Even though you've been around since 2010 and released three full-length albums and a demo this is somehow the first time we at Lords reviewed an album of yours and this is the first interview with you. So, could you introduce the band to our readers and tell us about the history of Bell Witch?
DD: The band started when a friend asked Adrian Guerra and I's other band to play a show. Our guitarist had recently moved away and we had thus ended the band. When we told our friend the booker this info, she said "why don't you two just start another band?" I had some riffs that I was planning on starting a different band with, but this seemed as good of a reason as any to use
them. Adrian and I pieced together a thirty minute set, which ended up being the songs ‘I Wait’ and ‘Rows’, which both appeared on our first LP. We enjoyed the process, so we decided to continue with the band.
Like every band you will also have your influences. What are your influences both musically and outside the realm of music?
DD: I think a lot of the original influences were funeral doom bands like Worship, Mournful Congregation, and Corrupted. I was also listening to a lot of Michael Hedges and Rachel's at the time, which I think played into the original feel of the band also. Beyond the musical realm, the songs have always been written as if they were a sort of story. We've always tried to use literary tools such as the plot twist of a novel or the ambiguity of a poem.
JS: I would say my biggest influences in the genre would definitely be Asunder, Neurosis, and Corrupted. These were the first bands that really turned me on to slower heavy music. In a very weird way I like to think of Bell Witch as a manifestation of Pink Floyd's influence on me as a musician. They are one of my all-time favourite bands, and I think a lot of my ideas of adding auxiliary instruments and percussion all come from listening to Pink Floyd most of my life. Other than music, Surrealist art and science fiction novels mould my perception of the world pretty strongly.
Your albums and songs have been getting longer over the years, culminating in 'Mirror Reaper' which clocks in at one song (the digital promo that is) of 83 minutes. How did this come to be and where will you guys end?
DD: We had to cut down two of the songs on ‘Four Phantoms’ because they were too long for the side of a record. Those songs had already been trimmed down. When we began writing ‘Mirror Reaper’, the original idea was to write one large song that would be divided into two movements, and further into seven sub movements. As the song progressed, it became clear to us that it would be taking something away from the piece itself to divide it into movements. Thus, we kept it as one piece. Moving forward, I can't say we'll ever write another song that matches ‘Mirror Reaper's’ length, but it is safe to say we won't be writing shorter songs.
JS: I like to think that one of the most exciting and experimental sides to Bell Witch is that song length is never a discussion. Our goal is to write complete songs, regardless of the length. In the case of ‘Mirror Reaper’, it happened to be 83 minutes long. Now that we released this album, there is a feeling that we can do whatever we feel is true to the band. I cannot wait to write the new album.
Like I just mentioned 'Mirror Reaper' is one song of 83 minutes in its digital download form, On CD you split it into two with 48 minutes 13 seconds on disc one and 35 minutes 30 seconds on disc two. What made you opt for that exact cut-off point? On vinyl it is spread over four sides. How long are those parts and, once again, why those exact cut-off points?
DD: Unfortunately the song couldn't fit onto one cd, so we had to divide it up. The split point for this format was made as a conceptual purpose; it marks the point of reflection in ‘Mirror Reaper’. At this point, the song is turned back on itself from a different angle and it is a reflection of the first half. For the vinyl, we chose those spots because they were the easiest musical split points as well as the best for fitting it to that format.
The title of the album is 'Mirror Reaper' and the song in its digital download version just 'Mirror Reaper' and on CD 'Mirror Reaper (As Above)' and 'Mirror Reaper (So Below)' and on vinyl the songs are called 'As', 'Above', 'So', 'Below'. Could you explain the title and the concept behind it?
DD: We originally intended to title the album ‘As Above, So Below’. The basic concept was the same; two sides of the same song that reflected on itself at a focal point. After a time, that title started to seem overused in other outlets. ‘Mirror Reaper’ was a repeating theme in the lyrics, which was a direct reference to the concept of the piece. We decided to use it instead, as it was maybe even a more fitting title.
