With Bluish, released earlier this month, Shinobi Shaw that served as an emotional bloodletting, the Columbus rapper purging himself of the anxieties, depressions and heartaches that plagued recent years.
Now, in the midst of spooky season, Shaw has again teamed with , the two joining a quartet of local musicians to record and release the song “Blood Pumpkin,” a dim-lit, horror-themed banger on which the blood flows more literally – the track’s narrative unfolding like a classic Halloween flick.
The idea for “Blood Pumpkin” took root as Shaw and Christopher recorded vocals for “Panic Attack,” a track on which the MC kept stumbling over his words. “I was trying to get my verse out, and the part where I say, ‘Blood pumping, escalate,’ I kept saying, ‘Blood pumpkin,’” Shaw said, and laughed.
“And it wasn’t like he did it once and we punched him in,” said Christopher, who joined Shaw for a late-October Zoom interview. “He went back and did the verse three or four times, and each time he said, ‘Blood pumpkin.’
“I said to him, ‘Dude, you have to get this right. This isn’t some Halloween-themed Kali Dreamer song. And he looked at me and goes, ‘It could be.’”
In short order, the pair connected with the multifaceted Dreamer, who explored the more gothic fringes of his sound October Requiem: 1988, and then extended invites to soulful singer Cherimondis, artist and drummer Kent Grosswiler, and Gregory Stokes, who doubles as Christopher’s musical partner in the industrial duo .
Dubbing themselves Black Metal Gun Boat, the six-piece started from the title “Blood Pumpkin” and then worked backwards to a song, first striking upon a narrative that plays like a cross between “Pet Sematary” and “Sleepy Hollow.” (As Christopher explained it, the story opens with a man killing his lover and burying her in a pumpkin patch where the vines grow and fill her veins, returning her corpse to life in search of vengeance.)
“I was raised around horror and B-horror, and I’m a huge fan of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe, so this is just another facet of who I am,” said Shaw, who acknowledged it was a treat to trick out his verses with more fictional themes having spent months immersed in an uber-personal album. “And, yeah, it was a relief coming from what I had just worked on.”
Across the board, the song allows the musicians to embrace their most theatrical selves, with Dreamer scaling to dramatic, mascara-smeared heights that run counter to the comparatively measured chills offered by Cherimondis. Grosswiler, meanwhile, steps out from behind the drum kit to deliver a Vincent Price-worthy spoken word interlude – a request that initially threw the musician for a loop. “When [Christoper] said, ‘We need your voice, I was like, ‘What the fuck? Has he heard my voice,’” Grosswiler wrote in a Facebook message. (“I thought if someone would be able to do something weird and creepy and different, it would be him, and he did,” Christopher countered.)
While the various personalities mesh, each performer maintains their unique presence within the track, in part because Christopher opted to record each musician individually, not allowing them to listen to what others had done as a means of curtailing any influence. “What I didn’t want to do was have Shin hear Kali and think he has to do it a certain way,” Christopher said. “I wanted them to interpret their parts and do it however they do it. And I think that makes it neat and unique, because everybody feels a little different in their character.”
It helps, of course, that the six were united by some of the musical touchstones Christopher employed in building the track, which cribs riffs from Black Sabbath and a dancing bassline from the Michael Jackson song “Thriller.”
“[‘Thriller’] came out when I was 3 or 4 [years old] and we still lived in this shitty little apartment in Dunkirk, Ohio, where the families were separated by one of those cardboard dividers,” Christopher said. “And I would have my mother’s eggbeater – for people who can’t see this, I’m making a whisking motion with my hand – and I would use that as the microphone and go through the whole thing.”
“It might not have been the first tape I bought, but my mom bought it, and it was basically mine,” Shaw said. “And I’d play it over and over again.”
Though initiated as a one-off, the musicians enjoyed the process so much that there’s already talk of resurrecting Black Metal Gun Boat to create a new song each Halloween. Besides, Christopher said he’s always keen to have yet another reason to get into character, being a longtime fan of the season. “I don’t really like having people know me anyway,” he said. “And it’s a good time for me to be out in public and have people know me even less.”