Long vanished demo recordings from the vaults of Witchfynde bassist Andro Coulton will finally receive the vinyl treatment via Bad Omen Records. A most apt timing, we thought, to quiz to the pioneer on how it all came about.
ZT: A good day to you, Andro! How are you?
AC: Hi Miika, I’m well thanks, a little sore after playing ten gigs in 13 days around the UK, finishing with the Brofest warm up gig on Thursday 27th February. This was great the venue full of people from around the world and with Witchfynde records sleeves to sign, etc it was a total blast!
ZT: So, a spring-clean has unveiled two tapes nearly 40 years in the hiding. Could you tell us about the journeys these recordings have taken through the years and how you ended up finding them?
AC: Well, the original 1975 tape was brought back by me to the house I was renting with Gra Scoresby and Witchfynde’s Sound Man Rich Peach. I recorded several cassette copies and took them on a day out in London to Virgin Records, A&M,and Chrysalis. We were rejected by all of them! So we moved on from these songs and wrote new ones including Tetelestai and Unto the Ages of The Ages. The tape remained at the house until the lease on the house finished. Then it followed me to my parents and found itself in a cardboard box from then on. The second tape followed suit mainly because we were not entirely happy with it and this led to a big change leading to the Give ‘Em Hell recordings. The tapes followed me then through 10 house moves culminating in my present house in a Derbyshire village in a Unesco World Heritage Site, where last year I rediscovered the tapes when literally tidying out a large cupboard. I played them and thought ‘wow’ these are good songs and decided to digitise them and release them on Vyper Records (on CD).
ZT: Could you give us some background on the two releases? In what sort of circumstance were they recorded (the first I gather was at Drumbeat Studios)?
AC: Yes, Drumbeat Studios Leicester. I booked the recording session for a December evening, we arrived at 7.00pm and were told that we had to use the studio gear as we wanted to record so much material. I was just DI’ed, Montalo had to use a Kustom combo (the old ‘tuck and roll’ leather covered one) and Gra used their kit. We recorded all five songs, all first takes, mixed them and recorded the master tape by midnight! The second session was at a studio in Coventry, the name of which has been lost in the mists of time. Originally Tony Iommi was going to produce the 2 songs for us but had to pull out because of Sabbath’s album recording overrunning (Montalo was friends with him). We produced them as well as we could ourselves. They were not as good as we wanted and as I said before led us up and onward to better things.
ZT: The Lost Tapes unveil an unknown side of Witchfynde. Who/what were your main influences back then? Some psychedelic elements make themselves felt. I imagine there had been some shift of influences between the two tapes?
AC: Well the early recording was influenced by Rush, Wishbone Ash, Yes, Deep Purple and many other such bands, my bass playing was influenced by Jack Bruce (in Cream) Mel Schacher of Grand Funk Railroad, Hawkwind years Lemmy, Chris Squire from Yes and of course Geezer Butler (we played Paranoid from the first time I played in Witchfynde and was the encore even on the 1979 Live at the Prince William vinyl album. Tetelestai was a heavier song and Valkyrian Ride was a Vagnerian inspired attempt at a Witchfynde ‘Freebird’!
ZT: Give ‘Em Hell is considered a pioneering ‘metal’ classic. When did the band begin associating with this sort of world/sound? Or did you ever? Black Sabbath has been listed an influence, of course.
AC: It was quite weird, often songs just ‘happened’ at a rehearsal as if there was this ethereal 5th member of the band. The metal element had all ways been there I think primarily from me but it just seemed to flow in that direction.
ZT: Much is made of the tampering with the occult. Your press-sheet lists occultism and the esoteric as an inspiration, alongside Aleister Crowley and authors such as Poe and Lovecraft. Could you tell us about your experiences within these realms and how they ultimately influenced Witchfynde?
AC: Well, I always had an interest in the esoteric and the occult, Montalo was a member of a Wiccan coven and we often talked about such matters and visited occult shops where I bought such books as the Book of Soloman and many others. The band spent a Halloween night at Stanton Moor which is an ancient site with a stone circle and it was a freaky night. The house I spoke of before was haunted (as is my present home) Unto The Ages Of The Ages, was written to give this occult side of Witchfynde including incense burners on stage etc.
