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Both perfect and perfectly bleak, Hangman's Chair unflinchingly face up to the dark side of human existence.
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Nihilistic and raw Sludge with an empty feeling to it, in a similar arena as Hell and Thorr's Hammer. Repetitive guitar riffs and simple dr...
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"With new release 'Hexenhammer' just a few short weeks away, and the band just a handful of miles distant, it was the perfect opportunity to meet up with Witchsorrow for an extended (and extensive) chat about that and much more."

Interview with Witchsorrow.
"I do a fair few interviews, but most of them are of the efficient yet somewhat artificial 'pre-set email questions' variety. The most fun ones - well, they're done interactively. Sometimes even in person. And since Witchsorrow hang out practically on my doorstep, and were down in my youthful stomping-ground of Brighton last weekend, it would have been positively rude not to meet up with them for a drink and a chat.So I spent a very pleasant couple of hours catching up with husband-and-wife team Nick 'Necroskull' Ruskell (guitar, vocals) and Emily Witch (bass), ostensibly chatting about the forthcoming album 'Hexenhammer', but also enjoying wherever the conversational nature of the intie took us on the subject of band history and attitude.
Thumbnail sketch. Doing much of the talking and general musing: Nick. Doing much of the down-to-earth interjecting: Emily. Generally finishing up the other's sentences, or simultaneously echoing them, like they know exactly what each other is thinking: both. I've tried to keep that sense of a live vibe, flow and sheer enthusiasm in this transcript - if that doesn't exactly come across,best blame my writing skills rather than Witchsorrow's warm and entertaining input..."



Today's interviewees: Nick "Necroskull" Ruskell (guitars, vocals) and Emily Witch (bass) from Witchsorrow. (Photo: Ester Segarra).


OK, so first of all, hello and welcome.

Nick: Hi.

Would you like to introduce yourselves?

Nick: We're Witchsorrow, we're about to release our fourth album at the end of the month, we've been a band now for...it's been eleven years now since our first gig, which is where we officially marked it. Little bit longer than that, maybe fifteen years - no, thirteen years doom. This is what Emily and I do; I mean the band has kind of absorbed everything that we do, and it's what we do instead of...
Emily: Holidays!
Nick: Yes, things like going on holiday, because we're always thinking about we've got to keep all our time free so we can go to gigs - and, also, whenever we do go on holiday now we feel a bit weird and displaced, don't know what to do with ourselves, got no gig to go to...
Emily: ...no guitars at the airport to wrestle with!
Nick: It's a bit weird, you get to about 6, 7 o'clock at night, you go out for dinner and even after that it's like...
Emily: What are we going to do?
Nick: So, yeah, we're about to release our new album, which we actually recorded almost a year ago - things move very slowly in the music business - and we're very excited about that.


Not in attendance today, drummer David "Wilbrahammer" Wilbraham. (Photo: Adam W Thomas).


How does the waiting go, then - four albums in, does it get easier, or do you get more nervous, given that there are...expectations?

Nick: I think it actually gets worse, because the first time you release something you kind of go - OK, we've finished it, recording it - and then it goes off to get mastered and you realise that everything is going to take a really long time - you realise it's going to take six months after you've finished making the record for it to actually come out. But I think that it just makes me more impatient each time!

Emily: That's what it is, it's frustration, and then when it actually comes to release you're like - what was on that again, what did we do? - and we have to kind of refresh ourselves. We had band practice this morning and we kind of did a couple of the album tracks we haven't played for a little while - *laughs* how does this go again? But then it's going to be fresh and new to everyone in a month's time!

Nick: It's always exciting though. It is kind of a drag when you have to go into this weird void stage between doing loads of stuff making the album and then being able to do more stuff when it comes out. You've got this thing where it takes a year to write an album, we've found - from starting to write it to having it recorded - but then there's another six months of nothing on top of that. And I spend that whole year writing, I don't really think about anything else, it just sort of takes over my brain.

Emily: We've kind of learned that we can't really do gigs and write at the same time, we find it's too much, we do the odd thing but...
Nick: ...but it's too much distraction isn't it
Emily: Yeah, you end up rehearsing what you're going to play and not actually writing.
Nick: I find I become obsessed with it: we do demos in the practice room on a 4-track tape recorder and I'll just listen to those constantly to kind of pick at things and see...I like that, I don't like that as much. But I listen to kind of nothing else, when I'm going to work or whatever I have my headphones on and I'm just constantly trying to think what could be better. So you go from that, which is really intense, where you focus on it - to doing nothing, and it always feels a bit weird.

Emily: It's kind of nice in a way, after the intense work, to have a little bit of a breather but then you have to come back to it and learn it all again!

