Skeletonwitch has been relentlessly touring the nation with their unique brand of black thrash metal for the past decade. Their 2007 release Beyond the Permafrost catapulted the band into the ears of metal ne’er-do-wells across the world. Since then, they’ve weathered the dismissal of longtime vocalist Chance Garnette and added a new face to the band with Adam Clemans. I caught up with Scott Hedrick of Skeletonwitch after their Austin performance on their current tour with Abbath and High on Fire. A supremely nice dude, Scott freely answered all of my dumb questions about defunct video stores and American primitive guitarists.
You’re currently on a pretty lengthy tour. How do you keep your spirits up on the road? How do you stay healthy on a long trip?
Scott Hedrick – It’s debatable whether we do stay healthy. It’s a fundamental thing of doing what you love that makes you not feel bad and want to be there. You’re excited to play music and do what you’re doing. We may have a long drive but when we arrive and start to get to work what we’re doing is playing heavy metal and doing what we love. We do this because we like it. That’s why our spirits are high.
This particular tour you’re with High on Fire and Abbath. Are you a big Emperor fan?
Uhh… Yeah, but Abbath has nothing to do with Emperor.
Right. Immortal. Definitely going to edit that bit out.
Probably a good idea. But we’re big Immortal fans. And I love the stuff he did with I and his new solo record is killer.
I gave it a cursory listen and I was surprised. It’s very hard rock.
If you don’t know much about him, he’s always been a big fan of KISS and a fan of early rock n’ roll stuff. So it makes sense that over time he opens up more, gets into more mid-tempo parts and rock-oriented sounds because he’s been playing black metal for so long. Immortal was one of the defining bands of black metal, and he’s one of the defining authors of the genre. He was a trailblazer, really. So where does he go? Back to his influences, and he’s doing interesting mid-tempo stuff. Widening his sound by adding in more of his influences.
You play a combination of thrash and black metal. Where do you stand on that continuum?
We listen to a lot of music. Not just metal. We don’t sit in the van and just listen to straight black metal. We listen to all kinds of heavy music and rock and roll and all kinds of things. We’re obviously a heavy music band. We won’t get too far from the realm of rock and metal. As long as we’re in the parameters of rock and roll and metal we don’t censor ourselves. Like… “That’s a crazy rock and roll riff for a minute,” followed by a bunch of blast beats. As long as we dig it, and it makes sense to us, we don’t care if it makes sense to other people.
What’s the least metal thing you guys are grooving on right now?
This guy in San Francisco called Danny Paul Grody who does acoustic ambient drone-y soundscapes things and solo acoustic american primitive guitar stuff. I think he’s fucking incredible. He just came out with a new cassette and digital album the other day. It’s awesome.
Did you ever get into John Fahey?
DID I? We have a festival near Athens, Ohio. It’s called Nelsonville Music Fest – I played it last year and did a solo acoustic set and played a John Fahey cover. I’m surprised you know who that is!
I love that kinda shit. James Blackshaw is probably my favorite….
He’s incredible! I’ve tried to learn a few of his songs. I’m writing stuff for Skeletonwitch and getting busy, and I wish I had more time for that stuff. I’m playing that Nelsonville Fest again this year and doing another acoustic set.
Is there video of that?
There’s not. Maybe there will be this year. I love all that stuff. Steve Gunn is killer. Daniel Bachman, I’m a huge fan. I really like Riley Walker. All that shit is way up my alley. That’s the kinda stuff I listen to in the van. We hear metal every night, and I still love it, but when I put my headphones on that’s what I’m listening to. The other guys have different tastes but I don’t think they share my love of American primitive guitar. I’m super into that shit! Are you into some weirder stuff like Rangda or Sir Richard Bishop?
I bought Sir Richard Bishop’s latest thing… the improvisation with the tiny guitar he bought in Morocco…
Yes! That shit is awesome. Sir Richard Bishop has this band with Ben Chasney of Six Organs of Admittance and Chris Corsano (if you don’t know who he is he’s a crazy jazz drummer with a discography that’s like 300 records long). It’s the three of these awesome weird dudes coming together called Rangda. They just put out their third record and they’re touring. They’re just playing in Columbus, about an hour from where I live. I couldn’t go because it was the first night of our tour. I wish I could split myself in two and see that show and also play with High on Fire and Abbath. If only the scheduling had been a day different!
You’ve got a new vocalist, Adam. With this new material have you been writing specifically with him in mind or writing as you normally do?
Both! The riffs that Nate and I write have a certain style. No matter who is in the band, you’ve still got the same guys writing all the music. Evan writes riffs too, and Dustin has ideas. But it started with Nate and I’ve become more involved as a writer, where it’s more balanced between the two of us. The nuts and bolts won’t really change because it’s all what me and Nate are into.
At the same time, we wrote specific parts where Adam and I were going back and forth discussing what would be ideal for his vocal parts, and he would suggest ideas for the music. There was a lot more back and forth with Adam, which was awesome. We didn’t have that in the past. I think he’s more open to constructive criticism. As the new guy he was like, “I dunno about this part or that.” A couple of times I said, “Alright, alright, maybe we’ll adjust it” and I did. Other times I was like “NO NEW GUY, IT’S GONNA BE THIS WAY.”
Did you haze the new guy at all?
We still are. In small subtle ways. Gotta fuck with him.
Is Dave’s Video still in business?
Nah dude. It really sucks.
Is a Skeletonwitch a witch that died and became a skeleton or is it a skeleton that converted to Wicca?
Skeletonwitch is on tour with High on Fire and Abbath through the rest of the month. Go see ’em in a hood near you and tell them a sentient toilet sends it’s love.