Hampshire trio Witchsorrow’s classic doom sound successfully channels the spirit of the mighty Saint Vitus, and with their humongous, snail paced riffs and the kind of melancholy atmosphere that’s normally only reserved for the elder statesmen of the genre, the band are certainly one of the best things to happen to traditional doom metal in recent years. M3 communed with guitarist/vocalist Necroskull to discuss record stores’ struggle for survival, Mayhem covers, and why giving your music away for free is admitting defeat…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
I am Necroskull, I play guitar and sing in British doom metal band Witchsorrow. I also work on the editorial team for a British music magazine, and collect records.
What inspired you to form Witchsorrow? What is your own musical background?
The name Witchsorrow and the first seeds of music were sown just over seven years ago. At the time I was playing guitar in a grindcore band, but doom had always been my first love. Since I was about 12 or 13 I’ve been fascinated by doom, if I was reading a magazine, I’d always gravitate towards the articles on bands like Cathedral, Sabbath, Electric Wizard etc. I’d wanted a doom metal band of my own for many years, but I’d never found the right people to do it with. Doom metal is not just a matter of playing slowly. You have to have that doom vibe, and you can’t get that just by dropping the tempo. I wanted the band to be a total church of doom, it had to celebrate all the traditions I loved about doom, somewhere that I could escape to that was entirely our own, where we could play doom and bite our thumbs at the rest of the world!
Aside from doom, from a young age I’ve been into heavy metal – Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer and such. As I’ve grown older I’ve developed wider and wider tastes in music, but I have constantly been a doom fanatic! I met Emily when we were both 14, and after I turned her onto doom she’s been the same, just a total Sabbath/Wizard obsessive!
The last time I saw you guys live, you played what was undoubtedly the best cover of Mayhem’s Freezing Moon I’ve ever heard. Are there are any plans for this cover to be included on a studio release?
Glad you liked it! We haven’t planned to record it, if we did, it would have to be for a compilation or for some special thing. We would probably do it if we were asked to be on a compilation of covers or something, or a tribute to Mayhem, or something like that, but we haven’t recorded it yet as we didn’t want someone else’s work to encroach on either of our albums.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
Ha! You’re asking the wrong people! We’ve never toured, largely because the costs involved make my head spin. In a way, I’m very glad that we don’t have any financial ties to the band, it means there’s no business or financial bullshit to deal with and sour this thing we’ve tried to build.
Having observed other bands, however, it seems to be the case that if you stop touring you’re fucked. You can’t do it part time, you have to tour your arse off just to stay alive. The recent article about Goatwhore needing help just to get the show on the road was saddening. If a band like that (reasonably large underground name) can’t do certain tours without help, what hope is there for anyone else?! Even more mainstream rock bands who get on the radio, play pretty big places, they’re surviving, rather than living off it.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
The big line often used by people who steal music illegally off the internet is that they’re listening to it before they buy it (which out of all the people I know, none of them ever do). Bands put music up for free on their MySpace or Facebook or Bandcamp sites for people to check out, and people still just steal it anyway, without giving any money to the band. I think giving away music as a whole album is a bit lame. It’s admitting defeat to these bastards who download, in my eyes.
The whole concept of downloading is pretty alien to me, though. I can’t understand why you would want music just as a file on a harddrive. What about the collecting side of it? Going through your collection, arranging it, reading the sleeves? What’s cool about a file? Maybe I sound like an old man or a nerd, but to me there’s nothing like a huge wall of CDs and LPs. Even buying digital music legitimately on iTunes seems weird to me. Why would you spend money on a file?
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I prefer listening to stuff on vinyl, but I still buy plenty of stuff on tape and CD as well. I think vinyl sounds better, and I love how creative bands get with vinyl presentation. The latest album by the Greek black metal band Embrace Of Thorns is beautifully presented on vinyl – it has an amazing sleeve that you can gaze at for hours, the disc itself is covered in occult symbols, and the music sounds incredible!
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
To a degree, yes. I think in metal there’s always been an attitude that it’s about albums, not singles, but for bigger artists, I think there’s no longer any need to make an album anymore, because the way people get the hits now mean there’s not so much need for a full album like there was in the ‘80s. And though a lot of these bands are total garbage, it means the chance of albums like Thriller ever being made again are deadly slim.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I think it’s a tragic loss. There’s something about record shops and going record hunting that I truly love. I like to go into a shop with some money and no idea of what I want, and get taken by surprise by what takes my fancy as I flick through the racks. You can’t quite do the same thing on Amazon or iTunes.
I think from a business point of view, it’s a bad thing as well, because it’s a scary sign of just how little money there is left in music. If powerhouses like Tower or Virgin Megastore are having to shut up shop, record sales must really be in the toilet!
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I didn’t understand any of it. I’m a little ignorant of stuff like this, I’m afraid. As far as I could see it meant being able to prosecute people for online piracy, but it wasn’t just music, it was all sorts of stuff, and people were saying it was a way for the government to control people’s internet use. While I’m completely against downloading (as you may have spotted!), I think that control of the internet is a very strange discussion. Mind you, if the internet becomes monitored by the government, maybe it will encourage people to switch off their computers and go outside once in a while!
Finally, what does the future hold for Witchsorrow?
The album has just come out, so hopefully we’ll get touring plans rolling at some point. We want to get into Europe, as we’ve only played there once! I’d love to get to America and Canada as well. If anyone can help out with any of this, get in contact!