This is one of a series of interviews with the masters of horror. Composer Edward Douglas created Midnight Syndicate in 1996. In 1998, fellow composer Gavin Goszka joined the group and they have since released several critically acclaimed and highly successful gothic horror soundtracks. Synonymous with the horror music genre, Midnight Syndicate has established a worldwide following with their signature sound. You can find their CDs at Party City and Spencer's all across the US.
Why did you first become interested in the haunted house/horror business?
Both Ed and I have been fans of Halloween and horror for as long as we can remember. I grew up on movies like the original Salem’s Lot and Halloween and books like Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House. We noticed that there were plenty of inexpensive sound effects tapes and CDs available, as well as the "Monster Mash"-type party compilations, but not much by way of good, high-quality atmospheric music that you could just leave on in the background to set the mood for a party, haunt, etc. The idea to do a horror-based album of original instrumental music seemed like a natural progression for us.
What previous jobs have you had?
Prior to joining Midnight Syndicate, I had been working in sales for a local music store. That’s actually how I met Ed — he came in as a customer, looking for some equipment for a multimedia show that he was assembling in support of the very first (self-titled) Midnight Syndicate CD. We became friends and after going to see the show myself, I felt that a lot of our influences and ideas were very similar. We began discussing the idea behind Born of the Night shortly afterward. I had also been performing in a solo project called “Lore” that featured original songs with supernatural themes.
What job do you do right now? Is the haunted house/horror job your full time gig?
For Ed, Midnight Syndicate is absolutely a full-time pursuit. He handles the business side of things, which can occupy an enormous amount of both time and resources. Tending to the business is literally a year-round task.
For me, the band is full-time when we are working on an album. Writing and mixing usually demands all of our attention and everything else pretty much falls into place around that. Since I’m not as involved in the business, I’ve been able to pursue another passion during our off-time — restoring historic homes.
How long have you been in the business? How did you start?
Ed began Midnight Syndicate in 1997, after having directed and scored a horror movie called The Dead Matter (1996). The idea behind the band was to create soundtracks for imaginary movies. The first Midnight Syndicate CD was a rather eclectic mix of musical styles, and as a result, did not find a solid home among any particular genre. It did, however, contain several darker tracks that are very much in the vein of what has become our trademark sound. I signed on the following year after Ed informed me that he was looking for a writing partner for a project called Born of the Night – it just sounded like a perfect fit and something that I had to be involved with.
What’s your favorite CD in your collection?
As far as our own CDs go, definitely The 13th Hour. We both feel that it’s our best work to date, both from a musical and production standpoint. I think we were really able to capture the essence of what a journey through an actual haunted house would be like — the atmosphere truly comes alive.
What’s the scariest haunted house you ever attended?
My great-grandmother’s home was turned into a haunt after she passed away, and even though I was very young at the time, that haunt left a definite impression on me. Among other things, I distinctly remember a caged creature that was able to sneak out of its cage after you went past and follow behind you, taunting and cajoling, for what seemed like an eternity. I was scared silly. I also remember being able to tour the house both before and after construction, which was incredibly fascinating.
Do you still find time to attend haunted houses?
I try to, although Halloween is usually a really busy season for us. It’s also when I try to squeeze in as much real-life ghost hunting as I can. The annual tradeshow that we attend in Chicago has put us in touch with a lot of great haunters and we’re hoping to be able to visit some of the “legendary” haunts that we hear so much about at some point.
What inspires you to create your music?
We draw inspiration from a variety of sources: horror movies and literature, as well as dark artwork and other music. Sometimes an image will stick with us, or suggest a scene or idea that we will base the music around. We usually start with a general theme or overall story idea in mind and then work from there. One of our goals has always been to allow the listener to fill in the details as they see fit.
Do you ever get scared anymore? What does scare you?
I can’t say that I get scared by the unknown or ghosts or what have you anymore; I’m more fascinated and drawn to those things than frightened by them. What scares me these days are much more mundane, personal kinds of concerns — like managing certain aspects of the home restorations.
Do you believe in real haunted houses? Ghosts?
I do some amateur ghost-hunting and have come to believe that there is definitely more to the world than what our senses typically tell us. I think it’s healthy to maintain some degree of skepticism regarding the paranormal, but would say that hauntings and ghosts are certainly within the realms of possibility.
Who’s your average customer?
Our fan base is actually rather diverse. Beyond haunted attractions and fans of Halloween, we have a strong year-round following among Goths and gamers as well. We designed the Dungeons & Dragons CD specifically for the gaming market, as we had heard for years that our music was effective for setting the mood for games, especially darker settings like Ravenloft and Call of Cthulu. I think that anyone who enjoys dark music or finds it inspiring for writing, painting, etc. would find it appealing.
What are your five-year goals?
There are a lot of exciting things either happening or in the works at the moment. We’re currently working on several movie soundtracks, which include The Rage, which director Robert Kurtzman has recently finished shooting, and Snapkick Productions’ Sin-Jin Smyth. In addition, Ed is in the pre-production stage for an updated remake of his film The Dead Matter, which is slated to be filmed right here in Northeast Ohio. I have been writing material for an upcoming solo project release, which should be completed either later this year or early in 2007. While we probably won’t begin working on the next “official” Midnight Syndicate CD until later next year, we’ve already been discussing possible themes, which include a twisted carnival — something that our fans have been asking about for some time. We definitely want to make sure that it’s something special.