Confinement Loaf Interviews Witch Mountain
Through the laughter and the tears!
WITCH MOUNTAIN talks with Confinement Loaf ! Our INTERVIEW with the heavy band from Portland! October, 06 2011 at El Corazon, Seattle, WA
CL: We are with Rob Wrong and Nate Carson of Portland band Witch Mountain, so good of you guys to allow us to infiltrate one more time. You said life has been good so far since we talked one year ago. Why don’t you tell us what you guys have been up to and what makes life so good.
NC: Well, I feel like the last time we talked we had a lot of ideas and visions and things that we wanted to accomplish and I feel like we’ve really kind of accomplished all of them. We’re on to the next chapter and it’s really exciting especially after such a long gap between records. So, as of September we had put out that song “Veil of the Forgotten” on the Adult Swim compilation which has gotten a lot more people to hear us and we put out our record in April. We toured with South X Southwest, we toured with Christian Mistress, and we’ve been writing new material and we’ve been gigging around the Northwest and now we’re on tour with Wino.
CL: You guys made the short trip today from Portland what music were you listening to today and what keeps you going on the road while you are on tour?
RW: We listened to a variety. I put my phone on shuffle actually and just let it roll. Um, Prank Phone Calls, John Lennon, Candlemass, Weird Al was on there. Oh, we listened to Prince, Purple Rain all the way through. It came up on shuffle and Nate’s like ’we just need to hear this whole album’. ‘Cause Purple Rain the song came on and it’s at the end of the album and you gotta kind of earn it. Oh yeah, “Hemisphere of Shadow”, Danava’s new record. I’ve listened to it ten times in the last week, definitely worth checking out.
CL: So you just released South of Salem this April. I’ve seen great reviews of that and some write ups about you guys. That’s great! You guys mentioned Weird Al. We are fellow fans of Weird Al, of course. He just released a new album as well.
NC: We had a band date to go see Weird Al and then I got to see him again in England in December and it was his first European appearance ever! I know, hard to believe. Actually he was really sick that night and he was apologizing to the crowd but he still gave a 200% performance, like you could see he could barely stand but he was going for it anyway. His voice was just going throughout the show like every time you could hear his voice crackle his backup band would just step up, the harmonies would get louder, there would be a few extra guitar parts here and there. There was just so much support, so much professionalism, I just love seeing that. A flawless performance to me is not as interesting as seeing an amazing band covering for each other, dealing with what ever is going on. Maybe I’m just jaded from seeing so many concerts, I see a lot of shows but that’s what gets me excited seeing the interaction and seeing people solving problems and working together. I’m a nerd.
CL: You mentioned also listening to some Candlemass on your way here today. When we talked last, Nate, you said you’d played with every band you ever wanted to except for Black Sabbath and Candlemass. Could that be an opportunity?
NC: Anything could happen. I mean it’s not like the degrees of separation are very far away at this point.
CL: Did you get to see them at Roadburn Festival?
NC: No. Unfortunately they were scheduled to play Roadburn when I was there but the volcano in Iceland disrupted a lot of people’s tour plans and Candlemass was one of the bands that didn’t make it. So they did do the show the next year and performed what I wanted to see with their original singer doing “Epicus Doomicus” in its entirety and I wasn’t there for that which was a heartbreaker. But at the same time, I see so much I can live through missing almost anything at this point but I’m trying to catch as many as I can, especially the older ones. Like last year I saw Styx and Heart, Rush and I want to see as many of those bands as I can before they’re not worth seeing. I feel like a lot of those bands know what people want to hear and do focus on the best moments of their catalog as opposed to tryin’ to just play their limp new album, Rush being the exception. Like, I’ve seen ‘em do their new single twice now. A and B sides and it’s fucking killer, sorry if I’m swearing on the radio, but anyway, it’s heavy music and it’s vital . Every time I play it for someone I say a new Rolling Stones or a new Bob Dylan album would not sound crushing and the new Rush song does.
CL: Since you mentioned it, a lot of older bands are coming out of retirement. I’m not including Witch Mountain in that because I don’t consider you as having been in retirement or in the same generation as Styx. But what do you think it is?
