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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

Witchery

Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview With Sharlee D'Angelo of Witchery From 2001


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

You're known as one of the busiest men in the metal scene. Can you bring us up to speed on all the bands you're currently in?
At the moment, it's mostly Witchery and Arch Enemy. Mercyful Fate is still there but it's kind of on hiatus at the moment because King Diamond is working on a new album. I'm trying to cut down!
MSJ: At one point, it seemed like you were in five or six project simultaneously. Did you ever feel burned out?
Yeah. I was heading for something that wasn't very pleasant. I could feel that kicking in in the summer of 99. It was just too much all the time. That year we had a super, super busy year with Mercyful Fate. It was a little bit too stressful, actually. All the projects I was doing that year were done over a longer period of time but all the albums seemed to be released at the same time. It looked like: "what is this guy doing?!"
MSJ: Yeah, I remember thinking you must have been an android to be in so many bands at once!
Some magazine did some clever story about a Swedish scientist who had actually cloned me...(laughter)
MSJ: Now that you've cut back on all the bands, is your playing better? Did all the work take a toll on your playing?
No, actually, as far as the playing goes, the more you play, the better you are. You learn from everything that you do. But it was more a question of maintaining sanity. It's nice to have a little breathing space.
MSJ: Let's talk about the new Witchery album, "Symphony for the Devil". The previous Witchery LPs all came out in rapid succession...bang,bang,bang. There was a substantial gap before this new one came out. Did you spend more time on the songwriting or was it sorting out some of the other projects the band members were involved in?
It wasn't really the songwriting. The songwriting was done exactly as before. We did it about 2 or 3 weeks before we went into the studio. Jensen (Witchery guitarist and mastermind, who also plays in The Haunted-ed.) had a really, really busy year with The Haunted, who had a very successful second album. He was touring a lot with them. At the same time, we were looking for a new record deal in Europe, so that took some time, too. We had to look for a new drummer as well. But I think it was a good thing. It gave time for the previous album to sink in. In theory, you don't want to give people too much to digest too quickly. The people who were into Witchery had to wait a little for the next album to come out and it's not a bad thing to have some anticipation. Back in the old days, people used to wait for, like, the new Judas Priest album to come out. You were there waiting for the store to open that morning just to get that record!
MSJ: I've heard "Symphony for the Devil" is the heaviest Witchery yet. Would you call it death metal? What kind of tag would you put on it or would you put any kind of tag on it at all?
As always, it's super hard to put any kind of tag on it. We prefer "horror metal" ourselves. Musically, there's a little bit of everything in there. There's obviously a Bay Area thrash influence we get from bands like Exodus and there's some German thrash influence as well, from bands like Destruction. But mostly on this album it's an early 80's metal influence...
MSJ: Like old Ozzy?
Yeah! I think Ozzy's "Bark At the Moon" album was a great influence on this Witchery album. The song "None Buried Deeper" sounds very Ozzy influenced. And of course Judas Priest is something you can't really get away from. And actually Saxon influenced us as well.
MSJ: Looking at the cover of the new album, it looks quite different from your old LPs. You always had a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor before where you kind of winked at your audience. Does "Symphony" retain that approach or is it more serious?
It's pretty much the same approach although I think we tried to make the humor not as obvious this time. That's why we had a different artist on the cover.
MSJ: Your skeleton mascot looks a lot more threatening now.
Yeah!
MSJ: You were going to go out on the Metallenium tour (headlined by Six Feet Under, Dimmu Borgir and Napalm Death) but pulled out of that to go out with The Haunted instead. Why did you withdraw from Metallenium?
Just a couple of days before we were to go on the tour, we heard some rumors, and we checked those rumors out and found that they were true. Dimmu Borgir and Napalm Death had pulled out of the tour. We went "Ohhh,OK". Two of the biggest names on the tour pulled out and we weren't sure how many gigs were going to get canceled. Things were very, very shaky and we had to make a decision. Not only that but our visas hadn't gone through yet.
MSJ: You went with the sure thing...
Yeah, we did the Haunted tour instead. Maybe it's not quite as big but it's pretty secure.
MSJ: How do you think Jensen will handle playing 2 shows a night?
I really, really don't know. It's going to be a very interesting experiment. I'll put it this way, I think he'll get a good night's sleep every night!
