December 2002 - DIXIE WITCH
I can't really describe with words how much the DIXIE WITCH debut "Into The Sun" on Brainticket Records means to some members of the Lava-crew. It's filled with honest lyrical passion, and soundwise, it knows to appeal with a finest blend of 70's Hardrock, old Southern-Rock and a bit of Doom. And it spreads a real uplifting postive vibe, without beeing cheesy or sounding too "friendly". But DIXIE WITCH have found their very own place in the heavy music scene, and that's only one of the reasons, why they are belonging to one of the hottest US-acts of today. Their shows are legendary and powerful as hell and I really hope, that this band will found its way to Europe in the next months or years. Bloodbrother Thorsten, the man for the "southern edge" in the Cosmic Lava, has put together some interesting questions and guitar-player Clayton Mills answered them completly.
Hello, Clayton!!! Your album "Into The Sun" is not one of the newest releases, but in my opinion one of the freshest sabbatish southern-heavy-fuzzed-out sounds in the last years. First of all please give a brief introduction to the readers of "Cosmic Lava" about the history of DIXIE WITCH!
We formed Dixie Witch in the fall of 1999 and began playing almost immediately all over Texas and the southern states. In the summer of 2000 we recorded a demo which starting getting us some attention from all over the world and a bit of internet buzz going by the end of that year. We did our first US tour with Alabama Thunderpussy and the Suplecs in the spring/summer of 2001 and since then have been around the US about 3 more times. Our debut album "Into The Sun" came out on Brainticket that same summer. The album has done well and lots of labels from Subpop to Mans Ruin (before their untimely demise) seemed interested in the second record.
Well, needless to say after a solid year of live shows in 2002 and garnering even more fans for the Witch, we've signed with Small Stone Records out of Detroit for the next record. We're about to head out on a southern tour at the beginning of the year and we're set to record in February with Jefferson Pinkus (ex-Butthole Surfers) at the helm of the project. The album will come out probably in May and then heavy touring will again commence including another appearance at the Emmissions From the Monolith festival in Ohio this summer and hopefully we'll make it over the big pond and hit Europe later in the year.
Where does the name DIXIE WITCH come from?! Is there any story behind the name?
Actually its kinda a play on words from the Dixie Chicks. It started as a joke but we ended up using because it was the only name we could all 3 agree on and we already had several shows booked and agents harrassing us for a name to advertise. Plus - its kinda an apt description of what we're about musically.
After all the reviews I`ve read, you`ve earned a lot of positive reactions from different types of magazins and websites. "Into The Sun" seems to be one of the best selling records for brainticket. Your debut has tons of musical diversity, it`s just Southern-Blues Heavy-Psych-Doom and more.... You can find your album in Psychedelic-, Metal-, Doom/Stoner-mailorders, etc. Please tell us about the last months after getting such a good feedback for this monster album.
The album has done better than expected. We've sold a few thousand and a lot of those have been at our live shows throughout the US and everyone really likes the record. The next one is going to be even better!!
What kind of music did you play in the years before DIXIE WITCH? I know that you all came from different bands and styles. But there must have been a kind of sound-connection, or not? How did you get first together and please talk about the bands, in which plaid before!
We've all played in several kinds of bands in the past. I've been in everything from thrash metal bands to blues bands. None of them accomplished much, seemed like I could never stay in a band that could keep a steady line-up for longer than 6 months. Curt played in a band that was similar stylistically to Dixie Witch years ago in Lubbock, Jabberwalker, and then joined Light Bright Highway with Trinidad. They were a balls to the wall instrumental psychedelic group that did pretty well in our region of the country. They signed a deal with Mans Ruin but broke up before the record could've been recorded. Also, Trinidad played drums in a band that was the first incarnation of what was to become REO Speedealer and then eventually Speedealer.
There are a lot of other Texas based heavy-rock bands, I think. You mentioned Honky, Speedealer, Super Heavy Goat Ass, Roller, Godzilla Motor Company, the Riverboat Gamblers, etc. in an earlier interview. So please tell us about these guys, their music and about your relationship to them.
Well not all of these bands are heavy rock. Honky (Jeff Pinkus's band) is more of a powerhouse rock trio. Kinda ZZ top on steroids and Roller and Speedealer (RIP) were straight ahead high energy rock. Speedealer has done really well in the past.....Jason Newsted produced their last record and they toured the US over a dozen times with everyone from Motorhead to Nashville Pussy and did europe with Motorhead last year too. Super Heavy Goat Ass are an incredible band and probably the closest sounding to us.