RW: I think mainly it’s because these bands were influential on bands, on people like especially our age. Wino definitely is influential on people our age. Yeah, I’m not sure. I think these bands are just around. It was like me seeing The Rolling Stones a few years ago. I’d never seen them and I was like I need to go see them they’re getting old a lot of these bands are getting old and people know if they don’t see ‘em somebody in the band is gonna die. I made a point of seeing the Stones twice on their last tour because I was afraid of that and I don’t think they’ve toured since. I think a lot of these bands are taken for granted because they’ve been around so long but as you get older you realize that these bands are really important and you should pay homage to them and go see ‘em.
NC: Yeah, I agree with that. I think that there’s such a culture that revolves around retro art and ideas, finding really cutting edge current new art and ideas takes work and these bands already have this established legacy. You know, if your dad liked this band and they were good you probably want to see that while you have the chance to. So it’s better business for the bands right now ‘cause they’re able to come out, scale their show to exactly whatever size it should be for what their audience is right now and have a really good band and fan experience. If they are big enough they’re making a ton of money, if they’re smaller then they’re doing better than they have in the last ten or fifteen years. So it’s kind of a win, win situation. It’s like people doing their art at a time when there’s more appreciation for it and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve definitely been trying to take advantage of it. I’m really excited that I got to see Candlemass or that we got to do shows with Saint Vitus or Trouble or anybody that I’ve seen in the past few years that I never expected to see. Even seeing Black Sabbath’s original four members in the late ‘90s, you know, I cried at that show. I never thought those four guys would be on stage together ever.
RW: That’s how I felt at Kiss, their first reunion tour, all four original members ‘cause I never got to see them. My parents like thought I was crazy to want to see them because they were so scary in the seventies. Dave was there too.
CL: Kiss reunion?
DH: (Dave Hoopaugh) Yeah I was at the Portland show. Ace stole of course. I kind of ended up naming my daughter after him Space Ace, in fact, due to that experience. Now Ace is played by a guy from Portland or from the west side. He was the guitar player in Black and Blue, Portland’s kind of entry into the L.A. Glam metal scene.
NC: Do you think Black and Blue sold as many records as Agalloch?
DH: No. They sold more records than Agalloch.
NC: I always want to say Agalloch is the biggest metal band in Portland but then I think of bands like Wild Dogs or Black and Blue or whoever. The levels of success were different twenty-five years ago.
DH: Shrapnel way back in ’81, ’82. They were arguably one of the predecessors of Thrash metal.
CL: Speaking of older music, you guys listen to a variety of music, what music do you listen to from over fifty years ago?
RW: I listen to a lot of older stuff at work. Robert Johnson, Jimmy Rodgers, Buddy Holly I like quite a bit, Roy Orbison. I don’t know, I think we’re all just genuine fans of good music it doesn’t matter when it’s from. You know, Jimmie Rodgers surprises people it’s like really historical stuff. He died at a young age of Tuberculosis, Robert Johnson same thing. I listen to that stuff and I still can’t wrap my head around what he’s doing it’s pretty crazy.
NC: Pretty much anytime I’m driving I’m listening to the classical station from Portland ‘cause living in the city and dealing with traffic and things like that it’s really a kind of peaceful way to navigate it. If I’m in my bubble listening to that and I like most of what I hear on there but I always gravitate toward early twentieth century classical stuff. Like Ravel, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Aaron Copeland, Gershwin, all that is a very exciting era in music for me. People were using giant symphonic orchestras but using them because they had heard jazz for the first time or they heard Stravinsky or Wagner and they were like where can we go with this? Look at what was happening in visual art, in theater, morals were changing throughout western society and people just started going crazy with that music. Some of it is really beautiful and some of it is scary, I’m always looking for more of that stuff.
DH: Yeah, Elvis.
CL: The title of your new album is South of Salem. Would you give us any insight into the title?
RW: It started as a joke kind of like how just about everything does when we’re talkin’ about stuff. Nate has a different take on it, I always felt like New York and L.A. were cities that were south of Salem (Oregon) that were kind of dirty, big,crazy cities where a lot of crime happens and then, um, some of us live south of Salem. Dave, Nate, Uta all grew up south of Salem. I lived in Lebanon for awhile and it’s a play on South of Heaven, obviously. Nate’s probably got some ideas to add to that.
