Seven Witches – The Witches AriseFriday, 2nd August 2013
It’s refreshing to speak to a musician who understands that not everyone is going to love every move you make. Be it lineup changes, musical direction, or even the hundreds of other bands you’ve been involved in for touring/ recording/ songwriting/ producing purposes, guitarist Jack Frost knows people are quick to judge who he is and what he has done before looking deep into the resume.
I’ll be the first to admit that not every Seven Witches album has met with appreciative ears from this writer. But Second War in Heaven and Passage to the Other Side are great heavy metal records in their discography, and I feel Rebirth could develop another following due to its grittier elements, especially in the vocal department with new singer Anthony Cross.
Gearing up for a series of dates around North America this coming fall with Vicious Rumors, I took the opportunity recently to speak with Jack Frost – and his enthusiasm for hard rock and metal runs deep through this interesting 45 minute-plus chat.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us how Seven Witches current lineup came together and how the recording/ writing sessions went for the latest album Rebirth.
Jack Frost: Ok, basically Johnny [Kelly- drums] and Ronnie [Parkes- bass] have been playing with me for a while now. After we did the Armored Saint tour, Mike Lepond really has a lot going on with Symphony X at the time, we are very good friends but that’s his gig and I understand that. The drummer we had Pauly [Taz Marazz], it was getting hard to practice distance-wise so I talked to Johnny a lot and he would jam with Ronnie and I, because I knew Ronnie from a tribute band as well as playing with him previously in an act called Far Cry.
We all got together and Alan Tecchio was there. That’s been together for a while, we put out the last record with James [Rivera]… and no disrespect to James but it’s kind like when you get married and divorced and get back together, you don’t go back again to your ex-wife. We did the Call upon the Wicked album together, and the song “Fields of Fire” did well, but James has a lot on his table. We just stayed friends, Alan came back and did the tour to support the record because James has a lot of stuff going on with Helstar. The lineup was great.
I went to Europe this time last year and I played guitar for Hades, because Dan [Lorenzo] couldn’t do it and I was writing the new Seven Witches record at the time. We were supposed to start recording then but Alan got a really great job offer and he let me know that he had to make a commitment to this job. We are not all 20 years old anymore and can go home to live with mom and dad, so we have to grow up. For me, I am involved in music 24/7 – if I am not touring or recording, I am producing bands, and I am a director of a School Of Rock, and I teach guitar to students, so 99.9% of my time is involved in music. Alan needed to make a commitment to it, and he’s on the new record because he’s still family. I don’t want people to think that Jack is a dick to work with because of all these lineup changes, I have never bad mouthed anyone that has ever been in this band and I am not going to do it now.
It’s a time thing, people have other projects. I wrote a bunch of songs, Johnny demoed the drums for me and we had about 20 singers to look at, and Anthony hit it out of the park. I sent him a song, he did it, then he wanted another one the next day, the guy was phenomenal. He got what I was really thinking- a lot of the guys we were getting tapes from sounded like Alan, Bobby, Wade, and James – again no disrespect, they all that Halford-ish kind of thing, the screams and more Dio-ish growls. I wanted more of that Ray Gillen, John Bush, Jeff Keith from Tesla, that gravelly kind of vocal. I was a little apprehensive as I thought fans were going to kill me. This was a Rebirth.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems that the title of the album is quite appropriate, as the band’s direction has shifted slightly given that Anthony’s vocal style carries more of a bluesy, forceful overtone than previous singers like Wade Black, James Rivera, Bobby Lucas, and Alan Tecchio who could certainly hit the upper power metal falsettos a la Halford, Dio, and Dickinson. Was it a conscious decision to shake things up stylistically for the band’s sake?
