Band Interview: Witch Hands (Republished)
( The interview was originally published in August 2018 - everything is the same as it was, except for the logo a bottom)
When did "WitchHands" start and what is the meaning behind your band name?
Batboy: It started after my last band and I parted ways in 2016 (?). We submitted a few names to each other and stuck with WitchHands. The name came from a mushroom trip I was on with my girlfriend.
Sleazy B: Batboy and I had been talking about starting a band for a few months and when he parted ways with his old band he shot me a message.
Jodajen: I came on with WitchHands in early on when the previous bassist left to pursue his solo project. The name meaning question has to go to Batboy.
Broody: Though i had talked about doing music with both Batsy and Ryan separately for years, i was spending most of my time out of town for work, and despite having played and written music since the dawn of time, had never performed in front of an audience, or been in a band that lasted beyond the third practice session. It wasn't until after i had a pretty nasty accident in late 2015 that left me unable to go back to my job that i finally had the time, though i was still in recovery and had to retrain my hands for any sort of dexterity, so i was spending a lot of time writing and trying to play guitar to that end. When they initially asked me to come jam in 2016, i wasn't sure i could keep up yet, but had no reason not to try. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ryan: Broody and I had talked about starting a band among other things since the mid 2000’s, when we met. As far as I know, WH started in late 2016 over a group chat (that we still use.) Bats had always wanted to start a Deathrock band. (It sort of runs in his family.)
Batboy got voted out of his own horror punk band Terrible Tom and the Dingbats. Somethign about having a second guitarist for a moment in time, and several of the members wanting to go in a Primus style direction. Then they broke up shortly afterward anyway...That breakup formed 39 Lost, a local …”deathpunk(?)” band that the former singer, Danny Vigilante and Batboy are in now. But that was after we formed as WitchHands. I get added to a chat out of nowhere where it’s been discussed for a few weeks prior. At that point I was the only one who was willing to try singing AND had a car to meet up. So they come to my house one evening with beer and pizza. I brew some tea, grab a Nick Cave songbook, and my acoustic guitar. I had just a passing familiarity with deathrock or the bands Bats and B were naming off. So it’s Batboy, who I was getting to know, Daniel who I’d seen around, and this little tatted out punk B who I’d never met. We stood in the kitchen and I growled some Cave melodies, and they politely asked me to sing normally. Jodajen was my housemate, and he popped his head in and awkwardly interrupted to ask if we were “rocking out.” I think we sort of collectively shrugged. Somehow I was good enough, and to this day I’m not sure I’ve ever met the other guy that couldn’t make it.
I think at that point Broody had expressed interest (but wasn’t present.) We decided to meet at Daniel’s house where his bass, drums, and home studio were. As I recall we jammed out, and I was wretched at scales, timing, or anything else in a group on guitar. I was also shy on vox. (Thank fuck for it being punk based and my having done some theater. You can see me clinging to the mic stand for dear life in video of our first show.)
Daniel, B, and Bats came up with about 3 riffs they liked and slammed them together to write the instrumentation for Derelict. I then took the recording to work and wrote lyrics and melody to it. Daniel wrote bass riffs on chord progressions that Darkness. Broody and I edited the Lord Byron poem into lyrics for it. And then we were writing a song per practice, and we came up with Ozymandias. Broody had some old lyrics based on the eponymous Shelley poem. I edited them into the song structure and boom. Three song demo. Around that time, Daniel had been working on his solo project Elay Arson. He produced our demo and bowed out to focus on it, which I think has worked out well for everyone.
We ended up asking Jodajen to play bass, because he had been playing a band’s worth of instruments to some degree since the 80’s, and he liked the Mission UK and Cure side of the goth scene. (He has now become songwriter, tech support, recording engineer, producer, and he has a truck we use for gigging. So he’s definitely key to everything we’ve done since.)
Somewhere in there we decided on WitchHands as a name to drop the demo, but that’s for Bats to tell. I recall it wasn’t my first choice, but it’s grown on me, odd spelling and all.