NC: Largely for me it was growing up in Corvallis and Uta grew up in Corvallis too but a few years later. Salem was kind of a bigger, grosser town that was nearby and I definitely spent a lot of time there hangin’ out with rockers with mullets and Oakley sunglasses, you know, just seeing the darker side of city life. It was great for me it was really interesting and those guys were the people who turned me on to a lot of the metal I listen to, for real. Definitely Ozzy and Metallica and Iron Maiden was coming from this one family of dudes that I was really good friends with as a kid. So Salem always just seemed like all of the bad traits of a city with none of the good ones. Going up there and hanging out and listening to metal in basements and driving around at night with total burnouts was a really important part of my development.
CL: Something else we have in common! Something I get asked a lot about your band is what’s up with the name? Would you enlighten us? Witch Mountain?
RW: Um, again I think it’s one of those things where me and Nate just have a really weird sense of humor where it started out as a joke. There are a lot of witch bands around and it was like the first thing out of Nate’s mouth. He was like, ‘how ‘bout Witch Mountain’ and we kind of laughed about it for about a week and then it just kind of stuck. Coming up with a band name is really hard and it was catchy and we just like both were fans of the Disney movie when we were kids too so, I don’t know it was easier just to take that and use it.
NC: Yeah, I mean it’s exactly that. I was just really deeply discovering doom metal at that time and I was pretty focused on it and I wanted something that was really evocative, easy to remember, you’d think easy to spell, although mountain, a second grade word, is rough on anyone who sets up a marquis…you know. I just thought it had a really great ring to it. It was like magical but kinda makes you smile and heavy as can be. I’m positive if we weren’t Witch Mountain since ‘97 someone else would be Witch Mountain now. There is a band called German band called Mountain Witch, I denied their friend request.
CL: Ever have any trouble with Disney?
NC: Yes, they make a lot of bad movies but they’ve never bothered us. The way I see it, they have a trademark on a movie franchise and we have a heavy metal band and we’re not in each other’s business at all. You know, Walt Disney is one of the most influential and amazing people that ever lived, to me he has influenced my life profoundly, I did animation for years. I think his touch was great. It’s been carried out by a lot of mignons and descendants and business people since then. Handing it over to the guy from Pixar was a really good idea. So, I see hope for the future. But if you’re a lawyer for Disney, like, we’re not making very much money.
CL: The new album, was it released on vinyl and c.d. or vinyl and digitally…?
RW: Vinyl and digital download.
NC: The c.d. is a terrible middleman between the music and the consumer.
RW: The c.d. is just plastic that gets broken and thrown in a landfill somewhere.
NC: Yeah I’m against it. I got an interview not too long ago and they said well isn’t that kind of retro to do vinyl and mp3 and I said, ‘no, that’s 2011 that’s what you do’. C.d.s to me are very 1994-2006 like that’s retro. We made a c.d. it’s called, Come the Mountain we made an l.p. it’s called South of Salem. If you’re on the internet you can either pay your own price or steal it from the Russians. That’s your choice. We offer it for whatever price you feel it’s worth.
CL: Would you talk about the cover art and how the album was released?
NC: There’s a really awesome low brow fine artist named Skinner from Sacramento and I had deejayed at one of his art gallery showings and we bumped into each other a few times and kind of became fans of each other and buddies and one time I went to see one of his shows and he cornered me and said ‘when is the Witch Mountain record coming out and can I do it ?’ and I just thought if this guy is approaching me and asking me then that’s the guy I want to do it he’s enthused and interested and a fan and I love his style so we hired him to draw our concept and he ran with it perfectly there was really no more art direction required other than the initial request and what he did with it was awesome and then he was busy and didn’t have time to color it so we got our really good friend Jason Lewis who is a colorist for Marvel and now for D.C. as well in Portland and he knocked it out of the park. We pressed the vinyl ourselves through a company in L.A., self released it in April and we have the last remaining copies for this tour and I think that will be done.
CL: Billy Anderson produced this album? Could you talk about how and why that was important and came to be?
