Whether setting stages aflame touring with Nik Turner’s Hawkwind or landing on many a year end list (sorry gang, I got into this record too late for my year end poll this year), Witch Mountain have become very well known and respected in the real heavy metal underground.
Their latest offering Mobile Of Angels has been rightly praised by critics. Did the band expect it would get such good reactions? Is the title alluding to teaching kids religion at a young age, like a crib toy?
”You never know how an album will be received,” says Nathan Carson .“The key is simply to satisfy yourself as an artist. As for the title, it came from a dream that our guitarist had and a nice description of it is included in the lyrics to the title track, as well as the album art.”
The Billy Andersen tracked MoA is a pivotal release for the seemingly super busy drummer, booker, writer Carson’s band. It also would prove the final album (to date) of popular vocalist/demi-goddess of insane pipes Uta Plotkin.
I caught up with Carson to ask him about the release and the band’s future course.
Read more below.
How was the experience working with Billy Andersen again for this release? The guitars on “Psycho Animundi” are absurdly heavy. Records he works on always sound great, but he’s always somehow doing the impossible and topping himself. This and the last Castle record sound so amazo. Not to mention his work with Melvins, etc.
He’s always fantastic. There are countless reasons we have done three albums in a row with Billy. Every time, it just gets that much better. He’s a wizard, and we love him. This was definitely the easiest album we’ve made together, because we were prepared, we had the budget necessary, and our communication with Billy has been finely developed over the years.
“Your Corrupt Ways (Sour The Hymn)” is particularly heavy and goes from growls to the bluesiest banshee cry I’ve heard Uta make. She somehow was always also outdoing herself. Do you think it was hard for her to leave the band after making such moving music with you? That song stretches into ten minutes of mesmerism, when she is singing about people trying to put the world under control over the mellow end section…goosebumps.
I think this song makes it clear why she would leave. But I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
With Uta departing, this might almost sound sexist…but would you have a male vocalist ever sing her songs if the vocalist was right. I don’t think the gender matters. You don’t hear that so often. I know bands I have been in I’ve suggested cover songs sung by women at times and other musicians almost see it as a novelty/gimmick idea instead of focusing on the music regardless of the gender of who sung it. Like I love covering PJ Harvey songs, for example. But yeah, Uta’s a tough one to replace regardless of what ends up happening. How have auditions been going? Besides the name similarity and being in a doomy “genre”, I think it is annoying I’ve been hearing you lumped in with newer (also cool) band Mount Salem, for example, just because you had/they have a female vocalist. It does the bands a disservice.
We would absolutely consider a male vocalist–if he sounds something like Freddie Mercury, Rob Halford, Klaus Meine, or Dio. Got his number? I don’t (Author’s note: I could do that shit, Nathan! But I’m on the wrong coast). Anyway, auditions have been going very well. We have heard from some very talented people. It seemed almost impossible to find someone who could fill Uta’s shoes until the audition tapes started rolling in And as for Mount Salem, I like them. I made a point to catch them live when they came to town. But they are a very young band, and have a long way to go before any comparisons would be anything more than lazy or surface level.
How has it felt to still be surviving as a band founded in the late nineties? I feel like a lot of Portland’s best bands have been heavier the last few years and it seems really fertile out your way. I love Lord Dying’s new one Posioned Altars as well, for example.
It’s great that we have survived long enough to be appreciated. Playing doom metal in Portland in the ’90s was about the least cool thing you could want to do. Never stopped us. We are surrounded by great bands. It’s fantastic to see the bands from our same generation (YOB, AgallochÉ) getting worldwide recognition. They deserve it.
From SubRosa to Atlas Moth to your record to the pending Sumac, Profound Lore is always doing something exciting and has really been a label to help change the perception of metal as art rather than caveman with a beer can music, hahaha…well, to some extent, ha. How does it feel to release records with them?
It’s flattering and wonderful to have the blessing of a label with so much clout and integrity. It has changed things on a scale that is almost imperceptible, but also PROFOUND, haha. No joke. We were immediately re-contextualized once we released an album with Chris Bruni. Can’t say enough good things about this scenario.
What keeps you excited about remaining in and participating in the underground scene enough to make time to fit it into your lives? One listen to the solo on “…Corrupt Ways” (again, haha) and it is obvious you love playing.
We love to make music, and more and more people seem to like what we do every day. People who can stop playing, should stop playing. That’s not an option for you if it’s in your blood the way it’s in mine and Rob’s. Bands that do this for a hobby–please quit now! Or at least, stick to local gigs for fun. The tour arteries are clogged up with bullshit weekend warrior trust fund yesterday’s news garbage. If you sound like a 3rd generation photocopy of your heroes, you have nothing new to contribute. And I’m sure someone could try to level this at us, and say we’re a Sabbath rip,but I think if you have open ears, you’ll never get the two of us confused.
How fun was it to do the title track for this record? It is almost like a spooky King Diamond interlude song or something. But yeah, really cinematic and immerses you in a strange mood, ethereal but semi-ominous.
It’s always great to push into uncharted territory. I love that we have released a “stoner metal” album that contains a track with exactly zero guitars on it. We wanted to create a vibe, and I feel like we succeeded. There will be more of that in the future, I’m certain.
What makes you drawn to the style of metal you play? “The Shape Truth Takes” is so poignant. Do you think there is ever one truth or (besides hard science) is it all subjective?
I like the elemental nature of slow music. It’s always appealed to me. Doesn’t mean I don’t also love Slayer and Vektor. But for my playing style, and Rob’s as well, we like to coax out all the emotion that can be conveyed between the notes. The only one truth I try to live by is the Golden Rule: Do unto othersÉ Live your life freely, but don’t be an asshole, basically.
What are some moments from your journey up Witch Mountain that really stand out as vivid memories, strong lessons or just really good times?
Too many to count. We need to write a book!
You should. It’d be valuable to other new bands.
But of course, some of the most memorable are the bigger festivals we’ve played like Roadburnm, Hellfest, and Hopscotch. We really shine in front of a big crowd. Can’t help it.