WITCHKRIEG: Get Under Their Spell !!

Witch Metal?! Personally, I'd never heard about it. Maybe because this music style doesn’t really exists. On the other hand, you won’t find many witches, who play in a band either. The fact, that Barb is a witch and sings in an Australian heavy metal band, made us realize that they were really one of a kind, creating their own style. After listening to their debut album “Dark My Way”, you can easily say, that we’re dealing with a band who managed to create one helluva heavy sound. As we were very curious to know which secret ingredients and magic formulas were used to make an album like this, we asked Hopkins, the witchfynder general, for the address of Barb and WITCHKRIEG. Sitting on her broom (just kiddin'), she told us wonderful stories about being a real witch, her love for heavy metal and the fact that she is also singing in a band. Check out her great story, as we talk to the hard rocking witch from 'Down Under', Barb Ettridge.

When did WITCHKRIEG get together, and how did you meet up with the other band members?
Barb: "In mid-2002, I returned to Australia after living in Scotland for a few years. The idea of creating music with a strong Witchcraft message had been building in me for a while, but I thought I needed to be in an environment where I knew people who could make it happen. At this point, I didn’t really have a plan of how I was going to achieve this, just the vision of where I wanted to be. Andrew and I have been friends for years. Canberra is a small town for IT contractors and our paths have crossed a lot. We share a special bond due to our musical tastes and sometimes I despair that we are the only two KISS fans left! When I spoke to him about what I wanted to do, he was immediately committed and has since been a vital part of WITCHKRIEG, a name that he created. We expanded the line-up in early 2004 by inviting guitarist Rob Prado to join us. Rob is an outstanding musician and brought a lot to the WITCHKRIEG sound. We are now seeking other musicians to evolve further.

Did any of you play in other bands before WITCHKRIEG? And if yes, can you please tell us about those bands? Did you record anything with them?
"Andrew has been part of several Sydney bands and has a lot of live experience. Rob, as you probably know, did a stint with Canberra metal band SOUL CRUSHER, after they had released their first album."

How would you describe the music of WITCHKRIEG yourself?
"For a newish band, we already have two ‘eras’. There is the material on “Dark My Way”, that is a composite of various metal styles and hard rock. Then there is the new material, that we are working on that is far more cohesive and has a stronger common sound throughout. “Dark My Way” contains songs that were brought in from previous bands and this gives the album a bit of a schizophrenic quality. The new songs have been written from a WITCHKRIEG perspective and this shows in how well they fit together as a set."

Which bands can we see as an influence to the sound of WITCHKRIEG, and maybe you can point at some of the influences of each band member individually as well?
"As I said above, both Andrew and I are insane KISS fans. Andrew draws a lot of his influences from old school metal, such as IRON MAIDEN, MOTLEY CRUE, BLACK SABBATH, VAN HALEN and DIO. Rob is influenced by a more doom and black metal style, while of course being a huge fan of shred. I’m into old school rock being a big fan of JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS, BLONDIE, THE RAMONES and THE CLASH and also NWOBM bands such as IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and BLAZE BAYLEY. There is also a strong liking for industrial sounds in the band, all of us enjoy RAMMSTEIN, FEAR FACTORY and ROB ZOMBIE. Also a taste for punk rock sounds such as GREEN DAY and THE ROLLINS BAND. I think all of these got a moment on “Dark My Way”. Something that has been very positive is that we have not been called a clone of any other band, but many reviewers had been able to hear influences from bands as diverse as MOONSPELL to HEART."

How did the press react on “Dark My Way”?
"I guess “mixed” is the word, that is used for the sort of response that we got. Some have raved and that’s always a nice surprise, but then you get the reverse of that with people making really strong personal statements and you wonder what that’s really about as I’m sure us releasing an album is only a small part of their problem. The majority of those who we respect for knowing their metal sounds and for being able to write in an objective fashion have given the same message – work on the vocal arrangements and the production. On the plus side have been the comments that we have an original take on what we’re doing and that our song writing is of a good standard."

Did you also get any negative response, and how do you deal with negative critics in general? Do you try to learn from it, or do you try to forget about it as quickly as possible?
"As I said above the negatives have been around the vocal arrangements and the production – areas that we are working on and have developed extensively. We discuss each review and work through them together, breaking down what has been said and how we can apply it to making WITCHKRIEG a better band with a better sound. There have been a few that have attacked the Witchcraft angle, calling us devil worshipers and all the usual stereotypical bullshit that is part of the “Hollywood” perception of the Craft. To us this just shows the level of ignorance of the reviewer and that they should probably stick to writing about music only."

