SKELETONWITCH – Year of the ‘Witch

SKELETONWITCH – Year of the ‘Witch

(…this article is in English…)

Skeletonwitch originates from Athens, Ohio in the US, and have since 2007 released three albums through Prosthetic Records: Beyond The Permafrost (2007), Breathing the Fire (2009) and now the latest metal feast Forever Abomination (2011) – an album that have ended up quite a few lists over best metal albums in 2011.

What makes Skeletonwitch interesting? Well, apart the genuine metalness of the songs and albums, they exhibit an extraordinary commitment to bring the music out on the road. The touring schedule of this band serves as empirical proof of the working morale of the band, and it further shows in practice what many bands fails to achieve: True dedication to metal, and the difference between a pose and a life style.

Skeletonwitch took their Forever Abomination album on tour to Europe in January 2012. After playing in both UK and France, they arrived in Oslo, Norway. The band joined the Fire Walk With Me tour together with the metal punks of Nekromantheon and the mighty Aura Noir for 4 shows.

I got to talk to Nate Garnett (guitar) and Scott Hedricks (guitar) hours before their first ever concert in Norway.


Thank for taking time for this, guys

SCOTT: Oh, no problem.

You’re on tour nowadays, how has the tour been so far?

SCOTT: Its, been great, we did 26 shows in a row with the Black Dahlia Murder and Fleshgod Apocalyse, we did 21 in the UK, and 5 in France, and flew over and had a day off here in Oslo, and here we are.

NATE: I love the UK, but 21 days straight is a little much.

… I could imagine that ,-

NATE: You know, mostly for late night food I been eating French fries every day (laughs).


You have a new album out, Forever Abomination, and it’s a killer album, I have to say ,-

SCOTT: Thank you very much,-

NATE Yeah, thanks a lot, –

… and the album seemed to have surfaced all over the Internet on shortlists for best metal albums in 2011. Are you satisfied with how the album turned out?

SCOTT: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, each time we try to take step up, you know … better production, better songwriting … the more we tour, the more play, I mean, the better we become as musicians, so you just take everything you’ve learned and just go for it. I feel like it’s a step forward and a little more of a step outside just the thrash-thing that all lot of people kinda pegged us with at first, and on this record they finally said like "oh, wait a second, they do a little more than that … maybe a lot more than that!", so I think the album is a statement in that way. It shows that it is a lot more diversity in the band, as well.

… because you had this "retro-thrash" label attached to you guys

SCOTT: Yeah, we got stuck with that!

What do you think about that? Does it fit Skeletonwitch?

NATE: At first, I didn’t mind it very much, you know, whatever. Then it just became all that everybody saw and heard, all thrash, but I think it’s a whole lot more there. I cant see how anyone can hear the band and say "you guys are all thrash metal". There a lot more stuff there, like black metal, deathmetal, all kinds of stuff, but hey, at least they’re not calling us rap or something, at least they got parts of it right! (laughs)

SCOTT: What came a bit annoying with the retro-thrash thing is that a lot bands are intentionally going for a very specific sound that they don’t deviate from, and they’re doing that on purpose, and that’s cool and there’s a lot of great bands that do it, but we aren’t trying to do that sound, so when they say that "hey, you’re one of those bands" that do just one specific thing …

… yeah, just reproducing the formula …

SCOTT: Yeah, exactly, we have thrash influence, for sure, but there’s a lot more there. That’s where it starts to get a bit more annoying … like "did you actually listen to the record?"

NATE: "… or did you just look at the logo, and, yup, that’s a thrash logo!" (laughs)

… Ok, but how would you explain or describe your music to new listeners?

SCOTT: Well, I don’t know … I guess, extreme melodic metal, with no regard for genre or style … just what we like, and it’s somewhat catchy or memorable. I think Nate who is the main songwriter is a very good composer, the songs are distinct and individual, but it’s still brutal at the same time. I think Nate is good at making things catchy without wimping out, so to speak.

… yeah, I hear a lot of Maiden-influence in the songs with the melodies and double guitars, and …

SCOTT: … anything can end up in the songs, it may be a bit more deathmetal, a bit more black metal, more thrashmetal, rock’n’roll, whatever, and as long we like it, if you feel it, then it doesn’t matter what style its gonna be, so really it can go anywhere as long as it is in the realm of heavy music.

Skeletonwitch live in Bergen 9/2-2012
(Photo: Stig Pallesen)

How has response been on the new songs on the tour so far?

