Organist’s gift keeps on giving
Scott Wexton made a deal with the devil at a young age. Or maybe it was his disco-loving parents, who bought their son a chintzy toy organ from a Detroit mall when he was 10. Though he abandoned the instrument for decades as he toiled in new wave and Goth bands throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Wexton rediscovered the organ in 2000 and set out to create Hell’s soundtrack as The Voodoo Organist.
Wexton’s appearance fits the persona: thin-framed with spiky hair and a pointy goatee, donning a blood-red suit as he sits behind a 1949 Hammond C organ festooned with skulls. It’s just the right touch of schlock for his musical hybrid of Nosferatu creepiness and bluesy raunch—steeped more in Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ macabre charisma than, say, Satanic high priest Anton LaVey.
“I would never consider myself a Satanist, but I think it’s funny,” he explained. “I’m not going to answer [people] in some Voodoo Organist persona.”
In fact, Wexton is a well-spoken, down-to-earth gent who, with his wife, recently relocated to the desert outside of Joshua Tree after spending the last few years in Los Angeles. He admits he’s always considered himself part of the fringe as a new wave kid in Motown, where soul sweetness eventually gave way to proto-punk bands like the MC5, The Stooges and later The Gories.
“I avoided getting my ass kicked for looking weird,” he said, “and managed to avoid getting robbed, mugged or killed.”
While Wexton’s parents were taking disco lessons and listening to Boz Scaggs and Emerson Lake & Palmer (Wexton admits he’s still in love with ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery), his uncle turned him on to the more cutting-edge bands of the day, such as Echo & the Bunnymen and early U2.
In his teens, Wexton played in local New Wave bands but found the style to be one-dimensional and boring: “I was sick of sitting in front of a synthesizer with an LED, and fucking around and looking for ‘a sound.’ “
Wexton was more interested in writing songs and started playing in darker bands, including a brief stint with experimental industrial group Today Is the Day. But even the band dynamic grew tiresome. In 2000, as one of his projects dwindled from four members to two, Wexton renewed his love affair with the organ and went solo.
The Voodoo Organist was a one-man show. Wexton pre-programmed the drum beats; and created bass lines with foot pedals, while he tinkered with the organ, theremin and other noise-making gadgets; and added his Tom Waits-inspired growl into a musical hell on Earth. He released a few records, including Holy Ghost Town and The Return of the Voodoo Organist, on his own Dead Teenager/Voodoo Man labels.
In 2005, Wexton added a band member: drummer Robin Kennon, whom he had met in Dallas while touring with Kennon’s band The Necrotones. Even as a two-piece, the Voodoo Organist is probably hauling enough vintage equipment to fill a separate trailer, including his Hammond and an array of Moog bass pedals.
With a fuller, more organic sound, the duo released This Burning Hell and just put the finishing touches on Darwin Dance Hall Days, which continues the same creepy B-horror-movie feel of the previous work. Songs like “Dig the Hole” and “Revenge of the Black Widow” blend schlock with Wexton’s real-life stories. The organ shimmies in the forefront, while synth warbles and effects pop in and out as if they were left over sound effects from Frankenstein.
And yes, Satan still makes plenty of appearances.
“The devil comes up a lot, but it’s not literal—it’s more like battling demons,” Wexton said with a laugh. “You know, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”