Nick: And you also end up having this thing because you've been so busy writing stuff you haven't said yes to any gigs or anything. So, like last summer when we were recording and all our mates doing festivals and stuff - we were missing the whole summer. It's like having to work inside all summer holiday while your mates are outside having fun! But yeah it feels nice the last couple of weeks, where you're really excited just waiting to get a finished copy in your hands. I've had a test press of the vinyl, haven't had a finished one yet!

So you've got a mini-tour lined up for the launch?

Nick: Yeah.



Glasgow? Isn't that launch day?

Nick: That's launch day. We looked at a few things we wanted to do it in London, but we couldn't quite figure that out, but Glasgow is really cool. We played there once before, and it was totally rammed and people went completely nuts - so it'll be nice to go back there, somewhere where we know there are doom maniacs!
Emily: Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham and then we're back in London...
Nick: Yeah, there is a London show - we're playing with Hooded Menace on the 24th of June at the Black Heart...
Emily:...so that's going to kind of be our London launch date.

Nick: In London, we don't want to play to no-one, so it's quite nice we'll be playing in a really cool building, and Hooded Menace will draw a lot of people. But Glasgow, the only thing that's kind of a drag about that is its a very long way, but then again when you go to Europe you have to drive nine hours to get to wherever you're going in Germany or wherever, so it'll be cool launching in Glasgow. We've got a lot of friends in Scotland and people seem to really like us up there, so it'll be nice to launch everything somewhere where we know it'll be a little bit wild.

Emily: It's a bit different as well, isn't it? Like we try not to be too London-centric, and that's kind of our nearest city that's not London.

Nick: I'd rather people thought we were from Southampton, to be honest *laughs*. I hadn't really thought about it this way, but I quite like the idea of it, now that it's occurred to me that we're biting our thumbs at London. I think it's very easy to just play in London because there's always stuff going on, there's always someone to support, things like that so it's easy to do that and never go anywhere else. Whereas we really like driving about places and seeing other parts of the world in lieu of going on a real holiday. *laughs*

Witchsorrow - 'The Agony' (Official):


OK, so you started the band in 2005/2006?

Nick: Yes, 2005 was when I came up with the first idea. It was when I was at university and I remember being in my little box room that I lived in and coming up with the idea - like - I was really obsessed with Reverend Bizarre, Electric Wizard, Solstice, bands like that. Very much that kind of true doom stuff that was around at the time - you know like Gates of Slumber and all that - and it was like 'doom-metal metal' that really appealed to me. I like bands like Neurosis - and I guess you could put Esoteric into that - where it's not total Vitus or Trouble worship, there's all this extra stuff, but they were the only ones playing that kind of 'heavy metal band playing doom' stuff in the vein of Candlemass or Cathedral and I quite liked the energy that was around. It was a little bit elitist, which I didn't really like, but it was quite cool they were so proud of being true like that - and I was like I want a band like that. I wanted to be in a kind of Sabbath-y band since I was a teenager really. I got very into bands like Orange Goblin and Cathedral and Electric Wizard and Iron Monkey and the whole vibe of it really - I was at the basic level of just using an Orange amp is really cool! I liked all the Sabbath-y imagery and stuff...
Emily: You tried your hand a little bit at sounding like a sort of Stoner-y band...
Nick: Yeah, when I was at school I had a band that played Fu Manchu covers at school concerts and things, and that was OK - but I could never quite get it to work for us...
Emily: Finding people who were into it was always an issue when you were a teenager.
Nick: Yeah, and as soon as I came up with the idea you went I want to be in a band, I want to play the bass!. OK, cool!

Emily: 'Cos your most successful thing up to then was a grindcore band and I used to come round and be a bit of a wag while you were doing that, and kind of just wanted to come and do it with you, and you very kindly agreed to let me have a little go at it...

Nick: But, yeah, it was kind of an idea for a little while after that, but I wrote some of the first riffs and stuff - in fact one of the first riffs I wrote is on the new album, on Devil's Throne which is a fast Trouble-y thing! We tried to play it in one of those first rehearsals in my parents' kitchen and we just couldn't make it work then. But when I was writing this time I started playing it again 'cos I though it was kind of a cool riff: sounds a bit like Trouble, we could do something with that now, and I came up with a few extra bits on top of it and we finally got to use it. But the whole idea was for it to be a doom metal band without - you know - I wanted it to be like Reverend Bizarre, basically.

Emily: I think we've sort of evolved a little bit...
Nick: ...we have moved a bit but...
Emily: If you go back and listen to that first album it is very slow, very Reverend Bizarre, but I think now we've actually discovered we do want a bit of variety...
Nick: That was the thing - we always had a little fast bit in some of our stuff -
Emily: - but it took ten minutes to get to the fast stuff!
Nick: Then when you play it live and you find yourself waiting for that bit, you kind of look forward to that bit breaking the tension, so we've started to just shorten the slow bit at the start of the track, get straight to the fast bit...
Emily: ...or we'll take that fast bit out and make it a whole song on its own - rather than a fast bit in a slow song, we'll have a slow song and a fast song...
Nick: Yeah, and then we've got two songs!