They just need to get their super heavy asses outta Texas sometime. SHGA's guitarist played in bands with Curt for years including Jabberwalker. I played guitar in Riverboat Gamblers but quit to start Dixie Witch. They've since done really well and toured several times.....they're more of a garage-punk MC5 kinda thing. Godzilla Motor Company is Jason from Watchtower, Dangerous Toys, etc. 's new band. Awesome Heavy Metal!!!
On the one hand I`ve read that you started as a Black Sabbath Coverband, called NIB, and on the other hand there is the story that it was only a very short part in the history of DIXIW WITCH. So please tell us the truth or about the decision/moment to perform and write own songs as DIXIE WITCH!
Actually, we were already jamming together and writing songs for Dixie Witch but we hadnt played out or anything yet. A friend of ours asked us to back him up as Black Sabbath for a local coverband night in Dallas, so we learned the songs which took about 2 weeks to get 12-13 of them happening and did the gig. The reaction was so good that we were asked to play 4-5 more shows. It was great fun but we were really anxious to pursue our originals and didnt want to stagnate as a cover band.
All in all, it only lasted about 2 months and I think it was real positive for us as a band....it was the first time we all shared the stage together and it really helped bring us together as a tighter musical group. We were still writing the first batch of Dixie Witch tunes the whole time. Occasionally we'll bust out "Symptom of the Universe" or "Fairies wear Boots" or something at soundchecks.
Obviously your sound is the essence of the 70s grumbling heavy-hard fuzzed-out bluesrock. There is a big influence of the big bands like early Sabbath, Mountain, Grand Funk. But the other influence is the heaviness like Sir Lord Baltimore, Cactus, Gov`t Mule, early ZZ Top and the mighty Lynyrd Skynyrd. But what about the other Texas based bands from the past like Seompi, early Point Blank, Josefus, Ultra - do you know them and what are or your other musical influences?
Yeah, you've definitely nailed a lot of the big influences on the head. But there's tons more music we love and listen too. We all grew up on metal - you the know the big bands Priest, Maiden, Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Dio, Deep Purple, Metallica, Motorhead, etc. Also classic bands like Zep, Floyd, Hendrix etc. and punk and thrash as well.
Not to mention blues guys like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson and country too - but not the new nashville crap -real country. As far as old texas bands - besides the ones you mentioned I really dig the Moving Sidewalks, 13th Floor Elevators and Bloodrock. We all have pretty diverse tastes but honestly as a musician you kinda have to have to diverse musical tastes or else you'll end us sounding like a carbon copy of somebody else.
Thinking about the latest releases of Raging Slab, Alabama Thunderpussy, Throttlerod, Halfway To Gone, Suplecs, Five Horse Johnson, Gov't Mule and the Gideon Smith & The Dixie Damned besides your outstanding southern-influenced heavy-blues-fuzz monster "Into the Sun" then you have the answer to the question: What about the South? What is your point of view? Is there any tradition in the southern influenced heavy-rock scene in the South the last years? Do you feel as a part of any scene, perhaps in Texas? Or what do you think about putting labels on every stuff?
It's funny that you mention some of those bands as being southern. In fact Raging Slab are from New York, Halfway is from New Jersey and Five Horse is from Michigan. Not exactly southern states, but the key here is the sound of southern rock. In the beginning with bands like Skynyrd and the Allmans it was primarily musicians from the south but over the past decades I think the influence of those bands has spread worldwide.
The scene isn't really confined to the south at all anymore so I guess I feel part of a global scene that's helping to keep this kind of earthy/bluesy rock alive and well and kicking in the 21st century. Never had much use for labels myself but if it helps draw a particular kind of music listener into the scene and turns them on to good music then i'm all for it!!
Is there a life beside the Power Trio? Where do you earn your money and what are your hobbies besides playing DIXIE WITCH sounds?
Well I wish I could say that we all made a living playing music but honestly I dont know many people in bands that dont have a day job of some sorts. Trinidad does some bricklaying from time to time. Curt has worked as a mechanic and a machinist and is currently helping run a fish hatchery. I do a lot of freelance live sound and studio work and I'm getting a license to install digital satellite tv systems too.
Let's talk about the songwriting! Who's responsible for the songs? Is there any writing method and please speak about the lyrics?!
Well, pretty much Curt and I come up with riffs and parts and bring them into rehearsal. We all kinda arrange the tunes together and then Trinidad or Curt (whoever is singing) writes the lyrics and figures out how to sing them. The songwriting is a complete team effort. There's no real dominant songwriter in the band at all.
How important is spontaneity and improvisation during your live gigs? Do you play much different versions of your songs from "Into The Sun"? I mean there are a lot of instrumental passages and silent moments in your music...are your songs the product of jamming and touring together?
We definitley tend to embellish certain "jam" sections in our songs live. WE'd really like to put out a live record sometime to capture the spontaneity of our performances. I'd venture to say that a lot of the tunes have never been played exactly the same way twice, especially the leads and solo sections. A lot of our songs have parts that came together while just jamming and it'll be even more evident on the new record. But all the tunes have structured sections that are always the same such as the verses, choruses, transitions, etc.
What about your planned split album on Meteor City Records with the New Jersey based Halfway to Gone and weren't there plans to release another full-length this year?
That all fell through for a host of reasons. Unfortunately the full-length didnt come out this year but it WILL be out in the spring of 2003 on Small Stone Records!!
How did you hook up with Scott Hamilton and Small Stone Records? What was the reason to record your version of "On The Hunt" for the "Sucking 70s" compilation? Is there any story behind that decision to play this song - in my opinion one of the best Skynyrd songs ever!?
Scott at that time just asked us to contribute a track. We thought about some of the covers we do and just thought that "On the Hunt" would be a good one to do. And you're right - it is one of the best Skynyrd tunes ever!!
How important is your fourth member - Jeff Downing - for the DIXIE WITCH. He's the man behind the band, I think. He's responsable for the brilliant coverdesign of "Into The Sun" and the maker of your great webpage. Who's this guy?
Man, actually I'm not really sure who he is or if that's even his real name. He started communicating with us back in the early days of the band via email and such and asked if he could do the website. I've never actually met him and have no idea what he looks like or anything but he's done a killer job on the website and with artwork and flyers too!!
Its weird, we have a "secret" drop off point where I leave things like photos and flyers for him to scan and when he's done he drops them back off there or mails them back to me. Actually, I'm beginning to think the dude is in prison or something. Hey Jeff! If you're reading this.....show your face sometime!! I'd like to buy you a beer or something sometime!
You have done many gigs in the near past....tons of gigs for this relativ new band, I think. Tell me about touring with the bands and about your impressions from the actual gig at the "Stoner Hands Of Doom Festival" November 2002, or the "Southern Domination" Tour You`ve played with so many bands, that I like....for example Acid King, Raging Slab, High On Fire, Bottom, Clutch, Place of Skulls, etc. Any funny stories to mention...?
SHOD IV was killer. What made that gig besides the bands were the dedication of the audience. They came from all over to support their favorite bands and congregrate as a group. To me that's really special. These folks spent their hard earned dollars to fly or drive to Arizona, get hotels for the weekend, and spend mad cash on band merchandise and drinks. It was a blast!! And we've had the pleasure to share the stage with so many great bands over the past few years I almost dont know where to start.
But what's even cooler than playing with great bands is to discover that they're all made up of great people too. People that play music first and foremost for the love of the music itself! Lotsa of funny stories especially from our tours with ATP and the Suplecs. One of these days I should write it all down before the braincells start to fade away. I do have quite a collection of shit that's been left behind at my house by bands that have stayed with me.
It's kinda a karma thing but whenever we play with a band in Dallas, I always invite them to stay with me. Usually always the favor is repaid when we're in their home towns. But I've got all kinds of shits, Big Shirl's socks and drumsticks, Matt Pikes one-hitter and beer cooler, a shirt of Sina's, etc. I'm thinking about opening a "stoner rock" cafe! just joking - if any of ya'll are reading this then come get your shit outta my house!!! ha,ha,ha.......
Your vocals are so brutal awesome...When did Trinidad started singing? Or is DIXIE WITCH the first band, in which he does the vocals and the drums?
Yes, Dixie Witch is the first band that he's sung in. At first we searched for a vocalist and 4th member but after several disappointing auditions he just started singing one day in practice and we convinced him to go for it. Honestly, at first it was only going to be temporary but he did such a damn fine job at it that he's stuck with it and turned out to be a awesome vocalist as well as the powerful drummer he already was!
What's going on right now with the band and what are your plans for the next months? Is there any chance to see DIXIE WITCH live in Europe?
Damn, answered this already in question #1 before I saw this question....well, at the risk of being redundant.....we're touring the south in January, recording in February, south by south west music conference and regional gigs in March, the album should be out in May. Followed by heavy touring of the US and hopefully Europe as well before the year is out!!
Thank you for the interview!! Any words or message to the DIXIE WITCH fans or is there anything you like to add at least?
Thanks to everyone that has helped support the Witch in the last 3 years!!! This includes all of ya'll that have bought our shit, come to our shows, let us sleep on your floors, puke in your toilets, shared the stage with us, booked us at your club, bought us shots/beers, bummed me cigarettes, got us high, sold us drugs, stood in front and rocked out, reviewed the album, interviewed us, wrote articles on the band, and contributed to the cause in any way, big or small. We couldn't do it with ya'll and we promise to make 2003 the best year for Dixie Witch so far!!!