Burning Witches – Metal Adrenaline

Thursday, 5th March 2020

Breaking down walls through their allegiance to the metal cause, Burning Witches are serious about their passion and abilities as musicians, songwriters, and performers. They’ve handled member changes, injuries, and criticism as professionals – aligning themselves with strong support from a label and management perspective and gaining new followers daily. Dance with the Devil is the band’s third and latest full-length – filled to the brim with traditional metal that can be heavy and speedy as well as melodic and catchy, stretching their abilities with fierce melodies and harmonies from their latest vocalist Laura Guldemond.

Reaching out through Skype we were able to talk to drummer Lala Frischknecht with supplementary support from guitarist Romana Kalkuhl. You’ll learn more about the recent surgeries for these two women and subsequent recoveries, thoughts on releasing new material on an annual basis, band chemistry and respecting the good times as well as the bad, and thoughts also on overcoming discrimination within the metal music industry.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve had to face a couple of surgeries within the band during the latter part of last year – Romana having an emergency appendix surgery and yourself with a back surgery. How are you both feeling currently, and how important has it been to keep an eye on your health as musicians now?

Lala Frischknecht: Our health is a priority, so it doesn’t matter even if we have a concert, if we don’t take of ourselves, our (careers) will be finished. The same thing happened to Romana when she had the emergency appendectomy – we had to cancel the show. We are happy that the fans understand this and accept us because health is important for us. We are feeling normal again, fortunately. We needed these surgeries, they were the priority.

Dead Rhetoric: When it came to your back surgery, what exactly happened- was it something progressive that happened to you over the years?

Frischknecht: I noticed it when we were on tour last year in December and January when we were on tour with Grave Digger. For that whole month I had this arm pain, I couldn’t feel my arms anymore. The ladies, they took care of me – then after that I went to the doctor and had an MRI. They said I had this herniated disc in my cervical area, so they had to do surgery. And then I had to spend two months at home, which is a little bit boring, but what can I do?

Dead Rhetoric: Have you had to change some of your drum technique since the surgery?

Frischknecht: No, no. Not at all. Especially I feel it though when I headbang. I used to headbang during our live shows, but I can’t do it as much now. Otherwise I will have pain in my neck after an hour. Maybe next year!

Dead Rhetoric: Dance with the Devil is the third and latest Burning Witches album – and the first for new singer Laura Guldemond. Where do you see the differences in this record compared to the first and second for the band, outside of the vocalist change?

Frischknecht: These two albums, Hexenhammer and Dance with the Devil, it’s really hard to compare. Because if you ask about the singer… both singers are good. The good thing about Laura is she also has an aggressive voice that can fit the heavy metal music. She added spice to the Burning Witches sound with her aggressive and melodic voice. She really fits the music. For example in “Dance with the Devil” we had a chorus that is more melodic with more harmonies because she did an amazing job. Hexenhammer is also a good album. It’s hard to compare these two.

Dead Rhetoric: Romana, when it comes to the guitar playing with yourself and Sonia, how would you describe the different styles you have?

Romana Kalkuhl: I love to play the riffing, and she loves the solos. It fits together. When I compose the songs, I construct the riffing and finish the song – and Sonia makes the solos. Together it fits.

Frischknecht: I can also say, when it comes to the solos, Romana can do solos too. Sonia does the shredding solos and Romana does the bluesy-style solos, slower and sexier. That’s the difference between the two players, but it’s a really nice combination. In “Lucid Nightmare” the second song of our new album, there is a solo battle. There are four different solos there – first Romana, than Sonia, then Romana, then Sonia. Maybe you will hear this!

Dead Rhetoric: You recently released a video clip for the title track – can you tell us about the video shoot and how you think things went overall? I especially enjoyed the unique way the director was able to cut back and forth the different scenes in more of a fade in/fade out manner that differs from normal video editing / cut and paste processes…

Frischknecht: Yes. Doing a video is also a hard process, because of all this preparation. We like how it ended up, for us we see the music as 80’s style and the video is also like in that 80’s style.

Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the cover choice of “Battle Hymns” and how you got Ross the Boss and Mike Lepond to contribute to this version? What are some of your favorite memories of Manowar?

Kalkuhl: I was writing Ross the Boss on Facebook. I asked him if he could play the solo for “Battle Hymns”, and he said of course. He asked about Mike Lepond if he could play the bass there.

Frischknecht: The reason why we covered “Battle Hymns” is because Romana is a big fan of Manowar. She’s crazy about them. “Battle Hymns” is one of the best anthems in heavy metal, just like the last time when we did “Holy Diver” from Dio and “Jawbreaker” from Judas Priest. It’s an anthem – and everybody loves it.

Kalkuhl: I’ve seen Manowar live six times or maybe seven times.

Frischknecht: We are very happy that Ross the Boss, the ex-guitarist of Manowar, was able to play with us on this song. It’s an honor for us, it’s unbelievable because he wrote the song.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see yourselves at this point in the career of Burning Witches – do you believe you are gaining momentum and moving up the ranks to headliner status, or still having to prove yourselves in today’s competitive metal scene?