RW: Billy is an old friend of ours just through like music. I’ve known him a long time, since the mid nineties, and he’s always said, with me and Dave’s other band Iommi Stubbs and Witch Mountain, he’s like, if you guys record he wanted to do it and he made that really clear with Witch Mountain actually. We could finally do it with him, and he’s a really old friend so he did a really good job. I think he probably worked a couple days for free for us because he really wanted it to be done right. You know, I’ve always liked his productions, Neurosis, Enemy of the Sun is one of my favorite production albums that he did. He did some stuff for The Melvins… amazing, the Sleep records…people use him for a reason. He always makes the joke that people use him and they go to Steve Albini next. But we found a really cool studio in Portland if we do another record and if we can afford it we would certainly like to have him record our next record as well just maybe in a different studio. He’s really quick, he knows all the songs. He really listens to the music he’s amazing, I mean the guy was born to do what he does.
NC: You know, one thing I noticed in the two records I’ve made with Billy is that I would approach him with production ideas and every single time he’d say ‘no, and this is why’ so he’d show me and he’d be right every time. He always listened to my ideas for sure and he was great to work with in that way. If I was trying to lead us down the wrong path he’d call it out instantly and show me why and so I’ve made half a dozen records and this guy has made hundreds and I am humbled by his knowledge and professionalism and he’s such an awesome dude. Yeah, we loved working with him and hope to again.
CL: So there are plans for another album?
RW: Yeah, we’ve been writing like crazy. We’re, I don’t know, a song or two short of having a whole new album written actually. We want to record it right away and try to put it out right away because it’s coming along pretty quickly and it seems like we’ve been on a roll since Uta is in the band we have a different kind of formula of writing and it works really, really well for us. Me and Nate and Dave will hash out ideas, I’ll bring a lot of riffs to the table, Dave brings a couple here and there. We all arrange the stuff, things get re written, you know, and then Uta comes in. She’ll record it, she has a multi track recorder, take it home and write lyrics to it. It seems really a lot easier than it has in the past. Me and Nate always joke about it, you know, like why is this so easy? And it’s like I don’t know but it’s workin’ so let’s just keep doin’ it this way. Yeah, I really like it. Uta will take it home and almost like within a week will have something that will bring me and Nate to our knees in tears. She blows us away constantly with her ideas. You know, I think the last time you saw us we weren’t playing new stuff yet. We’re going to play two new songs tonight that are going to be on the next record including “Veil of the Forgotten” which I don’t think you guys had heard either up until that point ‘cause we were still working on it. Originally “Veil” was supposed to be twenty five minutes long but we kind of had to re write it for Adult Swim because we were on a time constraint.
NC: Yeah, I think things are moving along really well. Rob is bringing in the best riffs we have had, Uta has integrated perfectly, the rest of us have been playing together with Dave for over ten years so it’s a really natural chemistry and it’s also just really fun. I mean, I feel like when we are jamming in our rehearsal space we are having one of the best parts of our week. We’re rockin’ out, sweating, smiling, laughing and making jokes and it’s the same on the road too. I’m just so constantly happy and blessed that I’m traveling with three adults that are really positive and hard working and do their job and are just awesome to be around. I mean touring can suck on so many different levels and being in a band can be so harsh. But, we just have, partially because we’ve had so little for so long, we’re not jaded about really small successes or even just playing really well. So we’re just constantly having an awesome time and I also think, we take healthy breaks, whether we have a week or two off in a row or we’ll do a bunch of gigs in a row and then lay off for a month or something and I just think we’ve sort of figured a dynamic that keeps everyone on their toes, we’re working our asses off, but no one feels burnt out. I think we constantly have wind in our sails ‘cause we’re making our best music, we’re playing our best and more people like it than did before so it’s a blast.
CL: So you plan to do more extensive touring? Will you do that before or in conjunction with the new album?
NC: The plan is to get the record done and go to Europe. So, I think extensive touring in the U.S. will definitely follow there are a lot of places we have not been or we need to revisit but I just think Europe is the first step. Yeah, we definitely have plans to do a lot more work. Right now it’s just been about building the band to a point where it is kind of indestructible. If we have another record and we have another wave of excitement and press and we’ll have that many more people waiting to see us when we get there and we’ll have a good trip and we’ll be a better band because the growth that we’ve experienced in the last twelve to twenty-four months is kind of amazing. So I feel we will be our best tonight but three months from now, six months from now, we’ll be better so I can live with that.
CL: Maybe you could sneak a trip in to play Moscow or the inland Northwest? Spokane? What do we have to do to get you guys to take a quick jaunt around our neck of the woods?
