Last month, I wrote a feature for a metal magazine about Witchcraft, a Swedish band that is playing the Black Cat this Sunday. One of the folks I interviewed for the article, which has yet to run, was Lee Dorrian, the owner of Witchcraft’s label, Rise Above, and the frontman of British doom act Cathedral (Dorrian also sang with Napalm Death once upon a time).
I wasn’t able to use everything Dorrian wrote in his response to my two questions, so I thought I’d post his answers here. Dorrian runs an excellent label—one of my favorites—and I think he has something interesting to say about influence.
Brent Burton: Part of Witchcraft’s appeal seems to be its “vintage” or “retro” sound. As a fan of the band, and also as someone who is no doubt one of its inspirations, how do you feel about this assessment? Is it fair?
Lee Dorrian: At the end of the day these are trivial points. The main question you have to ask yourself is, Is it good?’ To use throwaway words such as ‘Retro’ just cheapens people’s notion of the way something is going to sound. Just because a band doesn’t want to use modern recording techniques or jump on whatever bandwagon is driving through town, does not make it invalid.
In the big scheme of things rock & roll music has only really existed for about half a century so why do people spend so much time obsessing about doing something ‘new’ with it. I think purely by putting yourself into the music it is going to sound new anyway, because there has never been a ‘you’ before.
If all you’re about is blatant plagiarism and deliberately trying to replicate another band, then that is pretty pointless, I will agree with that.
I just think the way that hard rock & heavy prog/psych was played & recorded in the late 60’s/early is the real benchmark from which a lot of good heavy bands take their cue. Personally speaking, I totally understand why, as I think the great underground records recorded mainly between ‘68 – ‘72 have a total magic of their own. The bands actually sound like real bands, which is something that is going away from modern music; that basic human feel.
Brent Burton: One popular metal writer thought that Witchcraft’s second record, Firewood—which is my favorite—was kind of a letdown in comparison to the band’s doomy debut. Not metal enough, I guess. What would you say to someone who claims that Witchcraft’s latest The Alchemist is not metal enough?
Lee Dorrian: Well I guess the debut album was so monumental, it would be very hard to better it, no matter what they would have done. I think with the new album they’ve managed to get a good balance all round, though I would say it’s a lot more accomplished, musically, than both previous albums.
If someone says ‘The Alchemist’ is ‘not metal enough’; not metal enough for what? It’s not a metal record. It’s a great hard rock record.