Witchsorrow - 'Demons Of The Mind' (Preview single):


The new album, 'Hexenhammer': I was going to sum it up as just - "faster, tighter, more Heavy Metal". Is that fair?

Nick:I think that's pretty nail on the head there!

Emily: I almost think the last album we started to do that anyway, didn't we? I feel that this one's almost a bit more diverse again - we've got everything from the Electric Wizard-y style to the Trouble-y one to more of a Stoner-y one.

Nick: Yeah, we wanted to do a heavy metal album - I really love Motorhead and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, Metallica, things like that so it's increasingly become, especially live, the kind of thing we think about - you're looking forward to a gig and you're sort of starting to think more in terms of bands like that. I think for a while that people didn't really like us as much as some other bands because we weren't just total doom all the time - really sludgy and stuff - but people have started in the last couple of years to think that's actually what they do like about us!
Emily: Yeah, they've kind of worked out that that's where we're going...
Nick: ...but there's not many bands doing that more traditional sort of heavy metal style, so when we played in Romania a couple of years ago - this doom thing, it was a two day festival and there were a lot of funeral doom bands there. I think Pantheist headlined one day, and Ataraxie played: it was all bands like that, very slow, dirgey...
Emily: ...lots of keyboards...
Nick: ...it was a long couple of days. Great bands but I tell you what, five of those a night is quite something! And when we played it was like Slayer or something - people got really into it. I think we were good as the break in the tension of all this slow dirgey stuff - we came out and started playing slightly faster with a bit more traditional heavy metal style. So I do like that kind of music, but the thing is I can't really do it either! Whenever we try to do something that sounds a bit more like that, like we have this really simple riff and just repeat it, it never sounds quite right, and I think it's natural for us to want to be a bit more like Trouble or Iron Maiden or someone. That's just what feels natural and right to us, you know, whereas I can't imagine a band like, say, Iron Witch or someone who are quite sludgy and good at it suddenly playing these Judas Priest rip-off bits. I think it just doesn't work for us and so - this is what we do, I guess - can't help it, being heavy metal!

Not a bad place to be, though?

Nick: I like it *laughs*

Especially now that the ranks have thinned out a bit - it was kinda big in the late '90s/early '00s, I guess...

Nick: It seems like everything's gone round again, I suppose, because I can remember when it was all Reverend Bizarre and The Gates Of Slumber and The Lamp of Thoth and bands like that. It was the true doom stuff, the more sort of traditional feel to it, the more Sabbath-y feel: it was quite the 'in thing'. I suppose you could put it like that. But then that sort of drifted away and everyone started playing around with guitar pedals again and being a bit bookish about everything. Now I feel that slightly more bone-headed heavy metal has come back around - which is quite a good place to be, now we're about to release a record of it!


Live, 2015. (Photo: Metalgigs).


So on the Metal side, Judas Priest, that kind of '70s sound, Sabbath obviously - what about the '80s? Do you take a lot of influence from that?

Nick: Absolutely, yeah! I mean there's obvious Doom bands in there - like Candlemass and Trouble, the roots of Solitude Aeturnus, bands like that - but Judas Priest - that's my favourite period of Priest, actually. I loved their '70s stuff, but Screaming For Vengeance and Turbo, I love that - we come on stage to Turbo Lover ...
Emily: We started it off with random Priest tracks and then that one just stuck...

Nick: And the '80s was a period where more small bands were able to do stuff - I guess amps and things became cheaper, and recording time became a bit cheaper, and heavy metal was kind of established by that point so labels were spending a little bit of money on stuff. But if you think about how many small bands there were - who, at the time, did bugger all - but there were still a lot of bands...just in terms of the sound, everyone was doing their own thing because they didn't really know anything else. A bunch of kids who had an amp and they were in a recording studio, which kind of made them a real artist And so you had an incredible variety of wicked music because first of all no-one knew how to record any of it yet, which is why when you listen to early Bathory, Hellhammer, Von - bands like that - they all sound kind of trash. If you listen to it as a record producer, well, I don't know how you'd do that because this is like everything's wrong - because no-one had really nailed the techniques for it, so you ended up with a lot of different sounding stuff, a lot of creativity...
Emily: You could sound like Bon Jovi and Hellhammer at the same time!
Nick: ...and it wasn't really until bands like Morbid Angel and Death started recording and Scott Burns totally nailed like how to record a really fast heavy guitar or a blastbeat. But before that, everyone was kind of making their own mistakes, but there was so much creativity there - I think that's why '80s music was so rich, because there were more people going into studios who didn't actually have a fucking clue how to make a record! So there was this great meeting of professional stuff with, kind of, an amateur ability. It's like Hellhammer were obviously quite primitive - probably a kind way of putting it - but, you know, what they made from that was just unbelievable! I like the idea of that: that spirit of just making 'music by mistake', almost.

