WITCH: I JUST WANT TO BLOW IT OUT
DOWNLOAD: Witch “Disappear”
On your recent record you only have three members instead of four. What happened to Asa?
Dave Sweetapple (bass): It’s a strange thing. Asa [Irons] helped write songs on both records, but doesn’t like doing the live thing with us. He likes writing the tunes, but he doesn’t want to be held down to it. Kyle [Thomas] writes most of the songs with us putting in the input as well. He’ll come up with a general riff and I’ll put in a bass thing and J [Mascis] will figure out some drum parts. And for the most part, Kyle writes all the lyrics as well.
Where is Kyle today?
I’ve been trying to track Kyle down for a week. I think he’s at a friend of ours’ thing. She wrote this photograph book—with lots of text and stuff in it as well—about punk houses, and I think there was an opening for it in Burlington, Vermont, today. And he went up with her to set up for this art showing. They blew up a bunch of the prints. Abby Banks. She rode across the states to a bunch of punk houses. She’d go and stay with them and just photograph everything and talk to the people and zig-zag back and forth across the states. And she had like thousands of photos. And one day she came over here and was showing it to me, and I said, ‘You gotta get this thing published!’ And she says, ‘Yeah, but where to do that is the question.’ And I happened to mention it to Thurston Moore one day and he said, ‘Shit, I think I could get that thing published—let me take a look at it.’ So they set it up, and he ended up editing the photos with her, and they ended up getting it down to just hundreds and hundreds of photos. It just hit the bookstores about a month ago—really sweet-looking stuff. And it’s funny that you see houses in Maine versus houses in New Orleans. You just see how the weather plays a big part—like in how the heating goes…
I was just looking at your full page at Tee Pee’s website—there’s a photo of the four of you, and there’s a hell hound just kind of baying at the photographer.
That’s my dog, Cerill. That photo was just clipped out of a video, and J has a bulldog, and J’s dog was up where the photographer was, and our dog was standing back where we were screaming at that dog. But it was in a video clip, and the guy who took the video ended up stripping out that photo and stopping it right on that spot where Cerill was making that face.
It kind of reminds me of that Diamond Dogs photo where Bowie’s holding that dog who’s yipping at the photographer.
He’s actually super docile. He doesn’t usually bark at all. He’s just really slow and lethargic.
I looked at your album and saw Justin Pizzoferrato recorded it. It seems like a million bands are all recording at J’s house.
Justin was basically the assistant at J’s studio, and people were always saying, ‘Hey, can you record us?’ J doesn’t really do that, as far as like in his studio, so he’ll just say ‘Oh, why don’t you just use Justin?’ And now Justin has his own studio, and he’s just super busy. Just to nail him down to do something now—he’s just completely losing his mind.
The new album is not only engineered different, which is probably Justin, but it’s also faster than the last one. Is it still doom metal if we don’t have to wait in suspense for the next note to come along?
It’s funny—just the classification thing. In the first record, it just got lumped into ‘stoner rock’ because a lot of the bands were putting out the retro sound—Sabbath-influenced kind of stuff. And it’s funny on this record—it sold more in Europe where people are like, ‘What the hell is going on? This is a punk record. This isn’t a stoner rock record!’ We never really set out to be pigeon-holed. But I think it’s just more influences coming in from different things versus going with just a classic seventies vibe.
J said basically the vibe of the band was just to do what Saint Vitus had done in the eighties. I wonder if you’re like moving on to some of the other SST bands—you wanna name check WURM?
Naw, we’re gonna go to the Midwest. We’ll do Negative Approach and Necros!
Are there any other bands right now that are kind of doing something similar you do like?
I listen to a lot of the bands that are actually on Tee Pee. Like Graveyard—we did a full European tour with those guys and a bunch of dates on the East Coast when they came over for SXSW. I love those guys. They’re a little more conventional as far as playing straight-up seventies rock. Those guys and Witchcraft—I can see both those bands playing that category, and I love those bands.
Witchcraft—I actually DJed one of their shows. I spun a lot of Witch, and they seemed to like it.
They’re funny guys. It’s weird to think who listens to your stuff. I always pictured like sixteen-year-old kids in the midwest. I put on a show for Witchcraft here in Brattleboro and they stayed over. And the record hadn’t come out yet—our second album—and Magnus asked if he could hear it, and I go and put on one of the tracks, and they all gathered around and gave their critique of it. And they were all, ‘Yeah, we love the first record!’ ‘Oh, you guys know that record?’ You wouldn’t even have expected that. You just don’t think that people are actually out there listening to your stuff. Did you ever see that compilation Kemado Records put out called Invaders? It was weird because when it came out, there were some bands that didn’t really fit as well as others—like Dungen, from Sweden, and Black Mountain. But when you heard it all in context—it had Saviors, and Danava and a shitload of bands. We were on there. And all of a sudden it felt like there was this scene that was happening. Everyone was completely disconnected—people were in different countries—but when you saw it in that context, it was like, shit, there are a lot of bands that have a similar kind of thing. But then—hell, they all start going off in different directions. Earthless—do you know those guys? They’re gonna do the full west coast tour with us! They’re amazing. Just a three-piece blues-rock power thing. Just a really intense vibe with those guys. The record is great—all three of the records—but live the intensity of it is just jaw-dropping. It’s incredible. Mario from the band is actually going to sit in for J on the drums. J’s not coming out on this trip because he had some prior European tour stuff set up.
Since you’re getting a new drummer, have you ever thought of getting any more ringers in the band? Not that it needs it—the trio sounds pretty powerful.
You never know who’s going to quit! You know that second-guitar spot? This is the fourth guitarist we’ve had in that spot. Antoine [Guerlain] who’s doing it now is the fourth guy who’s taken that spot. So it’s hard enough just keeping that thing filled—I don’t know if we’re looking for more! Just for the record—J’s still in the band, he’s just not doing those west coast dates.
Besides being faster on the new record you also have some more experimentation. I was listening to ‘Sweet Sue’—is that a fuzz pedal on your bass?
That’s one thing about the first records that I really hate—it’s the bass sound. When we did it, I liked it. I just took a Rickenbacker and ran it through a fifty-watt Fender Superchamp—just a one-speaker small bass amp and a mic jammed right up to it. When we did this one, I said to Justin—‘I just want to blow it out. I want to put the amp in another room and just turn that thing up and make it nasty-sounding.’ And for the most part I was just using a Marshall guitar head with various distortion effects.
I think there’s a prejudice against metal bassists. I was watching Metalocalypse the other day, and they were always making fun of how they turn Murderface down in the mix.
It’s true. That and drummers. They get picked on all the time. Except for Cliff Burton! Everyone loves that guy.
—interview by Dan Collins
WITCH WITH WITCHCRAFT, GRAVEYARD, EARTHLESS, THE WARLOCKS AND MORE ON SUN., SEPT. 7, AT AT THE MANIFEST DESTINY FESTIVAL AT THE ECHOPLEX, 1154 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 3 PM / CONTACT VENUE FOR COVER / ALL AGES. ATTHEECHO.COM. WITCH’S PARALYZED IS OUT NOW ON TEE PEE. VISIT WITCH AT TEEPEERECORDS.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/WITCHOFFICIAL.