(Below we present Comrade Aleks‘ new interview with the crushing Virginia-based death/doom band Night Hag.)
Night Hag‘s debut full-length album Phantasmal Scourge was released one year ago by Rotted Life Records. However the band was founded somewhere in Virginia in about 2010 and its discography is far from poor, as it contains three demos, an EP, a split release, and even live album.
Jon Ransom (drums, vocals), Joe Arida (guitars), and Sam Fox (bass, vocals) are fans of macabre and savage death-doom metal, so covers of Mortician and Necrophagia sound natural in Phantasmal Scourge. There was no big news nor a new album’s announcement since its release, but Night Hag was in my “need-to-interview” list for nearly the entire year, and here we go at last.
Joe Arida (guitars) is going to tell us about Night Hag‘s dirty deals.
Hi Joe! How are you? What’s going on in Night Hag’s lair?
I am doing very well! We actually just finished up in the studio for a new split release and are working on our second full-length.
May I ask you about the split? Which band will share it with you? I hope we’ll do an interview with Cryptic Brood with whom you shared the split Swollen with Rancid Phlegm, so I need to know which band I should reach this time.
This time around we are doing a split with the mighty Burial from Italy.
Hah, I believe that I interviewed Burial in the spring of 2022. Split-albums are a cool part of the metal underground, a kind of healthy ethic’s index. Do you feel Night Hag is a part of the local death or metal scene?
I hope that we are. That’s up to the listeners.
Well, first of all, we are used to metal (especially doom metal) bands preferring to use “witch” in their names. Why did you choose “hag” instead of this? Was it something like “Night Hug” initially? Or were you inspired by the dirty art The Night-Hag Visiting Lapland Witches by Henry Fuseli (1796)?
Our drummer Jon started the band and named it “Night Hag” both as a tribute to a Gravewurm song and a reference to the folklore. We plan on using that art piece as a reference for future album covers too.
The band was formed in 2010, then it split up in 2012 just before re-forming the very same year. Also I see the lineup changed a few times, so Night Hag’s career looks quite turbulent. When did you join the band? How did all these changes happen?
I joined the band in 2014. Jon and I had been doing Sadistikum since 2010 and him and the original members had a falling out for various reasons. He tried out other members and when it got around to me we just clicked. Once Sam started playing bass we really got the sound locked in and it’s been going strong ever since.
What kind of sound do you mean? What are the main qualities of Night Hag’s sound from your point of view?
We all listen to the same type of death doom so it’s easy for us to agree on riffs. We just want to produce a sound that cavemen would bash each other’s heads in over
Joe, you take part in a few more bands whose influences range from death to black metal — what inspired you to slow down to a death-doom pace?
I love all types of metal and love writing songs across the board. Death doom is especially fun to write because it’s all about creating an atmosphere. It has to sound crushing while also keeping one’s attention.
What are your personal doom favorites?
My personal doom favorites are Burning Witch, Coffins, and Candlemass. There are many more worth mentioning, but those are my big three.
Night Hag’s first official release was Insemination Rites of the Succubus, which saw the light only in 2018. Why did it take so long? Wasn’t the band one of your priorities back then?
Honestly it took so long because Jon and I were content with being hermits and just jamming on the weekends. Once Sam joined the band he really pushed us to put our stuff out there and get it professionally recorded. Since then it has been our priority to keep up the pace and continue writing, releasing, and playing live.
Didn’t you ever feel a thrill to release composed material asap? With Night Hag or any other band? Is this “weekend warrior” attitude comfortable for you?
Honestly I didn’t know how to go about it. I would have loved to do it earlier, but Jon and I just got comfortable. Luckily Sam has connections from all over the place and hooked us up with great recording engineers. Shout out to Yave Rust and Bob Quirk.
Your next release is the live album Live at Riffhouse 6/4/19. Does it mean that gigs are an important part of the band’s life?
We didn’t know that one of our buddies was recording our set that night. He sent us the files the next day and we decided to release it. That is also our “home base” venue where we played the majority of our gigs starting out. We try to play as many gigs as we can, but all three of us have busy work schedules so it is difficult to play out as much as we’d like to.
How often did you play in 2022? What kind of gigs was it? And how far did your motivation take you with Night Hag? I mean, how far did you travel with the band in order to perform live set?
We went on a week-long tour for the first time in 2022 with Ectovoid from Alabama. We started in Atlanta, GA and ended in Boston, MA (most of the east coast). It was the best experience of my life and I’d love to do it again.
Night Hag is a trio consisting of you on guitars, Jon Ramson (vocals, drums), and Sam Fox (bass). All of you play in different bands besides Night Hag, all of you have different influences. So who provided most of ideas for Phantasmal Scourge album?
I wrote most of the rough drafts for Phantasmal Scourge. Some songs were written from before Sam and I joined, and Sam wrote “Witching Hour Violation”. After I’m done writing, we jam the rough versions. Jon always nails the drum parts and Sam always comes up with different hooks, melodies, and ways to play the riffs. The final product of each song is a culmination of the three of us adding ideas.
And who wrote the lyrics? Samuel or Jon? Do you care about this side of Night Hag? Do you need to have a song which you would roar along?
Jon wrote the lyrics to all the old material and Sam took over writing lyrics for the majority of Phantasmal Scourge. I don’t feel the need to write or do vocals. Composing the music is all I’m interested in.
What was your original plan when you started to record Phantasmal Scourge? What kind of qualities did you search for to transit through your songs?
Our plan is always to write music that we would want to listen to. I also try and come up with riffs that are a bit different without straying too far from the genre. We just try to sound as crushing as possible.
What was the feedback for Phantasmal Scourge?
We’ve gotten excellent feedback from that album which makes us very happy. I couldn’t be happier with the good reviews and kind words.
What are your plans now for 2023? How soon may we expect a new album?
If all goes well we’ll be putting out our new split in 2023 and also have our new album recorded!
Is it too early to ask you about the new album’s content? How much of Phantasmal Scourge is left there?
We always try to stay true to our sound and keep it as gross as we can. All I can say is that it’ll still be dumber than hell.
Thanks for the interview Joe! Do you have a few more words for our readers?
Thank you, and thanks to all our fans for supporting us and keeping us going. The Hag Lives!