(We present another interview by our comrade, Comrade Aleks, and this time he had a great conversation with Niko Lass of the French band Witchthroat Serpent.)
Who would introduce the band better than themselves? Nobody! And as we want to do things right, let’s start with the official press-release I got from Witchthroat Serpent: about their new album Sang-Dragon:
“Sanguis draconis is a thick, blood-red resin extracted from exotic trees. Since the dawn of time, it has uses in medicine, crafts, and of course. magic. And so is Witchthroat Serpent’s music: dark and heady as blood, weird as it would come from another world, and ridden with that old powerful magic men both used to practice and fear.
“Witchthroat Serpent was created in November 2011 in Toulouse, France, by Fredrik Bolzann (guitar/vox), Niko Lass (drums), and Lo Klav (bass), with the aim to spread occult and powerful doom metal. The self-titled first album was released on CD in 2014 by Deadlight Entertainment, soon followed by a tape version through Zanjeer Zani and on LP by US label Emetic Records the year after.”
Witchthroat Serpent is not a clone. It has its own spells, and sure knows how to use them to enthrall the listener. Morbid groove and psychedelic tunes to seduce you to your perdition. And so too is their new album Sang-Dragon (enthralling), recorded in one day at Drudenhaus studio in September 2015. First released on CD by Deadlight Ent., it will be spread on noble black wax by Svart Records on August 26th. Before that, after just returning from a successful Spanish-French tour in May, the trio appeared on stage at Crumble Fest on June 4th and will play at Motocultor Fest on August 19th.
We had a nice conversation with Niko — informative, productive and honest.
Hail Niko! How are you? What’s going on with Witchthroat Serpent?
Hi Aleksey, we are just back from Crumble Fest here in France; it was a blast, a very nice DIY festival with an awesome line-up this year. It was really great to play there, the audience was really excited, so we did a powerful gig!
Niko, the band was born five years ago, so what was on your mind when you started it?
Yes, we are in our fifth year; the band was born in November, 2011. When we started we wanted to play a kind of doom we’d never tried; we’d already played drone doom with Habsyll, ritual doom with Sektarism. As we liked a lot of doom bands like Acid King and Electric Wizard, and as we were already involved in the occult and magic, it was an obvious choice to play some occult doom. At the time Habsyll was on stand-by, so it was the perfect time to start Witchthroat Serpent.
Was it difficult to find like-minded persons to play that stuff?
No, it was easy. Fredrik and I had already played in Habsyll and I asked Lo, who played bass in a grind band called Artemisia Absinthium that we played in together at the time. So the three of us were ready to practice in a couple of weeks.
The band’s name is bloody remarkable. How did you figure out this one? Is the name of the new album Sang-Dragon connected with it somehow?
Serpents and witches have always fascinated us. Our goal was to unite these two words in a common meaning, and the only way to do this was to associate shamanism and sorcery. The throat is the key! Diving into the throat of the serpent in shamanism allows you to reach other worlds, and listening to the spells coming from a witch’s throat may intoxicate you. Everything was there, we just had to let it go, and Witchthroat Serpent was born!
In a way, Sang-Dragon is connected to our band’s name. Sang-Dragon is strong incense used for exorcisms and powerful rituals. We always use it in our live show, as a way to be in communion with high spirits, and it allows our audience to feel the bewitchment.
Witchthroat Serpent – Sang Dragon
What is the most difficult thing when you play such tortured Electric Wizard-influenced songs? You know there are a lot of doom bands nowadays, and you need to have some features or you just disappear in this flow.
Nothing is difficult, you just have to close your eyes, feel the magic, play fucking loud, smell the Sang-Dragon incense, taste the Sacred Mother tincture, and welcome the Red Dragon spinning around you.
Your second album Sang-Dragon was released barely two months ago. How long did you work on this material?
We worked on it for a year and a half. We started writing new tracks just before our first album was released and then recorded Sang-Dragon in September the following year. We rehearsed a lot during this period, short but recurrent practice.
Where did you record these songs? Did you already have some basic tracks ready when you entered the studio? Or is Sang-Dragon the result of sinister jamming?