I also like bands where you can just tell someone is a natural songwriter and they can take three chords and make a good song out of it in half an hour. I really like music like that, but I can't, don't, know how to do that! I wish I could, but you know how Lemmy could just bash out a song in half an hour, yeah, done that. That sort of natural instinct for just how to write a song, whereas I don't really have that - so it is about trying things, and making mistakes, and knowing which mistake to keep, I suppose *laughs*

As well, I discovered rock music when I was a kid in the early '90s, so a lot of the bigger bands were bands from the '80s - Guns'n'Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Megadeth: they were the first metal bands I heard, so the '80s was the first stuff I heard, and at the time there was always a lot of reference back to the '80s in Kerrang or Metal Hammer or whatever - there'd always be a reference to Celtic Frost or Possessed, all these other things. I remember the anniversary of Reign In Blood - ten years old already - whoooh *laughs*. So I think now there's a lot of bands pushing back to the '80s as well - like, obviously Darkthrone are very vocal about that, Fenriz is always banging on about it. But I think there's a school of bands - Watain and bands like that who have a very '80s kind of focus. There is this root they have in bands like Judas Priest and Exciter - I just think the '80s was really cool!

I enjoyed them, I must say!

Nick: *laughs*


Full-length discography (click to expand): 'Witchsorrow' (2010), 'God Curse Us' (2012), 'No Light, Only Fire' (2015), 'Hexenhammer' (2018).


So why the name Witchsorrow, out of curiosity? There's a lot of 'witch' bands around these days?

Emily: Oh my word, yes!
Nick: It just popped into my head on the day that I decided I wanted to start a band. That just popped into my head and it stuck. I didn't sit there thinking what am I going to call the band?, it was just like a flake of inspiration was floating through the air at that particular time - hit me in the head: oh, that's cool, that stuck. I think when I said it to Emily she was like, that's cool. And I'm oh, OK, good...
Emily: And the first few songs were on that theme...
Nick: Yeah there's a lot of 'witchy' bands around now but at the time there was Witchfinder General, a few others - Burning Witch - but it was more of an element of doom rather than being a thing that everyone was called, so I think we got in there just in time! And as Emily says, early on there was a lot of focus on that sort of witchy Olde England stuff as well - lyrically - 'cos I wanted to really take a bath in all the cliches of doom, so all that kind of Matthew Hopkins, sorcery, old churches, all that sort of old-fashioned stuff... There were a few bands doing it, but it wasn't so big, and, you know, I was really into having all those elements I wanted to be quite a generic doom band. I guess I wanted to be just everything I liked about doom!

Emily: We've never actually shied from belonging to a genre: some people think that's a bad thing, but I think we've always just wanted some Reverend in it!

That's quite a refreshing point of view, actually!

Nick: The first song on Hexenhammer - actually, the title track, in fact, is partly about worshipping doom itself. I mean that song goes all over the place, but there's an element to it that's just revelling in being a doom band...
Emily: The word 'Hexenhammer', that's from the Malleus Maleficarum, so that's back to where we were at the start...
Nick: When you first said it to me as a song title, I envisioned it as not just a book with some rules in it but like an actual hammer, I thought that was really cool. It felt quite Manowar! *laughs*
Emily: I think people will take it quite literally...
Nick: 'cos in the lyrics, there's a couple of lines where I sing it as if it were, I just like the idea of this sort of magical hammer, it sounds a bit Hammerfall that, but at the same time it sounds quite menacing as well...

I believe the original was exactly that: not much fun getting caught up with the Inquisition!

Nick: And witchcraft and stuff - we haven't written a witchcraft song for a while so I felt that we needed one, which was partly why I did it. That's something that I've always thought was really cool!
Emily: It's always kind of relevant in some way, isn't it?
Nick: I mean you can spin it any way you want, really, and I think it's quite cool to be a doom band and have a witchcraft song, you know - witches are cool *laughs*

Witchsorrow - 'The Trial Of Elizabeth Clarke/Breaking The Lore' (Live, 2013):


Your lyrics seem quite literary, in actual fact, despite being full-on heavy metal doom. Do you get a lot of inspiration from that?

