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Witherfall

Ongeveer een maand geleden kreeg ik het album ‘Nocturnes And Requiems’ van de band Witherfall opgestuurd om review over schrijven. Een bijzondere plaat, niet alleen omdat ik het album erg goed vond maar ook omdat drummer Adam Sagan veel te jong overleed vóór de release van het album. Inmiddels bijna een jaar na het overlijden van Sagan is het album dan eindelijk in de schappen te vinden en leek het mij een geschikt moment om contact te leggen met gitarist Jake Dreyer en zanger Joseph Michael. Zij namen even de tijd om mijn vragen te beantwoorden over het nieuwe album ‘Nocturnes And Requiems’ en de tragische omstandigheden.

Door: Leon | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

band imageBefore we start I would like to congratulate you with the release of ‘Nocturnes And Requiems’, an excellent album. I really enjoyed listening to the album! How do you feel about the album now that it’s released, especially given the circumstances?
Jake: first off thanks for the compliment it feels great to have ‘Nocturnes and Requiems’ out worldwide. It was a pretty tough time getting this record complete because of numerous factors that delayed the production. Every detail had to be just to our liking so I am very happy with the end result.

Joseph: Yes, thank you so much! It was quite a journey. Adam was actually hoping we would sign with Century as many of his favorite bands were signed with them. As far as our level of happiness: We are very satisfied with the response.

I only read the news about Adam’s passing during the album review for ‘Nocturnes And Requiems’ and was quite shocked, I can’t even begin to imagine how this must’ve been for you guys. Can you tell us a bit about what happened after you got the news?
Jake: Adam was diagnosed with cancer the day of a photo shoot that never was. That was in November of 2015, it's also the reason why there are no photos of that lineup. A year later in December of 2016 I was on my first tour with Iced Earth, actually in the Netherlands playing Tilburg, I had just got offstage and was having a drink backstage at 013 when Joseph sent me an email that read something to the extent of "call me it's about Adam" I pretty much knew then but it was a really tough evening. It still haunts me that Sagan never saw the release date.

Joseph: It was bitter sweet releasing the record and actually releasing the first single weeks after he passed.

At some point you decided to find a new drummer and found Steve Bolognese (Ex-Into Eternity) to be the right guy for Witherfall, how did you go about recruiting someone to fill Adam’s shoes?
Jake: It was a very long process and we had to find the right guy to carry on Adams legacy that he left with Witherfall. Steve was just a great fit musically and personality wise. He is as crazy of a music fan as we are. While also being able to handle certain shenanigans that happen on the road.

Joseph: Steve is a fine musician as well as Metal Drummer, number one. That is almost as difficult as finding a singer that can read music! He is also hilarious. His dad was a dockworker and he is very down to earth.

The band formed in 2013 and didn’t let much time pass before you started writing music for an album. When and how did you decide that you wanted to work on an album together?
Jake: Joseph and I were on tour together in another band and we had shared a lot of the same influences and would be up all night after the gigs talking music theory. So when that band crumbled I had always wanted to put together a very dark progressive metal band. Initially I liked Joseph's voice so I wanted him for that, I had no idea we had such a good writing chemistry together.

Joseph: We started writing after we buried a few bodies in the UK, that was in November 2013, so really the main writing was done in 2014 and we went in to record later in the year. As far as the writing goes, it’s not a process, it's an experience. Jake and I obsess over every detail in the songs! One thing that separates us from other bands is that the vocals and guitars actually work together to form a harmonic and melodic movement. We actually write this stuff together. Some bands just write the music and the singer comes in and just layers his parts over. That is not composition, that's puzzle completion.

What did the writing process look like?
Jake-we had most of the album written in a pretty quick amount of time. Basically the first session was at my apartment in Los Angeles Joseph came over and I had riffs for what would become Portrait, End of Time and Sacrifice. Joseph wrote a lot of the vocal melodies that night. Later on we finished up the preproduction at Joseph's studio then went to do a few pre-production sessions in Minneapolis with Adam on drums.,

Joseph: Like I said, Jake and I compose these pieces holistically. If Jake is hearing something he lets me know and I can adjust or re-work a part. If I hear a Cmaj7, sus4 harmony in the vocal part and he is playing a motif based on a F7 he will adjust the chords to fit the harmonic soundscape.

band imageWhat I really liked about the album is that, although there are some more complex passages, in general it’s easily accessible. I don’t believe you’d have to be a progressive metal fan to enjoy the album. Was this a conscious decision or did the sound form naturally?
Jake: It was all natural, the idea of Witherfall was to have a band that really did not follow any rules. With that said I think in general Joseph and I prefer music (doesn't matter the genre) that has a great melody. That's something we are always thinking about, but really we just write to the song. If a song needs a huge chorus into a flamenco influenced section then that's what happens.

Joseph: I happen to think the singer should sing. In some bands the vocalist may as well be either playing a distorted guitar through a vocoder or playing a keyboard with the amount of tuning you hear.

I could swear that there are some passages in some of the songs that were influenced by the bands Death and Savatage, do you agree with that? Were you influenced by these groups?
Joseph: For sure, Jake loves technical guitarists like Chuck, and I am really into Zack Stevens Era Savatage.

Jake: I think those are both fair examples as Death and Savatage are certainly two bands I very much respect. Our list of individual influences is very wide across the board. Everything from classical composers and jazz musicians to death metal bands. Our biggest influence would be Queen, the way they would compose these massive songs that would take you on a journey yet at the same time make you want to repeat the track is nothing short of brilliance.

Jake, you recently joined the legendary metal band Iced Earth (congratulations) how did you come to join the band?
Jake: When I found out Iced Earth was auditioning for a lead guitarist I sent a video of myself playing a couple solos from the catalogue and that night I got an email from Jon Schaffer saying he had remembered me from a previous tour I did as a support band in 2011. We had some in depth phone conversations and I flew out to their studio where I laid down a few pre-production solos for what became Incorruptible and was offered the gig right there.

What's next for you? Will we see Witherfall live in the Netherlands? And will there be a follow-up album?
Jake: Absolutely on both accounts! We are looking at offers for a European tour in 2018 and Joseph and I are very deep into the writing of the follow up to ‘Nocturnes and Requiems’ which we are looking at for a fall release.

Joseph: The new record is going to piss some people off. As long as it pisses off less people than it makes happy I will not mind. But, seriously we think that this will be the most involved album of 2018.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our readers?
Jake: Thank you very much for a great interview very well thought out questions! I would like to thank everyone that is reading this that has checked out ‘Nocturnes and Requiems’. We will see you on tour very soon!

Joseph: Thank you! As a social experiment I'd like to invite your readers to message us directly at info@witherfall.com if they would like an autographed postcard, we will send one out.

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