Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Midwest Metal Issue #20 Flashback…1999/2009

So 10 years ago this was one of the issues that came out in 1999, #20. On the old Midwest Metal website I had four interviews from #20 there and I wanted to re-post them here in the now. You’ll see two sets of notes, these are my thoughts on the pieces in 2001 and my current 2009 thoughts. All I can say is it’s been a fast decade! Usurper, Sleep and Soilent Green coming soon…

2009 Notes: Still love this album, still love this band. When this interview was conducted Burning Witch was an active band, sometimes it's hard to remember as they've been broken up for well over a decade. However the legacy they laid out over a very short time continues to grow. 'Crippled Lucifer' was re-released by Southern Lord in 2008 and Stephen is still doing everything under the Sunn related to the dark arts.

2001 Notes: One of the greatest Doom Metal albums ever was and is 'Crippled Lucifer' by Burning Witch. This interview was done a few years ago when the record came out, I spoke to Stephen O'Malley who some of you may know from his magazine, Descent as well as his artwork and design. Don't really know what happened with the band but their legendary status as a pure cult band fits better than anything. This interview ain't the best but the band still rules.

Recently, there's been a few somewhat high profile (meaning, you're hearing a lot about them) releases from the Los Angeles label Southern Lord. The two being
Thorr's Hammer with 'Dommedagsnatt' and the other one I will be talking about shortly is 'Crippled Lucifer' by Burning Witch. I spoke to the Witch's Stephen O'Malley about the doom masterpiece that is 'Crippled Lucifer'.

Midwest Metal: Seeing that you'll be a "new" band to readers here in Chicago, start with the beginning of the Witch.

Stephen O'Malley: Thorr's Hammer broke up in the middle of 1995, me and Greg (Anderson) and Jamie (Sykes) wanted to continue doing something else. So we took a bit of a break between the two bands when Greg went out on tour with another band of his. So when he came back that Fall, we started jamming again, found a bass player named Stuart and once we started playing with him, it was all over!

We played, did some shows which leads us to the summer of '96, Greg moved to L.A. (from Seattle) we continued with the band and we then had an opportunity to record, we did. A producer named Steve Albini recorded what turned out to be the 'Towers' recording which was going to be put out on Metalion's label Head Not Found. But he flaked out on that, so. We then recorded some new material in March of '97, that was the 'Rift Canyon Dreams' as soon as that was done I moved to England, that was when the band broke up.

At the beginning of this year, 1998, I had to come back to the states and Greg had released both recordings on CD and the old line up got back together. We did two shows, one in LA, one in San Francisco . Our friend Chris Dodge (Slap A Ham) put the 'Towers' out on LP in Oct., so we're going to try to keep it going and doing new material. We've written one new song so far, and soon we'll be working on a lot more.

Thorr's Hammer and Burning Witch possess different styles, was it a conscious thing to go in a different direction?

It wasn't really planned, ya know? It was just a chemistry that blended when we played together, even the new song, it sounds similar to the 'Rift…', it's just really slow, atmospheric, trance type stuff. But the sound is not a concept, it just happens that way.

Is there any sort of lyrical concept?

Not that I know, I've only read a few of his (Edgy/Vox) lyrics, and it's his dissecting of his problems, love songs if you will. Not that I mean love of women, but just things he loves in his life, negative things seeing that the lyrics are so dark.

You said that Stuart's involvement in Burning Witch was a factor in the sound, did he bring in different ideas/ influences?

Well, when he joined the band, it changed the chemistry for the better. The bass player in Thorr's Hammer was just had this nondescript way of playing bass. And, band wise, we've always had different musical backgrounds, which may not influence what we're doing now, but it does have an impact along the way. Stuart's influence was timing, he kept it all together.

What are you looking to accomplish with the new music you're doing?

I guess I just want to create something that is so droning, trance and very unusual and an uncomfortable atmosphere, be it from the volume or the tone of the riffs. That along with the timing. I also learn a lot from playing with them.

Is there ever a chance of a tour?

Stuart wants to do a West Coast tour, but getting in a van for a month may not be the best. I'd like to do Washington D.C. , Chicago , New York .

[A]Chicago [show] would be cool.

Yeah, I've been hearing a lot about the Chicago scene, sounds like the antithesis of the Seattle scene. There's some conflict, huh?

Yeah, you can say that.

But it shows that there are a lot of heavy, violent bands from your area and it's cool that it's not all bullshit.