1. Hi, how are you? Congratulations for the great album you have released, it is a pleasure to listen to it from beginning to end. Both for the sound and the freshness of the compositions, I think that «IV: Sacrament» could be the prelude to the ultimate consecration of the band, the moment when Wytch Hazel starts to be considered as an important name, or a «contemporary classic» in the music scene. Do you have the same feeling about it?
Thank you very much! I’m really glad you like it. I think it’s always really hard to tell what level of success we think we’re going to reach next to be honest. I tend to lean more towards expecting less – that way I can be surprised if things go really well and I’ve also managed my expectations if things don’t go very well that way! All of that said, there’s a lot more press this time round and album sales are going well so we’re all expecting a little ‘bump’ at least. I also think that it’s worth mentioning that the genre can sometimes be a limitation to success (not always). If we were playing something more ‘contemporary’ we would probably find it easier to fit in with the other contemporary artists. That’s my best guess anyway!
2. What does the title of the album refer to, what is the concept behind it?
So Sacrament refers to the subject matter that the album deals with as a whole. It sort of means: “This album actually means something, something higher, a spiritual reality.” That’s roughly the description of any of the Sacraments in the Protestant church; things like Baptism and Marriage are Sacraments. I was really honest with the song writing and on the whole it all came from a personal place of meaning, so that was why I wanted to called it Sacrament.
3. I assume that much of this album was written during the pandemic and your periods of enforced isolation. How did the lockdown, tension and anguish of that period affect you? What effect did it have on your creative work as artists?
Yes, it was pretty much (apart from one song I think?) all written during the pandemic. I, like many people went through different coping mechanisms! Chief of these for me was the ‘pretending it all wasn’t happening and focusing on something’ coping mechanism. I’m not sure how effective it was to be honest! I just got my head down to writing music, although I was still working remotely at the same time, which wasn’t fun! Now I think about it, the isolation in terms of working on an album remotely was tough, I really prefer to have the band in the room, jamming the songs straight after the first rough demos. The rehearsals, ready for entering the studio came much later and it took us a while to get into the swing of things. It was also hard after the success of III:Pentecost not to be able to tour the album too.
4. The material was recorded in StudiOwz, a former Baptist chapel erected in rural Wales and turned into a recording studio. How did this location influence the atmosphere of the album? Is it true that the place was full of old analogue equipment, and did you use any of it?
To be honest, it’s a pretty idyllic studio for us. I can’t fault it in many ways. We definitely made full use of the equipment! We used loads of vintage microphones, the Hammond Organ, baby grand piano and of course the main ‘Cadac’ desk for everything. Unfortunately, even though we initially recorded on the vintage drums, I had to re-record them after our sessions there because it just wasn’t sonically working! Really unfortunate!
5. After Jack Spencer’s departure in 2022, you ended up taking over the drums during the recording, what was this experience like, and did you think at any point about bringing in a session drummer to record the album?
It was pretty tough to be honest. I was already really stretched doing everything I usually do to get a new album ready for the studio but this time I had the extra job of the drums! I was quite stressed out by the idea of not getting everything done in time. The extra rehearsal time for the drums tipped everything over the edge! I think I actually did consider a session drummer at one point, but I just thought, I’m perfectly capable on the drums so it was just a case of getting the parts rehearsed!
6. Besides the references whose echo remains in your music, like Angel Witch, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Status Quo or Thin Lizzy, I noticed in some passages influences from bands like Journey, especially in the song «Strong Heart». In my opinion, this kind of musical findings enrich the material, do you plan to keep on playing this kind of sounds closer to American AOR or do you prefer another kind of experimentation?
I’ve always been a Journey fan and a fan of other bands such as Toto and foreigner as well. I think the more 80s AOR came through a bit more this time. I was more consciously trying to go for 70s sounds on past albums and I suppose I just let the 80s thing come through a bit more. It’s definitely more pronounced on Strong Heart – we just ran with the ‘Journey thing’ on that track and it turned out nice! I’m never really sure what the plan is going to be in the future – when it comes to songwriting, I don’t entirely feel like I have control of what songs get written, if you know what I mean? I don’t want to over think it, I’m sure I’ll know what to do when it comes to the vision for the next album (which I’ve got a few songs for actually!) I’m not against the AOR but we’ll see what happens!
7. Being Lancaster a port city, located a few kilometres away from the sea, it must have particularities that differentiate it from other kind of cities. How does Lancaster influence your music? Do you feel that the environment where you live inspires you in a way?
To be honest, the main impact Lancaster has on us is that there is a fairly strong music scene. Lots of live music of differing genres happens every week across the city. I feel like the university brings as much diversity as the location does. We have lots of students including international students at Lancaster University. One really great thing about Lancaster is that you’ve got the city but you’re also really close to the Lake District, which is an amazing part of the country.
