Sunday 10 April 2016

Interview with Joel Green from WITCHSKULL

The bloody heavy stoner metal rumbles through the vast of Australia as new (yet not so young) power trio Witchskull rocks over the country. Officially Tony McMahon (bass), Joel Green (drums) and Marcus De Pasquale (vocals, guitars) gathered under that name only two years ago, but facts say that they know each other much longer. So don’t be surprised with Witchskull's professionalism and skills as they're literally merciless in their aspiration to bring down the best groove they have. They sound classic, they sound modern and actually and overall they sound killer. As their debut “The Vast Electric Dark” was released in October 1st, 2015, the trio already has already started writing new material, and Joel readily tells me about Witchskull's current status in this interview.

Hi Joel! How are you? What's going on in Australia? What is the current scene like in Australia especially for upcoming bands such as yourselves.

All good thanks Aleks. Lots going on in Australia mate, we have a very strong scene with a lot of really good heavy bands. It is hard for Australian bands to get recognition overseas because it is difficult and expensive to tour, but our scene has always had a lot of killer bands.

Okay, what's Witchskull current status?

Currently we are playing shows in Oz to support The Vast Electric Dark while writing for the new album that we are recording in New York in October 2016.

What are perspectives to consider with organizing gigs in Australia itself and Tasmania or New Zealand? How many places is it possible to visit during one tour?

Australia is a big place, so touring is not easy. Canberra (where we are from) is only 300km to Sydney and 650km from Melbourne so we can easily play the main two cities in Oz over a weekend. There is smaller towns like Newcastle and Wollongong that are close by but most other big cities are too far to drive, so you need to fly. We have only played Sydney Melbourne and Canberra so far, but hope to get to the other major cities over the coming year or so? I have never played NZ or Tasmania, but would love to at some stage.

How do you already have a new album so soon? How many songs do you have for it and will it hold the direction you took on "The Vast Electric Dark"?

We rehearse a lot and are constantly writing, and don’t want to spend too long between records. I am not a fan of long albums, so we will probably have 8 or 9 on the new one? We are working on around 15 and will select the ones we like most closer to the time. Our direction is pretty similar to The Vast Electric Dark, but we don’t let anything stop us pursuing whatever feels right at the time. I feel we are getting better, but I guess time will tell? As long as the three of us are happy, we really don’t concern ourselves with outside opinion. Obviously we would prefer that people like what we are doing, but we don’t care if they don’t. This band is purely about playing what interests the 3 of us and what comes naturally.

And one more question - why are you going to record it in New York? I bet that you have some really good studio on your mind.

We Chose New York because our bass player is from there. He moved to Oz in 2005 and we thought it would be good to make the next record in his home town. We were trying to record at The Magic Shop, but it recently closed down, so we are now recording at a fantastic studio in Brooklyn called Studio G.

Witchskull – World’s Away

Your debut full-length "The Vast Electric Dark" was released in October 1st, 2015. How did you promote it as you released in such a DIY way? Do you now have now label or distro who now help you?

The album was recorded and pressed independently, so all of the initial work was done DIY. Since then we have signed with a NYC label called STB Records for a vinyl release of the album and Ripple Music out of San Francisco for worldwide release of all other formats. This should all happen in the next few months, so we are pretty stoked about that.

"The Vast Electric Dark" is a tight and solid album. How did Witchskull get together. Did you all know each other or before you formed the band. How did you gather under the mark of Witchskull?

We have only been together for a couple of years, but Marcus and I went to school together and played in a metal band back in 1985. We all have very similar tastes in music, and wanted to create something that wasn’t forced in any way. Our writing comes from the gut, with no bullshit. It is what is entrenched in our DNA. Marcus and Tony had the concept of the band going before I joined, but things didn’t fully start to take shape until they asked me to join.

May I ask you what the concept of Witchskull from the start was?

From the beginning, we wanted to create music from the gut. We want to make primal, feral, heavy music that hasn’t been polluted by concerns of how others will perceive it. We simply don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks, so everything we create together remains pure.

The band plays rocking stoner with doom elements, do you care about such labels?

We grew up listening to Sabbath, Motorhead and AC/DC, before going through NWOBHM and the first wave of thrash. Because we have been listening to heavy music since we were kids we don’t care too much about how music is labeled. For us it is all about how it makes us feel. If the 3 of us like it, then we go with it. We have been labeled a lot of different things and don’t really mind.

Most of your songs have a lot of really infectious parts, and overall impressions from the "The Vast Electric Dark" are pretty positive. It's strong stuff. How do you see Witchskull potential for further development?

Thanks for your kind words, it is very much appreciated. I guess we feel that our songs are getting stronger but that is purely my opinion. I guess we won’t know until the second record is done? We are really into what we are doing, so as long as we are happy we will keep it going.

Joel, what emotions influence you when you play and compose with Witchskull? Is this process a conscious one or not?

Most of what we do comes from jamming a single idea for a long time. We let the songs evolve and never force arrangements. We leave songs open ended until they kind of arrange themselves over time. For us, this seems to keep things cohesive and unforced. We try not to think too hard about it, so I guess we are not overly conscious of how we put it all together?

Songs lyrics on "The Vast Electric Dark" sound both abstract and personal, what do you put into it? I'm talking about both music and lyrics - what's Witchskull about?

The lyrics are Marcus’ domain. He is an incredible artist…Very well read, articulate and unique. Musically we are all involved in building the songs. Most of the riffs are from Tony and Marcus, but I contribute as well. Once we get an idea, we jam it for weeks or months until it kind of arranges itself. Things seem less forced to me if they evolve naturally over time. We try to keep things simple and groove based and heavy…Less is more is our belief.

Witchskull – Pan’s Daughter

How do you see the "witching" aspect of the band's concept?

Again, Marcus is more the bloke to talk to regarding our conceptual take on things. If you read through his lyrics you can take a lot of different things from them.

What is the most difficult part of being in Witchskull?

It’s not difficult at all. Marcus and Tony are like brothers to me, so I couldn’t ask for more. Being in any band requires patience and above all, respect so because of our friendships we are able to resolve differences fairly easily.

And what is the best experience you ever had with the band?

I have played in a lot of bands over many years, and never felt a stronger chemistry that what we have in Witchskull. That in itself is the best part of this band for me.

Joel, what are your plans for the next Witchskull record? Do you already have some tunes in mind?

We are writing for the new album now, and are very happy with the results so far. We have a great studio booked and have a really good producer locked in, so we can’t wait to see how it all turns out?

Thanks for your interest in the band Aleks, hopefully we will meet before too long!

Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Joel Green