MSJ: Both bands go out and play a real physical show. I hope he doesn't wind up like Jason Newsted and headbangs himself out of heavy metal!
I am somewhat concerned about that. He's not a guy who will just stand around. We'll see. I wonder what's gonna happen to his hands, his arms?
MSJ: Let's talk about your other current band, Arch Enemy. Their current record "Wages of Sin" has been out for quite a while now. Is a US release imminent?
Actually, it's only been out in Japan and Korea. That's because we have a separate record deal for those countries and Century Media handles Arch Enemy for the rest of the world, including the US.. I think the record will finally be out in January. I'll have to call Century Media to confirm that with them.
MSJ: It's gotta be pretty frustrating...
Oh yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of politics and bull. You think the record's gonna come out and then it's, like, what happened? All we're trying to do is put out some songs, y'know? We were hardly involved...it was all negotiation between our management and the record companies.
MSJ: I've heard the new female vocalist Angela Gossow is awesome. What's she like to work with?
She was wonderful. She was very, very open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. The kind of vocals she had before Arch Enemy were like a Florida-style death metal growl but now she's opened up more with a slightly higher register. She was actually more of a man than anybody else in the band when it came to rough vocals!. WC: Do you think extreme metal is starting to open up to females?
MSJ: Do you think extreme metal is starting to open up to females?
I hope so! Wouldn't it be great to have something great to listen to and something great to look at at the same time?
MSJ: Let me ask you about some of the other acts you've been involved with. Let's start with Sinergy and their singer Kim Goss...
I just played on their first album. I met her through a mutual friend when she was living in Gothenburg. They were looking for somebody who could play bass on their new project and I just basically walked in and said, sure, what style is it? She said, nobody knows yet. It really isn't written. It was like 5 people getting together and writing something at the spur of the moment. They just recorded their third album in Gothenburg and I hung out with them in the studio a little bit. They're a real band nowdays. The first album was something that was thrown together. They have their style now.
MSJ: Let's talk about one of my favorite bands that you were in, Dismember. Do you still keep in touch with them?
I haven't talked to any of the guys in quite a while now. My joining Dismember also happened by accident. I was in a bar and a friend of mine introduced me to Fred Estby (Dismember drummer-ed.) . He said we lost our bass player for a couple of days, would you like to fill in? I said, yeah, sure. He said he didn't think I was into death metal, but really, it's no problem for me. Well, later he called and said their bass player Richard Cabeza had left and could I go out on a European tour with them? I did it. That was in 98 and it was one of the most fun tours I've ever done. It was my first opportunity to play real old-school death metal. I was with them through the "Hate Campaign" album but 1999 was my busy year. I wasn't around to tour with them that year so they called Cabeza back and he wound up replacing me which is ironic because I replaced him!
MSJ: Now let me ask you about the man, the legend himself, King Diamond. What was it like working with him?
Very good. He's always, always a nice guy. He's obviously a very talented guy and he's also very disciplined and very professional but at the same time, a very nice human being.
MSJ: I talked to him a bit in the autograph line at Metalfest a few years back. He couldn't have been a better guy to talk to...
That's just the way that he is.
MSJ: For a while it seemed like either King Diamond or Mercyful Fate were putting out an album every six months. Now there's been a gap.
They just finished the new King Diamond album. That will be out early next year. Once they finish touring for that, we'll go back in and do another Mercyful Fate album and I'll be right there with him.
MSJ: Tell us about your Spinal Tap moment.
There's so many of them! Well, one of the things that I remember was when I was with Mercyful Fate in Stockholm in 1997. We had this big riser on stage where King was usually stationed and doing strange stuff. I was running from one side of the stage to the other so I jumped over that riser. When I jumped, the strap on my bass broke and the bass just fell right on the floor. I didn't mean to look like David Lee Roth or anything when I jumped. My bass was all the way on the floor. That was one of those moments. I had to sit down for the rest of the song.
MSJ: Probably a real fast paced number, too...
It was something really intricate, like "Satan's Fall", of course.
MSJ: What was the last CD you picked up for your own enjoyment?
The new Rammstein LP, "Mutter". I got it just 2 days ago.
MSJ: What was the last show you caught just for yourself?
A couple of weeks ago, I saw the "Tattoo the Planet" tour with Slayer and Cradle of Filth.
 
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