The House of Gaither: Investigating the Criminally Insane Art of Jeff Gaither!

Louisville Halloween’s EXCLUSIVE interview with internationally known horror & Rock n Roll artist and Louisville native, Jeff Gaither!

“Not since Dr. Frankenstein has someone so masterfully stitched rotting human flesh.”

Jerry Only – The Misfits

This week I was invited into the House of Gaither, the ghoulish inner sanctum sanctorum of the talented Louisville craftsman known as the “artist for the criminally insane .” Jeff Gaither is a Louisville born, self-taught artist whose 30 year career in Shock n Roll illustration includes work for Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen, Testament, the Misfits, the Accused and Stone Temple Pilots.

Locally, you have likely seen Gaither’s art gracing the covers of LEO Weekly, Velocity, the Courier Journal’s Scene, Louisville Music News and Wired as well as on posters for the Saint James Art Show and on a ten year run as poster designer for the Forecastle Festival. You’ve likely also noticed his love of the horror genre on posters for the Fright Night Film Festival, the Nashville Horror Comic Con and Asylum Haunted Scream Park as well as on t-shirt designs for Caufield’s Novelty and Wild & Woolly Video.

His twisted and freakishly cartoony style is unmistakable. You know a Gaither the very second your eyes are exposed to it.

Here I am in the center of the Gaither creative vortex, an outwardly unassuming house on the busy thoroughfare of South 3rd Street; hardly Dracula’s castle by outward appearances. Upon entry into the front parlor, however, I am instantly ushered into a world of Gods and Monsters: floor to ceiling monsters, boogeymen, props bought from Caufield’s, horror movie posters, sculpted art and Jeff’s beloved collection of zombie action figures.

It’s Gaitherland on 3rd Street.

Jeff was busy browsing and organizing his newly acquired collection of vintage Rock n Roll vinyl which covered most of the living room floor when I arrived, but he graciously paused in this endeavor to give this drooling horror fanboy a guided tour of his collection, which includes framed autographs of both Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi. Oh, and as you might have already expected, Gaither has his own electric chair sitting in the living room corner.

“My mom and my aunt were both heavily involved in Actors Theatre,” answers Gaither when asked about when and where the origins of his interests in art and monsters were forged. Born and raised in Shively, Gaither credits his mother for his interest in the arts, but mostly his aunt for the more sinister fascinations.

“It was my Aunt Linda that bought me my first copies of ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’ Magazine and got me started watching ‘Dark Shadows’ every day,” says Gaither. “She was also the one who took me to see ‘Night of the Living Dead’ at the Drive-in and to see ‘The Exorcist’ in the theater when I was twelve years old.”

“I remember one Halloween my mom dressed me up as female to go trick-or-treating,” says Gaither. “But that was fine because I could go back home, change costumes and go back out again to get candy from all the best houses and nobody recognized me.”

“As far as music goes, the first record I ever remember buying is Alice Cooper’sMuscle of Love,’ and Alice certainly was a huge influence on me from that day forward.” Gaither’s art was very nearly chosen as the cover art for Alice Cooper’s “Dragontown” album, replaced at the last minute in a record company decision.

Gaither’s first professional job as an artist was creating puzzles for Dell’s puzzle magazines in his early 20’s. During this period, he was learning to draw and sending portfolio packages out to as many magazines and publishers as possible, hoping for any job they could offer.

“I got my work out there by sending out free stuff,” he admits. “For 10 years I kept drawing and sending out 50 or so packages of free stuff per week to as many magazines and publishers as I could. Eventually, somebody would respond and I’d probably do something for them for free and that might lead to someone else. Finally, I stopped doing it for free and people started paying me for my work.”

In the 1980’s, Gaither found himself under the employment of the legendary artist, car designer and Rat Fink creator, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. “For some reason, I could just do it. I could look at his style and just create something that looked just like he would have drawn it.”

“I would draw the Rat Fink or some crazy car art and Ed would come in, add some flies, the logo and sign his name to it. That was the job, but I did learn quite a bit from Roth. He was the guy who taught me how to draw small, like thumbnail size, and then enlarge the image to add detail. He also got me started using the paint brush because before that I was just an ink and pencil guy. He also helped me to learn how to deal with the business part of things.”

Twenty years later, after designing iconic tour t-shirts and merchandise for Guns N Roses, the Misfits and Van Halen, Gaither seems content with both his body of work and his current projects which include a brand new t-shirt and marketing image for Caufield’s that features the Halloween and novelty shop’s infamous 46’ Cadillac hearse.

I asked him what single piece or accomplishment from his long career he was most proud of.

“Surviving,” he attests. “Surviving at 54 years old and still drawing. Still working. That’s the greatest thing I could have ever asked for.”

So how is Jeff Gaither celebrating Halloween this year? “You’d be surprised I guess, but it’s not that big a deal for me because I live it every day,” he confesses. “Look at this house! Halloween doesn’t stand out here. Christmas is what stands out here.”

Before I left the House of Gaither, Jeff said he had something he wanted to show me. He climbed the creaking stairs to the second floor and returned with a small piece of granite rock.

“You know what this is,” he asked? No idea. “It’s a piece of Ed Gein’s tombstone.” Gein, the infamous serial killer who influenced both the creation of Norman Bates in “Psycho” and Leatherface in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” died in a mental institution in 1984.  Gaither has long had a curious fascination with serial killers and in fact has communicated with several over the years through prison correspondence. Where in the world does one acquire a piece of Ed Gein’s headstone?

“I know the guy who stole it!”

Of course. How else?

Gaither prints, paintings, posters, skateboard decks and everything else you can imagine are available for browsing and purchase at Want an official Gaither Halloween 2014 Frisbee Golf Disc? Get one at! Jeff’s latest mad collectible is “Frequent Mutations,” a Gaither trading card set of 25 full color cards limited to only 500 sets. These sets include 25 unique cards with 20 randomly inserted hand drawn sketch cards and randomly inserted autographed and promo cards. You can get your own set at for $25 postpaid.

Jeff Gaither has also given us a couple of sets to give away FREE this Halloween to Louisville Halloween fans. Stay tuned to Louisville Halloween on Facebook and Twitter for details coming very soon!

The Phantom of The Ville

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