Latest Release: Dance with the Devil (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.burningwitches.ch/
Swiss/Dutch metal band Burning Witches started out weathering the usual barbs of gimmickry that gets levelled at all-girl bands. However, they have persevered and while their imagery is undoubtedly calculated, the songs and ability are present in both recorded form and in their growing live performance reputation. Some line-up changes generated inevitable delays but now with a solid crew intact, their third album Dance with the Devil is receiving more positive attention. The band looks set to grace more major festival stages and move towards more headlining tours, once the current pandemic situation subsides.
Philippines born, Swiss raised drummer Lala Frischknecht has also been improving in her musical endeavours, recently picking up some big endorsements. The album’s production also assists in pushing the drum sound in the mix. Burning Witches have toured Europe extensively and also hit the UK, with other places to follow, as soon as possible. Prior to the release of the powering yet catchy Dance with the Devil, Loud Online spoke to the friendly Frischknecht about what the Burning Witches camp have been brewing up lately.
You’ve just released your third album. As the band’s profile is increasing, how much time went into the song writing process?
For song writing, Romana [Kalkuhl – guitarist] makes all of the songs for the band. Then there are members of the band who we send the tracks to, after we’ve played it in the band room. So, Laura [Guldemond – vocals] will add her singing and send it back to us. After that, we will complete the songs, once Sonia [Nusselder – guitarist] has done the guitar solos with Romana. Later on, we’d go to the recording studio and record it were, of course, there are a lot of additional things to include until everybody is satisfied with their parts. We are so happy that the Dance with the Devil album ended up being really good.
The production is really good too and I believe that you had Schmier from Destruction involved in that side of things.
Schmier has been with us since day one and we recorded the album at V.O. Pulver’s Little Creek Studios, here in Switzerland. It was the same studio that was used for our previous albums; Burning Witches and Hexenhammer. We didn’t want to change studios as we knew it would be faster work. Now Schmier is our manager and the band is always asking him so many questions because you need somebody with experience to guide you. You really need somebody with that sort of knowledge in this industry. So, yeah, he helps us a lot to get over general aspects with his experience from Destruction and other bands. We are so fortunate to have these people because if it were not for them, I think in this industry, speaking on behalf of the girls, we owe a lot to them because they are the ones with the knowledge. Especially when it is all girls playing in the band then you need someone to go in there and be an alarm clock. We needed somebody to guide us, yeah.
Schmier would certainly understand the metal industry very well.
Yeah, he’s a perfect guide for us to navigate this industry. He’ll say things like, ‘this way, girls, don’t go that way because that way will be the end of you.’ We trust him a lot and he is like a father about it and is in our metal family. We are fortunate to have him as our manager. It helps a lot.
Are there risks in being an all-girl metal band given the marketing that can go with it?
Yeah but they are small risks I think and they are a challenge, still. You can have that whole thing about people looking at you as a joke. Before our first demo, we appeared as all girls and some people did not believe that we were the ones that recorded it. But yeah, we produced it, we started looking for offers and then it all sold out. Then we started getting recognised in German metal magazines like RockHard and Metal Hammer with Demo of the Month. So I think we had a good start, even with people thinking, ‘Oh, you’re just girls’ or ‘Oh, you’re a joke!’, but come on, in the real world, even if you do good things, some people will just hate you forever. You know, they don’t like you and they don’t like to see you. Even if you are doing good things and creating good music, you’ll get nothing from them. But we are so fortunate in having our real supporters who love our music and appreciate us with helpful comments, for example, when we show them our Dance with the Devil video. The positive comments are more and more with fewer bad comments from people who just hide behind their computer and will never achieve anything in their everyday life.
Indeed. You’ve also done a drum-through video for the single Wings of Steel.
Oh yeah, I want to do more of that as it shows you how the song starts, where my hands are and how I play the parts for the song and everything. There’s also a guitar play through video. I think people like it because they can see how you can play this style of drumming. They’ll ask me, ‘How do you play this part?’ or ‘How do you play this kind of drum?’, so we showed them. Also, I want to be able to help my endorsements [Istanbul Mehmet cymbals and Kirn Custom Drums]. I love the kit and the video turned out well, even for my first drum video ever. It takes a while but that’s okay. I am not that good at drumming but I’m okay.
Your drum kit certainly has some great cymbals and a great snare sound. What was your primary musical influence that got you into drumming?