NATE: I think especially in the UK, people knew the feel of our new songs more, like "This Horrifying Force …" people knew that song, and the kids knew the words of the new stuff already, and that’s cool. We played one UK festival, Bloodstock, we almost didn’t make it, but that festival alone really helped a lot in the UK for the new album.

… yeah, you been over in the UK five times or so, and now its your first time here in Norway …


… about time, I have to say!

SCOTT: We’re pretty happy to be here … we been looking forward this a very long time!

Do you have any expectations to the Norwegian metal crowd?

SCOTT: Really, I don’t have any expectations, being the first time and all, so have no idea what to expect, honestly! There so many great metal bands coming from this country, it’s a pretty rich metal area …

NATE: … I mean, culturally, every place is different, you know, don’t wanna single anyone out, but some places they just sit there and watch you play until the sixth time they see you, and then "… yeah, these guys can play …"  I have no idea what to expect. (laughs)

SCOTT: … I have no idea, but I don know if they circle-pit … or mosh or anything.

… yeah, quite curious myself … Norwegians are generally not that outgoing .. I guess metalheads are the same all over … but metal has a certain foothold over here, there many bands that are successful internationally … and the Norwegian Black scene has a certain position in metal as such.

NATE: yeah ..

Skeletonwitch live in Bergen 9/2-2012
(Photo: Stig Pallesen)

The early days of Norwegian black metal is known to have been quite hectic … how do you relate to the black metal scene?

SCOTT: Well, its hard to speak for everyone else in the band, but I think we’re interested in how the music sounds and the songwriting more than some guy did behind the scenes … all the drama and that … I don’t know if you’re talking specifically about the music or what happened outside the music

… yeah, I think both aspects are spectacular on their own sense, but the early sound of the music is quite characteristic, I ‘d say, some would argue that the productions are poor …

NATE: I watched some documentaries on this, where they were like "… oh, this is a better microphone, I want a shittier microphone" … I mean, in this day and age, we’re judged a lot on production and the quality of production … but some people like rawer productions and think its better …

SCOTT: … yeah, it’s a taste thing …

NATE: I love plenty of albums that doesn’t sound good on a car stereo … I mean, if the riffs are there, that’s all that matters to me … but I never on purpose make something sound bad.

Then you have the other aspect on back metal with the church burnings, homicides, suicides and desecration of graves and all sorts … what’s your thoughts on that?

SCOTT: My thoughts on that? … I think its very extreme … some it is ridiculous … The other day we were walking in the streets here, and we talked about this, and how they burned down old historic churches, and we’re like " … why didn’t they burn down a fucking McDonalds or something … ". Regarding the architecture, I mean, at least the buildings were cool whether or not you believe on the purpose. Why burn down something so old, just for the history’s sake?

NATE: I don’t wanna comment, because I wasn’t here, I have no idea what was going on … teenage angst or whatever it was, I have no idea …

SCOTT: yeah, I wanna stay out of it … "I didn’t do it! " (laughs) … its pretty crazy some of that stuff …

… there is this contrast between metal as an elite, exclusive underground thing with an ideological basis and mainstream music culture with hypercommercial artists that are totally empty … Where do you wanna be in relation to those two extremes?

NATE: … I wanna play underground music, but get paid to do it (laughs)

SCOTT: yeah (laughs)

NATE: I don’t wanna write something to get anywhere else, you know, you gotta think you’re playing extreme music and you can’t go all the way to the top …

…but metal is gaining popularity, right, it’s generating crowds and money …

SCOTT: … yeah, it does, but its still heavy metal … Anyone who does this for fame or money is an idiot, because you do this for your own reasons … otherwise you’re doomed to suck … You play heavy metal, right? You’re not getting that far with it.

NATE: … but there are plenty bands that live off heavy metal, we kinda do … we have a little bit of support, but … we don’t have jobs anymore … look at bands as Dimmu Borgir or something …

SCOTT: Regarding the point of your question about underground metal and the commercial stuff … I don’t really concern myself about that as much as the music … I’m a fan of music, you know, I have my own ideas, my own political beliefs, but I separate that … some may ask why do you do that … When I grew up, metal was an escape, it was fun, if I was having a shitty day or pissed off at something, metal was fun, I could go to as show and enjoy myself. I like the energy, I like the music, I like the songs. For some, our music may be just that, an escape. We don’t wanna tell you what to do or who to vote for, fuck this politician, fuck that guy, or don’t eat at this place … do what you wanna do. We put out our music … use it for what you wanna use it for, because who gives a shit who I vote for or want you to do?