We rated your album “Dark My Way” eight points out of ten, and wrote that the music sounded like a mix of MANILLA ROAD and MANOWAR with Chrissie Hynde of THE PRETENDERS on vocals. Any reaction to this?
"There was a strong reaction to this review and we’d like to thank you for your positive comments. What was particularly special for us was that you could see the issues around the vocals and the production, but you chose to really emphasize the things that we had done well. We took a lot of encouragement from what you had written and can’t wait to hear your reaction to the second album. We can see the comparison to MANILLA ROAD, especially that retro, hard rock sound and maybe we have a little of their progressive style? MANOWAR is a band that we enjoy a lot and it is a great compliment for us to be compared to their anthemic rock sounds. One thing I think is fantastic about this band is their single-minded devotion to doing whatever they want regardless of what the “industry” might deem the right record to make. For instance - Nessum Dorma: enough said! Being compared to Chrissie Hynde was exceptionally special for me. Being very fond of the eighties, I love THE PRETENDERS’ sound. I actually sing “I’ll Stand By You” quite a bit in the shower. I’m hoping I can carry that style of sound over to this new recording."

Please explain how a new WITCHKRIEG song is born. Who writes the music and the lyrics, and how and when do you blend things together?
"This can vary but mainly I will write quite a lot of lyrical ideas and themes, trying not to make them too restrictive. Then Andrew and Rob will consider riffs and ideas that they have been working on and how they can blend the two. The songs are then worked with until the rough outline is in place. Generally during this time, Andrew has been able to hear how the drums will sound in his head, sometimes the bass part as well. The songs really start to come to life when Andrew records the drums and the bass and we then use this as a backing track to work out the whole picture."

What are the lyrics about?
"Of course they are about Witchcraft and the essence of how it feels to be practicing the Craft today. Due to the nature of this spiritually, it is a belief system that is very individualistic, so other Witches would not necessarily agree with everything we are saying. We have had a lot of feedback though that shows that we have really hit the target that we were aiming for with Witch and Pagan listeners. Each of the tracks looks at this concept from a different angle:

"Roses Are Black": This is a celebration of all things dark and Gothic. It is also a reaction to the white Witch label. There is nothing evil about the dark, the cold or the night, these are just standards applied by mainstream society. I work the Craft from a dark angle, mainly at night when there is less ‘interference’ in the air. If you are interested in this more, I can highly recommend any of the books by Witch author Konstantinos.
"In This Heart": A song about the compromises we have to make and drawn from every time I have had to play down my spiritually not to cause the flow-on effects that naturally follow when you tell people you are a Witch. It is at a lesser level as well – a lot of the time we go with the flow to get a job or rent an apartment. It is a song for every metal head that has ever had to wear a suit.
"Pentagram": A response to often being asked what the symbol represents, but from the feedback, it raised more questions that it answers. I like this song from a lyrics point of view, it has started some amazing on-line discussions. ‘Wrath’: Obviously about being angry, but angry to that level where you feel cold. I went through a stage where bitterness and regret often resulted in this type of feeling. This is just a cry to key Goddesses that know anger well to help me deal with it and target it in a positive fashion.
"Fallen Angel": This was a song, that Rob had been working on for quite a while before WITCHKRIEG was born. He had already written the parts for the growls, so I added some parts that I thought would blend with these. The growls tell of the fall from grace of Lucifer. I have added to this by writing about the despair that is causing by the mis-interpretation of this story. In its truest form, this is the dropping of light into dark, the blending of the physical with the spiritual and is the basis of creation and magic. It is a reaction to what ‘book’ religions have done to make this a story of evil.
"Sea Change": There’s a lot of predictions wrapped up in here and this song started life with the title ‘2012’. From a Witchcraft perspective it celebrates the ability to be able to make a choice about whether to come out of the broom closet or not, rather than having to stay in for safety reasons.
"Cowan Town": Reflections of growing up in a small country town both from a Witchcraft and a metalhead point of view. This was from a time when listening to WHITESNAKE was considered hard core! The emails that we have received show that this feeling is universal and it’s been great hearing about other peoples’ experiences.
"Core": Lyrically this is almost a reprise of "In This Heart". Only those that really matter to you can have an effect on you. My brother has a saying “lose the losers” and I was getting a lot of negative people out of my life at the time that I wrote these lyrics.
"Angel Flashes": Now this is going to be a bit harder to explain, a little like trying to tell someone who doesn’t have one what it feels like to get a tattoo! When you have a thought or an idea that is important you can receive an angel flash. This is a small flash of light in the corner of your eye and it is to bring your attention to something that you might otherwise overlook – a type of message from your subconscious that you are on the right path.
"That Ain’t Witch": This is about the use of the word “Wicca”. I have no issue with anyone following a Wiccan path, although it is certainly not a word I would use to describe myself. There seems to be a watering down of the term Witch by using Wiccan in a softer way. The Wiccan movement was started in 1950 by Gardner and is based on a series of laws. To me these are both sexist and ageist in mature and I am surprised that women want to identify themselves with this path. This song has caused lots of fired up debate and I’m sure what I just said will probably spark it off again.
"Stand": A call to all who follow the path to come and celebrate what we are and what we believe.
"Deviation": These are Andrew’s lyrics but my interpretation of his message is just a rising above of conditioning that has been imposed on him by both institutions and individuals.
"Out": Very self-evident I guess! About coming out of the broom closet and being open and unashamed of your beliefs and practices."

