification and the irrelevance of websites.
King Fowley (center), of Deceased and October 31, talks D.C. metal history, gentrification and the irrelevance of websites. Dave Wright

King Fowley started metal band Deceased in Arlington in 1985 and October 31 as a side project 10 years later. Unlike Deceased’s death/thrash style and horror-themed lyrics, October 31 is more of a classic heavy-metal band. The band formed somewhat fortuitously: Guitarist Brian Williams called Fowley from North Carolina to book a show with Deceased, and the two ended up realizing their shared passion for classic metal and getting together to record a demo.

The group’s lineup has remained fairly constant in the past two decades: Williams, Fowley and bassist Jim Hunter have formed the core of the group since the beginning, while rhythm guitarist Matt Ibach and drummer Sean Wilhide arrived later. October 31 recorded a new full-length called Bury the Hatchet this spring with Mike Bossier at Oblivion Studios in Maryland; the album is due out officially in October on Hells Headbangers. That label also recently re-released October 31’s first two albums, The Fire Awaits You and Meet Thy Maker, with tons of bonus tracks, demo recordings and archival photos. In advance of October 31’s show at the Pinch this weekend, we emailed with King about Bury the Hatchet, the old days of the area’s metal scene and writing “heavy metal” on his butt cheeks.

Other than a few singles/EPs over the past few years, October 31 hasn’t released a full-length since 2005. How does the new album compare to No Survivors?

It’s not as speedy. That album had a lot of real uptempo [riffs] to it. This is more traditional heavy metal with not as much speed-metal bits. The songs really seem quite as intense as before but it’s more in the power of the band as players than tempo. Good choruses and nice arrangements.

Compared to most current bands, October 31 has a very small digital footprint: You don’t have any streaming media other than YouTube, your official homepage hasn’t been updated since 2005 and you post infrequently on Facebook (as of today, three posts total so far this year). The same is true for Deceased. Why such a limited online presence for your bands?

My [personal] Facebook page is busier than a free money hand-out. It all happens there. Websites, to me, are really a thing of the past. The October 31 page isn’t me, someone [else] made it. Same with Deceased. I do all my stuff in my Facebook page, and everyone is kept up to the minute in there on anything I’m a part of. Sadly the 5,000 friends [limit] is long past and now I have to try and fit folks in as I go deleting people who no longer have Facebook accounts. Deceased has a big website with old stories, pics and such that gets updated periodically.

“Websites, to me, are really a thing of the past.”

As far as metal festivals go, our area is now really known for Maryland Deathfest, held in Baltimore every Memorial Day weekend. But a lot of people don’t know that before MDF existed, there used to be underground metal fests at Wilmer’s Park in Brandywine, Maryland. Deceased used to be a staple on those festival bills. What was it like to play (or attend) shows there back in the day?

Wilmer’s honestly was a dump. [But] it was a place to play—many wild nights there, for better or worse. Good times in the scene and great turnouts. The festival that is most remembered is the Nuclear Festival that our old label Relapse Records put on [in 1993]. Packed with lots of underground bands like Macabre, Saint Vitus, Anal [expletive], it was hot and wild, and it rained too that day. My kit was used by all the bands, and it got really beat up with rain water and all, but that’s metal, that’s part of it. I’m happy the place finally met its end, though. I really disliked the people who ran the place. Greed pigs, weirdos and drug addicts. The owner of the land was a super old man that had no idea what was going on in there. He got really taken advantage of.

Besides Maryland Deathfest, what do you consider unique or special about our area’s metal scene?

Virginia, Maryland and D.C.’s metal scene in its heyday (1989 to 1995) was special—lots of unity and support. I know Deceased pretty much was ground floor in helping to build it, and I know I booked at least 100 shows wherever they’d have our madness. It slowly became a bit confused and people grew up and out of it, or life came a-calling and babies, marriage and work kinda grabbed them and pulled them into the clutches of reality.

