October is the month of frights, and that hasn’t changed, despite the many real-life scares that the world is currently living through. For Machine Gun Kelly, the chance to create a spooky podcast series — the first of its kind — was one he wasn’t afraid of.
HALLOWEEN IN HELL, conceived by MGK and Audio Up’s Jared Gutstadt, was written by Jimmy Jellinek. The podcast pays homage to classic thriller and horror films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and airs its final episode on the eve of Halloween.
For the four-part series, MGK assembled some of his music pals, 24kGoldn, Dana Dentata, iann dior and PHEM, to play fictional characters of themselves, competing in the “most evil singing game show of all time.” The setup for the horror-musical podcast revolves around 24kGoldn and his metal mistress Dana Dentata being trapped in a soundstage that’s reminiscent of hell. The only way for them to get out is to sing, with each artist contributing music to the series. Rock impresario Tommy Lee takes on the role of the devil, who holds their fate — along with iann dior and PHEM’s too — in his hands.
MGK offered Lee the role as Satan, and the Mötley Crüe drummer says he couldn’t pass it up. Having gotten to know each other well when MGK played Lee in 2019’s The Dirt biopic, the two have been friends for a while. “He did such a killer job playing me; he was so committed, coming over to go through the script line by line, making sure it was all the way it really went down,” Lee tells American Songwriter. “He even took drum lessons to make it perfect by learning all my styles, stick twirling and bouncing the sticks off the drums while playing! Returning the favor was the least I could do. Plus, it sounded like a lot of fun playing Satan; big stretch there, hahaha!” he chuckles.
Lee jokes he didn’t need to look to any pop-culture references to draw on for getting in character. “I drew from my time on the road, bad influences, double-dealing business people, and all the evil you encounter along the way,” he says. His wife is a podcaster too — Brittany Furlan Lee hosts a show called Worst Firsts — and he’s comfortable with the medium. “I have made a bunch of episodes with her. I have also done a bunch of interviews with podcasts. It’s a great medium, I love it,” he says. “With a story podcast like HALLOWEEN IN HELL, it leaves a lot to the listener’s imagination which is a great thing.”
For PHEM, recording in the podcast medium has been a welcome thrill. “I’m a fan of The Moth and Risk!,” the indie songwriter tells American Songwriter. “I actually saw Risk! once live, it was f***ing awesome. There’s also a podcast called Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel, where she records real couples’ therapy sessions. It’s pretty juicy; I highly recommend it.”
Having worked with MGK before, on tracks like “5:3666” and “Sorry Mama,” PHEM found the experience to be completely different. “MGK and I have worked on a few records together, but this was an opportunity to do something fun, and scripted. It’s cool to hear his voice become a character, because I’ve only watched him act on TV,” says PHEM.
Dentata, too, enjoyed the different approach behind podcasting too. “It was really well written,” she says. “I sat with the scriptwriter and we went through the whole thing together a few times. We experimented with different ways, exactly like you would when shooting a film. You try different kinds of reactions and add your own element. I was stoked on the final cut with all of the different sound effects and atmosphere they created.”
Singing for her life may have been part of the play of it all, but Dentata says it felt very close to the kind of music the goth rapper already creates. “As a female artist, most of my music is about escaping from the darkness and patriarchy so it was really natural to write this kind of content,” she says. “It’s real; life is hard, and this year has many times felt like hell. We’re already singing for our lives.”
She found making the podcast a great way to connect with her fans during the global pandemic. “It’s inspiring to see something like this that hasn’t been done before, and how open people are to experiencing things in new ways because of the massive change. I’m inspired to find other ways to connect until we can all be together again in the same room,” she adds. PHEM agrees: “Jared Gutstadt is so creative, and I love how he thinks out of the box with all the projects he does. HALLOWEEN IN HELL is the perfect example of being creatively adaptable with the current climate of the world. I think we really needed this as artists and consumers right now. I know for me, it was something fun and different I could be a part of, and it gives my fans a new way to get to know me.”
Even Lee sees the podcast as an opportunity to have some sinister fun while still being conscientious. “This has been an amazingly productive time for me. We just released my album, ANDRO on October 16th, and with all this time left to my own devices in my studio, I have a whole other album ready to roll. I am bummed to not be out there playing it live and seeing our fans with Motley on the stadium tour, but we need to be safe.”