Broody, our photographer Lashonda, and I pooled money to get a bass and an amp, and for two seconds I thought I would try bass. But since I have a hard time learning anything, we asked Jodajen to try his hand at it. (I’m always amazed when people just do shit after seeing it once, but damn if he didn’t.) Bats booked us a gig in Denver opening on a big lineup for Discount Cinema’s album premiere.That forced us to get our shit together until we were tight enough and had enough material to play. I think this was less than 2 months after Jodajen joined. As I recall the show was the night of the yuuuge women’s march against Trump. We dedicated Ozymandias to the short fingered vulgarian himself. Broody also had a couple of old songs in his back pocket, and Daniel and I worked on an arrangement of Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour, because I have always been convinced those lyrics would sound menacing in any rock genre. Our friends turned out in droves, we sold merch I’d screen printed on a school desk, and came away thinking this was a pretty sweet job.
We put it the demo on Bandcamp and Soundcloud in the leadup to the show. To this day, it’s amazing how far it’s gone. We always think “Well, this might be the peak.” Since we didn’t expect to go beyond a garage, in a small city, playing an obscure genre. Broody and I were shocked to hear our own song come up on a Youtube playlist randomly not long after, and that’s almost like hearing yourself on the radio these days.
How many band members are there and what do they do?
Batboy: There's 5 of us. I play guitar, Brian plays drums, Josh on bass, Lance on keys and vocals, and Ryan on vocals
Sleazy B: I play drums
Jodajen: I play bass… although I would say my root instrument is guitar… although I can get around on many instruments… although I would say my current passion lies in composing music, so any specific instrument is irrelevant. But yes, I play bass. Broody: With five, i would make a Spice Girls joke, but i think we all want to be the scary one. I play keys, sing backup, write, and am the emotionally vulnerable middle-child of the band. Like much of the band, i’m a multi-instrumentalist and would love to play other things as well as our sound evolves, but space restraints on the road probably demand i leave the carillon at home.
Ryan: I sing, share lyrical duties with Broody, design our aesthetic, do social media, make the merch. Occasionally present a guitar riff.
What would be your dream gig?
Batboy: I have no idea honestly as I've never really thought about it!
Sleazy B: My dream gig would be a fall festival somewhere with lots of bands with a darker sound whether that be goth,deathrock, psychobilly, post, horror and dark punk bands that have been emerging in the last few years.
Jodajen: I think my mind imagines playing one of those festivals with thousands and thousands of people chanting your songs. I think of that festival Queen played and what a rush that must have been. I hope to experience that at least once before I die.
Broody: Most of my dream venues have either been torn down or converted into coffee shops, so i guess i just want to play on a pile of rubble that used to be a venue. But seriously, i’d love to play in a ruin with good acoustics, like the Theatre of Dionysus in Rome.
I fanboy hard over my musical heroes, so if we ever got to open for any of the great classic goth artists it would be a dream to just share the stage with them, either opening or as part of a festival.
Ryan: Anything where I can make enough to live on. Preferably playing with the old ass bands we listen to. And the awesome new ones coming up. Where isn’t as interesting to me. I’ve joked that I’d be down to play the Superbowl, Warped Tour, Holiday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, and whatever else. We’re always the “turd in the punchbowl” anyway, as Bats puts it.
What has been your favorite venue to play this far?
Batboy: Probably Bar Sinister or Moe’s BBQ up in Denver
Sleazy B: Bar sinister was great. Our first mini “tour” if you will and everything was in full effect. The vibe was great and it was a lot of fun. I also dig the diy venues we play as the people that go out to those shows just seem to not have a problem opening up and getting wild. I don’t like playing shows where people just stand around, I vibe off of the crowds energy.
Jodajen: Going out to L.A. and playing at Bar Sinister was a very memorable experience. The sound. The people. The atmosphere. Everything was awesome! Broody: Bar Sinister was great, in part because they’ve got their shit together on sound, but honestly the tiny local DIY venues and dive bars are always so much fun. The love we get there is palpable. Ryan: The Roxy (Denver) would win if we hadn’t played Bar Sinister (LA) already. I’ve also really enjoyed the dive bars and DIY venues where you can get down in the crowd and scream with the masses. Those are the places we get moshpits. Who came up with the logo?
Batboy: The logos came from Ryan and we all just vote on them putting in our two cents on what we think needs tweaking.
Sleazy B: Ryan for the most part.
Jodajen: We’re all artists of multiple mediums so I think everything about WitchHands gets touched by, or critiqued from each of us. But I would say Ryan does most of the final output. Broody: Which one? We’ve already used a few different variants. Final touch-ups and whatnot are by committee, as with everything, but Ryan, Bats, and I have all come up with different designs we use.