JS: The title ‘Mirror Reaper’ reflects the tone and ideals behind the hermetic principles. These principles were the inspiration for the concept of the album. As the hermetic principles are an explanation and discussion of dichotomies that occur in the natural world, So was our decision formed in the title ‘Mirror Reaper’.
In 2015 you lost Adrian Guerra (R.I.P.), yet he can still be heard on 'Mirror Reaper'. How did you manage to do that? And where exactly can he be heard?
DD: We chose the focal point of the song where the piece hits a conceptual reflection point in a mirror as the spot to place his vocals in. As the pinnacle of the song, we felt that to be the best spot to pay tribute to Adrian's life and his legacy in the band. It was also the point at which the song was conceptually touching on a spot between life and death. While Adrian is no longer alive, his words can forever be alive in that spot. We both feel that he would be honoured and proud of what we did, were he able to hear it. I inquired with his family as to their opinion about us using some of his unused vocal tracks left over from ‘Four Phantoms’. They were very gracious in their acceptance of the idea. As both records were recorded by Billy Anderson, he was able to dig into the old recordings and find complimentary parts to the section we wanted to place the vocals. All the vocals in 40:28-44:10 are Adrian's. They are focused between 42:00-44:10.
For a funeral doom band (I know the music is way more varied than just being funeral doom) you release music on a quite regular and quick basis. What inspires you to work so quickly?
DD: I feel like we take too long between records! Personally, I would prefer being much more prolific with recordings. I suppose I like being active in the creative process. I prefer spending my time in that realm than anywhere else. Especially going to work!
The times I have seen you live. Which was in in 2015 at Roadburn and later that year at Dutch Doom Days I was totally surprised to see just a two piece band. How do manage to get such a full sound making you sound like at least a three piece band with drums, bass and guitar?
DD; I use two guitar set ups and one bass set up simultaneously. Each has their own specific EQ and pedal chain that is intended to be symbiotic to the whole. In addition to the drums and screaming vocals, Jesse plays an organ module with a foot pedal live. I tap the high end melody lines on the upper bass string while holding the low bass notes in succession. This allows me to seem like a guitar and a bass at the same time, which adds some texture to the songs.
JS: I think our goal on this last record and as we continue as a band is to strive to fill out and mould our sound as much as possible. This presents a challenge as there are only two members, but it is a welcomed one. I think It truly allows ourselves to express our potential as singular members in a total way. The more layers we can add, the more full the sound and tone. This is one of my favourite aspects of the band.
Mentioning Roadburn, are you looking forward to the two sets you will be playing? One which will be 'Mirror Reaper' in its entirety. What will the other set consist of?
DD: We're very excited to play both sets at Roadburn! In addition to the entirety of ‘Mirror Reaper’, we'll be performing ‘Rows (Of Endless Waves)’ from the album ‘Longing’ and ‘Somniloquy (The Distance Of Forever)’ from ‘Four Phantoms’. Both sets will feature Erik Moggridge, who does vocals on all three of our full lengths.
JS: I absolutely cannot wait for the Roadburn sets!!!
What surprises me when looking at your discography is that are no EP's and splits. Will there ever be a chance that you will release either? Or a collaboration? And who would you like to do a split or collaboration with? I personally wouldn't mind one of you with Ortega.
DD: I've always wanted to do a collaboration. I think us being a rhythm section lends itself
to making that an easy fit for some situations. We've actually been discussing one with a band of some old friends. I'm excited to see what comes of it! We've also discussed doing a split/collaboration with Aerial Ruin, which is Erik Moggridge's main project. As of now, our idea is to do one of his songs and have him do one of our songs. We've got a very good one picked out! Hopefully it can come together in the next year or so.
What are your plans for the near and not so near future? Besides the two sets at Roadburn, will there also be a European club tour in the cards? And what are your plans when it comes to recording?
DD: There is a European tour surrounding Roadburn between March and May. After that, we'll be doing another US tour in June/July. After that, we'll likely be working on new material.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these couple of questions. See you in April at Roadburn. Is there anything you would like to add?
DD: Thank you for the interview! Sorry it took us so long to reply! We were on tour for a very long time and got behind on these. Come say hi at Roadburn! It will be great to meet you!
JS: Thank you and see you across the pond!