How Ghoulhouse Records Went From a DIY Project to a Fully Functioning Label

Sean Danson works hard and plays harder. No stranger to activity overload, Danson, better known by stage name, Sean Gospel, keeps himself busy working as a graphic designer by day and running Ghoulhouse Records by night as well as recording and gigging with his latest band, Sean Gospel and the Nightstalkers. (Managing to fit in some time here and there to raise his two children)

“We actually had my youngest daughter’s first birthday party earlier today,” Gospel jokes over drinks at a pub near his home in Fullerton. Being able to delegate time wisely is an absolute necessity when you have to juggle two kids and a full-fledged passion for bringing a burgeoning community of outsider music to the foreground of Orange County’s divergent music consumers.

Any OC natives familiar with the garage rock scene will remember Sean’s last band, The Gospels, who regularly played the Long Beach and Fullerton area with Death Hymn Number 9 as well as other local favorites like Adult Books and The Shrills. Sonically speaking, Gospels new endeavor, The Nightstalkers isn’t much of a departure from The Gospels, save for noticeably better production quality. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like a natural progression; better songs with more matured songwriting, and closer attention to art direction.

“The Gospels was a project I did with my beautiful wife Erin,” Danson says. It grew to the point where the next step was to go on tour but it wasn’t something the others were able to do, so I got a new group together called The Nightstalkers and that ended up becoming my backing band.” The Nightstalkers are Christopher West on drums and James Demetra on bass, each one bringing their own style to the table. “Chris’s drumming is energetic and booming. It’s the best sound I could ask for from a drummer,” Danson says. “James joined us a little more recently on bass. He synced up with us immediately. Grimy and glorious bass tone that makes me happy every time it starts.”

Danson says the only way to get the exact sound he wants on his albums is to take care of production himself. “In a paid studio situation you are always under the gun to finish and you’re out so much money and creative control. Record yourself and it’s like a whole new level of creating music,” he says. “It was a long learning process but I can’t imagine going back to being completely reliant on someone else for what I want to hear.”

In 2013, along with Paul Gonzalez from Death Hymn Number 9, Jim Bell from Sludgehammer and Danson started Ghoulhouse records as a means to release material from Orange County garage rock bands that didn’t necessarily fit in the Burger roster. “We just saw a need and decided to go for it,” Danson says. “We’ve been able to book amazing shows in the process and release some great music from bands that are completely underground like Shirley Rolls, Octagrape, The Bad Machine, Feral Kizzy and many others.”

The label’s first release was Shirley Rolls Werewolf’ 7” in June 2013 and they’ve been blazing a path for the darker side of garage rock in Orange County ever since, though Danson himself says it’s not the genre itself that speaks to him, but what each band has to offer. “We look to release bands that have something unique to express, which can be anything really. Maybe it’s the sound, or the attitude, or how they handle their art. We don’t care about genre really. Just anything that stands out to us.”

Danson also utilizes the label to release his own music, naturally. To date he has released 3 cassettes of his own band, Heart Felters & Face Melters, Good Times with Bad Acid, and most recently, Unbeliever Boogie with a full length LP on the way in just a few months.

Ultimately, Danson says that his capacity to amalgamate a community of otherwise misfit artists is a reflection of the musical landscape today; “We’re now in a time where bands don’t have to go begging to big companies in order to get exposure anymore. If you have the initiative and you’re willing to work hard, you can accomplish so much more than was ever possible before.”

Catch Sean Gospel & the Nightstalkers playing with Jail Weddings and DMTina August 9th at The Continental Room in Fullerton.

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