Indulás: 2007-01-11
Witchfinder General 3.

At which point did Witchfinder General’s story come to an end? Did you part ways from each other on a friendly term at the end?

Yeh we all remained good mates.


How do you view that Witchfinder General was discovered by many bands and fans mostly after your demise?

Yeh I think it was brill, but it was unknown to us at the time or may be and only may be we may have reformed, who knows?


Both „Friends of hell” and „Death Penalty” were re-released in 1996 or so, how did it happen exactly?

I never knew these albums were re-released on CD; we never got contacted over the release. One night I was drinking in a pub when this guy came up to me and said he had just brought our two albums on CD and I thought he was joking but obviously not. In fact I am, along with other band members still awaiting a cheque from HMR for the last twenty five years of Royalties. I suppose we are not the only ones.


In your opinion, did the re-releases help getting new fans for the band?

I suppose they did.


In 2006 „Live ’83” was released by Nuclear War Now! How did this material come into being and whose idea was to release it?

After I had heard that there were people out there who wanted more from us I found out the old cassettes. I had a few gigs on tape but the Manchester Tiffanys gig stood up well, bearing in mind how old the tapes were; Russ was contacted and the rest is history.


Well the music is just divine, it’s well-written and displayed competently by this youthful and historic quartet, written and recorded in the early ’80s, speed of the songs range from rocking fast to mid-paced doom and talk about melody, individualism, diversity, and catchiness, one got it all on this album, what’s your opinion?

The cassette which the Live’83 album was taken from was recorded off the mixing desk. That is why the vocals and the drums stand out well, bearing in mind that Rod and myself had a big and powerful back line. I used  three Laney 100w amps and six Laney 100w cabs and Rod used two Marshall 100w amps and a Nolan 100w amp through two custom built 200w bass reflect bins and two 100w Laney cabs. So the overall sound doesn’t really reflect the sound at the gig, if you get my meaning.


Would you say, that this is really enjoyable music, an example of classic traditional heavy metal in the best sense of the word?

Well it is certainly enjoyable to play, at least it is not three chords right the way through the song he!he!


For those metalheads who grew up with death and black metal, Witchfinder General’s music can be a real eye-opener in demonstrating that metal doesn’t need to be fast, brutal, technical, or atmospheric, do you agree with that?

Yeh, sounds good to me.


Songs with good compositional structure, ideas, and musical development, coupled with emotional riffs, solos, and chorus still reign supreme and traditional heavy metal can still make an impact to modern day listeners and has much to teach the bands of the 21st century, is that correct?

Yeh never write the old timers off.


It sounds much like a bootleg, but if it were, at least it’d be a bootleg of the band putting on a damned good show, the vocals were on cue, which is rare in this genre, and the guitars were even more crushing than on the original songs, how do you see it?

Well when you buy a live album from a top band, mentioning no names of course, you will find it’s about as live as R.I.P on our twelve inch single, no mistakes, perfect sound on vocals and all instruments, totally false. Whereas the Live ’83 can not be and has not been tampered with, it is totally 100% live.


Unfortunately „Music” didn’t make up on the record, why?

That was the record company’s idea to put 'music' as a bonus track on the vinyl album and leave it off the CD.


All tracks recorded live at Tiffany’s, 27A Oxford Street, Manchester - Wed. 6th July ’83 except „Shadowed Images” and start of „Quietus” - The Palais, Humberstonegate, Leicester - Thurs. 7th July ’83, right? How do you remember these shows at all?

Tiffanys, Manchester was on the second floor so all our gear had to man handled upstairs and what a shitter that was. It was a wet wednesday night and only about ten people turned up to see us. So can you imagine the frustration after shifting all that gear for ten people,but anyway at least we got a live tape out of it. Leicester Palais was quite the opposite, it was the only venue we played at in 1983 where the stage was big enough to fit all our gear on it, plus the drum rise, so the back line looked very impressive. This was a lot better gig but not for Zeeb who had a throat infection, so the vocals came over poor.


Last year the „Buried amongst the Ruins” material came out including your singles („Soviet Invasion” and „Burning a Sinner”) and some live shows, how deeply were you involved into the making of this material? Can you tell us details regarding this album?

Again I had a cassette recording taken off the mixing deck from a gig we did in Birmingham in 1981. The tape was in poor condition and we were only able to use a few tracks. I mentioned it to Russ and Nick and they were over the moon to release it. Chris Smith at the Den Studio mastered it on to CD and Russ got some other guy to further enhance it, but again it was totally live


„Phantasmagorical” was previously unreleased, how many songs do you still have that were never released?

That was the only one I have, there were other songs that were knocking around at that time but never got recorded either live or studio.


Do you think, that Witchfinder General was one of the earlier bands with a Doom-metal’ish sound, and has reached cult status these days?

Definitely at the start of the eighties we were on our own playing slow doom music, even Sabbath had changed their outlook on the music with Ronnie replacing Ozzy and a different stlye of Sabbath sound. To reach a cult status these days is just mind blowing.


What do you think about covers, tributes that were paid to the band, such as „No Stayer” of Japanese grindcore band Bathtub Shitter, „Witchfinder General” of German Witchburner or „Rabies” of Cathedral?

This is totally amazing. To hear someone else do your own songs makes you so proud and makes you feel it was all worth while. I would like to put all these bands together on one CD covering the WFG tracks, perhaps call it Satans Children, yeh that would be great.


