Pop Goes the Culture:Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Fisher loves this time of year.
“Halloween is my favorite season, actually — all of October is my favorite month,” he said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I collect old B-movies and monster movies and stuff, so I wait the whole year for October to hit.”
The local singer/songwriter, known for his acoustic performances of classic rock and folk covers, loves the season enough that it inspired a fury of musical creativity that resulted in an almost-accidental concept album for him — or rather, for his hard-driving, heavy metal alter ego, known as Society’s Ugly Son.
“What happened was, we didn’t really know we were making an album at first,” Fisher said. “We wrote ‘Tail of a Dragon,’ as the first song — me and [guitar player and co-writer] Jason Jared actually recorded it in his home studio. And it sounded so good, and I just like the concept of just riding on a dragon. I think we were joking, and I said ‘I really should write a song with a dragon, and just have some heavy metal guitar solos. Someday.’”
It turned out that monster-themed heavy metal was the musical equivalent of potato chips for Fisher and Jared — one was never enough. Soon, another song was created — “Werewolves on Wheels.” Then another. And another.
“And then from there, it was like, ‘Man, we just got to go full bore. Let’s make an album that’s all about heavy guitar riffs and songs about monsters,’” Fisher said. “I have a tendency in all my other projects to write rather deep, and to go down long roads to say short things and so forth. So it was kind of fun to swim in the shallow end.”
The end result — “Mountains, Motorcycles, Monsters and Mayhem” — is a delightfully heavy-yet-lighthearted throwback to the days when metal could be both bombastic and fun. And though Fisher is one of the area’s most prolific artists, releasing seven albums in the past seven years, this romp through fantastic subjects is, in its own way, a labor of love.
“It was two years, almost exactly, from the time we started it,” Fisher said. “Because we’re in a couple other bands together and stuff, you know. And we just kind of kept plugging away and going, you know, ‘Well, I got one more thing in mind,’ and he’d pull out another guitar riff, and we’d just kind of merge them together.
“We were kind of finishing up by the summertime this year, and that’s when I told him, ‘Man, I got to release this on Halloween.’ Just because it was perfect for it. So from there, it was like playing the waiting game — waiting on the right month to do it.”
“Mountains” is just the latest statement from Fisher’s metal alter ego, though the album took shape in a different way than most every other S.U.S. work.
“People have been seeing Society’s Ugly Son shows in Toledo since 2007, on and off. But usually, the concept was different. I’d start with forming a band and record with the full band. This time, it was real lean and mean. It was just me and Jason Jared for, like, 90 percent of it. We’d have a few guest guitar players sit in and stuff, but it was really about keeping it simple and straightforward.”
Having an alter ego like Society’s Ugly Son helps Fisher scratch musical itches he just doesn’t have the opportunity to explore through his usual work, he said.
“I totally love and enjoy playing acoustic,” Fisher said. “And you’re agile — I can tour, I can drive down south and I don’t have to coordinate a schedule with anybody. I can just pull out this guitar and play. I kind of overthink things, I study songwriting a lot. You get into this realm where you’re looking for the deepest water you can.
“Society’s Ugly Son just lets me kind of go, ‘You know, sometimes you just wake up and you want to hear big, loud drums, ridiculous guitars and you want to just feel bigger than life for a short amount of time.’ And as soon as I get that — you know, it’s funny, I realize that it’s like a fix. And I go, ‘You know, I’m not really bigger than life.’ And I’m happy to go back to a small stage.”
Given his love for the night of ghouls and goblins, it comes as little surprise that Fisher hopes that listeners of “Mountains” will revisit its take on classic monsters frequently in the years to come.
“It’s like you can spot-check it and attack that album every October. And then just bring it back to life — kind of like a zombie, I suppose.”
“Mountains, Motorcycles, Mountains and Mayhem” is available on Fisher’s website — ugly online.net — and will be available for download on iTunes and Amazon beginning Nov. 15.