“Hell Rock-Dirge Pop”: A wild album in search of a band – Helena Independent Record

“Hell Rock-Dirge Pop”: A wild album in search of a band


It all started with a top hat.

Such was the unlikely genesis for Errol Koch’s debut album, “Hell Rock-Dirge Pop.”

And when he dons it and his blue velvet blazer and gold, wire-rimmed sunglasses, he channels a new persona that’s ready to rock out big time in front of a big band.

Now, he just needs a band – that already has a killer name — “Zombies in Suits.”

Luring a band seems to be working.

He may very well have snagged a drummer (who also happens to be an IR photographer) right smack in this interview.

Funny how creativity finds a way.

While some folks sank into a COVID slump back in March, Koch shook off that lethargy, despite the grim setback of just opening an exciting new performance space, “The Heath,” in the old Free Ceramics Studio, 650 Logan St., which suddenly couldn’t host performances.

Instead of bemoaning his fate, Koch decided to finish up a few of his thousand-or-so snippets of songs and cut this solo album.

The album is “a proof of concept,” which is the only way to get out his music, he said.

“I’m going to make the music and put it out there and then it’s going to force someone to have to play it.”

And there’s something irresistible about the sound, that he just might have something there.

Koch likes to describe it as — Tom Lehrer meets Alice Cooper with a little LCD SoundSystem and some synthwave mixed in.

He started writing some of the music when he lived in Missoula and was playing with several Reverend Slanky band members, he said. “The songs were all about death that celebrates life.

The album is “purposefully void of genre.”

Lacking a band, Koch learned enough drumming to do the basics for the album.

“I did basically the core instruments. The drum tracks I did via a MIDI controller. I did all the guitar parts, the bass part, double tracking vocals. I got some friends to do really big back-up voices.” He also did “a ton of piano and some synthesizer.”

“I definitely thought of it as a live show. It jumps all around. I chose nine songs that are vignettes of different ideas. They’re mostly all story songs.”

“The album is kind of punk meets disco meets theatrical rock opera with lots of horror themes throughout,” said Lenny Eckhardt, who did the mastering of the album at his studio, Coelacanth Sound. “It’s full of big dramatic arrangements, bombastic instrumentation and spirited vocal ensemble performances. It covers a wide spectrum of sounds and moods and dynamics, but is all cohesively and distinctly Errol.”

When the pandemic took away some of his usual creative outlets, Koch thought about making the kind of music he would want to listen to himself rockin’ out in his car.

“I bought a top hat four years ago for this project that doesn’t exist. Before I finished a single song, I had the costume. This is about how I operate.”

It helped feed the creative spark.

“This was mainly an exercise in composition,” he said. “My first degree is in music composition.” His teacher urged students they should know how to write for every instrument. “The things that are in my head are so much better than I play.

“I write music way harder than I play.”

There’s something irrepressibly exuberant about Koch’s creative energy. It’s often been channeled into theater performances, such as his original musical, “The Boy Who Spoke Colors,” as well as a prodigious number of theater productions by Heartscope, an artist collective he founded in 2017.

And then, there were his high-energy productions of “Assassins,” “Rent” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” three knock-out musicals he directed at The Myrna Loy in recent years.

Much of the time, “I’ve used music to bring people together,” he said.

Well, this time around, he laser focused his theatrical high energy into his vision for his album.

He sees his audience tuning in and rockin’ out in their cars.

And sometime, post-pandemic, Koch envisions these songs on stage being performed live with a band and costumes and no doubt a light show and whatever — sets and props?

”I’m a live guy. This is meant to be a live show.”

As to the lyrics–here’s a taste of the title song.

the boat is gonna rock

the wake of the el nino

the mountain pops it’s top

joe versus the volcano

restraining order for your stereo

your mama told only no no no

don’t like the message in the audio

well count it off 2,3,4 here we go

(hell rock dirge pop)





Or how about, “The Deuce,” inspired by a late night walk through New York City’s super-seedy 42nd Street neighborhood.

What would you do for love?

What would you do for love?

What would you do for love?

What would you do for love?

watch your first step, you better turn back

boots get a little heavy this side of the track

you in the right place, you must be lost

to come this close to the night, will come at too high a cost

there’s no need to call, I got an hour or two

but if you’re looking for love this is the wrong avenue

For now, the album’s available on Bandcamp and will be offered on Spotify and other music services in a few weeks.

When Koch’s not writing music, he’s writing plays.

And when he’s not doing that, you might find him hiking Mount Ascension. During the pandemic, he set a daily hiking goal and thinks he’s found every conceivable route to the top.


The Deuce

A track from the Zombies in Suits album “Hell Rock Dirge Pop”