A while back, we reviewed doom/sludge/stoner band Space Witch’s upcoming album Arcanum. Somehow, that wasn’t enough, and the Triad felt it was necessary to find out more, as well as offer what measly support we could. The result was the following Q&A interview, offering densely informative answers to all our proper questions, and polite humoring of us when we devolved into semi-nonsense. Enjoy!
I hate to do this, but since we’re a multiple genre webzine, there’s a good chance many of our readers have no idea of who you guys are, what you do or where you came from. Please give us a general introduction to Space Witch as a band – its style, its history and its present. Make it as bare-bones or encyclopedic as you like.
Space Witch started in 2007 as a form of creative release after a particular emotional interruption. As time has gone on, the band has seen many lineup changes, mutations and transformations but the essence has remained the same; heavy, sludge infused riffs with electronic elements, odd rhythms and a tendency towards experimentation.
You’ve built your sound slowly since you began back in 2007. There’s been a steady stream of releases, but never an avalanche. What’s the process when you guys compose, rehearse and record? Is it time-consuming?
When we are writing it can happen in one of two ways: someone may have an idea, a riff or passage, and we’ll bring it out through collaboration. Alternatively, something could emerge out of a free jam which we’ll attempt to catch and work on. Both ways have they’re pros and cons but most importantly is that it feels natural, like something we like the direction of and fascinates us.
What about the technical aspect of it all? What stuff do you use, and how do you use it to create your strangescapes?
Daz has a good relationship with Matamp which he has been using for several years. Combined with an ever changing array of pedals he works pretty hard to always improve his sound every release and for live shows. I have a pretty DIY mentality toward gear and most of my synth boxes were built by a friend of mine, Daniel Wilson, using Music From Outer Space LLC boards. Ray Wilson, the Guru behind the synthesisers I use, sadly passed away last year but his spirit lives on in every MFOS project built.
June will see the release of your next album, Arcanum. In many ways, it builds on your earlier work and the sound on your self-titled debut, but in others it’s pretty different. For one thing, you actually use some vocals on this one. Why is it that you generally have chosen to skip the whole lyrics/singing bit completely, and why have you chosen to do some of it after all this time around
When we began working on new material following the S/T album, we wanted to build on the musical themes but also try new things and let the sound develop organically. The addition of vocals was first used alongside Tomas’ riff that became “Hex Solaris”. We didn’t know if it would jar with the instrumental sound that Space Witch had created over the previous 8 years so we tried a number of styles and finally settled for yelling like some kind of possessed Cult leader presiding over a mass. It seemed to stick and work with the riff but we didn’t want vocals as a constant feature but more, to be used as and when it worked for the track.
What other differences and developments do you yourselves see on Arcanum, when compared to your earlier material, and your debut in particular. I’d say Arcanum is (even) better written, and perhaps slightly better preformed as well, but your own perspective would probably be more interesting.
Thank you. We’ve opened out the songs; giving them more room to breathe and allowing for passages where we can really work on the tempos and grooves. We have also indulged in greater levels of experimentation than on our previous record which you’ll be able to hear in the segments between album sides.
Speaking of lyrics, do you consider your music as somehow carrying a message of some kind? Titles like “Astro Genocide” and “Battle Hag” are not indicative of some attempt to form the listener’s opinion on tax rates, the NHS or Brexit, but they are suggestive and somehow perversely inspiring. Any thoughts?
One theme, rather than a message, that resonates with us is the overwhelming massiveness of the universe in which we all exist. There’s a nihilistic encounter to be faced when staring into your own insignificance; realising the microscopic truth about this tiny blue speck on which we live. I think we entertain what could possibly lurk beyond the reaches of the deep space measuring devices, what horrors. Other than this theme, you would have to speak to us personally about political and social causes we believe are important.
A couple of years back you did an interview for The Sleeping Shaman where you worried that the UK doom metal scene was becoming saturated, and that it had nowhere to go but down. What’s your view on this today? Is the UK doom scene in the year of our Lord 2017 a mere husk, or is there still some life in her?
Throughout the UK, there are groups of very dedicated and talented people, most with bands themselves, who have ceremoniously worked to keep the husk from shriveling away. Instead, their hard work has planted seeds in the fertile corpse soil to grow original music which has brought out tremendous support from new fans as well as the old guard. Hail to all those who have made this possible and continue to do so!
Coming from a metal background way back when, and completely out of touch with everything, the first and almost only thing popping up in my head when hearing the words “United Kingdom” and “Doom” in tandem is Birmingham’s own Esoteric. Would they be considered central to the UK current British doom scene, or is the Funeral Doom subgenre separate from the stoner/sludge crowd?
In our eyes Esoteric are a legendary underground band although I wouldn’t say they influence us directly I have a great deal of respect for what they have achieved in the 20 years they’ve been active. I wouldn’t say they are central to the ‘Doom’ scene nowadays as I believe bands like Conan, Slomatics and Bismuth are probably more central to the scene today in the UK. There are many bands doing an awful lot nowadays amongst the ‘Doom’ scene and I’d probably say being central to a scene is pretty overrated. I’d also say funeral doom is a sub-scene although we’ve been pitched to share a stage with Esoteric a couple of times in our career.
Metal is the music of beer and stoner is the music of, well, stoners. When doom metal, stoner and psychedelia come together, such as is the case with your music, what is the result? Mixed substance abuse? A hell of a party? Austere sobriety? Give us the straight dope.
I cannot speak for everyone’s experiences but the mix is little like the maxim; Weed before beer you’re in the clear, beer before grass you’re on your ass. There are times where you get lost in the fuzzy groove and times where you get hit hard by the sonic wall and completely spin out, down a psychedelic spiral. Best to just let it take you at the point.
Do you feel like you’re “getting somewhere” as a band, apart from in the strictly artistic sense? Will you be able to play more gigs, sell more records or get more groupies? Are any of these things important?
I’m not sure where we are trying to get to, if anywhere. We continue to enjoy what we are doing and appreciate the ongoing support from people who enjoy what we do. We set ourselves short term goals like moving onto the next release but there’s never an end goal because what would you do after you’ve achieved that?
What are your immediate plans for the future? Will there be further doom?
We have the Arcanum release show at the Black Heart in London on 2nd June which is with Prisa Mata and Sergeant Thunderhoof and DOOMLINES in Sheffield on the 23rd July with Vinnum Sabbathi, Soden and Blind Monach to mark our ten year anniversary. Do not fear, there will be more Doom to come.
And finally, we leave the stage to you. Feel free to bring up anything we forgot to ask in our close-but-not-cigar-native English. Shout-outs, beefs, advertising… Anything goes.
Thanks for asking us to do an interview and thanks to everyone we know and love… To the people that support us in our journey, we thank you! Arcanum is officially released worldwide on June 9th on HeviSike Records – pre-orders available at the end of May. In our opinion Arcanum is our most progressive work to date and we look forward to taking it on the road for remainder of 2017.
SPACE WITCH tour dates 2017:
26/05 – Arches, Coventry
02/06 – Black Heart, London (album launch show)
23/07 – Mulberry Underground, Sheffield
28/07 – Old Angel, Nottingham
29/07 – Rigger, Newcastle under Lyme
26/08 – TBC, Cambridge
14/10 – Yardbirds Rock, Grimsby