The Swedish death metal belt line works round the clock, flooding the already saturated market with hundreds of new bands. While the label «Made in Sweden» gives many journalists creeps, the just appeared WITCHERY produces a quite favorable impression. This name still doesn’t sound familiar though the band may boast with well-known musicians. The interviewed guitarist Patrik Jensen once played in Swedish band SEANCE, and now besides WITCHERY rams the guitar in a widely advertised THE HAUNTED. The bass player CH D plays in MERCYFUL FATE. The rest of the guys once played in the same old SEANCE, lately given the name SATANIC SLAUGHTER. We strongly recommend to you the «Restless And Dead» album and on occasion want you to meet the Swedish debutantes.
I guess it is the first interview you are giving to a Russian or Polish magazine?
Poland is a very «strong» country when it comes to metal music. We have got so many letters from Poland! We really have to go there and play. In my another band THE HAUNTED rehearsal room there’s a Polish flag hanging on the wall with the inscription «AT THE GATES». So every time we rehearse, we see the Polish flag on the wall and look forward to go there and play.
OK, look forward to see you some day in Poland and Russia! When listening to your debut album I got really confused with defining the style of your music. One can go nuts when after the old school metal there comes an AC/DC riff featured by black metal vocals!
WITCHERY blends the old school metal of 1983 with the one of 1987. In 1983 we had «Bark In The Moon» and in 1987 we had thrash with TESTAMENT and may be even DEATH with «Leprosy» and so on. But actually one of the things we like the most is that nobody can tell us what we play. I have heard everything from black to rock ‘n roll. We write the songs in a very short period of time. The «Restless And Dead» album was written in two weeks. And you have that short time you have basically use every good riff you can come up with. So if you come up with a good riff that sounds a bit like black metal and you have a good thrash riff or something that sounds like even AC/DC we put it all together. It makes a good song.
But does your experimenting with different styles mean you don’t have your own style?
This will be our style. Journalists do not know what to expect from each song. And I don’t think the album is boring because it has different influences. We write songs because of the pure enthusiasm, we don’t try to follow any trends or anything. And I think that the fact that we use different kinds of styles will make people think like: «Oh, this could be a WITCHERY song.» Actually we have made our own style but we don’t know how to call it.
You must be inspired by different sorts of music if you write songs in different styles...
I took a lot of inspiration on the album from MERCYFUL FATE «Don’t Break The Oath» album, a lot from EXODUS «Bonded By Blood», and I guess also some BATHORY «Under The Sign Of The Black Mark». Everything is in there. If we have a good sounding black metal riff we don’t stop. We can even have a Kirk Hammet kind of solo!
I think you have found a perfect way out: are on the safe side ‘cos you rely on the extreme music as a whole! Meanwhile lots of bands complain that the music they play becomes unpopular. You always stay afloat.
Yeah, this might be very wise. Hopefully we will reach every kind of metal fan. There’s always one or two songs of each style.
WITCHERY - is a rather new name in the metal scene. Let’s talk about the early days of your band’s career so that our readers could get a better idea of you.
We used to be a band called SATANIC SLAUGHTER. And Stephen, the guy in the band who had the right for the name was supposed to sing on the first album. But he never rehearsed with us. We did everything, we recorded everything in the studio. But he never practiced and he couldn’t record the vocals. He did not have any voice! So Tonny, the guitar player, got angry. He took all the lyrics and sang the whole album in two hours. So we were like: «Oh, what is this? Unbelievable!» Then we were supposed to record a mini cover CD. We wrote all the song and there were two weeks before the recording. Then Stephen who was very unhappy as he was not even on the first album, fired all of us. So there stayed the four of us, we had booked the studio and we had the songs. We had to record them but with another name. So we called our band WITCHERY, found a new bass player and recorded our first album. There’s also a recorded mini CD that comes afterwards.
It seems to me you really like the Middle Ages with its grim atmosphere and alchemy and witchhunts?
Actually if you look at the bands that I have been in - THE HAUNTED, SEANCE and WITCHERY, it’s all the same, ha-ha! I guess I am very fascinated by ghosts or something. I think WITCHERY is a very suitable name for us and it has a ringing in its name. And I don’t know any other band with the same name. It’s an «easy» name and it’s not a stupid one like DIMMU BORGIR...
You dislike DIMMU BORGIR?
Yes, I think they are a bit too «soft» for me. I am sure they are very nice guys but their music doesn’t appeal to me.
It seems to me that your fascination by ghosts have taken also place in your lyrics?
I wrote the lyrics in the studio, in two or three days. Well, I see WITCHERY as a sort of entertaining band. We don’t sing songs with mottoes «Stop cutting the trees!». So being a metal band we prefer that horror thing. And we also use the titles that are recognizable for people who have been into the metal scene. I mean we have a song called «The House Of Rain In Blood». What band would use the title of «Rain In Blood» after SLAYER? It intimates SLAYER so much! But our song doesn’t sound at all like SLAYER. And we also have the title «Restless And Dead», it’s ACCEPT «Restless And Wild». People that has been in the scene will recognize it. Hopefully we put the smile on our faces as they recognize it.
But don’t you think that some people might believe you are just clowning, cracking jokes about music?
