These Writers Rock:
PG Sturges, RC Matheson, Craig Spector

August 26th, 2018

There’s an undeniable connection between horror and rock-n-roll, one that no doubt began long before the devil went down to Georgia or Robert Johnson stopped at the crossroads to barter his soul.

I was reminded of this connection earlier in the month when I came across some album tracks that fellow Nightmare Cinema writer RC Matheson had posted to his Facebook page. The tracks were from a CD titled Fade-In, released nearly ten years ago by a band called Smash-Cut. On that album, RC joins Craig Spector and PG Sturges to serve up a collection of tunes that run the gamut from rock, jazz, blues, and ballad. A terrific mix.

But what makes the band relevant to a discussion of horror and rock-n-roll is that all three Smash-Cut musicians are also successful writers of dark fiction. Coincidence? You decide.

RC Matheson’s early horror stories first appeared in some of the genre’s top anthologies and magazines, among them Shadows and Nightmares (both edited by Charles L. Grant), Whispers, and Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine. It was in Twilight Zone – where we appeared together for the first time in the June 1982 issue – that I first discovered RC’s work and found it taut, spare, and infused with the kind of dynamic rhythms that anticipated his contributions to Smash-Cut.

For the screen, RC has adapted Dean Koontz’s dark horror classic Sole Survivor (as a miniseries) and wrote, co-wrote or produced the horror films: Full Eclipse, Big Driver, It Waits, Cub and the nightmarish Three O’Clock High.

Also, for Stephen King’s Nightmares & Dreamscapes, he adapted Battleground, which stars William Hurt and is directed by Jim Henson’s son Brian. It won two Emmys.

In print, RC’s recent works include the collections Dystopia, Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks, Zoopraxis,  and his Hollywood horror novella The Ritual of Illusion.

In addition to composing all the songs on Fade-In, writer PG Sturges is the creator of the Shortcut Man novels — a series that chronicles the exploits of vigilante-for-hire Dick Henry. The Associated Press sums up the series as being “filled with enough dark humor and shady characters to satisfy the most rabid noir fan.” Mystery writer Michael Connelly calls PG “a worthy successor to Raymond Chandler.”

Also a screenwriter, PG wrote the screenplays for Mick Garris’s Virtual Obsessions (1998), a science-fiction/horror hybrid about a man who tries transferring a dying woman’s consciousness to a supercomputer; and The Darkling (2000), a horror film starring Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham.

Rounding out the band, the prolific Craig Spector has been published by Tor/St. Martins Press, Bragelonne, Bantam Books, Harper Collins, Pocket Books, Arbor House, and others. His most recent novel Turnaround (Cemetery Dance Publications) centers on a down-on-his-luck screenwriter trying to make a comeback while working for an unstable studio executive.

Also a successful screenwriter, Craig has written for film and television. His notable works include the scrips for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Animals (2008), and The Nye Incidents (2016). He has also edited (along with writer John Skipp) the classic Book of the Dead series, which features some of the best zombie fiction ever written by the likes of Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Ramsey Campbell, David Schow, and others.

Clearly, these guys are successful horror writers. But what about the band?

I was treated to the entire Smash-Cut experience when RC sent me a copy of Fade-In earlier this month. It arrived on a day I was scheduled to drive to an out-of-town gig, and the two-hour-plus round trip provided a great opportunity to spin the disk, which I did — repeatedly. It’s that good.

No doubt part of the band’s success can be attributed to the fact that both Craig and PG attended Berklee School of Music (PG on the recommendation of legendary saxophonist Art Pepper) and RC studied one-on-one with Cream drummer Ginger Baker and played in Stephen King’s band The Rock Bottom Remainders. Other members of King’s band included Dave Barry, Ridley Pierson and Kinky Friedman — writers all. As RC recalls, the Remainders “played a gig together at a Cuban dance hall for the Miami Book Fair.” He also reports “playing a bit with Pat Dinizio of The Smithereens.”

But no doubt an even bigger part of the band’s success comes from chemistry. You can hear that from the CD’s opening cut, with the darkly surreal “Julia Julii,” in which PG and Craig deliver a haunting vocal refrain supported by RC’s pulse-pounding tom-tom rolls. It’s pure earworm larvae. And the lyrics are just what you’d expect from a writer of dark fiction: “Policemen dropped their weapons, / and they sank into the stone. / Good girls started killing, / and the law’s boys wandered home.”

In all, the songs run the gamut from the jazzy “Texas Will Do” to the hard rockin “Water Over Fire” to the soulful “Dharma Rain.”

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a comment about the band’s generational roots. PG (Preston) Sturges is the son of the great screenwriter Preston Sturges, who gave us such classics as Sullivan’s Travels (#61 on AFI’s top 100 Greatest American Films of All Time) and The Lady Eve. And RC (Richard) Matheson is the son of Richard Matheson, who wrote scripts for the original Twilight Zone as well as songs for Perry Como and Tricia Yearwood. As RC puts it, “what always added a unique twist to the band was that […] PG and I had such well-known writer fathers, which was a wonderful link we shared.”

No doubt about it, these writers rock. Check out the link below. You’ll see what I mean.

Want more information? The CD’s back cover provides the email address smashcutmusic at gmail.com.

That’s it for now. Until next time … scop on! … and I’ll see you at the crossroads.

Images

  • Smash-Cut CD art by Harry O. Morris.
  • Bandmember photos from the 2009 CD Fade-In, produced by Jason D. McKean and Smash-Cut.
  • The Rock Bottom Remainders at the El Rey, June 22, 2012, restlesscities.com.
  • Richard and RC Matheson on the June 1986 cover of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine
  1. This entry was posted on Sunday, August 26th, 2018 at 2:18 pm and is filed under 21st-Century Scop. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.


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