Frischknecht: I think that we are going in the right direction. But of course going to that next step up takes a lot of effort. Especially there are a lot of big bands and really great bands out there, it’s not easy to get there. We are happy that we are at this stage on our metal journey because we didn’t expect that we were going to end up this way. And signing to the biggest metal label on Earth with Nuclear Blast, we didn’t ever think about that in our wildest dreams. We are so fortunate having all this stuff, and I think we have to keep up our motivation 120% and even if we encounter some discrimination because we are all female and people think that we are a joke, for us it doesn’t matter because we are here for the music. Not being sexy or being cute, we just want to play on the stage, write music, and have fun.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the band chemistry and personalities – do you believe you all know your roles and give each other enough room to grow as people and musicians?

Frischknecht: I think so. Myself, Romana and Jeanine have been together for over four years. They know if I am in a good mood, in a bad mood, if I’m crazy or if I’m stressed out. You must have the feeling for that. We have chemistry as a sisterhood, as we have had Sonia now for two years and we know if she is in a good mood. If someone is in a bad mood, we let her do her thing. If she is in a good mood, we can laugh about things. We are a crazy bunch of metal girls.

The mother of Burning Witches I think is Romana, and a little bit Jeanine (laughs). For example, if I’m drunk – they will check on me to see if I am still okay. They are taking care of us. I’m the eldest by the way, but I act in the totally opposite way.

Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to your drumming technique and style, who do you believe are some of your models and influences – and what are you always hoping to learn and improve upon to get better at your instrument?

Frischknecht: Drumming is about continuous learning. I need to learn a lot. I’m still in the middle of drumming – I can’t say that I’m really, really good. It takes a lot of time – you have to play again and again, learn some new stuff. You are making albums, and you can’t play the same thing every time. Dave Lombardo, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Ken Owen of Carcass – these guys are great.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ll be performing some shows in the UK with Korpiklaani during March and then opening for Ross the Boss across Europe in April – what are your expectations as this will definitely be playing for two different types of audiences based on the styles of each band, I’d imagine?

Frischknecht: I think it’s not that bad to be together with another band and another crowd. In metal music, you can’t just stay in one type of genre. You also appreciate something different – so you appreciate a new thing because there are different people there, and maybe those new people can also like Burning Witches. We can explore more and show people what kind of music we have.

Dead Rhetoric: I would imagine with two of the members being from the Netherlands and the rest of you live in Switzerland, how does that work out as far as getting together and accomplishing what you need to as a band?

Frischknecht: It’s difficult to have half of the girls here and half of the girls there. It’s not so easy, but somehow we manage it. If we are all together, we are going to do all the things that we can – it means we will be very busy. We will practice, we will make songs, we will go somewhere to bond together. We have two members residing in Holland, Romana will make a riff and then send it Sonia – we will go play it together in the band room, then Laura will make the lyrics and send it back to us. Until we will complete the song, Sonia will make the solo, and then go to the recording studio. It’s easy to do with the power of the internet. Back in the day, you could not do this, you had to record on tape.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released three albums in four years – do you believe it’s very important to be consistent and deliver material as close to a yearly basis as possible like the old school way, even in an era today where bands often take three to four years between releases?

Frischknecht: Yeah, it’s also good to have a new album every year so that the people will not forget you. As long as you have the idea to make music, why not make a new album? Romana is so fast with making riffs- which I hate (laughs). We haven’t released the album and she’s told me she has new material ready for two songs. There you go again! We will play it already, it’s good. It’s a good way to show the fans that we have new stuff for them to listen to and make their metal adrenaline on going. Once a year releasing an album is good.

Dead Rhetoric: If you had the chance to assemble and ideal heavy metal festival lineup for a day of your favorite bands – past or present – what bands would you like to have on the day with Burning Witches?

Kalkuhl: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar.

Frischknecht: Iced Earth, Slayer, Carcass, and Megadeth. And Testament. I think it would be a good show. And Yngwie Malmsteen – he’s a god. And Kiss, for our sweet guitarist Sonia.

Dead Rhetoric: How cautious and careful has the band been regarding things like social media and the business aspects of your career? As I would imagine it’s not been easy to trust the right people to guide you in the right way as many people like to take advantage of younger musicians or steer them in different directions to suit their needs…

Frischknecht: That’s the good thing that we are so fortunate to have Schmier and Damir of Destruction and Gomorra because these people know the music industry for so long. They have a lot of experience – as a new band we need these kinds of people for us, in every step. You are a new band, you don’t know where to go, and they will stab you in the back. You have politics there, some issues, and we need these people and they are like family. Damir is Romana’s husband.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your feelings about the heavy metal scene in 2020?

Frischknecht: It’s a hard question. We have everything now in music – you can listen to almost everything. Back in the day you didn’t have the internet, you didn’t have social media, you had this DIY, tape trading thing. You can go every week to a concert, a big concert. Kids are very lucky now to have all this stuff. Maybe, since we are in the metal world – I think the people need to understand that if the girls are playing on the stage, they don’t have to discriminate them. Once they do that, girls that can play music, they will hide in their rooms for life. They will not explore it. We have to change this.

Dead Rhetoric: What does the next twelve months look like for Burning Witches to support the new release?

Frischknecht: We will play many, many shows. For sure we will be (busier). Last year, we didn’t have many shows. We expect that next year will be great. I hope we can play at Wacken again!

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