Interview: King Witch
I have had a lifelong dream to record a concept album about all the great fictional detectives of our time. It will be called “Appetite For Deduction” and I’m fairly certain it will be a modern masterpiece.
Grant McPhillips fired over some questions to Edinburgh based doom band King Witch, who have just released their first full-length release Under The Mountain on Listenable Records.
E&D: Congratulations on the release of your debut album Under The Mountain. How does it feel?
Lyle: Hey! Thanks very much, it feels quite surreal. Very happy with the results and so happy it is now unleashed for people to hear and judge for themselves! The feedback so far has been great and it gives me the urge to continue pushing for bigger things!
Jamie: It’s awesome to finally hear feedback from people and listen to what they take from it. It’s allowed me to enjoy the album all over again: It felt like we were sitting on it for a really long time while mastering / release plans and all that stuff were getting finalised.
Laura: Feels fantastic. It’s been a while in the works but we’re really pleased with the end results and the positive feedback we’ve been getting.
Joe: Very good! The reactions so far have been great, and we’ve been looking forward to getting out to play the stuff!
E&D: Was the road to recording and releasing Under The Mountain, a long one?
Lyle: YES haha, Especially for Jamie, Laura and Simon [previous bass player] the poor sods had to wait another 2-3 months on me learning the tunes and getting into the studio to lay down the drums! But I think in the long run it was worth it.
Jamie: It’s certainly the longest recording project I’ve ever done. Not because of any “Use Your Illusion” -style studio extravagance, just because of line up changes and the fact that we were recording it ourselves in between work and other general life stuff. And as Laura says, we didn’t really stop gigging the whole time we were recording. There were points during the recording and mixing process where i lost all perspective of whether or not the songs were even any good! It was great to spend a couple of days with Tom Dring (Vagrant Recordings) tweaking the mix and preparing it for mastering – getting a new set of ears on it really helped and I don’t think it would have sounded as good as it does without his help.
Laura: It was pretty hefty but that was due to some line up changes and we were gigging a lot at the time too to promote our EP Shoulders Of Giants. Jamie did all the recording for the album in amongst our other band goings on so it was pretty mad. In the end I’m glad we took longer to do as it gave us time to add a few bells and whistles.
E&D: In my review of Under The Mountain, I said that I heard elements of Crowbar, Mastodon, Judas Priest and Alice in Chains, were there any particular influences on King Witch when recording the album?
Lyle: I listen to all four of them bands on a regular basis so you have no complaints from me! I would also add little pinches of Metallica, Maiden, Red Fang, Motörhead and High on Fire. Other than that while recording it was whatever juices flowed out of me at that moment in time!
Jamie: I wasn’t really conscious of any particular influences creeping in on this album… but having said that you’ve picked out bands that we definitely all really dig! That and I think the Sabbath / Rainbow sort of 70s thing makes its way into the songwriting process as well. It’s really cool hearing what people take from it.
Laura: I don’t think there were any intentional nods to anyone but I can hear some when listening back. I’m a massive fan of 70s heavy rock like Sabbath and I’ve been digging Candlemass, High On Fire etc for a while now. I’m not gonna complain if someone thinks we have hints of any of the above. I like to think that although we’re influenced by certain band, we still have our own unique “King Witch” sound.
E&D: The album was recorded by Jamie (Gilchrist, guitar) and the artwork is by Laura (Gilchrist, vocals). Everything except the mastering was completed by the band. Was it important to have this independent, band centred approach?
Lyle: With the way things are today in the world we are all still people working hard earning a wage and don’t have all the money in the world, So if you have extra skills why not use them to your full potential! It just so happens Jamie has a pretty good ear for producing and Laura got good arty skills (also probably helps being a graphic designer is pretty much her job!).
Jamie: I think given infinite time and resources we would probably go to a sweet studio in the middle of nowhere with a great producer for a couple of months and create our masterpiece… but unfortunately we weren’t in that position! Having me record the album means we aren’t under the gun to get things completed in certain time frames: we can go back and alter parts, we can take our time trying to create certain feels and effects, we can do things that aren’t possible if you only have a short time in a studio to track and mix an album.
Laura: Haha well I think after the awesome response we got from the EP (which Jamie recorded) we decided to try doing it ourselves again. We didn’t have the backing of a label when we started recording so as Lyle mentioned it can be a really expensive process. Jamie really does have an ear for it and it gave us a chance to think out what we wanted without the pressure of being in a studio with a time frame. As for the artwork, my normal human day job is being a graphic designer – mostly corporate stuff, so when I get a chance to be a bit more creative I’ll jump at it. I was trying to go for an old 70s vibe and the boys dug it so we went with it.
Joe: It definitely is a good approach! I didn’t play on this album but have worked on various things in the past in both fancy (expensive) studios, and projects with more of a DIY approach. The issue with the former can often be that time and financial constraints do sometimes get in the way either in terms of performance, or even just editing/adding things to a record. Being able to do things at your own pace in a good environment for you helps massively, and the results are often the same or better than if you had poured an insane amount of dosh into hiring a studio, if you’ve got people on board that know what they’re doing!