Ryan: I did. Broody and I were brainstorming at my place and it was one of 3(?) I presented from a sketch book, over the chat. That scratchy, blackmetal looking logo is a scan of the one I designed to be made with sticks. Jodajen and I have refined it a couple of times since, but the nice clean one we use for things where we want people to be able to read it was all Broody. That WH on the demo cover and glyph we made out of it is also from the original sketches. I’m told people think it’s lines of coke, but they’re just drastically enlarged pencil marks. Bats also did a Goetic doodle on a post-it note while he was bored at work. I fleshed it out, that ended up becoming our album cover for A Voice and Nothing More.
Who writes the music? And lyrics?
Batboy: We all do. We all even write the lyrics and music almost simultaneously too. It's nice working and composing with this group because we never tend to dislike what we're piecing together.
Sleazy B: we all touch and have input on all aspects of our songs and that is what I love about this band. We are not afraid to tell each other that this part or that part is not good or just ok and we all work on fixing it.
Jodajen: Again, everything is touched by all of us. I do write a lot of music, and I’m very analytical and intentional about it, but little gets picked up to be a WitchHands tune. But happily all of us collaborating is what makes a WitchHands song a WitchHands song. Broody: We write our lyrics by ouija board. The music usually comes later, in fever dreams.
Ryan: It’s definitely a group effort. Broody and I have written the vast majority of the lyrics (or adapted them,) everyone else has done the majority of the music. But we don’t really have strict roles, we just sort of collectively chime in to make it better. What’s interesting is the evolution of things before we record them, because we keep tweaking it, even after we’ve been playing it live.
What is your message to the audience?
Batboy: No clue
Sleazy B: I like to think of our message as an escape from everyday life. I want people to come out and have a good time. Talk to people you never have before. I don’t think we currently have a direct message and I find that this first record we are wrapping up is really our first phase of the band. We have all grown stronger as a band and vibe off each other stronger than ever so who knows? The next album may have more of a message.
Jodajen: I’m probably the most optimistic member of the band. Although anyone one of us would disappoint someone looking for company to drown their sad existence with, lol. But my message is always to be your own self to your core. And to treat each day, and every experience as a gift. Oh, and friends don’t let friends use Android phones, yeah, that too. Broody: Life is too damned short not to do stupid and dangerous things, like breaking into hotel swimming pools, staying awake for a whole week writing your magnum opus, challenging strangers to dance, drinking cheap champagne in the shower at midnight while blaring Richard Wagner, burning down city hall, or falling in love.
Ryan: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
This is an old question; but what are each of your musical influences?
Batboy: For me, mostly typical deathrock and post-punk bands, Dir En Grey and Nim Vind as well.
Sleazy B: I have a strong love of deathrock and post punk whether it be old or the new “dark” punk sound that has come out in the last decade. I also use influences from the 80’s LA hardcore scene as well. Influences for me though range through all the music I listen to from black metal to rockabilly to punk and everything in between.
Jodajen: I’ve gone through chapters of my life where my musical influence evolve. Each one playing a big role. The beginning and foundation started in high school with The Cure. They really helped shape, I believe, who I am today. Then The Mission UK started a more cognizant refinery. Into adulthood I connected, and still do, connect very deeply with Tool. And then a deviation into a more broad identity led me to Circa Survive. Those represent my pillars, but a few honorable mentions who round out my influences, in no particular order, include Deftones, Coheed and Cambria, Thrice, O’Brother, Jonny Craig (Dance Gavin Dance, Emarose, Slaves), Portishead, Banks and Massive Attack. In a nutshell, anything where passion and purpose ooze out of every pore. Broody: I adore 80s English post-punk: Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Danse Society, The Cure, March Violets, Chameleons, 1919, etc. Most of what i listen to when writing, however, is from a bit further east: Bloc Rock and stuff like Siekiera, cold i, Pasarea Phoenix, Lucidvox, or Кино́. I think the band that most convinced me to stop just being a fan and actually go play are New Jersey troublemakers, the World/Inferno Friendship Society.
Ryan: I always think I’m a diverse, expansive sponge for music until I turn on a radio.
In no particular I really like Soul, Blues, Funk, Jazz, Heavy Metal, Grunge, Trip-Hop, Proto-Punk, Post-Punk, Jangle Pop, Post-Rock, “Classic” Goth, Classic Rock, Classical, Alt-Country, and who knows what I’m leaving off.
