Latest Release: I Am Legion (Century Media)Website: www.facebook.com/officialwitchery
Melodic death metal might seem like strange sub-genre of metal but when an extreme style of music is already pushing boundaries, there is a freedom to delve into other areas to add interest and dynamics. In the mid-nineties, this style emerged, most notably from Gothenburg in Sweden and with bands such as The Haunted and At the Gates. Meanwhile, the demise of intense band Satanic Slaughter led to the formation of extreme metal band Witchery. Patrik Jensen is the co-founder of both Witchery and The Haunted, the latter of which has achieved worldwide fame alongside At the Gates and In Flames. These bands continue to record new music and tour globally and Australia is soon to experience the triple bill of At the Gates, The Haunted and Witchery. Loud Online very recently caught up with the very amiable Jensen to discuss the impending tour with a primary focus on his band Witchery.
You will be touring here very soon as part of a triple bill of Witchery, The Haunted and At the Gates. Since you’re in two of those bands, you’ll be doing double duty.
Yes, which is fine. I have done a US tour with both bands which was sixty shows in one month so that is fine. The only thing I do between bands is to swap my t-shirt and guitar. Then out I go again, so there is no special arrangements. It is all good. I write most of the songs in both bands so I should know them.
Is it a similar double duty performance problem for Jonas [Björler] being the bassist with both The Haunted and At the Gates?
Ah, Jonas is also capable and twenty years down the line. He knows the bass lines. I think it is more of a struggle for Adrian [Erlandsson] doing the drumming [for both The Haunted and At the Gates]. That is a lot of fast drumming, ha ha. It’ll be fine, we’ve done a US tour with The Haunted and At the Gates together as well. So, Adrian has done double drumming duty before too.
Witchery has got some dark humour to it. Do you think people have lost their sense of humour?
There’s might be more humour to it when we started but there is not so much humour to it today so I think that maybe we have lost it, actually. We got a bit frustrated because people didn’t take us seriously but we had put a lot of effort into the music and everything. I don’t know but I mean, some people can think that Slayer are a funny band too but they are still a great band. Maybe people do think we are funny but that is fine.
Looking back at the discography, there is quite a lot or material so how do you get a set list together?
That is pretty hard, actually and just because we have members who are in different bands that are very active. So, we have to get replacements in and sometimes we just need to stick with the greatest hits, if you will, at least, in our eyes. A song like ‘The Reaper’ [from Restless and Dead] will always be played live. So we have a core set of songs and then we need to add new songs from the new albums and so on, which in turn might become classics, I hope but we don’t keep the whole back catalogue alive, so to say.
One of your earlier tours here was with Exodus.
That was in 2007 or something. But the first time that we were there was in 2003 and it may have been a headline tour.
Both Witchery and The Haunted has the melodic death metal as a key aspect but is it fair to say that Witchery is a bit more extreme?
In some cases, yes. I guess that it may be in appearances, like our singer does a little make up thing but we also have a lot of people trying to pinpoint what Witchery plays. It is darkened death’n’roll with some thrash and black metal in it but there is also a lot of heavy metal and that might be less extreme to what The Haunted does. It is a lot of personal perspective there though.
Guests on your albums, especially Witchkrieg, have included Exodus guitarists [Lee Altus and Gary Holt] and Andy LaRocque [King Diamond] who also produced albums for Witchery. Is working with somebody like that kind of intimidating?
Andy is the absolute sweetest guy you will ever meet. He smiles at everyone and yet he is an amazing guitar player with a massive footprint on the whole metal scene and so on. The Witchburner EP was recorded at Andy La Roque’s studio so that is where we know him from. He is a very friendly guy so when we asked him if he wanted to do a guest solo, he said yes. Similarly with Kerry King. We have a very big festival in Sweden called the Roskilde Festival and Slayer was playing. Kerry was us before and he got me backstage so I played him the song [‘Witchkrieg’]. I asked him, ‘Do you like it and would you be okay to play a guitar solo on it?’ He listened to it once and was stroking his beard, very focussed on the song and then he said, ‘Fuck yeah, I’ll do it!’ So, we were just very privileged to have them as guests and all of these people are kind guys and the love metal. As long as you can approach them so that they can hear the song and you don’t have to fight through a wall of managers or what-have-you then they often agree.
You also had Hank Shermann play on ‘The God Who Fell from Earth’.
Oh, what a legend. I am a massive Mercyful Fate fan. The connection there is of course through Sharlee [D’Angelo – bassist] because he used to play in Mercyful Fate. Once we got him on board I wasn’t going to let go so he’s done a guest solo on every album that we do.
Excellent. Aside from Mercyful Fate, I’m guessing that King Diamond had a pretty big impact on metal in Sweden.
