By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Lyle Steadham needed a break. He was managing a Web site consulting business, a record label and a band at the same time, so he took time off from all of them in late 2004 to relax. Maybe throw a barbecue or two.
But a brush with death changed that--no, not while with the band Ghoultown, but while at a barbecue.
"I felt the food just stop in the middle of my chest," Steadham says.
The strange feeling he got from swallowing a taco sent him to the emergency room, where doctors discovered a reduction in his esophagus that required immediate surgery.
"I was thinking, 'My God. I can't die from this,'" laughs Steadham, before adding, "I'm the singer of Ghoultown--I can't die from a steak taco!"
But that very job was part of the problem--Steadham's doctor blamed his condition on "the stress I put on my throat," he says, and if you've ever seen Ghoultown, you know that the way he abuses his vocal cords verges on self-flagellation. For six years, Steadham has led this hayseed-horror quintet, packing clubs and puzzling critics.
"I guess critics hate us the same way they hated Kiss, the Misfits and even the Ramones," Steadham says. "If you so much have any kind of look or image that's outside of current fashion, people assume your music must not be good because you require this gimmick."
But neither critics, esophagus nor a short, unhappy run with side project Maltoro have stalled Steadham's desire to get Ghoultown back in action. A new album has already been recorded, set to be released this summer on local label Zoviet Records, and Steadham seems reinvigorated and focused on proving that his group is not a joke but rather a tribute to his punk favorites.
"I knew the first time I heard the Misfits that theirs was the kind of music I wanted to make," says Steadham, who keeps a valuable collection of early singles and memorabilia of the legendary gothic punks. "People still like the Misfits and that image."
Raised in Euless, Steadham began his musical odyssey as drummer for a post-punk, meddling hard-core outfit called The Holy, which slowly mutated into a heavy metal nightmare. Steadham grew bored of the format and yearned for the rhythmic drive and creepy humor of his punk roots, driving him to create Ghoultown in 1999.
"The metal scene became heavy and oppressive," Steadham says. "I loved the concept of the Old West, the fact that the West was full of horror and violence, and I wanted to use that with my love for punk. I thought of combining Marty Robbins with the Misfits."
Soon enough, Steadham and his creepy cohorts will bring their ghoulish country-punk back to the streets of Dallas and beyond. And if you don't like that, skip the concerts and invite Lyle over to your next steak taco barbecue instead.
As he says, "I never turn down free food."