Witchcraft never played outside Scandinavia before (except for the one gig in England earlier this year), so it was quite surprising they did so well. After their performance, I had a conversation with 3/4ths of the band (singer Magnus Pelander being the absent one). They were not only extremely nice, but endearingly humble as well (or maybe it was shyness), probably making it the first time that I was actually more at ease than the one I was talking to. Anyway, most questions were answered by guitarist John Hoyles (JH), but bass player Ola Henriksson (OH) and drummer Jonas Arnesén (JA) added their two cents as well:
First of all, you guys really played a great gig… I must admit I hadn’t even heard your music before last week…
JH: Oh, okay…
… but then somebody gave me your album to listen to and I went like “Wow, this is something else that we don’t have here”, so I wonder where you get that sound from…
[looks of bewilderment]
Ok, stupid question. To me, it sounds like a combination of very early doom/hard rock – there’s probably a lot of Black Sabbath and Pentagram in there -…
… but there’s also this psychedelic edge to it… does that make sense?
JH: Yeah it does. We listen to a lot of stuff, 60’s and 70’s stuff, early Pentagram, psychedelic stuff, folk music, a lot of doom… it’s mainly Magnus, the lead singer, who listens to a lot of doom, though.
JA: I also listen to Joni Mitchell (laughter)
Joni Mitchell? Ok, some Blue once in a while… Uh, and Roky Erickson?
JH: Oh yes, definitely…
[bass player joins the conversation]
How is your neck doing, by the way?
OH: Uh, okay (laughs).
You were banging you head like a maniac! You have one album out so far… when was it released?
JH: In March, on Rise Above.
How has the reception been this far?
JH: Yeah, uh, yeah, it’s been basically very good.
At the moment you’re touring with Grand Magus and Orange Goblin, because they’re at the same label, but they’re very different than you…
JH: Yeah, but I think that’s good.
Of course it’s good! But do you fit in the same scene as them?
JH: We played in London yesterday and even Orange Goblin’s audience seemed to enjoy it.
People are open-minded nowadays.
JH: Yeah, yeah…
What kind of music did you grow up with? Have you been listening to, say, Black Sabbath, since you were twelve?
JH: Well yeah, basically, but then I got into these obscure 60’s and 70’s bands, like Leaf Hound, Pentagram…
Did you get these albums from your parents? I can’t imagine stuff like that is easy to find, because over here releases by those bands are really rare…
JH: I got a lot of records from my English teacher, he was listening to Mountain and stuff like that and he knew I was interested in that kind of music, so…
And concerning your guitar playing… are there any people in particular that you worship or are influenced by?
JH: Yeah, there’s a lot of ‘em. I’m very fond of Vince McAllister, the first Pentagram guitarist…
Those early recordings were made way before they released their debut, right?
JH: Yeah the first album came out in 1984 or 1985.
OH: They released some 7” singles back in the 70’s and there are lots of demos and stuff around. I think I have every song they ever recorded…
JH: They released First Daze Here not that long ago, and it contains a lot of the old stuff.
Are they still around?
JH: Yeah they are!
OH: The singer was hospitalised for a couple of months, but he’s out and they’re recording a new album, I think.
Cool… and what about Wishbone Ash? The guitar interplay reminded me of them a few times…
JH: Yeah, maybe, we have the first few records, so… and uh, yeah, well Wishbone Ash is a great band I got some inspiration from. We try to mix up all these influences…
Yeah, and it sets you apart. There’s the doom-ingredient, but also a lighter and catchier aspect about the band that seems to come from straightforward hard rock and 60’s rock in general.
OH: And we don’t down-tune!
Actually, that seems rare these days, a band that doesn’t try to go as low as possible… Who writes the songs in the band?
JH: Mostly Magnus, he’s written almost the entire debut album, so…
Most of the lyrics deal with cheerful matter such as “nocturnal life”, and even the name Witchcraft … it suggests a lot. Where does that come from? Is Magnus an occult maniac?
OH: No, but we’re all into horror movies (laughter)
JH: Yeah, we’re interested in the occult and of course we’re inspired by bands like Black Sabbath and also their lyrics…
Is this your first series of concerts on the “European continent”, so to speak?
JH: Yeah, but we already played in England last March.
Do you enjoy yourselves so far?
JH: Yeah, yeah, sure.
I guess don’t have that many incredible stories to tell, so far?
JH: No, we played, slept on the bus and arrived here. (laughter)
Any plans for future recordings? When did you record the debut album?
JH: Over a year ago.
Yet it was only released in March? Why?
JH: There were some delays with the cover art.
Who took care of that?
OH: It’s an old painting by an artist called Aubrey Beardsley, a 19th century artist, and there’s a guy called Stephen O’Malley, from the band Sunn from New York who made the lay-out.
Did it cost you a lot of money to use it?
OH: No, not after 75 years anymore.
You just ended the show with a new song. Are there any specific plans to record a new album or are you still in the process of writing new stuff?
JH: We got six new songs and we’re gonna record in October, so maybe next year, there’s gonna be a new album.
Has Rise Above already promised you to release it?
JH: Yeah, two or three albums.
Are you a popular band back in Sweden?
Okay, it’s not that you’re being played on the radio, then?
OH: Not in Sweden, but I heard they played our music on the radio in Norway and even Australia.
When you check out e-zines, music review sites, etc, it seems as if there are hundreds of bands comin’ out of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, etc, … especially stoner bands, black metal bands… it almost seems as if everybody between 18 and 40 plays in a band there…
JH: Yeah, there are many bands, but most of ‘em are small.
I guess you’re not making a living out of it, yet?
JH: No, no. We hope it’ll be possible eventually…
It probably costs money so far.
JH: Indeed, maybe next tour (laughter).
Is it difficult to combine with a job?
JA: I’m the only one with a job.
And the others are…
JH: Unemployed (laughter).
Well, in that case I hope you’ll be able to take some money home.
JH: Yeah, would be nice.
Ok, that’s about it. Thanks for your time, and good luck with what’s coming next!
All in unison: Thanks!