by Lee Widener
For this installment of Bizarro Music, I’d like to introduce you to Andrew Goldfarb, otherwise known as “The Slow Poisoner.” I’d like to, but most of you are probably already familiar with him. For those of you who are not: Andrew Goldfarb is Bizarro’s true Renaissance man. He does it all: writes, draws, paints, and performs as a one-man band. He wrote one of the most unapologetically Bizarro novels – “Ballad of a Slow Poisoner” – BEFORE Bizarro was even defined as a genre, author and illustrator of a series of Bizarro comic books, is on a singular crusade to revive the art of black velvet painting, AND tours incessantly as The Slow Poisoner.
To see The Slow Poisoner in concert is to be amazed and enthralled. He presents a carefully curated program of original tunes and well-chosen covers complete with costumes, props, and set pieces. And he does this all by himself! One moment he might be wearing a giant mushroom hat much bigger than his head, and another he might be performing from inside the mouth of a hideous monster with wicked looking teeth. One of my personal favorite Slow Poisoner songs is “In the Gloom,” sung with only the sound of a heavy chain being dropped as accompaniment. The use of silence in between the plaintive lyrics and bursts of harsh metallic clanking is masterful.
If you ever have the chance to see The Slow Poisoner live, and don’t, you’re a fool. I asked a few questions of Mr. Goldfarb recently, and here are his answers:
LEE: Can you give me a brief history of your musical career and the creation of The Slow Poisoner as a performing entity?
ANDREW: Almost exactly 20 years ago, I was in Paris and I got the idea to form a band called The Slow Poisoners. In the 18th century, there was an epidemic of poisonings in France – mostly women doing away with their husbands, by a daily sprinkling of arsenic (or diamond powder or even spider bits) on their gentlemen’s meals. It was documented in a book called A Memoir of Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Dr. Charles Mackay. I recorded some demos with my brother Ed (who now does the music for Pokemon) and put together a live band, which was originally a quintet, including two cellos, which sounded terrible. Luckily, the number of members dwindled as time went by, and come ten years later it was just me. I scratched the letter “s” off the end of the name on all the merchandise and carried on as The Slow Poisoner. I also switched from drinking absinthe to drinking whiskey, which led to a more rock ‘n’ roll sound than the first few records which were more of the chamber pop variety.
LEE: Have you always been involved in multiple art forms? r were you an artist first, or writer, or musician, or what??
ANDREW: I’ve always done both music and visual art. I started drawing cartoons in 2nd grade; I had a superhero called Toilet Man who fought crime while flying around in a toilet. I drew another one called SuperFunk, whose superpower was just being funky (whatever that meant to a seven-year-old). My first band was in fifth grade – we called ourselves “The Sound Barriers” and we performed “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at the school talent show. I was on the electric piano. Two of the members are now dead.
LEE: How did you discover and then become involved in the Bizarro scene?
ANDREW: In the late 90s there was a pre-Kindle electronic reading device called the Rocket E-Book. A friend of mine was publishing content for it and suggested I write a story based on my song lyrics, which became “Ballad of a Slow Poisoner.” For a brief period, it was outselling both Stephen King and the Bible. Carlton Mellick III read it at the time, and a few years later asked if he could reprint it as part of a publishing imprint he was just starting, Eraserhead Press. He wrote me a letter explaining that he was a writer, but what he really cared about was promoting this new literary movement called Bizarro. I went to the second BizarroCon, and at that point, I knew I had found my people.
I’m going to close out this article with three Slow Poisoner videos. The first is a tune called “Macabre” and is a fine example of The Slow Poisoner live:
The next video is animated by Goldfarb himself! Is there anything this guy can’t do??
The last video is the Slow Poisoner’s magnum opus. “Hot Rod Worm” should be playing on every radio station in the country! It’s catchy, it rocks, and it has an important message! Stop Motion Animation by Michael Granberry. Bongos by Bizarro legend John Skipp. Directed by John Skipp and Andrew Kasch.
You can check out Slow Poisoner merchandise of all sorts at his website:
Lee Widener is a lifelong collector of weird music. For ten years he ran the internet radio station NeverEndingWonder Radio, which specialized in odd, unusual, freaky and bizarre music, and still runs a small Halloween themed radio station, which can be found at Welcome to Weirdsville. He is the author of “David Bowie is Trying to Kill Me!” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Head Case” published in October 2015 by Eraserhead Press.