E&D: The band formed in 2015 in Edinburgh, how did that come about?
Jamie: After the band Laura and myself were in came to an end we got the itch to start something new pretty much instantly! We got together with a few guys and started jamming. We honestly didn’t really have any plans to do anything too “serious”, I suppose, but as soon as we released ‘Lucid’ things gathered pace very quickly. The first EP was only meant to be a demo originally!
Laura: Jamie and I were in a straight up metal band called Firebrand Super Rock for 10 years and felt we’d like to try something new. We started jamming with a couple of mates and in 2015 King Witch was formed.
E&D: You recently played Malta Doom Metal Festival, was this the first trip abroad for the band and how was the experience?
Lyle: This was the second trip abroad for the current line up, first was in Ireland and put Joe to the test to see if he could deal with our terrible patter but it turned out if we could put up with his constant love for Chilli Doritos and stinkin farts! MDM Was an incredible experience with a bunch of very sound people. We opened up on the first night and it was pretty packed out, the sound was great and the beer was cold! Couldn’t of had it better to be honest.
Jamie: First trip abroad for us was to Sweden – where we played a few shows, including the awesome Muskel Rock and Sweden Rock festivals. That was quite an experience! Malta was fantastic as well – a really cool fest with a lot of really committed doom-heads from all corners of the globe!
Laura: We hadn’t even released the full EP when we got the confirmation of our booking at Sweden Rock Festival. They decided to take us on after listening to ‘Lucid’, which was pretty amazing. They really boosted our profile tremendously and they have been very supportive of the band even to this day. Whilst in Sweden we also played Gothenburg and a really cool DIY fest called Muskel Rock set in an old theme park. Amazing! Malta Doom Fest was awesome as well. Really well run and the organisers were very accommodating and sound guys to boot. We met a lot of new bands, friends and made a lot of cool connections. We also did a wee mini tour of Ireland which was great fun. We played the first Emerald Haze fest which was awesome!!
Joe: Malta was awesome! I was really impressed with the festival, and the dedication in the Maltese scene in general. We met a lot of amazing people, and got to see some great bands (I was very excited to see Hell!). This was among my first few gigs with the guys, the first handful being over Ireland and the UK and it was a great way to get things going!
E&D: You also played an album launch show in Edinburgh, how did that go?
Lyle: CRAZY FUN! We had no idea how the night was going to turn out and to be fair it was pretty packed out! We recently talked about how the gig went and we all weren’t really sure as it felt like a blur and went really fast! All I know is it was a great night with a massive sound in La Belle Angele and we are really appreciative of the support we have back home.
Jamie: Yeah, the album launch was fantastic. The turnout was unreal and it felt great to give the album an official launch into the big bad world!
Laura: Wow!! What a turn out. It really was amazing to see La Belle Angele packed to the gunnels for a local band. We had an absolute blast and it was a lot of fun blasting the full album.
Joe: Good times indeed! It was our first show in a wee while so it was great to get out and play again in general, but to see such an amazing turnout at home was amazing.
E&D: The band is lyrically diverse and interesting, tackling themes from classic literature (‘Beneath the Waves’) to more metaphysical concepts (‘Approaching the End’). Does the band collaborate on lyrics, or is there a chief lyric writer?
Jamie: Laura really writes 99% of the lyrics. Occasionally I might have a basic idea that I have come up with while writing a part – but after those bare bones are there I let her take it away.
Laura: I generally write the majority of the lyrics but Jamie will sometimes have an idea. For instance the first half of the first verse in ‘Approaching The End’ was Jamie’s. He had a clear idea and It worked really well so I took it from there.
E&D:On the topic of lyrics, are there any future concepts you want to write about, but didn’t have space to on this album?
Jamie: I have had a lifelong dream to record a concept album about all the great fictional detectives of our time. It will be called “Appetite For Deduction” and I’m fairly certain it will be a modern masterpiece.
Laura: Hahaha! Yes Jamie has a vision. I think the world needs to hear it! In my mind I can see Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote dressed like King Diamond or Columbo getting about with his detective work in spandex and he’d be screaming in a Rob Halford voice “JUST ONE MORE THING!”.
Let’s make it happen.
E&D: Finally, what are the plans for King Witch in the immediate future?
Lyle: For the next few weekends we are touring some of the UK as a part of our album launch tour. We then hope to get over to Europe and show them some love with playing some shows and also hit any festivals who will have us! We have already began writing new songs for album number two and would love to tour as much as possible to get this album and band well out there!
Jamie: Play a lot of gigs – finish writing the second album – record it – play some more gigs.
Laura: I think we just want to play as many gigs as we can to promote the album. We’re aiming to get some more euro dates under our belt too which will be great fun! Next stop world domination haha