We are very serious as a band. This is not to make fun of the music. This is our way to show how much we appreciate it! I’d be happy if there were more bands like this.
How did you manage to sign a record deal?
I knew Paul from Necropolis since ’91 before SAENCE signed to Black Mark. We’ve always been good friends and he always wanted to put out something we played. SATANIC SLAUGHTER was put out by Necropolis. Necropolis is the best label I have ever been on. All the other companies are very strange, are very wired, when you call them on the phone they are never there, you can never get any straight answer, there’s always no money. Just last week I got my copy of the THE HAUNTED album! And it’s been out for several months! It’s unbelievable! Necropolis takes care about these things.
I think labels have become a sort of problem child for musicians lately. It’s so easy to sign a contract with a label nowadays but it’s also so easy to be deceived!
Have you ever heard of Earache? They are the biggest clowns on the face of the Earth! Not so long ago we toured with NAPALM DEATH. Peter, the vocalist of THE HAUNTED, made some kind of joke on the stage and the owner of Earache Dig Pearson took it very personal and he sent the fax where he said he was going to kill Peter. And he sent the faxes everywhere! So he has beaten Peter to the death. So now we have got the chance to get off the label.
What could you say about the underground labels in general?
You know, there are good ones and bad ones. The bad thing about them is that they don’t have money or they don’t have people to get your album out in the stores. But the good thing is that they work as the label because they love the music. And they work very hard. And they are not likely to rip you off. If you are on a big label, like for instance SLAYER, they are on Sony Music right now, the world’s biggest label. And you know how many albums they sold in Sweden? Eight hundred!!!
It’s stupid! Nobody knows about SLAYER in Sweden. Everybody is satisfied with Bruce Springsteen. So if you are on a huge label that isn’t always good ‘cos you get lost.
Then, being a rather experienced musician, could you recommend anything to young bands? How can they tell the bad label from the good one?
Take into the consideration the amount of bullshit on the paper. I have seen contracts that are very thick and the only thing they do is tie you up for the whole future. If the contract is for one album, it may have options. It means that if you put out one album then the second album you have to offer to the same company. They don’t have to take it but usually they do. So I have signed a contract for one album but there are nine in option! And if the band is very good and it sells more and more with every album, but it is still on the first contract like if it were a new band! The band gets the money as a demo band. So the less options you have, the better. Options are not good. And another thing is that you should have the freedom to play in other band. And you should also have the right to your own merchandise. ‘Cos that has nothing to do with records. I can’t believe why record companies are supposed to get all the money if you sell T-shirts! That’s strange. Why? Earache makes a lot of money from that.
And how much money should a band receive from a copy sold?
That’s very individual ‘cos one album can cost like a thousand US dollars and the other can cost like a hundred thousand. It’s rather difficult to answer this question.
But is it possible to be an underground band and earn enough money for living?
No, I don’t think so. I think bands like HAMMERFALL can live on it but they sell a hundred thousand records. You have to sell quite a lot to be able to live on it.
Rather often labels would impose their rights and musical tastes on musicians. Have you ever experienced such cases?
I don’t think such cases take place in metal underground. It’s truer when you have a band that is on the top of the charts like SPICE GIRLS. Say, they want to record a reggie song but they are told that they can’t do that as that won’t be right. They have to do a ballad.
I guess Necropolis never did things like that?
No! You know what? Necropolis even never heard a demo from us! They just trusted me! I said it would be good and they paid the studio and released the CD.
Well, could you advise any good tips for making a good deal with a label to our readers?
It’s a rather common thing if you sign a deal with a foreign label. In Sweden there are many bands but there are few record companies. Most of them are in Germany or in the US. A good thing when you send a demo is that you should always have the best song recorded first. I’ve been to Black Mark, I’ve been to Earache, I have been to Necropolis - they get twenty or thirty demos a day. And small companies are very busy, they don’t have time to listen to an eight-track demo. It’s better to take three best songs and put the absolutely best song first. May be they will just listen thirty seconds if you are lucky! Then if it is not good, they would throw it away and never listen to it again. If the first twenty-thirty seconds are good, they might listen to another song.
You have already been in the underground scene for a rather long time, you have seen a lot. What about the competition between the bands and their attitudes to each other?
When I started out in 1987 everybody got together, everybody was drinking with each other after shows. But then the situation changed, musicians began to argue, saying like: «Oh, I can play faster, I can play that solo better.» Hopefully we’ll get back to the place where everybody helps everybody. I don’t know about the situation in Poland, but here in Sweden everybody is in a band and there’s a competition here.
You have already mentioned that you are releasing a mini CD in the near future...
The mini CD will be called «Witch Burner». And it has four cover tracks and three original WITCHERY songs. We covered ACCEPT, JUDAS PRIEST, W.A.S.P. and BLACK SABBATH. The mini CD will be released in April or March. And we have already recorded another full length album. We work fast! It’ll be called «Dead, Hot And Ready» like the PRETTY MAIDS album «Red, Hot And Heavy»...
OK! And finally, do you have anything to say to all true heavy metal fans in Russia?
I want to thank them because they are true heavy metal fans. And we would love to play in your country!