Witchcraft: Q & A With Ola Henriksson

Witchcraft should need little introduction to the readers of this website and after a 5 year hiatus, they’re back with a revamped line-up which also see’s main man Magnus Pelander ditching his beloved 6 string to concentrate on his vocals. And with a new label in the form of Nuclear Blast, these doomed hippies are just about to drop their a new EP ‘It’s Not Because Of You’ swiftly followed by their new album ‘Legend’ and as the stars we’re now aligned and the cauldron bubbling away a magical concoction, the time was right to fire some questions over to long standing bassist Ola Henriksson…

It’s been 5 years since your last full length album, 2007’s ‘The Alchemist’, so how has life been treating you and Witchcraft during this hiatus and why did we have to wait until now for any new material?

Life has been good! Here is the reason to the hiatus.

First we toured for 2 years on The Alchemist album and then we took one year off because we needed some time apart. During that year, John and Jansson quit. After that Magnus and I decided to go for it even though it was only us two left. We spent a few months putting together ideas for the album, ( in the basement where we recorded the first album), whilst looking for new band members. When we finally found three new musicians it took us one year to finalise the songs for the album, then a few months of recording and now we are finally here!

You have moved from Rise Above to Nuclear Blast to release your new album and EP so how did you hook up with them to sign a deal?

We moved from Rise Above because we felt that a change in members and label would be good for us. When Nuclear Blast said that they were interested we thought about it for a while and the decided that it would be a step in the right direction!

When you mention Nuclear Blast, Doom isn’t the first music genre that would jump out at you when looking at their back catalogue, but they really seem to be putting their money where their mouth is and pushing your music to new levels, so was it initially a difficult decision to make when signing to them, or were you confident from the start that Witchcraft would feel right at home and get the support you need and deserve?

It wasn’t a difficult decision because I know that they would support us. They knew about our music from before and I feel that we collaborate really well!

Witchcraft - 2012

Your new album ‘Legend’ will be released in September so can you give our readership a rundown of what they are likely to expect.

It will be a Witchcraft album with all it’s different twists and turns. Some progression will be noticed but the solid platform from before will always be there. This time we wanted a heavier sound and especially a heavier rhythm section sound and Jens Bogren, (producer) has done a great job creating that!

And how was working with Jens Bogren on this recording as you’re a little bit different to past bands he’s been associated with?

Jens is a super professional. It was a delight to work with him. Some of us knew him from before, (he was my sound engineering teacher 10 years ago) and that made it easier for us to relax. He knew what kind of sound that would suit our songs and I think it’s clear that he made a great job!

Over the years, there’s been a demise in labels releasing EP’s prior to an album coming out, but Nuclear Blast seem to be championing this approach with your new EP ‘It’s Not Because Of You’, so what are your thoughts on this and do you think it’s a good way to get new material out to fans as a teaser before the full album is released?

I love the 7” format and I think it is great for us because a lot of our fans are collectors of vinyl records. You always want to give something back to the fans and I think this is one way of doing that.

It’s also been stated that Magnus gave up playing the guitar on this recording to concentrate on his vocals but how and why did he come to this decision? Was playing the guitar starting to interfere with new ideas and vocal deliveries he was wanting to create? And how is it playing live or at rehearsal, do his hands still yearn to have a guitar in them?

I’ll try to answer that. Magnus has been talking about giving up the guitar from a long time and when we found 2 new guitarists it wasn’t a hard decision for him. His vocal performance is better and the guitars are better so it’s a win-win. He does play some guitar on almost every song on the album.

‘Legend’ is also getting the vinyl treatment, a format which really seems to be in high demand these days, my thought is that fans still like the physical product, something to hold, study, play, cherish and be proud to own where as digital downloads (and to a degree CD’s) don’t fulfill this, especially if they grew up listening to vinyl, but what are your thoughts on this?

My thoughts are exactly what you think. Bands in this genre writes albums and not songs for iTunes. There is something special with the fact that you need to switch sides on the record as well. This album will be released as a double vinyl because of the length of some songs.

Witchcraft 'It's Not Because Of You' & 'Legend' Artwork

You’re also a band that has previously stated that you only use analogue and vintage equipment, is this still the case and can you give us an insight into what equipment the band use today?

I don’t know what equipment we used during this recording but I have to admit that it wasn’t all analogue. We have always used the equipment that we could afford and I think it’s a rumour that we only use vintage gear. I still prefer the sound of analogue equipment and vintage gear but sometimes it’s too damn expensive.

Today we play on Orange amps with a variety of different guitars because that sound is perfect for us.

What about touring, are we likely to see you hit the road in support of your new album over the coming months?

Yes of course. We will tour Scandinavia Sep – mid Nov and then Europe, US and some other remote places in 2013.

You’ve also had a bit of a revolving door of members over the years, especially with drummers (place Spinal Tap pun here!), has this had a dramatic impact on the output and gigging opportunities of Witchcraft over the years?

Not really. We’ve had the luck to find replacements really fast, (sometimes from old drummers) and the three former drummers we’ve had have all been top drummers! Oscar have been in our plans for quite some time, even before Jansson but he has always been an occupied man.

You don’t hide the fact that Witchcraft started out life as a Pentagram tribute act, are they a band you’re still passionate about and are they still an influence on the Witchcraft sound of today?

I love Pentagram even though I don’t listen as much as I used too. When you’ve heard every song about a 1000 times for 18 years you don’t play it as much anymore. It’s like Black Sabbath, still the best band but I don’t listen that much to them. You find new stuff and old stuff that appeal for the moment more but those two bands will always be my favourites. We will always be influenced by them, it cannot be avoided but it’s not intentional anymore.

And while on the subject of Pentagram, have you seen the Bobby Liebling documentary ‘Last Days Here’ yet?

Yes! We played with my other band Troubled Horse on the Swedish premiere. I know Sean Pelletier and I wish him and Pentagram all the best!

Many thanks for the interview and please use this space for any final words…

Come see and hear us live! We have something special planned for you!

Keep up to date with Witchcraft over at www.facebook.com/witchcraft and you can also read Alex’s review of ‘Legend’ HERE.

Interviewed by: Lee Edwards