Witch Casket – A New DawnThursday, 24th May 2018
New bands sprout up all the time in our digital-friendly world. But not all new bands are starting from scratch. Take Witch Casket, which is mostly made up of members from the symphonic black metal band Sothis. Coming together once more, now with experience within the system to help guide them along, they can have an advantage in understanding the reality versus the star-gazing and dreamy first impressions of breaking into the scene.
One big piece that is evident in listening to the band’s first EP, Hatred Index, is how they can let the song simply be. They aren’t going to simply play by the rules and allow them to dictate a sound. It’s certainly within the realms of black and death metal, but there’s a bit more creative freedom that they choose to explore. With all of these ideas in mind, we had a chat with guitarist Nylock (real name Colin Cameron) to see the band’s thoughts on their first work (and plans for more), shifts within the industry since they began, and finding a way to achieve balance between your own needs and fans’ wants.
Dead Rhetoric: The band formed in 2013 – what significant events have occurred since then that have impacted Witch Casket?
Nylock: There’s a lot [laughs]! It first started as just me writing songs. It was something that I was just cooking up and I didn’t really get anybody else on board with it for quite a while. It was a side thing, while I worked on other stuff at the time. It wasn’t like I had the pedal to the metal for the first couple of years. Lots of set-backs along the way, things that ate up time, but I don’t think that there’s anything really large.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the best description of Witch Casket for extreme metal fans?
Nylock: This is a tricky question, because once you put it out there into the world, in a sense you don’t even own it anymore. So as far as what it is, don’t worry – people will tell you [laughs]. I think the best way that I would know how to describe it, other than saying that it’s the guitar stuff I like – it’s a mix between black and death metal, but the subgenres are so splintered and wide now. I keep hearing about stuff I’ve never heard about that’s apparently a genre all the time. I don’t know if that’s just part of becoming an old man or what [laughs]? I think ultimately, people will tell you.
Dead Rhetoric: With so many of you coming from Sothis – how would you compare the two acts?
Nylock: I don’t think that they sound very similar at all. When we were doing Sothis – we are talking about ten years back. When we did Sothis, we were all about symphonic black metal. For every 10 guitar riffs I wrote, 9 of them got tossed out because they weren’t black metal enough. We were super focused about being symphonic black metal, so it was a different thing we were doing.
Dead Rhetoric: So would you say that nowadays, you are just writing what you want to write instead of focusing on something more specific?
Nylock: Yeah, it’s totally fair to say that about what Witch Casket is doing. I don’t really worry about if a riff is in the genre that I’m targeting. I worry about if Riff A and Riff B work. Do they sound cool together? Do they flow? Do they make sense? That’s where I would draw the line on it at this point. If it makes sense to have a super black metal feeling type chorus and drop into a Testament or Pantera styled riff that is really cool to bridge it into a solo section that almost feels neo-classical, then I will do it. I’m more worried about if it sounds like a cool metal song when I’m done. I’m not thinking about what the death metal or black metal guys are going to say. Whereas before, Sothis was very much cemented in its identity. Witch Casket has an identity but it’s not as committed to it.
Dead Rhetoric: And with only the one EP out, you still have time to evolve and change as well.
Nylock: That’s definitely true, but I’m already working on more [songs] actively. I have a surplus of material. I’m trying to think three releases ahead of what I’m doing. In chess, you want to be a couple moves ahead of the other guy, and force him to make the move you want him to make. The only difference is I’m not forcing moves, I’m just better prepared. It’s most likely that towards the end of the year we will have something else coming out, and in 2019, for sure we will have something else then too. I’m trying to keep them rolling with the releases, and keep them as frequent as possible.
Dead Rhetoric: What you were saying about not caring what the death metal guys think, I feel that’s something that changes as you get older too.
Nylock: It really is. I’m 39 now, and I’ve been chewed up and spit out by the machine of the metal industry. It changes your perspective. When I went into it in my late teens and early 20s, I was this idealistic “This is metal and that is not metal. Only I know what the cool metal really is.” I had that kind of mentality. As you mature, you kind of see the folly in that, and maybe even the hubris of it.
Dead Rhetoric: I’m 37, so I can completely follow your logic in that.
Nylock: Yeah – if you flashback to when you were like 22, you had your list of stuff that you thought was godly. If people disagreed with that, then they were some sort of tool or something [laughs]. At the same time, when I say that when Witch Casket isn’t concerned about what this or that subculture says, it’s a balance. You do have to listen to your fans. For starters, I’m just thankful that anyone listens at the end of the day. But say you put something out, and you have 2-3 releases and you have established an identity for your band, then you release something that is wildly different – you start to see parts of your fanbase splinter and backlash.
Here’s a good analogy for you…take the Marvel movies versus Star Wars. Marvel seems to just be nailing it, and then the last couple of Star Wars movies seem to be like, “What are you guys doing?” There’s a whole section of Star Wars fans who thought the last movie was just appalling to certain characters and things like that. There was an interview with Downey Jr. recently that said Marvel continues to be successful because it listens to the fanbase. I couldn’t agree more. While as a musician, you want to do what you believe in, you can’t just leave fans in the dust. You can’t leave them hanging. If you go back to the ‘90s when we were young, and the Black album came out – half of the metal kids were like “What are you guys doing?” I think there’s definitely a way to keep yourself satisfied with what you are doing as well as keeping people happy with what you continue to do.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s that balance between the two to be successful.
Nylock: You can’t get too high on your own supply [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: One of the things I like about the EP is the mixture of brutality and melody. Are you looking at those two directly to achieve some sort of balance?