Nick: Not any specific literature. I know some people write lyrics that are really focused on Lovecraft or something, and you can spot all these nerdy references to it where they really know their stuff, and there's all these little pockets and bits that are actually quite obscure bits of Lovecraft that they're singing about. Erm, I sort of take things from everywhere - if I see something written down and it sounds quite cool, that's enough for me - coming back to the 'Hexenhammer' thing: that's cool, well let's have that - I like the sound of that. And sometimes - I like a good turn of phrase, I like a little quite clever wordplay and slogans and nifty headlines...
Emily: We keep all sorts of little notes of things that we hear and you come and revisit them...
Nick: ...yeah, we've got little notebooks, and if we hear something on the TV that sounds good or whatever we just write that down...
Emily:... 'cos that's where Hexenhammer came from - we were in a torture museum in Germany, I think, wasn't it? I saw that on a picture - oh, that sounds quite good, and that's been in the notebook for ages and you actually used it this time...
Nick: Actually, the first time you suggested to me I thought - dunno, sounds kinda cool, but I can't figure out what we'd use it for. Then when it came up again, it was like the first riff - oh yeah, Hammers! A metal hammer...

But there's not any one thing. Sometimes my lyrics are quite confused, as well. I think if you try and sort of take them apart and go 'this song is about this', it becomes quite tied up, because I don't really write something until I need to. It's always the last bit - I make notes and things that sound cool or worth remembering, but I never just write lyrics for the sake of writing them. I don't really like doing it: it's the bit of writing that's kind of the hardest, because you have to sing them with your real voice. Writing a riff is - you know, you're hiding behind a big wall of amps and it's does it sound powerful? Yeah, cool, but because it's me singing, it's almost like - keep it at arms length until you really have to do it. Like, I've put off my homework for long enough now. I always write stuff like I'll get on a roll, and it won't really make any sense, and I'll have to go back and neaten it up a bit. Sometimes I'll apply meaning to it afterwards, 'cos I'll get on that roll with just words coming out, and I have to figure out what they mean after. Though sometimes there is something that I'm actually writing properly about, but it's rare that I'll just focus on that one thing. Quite often I'll do a really quite broad idea and stuff just sort of comes out of the end of my pen, and that's what it is. But if you try and carve it up and go ah, I know exactly what you're talking about - good. I don't! Sometimes it's a bit more obvious than others. I don't write songs about politics and that, but if I just turn on the TV and go, urgh, you know - the news - that'll kind of make it in there: there'll be some sort of worry, but it's much more of a broad thing. There's no better way of dating yourself really than - I mean, who's listening to Free Nelson Mandela now? Not me...
Emily: ...but some of the themes come back and round because they're quite broad - the whole witch trial thing, there's always something reflecting back in the news isn't there? History repeating...

Nick: So, as I say, I sometimes just apply meaning to it afterwards, 'cos words just sometimes run away with you when you're writing them, and you suddenly hit on this thing and it's like fuck there's other words coming out, I'll figure this out later. It's a bit of a weird way of writing, but I think if I sat there and considered every word that was going in, it would take forever. I'd still be writing the first record now. Sometimes it's a bit easier than others - suddenly you'll come up with a phrase, and it'll end up as ten lines and you go ah, done. But what I write about, I write about anything as long as it sounds dark and heavy metal. I'm quite into, coming back to literary sorts of things, is where you get an Iron Maiden song title, or a band like that, that would sound really good being said aloud by Brian Blessed...*puts on best Brian Blessed voice*: The Book Of Souls! It's one of the tests I do, like a sense check...does that sound right: Hexenhammer!, Made Of The Void! - gotcha!


Live, 2017. (Photo: Sam Law).


So how easy was it to get on a label, pretty much from the off?

Nick: When we were on Rise Above, I'd known Lee Dorrian for a little while from gigs and various other things, and he came to see us our first show - I think because it was on a Saturday night near his house! He was actually helping us to load all our stuff back into the car afterwards, and he went, oh, we should talk about doing a 7" or something and...
Emily: ...it just kind of went from there, didn't it...
Nick: ...we never had a meeting where we sat down and had the big record company thing where you get signed, it was just kind of - oh, there you go, it's there now. Then when we left Rise Above, a friend of mine who works for Candlelight just sort of said 'do you want us to put out the next record?'...and then they got bought by Spinefarm UMG, so suddenly, in a roundabout way, we're now on a major label - which is quite nice *laughs*. You go into their office and you go through these reception areas which are full of Beatles things and Justin Bieber and stuff like that, and you go into their office and it's all Ghost and Electric Wizard and Rammstein - it's great!

And how much help does that give in practical terms?

Nick: I think the name carries a bit of weight, doesn't it?

Emily: And the distribution, just that bit of help. But we've always been very DIY: we've taken care of ourselves. I think that's probably why people don't mind working with us, 'cos we're quite grown-up and just get on with it.

