The Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets: An Interview With Toren Atkinson

Published on September 29th, 2009 in: Current Faves, Halloween, Horror, Interviews, Issues, Music |

Interviewed by Megashaun

I first heard of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets at last year’s Penny Arcade Expo. The band was there and had a booth set up because they were playing at one of the concerts during the convention. Around this time, their song, “Shhh…” was introduced as downloadable content for the video game Rock Band. Although initially drawn to them by the visual aesthetic of their album designs and the scruffy yet handsome appearance of the band’s members, I was pleased to find out upon listening to their album Cthulhu Strikes Back that the band has a great deal of musical talent and that their music has a lot more going for it than catchy hooks and bellowing vocals.

When I later listened to The Shadow Out of Tim, I was even more impressed. The album’s dark undertones are a perfect complement to its catchy, even poppy, foundation. It’s also just a little bit scary, but more importantly it kicks a lot of ass.

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets are known for their energetic live shows. While I’ve sadly never had the opportunity to see them play live, I can tell just from looking at photos that the shows must be a great deal of fun. That, and Toren Atkinson, lead singer of the band, tells a good story about the origins of their live shtick.

Photo from

Popshifter: You guys are known for wearing costumes onstage.

Toren Atkinson: That’s true. We’ve got a very longstanding tradition of wearing costumes.

Popshifter: I was just wondering if that was something that is as old as the band itself, or if this is a tradition that started once the band was together already.

Toren Atkinson: It pretty much started with the band because at that time, and to some extent still to this day, I, at the very least never had any musical training. The band at that time never had any musical training, either. The guitarist, Warren, he eventually took some guitar lessons (laughs). But at that time it was just a concept. It was just an idea, just this hilarious thing to do. And knowing that we had no musical talent or skill, we knew we had to distract the audience. Our first show was just a three song set opening up for a friend’s band, and so we made a papier-mâché Cthulhu and all this other vivacious and exciting headgear and whatnot to make it into a complete disaster from an entertainment point of view.

Popshifter: Keep things going even if the music isn’t the greatest.

Toren Atkinson: Exactly, and as we got a little bit better we decided, “Well do we wanna wear these costumes all the time? Isn’t it time we moved on and become less of a gimmick?” But we felt that when we had a show where we didn’t wear costumes, we really felt naked, so immediately we put the costumes back on, using it, as some would say, as a shield against the world.

Popshifter: Like a security blanket.

Toren Atkinson: Exactly, exactly.

Popshifter: And I guess the times when you didn’t have the costumes you might have felt a little bit like how KISS must have felt when they took their makeup off?

Toren Atkinson: I suppose, I mean at that point we hadn’t been around as long as KISS had. I dunno. They must have taken a break or something. We’ve been around since ’92, which makes us 17 years old, so we’re a pretty old band. But not as old as KISS!

Popshifter: Those guys are like, 80 or something now.

Toren Atkinson: Yeah, exactly.

Popshifter: They’re looking pretty rough, even with the makeup these days.

Toren Atkinson: (laughs)

Click to read more about. . .

New music and number of costumes
Wardrobe malfunctions
DVDs and PAX
Rock Band

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