"Bleak, depressing, anguished, tormented. All of these are adjectives that I could use to describe this next album I’m about to introduce. A blistering mix of black, drone and doom layered with some beautiful atmospheric parts, all blended perfectly that will leave you under the spell of Old Witch." -cvltnation-
Why every doom metal (from traditional doom to funeral doom) band has a cliché name, like Old Witch? Why not New Witch? Please explain:
I think the name suits the music – a lot of metal celebrates the 'masculine', aggressive ideal, I feel that Old Witch probably portrays a feeling that describes an awe of the natural, which is a more female spirit, of mystery, of longing – I think the cliché of the image of the ancient crone chanting rituals and summoning the unseen is appropriate. I mean, if Old Witch sounded like Pantera then the name would be ridiculous. But I think the name suits the music.
Old Witch just came from nowhere without a single demo, or split release, you are just released a brilliant debut album (Come Mourning Come) in 2013 on digital first, later on ultra limited tape (Arcane Tapes) and recently on nice digipack through Sun & Moon Records. Who is Stephen Heyerdahl the man behind Old Witch? What is your musical background?
I'm just a guy who love metal. I have played in punk bands that no one has heard of, and that's for the best. In the 90s I released an industrial album on a tiny christian label called Flaming Fish – maybe sold a couple hundred copies. We were called Autovoice. I used to be a born again christian at the time, for the better part of my late teens to mid 20s. A depressing time, I guess I was a christian goth or something, I mean, my ideas and beliefs were sincere, but as you could guess, it alienated me from most of the people I knew, and even in the so called christian community, I felt alienated. So I spent a lot of time reading and figuring out that a dogmatic reading of the christian bible and it's associated doctrines and traditions was wildly incorrect. Not that I came up with any viable and certain alternative. I guess I have deist feelings, but I feel that whatever power may or may not be out there, it is an impersonal brooding power, I feel it in the trees, you know? Not in some building. Certainly not in pop culture or consumerism. That's all temporary.
Please tell us a short Old Witch history, line-up, other members, etc. Are you into other bands, projects?
Old Witch was recorded and released by me online – I had no delusions that anyone else would be interested in it. I knew I liked it and wanted to see if there might be anyone else that liked the songs. I'm very happy that folks seem to find something they relate to in it. I'm currently recording a neofolk/noise project called Moon Sun Moon (ha ha, no relation to Sun & Moon Records – I came up with the name some time ago and it seems there is some coincidences in the world!)
Label says that are you from Canada, other sources said USA, so what is the truth?
I am from Kanada, cold, cold Kanada
“Come Mourning Come” is a brilliant, high class (funeral) doom metal album, with lots of black metal and drone influences, from the first track until the last, please tell us the necessary info about this debut.
I don't know if there is any necessary information – it's a collection of songs that I feel flow together to create a feeling. I don't think it's necessarily a dark album, though I guess it is a lot to do with the death of the world and with personal despairing, but I think it is uplifting – in the same way I find that Emperor, or Darkthrone give me a feeling of power. I wanted to unite that kind of energy with the thick, massive guitar sound that you hear maybe on a Boris album, or a Harvey Milk record. I wanted to hear the kind of power that I feel in Black Metal with the weight and heavyness of a downtuned doom guitar. I think the riffs are more black metal than doom, but the tone is pretty doomy.
Octobers ritval’s made a US version on limited tape for “Come Mourning Come” with a bonus track, is this an official release?
I guess it's a special edition?
What are your influences when you are writing lyrics?
I'm not sure – I'm not interested in telling a story or preaching about what I think you should believe. I just try and convey a feeling. I think atmosphere is important.
Are you reading books? Please recommend some nice novels which you read recently, and what about movies?
I recently read 'In the Land of Long Fingernails', by Charles Wilkens it's an autobiography of this guy in his early 20s who works digging graves at a cemetery in Toronto in the late 60s. I've also been reading some Arthur Machen – 'The Inmost Light' and 'The Great God Pan'. Also Algernon Blackwood's 'The Man Whom the Trees Loved'. I have a few books on the go right now I guess. I can't think of a movie I've seen recently that I thought was really good.
What kind of equipment do you have (guitars, amps, pedals, etc)? I’m really interested how did you made that nice sound for the debut album?
On the record, I just layered guitars – the secret is the 'Big Muff' Sovtek and using the guitar's neck pickup. I have an SG and I play it through a Sunn Concert lead into a 4x12 and a Traynor Monoblock into a 2x15.
Old Witch participated on The CVLT Nation Sessions: JOY DIVISION's Unknown Pleasures tribute album with a great Insight cover. Are you a great fan of Joy Division? What is your favourite JD album and track? Why did not made cover of She’s Lost Control or Disorder?
Joy Division is great. I really like the Peel Sessions versions of the songs, they are a bit more aggressive, if a little less atmospheric. For songs, maybe 'Passover'? Maybe '24 Hours'? 'The Eternal'? It's hard to choose. I picked 'Insight' because I thought the atmosphere of that song suited Old Witch – Joy Division is a pretty ridged band, so anything as angular as 'Disorder' or 'She's Lost Control' would be impossible to recreate and sound like Old Witch, I think.
Cvlt Nation launched the first Old Witch video for the "The Frost and The Tyrant" few months ago, what is the story behind?
That video was shot and conceived by Forgács Róbert who runs The Arcane Tapes
What is your best 3 all time doom metal albums, and 3 all time favourite albums?
'Summon' by Bloody Panda, 'Capture and Release' by Khanate, and man I don't know – you know? There are so many and I keep hearing new stuff and old stuff that I haven't heard before – I recently saw a live video of My Dying Bride doing 'the Cry of Mankind' and it was really heavy – back when I was not really listening to metal in the 90s this song kind of changed my mind, that metal could be more than just power-chords and fast drums.
All time favourites? How can I pick 3? Off the top of my head, 'Rose Clouds of Holocaust' by Death in June, 'In the Nightside Eclipse' by Emperor, and lets say, 'Our Mother the Mountain' by Townes Van Zandt
Voivod, or Rush? Wayne Gretzky or Celine Dion? Hehe
Voivid – always Voivod. That's about all I gotta say.
Next step? Final words of wisdom are yours, thanks for your time,
I was recording for a split with Keeper – it's a little behind, I was supposed to have it finished for a February release, but events have kept me from concentrating on it and so it's gotten behind. Thanks for taking an interest in Old Witch. Maybe someday I can come to Romania to say thank you in person! And also to drink all your beer?
by Mirgilus, January 2015