Barb, do you also play any instrument(s)?
"No, I don’t, but that’s probably for the best!"

What we liked a lot about the album is the enormous power it has, especially when you take into consideration that you only have three musicians in the band. Your neighbours must complain a lot when you practice at home?
"Practice has always just been guitars and vocals, sometimes with a backing track so we have been able to keep it to an acceptable level. I think some of the issues with “Dark My Way” were due to the fact that these songs weren’t thoroughly rocked out live before they were recorded. That certainly won’t be happening this time round."

What’s your favorite song from the album “Dark My Way” and why?
"It would have to be “Wrath”. This song has a lot of key points that I love. I wish that it had been worked more and recorded better but it has some great assets. The first of these is the lyrical content. It has been quite amazing how many different ways this song has been interpreted in the comments I have received. One person even thought it was about giving up smoking! With the lyrics being about cold and controlled anger, I think Andrew has also captured that in the way he has written the guitar riffs and the drum patterns. Also Rob’s lead guitar sound shows an inner turmoil that is contained."

Let’s have a look at your live shows now, if we may. With whom did you share the stage already?
"As Andrew is so key in playing several instruments, we have not been able to play live. We are very much looking for some new members, so if there is anyone located somewhere in the Scottish central belt that’s keen, please email me at: barb@witchkrieg.com."

Do you also play any cover songs live, or do you stick to your own penned material during your live shows? If yes, which covers do you do?
"This is certainly something we would like to do and some ideas have been thrown around. It is very likely, that a cover song will be on this second album."

What kind of audience do you attract (goths, metalheads, fellow witches, bikers)?
"The diversity has been amazing. All the groups you have mentioned are represented in the contact we have had both in person and by email. In the majority, the people who show interest in us are dressed in black and sporting a pentagram – some upright, some inverted. We also attract a fair number of close minded religious types, but this is nothing new."

Do you also use any show elements at all? (fire, smoke, props, etc.) I think, this would perfectly match with the lifestyle and the sound of the band.
"Hopefully they will do. We have some ideas of what we would like to do. We are really looking forward to putting a live show together."

If you would go on tour with any Aussie band of your choice, who would you choose and why? (SUPREMACY would make a perfect match in my opinion!) And which international band?
"SUPREMACY would be sensational, also BLOOD DUSTER would be great. From an international angle – of course KISS, but also RAMMSTEIN or the magnificent ROLLINS BAND. In all honesty, we would just love the opportunity and playing out with any band would be a dream come true."

What’s the metal scene like in that part of Australia, where you come from? Are there many clubs where you can play live?
"For a small population, Canberra has quite a strong metal scene as in there’s plenty of metalheads about the place. As for live venues, it has gone the same way as most other places and the chance to see metal bands is limited, although there is the Church Bar and Pete’s in Belconnen that are keeping it alive. On the up side, Sydney is only a few hours drive from us so we can go there to see international acts that come to Australia."

Are there any other interesting metal bands coming from this area?
"Canberra has always produced quality music and metal is no exception. Generally though most of these have to go to Sydney or Melbourne to really have anything happen for them. Hopefully with Red Sun Studios in Fyshwick now, more can be done in Canberra. One band that is outstanding is IMMORTAL HATRED, who should have their first release out by now. From a general Australian perspective the four piece from Adelaide, DISTORTED MINDS, are outstanding and their EP that they released called “Peace, Love, Empathy” is a great listen."

We have already reviewed a whole lot of Australian bands like SUPREMACY, RAVENSHEAD and AMETHYST. They always seem to sound a little rougher and unpolished than most European bands. Same goes for WITCHKRIEG. You really have a very rough sound. Why is it, that Australian bands always have such a great, raw sound? Any idea?
"Ah…now I’m very sure, that SUPREMACY, RAVENSHEAD and AMETHYST were going for this sound to compliment their musical style. However, in relation to WITCHKRIEG, this is not quite the full story and it is probably time for me to come clean here about the way that “Dark My Way” was recorded. We didn’t actually use a studio. This is something that hopefully we won’t ever be crazy enough to do again. Andrew coded the drum patterns using a product, called Reason and then the rest of the parts were recorded via a zoom straight into my PC. We also applied the zoom to the vocals. We now know that this is not a good idea. We did get a professional to master the tracks, who I’m sure was quietly sobbing when he found out how they had been created. Having said that, we still want to obtain a raw and honest sound which we will hopefully keep in the future but it will be better produced."

Are you already working on new material for a follow up to “Dark My Way” and what can we expect from these new songs?
"Yes, we have been working on this since late last year. We have improved our sound dramatically and there is a greater unity around the musical direction. These new songs are more atmospheric while also having a strong industrial influence. I guess you would also say that the sound is more earthier and raw."

Barb, you are a witch for a long time already? And can you tell us something more about it? Do you also have any ‘speciality’ in your witch-being?
"I’m not sure it is a speciality, but it seems that most Witches are drawn to particular aspects of the Craft. For me this is exploring the ‘shadow’, that side of ourselves that we hide, not only from others but also from ourselves. My focus is very much on working with Deity in its dark forms and representations. There is none of this ‘protecting innocents’ with me, that is more like the plot line to Charmed. I seek to develop the self and to improve myself and in that way my path is very closely aligned to (true) Satanism. Other than that I have always been very drawn to the tarot and have read the cards for many years. I have had some very good feedback on my readings, but I am still finding new elements to the cards all the time. I like the fact that you are never quite adept at reading them, that there is always something new to learn."

How and why did you become a witch?
"To me, it doesn’t work that way. You either are or you’re not. It’s a bit like being gay. It’s a fact, not a decision. This is something I have always been. It was more of a realisation, that it had a name and that there were others with similar beliefs to me."

I don’t know a lot about witchcraft, but it fascinates me a lot. Are you a white or a black witch or is this a silly question?
"Well, it does get asked a lot. Witchcraft is a spiritual path not a decision on what type of person you are going to be. You wouldn’t ask a Buddhist or a Christian whether they were black or white, because their spiritual beliefs don’t define this. Witchcraft is the same, you still decide the actions you will take, the path doesn’t choose them for you."

Witches seem to work a lot with herbs and things given to them by nature. Where do you learn how to use herbs and plants and mushrooms, and how do you find out which plant is a good remedy for which complaint?
"Herbology is a discipline like any other field of study and of course books would be the best place to gain this knowledge. Some other Witches that I know have a natural ‘feel’ for this type of work. There is an excellent online course run by www.witchschool.com that I can highly recommend. This isn’t a major focus of mine and if I do need herbs for any workings then I would turn to another Witch skilled in this area."

Do you also believe in occultism, the super natural or ‘life after death’?
"I have to give a very strong yes to all of these. There are so many things that can’t be explained and the easy way out is to declare that they don’t exist. I don’t accept this. In relation to live after death, I strongly believe that we go through cycles of re-incarnation, although not necessary one after the other. Time as a linear idea is a product of humans so that we can get the universe into a shape we can deal with. Everything else appears to be recycled, why not souls?"

What’s more important for you? Being a witch or making music? We know that it’s simple to combine these things, but if you had to choose, what would you be your choice then?
"I would have to say being a Witch as I don’t have a choice in this matter – we are our own truth. Although a life without music would be a very bleak one."

What do you think of other bands that have a Pagan soul, like HAGALAZ RUNEDANCE, SABBAT and PAGAN ALTAR (to name but a few)?
"With HAGALAZ’ RUNEDANCE I really like the story telling aspect. I don’t know a lot about Norse folklore and teachings but I am very interested in this. I like how Andrea has not confined herself to this theme only, her lyrics are universal and at times beautifully dark. SABBAT to me are a band, that encourages you to think. Lyrically, they tell epic stories that question commonly held truths. It would be great if these guys were still touring. To be honest, I hadn’t come across PAGAN ALTAR until this question, but you have made me go and research them and I am now going to get their albums as musically they are what I like to listen to. I will let you know!"

The song “Fallen Angel” appeared on the “Underearthed 3” sampler. How did this happen and did you choose this song yourself?
"This is a great contest run by a radio station in Sydney, called 2RRR. These guys are great for supporting new, unsigned, Australian music. Every year they hold the Underearthed competition when they invite bands to submit one track and then pick what they feel is right for inclusion. We chose to submit “Fallen Angel” as we love the song and also because we felt it was different to the other tracks that were likely to be entered. It is a great feeling to be included on a CD with such great Aussie talent."

