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Caught In A Mosh: November 2009

| October 30, 2009

The Witch Is Back

Skeletonwitch 042

The first time “Mosh” heard from — or of — Skeletonwitch was summer 2007. This column was exactly one-month old when Witch guitarist Scott Hedrick e-mailed pimping his band’s July show at Empty Bottle, inquiring about coverage for its Prosthetic debut, Beyond The Permafrost, and wondering if ILLINOIS ENTERTAINER needed freelance writers.

We didn’t, but it’s not as if Hedrick would have had the time anyway. Once Permafrost was released that fall, the Ohio-based Skeletonwitch hit the road and never looked back. In the two years since, the group has played a bazillion shows, give or take, and supported 3 bazillion acts (Dying Fetus, Nachtmystium, Danzig, Amon Amarth, to name a few) in the process.

So Hedrick never had time to write 1,200 word features, but thankfully, he, vocalist Chance Garnette, guitarist/chief songsmith Nate Garnette, drummer Derrik Nau, and bassist Evan Linger somehow found time to pen Breathing The Fire, a unholy shitstorm of death-metal grooves, thrash riffs, and black-metal malevolence. As Nate told “Mosh” in late September when I caught up with him and Hedrick at House Of Blues (opening for Children Of Bodom), “There’s not one sucky song on the new album.” Agreed.

M: Was Jack Endino the first name that came up when the band started talking producers?
We’d talked about a few different people, but then we had talked to bands, and bands like Valient Thorr and High On Fire had nothing bad to say at all. I think Matt Pike said, “He’s going to crush you.” We were just looking for a big, natural-sounding album. We were talking to him and he was like [in his best Endino impersonation] “I don’t know why people say my albums sound organic. They just sound like albums are supposed to.”
SH: The one thing I loved about Jack Endino was that when we talked to him — and we talked to lots of other people — the first thing he said was, “Send me the last record they did, send me any demos these guys have, and don’t fucking mention anything about money. I want to listen to the music, and if I don’t like the music, I’m not going to do it.” He’s really straightforward. He’s like, “I’m not a rich man, but I’m not a poor man. If I’m going to do something it has to be something I want to do.” That made me really, really stoked.

M: Did the High On Fire record he did (2007’s Death Is This Communion) come into the discussion?
I think it definitely was because they’ve got such huge guitar, huge bass, and huge drums, but he still made it clear. We tune in standard E, so if he could make [Communion] crush, he could make us crush twice as hard because, I don’t want to say there is less mud involved, but it’s a cleaner, more precise sound than High On Fire, and he made that album clean and precise.
SH: They tune in C standard and use, I don’t know, I think Matt Pike uses 10 full stacks. Of course, that’s a joke, but the sound they’re going for is so much different than ours, but that record totally came into play because I think [Endino] just crushed on that. One thing I think he’s particularly good at is drums. He’s not a slouch with any of the instruments, but I think he really excels with the drum sounds, and we heard [Communion] and were just like “Jesus fucking Christ. This thing is so heavy.”

M: What’s been the longest span of off time you’ve had since releasing Permafrost? It seems like the band has been on the road non-stop.
There’s been a few long ones. Especially toward the end of the Permafrost cycle, we sat around a bit. This year, we’re just starting to be out a lot again, which is awesome. And we had a whole issue in the middle of last year where we had lineup changes and stuff and had to cancel two weeks of touring. Shit like that. I don’t know. As far as a stretch: a month and a half, maybe. Two months. But there’s also, like, two-week tours in there. There’s a hell of a lot more bands that do a hell of a lot more shows than we do.
SH: But not a lot.
NG: Personally, I think if you look at the numbers, we’re not that high. But I think we do better [tours].
SH: We’re out there quite a fuckin’ bit, though. I mean, it’s slowed down recently because we’ve had a little bit of time to write, time to record, and a little bit of time off after recording, but we hit it pretty hard, and we love it.
NG: I would never claim “ultimate road dog,” is what I’m sayin’ or ever say we tour more than most people or anything like that.

M: Tell me about the Danzig tour, because everybody’s impression is Glenn Danzig’s a giant dick.
He’s awesome.
SH: To be honest, you couldn’t pay us to say a bad word about him, and it’s not because we’re kissin’ ass, it’s because he’s fucking cool.

M: You hear so many stories about how he treats opening bands, though.
I’ll tell you two things I really, really admire about the guy. The second day of the tour we’re hanging out in our dressing room getting wasted, partying, carrying on and shit. We watched all of his set except for the encore because we went back up [to our dressing room]. He finished his set, Danzig comes back into his dressing room, which is right next to ours. We didn’t know this, but he’s like “Who the fuck is in there being ridiculous?” And his security told him it’s Skeletonwitch. So dudes from our band are hanging out in the room, and all the sudden the door gets kicked in and Glenn Danzig is like, “What the fuck is so funny in here?” It was dead silence for five, 10 seconds or whatever. After the silence, we’re all shitting our pants thinking we’re going home, and he’s like “What’s up? I’m Glenn,” and shakes everybody’s hand and gives us a heavy metal pep talk. He’s like, “Welcome to the tour. I think Beyond The Permafrost is a killer record. So steal my fans, party your ass off, fuck lots of chicks, but run a tight ship. Beyond The Permafrost is a good record, so don’t fuck it up.” And then he invited us to his green room to drink beer with him. And then the second thing I’ll say about him is that on his days off he goes to independent record stores, used book stores, and art galleries and buys shit. He’ll always mention new bands. He totally still gives a fuck about music. He’s got plenty of money. He doesn’t need to tour for money. He’s not doing it for the money. He’s doing it because he enjoys it, and the fact he still goes and seeks out new bands and does something like throw a band like us a bone is killer. It had nothing to do with labels; it had nothing to do with red tape. I called Prosthetic Records and said “Guess what? We’re touring with Danzig.” And they said “No fuckin’ way!” Glenn listened to the CD, and Glenn’s manager e-mailed me, I called them, and they said Glenn wants you on this tour. So it wasn’t the typical, weird buy-in, red-tape label guy schmooze out. And that’s awesome. So fuck, he’s a righteous fucking dude for still giving a fuck about a young band like us and trying to help us.

— Trevor Fisher

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