Witchbones is a ritualistic and very dark black/death metal one-man band from Portland USA. The creator of this devastating and pulverising solo project is Vardlokker and I caught up with him recently to discuss his latest release albums, his thoughts on political correctness within black metal and the creative blood that runs through is veins.
Metal-Roos: Vardlokker, hails and thanks for your time. Tell me how a man from Portland USA comes to create such devastating, haunting and brutal black metal in a one-man band? How did your black metal journey start?
Hi, Kelly. Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I’ve been in and out of bands for a good majority of my life. There was always someone that couldn’t make it to band practice or wasn’t as committed to our project. After I had my first child (which was one of the best things to ever happen to me), I decided to give up music and live a steady life as a father. I hadn’t touched a guitar or performed for over 9 years. More recently in the last few years, I, unfortunately, had to witness my mother battle cancer. After 6 months of being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, she passed. I decided that my only outlet to let go of some of that emotion was to do it through music. I didn’t have anything to record with at the time. I had a guitar, an amp, and an iPhone. So,I locked myself in a closet for a few hours a day and wrote the first AKASHA demo. Every song on that first demo is about my mother. After that, I just got more and more inspired to write.
M-R: It’s been a huge year for Witchbones with the release of a demo Entropy Rite, EPs such as The Mirror Effect, Akasha (versions 1, 2 and 3) and your full-length album We Haunt Ourselves – a huge effort! Was this a case of capturing your music during a peak of artistic flow or was your plan always to release these albums in 2019?
It was the artistic flow. 2019 has been such an incredible year for metal. Every album that grabbed my attention was a huge inspiration for anything that I’ve written. If I felt like putting something out I just did it. I never thought I would get signed or have compilations with other labels. It was all about me. It didn’t matter if I had 1 fan, or 1000. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I’ll always remain that way.
M-R: Are your albums related in any way? Or do they each tell a different story?
All of the Akasha demos are related in some way or another. Although the song titles are obscure or violent… Inside, when I wrote the music, it all had to do with me or the loss of my mother. Akasha in many cultures means “sky” which to me is endless. And to me, this means my music has no end… It’s an open sky. Entropy Rite was based on a set of rituals of chaos, but also telling a story of someone that doesn’t correctly perform this ritual, and the outcome of it. The other albums are horror based. I read a lot of horror, and I would love to write a book someday. So this is my book in a sense.
M-R: We Haunt Ourselves is a very dark listen with devastating riffs overall it feels menacing with those beastly and intense vocals. What is this album about? What was your inspiration for creating something this dark and threatening?
I intended to write something unsettling and evil. When people write horror films, they hope to leave their viewer too scared to go to sleep. I wanted to do the same thing with my music. The album is about yourself… we are our own worst enemy. The mind is a powerful thing and can trigger anything. The inspiration was just from anyone telling me I couldn’t do something. I did it.
M-R: What was your recording and production process for these albums?
I record drums first – always. Guitar, bass, vocals and then effects. The drums are the most important for me. It sets the tone.
M-R: You are set to release a split with Vide (a black metal solo project from Texas USA). How did this collaboration come about? And given your black metal sound styles are rather different, is there any alignment to the themes that will go into this split or you are both doing your own thing?
Vide and I talked about doing something awhile back. It never happened but Jems Label reached out and made it happen. I think the plan is to do our own thing and meet in the middle. Although our projects are different, they are equally dark. I think it compliments each other and will leave the listeners with something different.
M-R: Witchbones is set to release yet another album in December 2019, The Seas Of Draugen. Can fans expect the pounding warfare of black death metal that you create within this album too? How will this release differ from your previous work?
The Iron Bonehead release isn’t as fast as my previous work. The tempo is brought down to a Doom Level. It was a chance for me to slow down and focus on darker riffs. I think it’s my best work to date and tells a story on its own. My main goal is to not bore my audience. I want to leave them not knowing what to expect but yet always leaving unsettled and wanting more.
M-R: Your vocal style is incredible, and I’ve often described it as beastly and likened it to being used as another instrument amidst your horrifically explosive dark sound. Is this your intention? To be somewhat inaudible by way of lyrical content?
I get my inspirations from Black Winds (Blasphemy), Glenn Benton (Deicide) and Lord Worm (Cryptopsy). I think they’re some of the evilest sounding dudes in metal. I try to go for the triple vocal attack like Glenn, with the deepness of Lord Worm. Black Winds is the flow I go for. I think the mix of the 3 works for me. But yes, the vocals are what bring it all together. That’s why I had to let go of the Mirror Effect. It wasn’t what I wanted vocally. But that album will be re-done in 2020.
M-R: Portland has had some hectic demonstrations against certain forms of art, particularly black metal and metal in general by the PCW (particularly ANTIFA). Has there always been a push back on this form of metal in your area, or is this coming about through the growing popularity of black metal and the release of mainstream movies highlighting previous black metal controversy, etc.? And more so, has this ever affected you as an artist and how?
I’m from Long Beach, CA originally. I’ve only been in Portland for a couple of years. The ANTIFA thing is new to me. I don’t think all of what they’re saying is wrong. I think the way they approach it is. Nazis aren’t the answer… they’re scum… But ANTIFA isn’t either. I think the hype is what always gets the shit fucked up. Popeye’s chicken sandwich is a great example lol. There are nazis in black metal and always have been. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is. And half the time, ANTIFA is going after the wrong people. Regardless, it’s all bullshit and I think everyone in the black metal scene just wants to be left the fuck alone. So ANTIFA, fuck off, leave us alone, and we will do the same for you. Go after real nazis. I’ve never been affected by any of it. I don’t get involved in very much, so there’s no reason for them too. I just keep to myself.
M-R: Your albums are often themed around horror, the supernatural, and witchery, which is felt and heard within the atmosphere of your music. Where do these themes come from? Do these themes run deeper for you more than just a means to amplify the impact of your art? And if so how?
I’ve always been inspired by Wicca and the Occult. I think there are more answers in that lifestyle for me. I think horror and darkness are just a reflection of what makes me happy. I remember reading an interview where Paul Boothe (tattoo artist) explained that he lived a very dark childhood and that now the darkness comforts him. I relate to that. I welcome the darkness.
M-R: Witchbones is currently signed with Iron Bonehead Creations, who also have signed at some stage the likes of Abhor, AntiChrist, and Kawir… to name a few. When did you sign with this label and how did this change things if at all for Witchbones?
I sent Iron Bonehead a song as a fluke. It’s the opening song on Seas Of Draugen. To my surprise, he responded. He liked it and wanted to hear more. At the time, I only had 1 song done. I knew this was my chance, so long story short… I wrote the Seas Of Draugen in 2 weeks and the rest is history. I wanted to write the evilest album of the year and I think I did well with my promise to myself. I think I will get a lot more exposure to it. Which is awesome, so more people can either hate it or love it.
M-R: Outside of Witchbones, are there any other projects you are working on that you would like to elaborate on? The style, what we can expect and release dates?
Sangre De La Luna (Black Metal), Nexwomb (Black/Death), Dionysian Rites (Black/Death)… all of these projects have released this year. Keep your eyes and ears open!
M-R: Vardlokker you are a legend, mate. Thank you for speaking with me. If there is anything else you would like to leave for the reader, please go for it.
Thank you, so much Kelly. You’ve been a big help with a lot of exposure for this project. Hails to you. And HAIL THE VVITCH!
Interview Date: 2019-11-07
Interviewer: Kelly Tee