There is a leading role for the cat on the CD sleeve. Is this Demeter, who’s mentioned in Rob’s thanks list?
"No, this isn’t the delightful Dem, who would have made a great subject if she had stayed still long enough. The photos are of Chairman Meow who sadly when to the great scratching post in the sky last year. It is great that we have this photographic reminder of him."

In Andrew’s thanks list we see the names of the original KISS line up. Is this the band where it all began with for Andrew?
"I have always considered myself to be a rabid KISS fan and one of my long term goals is to marry Paul Stanley, but then I met Andrew and I realised that I was a rank amateur. I’d need to check with him, but I’m pretty sure he is able to play seventeen different versions of “Fire House”, KISS certainly fueled his desire to be a musician, which I will be forever grateful for as he’s such a great mutli-instrumentalist and song writer."

And in your (Barb) thanks list, I recognize the name of Henry Rollins. Please explain yourself closer?
"I think Henry is a huge talent and I love his music, writing and spoken-work. I have drawn a lot of strength and from his just do it, have a go attitude. One of his more recent song “Get Some” has the lyrics: ‘inspiration, don’t you tell me that you got none left’. During the recording of “Dark My way”, I seemed to hear this lyric a lot and it really got me through some hard patches. When the album was finished I wrote to Henry thanking him for this unintentional support and the impact his music has had on me. He was kind enough to reply and that was a huge deal to me and demonstrated that Henry is what he preaches."

Are there any important gigs on the agenda for WITCHKRIEG?
"Hopefully! We are in the process of recruiting some new members at the moment to allow this to happen."

Have you got a goal set for WITCHKRIEG?
"Right now, we are focused on resolving the issues we had with “Dark My Way” and getting out a solid second album. Longer term we hope to keep having an impact on those following the Craft and those that are interested in Pagan spirituality."

What are the future plans for the band?
"Gaining some new members, recording the second album and seeing where that takes us."

When can we expect to hear the new album?
"There are a lot of variables around this the moment, but my guess would be mid 2006."

We are an online ‘zine that is focussed on the female musicians in the (hard)rock and (heavy)metal scene. Do you think that women still need this kind of attention or do you feel they are already getting the recognition that they earn so well?
"Females in metal and rock are certainly more highly recognized that they have been in the past. Thanks to the efforts of people like SUZI QUATRO, JOAN JETT and GIRLSCHOOL, just to name a few, their talent for being more than back-up singers has been accepted. I think there is further to go in the metal arena that the rock one but you can now see the steady infiltration of serious and highly competent female metal artists. This type of attention is still required, even if it is just to inspire new females keen to have a go. A site likes yours puts all the role model in one place and goes deeper than just discussing the music."

We are based in Holland (The Netherlands). What else do you know from our country, except that we have beautiful tulips and windmills over here?
"Hey, you forgot the clogs and the cheese! Actually the first thing I think of is the Nijmegen festival, that I would love to attend. I have been to the Netherlands three time now and I have loved it – the laid back attitude and the way people are so friendly is wonderful."

Have you got plans to play in Europe, or is this not on your ‘to do’ list yet?
"This is something we would love to do and now from our base in Europe it will be easier to make a reality."

We recently heard, that you moved to Scotland. Will this interfere with WITCHKRIEG and why did you move all that sudden?
"Andrew and I have been very keen to relocate to Europe for quite a while. My move to Scotland is the start of that, with Andrew expected to arrive here early next year. It will impact WITCHKRIEG as this does mean a parting of the ways with Rob. While this is sad for us, sometimes you just have to accept that people want different things from life and go forward down different paths. Rob is an outstanding guitarist and we are sure that you will hear some great work from him in the future."

Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview? Maybe there is something we forgot to mention here, that is essential for the story of WITCHKRIEG?
"There is nothing you have forgotten. This is most extensive interview I have answered! Thank you for the opportunity. But while you have given me the space: any musicians in the Scottish central belt that are interested in an adventure and are of an open mind, please email me."

Do you have any messages for our readers?
"If you are thinking, that you would like to have a go at creating some metal - do it! We only regret the things we didn’t do. Also it’s never too late – age, looks, gender – none of it matters in metal. All people care about it how it sounds."

The last words are for Barb and WITCHKRIEG here...."
"We’ll be back, we’ll be better – I promise."

Website: http://www.witchkrieg.com

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, December 2005.