Samhain (pronounced Sah-Win), sunset October 31st to sunset November 1st, marks the end of harvest season and the beginning of the darker months. Traditionally, this is the time when the space between our world and the other world(s) is thin enough to be crossed. People of our world would dress in disguise to trick the souls of the other world and they would feast by going door to door begging for food. By the 9th century Christianity renamed the traditional Gaelic & Celtic festivals to All Saints Day, and over time we came to know this time as Halloween.
In the true spirit of Samhain or Halloween, if you will, I wanted to share a special beer, and discuss masks and art with AJ Good of The House of Masks. However, the interview with AJ proved to be more than a Halloween post, it was a reminder to all creatives that what you do is not as important as doing it. Turn off your lights, put on some metal music, grab your favorite drink, and enjoy this special Halloween post.
“When I was like four or five my grandpa forced me to watch the movie Halloween and it scared the Hell out of me” ~ AJ
Sitting down with AJ to talk about his collection of masks I soon realized this person I called “a kid” was really an old soul, wise beyond his years and full of the creative spirit. I thought about how, many of us put on a metaphorical mask daily to become the person we thought we should be, or the person others wanted us to be. AJ didn’t have that mask – he was transparent, open, and quite nice. I wondered why so many cars in my area had these, “I Hate AJ Good” stickers on them. Why is he so hated, when clearly he is an inspiration to many?
Like all my interviews, booze is involved. AJ, the true hero of the day, doesn’t drink but was willing to play along and have a few tastes of the ale I shared. I still think when I wasn’t looking he had his
friend stunt-drinker, TeaJay drink it for him. Nonetheless, the social lubricant was being consumed while we discussed his creative side.
“It’s just latex and metal, but it means something…I enjoy collecting more than making them” ~ AJ Good
AJ started his collection with a Slipknot gas mask many years ago, but the masks are really a small portion of who AJ really is. He is an artist, a creative, and a wise soul. Like most creatives, if he is not creating he is not happy. I asked him if he ever felt his creativity leave him, and how did it make him feel? He said yes, and proceeded to tell me about a bad clown mask he purchased. He wore that mask every day for a few hours a day for a year as a way to be creative and think about what he could do with the mask. He documented the year taking cell phone pictures of himself wearing the mask which led to a book idea that excited him. As the book idea evolved, the creativity in the project literally escaped him and he was unable to make any pictures he wanted to use.
AJ is a tattoo artist at Wicked Sensations who worked there for a while before apprenticing at the shop. He started tattooing because he loved the atmosphere at tattoo shops as a child. Good spoke about going into shops with his dad and I’m pretty sure he was hooked at that point. Who wouldn’t? I mean, I don’t have a single tattoo (yet) and I love going into shops to see the art. I was starting to think AJ was simply someone like me, a person who suffers from creative ADHD. He was interested – and good at – a million creative things.
Aside of his creative endeavors, I wanted to know what really motivates him to live the life of a creative? Many of us treat our creative life as a hobby or a plan B. Certainly, collecting masks, tattooing, drawing, painting, being a drummer, and genius marketing campaigns make for a pretty interesting daily lifestyle but what about plan A or playing it safe? I got the sense Mr. Good would always seek a goal no matter what passion drove the bus. Touching on this, as we were finishing up the Evil Dead Red Ale, I asked him why he made the creative lifestyle his plan A, and how he stayed motivated.
The simple answer was that he is afraid or terrified of death. His goals are driven by the fact that we are all going to die anyway and he can do whatever he wants. If it kills him, then oh well. I can see what he is saying – it’s the old, if your gonna die, die with your boots on, concept. Some of you reading this might think, so what, I do the same thing and it is what it is. But I would argue that Good lives in a small conservative, blue-color town an hour away from the closest metropolitan area in Ohio. If he was in a larger city, he would have a much better chance of finding an audience to support his work. People just don’t typically live the creative life in Chillicothe…let alone one that is based on horror masks, tattooing, and movie making. Oh yeah, he’s working on a TV show too! The dude is busy as hell, and it’s only part of his master plan.
