Ottawa rocker Opi Saint wants to scare you. He has painted his face white over which he has drawn large black eyes and a macabre smile. On a given night on stage he might look as if he’s spitting blood, or cutting himself. But it’s really just an act.
“I’m a high-energy showman,” says the self-taught singer who counts Alice Cooper and the Murderdolls as among his musical influences.
“I also like horror movies,” adds the frontman for the band Patron Saint of Plagues. “The genre has always appealed to me. When I was younger it scared me, and now I enjoy being scared and listening to bands who write music for or about it.”
The 24-year-old son of a mother in real estate and a father who works in information technology did not invent shock rock. That honour goes to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in the mid-1950s, whose imitators include Rob Zombie, Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson and KISS.
Nor did the older of two brothers have much exposure to it growing up. Saint was born the year George Michael topped the chart with Faith and came of age when Alicia Keys was belting out Fallin’. Rather tame stuff. The conventional music he heard on the radio didn’t appeal as much as alternative rock, which he first discovered at 13. He never looked back.
“The theatrical side of rock music has always been there, it just wasn’t being noticed as much in recent years,” continues the soft-spoken entertainer who sews his own costumes and sports a Mohawk hairstyle as part of his onstage persona. “We want to bring it back to the mainstream, and this is our way of doing it.”
Despite sometimes receiving complaints from other people’s parents and members of his own peer group who just don’t get what he’s doing – “It’s not for everybody,” he acknowledges – Saint’s form of horror rock is spawning imitators in the Ottawa region where he and his bandmates typically play comic conventions and gigs in the area.
“There are now other bands starting to wear face paint and step up their stage show,” says Saint. “I like to think we played a part in that.”