The initial catalyst for Scott Wexton becoming the Voodoo Organist was learning to play the organ as a 10-year-old altar boy. Little did his parents know he'd later use his churchly talents on twisted tunes about boozing, sinning and the living dead, many of which he'll showcase on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Jazzbones.
But the event that ultimately set Wexton on his current musical path was nearly bleeding to death in 2001.
“I was massively bleeding internally,” Wexton said, recalling the grisly episode during a call to his pop culture emporium in Joshua Tree, Calif. “By about noon that day, I'd gone to the bathroom about a dozen times, and it was almost pure blood. So I rushed myself to the hospital, almost bit the dust in E.R., and somehow, miraculously, leveled out.”
The initial diagnosis was a bacterial infection, but eventually Wexton learned he suffered from Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory disorder that affects the bowels.
Wexton had honed his musical chops in several rock bands over the years, gaining some notoriety in Nemesis, an industrial band that got big enough to open for Nine Inch Nails in his native Detroit. But he'd long soured on the petty conflicts and rivalries that tended to tear groups apart. His near death experience was further confirmation that he needed to take control of his creative life, pronto.
“It was like, 'You know what? I just don't have time to wait any more. I almost died,’” he said, chuckling.
“I decided to form a solo act, an act where I didn't have anybody else to hold me back. I wrote my first Voodoo Organist record, booked two consecutive tours, quit my day job at the print shop, and off I went.”
Wexton's music, however, is not nearly as serious as those roots may suggest. The Voodoo Organist sound is “gospel punk,” creepy, campy organ jams with spooky Theremin flourishes that recall shlocky '50s drive-in cinema.
“The last band that I was in, in Los Angeles, was the Screamin' Demons, and I was kind of creeping toward the Voodoo Organist sound with that project,” Wexton said.
“I was getting back into organ music, discovered Screamin' Jay Hawkin. I've always been a Tom Waits fan. … That was kind of when the whole lounge exotica revival stuff started happening. So it was kind of taking one half lounge exotica, one half dirty blues a la Screamin' Jay Hawking and putting it all together.”
But, like a George Romero movie, there's a bit of societal commentary hidden in all that ghoulish fun. The Voodoo Organists' May release “Vampire Empire,” for example, is about the corporate takeover of America.
“It's kind of my political record,” Wexton said. “I don't see how people either can't see it or refuse to see it. But (the corporations are) vampires, and they're sucking us all dry. And if things continue on this path for another 10 years ... it's gonna be nothing but Walmart and Amazon. So it's my take on the events that are happening right now.
The music will start at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Admission is free. Call (253) 396-9196 or see www.jazzbones.com for further details.