[Interview] Terror in the Swamp: A Horrible Children Halloween

When I first arrived on the scene at the Campbellton Road Community Center, I thought, “Ah shucks. We missed it.” The venue was pretty bare and it was hard to tell whether the crew was setting up or tearing down. Over the next few hours the place was loaded with equipment, decorations, and many people in costume playing with light toys. The ringmaster of mayhem was Michael Harrison. He’s the founder of Horrible Children, a collective that produces multimedia dance music events. He was kind enough to do a quick interview with us even though he obviously had his hands full coordinating the chaos.

You guys have been doing this forever. How long ago is forever?

Nine years.

What started it all off?

The very first show I ever threw wasn’t called Horrible Children. It was a skating rink party we did for my birthday. We ended up with a turn out of 300 people and they asked us to do another one for New Years. And we came up with the name Horrible Children which was actually a name I wanted to use for years.

Can I ask about the name?

Yes! The name comes from me and my friend Corey always being referred to as the Horrible Children by a teacher in high school. And now nine years later it’s sort of an institution, because it’s full of crazy people.

What do you look for in acts?

The main thing I look for in acts is usually an artist that I really enjoy that hasn't played Atlanta. In certain ways it’s a collective, but in other ways it’s not a democracy. I try to fit it to each show; each show has a different feel and a different vibe and I pick artists that I feel like go with that theme.

What feeling are you looking to give someone who’s come to a Horrible Children event?

People go out to a party and they talk about it the next day, and for a couple days after that- maybe a week later, maybe a month. I want people to still be talking about these parties ten years from now [laughs]. And they do.

This show seems like it’s going to have many different moving parts. What’s that like trying to juggle all these different things?

Herding cats. When I first started this I was up there hanging deco on the walls, and wiring lights and things like that and nine years later I’m lucky to find people who know what they're doing so I can focus on the bigger picture.

It seems like the amount of work that has to go into a production like this can be overwhelming and at time selfless. Why do this? What drives you?

I want events that are like the kind of events I would want to go to. If there’s nothing around that I’m interested in going to then I do it myself. I want people to have an experience that is like nothing else.

I asked Michael about the craziest party he’s ever organized and the craziest things he’s ever seen at one of their events. I’d like to leave the reader with a bit of mystery, but I think it’s safe to say that part of Horrible Children's reputation is the likely odds that you'll see some crazy sh*t at one of their events. From a guest spot performance by a jar of mayonnaise, a wild act of dessert assisted self-stimulation, or a DJ dressed as moth creature with a three-foot laser phallus, it sounds to me like anything is game.

After chatting with Michael, I had to take advantage of being on the south side of town and went in search of glorious BBQ. I found it. Upon return, the party had started to look like a party. There was no line yet, but at the entrance, security was grabby.

There were some great costumes, my personal favorite being the life-size Gumby. He just seemed so friendly! A person sitting next to me enviously said, “Man, I didn’t know if I should dress up or not. Now I really wish I had. I mean look at that guy’s domino costume.” I looked up to see a man carrying a white table. States were altered.

All of the DJs were on point. We expected no less from Horrible Children. Its always great to see both local and international names on the same bill. Some of those DJs included Mubali who's based in San Diego and played a great psytrance set; Shade K of Seville; Spain and DJ K-Hand of Detroit. Our photographer Grace exclaimed “DJ K-Hand is the QUEEN!” after getting her footing back from ferociously twirling around on the dance floor.

Even with all the great costumes and good looking people around, the spectacle of the evening was definitely the yearly fire performance, where a congregation of illuminated performers wowed us all. The drums and flow made for a voodoo ambiance. A cold front moved in during the performance, which was particularly freaky deaky!

After that special performance, Atlanta-based DJ Shift Mojo had a slot outside at 4 am. I asked him if he caught the fire performance. He said “I did and that's why I like coming to these things. Everything else feels like just a party- this is what real raves are about.”

A big thanks to Horrible Children for carving out a novelty niche in the scene and creating an atmosphere that is truly unforgettable. I wonder if nearby residents would’ve been tickled if they knew people wearing cat claws and unicorn onesies were enjoying the dance music that filled the night.

Photos & Interview/Review by Vince Gulino & Grace Kelly for Bullet Music

Grace Kelly

Grace has always been close to music. In her earliest years her mother took her on tour following the Grateful Dead. At 19 she was an organizer for an electronic music festival (Inca Tek) in Cusco, Peru. In 2015 Grace interned at SF Music Tech Summit in San Francisco. Since she’s remained an active member of the music event community wherever she is. Lately she’s been managing a small business based in Atlanta, Ga. 

Follow her on the gram @gracerosekelly