NATE: …yeah, if I listen to a song now … any of them … about George W. Bush, its like hearing a song about how pissed off someone were at Ronald Reagan, you know … it doesn’t mean shit anymore.

SCOTT: yeah (laughs)

Well, Ronald made a couple of good movies, though …

SCOTT: … that’s arguable (laughs)

Skeletonwitch live in Oslo 8/2-2012
(Photo: MetalOath)

What do you think about tonight’s lineup here in Oslo? You’re playing together with Nekromantheon and Aura Noir …

NATE: We listened to both of them during soundcheck, and checked then out on the internet … and I’m so stoked to play together with this kind of fast, dirty and raw metal … because we’ve toured with a lot more polished and modern bands in the States, and I’m stoked to be amongst what I hope to be actual scumbags like us (laughs) … guys that wanna play, get drunk and do some weird shit …

SCOTT: yeah, we’re all raw dogs, here (laughs) … it’s an honor to play with people who have been and are in so many great bands.

The lineup is the best I’ve seen in a long time, with bands that seems actually eager to play and still have the hunger …  I saw Monster Magnet a couple of months ago … and that was just sad … How do you maintain the energy in your shows, I mean, 26 concerts in a row …

NATE: First of all, you don’t have a choice to not to play (laughs), you have to do it …

SCOTT: You’d be surprised what you can do when you HAVE to do it.

NATE: If you get sick or anything, you can’t call it off … we try not drink all day, every day,  … I dunno (laughs)

Well, you made it here, that’s a good sign …

SCOTT: We are still having fun, right, no matter how you feel when you get up there, you see all these people and your best friends on stage … you gone this far and done all this stuff … I mean, we standing here in here in Norway right now, in front of all these people, seeing all the energy … then you don’t even think about the other stuff. We’re lucky to be here, no matter how you feel.

How did you guys get into metal, in the first place?

NATE: I think both of us in the same way, we have older brothers, my older brother in the singer in this band, so when I was young he’d get me into bands like Metallica, Slayer, D.R.I., and Overkill and that kinda of stuff. I was able to listen to those bands at a very young age, and it stuck, you know. I loved it and always will …

… was there any key albums or key moments that made you swear the metal oath, so to speak?

NATE: … I can’t remember any specific album or concert … I guess it all just fit, you know

SCOTT: For me it was similar, an older brother … with whom I had my first beer and smoked my first joint, and he took my to my first concert, and that was Slayer

That’s an impressive debut, right there!

SCOTT:  …. yeah, I loved it, and when I left, I just went "Fuck … its all over and downhill from here" … That was the end of it! (laughs)

NATE : " … and he threw away the catholic uniform ! "(laugh)

SCOTT:  Yeah, that’s right! (laughs) … I guess one of the albums I discovered after I was getting into metal and finding out more about bands besides the obvious ones … I guess one of the bands that always blew my mind was Mercyful Fate … the albums "Melissa" or "Don’t break the Oath", either one, they’re both awesome. I got into that way later, you know …  first, you listen the Slayer and then you progress …

… right, it seems like the classic School of Metal … you start off with Slayer and stuff, but somewhere along the way you tip over the edge … I think for my part it was Sepultura with "Arise" that was the first album making me think " …Shit, this is it!" …

NATE: … yeah, I’ll go on record, and I’ll say that "Beneath the Remains" really sealed it for me … You got Slayer, you got Metallica, but then you got Sepultura

SCOTT: Beneath the Remains, yeah!

… that’s a really genuine album! Ok, their English pronunciation is isn’t that good (laughs) but the album is perfect in every other way, no doubt …

SCOTT: Its fucking great …

… so, lets see here in my notes … what’s next for you guys? You’re doing four shows in Norway, and then you go back to the States for some time off… then its back on the road with Nile …

SCOTT: Yes, we’ll do a tour with Nile and Black Dahlia Murder, it’s a full US tour … and after that we come to Europe to play at some festivals in the spring … we still work on some off-festival dates … but we’re doing Copenhell in May, Tuska Festival, Metaltown, … Grasspop … I cant remember them all.

NATE: … yeah, we got’em queued up!

Skeletonwitch live in Bergen 9/2-2012
(Photo: Stig Pallesen)

When are we going to see you guys headlining?