8. You have already participated in some editions of the «Lancaster Music Festival». How was that experience? Do you like to share the stage with artists of different music styles? Are you going to participate again in this year’s edition?
We had a good show last time we played the festival – we don’t always get asked and one year I think we even asked to play ourselves. I’m not always sure these types of festivals are aware of us; we’ve been a bit of an ‘underground’ band for a while and tend to get asked for more of the specific old school heavy metal niche festivals.
9. One of the things I like about your work is that, although you extend Christian themes in your lyrics, you do it in pursuit of telling a story and not with the premise of imposing a belief. How does Wytch Hazel deal with Christianity and religion in general? Have you thought about tackling other topics in your lyrics?
That’s an interesting question! When I write songs, I’m not really thinking about the ‘listener’ 9 times out of 10. It’s quite self indulgent in that sense. I prefer the songs to happen organically rather than be ‘manufactured’ in any way. The only way I can describe it is I go off a ‘feel’ or a ‘gut instinct’ when writing music, I can’t really see any other way of doing it to be honest. I think the best material comes from that organic place, it’s also a really interesting process to be a part of because you’re never quite sure what’s going to come next! (Probably a twin lead though! Haha) as for our general dealing with Christianity, we have two Christians in the band ‘practicing’ if you will!
10. Why did you decide to re-release the 2013 compilation «Surrender and the Truth» under the title «Early Music» and with a new cover? Do you have enough archive material and rarities to put together another compilation in the future?
I had been thinking about it for a while, but honestly it was the fans that started asking about it more and more so I thought it was due a re-launch. I wanted it to feel like old nwobhm 7” singles and so with the amount of songs we had, I thought it might be cool to do a triple 7” gatefold! I like to do different and interesting things when it comes to releases and merchandise and this really fit the bill! We’ve got quite a few demos, one of which is already a fan club exclusive track – I intend to make the rarities available first and foremost to fan club members in the future to reward them for their support. Some demos I like to keep in case I use the material in the future!
11. Do you have the idea of recording a live album at some point? If so, would you like to record it at a major festival or a smaller, more intimate venue?
We’re definitely really up for the idea, but we’re just so busy with our main sets (which are anywhere from 40 min sets to 90 min sets!) and our acoustic show set, plus new material – there’s a lot on our plate for now (which is good!) but one day when we get round to it (and I’m sure we will) we will put some more thought into it! I haven’t even thought about what sort of venue we would record at!
12. What can you tell us about the split you shared with Spell last year? How was the date you shared with them recently in London?
Yes, so it was Spell’s idea to do the 7” and we happily agreed, especially as we had extra song from Pentecost ready to use – it just made sense! I really liked their cover too; we did consider a cover song briefly but I couldn’t make anything work in the time frame. Their show was amazing; I loved getting to see the band for the first time! I think I love them even more than I did now!
13. What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you on tour or in a concert?
We tend to get lost quite a lot – we’re quite used to things going wrong at this stage too. The main one I can think of is when our (old) bassist lost his passport and we had to go and play Keep It True festival as a 3 piece with no bass guitar! As I said, we tend to have more problems than strange things happen to us!! I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of bands with all the travelling etc. comes with the territory I imagine.
14. Next year you will land for the first time in the US, to perform at the «Hell’s Heroes VI» festival in Houston, alongside big names like Sodom, Queensrÿche, Candlemass and Omen, among many others. What are your expectations for this? Which band or artist do you want to meet personally?
We’re all really excited to be playing in the US for the first time to be honest! I expect it to be great and probably extremely hot too! I’m particularly looking forward to Bloodstar, Nite, Eternal Champion, Forbidden and Solitude Aeturnus but there’s just so many good bands there it’s going to be hard to miss anyone!
15. Do you already have material written for the successor of «IV: Sacrament»? Any idea of the direction you will take for the next album?
Yes I’m always writing to be honest – it’s a bit of a constant stream of songs, I can’t ‘not’ do it to be honest! Songwriting is really cathartic and it helps me process life in general! I’m not sure what direction musically – I’ve been listening to a lot more Iron Maiden, so perhaps some more classic Heavy Metal sounds but I feel like the new songs are picking up where Sacrament took off and perhaps are looking even more ‘sombre’ and ‘introspective’ which ironically feels good right now. I think that’s the cathartic part of it all.
16. Finally, you have the space at your disposal to add anything you want. Best regards!
Thanks so much for the interview! People can find everything including the Fan club link (which everyone should join) at wytchhazel.com