We recorded at Drudenhaus Studio in France with a marvelous guy named Benoît. All the tracks were strictly written before entering the studio, and we practiced a lot to get the feeling we wanted to reach for this album. The only jamming on this album is on “Behind Green Eyes”; the organ part was composed during the recording session.
What are your requirements for the Witchthroat Serpent sound?
Old tube amplifiers, vintage speakers, used guitars and drums, and the heaviest cymbals possible!
There’s a song called “Siberian Mist” on the album; it is a pretty interesting song title, what’s it about?
This song is about weed and the high state of mind we reached with the White Siberian strain after a rehearsal.
Indeed, such a kind of doom is often labeled as “drug-influenced”. Is this definition true for Witchthroat Serpent?
Yes of course, drugs are part of our lives — we like them and they like us! On the other side, we are pretty careful with most of the substances we use. We always try to find the best way to use them, sometimes for healing, sometimes to party, but always with meditation and thinking.
Have you ever faced a negative experience with these substances?
No, it was always nice and trippy, you just have to be in the right mood to make the best trip possible. Just listen to your inner mind! Of course we choose carefully what we take and we avoid harmful substances — those which don’t allow us to reach the state of mind we like. Overall, we are mostly into psychedelics.
“A Caw Rises from My Guts” is a crazy name for the song, how did you figure it out?
It’s this kind of feeling when you dream to see through raven’s eyes during a long journey of meditation without taking any drugs! Caws & seers surround us!
How would you describe the main changes the band went through in recording the second album? How do you see the most important differences between the two records?
We reworked our backline, tried to sound better with years of experience, and entered a professional studio with a mastermind sound engineer. Otherwise, all was recorded live the same way as the previous album, not much difference in the way of recording the songs. Also, we can say we tried to practice the songs in a tighter way for this recording.
You have the “Gospel of the Witches” song on your debut album; is it based on ideas of the “Aradia” book? Some say that it is a fake, yet the book has strongly influenced Wiccans.
No, it’s a song about Lucifer and his faithful servants, the seven witches.
Witchthroat Serpent – Gospel of the Witches
Are you serious about it? Is it some kind of tribute to the genre or do you truly believe in occult powers?
We live among occult powers! Who can ignore them?
How much of your own lives are in the Witchthroat Serpent songs? Such stuff is usually associated with drug-influenced themes and horror-movies; so is it some kind of fiction or something autobiographical?
We have some lyrics about different shamanic plants and also drugs, all used and known by at least one of us, others about ghosts and spirits, and others about occult and mystical themes. Most are based on personal experiences. We write music and lyrics the same way, we need to feel satisfied between the music and the lyrics to finalize a song.
The band spent a pair of weeks on tour this May. How did you organize it? What was the most difficult part of the tour?
Yes, we made the Sang-Dragon tour in early May. The tour was awesome. We contacted some friends and set up this tour by ourselves, a DIY tour. Usually we try to find a festival and then add some gigs around the date to shorten the distance between towns. The most difficult is to find gigs and promoters for Sunday; it seems to be a bad day to set up a gig.
What are your most positive and negative impressions from this tour?
All was positive in this tour, no robbery, no van breakdown, everything was just perfect!
Witchthroat are from Toulouse; how it is to live there? And do you have some kind of local doom scene or local influences in your songs?
Toulouse is a nice town but we live mostly in the countryside. Yes, we have a small local doom scene with bands like Soyuz Bear or She Hunts Koala plus our other doom acts. Not much local influence on our songs except maybe Armagnac, our beloved grape brandy.
Niko, thank you for your time, that’s all for today. How would you sum up Witchthroat Serpent’s for the forthcoming future?
We are going to release Sang-Dragon on vinyl through SVART records on august the 26th. Tapes versions will follow soon on Urtod Void records in Europe and Hellas records in Asia. Then we are playing the MOTOCULTOR festival in France and we are planning to make few gigs in October with our label mates BATHSHEBA. See you on tour and many thanks Aleksey for this interview.