Narrowing it down some, a few favorite bands would be The Chameleons UK, Sisters of Mercy, Nick Cave, Siouxsie, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Wilson Pickett, Judas Priest, The Builders and the Butchers, Killing Joke, NIN, Portishead, Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath, Howlin’ Wolf, Bright Channel, Mad Season, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin. For the band specifically, I don’t know that I have an answer. I’m sort of a middle ground in tastes between the “lighter” stuff Broody and Jodajen are into, and the “crazy” stuff Bats and B are into. I’m coming from a direction that’s thematically dark. I love blue notes, hard downbeats, and visceral lyrics.
Do you guys have a superstition as a band? Or a motto?
Batboy: We don't to my knowledge
Sleazy B: I am not sure about superstition as a band or necessarily a motto. I think that we all can collectively agree that we are doing this out of a love for music.
Jodajen: Not so much, but I do find it a bit creepy that the majority of the band really wants to play in Salem around Halloween. Can you say Blair Witch, WitchHands style? Broody: Banshees. The guys won’t admit it, but we’re all completely terrified of banshees. Steve Severin in particular.
Ryan: I think wanting to rehearse to the point that Bats can play drunk, I can gloss over dropped lyrics, Broody can look at a note to get around brain problems, and we can all overcome bad sound monitors is the closest we have to a superstition. Takes me forever to learn a song, so I always want to rehearse it until everyone else is sick of it. I wouldn’t say we have a motto, but we do have a series of ridiculous hand gestures. Maybe we should come up with a handshake…
Have any of you guys been in other bands? Or currently in other bands?
Batboy: I used to be in a local band a few years ago and am currently in another with Sleazy.
Sleazy B: I have been in a few local punk and metal bands around Colorado Springs and currently Aaron and I are in this punk band called 39lost
Jodajen: I started writing music in high school. I had a band back then that I wrote, sang and played guitar in. Through the years, I’ve written a lot of music and played with rotating musicians. WitchHands is the first that has come this far, and I couldn’t be happier. But I do still write my own songs. Not for the purpose of having another band and playing live, but to emote the sounds rolling around inside my head. Maybe the world will hear some of it someday. Broody: As i said earlier, i tried a few times before to do music, but WitchHands is thus far the only time i’ve stuck with it past the first few practice sessions. There are still projects i’d like to dabble in, but i don’t think any of them will replace this for me.
Ryan: I count WitchHands as my first and only real band at the moment.
In highschool I tried a couple of times to get something going, playing guitar. And over a decade ago I hung out with a bunch of metalheads and even sang at a show with them. But ultimately they were on the escalator of trying to be more technical and brutal than everyone else. I would be playing Sisters of Mercy and Black Sabbath on my Strat, trying to explain that you don’t have to do that to be heavy, or even good. Different strokes, I guess.
I’m always down to collaborate or sing bad karaoke with folks.
Have you guys ever thought of playing on a mountain since you live in Colorado? That would be sick.
Batboy: I don't like going outdoors
Sleazy B: I would really like to play on top of a mountain but I am pretty sure I would pass out...it’s pretty thin air up there. We also have Red Rocks here in Colorado and that is definitely a goal to play.
Jodajen: My body is in Colorado, but my mind is in Hawaii. Broody: gods we’re already at six-thousand-plus feet, what more do you people want from us
Ryan: Well, I assume it’s fairly universal to want to play Red Rocks here in Colorado. In our home town of Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods would also make a sweet place to play with enough extension cables. I think if you get enough into black and white imagery, dark themes, and playing in the mountains and forests, eventually people will just assume you’re Black Metal. Maybe I’ll start painting my face and make our logo more illegible...
But like I said, I’m always happy to play wherever.
Have any new music coming out? A tour?
Batboy: We've got an album coming out October 30th with a spring tour planned. Pretty stoked.
Sleazy B: A voice and nothing more is coming out October 30th and we are currently putting together a spring tour. Anyone want us to play our state just give us a ring on social media!
Jodajen: Yeah, what everybody else said, lol. Broody: We’re contributing to the ultimate downfall of society on Devil’s Night, and we’ll be hitting the road on… uh… *frantically googles* ...Aztec New Year?
Ryan: Our first album A Voice and Nothing More will be out October 30th, 2018. We have a few local dates at haunted houses, our “home” venue The Zodiac, and Seventh Circle up in Denver coming up, and we’re gearing up to play in and around Texas in the Spring since that’s BatBoy’s old scene. After that? Pay expenses and we’ll play anywhere.
Links to Witch Hands