SCOTT: … that’s great question … every time we’ve been to Europe we basically have headlined, one time we supported Hate Eternal, and then did a rotating headlining with (unaudible) and then we did us and Warbringer … and then we headlined … we haven’t got that mega-support slot for mainland Europe … so this isn’t like 35-40 kids coming out, and you know, "… oh, you’re the same kid that ignored me last time!" (laughs)

SCOTT: … yeah (laughs)

You’re constantly touring, right, you spend more time on the road than most homeless people … how does this fit with how the record industry works nowadays?

SCOTT: I mean, for us, in terms of the business side of it, people don’t make money by selling records anymore and the way things go around is to tour … but also touring is fucking fun! I mean, you get to travel, you get to meet people, its not like "We got to tour, ‘cause we need more money!" We like to do this, we wanna grow as a band and keep doing it, do it bigger and better, and go to more places, keep things going as well … getting more people into the band, you know …

… I think it’s a strange situation out there, ‘cause when the bands are getting bigger and more popular, the records sales seems to go down at one point … people start downloading, right, it’s this cannibalistic tendency in the industry … I mean … how can you support bands that are surfacing, what’s your thoughts on that?

SCOTT: if you’re a fan of band and want to support a band, buy the record, go to a show …

NATE: … or buy a ton of T-shirts! (laughs) … even if you download the record, fine, buy a T-shirt, ‘cause I don’t see money from the record anyway …

SCOTT: (laughs) … yeah,

… money from record sales goes to the stores or record companies or iTunes or something? It doesn’t generate any real support?

SCOTT: … well, when people buy on for example iTunes, bands get paid for that, but still, the sales are so low anyway, if you’re in a band, don’t expect to get paid from selling records … but that ok, like I said before, we didn’t start this band to get paid … the unfortunate part is that takes money to make this shit work, though …

NATE: … and the fortunate part is that we do get a little bit … we hung out for two months straight here … kicked ass and met people and partied and got into fights and still stayed together (laughs).

… I think the metal crowd has a responsibility to support bands they like, ‘cause you can’t expect bands to make music for free … otherwise we end up with shit bands, right?

SCOTT: … I see what you mean. I think the metal community generally does that, on their own … I would never preach to somebody "You need to support the bands!". Most people get that.

NATE:  The metal community is pretty loyal …

SCOTT: … yeah, that’s awesome, people understand that and if you really like a band and want them to make great music while they have to work five other jobs besides playing music, something is wrong with that … I think the metal community understands that, for most parts.

NATE: … its funny with the metal guys, they are so loyal, as long as you keep doing what you are supposed to keep doing, they like your best friend in the world … but my God, if you fuck up … its like …

SCOTT … oooh, they’re gonna let you know! (laughs)

… (laughs) … I guess Metallica has some thoughts on that …

SCOTT: … Everyone has … you notice, when you change little things, people start shouting …

NATE:  … on Forever Abomination, its slightly different … on Beyond The Permafrost, we had our whole youthlife to write that album and it’s a mixture of things, but wasn’t heavily judged since we didn’t have any albums out … and Breathing the Fire is really brutal … Forever Abomination is a mixture of things where we do a few slightly different things. People still like it, but go like " … hey, you guys changed it up a bit!!" … well, what do you want me to do? Write the same songs all over again?

SCOTT: yeah (laughs)

… got to keep evolving, I guess … will we see Skeletonwitch head for the movies, with a "Some kind of a Monster" movie, with a shrink and all ….

SCOTT: No (laughs)

NATE: Nooo (laughs) We kick each other’s ass and quit before calling in a shrink! And I’ll never stop drinking! (laughs)

… No re-recordings with a symphonic orchestra …?

SCOTT: (laughs) nope!

… good to hear … Is there a new album underway, or is this the last one?

SCOTT: What? Last one? Hell, no!

NATE: …contractually: No. Some have this schedule with a new album every two years … you gotta put a new album out … I think we gonna wait a couple of months longer than that.

… You’re still touring this album …

SCOTT: … yeah, we still have lot of touring to do in the States and the festivals I mentioned earlier … but this year, I’d love to get to maybe Japan or Australia where we’ve never been to, and that would be great to do. And we wanna to do a headlining tour in the US and in Canada this year, as well, so … and then even get back to Europe to headline … there are so many places to go to … maybe even South America … all that is gonna eat up a lot of time before we write for the next record.


