Interview with Robb Bockman, By Eric May
Witches Mark are back with another metal release that keeps it true, but allows influences of black and death metal into the mix. But you won’t hear any djent, core, or prog here. Robb doesn’t even know what they are! And if that sounds good to you, then chances are that this is the band you’ve been waiting for. I spoke with Robb for a bit about the new release, Witching Metal Ritual as he assured me that his Mercyful Fate and Venom records do not and never will have an inch of dust on them. If it’s too loud, then you’re too old!
The debut album, Witching Metal Ritual sounds like a hearken back to metal's roots. Did you guys think that it was finally time to start dusting off those old Mercyful Fate and Venom records and bring that inspiration back into the scene?
My Mercyful Fate and Venom records have not and will never have dust on them. I think Witching Metal Ritual speaks for itself as a collection of metal anthems, as true fans of the craft we just set out to make a heavy record. It is an honour to hear those comparisons but there is no comparing to those bands. Metal has never left the scene and cannot be destroyed. If more people looked beyond their iTunes collection and actually ventured out and discovered some of the truly killer metal that is coming out of the underground scene there would be less of the generic bullshit that has been dominating as of late.
The album really has a bit of everything on it, except for modern nuances like core and djent. What do you think of the core and djent usage in metal and do you think these are "true" evolutions?
I have no fucking clue what "djent" is or "core" for that matter. As time goes on more and more sub-genres get attached and labelled, too many people pay attention to that shit and miss out on some great metal. Does it kick ass or does it suck ass? That is all the labelling it should take.
What was it like recording the album? Did you just knock back a few and jam out?
This album was far different than anything I've ever done in the past. We handled tracking for everything ourselves except for drums and mixing/mastering. We commissioned Stuart "Batlord" Laurence and Brendon Bigelow from Isotopia Studios in Austin. They also play in Ignitor who fucking slay and we knew they would get the results we were after. As for my tracking, I did the guitars and vocals in my studio, which was gruelling for me at times; but on the other hand it gave me the opportunity to be my own taskmaster and really create without the usual financial restraints. Many rituals were performed during the making of this album I can assure you.
How long did it take to write the album? Is there anything that you'd go back and change if you had time?
We started writing for this album just after A Grim Apparition was released in 2009. During this time we went through some line-up changes. Scott Palmer signed on to play drums, we knew of Scott from another Austin based band (Demontuary). We all knew his brand of maniacal drumming would give us the foundation of steel we needed to forge some epic fucking metal. The first incarnation of Witches Mark was fronted by Michael Lance, (Ancient Cross) but we eventually decided to go a different way and that's when Robert and I came up with a kind of hybrid of Black/Death with a more traditional vocal approach. If I could’ve gone back and changed anything I would have preferred to be sponsored by Ninkasi Brewing Co. and have a recording facility/distillery/strip club and dispensary to write and record in.
What are your promotion plans for the album? Are you guys going to make a video or just do a heck of a lot of touring, or a combination of the two?
What do you want people to feel when they listen to this album? Do you think that younger heads will appreciate it? I've heard that some of these younger guys won't listen to shit like Slayer and Venom because it's "too old."
I want people to take this disc, put in their stereo and turn that shit up until blood and beer are flowing with horns in the air. If the younger crowd can’t appreciate it, then fuck them.
What bands are you guys currently into these days? Just the old favorites, or is there any new blood that you want to tell us about?
I know Robert and I have been listening to Skeletor, I tend to like more classic metal like Holocaust or Candlemass. I've been listening to I as well, fucking brilliant!
If heavy metal in its true form had a recipe, what would that recipe entail? What are the ingredients that make up true heavy metal?
That is a recipe to be discovered, not elaborated upon.
What kinds of guitars, bass, drums did you guys play on the album? What kind of tuning did you use to capture that old school tone?
I used an Ibanez 7 string which was tuned a whole step down to A which would put it to D tuning for a six string. I used the seventh string in Bringers of Heavy Metal Death and Slaves To Their Own Sin which added a unique tone to the punches I thought. Robert used a Les Paul and Andy used some Ibanez.
Do you think that metal just sounds too polished these days? It's even kind of funny when you hear these re-masters of old albums like Blind Guardian's Guardian Of The Blind, Death's Leprosy and Morbid Angel's Altars Of Madness and they just sound a lot clearer than they ever would have back in the day.
A lot of re-released albums are just heavily processed and compressed for maximum signal. The kicks and snare lose major impact; I tend to like records with maximum dynamics. You don't need the loudest track on the block, just the best riffs. People can turn up the volume for themselves.
What do you guys do when you're not serenading foul demons of the abyss through the alchemical practice of heavy metal?
Metal is our way of life. It is all we do. It is why we are here.
What was it like working with such legends as Ross "The Boss" Friedman, Jack Starr, Jason McMaster and Martin Debourge? How did these awesome interactions come about?
Working with everyone was an unparalleled honour. Who could ask for more than having your Metal Idols contribute their take on your music? There is no way to describe it. Obviously Manowar, Virgin Steel and Damien Thorne were huge influences for all of us. For me, working with Jason Mcmaster was so fucking rad. When I first listened to Dangerous Toys growing up, his raspy vocals were such an influence on me and to have that voice on a Witches Mark track was like none other. We just reached out to everyone with the tracks we wanted their sound on and luckily got a green light, so the rest is history.
Thanks for your answers and for a true heavy metal record. Glad to hear it, the scene really needs a good kick in the ass right now!
Thank You for supporting Witches Mark, Hails!