Halloween Center, January 2009
Interview with Joseph Vargo of Nox Arcana by Leo Kowal
Tell us about your fondest childhood Halloween memory.
Growing up in the midwest, Halloween has always been my favorite time of the year. There's something bewitching about the autumn season. The leaves change colors and begin to fall and people's yards are decorated with Jack o' lanterns and cornstalks. It's such a darkly magical time, especially for kids. I always wanted to dress up as some sort of monster for Halloween and had visions of scaring the neighbors while I was trick-or-treating. I have fond memories of making my own vampire and zombie costumes, but my favorite one was my home-made werewolf costume.
The haunt community has really embraced your music, what do you think about this?
It's a huge thrill. Our goal has always been to create music that would appeal to a wide range of people who appreciate the darkside. We call it "Music from the shadows for creatures of the night." The Halloween haunt community is certainly very high on this list. But you'd be surprised at the variety of our fans who use our music for everything from exotic belly dance routines to gothic wedding ceremonies.
There are a lot of major theme parks that play our music and several other haunts that have designed specific attractions around our cds and themes. From an artist's perspective, there's really no better tribute or greater flattery than things like this.
Has it inspired you?
Definitely. My original concept has always been to create a wide variety of musical soundscapes that are tailor-made for specific gothic themes. I worked with other bands in the past, but it was very limiting. Eventually I realized that the only way to achieve my ultimate vision was to form my own band. We now have ten full-length concept albums that explore themes ranging from haunted mansions, Dracula's castle, and sinister carnivals to the realm of undead pirates and Grimm fairy tales. We also have cds that pay tribute to literary masters of the macabre such as Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.
What is your favorite Halloween / Horror flick?
I love John Carpenter's Halloween. It's a classic and a terrific horror film with an extremely effective soundtrack. Halloween 2 was actually pretty good also. I love horror films. Some of my other favorites are Bram Stoker's Dracula, Pumpkinhead, Sleepy Hollow, The Devil's Backbone, Black Sunday and the original versions of The Fog, The Haunting and The Omen.
What are your top three novels, stories or poems?
I have too many favorites to choose just one. Some of my top choices would include Dracula and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P Lovecraft. I am a huge fan of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and have read his short stories several times. Some of my favorites are "The Shadow over Innsmouth," "The Dunwich Horror," "The Hound," and "The Haunter of the Dark." I also love to read Poe's stories and I consider "The Raven" to be one of the best poems ever written.
What do you listen to for inspiration? If its not music, what activities?
When I'm writing music, I don't listen to anything. I want my compositions to be as original as possible. I just close myself off in my studio with a piano and form a mindset for a certain mood, then start playing what I feel. When William and I get together in the studio to flesh out our our raw compositions, we bounce a lot of ideas back and forth. This keeps the song progressing in a positive direction toward our end goal. Sometimes we make some drastic changes to a song, tearing it apart, reworking it, and putting it back together as a completely different piece. In the end, only the best ideas make it onto the album.
Do you love Halloween?
Is there any doubt? It's still my favorite season. My annual Halloween parties feature a different dark mystery each year. The house is elaborately decorated to fit the theme, which in the past has ranged from Poe’s House of Usher to a forgotten island haunted by the ghost of a legendary pirate. Throughout the years, my guests have had to investigate creepy mysteries set in a secret laboratory infested by alien beings, the abandoned home of a sinister magician, a haunted museum, the home of a diabolical occult society, the secret factory of an evil toy maker, a haunted Victorian manor on the Louisiana bayou, and even Arkham asylum on the banks of the Miscatonic. One year guests were instructed to come dressed as people who belonged in Hell to partake in the "Escape from Hell" party. Partygoers are invited to explore my home, solving puzzles and unlocking rooms and dark secrets along the way. Over the years, guests have been walled-up in secret chambers, committed a human sacrifice, cast spells to wake the dead, and summoned the monstrous Great Old Ones through an ancient portal. It's a wild event and sinister fun.