Frost: You know what’s really funny, that’s my favorite type of singer. Dio and Halford are gods, but for me personally I’ve always loved Tony Martin, Ray Gillen, John Bush – that kind of singer, one of my favorite bands of all time is Tesla so I love Jeff Keith. I really wanted to just have that little bit of a change for once. It would have been like ‘he got another singer that sounds the same’. I think the material is a little more rock ‘n roll feel, so Anthony was the best choice.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any particular tracks on Rebirth that either possess serious autobiographical lyrical content or seem very cathartic to personal situations going on in your life?
Frost: This is the kind of record where I handed the lyrics over to Anthony. I always feel like people get the wrong impression that this is the Jack Frost-Seven Witches band, and no it’s not. I do this as band, everybody gets 25%- if we make $60, everybody gets $15, and if we get $6,000, everybody gets $1,500. I want that, and I want Anthony to use his words as he’s a great lyricist. There is material on the new record about vampires, and I love “Claustrophobic (No Way Out”) about being trapped, that song when I heard that blew my mind. This was Anthony’s visions of the songs, but I would give suggestions in arranging vocals and hooks. One thing I have to say about him, he will hear what I have to say and not be egotistical about things. Whatever makes the song better is the way he thinks – Alan was the same way, nobody really gave me a hard time. You have to believe what you sing, which is why I let Anthony run with it.
Dead Rhetoric: With all of your session work, live touring, and recording for other bands through the years (Savatage, Metalium, Bronx Casket Co., Lizzy Borden), what do you think you’ve learned and been able to apply the most to make Seven Witches stronger and formidable?
Frost: What I have learned is you have to watch what you say to people, don’t be a dick to people as it always comes back to you. I have made a lot of dear friends through the years and when people need a guitar player, I seem to always get a call. I’m not Yngwie on guitar, and I am far from the most technically proficient player on the instrument – what I’ve learned is to be a good songwriter, be a good team player, go to the shows knowing your stuff. Another thing I learned is when you work with people, everybody has an opinion and you want to hear them, don’t be close-minded to the musicians, to the producer, to the engineer. I’ve grown a lot as a musician and more as a songwriter. What makes this band more formidable is in the past I didn’t listen to others as much as I should, and everyone’s opinion really matters a lot. You don’t win a football game alone, you need a kicker and you can win with one second left on the clock with a kicker. Everybody has just much value as everyone else.
Dead Rhetoric: I remember picking up the Seven Witches debut Second War In Heaven based on the high marks it received from Germany’s Heavy Oder Was!? magazine- what were those early years like working with Bobby Lucas, recording at Woodhouse Studios and making such an impact right out of the gate back in 1999?
Frost: It was a crazy whirlwind. We got together in June or July of 1998, demoed three songs with them, sent them out and we got a record deal the next day! I wasn’t a spring chicken at the time, I tried and tried to get record deals with other bands and we got some decent little deals, but here we had a month to get 10 songs written and then they were going to fly us over to Germany to record at Woodhouse Studios with Siggi Bemm. Bobby and I were so focused, we stopped everything we were doing and worked every day at our studio at my house. We wrote from 9 am to 10 pm every day – this was such an eye opener for these kids from New Jersey to go to Germany to start recording at 9 am the next day! There were times that if I couldn’t get a part down, the producer would tell me he would get someone else to play it. How would you like it if your baby was taken away because you weren’t feed it right – that was what it was like. Years later, I can understand why he did what he did- it was to make it better, it was all about the song. We need to make it better, so he made us reach deeper inside of ourselves to get those performances. That first record… I think back about it and I feel like we hit the lottery.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you go back and change any of the circumstances concerning the scrambling around you did to find another studio while recording the follow up City of Lost Souls?
Frost: You know… to go back and change history would be taboo. I love the way it turned out, yes it was a little bit of a scramble because we were staying in one studio and got kicked out of it, then we stayed at another place- it was rough. This is something we did, and the way it came out at the end, that gig got me into Metalium, and Metalium got me into Savatage, so I would never want to change anything. I wish I could have kept the same lineup together for nine records, that is the only thing I wish I could change. Life is what it is, people come and go, and you have to look back at what you do and be proud of it.
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