I have a lot of influences. For me, I decided that I wanted to play drums after listening to hard core bands and I decided to play drums because of those drummers. I remember hearing GBH and the feeling was there, the power of the drumming. You start out just hitting something because it is nice to play drums but you learn to understand styles and start working on your technique.
Do you prefer dual bass drums or a single kick with a dual pedal?
I can do both but the set up takes a while to get used to, then it’s enough. But the freedom for your legs is when you use only a single bass drum. But, with double bass drumming, your snare is in the middle and then you have more freedom with the snare. So, they are different set ups and I can play in either set up. But, of course, with heavy metal, you need to play double bass so I tend to prefer a pedal using only one bass drum. I really like playing with the double bass options because for me, it is a really nice invention in the drumming world.
You’ve toured with Grave Digger and played at Wacken, and other festivals such as Bang Your Head. What would be your favourite live performance thus far?
I think that’s an easy answer, it would have to be Wacken. It is the ultimate dream for any heavy band and at that time, we went out on stage to everybody screaming, ‘Burning Witches!’ We played to thousands of people there and at the same time, it was Laura’s birthday so to have everybody sing Happy Birthday to her was just amazing. Of course, our first ever big festival that we played was at Sweden Rock Festival in Norje, Sweden. We cannot forget that and even though it was nerve-racking, our adrenalin helped us out because it was such a big stage and the first time this line-up played together live was on a big stage. It was so amazing and we are lucky to have played at these festivals. It doesn’t really matter for us if the crowd is small or big, what matters for us is if we can see people smiling and singing to our songs.
The album certainly has some Priest and Iron Maiden aspects to it. Is that the shared musical influence for the entire band?
I think so because Romana is writing all of the songs and she is a fan of Manowar, Priest, Maiden, and of course, Halford. No matter what instruments we play, if you have that kind of influence, it will automatically come out. For me, it is the same, I like Carcass and I like Kreator so when play something, Romana will play the riff and then I’ll be playing parts like the drummers of the bands I mentioned. Of course at the end of it all, it still sounds like heavy metal. We all like heavy metal and Romana is a fan of it so you hear it in her musical ideas. Now that we have our new album Romana is saying, ‘we have our new material now. Look, look!’ We have songs now where we’ve produced the thrash sections and yeah, that’s us. This album sounds great, many parts are really catchy and we have our new witch Laura, who adds vocal spice to Burning Witches.
Your drumming has plenty of variety and pace changes, with aspects such as playing half time during the pre-chorus. Given most band members keep in time listening to the drummer, what do you listen to for staying in time?
Not that many things other than the click track. I always have the click track. I don’t really need the click with Laura and Romana but I recognise that I decided to still use the click because it guides you, especially with the rhythm being the driver. The real rhythms have their own click but it is better to use it if you’re going between half time and full time, as playing the right rhythm is so important. We like doing this stuff because we don’t want to stay in full time mode so we have half time and you have to group the parts. It makes the song more interesting. If you listen to the click, it has everything in there and I can just time it to move up during the chorus.
Being based in Switzerland, what is the metal scene like there?
We have many bands here like Gurd, Gomorra and Impure Wilhelmina. Yeah, we used to go to a concert and support the metal scene. We enjoyed being at and watching the bands at the concerts, meeting old friends and making new friends. We have to support the metal scene because we are living in a small country and we have to support each other. We have to keep the tradition and we have to keep it alive. That is the kind of thing we have been doing for so long. Of course, we don’t have as many chances to do it unlike in Germany or in the United States but we are able to survive.
Which songs on the latest album are you are most pleased with your drumming performance?
Hmm, my favourite tracks are Wings of Steel and Lucid Nightmare. The second one is a bit speed metal and power heavy. It is a beautiful song with a twin guitar solo from Romana and Sonia. Also, Six Feet Underground is in the style of Judas Priest. Those are my favourites but of course, both The Sisters of Fate and Dance with the Devil are so catchy. Many things on this album are good, there’s plenty of good stuff there.
Any chance your tour itinerary may include Australia at some point?
We’d look forward to that but we don’t have offers yet. But yeah, many fans in Australia have been asking when we will tour there. We are looking forward to playing there because we also have great fans there. The furthest place we have been to is Russia and we want to explore more places. For example, North America, Canada and Asia, so then we can get to Australia. We want to show our fans, yeah, we’re here and Burning Witches are going to burn the stage.