Hails, when and how did "Witches Mark" originally form?
Hails Osiris! We originally formed in October of 2005. The initial line-up was comprised of myself on guitar, Steve Perez of Demontuary as the other guitarist, Michael Lance (Reverend, Ancient Cross) on vocals and a keyboardist and drummer. We launched a rough demo recording of the song "A Grim Apparition" on our Myspace page and that garnered enough interest from around the world to justify recording more material. Our first official release was a cover of the Angel Witch song "Something Wrong" from the often overlooked "Frontal Assault" record. This cover track was featured on the German released "Tribute To Angel Witch" CD that was released by Unbroken Records.
After we completed recording the cover song we began recording our debut EP "A Grim Apparition" that was eventually released through Heaven and Hell Records in October of 2009. The EP was moderately successful and we received a fair amount of pre-orders for the disc, mostly from overseas metal fans in Germany, Sweden and Norway. We even received a letter from a fan in Saudi Arabia so we are pretty confident that our record label Heaven and Hell Records, who has distribution through Century Media, Relapse Records and Sentinel Steel to name a few, helped get the word out on our music.
What does the the name of your band mean to you?
During the Salem Witch Trials, if you had an odd birthmark or perhaps carried a different ideology than your peers, you might have been branded a "Witch" and burned alive on a stake as a crowd of holier than thou observers watched you meet your demise.
Nowadays, I feel our band name appeals to those who have been labeled an outcast by society and those people who are drawn to dark supernatural imagery and of course, killer heavy metal music.
Who composed the music and lyrics for your songs and what was their inspiration?
On the "A Grim Apparition" EP I composed all of the music and our singer at the time Michael Lance wrote all of the lyrics. Michael was replaced last spring on vocals by Robb Bockman the other guitarist in Witches Mark, who now handles both guitar and vocals and we have been writing the music and lyrics together for our new album.
I would say our musical inspiration has been growing up as lifelong fans of heavy metal music. This is not a hobby for us, this is what we have always wanted to be doing, delivering our metal message to the masses and we conjure whatever necessary lyrical subject matter that we feel the music calls for. Sometimes a song will guide you to the lyrical content. All you need to do sometimes is just close your eyes and listen closely to the riffs and your mind will wander. If you can capture your thoughts and put pen to paper quick enough, that is usually the best solution.
Some songs have a certain eerieness that might suggest supernatural or blasphemous lyrical content. Other times we just might wanna celebrate this great music and sing a metal anthem about getting rowdy and wild at a metal show and cranking the amps to eleven like on "Witching Metal Ritual" a song off our soon to be released second CD. It's really whatever the music calls for.
Tell me about the debut EP "A Grim Apparition", Was this release accepted by the metal community in your country?
I would say to a certain degree it was embraced, however we realize and accept that the metal scene in America is overcrowded by too many trendy poser bands that cater to teenagers that hang out at the shopping mall. There will always be a select group of really great American heavy metal bands and I can tell you that they have never received the attention over here that they so rightly deserve.
We are an underground heavy metal band in the purest sense of the term. I can tell you that every member of Witches Mark is a lifelong, devoted heavy metal fan and it is that true metal spirit that carries more weight than album sales in my book. We are just as excited to be selling CD's to fans in Europe or Scandinavia or Mexico and hopefully someday Venezuela, as we are to be successful here in the United States.
I gotta tell you Osiris, one of the biggest thrills of having our music out there in these other countries was that one fan who ordered our CD and t-shirt sent me a picture of himself wearing a Witches Mark shirt at the Keep It True Festival in Germany. Right then and there I knew that we were living our dream, reaching our target audience and I was just so proud to achieve that kind of thing as a band.
Describe the process of composing the new album? How do you decide on the musical direction and lyrics?
Well in regards to that I would have to say that we all share similar metal influences. A lot of journalists who have reviewed our music scratch their heads and are unsure as to what they can tag us under. We've got black metal riffs here, thrash riffs there, doom influences, traditional heavy metal influences and so on and so forth. Really we just all get in a room and drink a lot of beer and bounce ideas off each other until we've got some structure and then Robb and I will start coming up with the phrasing for the vocals and once the phrasing is in place, how you sing the part, once that's in place we'll just put our heads together and put down some lyrics.
What do you wish to convey to your fans through your music?