Oh yeah, absolutely and when Mercyful Fate broke up, all of his band members were Swedish. It was just him so it is kind of seen as a Swedish band. He really had a large impact.
If you look back at Witchery’s albums, is there a particular album that you’re most proud of as a body of work?
I think that I’ll have to say the first album [Restless and Dead]. That album was recorded before the first album by The Haunted and that Haunted album made it into the best newcomer release. It was number one everywhere and was such a huge thing. I think that we just had the right timing but when it went huge that whole thrash thing was happening all of a sudden again. Witchery was written before that so we had no clue, either with The Haunted or with Witchery, that thrash was going to become a thing again. We were just playing for fun and you know, just went full metal with Witchery. We didn’t hold back on any level even to having a singer with stage props and all of that kind of stuff. We recorded the album live so we had a week just to do the album. We were sitting there recording and on day four I was looking at Sharlee and telling him, ‘Doesn’t this sound pretty fucking good’ and he said, ‘Yeah’ and Sharlee is an intelligent and very well spoken man. He was stroking his beard while looking at me but he said, ‘Yeah, it does, actually.’ It just happened and for us I think that the stars aligned. Every song on there is very strong individually but I wouldn’t say that Witchery peaked there because I think that we have better albums in what came afterwards. But that album had such a playful creative process to it.
Not long after that, the EP was released, which you mentioned. That has some classic metal cover songs on there too. How did that idea come about?
Well, here’s the thing, back in the day, Witchburner was actually recorded before Restless and Dead. We were a band called Satanic Slaughter and everyone in the band chose a song each. So, we had five cover songs that we were going to play. But the guy who had the rights to the name [Ztephan Dark – guitar] didn’t like the direction so he left but we already had Andy LaRocque’s studio booked. The four of us then went ahead and the guitar player said, ‘I can sing’ and that was Toxine [Tony Kampner, ex-vocalist] so we recorded the four songs. So we didn’t record the Satanic Slaughter guy’s cover song that he chose so that is how it came about. The song that we didn’t record was by an old US thrash band called Abattoir and they had a song called ‘Screams from the Grave’. That was a great old thrash song and thinking about it now, looking back, it would have been great to have done that song as well.
Do you think that people picked up on the pun in the title of Restless and Dead referencing Accept’s Restless and Wild album?
Yeah well, you know, back then that was absolutely what we did. We had a play with words but whilst this sounds so Spinal Tap to say, it was like a homage. We were just going full metal and we loved the Accept album Restless and Wild. So, Restless and Dead was a fucking great title and it was kind of like Accept so we thought, ‘yeah, let’s go with that’. It was never like a full on humour attitude kind of band but the title works.
You’re quite prolific in both The Haunted and in Witchery in producing new albums of late.
Well, we had a five or six year gap with Witchery were there were no albums after Witchkrieg and that was mainly because back then we had Martin Axenrot [Opeth] on drums. I mean, Opeth is a very successful band, playing Royal Albert Hall and everything. Also, Sharlee is in Arch Enemy and I am in The Haunted and so on. Everyone needed to do the band’s that were paying the bills. You rehearse without everyone in the band but you need the drummer because without the drummer it is not much of a rehearsal. Eventually Martin said that he saw bummed out that he couldn’t participate and he was feeling that he was holding the band back so he offered to step aside. That is when we got the new drummer, Chris [Barkensjö], in and that’s why all of a sudden there are albums coming almost every year. I actually just got off my other computer and was finishing writing what I think will be the ninth song for the next Witchery album. So, I’m just one song away from another full album.
How did becoming involved with Solar guitars happen for you?
Oh, through Ola [Englund – lead guitarist of The Haunted]. That guy is a very entrepreneurial and he sees possibilities, which is great. Those people are great and he puts a lot of hours and a lot of work into what he does as well. I guess he has a love for guitars and he saw an opportunity. Solar is actually doing very well and he recently left for China, I believe.
You’ve got the classic EMG 81 and 85 guitar pickups in there. They are just the workhorse of active pickups. It is interesting they are in a signature guitar [E1.6 Jensen] model.
Yeah they are. They are what I have always used and nowadays it is the thing to prefer the passive guitar pickups which have their purpose too but for me, I need a more edgy sound. It sounds like you’re a guitar player. You’re aware of the Fortin 33 signature [clean boost] pedal that Fortin Amplification did with Fredrik [Thordendal – lead guitarist] from Meshuggah. It is the pedal that everyone is raving about. What is does is it cuts the low end and tightens everything up for a passive mic you have that pedal. That is exactly what the EMG does on its own. It has less muddiness, it tightens everything up and it has a little less of that bottom end that can just be in the way. So, I love EMGs.
I would love to rabbit on about equipment but we have run out of time. So, we’ll see you on tour very soon.
Yeah man, if you see me walking around during the At the Gates show or something, just grab a hold of me.