Interview for Hails & Horns Magazine
So I just caught you guys a few days ago at Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church, opening up for Municipal Waste (direct support slot, at that!); your performance blew me away, so I just had to track you guys down. What did you think of the show? Philly loves thrash, and from my vantage point near the front, I could definitely see you winning over some new fans .
Scott (guitar): The show was absolutely amazing!! It was our first time playing at the First Unitarian and I was blown away by the intensity of the crowd and extremely impressed with the venue. I definitely did not expect the total fucking blowout that was the Philly show.
How is the tour going so far? Or, perhaps more importantly (you guys are on the road with the band that wrote "Drunk as Shit," "Beer Pressure," and "Born to Party," after all), how are your livers holding up ?
Scott: The tour has been killer, meaning fucking fantastic, and meaning deadly to our livers. The members of Municpal Waste and Toxic Holocaust are some of the best individuals one could ever hope to tour with and it's been a complete rager! Two highlights include a keg party in Cincinnati (where various unmentionable acts occured) and the "Heavy Metal Celebra-tante Ball" in Cleveland, which featured members of Municipal Waste, Skeletonwitch, Toxic Holocaust, Goatwhore, The Absence, Black Dahlia Murder, The Red Chord, Chimaira, Hatebreed, Machine Head, Vio-lence, Midnight, Rammer, and Keelhaul. Pretty fucking insane!
You guys were an interesting addition to the bill. While all three bands on this tour fit fairly comfortably within the thrash genre, Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste tend to fall on the more punk/crossover side of things while you guys are obviously as metal as Lemmy's left nut. Do you guys feel like the odd man out, or is it a good fit?
Scott: Haha! All this time I thought Lemmy's right nut was the most metal of nuts!! To answer your question, we really enjoy it. It's great to bring some other elements of metal to the tour. We enjoy the challenge of turning punks and thrashers onto death and black metal as well. And, of course, we have more than a healthy dose of thrash in the Skeletonwitch sound.
What's the craziest/worst/best thing that's happened to you during your years of touring?
Scott: In Louisville, a completely naked man was moshing, got turned upside down and his feet and legs were rammed through a ceiling fan and the ceiling tiles. The owner came out and stopped the show in an effort to stop her bar from being destroyed. It turns out she was more trashed than any of her patrons. She stopped mid-tirade, took one look at "naked guy", pointed to his nethers and led the whole bar in chanting "small dick bitch". That was an odd night.
Your latest record, Beyond the Permafrost, is being released by modern metal/core giants Prosthetic. How did you end up on the label? Are you happy with the relationship so far?
Scott: We ended up on the label the old-fashioned way: touring as much as humanly possible and sending out demos to everyone that we could possibly think of. So far we've been very happy with Prosthetic. We have a very good dynamic: the harder we work the harder they work, so we continually try to push them. They're willing to take my daily barrage of calls and go along with some of my crackpot schemes.
What is Skeletonwitch's writing and recording process like?
Scott: It all starts with Nate, the other guitar player. He locks himself up for days on end and emerges with a cassette tape recorded on his 4-track. He circulates the tape to the rest of us and we throw in our changes, leads, new riffs to be added, etc... We just kind of go back and forth until everything is where we like it. Sometimes we don't change anything. The guy is a fucking riff-monster!
How do you feel this latest release measures up to your previous work?
Scott: This is the most happy we've been with a release yet. I think the sound quality and the quality of our songwriting has all been tightened on "Beyond the Permafrost."
According to the Metal Archives, Skeletonwitch play "black/thrash." Usually the 'Archives are pretty unfuckwithable, but I've got to disagree with them on this point; you guys definitely incorporate plenty of black metal elements into your powerful thrash metal core, but there's a lot more going on than just that. You've got razor-sharp, almost NWOHM-esque dual guitars, for one; catchy melodies abound, a frantic punk rock feel kicks the album into gear and there's just enough death metal mixed in to keep it brutal. How do you manage to incorporate so many different styles into your music and still manage to create such a cohesive, original sound?
Scott: Listen intensly to Exciter, Morbid Angel, Manilla Road, and Immortal, play a lot of guitar, and get drunk as shit on really cheap beer.
Who would you consider to be your peers?
Scott: Midnight (from Cleveland) and Rammer (from Toronto)
What are your thoughts on the current state of metal?
Scott: I think metal as a genre is thriving. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of stuff coming out these days that we're really into, but as a whole I think metal is doing very well. It's actually kind of exciting to see so many young kids into metal. I don't mean to sound too negative either, there are plenty of great new records out there. There's just a LOT of shit out there too! haha!
Thrash is cool again, it seems; the "retro thrash" revival has become the latest trend, one that has both given birth to a spate of righteous bands, and launched a fleet of imitators. Do you feel that Skeletonwitch gets lumped into that scene, despite the blatant stylistic differences between you and the legions of denim'n'high-tops thrashers coming out of the woodwork? Is Merciless Death right when they howl, "Thrash is back!"…?
Scott: Hahah!! Great question!! I'm glad you think the stylistic differences are blatant. Perhaps you could tell that to a few other journalists!! hehe! We definitely get lumped into that scene, and I take that as a compliment but don't necessarily think it's fitting. We are doing something that, in a lot of respects, harkens back to more traditional or "old-school" metal but rather than dwell on a classic style, we like to give it a kick in the ass and add some black and death metal into the mix. Those styles are equally important to us.
What inspired you guys to form the band in the first place? What did you aim to accomplish when you first started out, and how close have you come to achieving those goals so far?
Scott: I met Nate right after his old band, Serkesoron, disbanded. He had a four-song demo that he recorded on his trusty four-track. It blew me away!! He had the tunes, and the beer, and he needed somebody to play them and drink them, and I fit the bill! It all came together rather quickly. Our drummer Derrick and our old bass player Jimmy were local guys who played in a lot of different bands, and Chance our singer, is Nate's brother. Compared to a lot of bands it didn't take a long time to find like-minded individuals.
Beyond the Permafrost features some killer artwork from John Baizley (who also did the new Baroness album cover). How did you guys hook up with him? Did you guys come to him with a concept already, or did you give him free reign?
Scott: John has been a friend of ours for several years now. We've played with his band Baroness on numerous occasions. They're great guys and a great fucking band!! John also did the artwork for our self-released "Worship the Witch" EP. We were ecstatic to have him on board again. Basically, we gave John a bunch of ideas and imagery that we would like to see and he took it from there. He's great to work with because he will periodically check in and send you sketches so you can comment on the process. Not many artists are willing to do that!! I'm sure he cringed every time he sent an e-mail, dreading all the changes we would ask him to make!
What is next for Skeletonwitch?
Scott: A month long tour in November supporting Dying Fetus!! We are very fucking excited!!!
Any last thoughts, ideas, or messages?
Scott: Fire up the skullheads and listen to Mercyful Fate!!!
***Thanks so much for the interview! Can't wait 'til you come back to Philly!