I'd have to say that we wish to convey our love of metal. We make this music for ourselves, because as metal fans this is the kind of music that we want to hear. But we also make this music for all of the other metal fans out there because we're pretty sure that a lot of them will dig it too. We grew up listening to the greatest heavy metal bands ever like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar, Dio, Accept, Black Sabbath. What is really scary is as the years progress a lot of these bands that we grew up with are getting older and retiring and in some instances tragically passing away. We want to keep the flame of heavy metal alive for generations to come.
We see all of these other so-called metal bands walking around town dressed in girl jeans, painting their finger nails and putting all this styling gel in their hair and sounding like a bunch of whiny rich kid brats and they make us want to puke. Revolver Magazine music. That's not right. They aren't metal. We are trying to keep the musical ideals of our forefathers alive first and foremost. Heavy metal music to us is sacred and timeless and we are going to do our part to make sure it is properly represented and here to stay for years to come.
Tell me about the guest appearances on your upcoming album. Ross The Boss who is a founding member of American heavy metal legends Manowar and Jack Starr the former lead guitarist of Virgin Steele both contribute guest guitar solos on the new record and Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys, Watchtower and Evil United recorded guest vocals for the new album. How did these collaborations come about and what was it like to work with these guys?
It was a dream come true or us. When I first moved to Austin, Texas from Portland, Oregon in the mid-nineties, all I heard around town was talk about the Godfather of Texas metal Jason McMaster. Our paths would cross over the years and I made it a personal goal that at some point we would collaborate on some music together. I had always only hoped to get to the level where I could work with the best metal talent this city could offer and Jason did not let me down. He is the Godfather of Texas metal and he is every bit as good as people make him out to be. A total professional and an honor to work with.
When it comes to Ross The Boss and Jack Starr, let me just preface that by saying when we lost our original lead singer the pressure was on us to deliver, in terms of creating and recording a killer follow up album to "A Grim Apparition". We had talked as a band about potentially including some guest appearances on the second CD to really make this next album over the top.
The three artists that contributed where the three artists that we had all agreed on working with as a band. Someone said to me, "Robert, you got Jason McMaster on your album. I can get you this guy and this guy to be on your new album." and I said "No way!" The three artists we asked to contribute were all some of our favorite metal musicians as a band. Incredible... We are so thankful that they all did us the honor of playing on our album.
Ross The Boss and Jack Starr are both heavy metal guitar heroes of mine. These are guys who forged the sound of New York heavy metal in the early eighties and they are like gods to me and to have them jamming with us on the new album is such an honor and just larger than life. Something I'll never, ever forget. If we never recorded another album I could die happy knowing that I worked with my idols...but at the same time I hope we stick around long enough to record a few more albums for all of the fucking heavy metal maniacs reading this at home!
Do you guys have any other projects that you'll be working on in the future? Any videos?
Yeah, I mean we all stay pretty busy. Andy our bass player is a founding member of the cult thrash band Hammerwhore and he just started a side project called Cruxiter with most of the other Hammerwhore alumni. They have a strong NWOBHM influence and I totally expect them to have inked a deal by the time this interview is posted. Robb plays in the black metal band Panzergod and they will be featured in the upcoming motion picture "Metal Messiah: Born Again Sage". Both myself and our drummer Scott Palmer are former members of the black metal band Of the Fallen who went on to change their name to Demontuary and neither one of us has anything going on besides Witches Mark. That is our main focus, our main priority.
As far as videos you can find several of our songs on Youtube. Just type "Witches Mark" into the search engine on Youtube and you will soon be enjoying our metal!
Who are your favorite bands?
I'm into traditional heavy metal, thrash, power, speed, black, death and doom. My favorite bands are probably Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar, Accept, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Lizzy Borden, Dissection, Destruction, Kreator, Candlemass, Luciferion, Vile, Sodom, Lost Horizon, Marduk and the list goes on and on and on. It's neverending really... I could keep going if you got more time.
In conclusion, I thank you for answering these questions and I send you a big greeting from XMG Venezuela and Pest Webzine, would you like to add anything more for metal fans reading at home around the world?
Yeah I would actually, I'd like to add that I think what you're doing here is really cool, reaching out to underground bands like us for an interview. We are all big fans of Pest webzine, I really liked the interview Pest conducted with Illdisposed, I thought it was a great read and let me also tell you Osiris, we as a band are all HUGE fans of XMG. We have printed out your photos and pasted them on the wall at our rehearsal space and we frequently turn to you girls for inspiration while we're jamming! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk metal with me, I consider it an honor and anyone reading at home we'd love to hear from you. Check us out at www.witches-mark.com or www.facebook.com/witchesmarkband
Questions by: Osiris Stefanelli XMG
Answers by: Robert Willians (Witches Mark)