Nick: We're not a band who are constantly phoning up and going can we have one of these, can you do this for us, can you help with this because it's just easy - we'll do whatever we need to do, like: it's time for an album...
Emily: ...we'll do that for you now, shall we? - and that's OK, we'll just do that...
Nick: Stuff like distribution is great, knowing that it's going to get everywhere, and it's quite cool having boring business-end things like advertising and stuff like that all taken care of.

Actually one of the things that was really cool was not long after they bought Candlelight, and we played at Download and they had this massive, massive billboard advert that was 'Spinefarm's dirty dozen', 'cos there were twelve bands that were playing. So there was this enormous billboard thing in the middle of a field - with these twelve album sleeves...
Both: ...and one of them was ours!
Nick: Next to Rammstein and Ghost and Electric Wizard - it was like really, really cool. Bit bizarre, but that was fucking great!

But, like Emily says, we take care of a lot of things ourselves, we're not asking them to sort out merch for us or - we just take care of those ourselves. You're going to end up dealing with it yourself anyway, so you might as well spend the extra hour it takes to organise something yourself. Some people we've tried to work with on other things - well, we get frustrated with stuff going too slowly, 'cos like I could have done that...
Emily: We don't need a middle-man, because basically they're just going to come to us and say do you want to do this and we go 'yes' and they go back - no, it doesn't work. What's your phrase: nobody gives more of a shit about your band than you do? and I think that's become a bit of a mantra...
Nick: There's a Bruce Dickinson quote where he was talking about management people, and he said 'I genuinely believe that Rod Smallwood would saw his legs off if he thought it would help Iron Maiden and we wouldn't have him as manager, we wouldn't have anyone as manager if we didn't feel that way about them'. And I think that's quite true - unless you can find someone who is willing to jump off a building for you, then it's not worth giving them their 10% just to have you email them all the time. We do take care of a lot of stuff ourselves, but we are quite grown-up about it. I've known bands who have thought just 'cos they have a record company that it meant they were going to have a salary from it, that they were on Easy Street and stuff, and that everything was going to be taken care of the whole time!

Emily: We're quite realistic about it all, it's never going to be a massive, massive thing - it's almost nicer, I think, that we do it as a kind of sideline against real life.

Nick: I don't think it would be the same if this was like, what we did. I wouldn't want to have write riffs and think is this going to pay the mortgage at the end of the month?.

Emily: It's more like a pressure release for us: we can do the 9 to 5, and then have the fun.

Nick: Unless you're, like, Guns'n'Roses big, I don't think I'd be able to work with the idea that everything rests on what you do next. That would do my head in a bit. So I like the idea that being in the band kind of means fuck all, and if it stopped the world would keep turning. I think that makes it quite cool, because it means that the only reason you're doing it is that you really like it, and I think that's what keeps it going.

And also there's plenty of bands that have got quite legitimately enormous who have just had to split because they couldn't keep it together! Bands that have headlined Reading and things: they've clearly gone that was wicked but I'm really glad I'm not doing that anymore 'cos it was such stress. But you think about even Robert Plant - it doesn't matter what he does, it's massive - but there's a story about after the Led Zeppelin show at the O2, instead of going to the aftershow he got a taxi to Camden and sat in a kebab shop with a little bottle of vodka on his own! He really keeps at arm's length. I think being the frontman of Led Zeppelin is a hell of a job, you know - it's not you any more, and if you don't feel like it's you then you won't want to do it. That's why they haven't done any more shows 'cos he's like, no, that's not me, that's too much pressure and it's not very relaxing! And I kind of think that I'd get that stress if I had to make one mortgage payment from band money...
Emily: You get stressed enough without that pressure!
Nick: Yeah. Imagine if it actually meant something! *laughs*
Emily: Exactly - it means something but not that...
Nick: We get to have a little taste of the heavy metal fantasy land, and that's kind of enough really.

Witchsorrow - 'Freezing Moon' (Mayhem cover):


So, are you entirely happy with being, basically a power trio? Never had any desire to stick in a second guitar or anything like that?

Emily: *laughs a lot*
Nick: The thing with it is that I quite like that there's not two people doing the same thing...
Emily: You don't like to share, do you?
Nick: It's not quite like that...
Emily: Yes it is!
Nick: I just think that...
Emily: ...it's easy to manage, not trying to get five people's schedules together...
Nick: ...and it just naturally came like that, when there were three of us we stopped looking for anyone else, and it just felt right And it changes the style of music as well: if you listen to bands who've got two guitars it sounds way different than trios. It sounds like a really obvious thing to say, but Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and Metallica - they all have one style of writing songs whereas if you listen to Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin or Van Halen or even Pantera there is this - I mean it might just be me thinking this, and then applying it whenever I hear it - but there is a thing to being a three-piece rather than two guitar players, it does have a slightly different energy to the music - Motörhead is another one: they got two guitar players, and then they sounded different so there is something about it.

Also, there's a practicality to it 'cos you can fit everyone into one car, one hotel room, one van, it's easy -
Emily: And when you need to make decisions!
Nick: Yeah, three people's quite a good democracy, 'cos there's an odd number of you...

Emily: ...and it's hard enough to find someone that sort of shares the vision, as well - you don't want someone trying to pull in another direction...
Nick: Also I think at this point we've grown quite eccentric together and I think anyone who came in would possibly get - well, it would feel a bit weird, like three people and...another guy. I think it would be quite difficult for anyone to be in, because when you spend that long around people in this little "band bubble", you pick up peculiarities and stuff. We're quite insular as well, like we're always in our little pocket of the three of us, and it's quite difficult for anyone to get into that - which, again, is why I think that sometimes when we've tried to work with other people they've found it quite difficult 'cos they don't quite get into that. Whereas some people get in there straightaway, like Chris Fielding, who recorded all our albums.

From the first time we met him, he was just straight in with our thinking and how to deal with us. He understood what music we wanted to make, but he kind of understood us as well and when you're doing something like recording - which is something you're supposed to be really particular about - that's really important. 'Cos if you get someone who either doesn't do what you want, or who just doesn't give a shit, then that'd be really annoying, but with Chris, he can just listen to a song and get it straight away. He'll go ah, well, what you should do is cut the guitar out there and then bring it in two seconds later, really hard, on that bit - then that'll sound great. And I think it takes quite a bit of front for someone to say that to us and for us to listen, in some respects

Emily: And for your vocals and stuff, I don't think anybody else could tell you what to do and succeed quite as well as Chris does.

Nick: There is that. Yeah, he's very good at that. Every time we've recorded with him it's been great 'cos he's been a laugh, but he's an expert, and every bit of stuff he's got in there, he knows off by heart. And he'll be sitting there and scratching his head and going it still doesn't sound quite right. And then he'll go I know, I've got this thing, this program, this pedal or something - something that makes a noise - put that on it. And suddenly it snaps into place. That's a laugh doing that bit. Doing the music and stuff, it's not easy - it's hard work - but you kind of know when something's right or not, but doing the vocals - I don't really like doing it and really, standing in that little cupboard thing with the headphones on for three hours at a time singing the same thing over and over again and trying to get a tiny bit different - I hate doing it. But Chris just pushes me really hard - he knows how good it can be. He's not expecting you to be Pavarotti, but he knows what he can get you to do that'll sound really good and he makes you get there. I think it would do his head in if he let something leave the studio that wasn't quite right! I think it would really annoy him, and he'd never be able to relax with wishing he'd just done this thing different.


Working hard at Skyhammer Studios...


I was going to try and approach the vocals...with some delicacy - I mean they suit the music great, but more of a triumph of energy than technique?

Nick: Yeah, I'm not a natural singer. Really, I don't know why I picked to be the singer, I think it was just because it felt like that was what I should do in terms of the band. I think over the years I've managed to mould it into a thing where - for us - it's like being the best drummer in the Beatles, isn't it? I am the best ...singer... in Witchsorrow. On our records. *laughs with Emily*

I've managed to figure out a technique but I'm not really a natural singer - to be honest, I don't really like doing it that much, that's the thing that stresses me out. Especially on tour, 'cos after a few days your voice starts to wear a bit and then you get really pissed off 'cos you can't talk all day and you've got to wear a scarf all the time...
Emily: But I think you're like, just a good frontman, and you just shout and point and do guitar solos, you quite like that...
Nick: I've got in my head this sort of version of Tom G. Warrior's shouting...
Emily: And the bands you like, they don't always have the best singers...*laughs*
Nick: The thing is both my sisters can sing really really well, but I've just never been able to do it, I really don't know why. But I think it's added to our sound, because I've had to sing in a certain way - which almost means you start writing songs in a different way, because you have to shout a bit more over the top of it. *laughs* It's just another thing I wish I could have - I mean, like Felipe from Procession - fucking amazing singer and it just seems like something that he's just always been able to do. I think it is just something - you can't learn how to do it, same with a lot of things, you can't learn how to paint, you can either draw or you can't...

Emily: Again, like the power trio, I think that's what we really are now, and I don't think another singer would really work with what we do. I mean people say, well why don't you sing, but no, it wouldn't work with what we do - there are examples of great bands who've not got great singers but it just suits, like Bizarre or any of those bands. You wouldn't say they were the greatest natural singers but it works...

...Ozzy?