How do you feel when you see that there are still a lot of people, who really understood how great Witchfinder General is/was and who still enjoy your music after all those years?

Yeh sometimes it feels a little embarrassing to meet up with guys who are still in their teens or just turned twenty who are into the band and I am old enough to be their father and yet again it makes me so proud of WFG.


Is Witchfinder General a living legend?

I’ve really no idea about that.


In your opinion, did the band leave its mark on the scene and Witchfinder General’s name is still big and it’s in people’s minds?

Well we must have left our mark on the metal scene if bands from all over the world have covered our songs, so I suppose we are never to be forgotten.


What made you to reform in 2006 and how did you hook up with Rod Hawkes and Dermot Redmond again?

It was mainly because of Russ Vrankovich. I was so overwhelmed that he had travelled half way round the globe to meet me and then to do it again with his brother Nick just to attend our wedding. I felt I needed to give these guys something back in return and what better way than to reform the band and to record a new album.


What about the new member Gary Martin? What about his voice compared to Zeeb’s one? Is he the perfect replacement for Zeeb?

I wouldn’t say Gary is the perfect replacement for Zeeb, Gary is a completely different vocalist. When Gary was asked to record ’Resurrected’ album we agreed we would go no further than just the album, bearing in mind that Gary has his own band ’Permission to Rock’, who have been kind enough to lend us their vocalist so we took it at that. Soon people will be able to judge Gary for them selves but I personally think he is a brilliant singer.


Are Graham Ditchfield, Zeeb Parkes or Steve Kinsell still musically active? Are you still in  regular touch with them or…?

I’ve lost contact with Zeeb now, I met up with  him about four years ago and I quickly realised he was not the Zeeb I had grown up with so I wish him all the best in the future but I don’t need him as a friend. I’ve seen Graham a few times in the last ten years but I don’t think he plays the drums now. Steve is my cousin so I always bump in to him through the family, I think Steve still plays but I don’t think he’s in a band.


Did you ask them to take part in the reunion at all? Why didn’t they take part in the reunion?

No they weren’t asked, mainly because when the band broke up in 1984 it consisted of Zeeb, Rod, Derm and myself and we had album material waiting to be recorded, but no record company took us on so we decided to split.


When did you start writing the new material for your brand new album? How did the rehearsal go at all?

I took a lot of the riffs from a 1984 rehearsal tape and used them for the new album. Then I started writing lyrics in 2005, some with the help of my son in law Dan Wood. We started rehearsing again in late 2006, we were all rusty but it is like riding a bike, you never forget.


Did you feel the same vibe that was in the band for 25-26 years ago?

Yeh I do now. When we started the Resurrected album I was not so sure, it seemed a lot of hard work had got to go into this and I suppose a lot of the work had got to come from me but it was something I had to do for the guys who had stuck with us all through the years. Once we had got going it all started to come back and Derm was very keen from the start, which helped pull me through.


What can you tell us about the recording sessions of the new album? How long did it take?

It took a hell of a long time, I never thought it would get finished. What didn’t help was the fact that we had only had Saturdays really to play at it, bearing in mind we all have full time jobs, mortgages and other commitments so I suppose it’s fair to say that the recording had to come second but our hearts were in it 100%.


You have been very limited to studio time, why? Does it mean, that you had to hurry with the recordings or…?

When you are a band like us you will always be limited to studio time. Not only what I have just mentioned in the last question but the main fact is that you have never got enough money. Studios don’t come cheap these days so if your name is not Metallica, yes you do tend to rush things.


Can you give us perhaps a song to song description?

Seven tracks out of the eight were written in 1984 before the band broke up. Just before we had finished, in fact it was our last rehearsal together, I recorded the rehearsal on a cassette tape. I found the tape out and learned the riffs again. I have changed all the lyrics and melodies to break all connections with Zeeb. I always said that these songs were good and it was like a dream come true to record them after all those years.


How would you describe the material, the sound as a whole compared to the first two albums?

The first two albums and singles had their moments, but I believe this is the best line up the band has ever had. I am not knocking Graham, Toss or Steve, they all did a great job for the band and especially Zeeb. Zeeb was my partner in crime, but I feel good about this line up and I think it will work. I have not tried to change things from the early days, I think some bands try to get too technical and it diverts from the heavy metal, so I have tried to keep the seventies, eighties sound metal.


Is there a chance to label „Resurrected” a classic, such as „Death Penalty” and „Friends of Hell”?

I cannot say that, it is not up to me to call this album a classic. Perhaps in time people will say it is good, there again they may say it’s crap but I personally think it’s our best.


What are your future plans? How do you want to promote the record? By which label will it be released?

The album will be released on 'Buried by Time and Dust Records'. The promotion of the record will be left to the record company. We at the moment have no future plans. We have been very happy to give the people who have supported us though the years Resurrected album, and now we will see how the album is received over the globe and may be and I have to say MAY BE we will play live again some day.


Phil, thanks a lot for your answers, anything to add that I forgot to mention?

I am sorry I am not the best person doing interviews and I hope I have covered most things you need to know. Derm, Rod, Gaz and myself have been brought together because of  Resurrected, but away from the band we are all normal working blokes with no chip on our shoulders. If anyone is passing through Stourbridge just drop us a line and we will be glad to come and have a beer or two with you. And thanks to everyone who has may the band possible.


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