NC: Anything is possible. We have definitely sworn off Spokane. Really based on a show we did with Wino. Witch Mountain and Spirit Caravan played a show at Ichabod’s before the guy burned it down. We played for Wino, Wino played for us, it was kind of an honor in that way but it was also a bummer. It’s cool to see how things are different for him now too. From Spirit Caravan to The Vitus reunion to this Premonition 13 tour it’s always cool to check in with him and to see people care and people remember. I think he’s having a better time now than he ever has, I love seeing that. That guy deserves it he sets an example for all of us of not giving up.
RW: Wino is one of my favorite guitarists.
CL: What about playing at the radio station (KUOI)?
NC: That’s a possibility too. The problem for me as a booking agent, we book our own shows, put out our own records, we manage ourselves, you know. It’s just not routing that works a lot of the time. The standard way is to go to Boise and then you can get to Salt Lake and you can get to Denver we used to do Missoula a lot and then it would have made a lot more sense.
CL: Think of the D.I.Y., hipster, street credit, artistic value of playing on a free form college radio station like KUOI!
RW: I would love to do it, it just depends on routing. I mean we’ve done weekend warrior jaunts down to San Francisco. We played a show with Lost Goat…Old Grandad…the place was packed! We drove down there, played a show, slept and came home within forty-eight hours.
NC: We also played there at the 40th street warehouse with Bongzilla. We’d rent a van for like twenty-four hours, drive down there, play a show and bring it back. They’d be like, ‘gosh, you put 1200 miles on the van in 24 hours!’ and we’re like, ‘yeah, unlimited mileage right?’ Here’s $21.99.
RW: One time we rented one and they handed Nate the keys and said, ‘have a nice stay in Portland’, Nate said, ‘Oh, I’m not staying in Portland’!
NC: You also have to realize, last time we were in a tour cycle, gas was half that it is. You know, if we knew we could cover 20 hours of driving for a trip to Moscow we would do it to break even in a heartbeat! Just to do it for fun, like that’s not an issue but if it costs us money to do it or once you get there there’s sort of no where to go then I don’t know…disco balls, hot tubs?
CL: So, talking about the radio or getting radio play, you guys have been or will be featured on National Public Radio?
NC: We had an interview and a song on there that was downloadable on the N.P.R. blog. It wasn’t actually on a radio show but the N.P.R. blog is pretty big and maybe even more importantly it feeds into hundreds of other websites so I was really, really honored to be interviewed on N.P.R. but I was almost more excited when O.P.B., which is Oregon Public Broadcasting, picked it up ‘cause I grew up watching Sesame Street on that and to be like, wow they’re talking about my band and talking to me, that was kind of thrilling. In general I think I would pursue satellite radio right now if we were really going to push it. I mean there are specialty shows that get all the way around the world that probably we could get involved with we’ve just been so busy doing what we’ve been doing radio just hasn’t been…I think radio is a little bit off our radar in general because Portland just doesn’t have much going on that way. Portland has millions of clubs and bands but no magazines or radio stations. There are college radio specialty shows that haven’t been around that long. I mean like you guys have a legacy. There’s pirate radio and I’m sure there’s some internet stuff. Like KEXP in Seattle I think kind of sets the standard of how you can be a major radio station and still support local music and underground music. I wish Portland got a feed of KEXP or had something similar but we don’t. Even our heavy metal rock station just went under but I was kind of excited that they left.
RW: Yeah, it was terrible! It was the kind of heavy metal that shouldn’t be promoted, for the most part. Then they’d throw in the occasional like, Black Sabbath “Paranoid” for street cred but you know, System of a Down is not metal in my opinion.
NC: I actually heard them telling a news piece on KGON about …Tommy Iommi settling his differences with Ozzy and I called Shannon and I was like ‘you’ve been a d.j. on a classic rock station for like 30 years and you’re saying Tommy Iommi?’. He was like ‘yeah, I’m just reading it off the sheet and that’s what it says’ so I said ‘but think for a second, you know that’s not his name’ he was like ‘you’re right!’ and I was like ‘you just said that to tens of thousands of people you should probably fix that.
CL: The next show I am really excited about is Thou…Portland…know anything about that?