When do you write new material? On the road, or …

NATE: Just on breaks. Usually we tend to plan the tours in chunks up to 6 months … to have some time off … you know, when we’re the States, we’re in a van, and I’m driving it, so its not much time to write a new song, and to sit down with the drum machine and that shit … try to write a song …

SCOTT: … yeah, its pretty hard to do, we always try to sit down and jam out the songs … Nate is the main songwriter, and I always throw ideas and riffs at him, some of it suck, some of it stick, but it doesn’t matter, you can cut me out of the equation, and you still would have Nate writing the songs, and he’s not gonna sit there at the venue, or a backstage area with the size of a closet and write.

NATE: … I think it’s a different mindset, I wouldn’t be able to play a show and then be trying to nail these new riffs and record them decently enough so that you could hear them …

SCOTT: … I don’t know how people write on the road …

NATE: … unless you’re in the back of a bus, like Bon Jovi … (laughs)

SCOTT: … yeah (laughs) like with a fucking full-on studio in the back …

… you guys need a Bon Jovi bus, I think that would sort it out (laughs)

SCOTT: I think the answer to all our problems is a Bon Jovi bus! (laughs) …

… but change the Bon Jovi logo, though …

SCOTT: no, no, we gonna keep the logo, so we have middle aged women just flocking to the bus …

NATE: (laughs) … that another reason for us doing this: Middle-aged women!

… yeah, you don’t even need to fill gas on the bus, the hordes of women will push the bus wherever you’ll go … energy conservation saves the planet …

SCOTT: … propelled by hormones … (laughs)

… you shouldn’t joke about that, there might be 40-year old women coming to the show tonight … you might get lucky!

NATE: … (laughs) that cool, if they are anything like the rest of the women we seen here in Norway far … compared to the stuff we’ve seen …

SCOTT: … we could show you some of the scenes we seen …

… cause do you see all sorts of crazy stuff on the road?

SCOTT: yeah, … I don’t have any particular story to share …

NATE: yeah, but I don’t wanna single out any particular state or country …

SCOTT: Dont want to get anybody in trouble … we always get the question "Whats the craziest thing you’ve seen on tour?" … and I don’t know what to say, first, because are certain things I don’t wanna say …

NATE: … our moms might read this (laughs)

… You guys use Twitter a lot, and I’ve seen some of the stuff, and that seems like fun …

SCOTT: … Yeah, touring is fun … it depends on what type on band you are, for us, we’re guys that love playing heavy metal, and there is no big, dark weird secret about us, or some certain thing going on. This is who we are: We’re five guys from the States that love to play heavy metal, we metal fans as much as we are band … so we just show what we are, what we do. Some bands are like "… don’t wanna do it, that’s stupid, don’t show that picture" we don’t say those things because we have to be serious or something or to project some image. This is us, like it or not.

… because there is a big difference today with most bands are available on Twitter and stuff … going back 20 years you practically had to know someone in the band to get your hands on the cassette or a flyer … what’s you thoughts on how bands come out to their fans nowadays?

SCOTT: Its funny, ‘cause it’s a big difference from how kids did it before, now, kids are contact us with "… Hi, when is the show?! Are there tickets left?!" and they are on the Internet .. What are you doing? Go look, you’re online! (laughs)  now they can easily contact the band directly … you have the choice to respond or not … but its funny when they ask you …

NATE: … Its funny that they ask you when the information is probably right in front of their face … "oh, look a concert, do they play here? I will ask them!" and then the information is right there. We sometimes tweet the timeschedule, and kids ask "when are you on?!" … well, look, ´right there, you know. (laughs)

SCOTT: .. yeah, …"… hey, just move your eyeballs a little to left, and there you go".

… age of information, its great …

Nate: … great, yeah (laughs)

… lets see here … I’m through all my questions … all done here … what should I have asked you?

NATE: … no, its good … you didn’t ask us how we came up with the band name, that’s good …

… well, that’s what Internet is for, right?

NATE: … and you didn’t ask what time we were on tonight! (laughs)

SCOTT: … I just wanted to say thanks to everybody coming to the show, for checking out the band, and for the support!

NATE: Hopefully, you guys all hate us! And we’ll be booed off stage tonight! (laughs)

I look forward to tonight, the best of luck for the rest of the tour.

SCOTT: Thank you very much

NATE: yeah, thanks,

I expect to see you back here anytime soon!

SCOTT: yeah, we will be back …


After the four shows, Skeletonwitch headed home. A couple of weeks home for some R&R before they head back on the road. With the Forever Abomination album out and fullbooked remains of 2012, this might very well prove to become the year of the ‘Witch.


(Thanks to Hazez, Kalle, and Prn for preparations for the interview).