ZT: You also speak of the spirit in which the tapes were recorded – a sense of living only for the music, everything else (such as jobs) being secondary? Can you tell us about those days? How was life different? How was Witchfynde received to the kind of music scene existing back then?
AC: Yes, we lived and breathed the music, a job just got in the way! But we had to eat! The band rehearsed every Wednesday evening and every Saturday morning and afternoon unless we were playing which became every weekend and some in the week. If we were not playing we would go out on Fridays and Saturdays to see other bands, both local competition and pro bands. Music was what we lived and breathed!! Life was different more money in your pocket, people would go out several times a week to see bands not just ones they knew but any bands to see what they were like. It was far easier to see bands and for bands to get gigs PAYING GIGS! we could get £100 for a gig easily even before we got famous (even locally).Work that out from say 1978 (Approx £500) Witchfynde was received well in the local music scene then we move outwards to most of England and Wales with the same all ways getting re bookings from the venues.
ZT: Renowned London-engineer Jamie Gomez Arellano mastered the tracks. Are you happy with how they turned out?
AC: Yes, very happy, it however showed up something that all the Witchfynde band members were unaware of, that the original cassettes and the Vyper Records CD were sightly fast. My rather expesive reel to reel recorder was not running at 71/4″ per second but a semi-tone fast! So everyone who has heard the Lost Tapes so far from 1975 onwards has not heard it as we recorded it! So the vinyl release will be the first time it has been heard as it was performed all those years ago!!!
ZT: The cover-artwork is most excellent. Who designed it?
AC: Will at Bad Omen Records had it designed with my approval and I supplied the photos. It is excellent.
ZT: After Give ‘Em Hell (1980) you left the band. Why? Have you undertaken musical ventures since?
AC: Well unfortunately things had been getting a bit tense even before we signed to Rondelet, I had fallen out with Montalo several times and would do again up to the
time I left. It was no longer four guys enjoying the music but had become factionised with decisions being made without all the band members agreeing, plus after Give ‘Em Hell I did not like the way the music was heading (the Stagefright album, on which I play on three tracks Wake Up Screaming, In The Stars and Wouldn’t Be Seen Dead In Heaven). The last 2 were the tipping point I wanted to play Metal not silly poprock songs!! So I left by mutual agreement in July 1980. I was approached by a band three days after I left Witchfynde, the band had a recording contract and needed a bass player I turned it down without even finding out who it was. Most stupid thing I have ever done, but I was in a very bad place, I had given everything to the band and was emotionally broken. However I picked myself up and formed a band called Malleus and after many line-up changes it sank into oblivion in 1983. and that I though was the end. But while working as a Maintenance Engineer at a Food Factory in 2004 a guy started work with me who was also a Sound Enginner, we got talking and I told him about Witchfynde. The next day he came back with a pile of printed material off the internet, he had googled Witchfynde and showed me that we had influenced Metallica, Bauhaus to name but two. This led me to want to get back into music culminating in Andro Coulton’s ZXY (Witchfynde Revisited) The band has recorded an album called Evolvalution which is evolution through revolution this evolution is mainly in my bass playing I have no lead guitar in the band but lead bass. I play through an octaver and splitter with one signal (the pure bass going to a bass amp and a purely one octave up signal into a guitar amp. I sing as well! There are four tracks on the CD that were written between 1976 and 1978 that were never recorded. We have just completed a 10 date UK tour as I have said at the start. The original members of Witchfynde met up for the first time since 1980 in December 2011. We shook hands and reminisced about the good times and tried to get the Give ‘Em Hell line up back together, but Steve refused to do it as he is now a preacher with the Church of England! So I’m sorry it will never happen.
ZT: What are you planning next?
AC: Well interviews, I have a live video to edit, promo for The Lost Tapes and Evolvalution, I will continue to keep the Witchfynde music alive and want to tour Europe get on festivals and maybe even a US tour. Plus I am in the process of signing two acts to Vyper Records and I may have access to a Witchfynde live gig recording that has never been heard.
ZT: Thanks for the interview. Any final words?
AC: Thank you Miika, I will keep playing as long as I can. ROCK ‘TIL YOU DROP –METAL FOR EVER!