Emily: Ozzy, well there you go!
Nick: Actually, that's a great example! *laughs*



OK, it's quite dark material: you're not really writing concepts as such, but there's a fairly end-of-the-world apocalypse theme running through. So I'm curious, which way up would you wear your crucifix? Is it like Sabbath putting the fear of God into mortal man...?

Nick: I don't really have a religious viewpoint, erm...
Emily: Just not one, really...
Nick: Just not one. I like a lot of black metal and bands like that, what I remember from being a kid was when I first encountered those satanic bands like Deicide and Emperor, Burzum, Mayhem - I genuinely thought that they were actual devil worshippers and magicians in this sort of Dennis Wheatley sense. And I genuinely thought, like fuck me these guys are badasses. Because at the time, as a kid, I was still going to church on Sundays - the morning youth thing at the church and stuff, and it seemed like the most dangerous thing they could do. The thing is I didn't understand what they were doing - now, as an adult, when you hear Glen Benton going I think church is for shit, you kind of think I can understand where you're coming from, 'cos you live in Florida where you have these super-churches... You're not a magician and you're not actually chatting to the devil, and I realised - it took me a while - that they were calling out the hypocrisy of like big business church industry, rather than our Church of England church which was just a glorified middle-class coffee morning.

I always felt a bit weird whenever I'd hear bands having a go about the church 'cos I think I've never seen anything like this! and it wasn't until I saw the world beyond our little town that I realised there are people who have very bizarre opinions and outlooks on the world in the name of religion. I couldn't really understand it, I'm like: I go to church every week and I've never had any funky opinions about gay people or abortions or anything like that shoved in my face, everyone just turns up and has a nice time, they're all really nice to each other and they take it in turns to make cakes or give the old people a lift somewhere, or they do meals on wheels and things, so it was a very nice community. But now of course I realise that there are actually big bad churches that go about having a go at gay people or whatever and now I realise that's what everyone's problem, was not people who believed in god.

And I still sort of think like that, 'cos I think a lot of this doesn't apply to like my mum or my auntie - and I sort of imagine there's probably a lot of people's mums and aunties who it doesn't apply to either, in any religion. So in regards to which way round I'd wear my crucifix, I'd probably just lay it flat on the table, *laughs* neither up nor down. When the penny finally dropped, I think I was a bit dim about it all really, and I realised people were talking about their problems with things like child abuse and things like that...Oh! Right! You're not summoning the devil in the middle of the night, you're not actually doing that. Oh, gotcha!

Witchsorrow - 'God Curse Us' (Live, 2016):


So it's apocalypse as a human thing?

Nick: The apocalypse comes in all the time. The thing is I - sometimes it feels like a tired concept, almost, but it's something I just keep naturally coming back to - the thing is that it just feels so constantly relevant. I know people have been talking about the end of the world since the year dot, you go back to medieval times and there'll be some bloke ringing a bell and shouting the end of the world is nigh. But you can't turn on the TV without hearing about nuclear war or climate change or some other horrible thing, and to me it just feels that we're past the point of no return - we're kind of waiting for it now. But it won't be a sort of - the world's not going to blow up, it's going to be a very slow thing, the power's going to go out and food's going to run out and you know it's not going to be this big Hollywood ending it's not going to be...

Emily: ..."Threads"...
Nick: Everything's just going to rot away, rather than be like - what's that film - 'Deep Impact' or something. It's not going to be like that, where's this spectacular death or something: it's going to be a horrible thing - you're going to be cold for five years, then you drop dead. It's not going to happen tomorrow, but in my lifetime the world is going to change beyond all recognition because everything's held up by...well, like looking at a motorway bridge and discovering it's made of lollipop sticks. I think everything is so much smoke and mirrors now, to try and maintain so much stuff that's been working for half a century and is now running out and running into problems. I think people are insisting that it still works, and eventually when it does stop working because there's too many people who it's not working for, I think that's when really big changes are going to happen. Just look at London housing, for example, you can't go on expecting people to pay for too expensive housing, eventually they won't be able to, and then something is going to happen - I don't know what that is, but it's going to change and it'll be too late to come up with a proper solution by then, I guess...

But you hope people will be listening to your albums as the soundtrack for it?

Nick: Absolutely that'd be nice - it'd be good if they played it on the news or something. When the first asteroid hits...
Emily: You said it wasn't going to be an asteroid!
Nick: Yeah, but we're not going to be played on the news either! *laughs*

I think that's pretty much all of the questions I wanted to ask, it's been great chatting to you guys!

Nick: Yeah you too, thank you so much for this interview.

Any last words you'd like to add?

Nick: Erm...
Emily: A good couple of hundred *laughs*
Nick: You're all doomed. There you go.
Emily: Stop it now, or else he'll start again!


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Interviewed on 2018-05-06 by Mike Liassides.
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