One would think he is like a lot of young people in Chillicothe, Ohio – he wants to leave as soon as he can. But no, he loves it in Chillicothe. “I’m really close to friends and family, and I hate being away from Chillicothe. I love it here…that big fucking stink stack out there is like one of my favorite things”, he says. Referring to the paper mill smoke stack reaching several hundred feet above the horizon.
“I Hate AJ Good” – A Diabolical Marketing Scheme or Simple Accident?
How did the ‘I Hate AJ Good’ campaign come about? “It was never meant to be a marketing scheme, but during the old days of social media I was argumentative and pissing everyone off. So I figured when people said they hated me, I’d simply hand them a sticker”, Good said. Why not? The tone and level of excitement for the “hate” part of the interview was starting to get entertaining. I was already hating him…not in a jealous old man way, but in a, yeah, I get it kind of way. The old stink stack was visible just a few blocks away and we were entertained by all this talk of hate, masks, and creative living. I would blame it on the ale, but there wasn’t enough to finish the interview.
The conversation went into discussing heavy metal, influences, concerts, and the untimely death of someone AJ was inspired by, GWAR frontman, Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie. Horror movies, and heavy metal are like first cousins. I think all of us metal heads are into the same things and I believe that’s why masks and stage make-up are so identifiable in metal. AJ said he was very selective of the shows he attends but when it comes to Ghost and GWAR, he wouldn’t miss a show.
The death of Dave Brockie was a tough blow to the music world anyway, but to AJ, it was a personal loss. He got the news after a convention Good was attending, and like a lot of us, it seemed like a sick joke at first. When the truth came out, it was like the world lost a true performer who loved his fans like family.
The more I talked with AJ, I learned that he really had a lot more to say than what I was ever going to be able to share in one post. He was a kind-hearted person with a weird sense of style, artistic drive, and a persistent addiction to collecting masks. I can see why he can find so many friends who understand that to hate him is to love him. Everyday of his life must be like Halloween. I mean, walking through his house, greeting a life-size Michael Meyers dummy, and hundreds of masks is pretty cool. You can learn more about AJ Good by clicking the links below…
- IG – @TheHouseofMasks
- FB – https://www.facebook.com/thehouseofmasks
- YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/TheAJGood
For those of you interested in the beer, I can tell you we didn’t talk about it or analyze it for taste. In fact, a quick introduction before the interview, a quick pour into three glasses, and commencement of the interview was all that really happened. None of these interviews are about a review of the booze anyway. If someone comments about it, we may discuss it but that’s really as far as it goes. A friend of mine (Tara – Owner of Steiner’s Speakeasy) suggested the beer. I simply told her I had a Halloween post idea and needed a beer for the interview.
The beer we drank during the interview was AleSmith Brewing Company‘s, Evil Dead Red Ale (6.66% ABV, American Red Ale). Full disclosure here, AJ is not a drinker and I’m pretty sure he didn’t like the beer but he did give it a go for the sake of this blog, and for that, he is a rockstar in my book. The beer is a special concoction to celebrate Halloween. While everyone else is enjoying their pumpkin flavored everything (some pumpkin ales are pretty tasty though), the folks at AleSmith Brewing gives us a deep blood-red, intense pine and citrus flavored – American hopped, brew.
It’s getting late, the moon is bright, and my last bottle of EDR is almost gone. I’m sure my Great Dane, Thor needs to piss, and the word count is getting too high for most of us to live with on a blog. What I got out of the interview with AJ was that some of us are pretty lame – or maybe just me. I wish I had his drive and fearlessness when I was his age. He inspired me to embrace this Halloween as a time to follow my dreams as an artist. Step into the other world I’ve been treating like a distant dream or place I may never occupy. Do it like I mean it, and not be afraid to do my own thing – after all we are all going to die anyway. Fear death, not the art because death may bring the end of our existence and ability to create. Thanks AJ…I really hate you, brother.
A special shout out to our mutual friend, TeaJay for helping us drink responsibly, for being my voice activated light stand, and bringing that energy only you can bring! Can you believe the cat almost had the mole? I mean, damn…