It's always good to meet fellow music enthusiasts, especially when those people go beyond the call of duty to boost the underground music scene, as well as being in a damn fine band.
I caught up with rising stars Mazz (vocals) and Kev (drums) of the mighty Battlewitch to mull a few things over.
As well as being in Battlewitch, you're also involved in Gallipoli Records. What is the ethos behind Gallipoli?
Mazz: To release cheap CDS for bands that we like in the hope that they will get picked up by a proper label sometime in the future.
Kev: Yeah, pretty much. There are millions of good bands out there who will never get the chance to put their music to a larger audience and we wanted to help get them out there and noticed. The 'non profit' aspect is also a big thing with us ... we don't make any money out of Gallipoli, it's a real labour of love.
And what prompted you to set it up? You obviously think there is a need for such a company. Is the underground music scene in trouble or are all vital signs healthy?
Kev: We set it up initially just to do a local bands compilation cd and put Peace records out. Things never quite work out how you imagine! It's been a real honour working with some of the bands we have though! Real 'we're not worthy' moments!
Mazz: I don't think the underground scene is in trouble. It looks very healthy from what I can see. In the UK and on an International level there are lots of people of people just doing their own thing having fun. Although I must point out that there still persists some underground snobbery. It's the kind of ‘We can't like this band because they are popular'... I can't be doing with any of that crap.
Do you ever feel like giving up? And what makes you carry on?
Mazz: Master Kev does most of the work involved in Gallipoli so I feel very 'uncomfortable' answering this question. I tend to go about spamming boards and making a nuisance of myself promoting the bands on forums. Kev has to carry on or he will die. I can take it or leave it (because I will still go about talking shite on forums)
Kev: We're promoting bands that we think are brilliant and want to get them to as many people as we can. That makes me want to carry on more than anything. Just getting a couple of them onto bigger and better things would make the times I did want to stop doing the label vanish immediately.
Which current bands would you recommend for our readers?
Mazz: Iron Hearse, Battlewitch (mind blowing), Grifter, Unstable Dream, Mothertrucker, Suns of Thunder, Gonga...chew on that!
Kev: I'd add Chickenhawk, Sada, Whoremoan and Scissorfight to that already sound list.
You also do a lot of work to promote live performance in your local area. Is Wiltshire the place "where it's at"?
Mazz: I must say that Swindon has a couple of good live music venues. The Victoria and Riffs Bar get a thumbs up from us but for the most part Wiltshire is dead...we tried to get something going but Wiltshire is full of rich kids faking songs about pain. Or rich kids trying to be (f)arty. There are not enough bands singing about LEATHER ELVES or STANDING STONES. Just thinking about this has enraged me.
Kev: People aren't keen on going out and seeing new bands anymore. Case in point ... we had Truckfighters (excellent signed Swedish band) come and play down in Bradford on Avon a few months back, we put together a great support bill, promo-ed it to death and about 30 people came. On a Friday night! The week after some tired old blues covers band played the same venue and it was packed out.
Kev: There are a few good things going on in Wiltshire although Sheer Music in Devizes are pretty much carrying the county at the minute by putting on a continuous stream of excellent, well attended shows. A lot of the stuff around Trowbridge is VERY screamo based kids with good haircuts. Apparently we aren't alone in that though.
And for Battlewitch, are there any plans to tour more extensively?
Mazz: We are currently sorting out a tour of NI with Iron Hearse and another band. This will happen in the spring of 2007. I hoping that Battlewitch will raise hell and melt peoples faces with the music that we deliver. I sure we will as I'm confident in our abilities as a heavy rock band. Touring with Iron Hearse should be great fun. They make me laugh (not musically).
Mazz: There was talk of a tour in the north of England but that kind of fell flat. We may play in Germany next year....we have to start begging.
You've produced a couple of corking demos - I guess the next obvious step is an album. Is that likely to happen any time soon?
Mazz: There is talk of an album but there is also talk of another EP. Money will decide for us. We are checking out a studio near Swindon in November that is dirt cheap. So if that works out then I guess an album it will be. We will of course need to write some songs. Working titles far some of the songs are Wild Wessex, Priest Hole, Leather Elf, Trebuchet Attack and The Curious Vulture. I want to call the EP/Album Doomsday but I'm sure that will denied.
Kev: I hope we do an album. It's what the people want and expect. Incidentally, other working titles included Pain Forest and Witchfucker.
Mazz, you're also a former member of Peace along with Kev. Is Peace no more and what made you decide to form Battlewitch?
Mazz: Peace was one of those bands that when it was fun it was great and when it was bad it was really really shit. The most frustrating aspect of being a member of Peace is that the most talented member of the band in my opinion (the bass player) did not like playing live and had terrible mood swings. He could not handle people liking the band!!! It was either split the band or fall out as mates.
Also the guitarist had a terrible memory and would forget songs and forget that he had band practice. It's a shame because we were a good hard rock band. There has been talk of reforming and taking over the world but we have left it up to the other two to sort out. If they are serious then they can book the rehearsal rooms etc etc... So far nothing has happened. More worryingly I have heard that the guitarist is incapable of playing the guitar anymore!!!
Mazz: I joined another band that was looking for a singer, I left because it was tooo indie. I took the guitarist (Greg) as he liked Metal and got Kev in on drums because he is a sucker... Matt (Bass - also known as Two Scoops) I knew from work and I knew he played in a solid Metal band... Behold Battlewitch.
Your Battlewitch material seems to centre on historic themes - is that something that inspires you? It's a bit different from some of the more "sex, drugs, rock n roll" themes in Peace, but I notice a similarity in "1327", in lyrical content at least.
Mazz: My life is very boring. I have a 9-5 job like most people and it drives me crazy. So I tend to escape into a world of fantasy to try and deal with my mundane life. I have always been interested in history and am always reading about it. History is a great subject to study if you have a good imagination. Most people will say that history should be studied so that we do not repeat our mistakes from the past. Firstly that does not seem happen does it? Secondly I read about history simply because my brain needs this kind of stimuli. I blame my dad he got into reading about WW2, WW1 and visiting castles. These days I tend to read more about the 16th and 17th Century.
So from reading the website the critics have compared Battlewitch with the likes of Iron Maiden and Wolfmother, but how would you describe your music?
Mazz: Our music is good solid Heavy Rock with a metallic tinge.
Which bands would you claim as influences?
Mazz:...Very standard metal influences. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Early Metallica.
Kev: I'd say there was a punk ethic in there too, although that's just because of my drumming really. That and my lack of metal 'knowledge' compared to the others!
How do you come up with your material? Are you a jam band or is there one main songwriter, for example?
Mazz: Greg writes the riffs and I write the lyrics. Or if I get stuck with the lyrics then the rest of band chip in. Once Greg has moulded the riff he brings it to practice and we all tell him that its shit and he needs to work harder.
Kev: We sometimes have to 'uncomplicate' the riff machine that is Greg Anderson. That boy sure loves to play a million notes a second.
Is it still fun?
Mazz: I do not like turning up at 5.00 to do a sound check for a gig and then go onstage at 9.30 only for the sound to be completely different by the time you play. What the fuck is that all about?. Kev loves the band so much it makes him angry, Scoops has no idea what is going on and Greg keeps it all going by never flying into a rage.....yep its fun.
Any last words?
Mazz: We are coming to get you...all of you.
Interview © October 2006 Amanda Hyne