Sunday, November 24, 2019
A Ripple Conversation With Cybernetic Witch Cult
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Alex: I remember the day my dad sat me and my sister down and dusted off a Uriah Heep album and played us ‘July Morning’. I’d heard rock and metal before, either from ‘The greatest rock album in the world ever’ or from Kerrang TV, but when I first heard July Morning it blew my mind. So haunting. So many intricate things happening tonally at once. Even now it still gives me goosebumps when the intro settles down into the first verse.
Lewis: There's been so many! When I was about 10, one of my dad's friends gave me a bootleg copy of The Black Album. I'd never heard that kind of guitar sound before, it blew my mind! That kind of distortion, I remember thinking "That must be what bass guitars sound like!"
The other big one was obsessively watching this Led Zeppelin Concert DVD, way before I ever started playing the drums myself, watching Bonham's soloing would fascinate me. I figured he must've been cheating somehow because I hadn't worked out that you played drums with your feet too!
Doug: My musical epiphany was when Lemmy took over The Friday Rock Show back in the early / mid 80s. He played the live version of Master the Universe from Hawkwind's Space Ritual album. And it was the first time I heard the MC5. Ramblin Rose.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Alex: I usually start with a riff, or a concept and then write riffs to match the concept. Lyrics usually come last, sometimes I’ll write a vocal hook and then build the riff around it, but I like to have a mostly finished song before I start getting deep into the lyrics. It gives you more time to think through a concept as you hear the music materialize.
Sometimes we’ll write together and jam certain riffs and then go back and decide what’s worth expanding on. But I like to sit down and work things out.
Lewis: we've written in a few different ways I guess, on this latest one there were a lot of jams that we filmed and picked apart, but Alex would often come to a writing session with a riff in mind. I suppose I see my job as trying to inspire the guys by orchestrating the drums a certain way.
Who has influenced you the most?
Alex: This is a tough one, I like to think different bands influence different songs. We’ve definitely described parts of songs as ’Sleep riff’, ‘Hawkwind riff’, even some of the bands in the current UK ’Boss Keloid riff’, ‘Lacertilia riff’ etc.
Biggest influence though?
I reckon Cathedral. Riffs, Scifi, Horror, Tongues in cheek and a lack of regard for sticking to one style of music.
Doug: My influences are everything from the psych of Steve Hillage, to the power of Black Sabbath, Fury of The Who and the MC5, Hawkwind to Electric Wizard…
Lewis: I don't think many of my early influences really apply anymore! I used to learn a lot of prog metal songs note for note, but these days, if anything I'm trying to sound less like those influences. I try to let the riffs influence me above anything else.
Having said that, the drummer from Smash Mouth imparted some wisdom that has been a real focus on my playing lately... no joke!
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Alex: I like to pick up a different guitar, try a different tuning, experiment with a new fx pedal or watch some sci-fi/mind bending movies.
Lewis: Being involved in this little underground scene is by far the biggest inspiration for me, the bands we play with are often so incredible it's hard not to feel inspired, bands like Elephant Tree, Tuskar, Beggar, Ritual King, and too many others to mention all spring to mind for me, nothing but love and respect, and being able to watch all these great bands definitely drives me to better myself.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
Alex: The band are from the county of Cornwall in the UK, it’s a weird place that is hours away from anything resembling a ‘big’ city. There’s beautiful coastline, weird and wonderful people and some rich heritage. I think life is a bit slower here and you’ve got the surfing scene so we can get away with writing music as weird as we like and be completely different to anything else for miles around.
Lewis: Being somewhere as geographically inaccessible as Cornwall has apparently instilled a frantic work ethic for touring. We get a lot of 'you drove HOW FAR?' When we come from home. As far as the local scene goes, I think it's safe to say that we're carving our own path, and I think our desire to be a little weirder, take ourselves less seriously while still imposing the biggest heaviest sound we can. I think the genesis of that has come from growing up playing in other Cornish bands.
Where'd the band name come from?
Doug: I don't know where the band name came from!
Lewis: Alex is the sole bearer of these secrets, being the only remaining founding member.
Alex: A week of brainstorming names that mixed sci-fi and horror.
It started as something literal, but now it feels like more of a name for a bunch of collective weirdos, I really love how well it works to sift out the normies/civilians from the freaks and fringe dwellers.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Lewis: I'd love to do the soundtrack for Starship Troopers. I think that movie has the perfect self aware tone for us. It would benefit from some big dumb riffs!
Alex: Gotta go big I suppose, I’d like to do the soundtrack for 3001: The Final Odyssey.
(The 4th in the 2001: A Space Odyssey series). It's got a guy waking up in space after getting killed by a robot, it's got the creators of the human race deciding whether we should be sacrificed to save life on Europa. AND IT'S EVEN GOT VELOCIRAPTOR BUTLERS ON THE SPACECRAFT. This is making me think the next album should just be this. Hmm. Thank you Ripple!!!
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Alex: Mad John by Small Faces, it's such a short song but paints such an awesome picture of this character. The lyrics are brilliant, you can picture this wizened old forest man that's in tune with nature and the animals and is just misunderstood.
Not sure which music publication would run this piece though
Lewis: I could write endlessly about Gavin Harrison's playing on Anaesthetise by Porcupine tree. He is a master of turning the drums into as musically sympathetic instrument as they can be.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Alex: I think my favourite was sleeping in the back of a Hertz rental van with all the gear whilst up in the Peak district on the highest road we could find because we wanted to have a nice view on our night off on tour. It was snowing and extremely cold, but we had petrol station snacks and beers. Very wholesome!
Lewis:So when we were playing ‘Hard Rock Hell: Doom V Stoner; there was a moment where my drum monitor fell from the riser, I have no idea what was causing it but I noticed a sudden cutting out of monitor noise and looked over to see the speakers falling away from me! We played through the rest of the set but it wasn't until later that I found out that Doug's entire sound was cut from the falling monitor, it was kind of mad. That was our highest profile show to date as well! Nothing is ever smooth for us haha!