Witchery are thought of as one of the founding bands that forged the way for Swedish metal, launching on the world in the late nineties, constantly evolving and pushing their sound into new territory. Recently celebrating their 20th anniversary by releasing two acclaimed albums in as many years with the destructive In His Infernal Majesty’s Service in 2016 and the crushing I Am Legion in 2017. Now coming down under for a triple headlining attack of Swedish Metal Witchery are set to tear our stages apart!
Metal-Roos: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me!
M-R: I should start with the usual, excited to be coming down to Australia?
You know, and I’m not just saying this because I’m doing an interview because of the Australian tour, I love Australia. I think I speak for all Swedish, there’s some kind of bond between Sweden and Australia, a huge country with lots of open spaces and not many people live there. A lot of the young people backpack everywhere, it’s a similar kind of mentality somehow. Every-time I’ve been to Australia every ones been hospitable and friendly. I love the nature there, so even if I weren’t playing, I would love to be going to Australia.
M-R: Will this be the first time over here with Witchery?
Oh yeah, this is the first time with Witchery.
M-R: Is it challenging pulling double duty and playing in both Witchery and The Haunted every night?
Not at all. We’re doing only four shows in Australia and once I did a full American tour for six weeks doing double duty. That’s about 70 shows in 35 days or something, so this is going to be no problem. I love AC/DC and they play for two hours and he smokes three packs a day and they never stop! I don’t smoke and we play maybe two hours so I should be totally fine.
M-R: How do you usually prepare for a tour? Did you have to change anything in your preparation to help you get through the US tour?
The US tour was a while back like in October 2001. We had The Haunted doing a headlining tour and the supporting band bailed from the tour because of 9/11, for some reason. We had to find another opening band and I volunteered Witchery. That’s how Witchery got on that tour and that only happened three weeks before the start of the tour, so there was no time to prepare. I just grabbed another guitar, an extra set of t-shirts and just went.
M-R: It would been so challenging to follow up the intensity of His Infernal Majesty. Yet, I Am Legion seems to take it a step further, while the song-writing stays so strong, and such a short amount of time in between albums. How many songs did you bring in for I Am Legion? Was it difficult to whittle them down?
I think there were two songs that I wrote that I didn’t make it onto the album. But I’m not a solo guitar player I leave that to someone who likes to practice the soloing stuff. I like to write songs, that’s always been my thing. When I hear music growing up listening to Sabbath or AC/DC or what have you, I was always thinking about their arrangements and what they do with them. So, writing songs is just something that is natural for me. I get such a kick out of writing a good riff or a good song, even back in the day when people didn’t have kids and we lived in the same city. When we had a good rehearsal after writing that great song or chorus you walked out of there totally pumped! I really love the creative process of song-writing, so there’s no holding me back man, if I have a band, I’m going to be writing songs for them.
M-R: Is there anything in particular you look for songs that tells you an idea or song is strong enough for the album? How does that process work for Witchery?
I don’t wanna wave my own flag here, but I think I’m pretty good at picking up hooks. A riff needs to have a hook, or a hook can also be an arrangement idea that you do. For example the song by Metallica Damage Inc. how he just stops and whispers the chorus, to me that’s an instant hook and amazing. I wish I thought of that, just stuff like that, that’s not a riff, that’s an arrangement idea and that really hooks into your ear. I try to put stuff like that into making a song start in a strange way that someone hasn’t heard before, so it catches your ear. It doesn’t have to be advanced playing, you don’t have to be a jazz musician, you know, if your good with arrangements then you’ll be fine.
M-R: Do you find the songs evolve or change in the studio or do they stay pretty true to the demos you bring in? Is there a track in particular that underwent the most change?
No, because when we record, we record live. I think 90% of the metal albums released lately are so sterile, like if a band has a great bass player like a Geezer Butler, the band kind of leans towards him and they get a certain kind of groove. Or if they have a John Bonham in the band everyone leans against him and they have the distinct sound. Without the drummer or bass player they wouldn’t sound like that particular band. So when everyone plays the most important thing when recording is playing correctly to a click, which makes every band member have the same importance like John Bonham is in every band or Cozy Powell in every band… it makes everyone sound the same, so we don’t want to record to a click. We want to play as a band and sound how the band lives and breathes.
M-R: Now we all know stories about the songs that are easiest to write and have massive impacts, was there a track on I Am Legion that came together really easily and just worked straight away?
There are always songs that are harder to write. I usually think the easier the song is to write the more direct it will be for the fans to listen to and understand it. If you have two good parts that you have to make work together, you might have to really think about it, you might have to make something strange to make it work. I also find if I come up with a very good riff and I need to leave for work or something and I don’t immediately try to write something next to it, when I come back the riff has grown. If it’s a really good riff then whatever I play next to it, it’s never as good. I need to work it while it’s hot and fresh in my brain. For instance, True North was a song that came together pretty quick, especially the part after the second chorus where one guitar plays that little melodic bit and everyone else kind of sneaks in. That’s not really traditional metal to me, that was something I was fooling around with after midnight. I was supposed to be going to bed and to go to work the next morning but it sounded good so I wanted to put it together and when I did I was like “this sounds pretty fucking cool!” and to me that is the hook of that song. The riffs and everything are cool but that little bit really catches your ear, because it’s not something that you’ve heard before.
M-R: Is there any sort of over-arching theme to I Am Legion, whether it be musically or lyrically, or does it stay with Witchery’s way of telling individual stories?
No, its individual stories for each song, yeah. Although just before these interviews started, I just got off my other computer which I use for song-writing, I’m currently working on the ninth song for the next album. I write the music first because I’m guitar player, the lyrics I write because I have to. Maybe next time it should have a concept or a theme. If the next album turns out to a concept album it’ll be your fault! hahaha
M-R: The video for True North has some striking imagery. Can you give me an idea of the story the song and video tell?
I think song titles are important, at least to a metal head. There’s no denying that Angel of Death is a great title and people love to scream along to it, so I take care when I choose song titles. I just happened to come across True North when I was reading about something. I’m sure you know about True North and the magnetic polarity and everything like that, geographical North. It’s really about that, but I was thinking that True North could mean something else, something different, and just put it together like that. Plus, it sounds good to scream along to, with the band playing and everything. I made this song a marching tempo so there might be an army marching north and or whatever. There’s no super deep meaning I won’t be winning any Nobel prizes for that, but I think the title and the arrangement with the vocals, and everything works with the song and I’m really happy with that song.
M-R: So, now you are achieving the original goals you set for Witchery, in finishing 2 albums in 2 years and touring the European festival market, performing the 2017 Wacken, and many more. Where do you want to take Witchery next? Will you still try for an album a year?
Well, that would have been released last year if it was one per year, but the record company basically asked us to slow down a little hahaha. I’m hoping that we are able to record this year, but it might not be released until next year. I want everyone to know that the band is very active, and I think people can hear that on the I Am Legion album that band is far from over. We’re still very relevant and ready to take on the world.
Interview Date: 2019-04-12
Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley