Hailing from Gary, Indiana, Witch Taint have finally released their debut album Sons of Midwestern Darkness via Tee Pee Records (order here). We caught up with Lance the King of Black Metal and Matthias Backwards to learn more about “the best album” on how it will destroy the universe, to Subway sandwiches, and more.
For someone who doesn’t reside in Norway, what was the process like for you guys to put those Norwegian roots into Sons of Midwestern Darkness?
Lance the King of Black Metal: I mean, it was a long time coming from the original. Sixteen years in the making, if you know the whole Witch Taint history of from when I first emailed the Norwegian black metal record label. All those emails between me and Matthias are at theblackmetaldialogues.com. And then, in true underground fashion, the band was completely dormant, except for the website and selling t shirts, until 2017. And then, we started reading the emails on stage. First at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, and then we did South by Southwest. From there, we went to London, and San Francisco Sketchfest, and Oslo where Fenriz from Darkthrone was in the front row, which doesn’t get any cooler than that as far as black metal goes. And then, we finally did the Volcán Festival, the biggest metal festival in the world. We noticed how a lot of people were just staring at us when we were reading these emails…
Matthias Backwards: They were so decimated, they were speechless.
Lance the King of Black Metal: They couldn’t handle it. By then, we had added a few of the incredible songs we had written to the show. Whenever we would play the songs, they would go crazy. Matthias and I thought let’s take things to the next level and record a proper album that we can destroy the universe with. Destroy in a really good way, which we need.
Matthias Backwards: A proper good way. Nothing mainstream or commercial. Just, proper meaning, brutal. Extreme and cult.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yes.
There seems to be some hostility against death metal and possibly Florida in general. I would normally ask if this has anything to do with those “Florida man” headlines, but can you actually explain the meaning behind the tracks “Interlude Black Metal versus Death Metal,” and “Death to Death Metal?”
Lance the King of Black Metal: Well, death metal is, pardon my… Well, you explain it, Matthias. It’s horrible.
Matthias Backwards: Black metal is the music of the gods and death metal is pussy music for children who still live with their mothers.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. I still with my mom. It’s kind of hard to hear. He keeps repeating that in every interview.
Matthias Backwards: Nothing against Florida except I suppose it is the birth of death metal.
Lance the King of Black Metal: No, actually I don’t like Florida because I did a summer share in Florida and I ended up not getting my deposit back, so I do have anti Florida hang ups that you can call them whatever you want. Also, my experience is you’d go down there and a lot of things are supposed to be all inclusive, where you have meals included in the resort or whatever, but then where they get you is the drinks charge. You’re supposed to get free refills on Coke, or whatever, and then they don’t. They just gauge you on that. So yeah, I do have a major problem with Florida with regard to free refills and my deposit.
A lot of, as you said, “horrible” death metal music is from there.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Oh, yeah.
Matthias Backwards: Well, yeah, but this goes without saying.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah, it’s unlistenable. Even though we do have Chris Reifert from Autopsy and the original lineup of Death, he sings backups on the album. A couple of songs, we thought that would be, on the one hand, Chris, for practically inventing death metal, he should be the last guy we would have on the album, but then we figured it would be a cool thing for us to let a pussy like him be on our record.
Matthias Backwards: We want it to be magnanimous, so that we are really not that petty.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah, I don’t know what that means. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t understand.
Matthias Backwards: I don’t know what it means either, but I hear other Americans say, so I figured I’d drop a word.
Are there any songs on this album that was more challenging to record?
Matthias Backwards: Good question.
Lance the King of Black Metal: That’s a really good question, actually.
Matthias Backwards: I think they were all somewhat difficult. We recorded mostly into my laptop, which is a late ’90s PC laptop. Hence, it is very slow. This is why it took over a year to actually record this record. In this record we have many, many brutal backing vocal tracks. And then, we have friends come. Good friends, not like Chris. Friends who are into black metal come over and sing backup. Some of these tracks, we have hundreds of vocal layerings, but everyone is a tiny bit different, so every track must have been edited to the extreme. “Death to Death Metal” is one of these tracks where to edit it properly, it just was… I just quit and that’s what you hear.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. Part of what you hear is the silence. Big part of the thing was just how we recorded it. Sometimes it was so intense recording, we’d have to take breaks and just go sit in a ditch and we would record that as ambient sounds in the background. You can only hear on headphones and if you’re a dog.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah, it’s pretty hard. What was the question?
Matthias Backwards: Which song in particular was challenging. With every song, back vocal wise, it was very challenging to get everything dynamically working, which I know it sounds like we do it so easily, but it did require some effort. I would say maybe lead off track and “Death to Death Metal” and “We Are Your New Gods” was a challenge, and things where you have screaming and then singing. I mean, we do both perfectly, but when you put them together, sometimes this can be a challenge in the recording context.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. Plus, only the trained ear can hear this, but each track, each song, has over 400 muted tracks on it in addition to what you actually hear. We think that’s kind of what pushed it over the edge for us.
400 muted tracks. So, that makes everything mute behind everything. Interesting.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah.
Matthias Backwards: It’s for the feelings of doom and space. Sometimes I punch in. If I record a bass, which I play primarily on record. Or a guitar, which I do on several songs. I play my tracks, and then when there’s a pause for effect, like Lance is saying, I tend to punch in the pause. I set up the recorder, so then it comes into record so I can be silent and then it goes back into the track. And here you pick up many of these grim moments, so to speak.
The cover artwork reminds me of a mix between what an Abbath cartoon would look like to a Game of Thrones episode. Can you discuss more about the illustration?
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. I mean, we think it’s probably the greatest album cover of all time. It was done by an artist named Tim who lives in, I think, Vermont. We told him we wanted to be on horseback because that’s our preferred means of travel.
Matthias Backwards: It is how I traveled to America from Norway, actually. I came on horseback, so we wanted to represent that especially.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. Normally, we wear helmets because otherwise they won’t let you take the horses off a lot, but we did not include that in the art. And then, in the back you can see there’s hellhounds and stuff. They’re sort of cackling and babbling. And then, there’s fire. Pretty much everything that you need for an awesome album. Also, if you look closely, the letters of the album title, Sons of Midwestern Darkness, are bleeding severely. That probably took more time than anything else.
I can see a lot of the fire and the blood. My next question is actually for Dave.
Matthias Backwards: Who’s Dave?
I know, I know, I know. It’s an imaginary person I made up, but….
Lance the King of Black Metal: I can answer the question. I know him pretty well, I can answer anything.
Matthias Backwards: Okay.
Okay. I’ve been meaning to ask… This is an old question. Can you discuss the time you interviewed a pet psychic?
Lance the King of Black Metal: Oh, I think I know what you’re referring to.
Matthias Backwards: Was this in Miami? Or was that just a psychic?
Lance the King of Black Metal: No, that was… I think the video… She’s referring to a video Dave Hill did with a pet psychic. I think that’s on YouTube?
Lance the King of Black Metal: I think Dave had his sister’s dog at the time. There it is. Yeah, I’m pulling it up. Yeah, and she somehow was really good at getting inside the heads of animals. And also me, to a certain extent. She played mind games with me.
Matthias Backwards: Mead? Did you say mead?
Lance the King of Black Metal: Oh, no, no. Me, personally. I mean, or Dave. Dave.
Matthias Backwards: Oh, yes, of course.
Lance the King of Black Metal: But yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that. It was 12 years ago it says. Wow. Where’s the time. That actually, 12 years ago, so that would’ve been a few years after the original formation of Witch Taint. Hey, that’s a deep cut. Thank you for picking that one.
Lance the King of Black Metal: I don’t know where she is now. She’s out there somewhere. I hope she’s doing all right.
Back to Lance and all things black metal. Since you guys are the best black metal band out there, what advice do you guys have for everyone during this time of isolation?
Lance the King of Black Metal: Oh, good question.
Matthias Backwards: Embrace.
Lance the King of Black Metal: No, no. Not embrace, Matthias.
Matthias Backwards: Why?
Lance the King of Black Metal: We don’t want to send the wrong message. The thing about this self isolating and stuff, we’ve been doing that since the ’90s, so for us it wasn’t that hard at all. Because I rarely leave my mother’s basement except to go work at Subway, which I’ve been laid off. Not because of the coronavirus, but because there was a… Can’t really get into it. It’s sort of a sight gag, really, more than anything else that I did with one of the teriyaki subs. I can’t really get into it. But anyway, we just want everyone to… I mean, this is a perfect time. A lot of people say, “Oh, this is a bad time to be releasing an album.” It’s the perfect time because we’ve created the perfect soundtrack of what people should be listening to while no one can leave the house.
Matthias Backwards: That’s just how it was recorded in many ways.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. We were not leaving the house and we’re still not leaving the house. I mean, you tell me. But it’s the best record. It pretty much has everything you need for being on lockdown. I mean, there’s an Introduction that explains it. “We Are Your New Gods”
Matthias Backwards: Which is just the statement of reality…
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. We’ve been saying this a lot, probably the biggest flaw of the album, if there is any flaw, is that we originally just wanted it to be really grim and just extreme. But it ended up being really catchy and danceable and fun to sing and dance to.
Matthias Backwards: We want to make sure that having a fun, catchy record was not our intent.
Lance the King of Black Metal: No, it just…
Matthias Backwards: We can’t help it.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Unfortunately, worked out that way. If people are in lockdown together, then they can put our album and have a really fun dance party with it. Again, we’re really disappointed because we didn’t want an album to be so….
Matthias Backwards: This does not mean to imply either that we dance or ever have danced. Quote, unquote.
Lance the King of Black Metal: No. I mean, I have a glandular condition that I don’t want to get into, but it makes dancing….
Matthias Backwards: Well, that’s an exception.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Well, it’s just gyrating is really hard for me right now with the medications that I’m on.
Since you guys are so used to being isolated and only seeing a Subway and eating Subway sandwiches…..
Lance the King of Black Metal: Eat brutal really is what their saying should be.
Matthias Backwards: Truthfully, this is one of the main reasons I came to America. These Subway sandwiches are, well, they’re very inexpensive. Things in Norway, very expensive. Rehearsal space in Gary, Indiana, very cheap. And free rent in the basement with Lance of his mother’s house. He does not live with his mother, but he just happens to live in the basement of the same house. It’s different.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Couldn’t be more different. I’m sorry, what was the question?
Giving advice during this time of isolation, but seems like you guys have been isolated for so long, aside from seeing a Subway.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah, it’s mostly business as usual for us, honestly.
Is there anything else that you want to say or add to your fans?
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. I mean, we’ll be back to assault the globe as soon as possible. As soon as this is over with, we’re going to be out there just destroying everyone.
Matthias Backwards: We’re still obscure, but we will make appearances.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. And also, we apologize. We keep running out of medium t shirts. We’re going to try and do better on that now also. Probably those main things and also…
Matthias Backwards: We will continue to destroy death metal wherever we arrive.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah, just giving it the finger. Also, I had oat milk in my cereal this morning and I couldn’t even tell the difference.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah-
Matthias Backwards: Between oatmeal and death metal.
Lance the King of Black Metal: No, oat milk. I had oat milk in my oatmeal. Just, you came and-
Matthias Backwards: Goat milk?
Lance the King of Black Metal: No, oat milk. I had… Nevermind.
Matthias Backwards: Why would you drink oat milk if you could drink goat milk? I mean, they rhyme. You might as well go all the way.
Well, you’re going to probably have to learn to make your own milk soon. There’s also Rice milk.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Well-
Matthias Backwards: This is true. Well, we do have our own goats as… If you’ve seen our latest video.
Lance the King of Black Metal: But Death to Death Metal. Yeah, there’s actual live goats in that. I’m pretty pumped about that.
Thank you so much for taking this time for the interview and hope everybody else thinks this is the best black metal album of the year and…
Lance the King of Black Metal: Well, it’s the best album period.
Matthias Backwards: It is. It simply is. It is.
Lance the King of Black Metal: And I think what you’ll find is in coming years, it’ll be the best album of those years as well.
Matthias Backwards: Until we release our next album, of course.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
One of the best metal albums or albums we’ve heard in a very long time, then?
Lance the King of Black Metal: No, the best. Not one of them.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Yeah, yeah.
All right. You guys enjoy your day and hopefully you get a Subway sandwich or two.
Lance the King of Black Metal: That’s the dream.
Matthias Backwards: Dark regards.
Lance the King of Black Metal: Dark regards.