Nylock: Absolutely. I would say so. I’m looking for the brutal moments that have impact. Where the brutality makes sense, and kind of heightens an instance or emotional vibe that is peering through the song. I’m definitely looking for that balance. I feel like a song should kind of take you from a starting point to an ending point, like a story almost. Just nonstop brutality, I used to do that, back when I was in Sothis – blastbeats all the time. That’s cool and all, but you can explore a wider range of musical thought and expression if you can go for the balance that I’ve been trying to do with Witch Casket.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve got videos for 3 of the 5 songs on the EP – a lyric video, a performance video, and more cinematic one. Is it important to cast a wide net with these the first time around?
Nylock: I guess it’s fair to say something along those lines. I think we are just trying to find what is going to work for us as a band. We are just trying to figure out the way that we need to present something, video-wise. I don’t have much of a role in that, because I’m busy being the productive head in the music aspect. All of our art, video, and imagery, that’s our vocalist Drogoth. I’m not really good at videos to be honest. I’ll see a video that my friends think is amazing and I’ll be like “meh,” or I’ll tell them to check out this awesome video, and they say they don’t know why I like this video. So I’m not a good judge of it. I pass it over to him to make the videos and those decisions. He trusts in me to make cool music, and I trust in him to make cool art and videos, and we hope it just works out.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of stage names, was that a carryover from being in the more symphonic black metal type scene?
Nylock: Absolutely. That’s why [laughs]. It’s different for each of us. For me, the main reason I would say that we decided to hyphenate it into our given names, is that it throws that connection that we did [Sothis]. That’s really all it is to me. I can’t speak for the other guys, but for me that’s what it allows us to do.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve had experience in getting a band off the ground before. What is most important when it comes to getting your name out there with a new band today versus in the past?
Nylock: I would say that the entire paradigm has completely shifted. It’s up-ended. It’s upside-down. It’s vastly different. I would say that all that really matters now seems to be an online presence. If you look at articles that have been going around in the industry for the past few years, you see stuff…like the guys that do the South by Southwest thing, they are closing up show because they say the younger guys would rather watch you on YouTube the next day than go to a show. I would say that’s pretty accurate.
The technology has moved to the point that we have a whole generation of people that just don’t think like the generation older than them. They are like, “Leave my house, why would I want to do that?” So the live show, if you go back, you started to see this shift about 10 years ago. Before that, it was play live, play live, play live, do press, play live, record. That was how you built your brand. Now playing live is the lowest priority on the totem pole, if you are trying to build a brand in a business sense. It’s about getting press stuff out there, it’s about having an online presence, and continually generating online content. I like playing live. I want to do it more. But it’s in such a state of change that it’s really hard to sit back and say where it’s going to land.
Dead Rhetoric: So when it comes to playing live, many bands I’ve talked to lately have been saying that they need to make some sort of spectacle almost when you play in order to get people out. Would you agree with that as well?
Nylock: I’d say that is one approach. I’m not going to say that’s not true, but I think that if you take an example…you go to the local metal bar or tavern in your town. You are going to see a local show. Let’s say that you are watching the guys before you headline. One guy has a football jersey on, one has shorts and a backwards hat, the drummer looks like he just got off tour with Kiss, and the singer just got off tour with Behemoth or something. You have these guys standing up there that don’t even look like they hang out together, let alone do shows together.
I think that as far as creating a spectacle, you definitely need to have some sort of identity for your band. There’s a lot of truth in that. People want to be entertained. They want to go to your show to see you kick ass, or they want to see you fail miserably. Either way, they will be entertained [laughs]. People usually want to see you kick ass. So if you don’t go out there and kick ass and look like you are happy to be there and appreciate the audience – you can’t just stand there and play guitar. It’s really important to have an active live show. As far as creating a spectacle, there’s truth in that, but if you go too far, people start calling your spectacle gimmicky. You have to stay true to yourself and not listen to what people say, but at the same time, listen to what the people who have believed in you have to say.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you like to see Witch Casket accomplish as a band?
Nylock: For me, I just want to put music that I think is cool out there. It’s selfish but at the same time it’s not. If I start doing things, and people come to expect a certain thing from me after 3-4 releases, I’m not going to take some big turn and disappoint. Those people have been following you along the way. So honestly, I just want to put out cool songs. Songs that I think are kick ass and hope that other people think they kick ass too. The whole paradigm that people have about fame and stardom and money, that was beaten out of me by reality years ago [laughs]. That’s gone. It’s definitely all about the music and just trying to make good metal.
Dead Rhetoric: I think it comes back to what you were saying about identity too. If you establish what your band identity is early on, you can stay true to it and do what you want within it and push from there.
Nylock: Absolutely, but at the same time, you can evolve that identity and keep it with you so that people want to follow it. You see this all the time when bands pull out an experimental, big left turn of a record because they want to try something new. I don’t condemn them for that, but a lot of their fans will. At a certain point, you have to listen to the people who have been backing your play all the way. You can’t just suddenly disregard them. They have stuck with you all that way, and now you are doing something they don’t understand. There’s got to be a way to bridge that gap and do what you want to do.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve already mentioned you are planning ahead with new material, but what is next in the road for the band?
Nylock: I know we have some local shows coming up here in LA over the next couple months. We will probably drop another EP towards the end of the year. I’m planning on a full-length for next year. Again, trying to stay three releases ahead of where I am at, to keep that flow going. Once you have a little bit of momentum, you have to keep it going. You never know when, despite your best plans, some issue comes up that just makes things dead in the water for a couple of years. Back when we were doing Sothis, we definitely experienced that. Things were going really good, and then all of a sudden, they weren’t. It kind of disintegrated. Anyone who has been in a band knows exactly how that kind of thing goes down. Things can just change.