NC: I’ve haven’t seen Thou. I know Brian, I was hanging out with him in L.A. about a week and a half ago, he seems like a really nice guy. My main interaction with Thou was that I tried really hard to get them on some YOB shows and they didn’t want to play on a stage. They wanted to play a D.I.Y. space on the floor so we kind of agreed to disagree. I respect what they’re about, I’m sure they’re heavy as you know…can be.
Do you guys have any requests for the show tonight…you know our stuff. Like is there anything you guys want to hear tonight?
CL: Wow! Put the d.j. on the spot! New stuff or old stuff?
RW: Depends on what you consider old stuff.
CL: Stuff off the first album… like “Rock On / 4:20”?
RW: We’re mainly playing stuff off of South of Salem and stuff we’ve been practicing. We’re playing three new songs tonight that are going to be on our new album but if there’s something else…
CL: How about, ”Wing of the Lord”?
NC: You bet. For you guys, no problem! “Rock On /4:20” has collected some dust over the years. The twentieth anniversary we’ll play that!
RW: Yeah, I can’t even remember the last time we played that song. We’re trying to move forward now that Uta is in the band. Plus all the new material we’re working on right now for the follow up to South of Salem is stuff she’s written mostly all the lyrics for whereas before she was using all of my lyrics for the songs we had written for South of Salem but most of her new lyrics…But yeah, we can do “Wing of the Lord”.
CL: Working any Iommi Stubbs into new Witch Mountain?
RW: No, not really. This is like a completely different animal at this point. You know, when me and Nate first met it was because I was working on stuff that was going to show the guys in Iommi Stubbs and then we kind of disbanded and I called Nate up and brought it in. Most of the stuff we’re doing now, the three new songs we’re going to be doing, one of them is Veil of the Forgotten and we call it a trilogy, but it’s like a three part song now, actually it’s a different direction than South of Salem and I think you’ll notice it. It’s a little bit darker I think. I don’t know, we’ve got one that’s really bluesy, it’s still us, it’s still Witch Mountain. Definitely Uta writing the lyrics and writing her own melodies is adding a different dynamic. She does a lot of different like vocal techniques that are really amazing, I can’t believe it comes out of thee same person.
CL: Has your audience changed since you added a female vocalist?
RW: Yes. Well, um, a lot more girls come out to the show, you know. I think whenever there’s a female fronted band, I mean even dating back to The Go-Gos or Heart, Joan Jett. Women appreciate that. Especially powerful women like Ann and Nancy Wilson or Uta Plotkin you know very powerful women that command attention…Janis Joplin absolutely, Billie Holliday. So we have a lot more females in our audience and um a lot of younger people actually. A lot of kids drive out to see us which is really cool! All ages shows are a plus with that.
CL: Did Adult Swim help out with that?
RW: Um, I think so. I mean a year ago there wasn’t anything by us on You Tube almost everything we’ve put out or recorded is out there… live footage, people recording their own stuff and puttin’ it up there. You know, we have our own channel kind of thing, playlists rather, and I think kids look at that kind of stuff. When we did the Adult Swim, Metal Swim compilation our name was actually said on Cartoon Network on a commercial during Metalocalypse you know, and kids see that and they go look it up on the internet and Google it, they do a video search and they find our other stuff. I think that’s actually been a huge impact on us, like the younger audience… just people hearin’ about us.
CL: College radio?
RW: College radio helps, absolutely. They played us on KBOO in Portland recently and someone said they’ve heard us on XFM…is that how you say it?
CL: It’s XM…grandpa!
RW: Exactly! On the AM radio! Yeah, XM… we do two minute versions of our songs for the AM radio!
CL: Well you guys have been great. We’ve taken up a lot of your time tonight. Do you have anything you would like to add?
NC: Stay doomed!
RW: I think Nate said it good.
CL: Any requests for our show? You know, we’re a metal / psychedelic kind of thing…
NC: Do you have “God’s Balls” by Tad?
RW: The new Danava album. If that’s too out there for you Rabbits is really good.
NC: Wizard Rifle. They’re a Portland band and they’re kind of our favorite new band, they’re awesome.
CL: Thanks for taking out so much of your time for us! Maybe we can do it again next year!
Witch Mountain is :
Nate Carson- drums
Rob Wrong- guitar
Dave Hoopaugh- bass
Uta Plotkin- vocals