I no longer live in Virginia, but when I return and do shows I see some old faces who have now done the 20-year cycle and been around the block so to speak. But it seems a bit different now. The passion isn’t as strong in a lot of people. Bands are more standoffish. But it is what it is. Thirty years doing this, I’ve seen a lot, and all you can do is march on.

“I really disliked the people who ran [Wilmer’s Park]. Greed pigs, weirdos and drug addicts.”

When did you move out of Virginia, and whereabouts are you now?

I moved to Pennsylvania in 2006, up in the Plymouth Meeting area. It’s easy-going and laid-back. Virginia, to me, got too overpopulated with snobbish yuppie types, and things suddenly cost a zillion dollars. Traffic was at a standstill too often. Most of my fellow Virginia friends moved away for similar reasons.

What are some D.C.-area bands that you’re really into—current or past?

Early Bad Brains is all I can really think of that is actually D.C.-based that I dig the hell out of. Biovore is right outside D.C. too. Love that stuff.

From the audience perspective, October 31 brings a unique flair: Out of all the bands I’ve seen over the years, you’re the only band that’s ever thrown candy into the crowd. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done at a show?

We’ve done some crazy stuff. One time, I tried to bring shots of liquor on stage for everyone and was gonna pass ’em out to anyone in the room. But the owner stopped me midway to the stage, screaming. It was a wild idea. All-ages show! Haha. I go out during an instrumental jam and headbang front row with the crowd, which scares them a little and confuses them because 10 seconds earlier I was in their face on stage. We bring out empty poster board, and I’ll spray paint stuff that seems viable during a concert on them that everyone would “get” as a fun crack or silly moment. [Once,] I wrote “heavy metal” on my butt cheeks and mooned the crowd during the finale with that. We are working on a Dave Mustaine piñata that we will hit during show and his stupid quotes will pop out of [it].

Do you do music full-time, or do you have a day job?

I do it all the time. And no, it doesn’t pay the bills. I have a distro company that helps, and I have a record label that kinda helps, and I take little jobs here and there to make ends meet. I love to keep moving. Work work work. But not building houses or making cars. Building music and having time to record and gig for it.

“Virginia, to me, got too overpopulated with snobbish yuppie types, and things suddenly cost a zillion dollars.”

How long have you been a full-time musician?

I gave my life to music. I don’t have expensive cars or collect watches, but I have a healthy environment, answer to my own whistle and bother no one. I pay my bills and keep my family fed and in safe quarters. That’s all that matters to me.

Lots of metal fans and bands are also horror fans, but your collection is rumored to be incredible—which won’t surprise anyone who listens to Deceased’s horror-themed lyrics. Any all-time favorites or recent new discoveries?

I love horror films. All my extra money goes there. I’ve been collecting since I was 13 and I’m now 46. [I’ve] been through VHS onto DVD and so on. [I] love so many movies for so many reasons. Some all-time faves are Phantasm, The Exorcist, Burnt Offerings, Black Christmas and Night of the Living Dead. And more modern titles are still fine by me, from the fantastic The Blair Witch Project down to lesser-known titles like Lovely Molly and Lake Mungo. I love them for many reasons. A good scare goes a long way.

You’ve been a horror fan for decades, obviously before the Internet was around. How has the Internet changed how you discover or connect with films?

You can get a lot of details [now]. You can track down directors and actors, [and] you can also find rare movies, ’cause somewhere, someone has it. I’ve helped a lot of folks to discover rare “gems” too. It feels good to contribute to others.

You’ve been known to come out and sing a cover song with opening bands you play with—how often do you do that? Is that planned or rehearsed in advance? And you don’t have to give too much away if you don’t want to, but are you planning on collaborating with any of the other bands on the bill at The Pinch show this weekend?

It happens from time to time, always on the spot. It’s just for fun and [expletive] and giggles. Nothing planned for the Pinch gig, but you never know. 🙂

October 31 plays Saturday at The Pinch with Metanium, Cladonia Rangiferina and Drunken Master.