Interview: Witch

Less weed, more speed
By CHRIS CONTI  |  February 18, 2009

FAIR WARNING "Better bring your earplugs."

In search of some delightfully deafening sonic sludge this weekend? Head to AS220 for what should be a beast of a triple bill with local supergroup Megasus (Royal Crowns, Lightning Bolt) and San Diego noisemongers Earthless opening for Witch, a quartet led by singer Kyle Thomas and fellow guitarist Antoine Guerlain of Vermont's space-folk outfit Feathers, along with Amherst neighbors Dave Sweetapple on bass and one J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr on drums, relinquishing his usual guitar hero antics in favor of his first love (Mascis started out behind the kit with Deep Wound more than 20 years ago). Their sophomore release, Paralyzed (Tee Pee Records), is decidedly louder, speedier, and crunchier than their acclaimed 2006 self-titled debut; think Black Sabbath-meets-Black Flag this time around. While Mascis wraps up another new J-Lou-Murph Dinosaur Jr album set for release this summer, Dave Sweetapple answered our email Q&A.

Kyle described the new album as "less weed, more speed." Did you guys set out to make a faster, heavier record this time around? And what do you think about terms like "doom metal" and "stoner rock" always thrown your way?
Yeah, this time around we thought it would be good to draw a little from the faster side of what influences us rather than the slow. We experimented more with different sounds by using various amps and pedals, so there are more diverse tones on Paralyzed over the first one. On the self-titled LP, we pretty much used a small Fender Champ amp for both the guitar and bass, whereas on Paralyzed we pulled out different amps on each song, going for a heavier sound on each take. With regards to the terms "doom" and "stoner rock," we didn't set out to be grouped into one particular ghetto, but in the end it doesn't matter. We let the listener call it whatever they want.

Do you and J work on a rhythm first, or just crank it up and let it go? How involved is J in the songwriting process?
Actually, Kyle writes most of the songs. He'll make a rough demo and then give it to us individually and generally we'll come up with parts, get together and see if they work as a band, and then lay it down. We are actually working on material for the third album and this time might be different. I know J wrote something that he wants us to try, and so far we all have bits and pieces of songs that we need to run by each other. We never know until we start the recording.

Any tracks in particular offParalyzed that the band enjoys playing live?
I guess it's kind of fun to play "Mutated" because it's the closest thing we have to a full-on punk song, a la the Damned. "Sweet Sue" is kind of cool too because it's the closest thing we'll ever have to a ballad.

With J's ongoing commitment to the successful Dinosaur reunion, does the Witch schedule and future hinge upon his involvement?
J is very much a part of Witch, but we are aware that Dinosaur is his day job. That said, he doesn't want to hold us back, so last fall we had booked a West Coast tour, but Dinosaur got this late confirmation to do some festival, so we just had Mario from Earthless fill in on drums and it worked out really well. But it was tough on Mario because he played a full set with Earthless and then jumped right back behind the kit to play the Witch set.

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