Interview with Patrick of HELLWITCH

Interview with Patrick of HELLWITCH

- in Written interviews

Hi Patrick! “Annihilational Intercention” is HELLWITCH’s latest album. Could you share the overarching theme or concept that ties the album’s songs together, and what inspired this particular theme for the record?
The concept is the real life tale of our mutilated planet and all of it’s destructive inhabitants. Seen on the cover is the “Judge” with his cohorts interceding to assuredly complete the annihilation of what remains of man left to his own devices.

Can you elaborate on the meaning behind the title and how it relates to the music and themes explored in the album?
What I conceived takes place in the near future. Earth ravaged to complete decimation by man left to his own devices. Otherworldly powers have interceded to assure the complete annihilation of what/who is left. You can see the “Judge” administering punishment to those who remain through use of his various kinesis while his soldiers look on. These days, I think the first couple of sentences above sound like reality!

HELLWITCH is known for intricate and complex compositions. How did the songwriting process for this album unfold, and were there any new approaches or techniques employed in crafting these songs?
The compositions range from 1985-2022. Between the “Omnipotent Convocation” and “Annihilational Intercention” I composed several songs as well as resurrected the song “HELLWITCH”, partially written in 1985. The classic, “Torture Chamber”, has finally received the proper treatment that I’ve envisioned since I wrote it in ’85. Then there are songs from the 1994 “Anthropophagi” demo that have been updated. And there is a surprise punk rock bonus track that pays homage to our early years in Gainesville, FL when we did shows exclusively with punk bands and played covers of punk songs! This marks the first orchestral piece ever featured on a HELLWITCH recording. Aside from “Hellwitch”, some of the new songs like “Solipsistic Immortality” and “Delegated Disruption” are more intense than anything before. The new album was mainly written by me whereas the last was mostly a band effort.

Could you highlight a specific track from “Annihilational Intercention” and provide insights into its lyrical content, musical structure, and the emotions you aimed to convey through it?
I really like “Hellwitch”. It was originally written in ’85 but not completed until 2022. I love the variety in it. Orchestral beginning (“Sorcerous Imminence”) followed by blasting, mayhemic riffs, slow riffs, and parts that only appear one time in the song. It reminds me a bit of “Mordirivial Dissemination” in that it is a journey through different musical areas. The lyrics are classic creature/death/occult in the vein of early SLAYER. Most of the lyrics were written in ’85. It’s quite simple, really. It’s the story of a creature that killkillkills! That’s where I was lyrically in ’85 having only written 2 songs in my life! In Hellwitch I try to convey the emotions of fear, anxiety, hopelessness and dread.

How does the artwork reflect the album’s themes, and how important is visual representation in conveying the essence of HELLWITCH’s music?
I think this is the BEST cover art HELLWITCH has ever had. The artwork reflects the music directly with it’s images of pain, suffering, destruction and final judgment. The overall scene is part of the Delegated Disruption. In the background appears the Megalopalyptic Confine. What I conceived takes place in the near future. Earth ravaged to complete decimation by man left to his own devices. Otherworldly powers have interceded to assure the complete annihilation of what/who is left. You can see the “Judge” administering punishment to those who remain through use of his various kinesis while his soldiers look on. It’s essential that we have visual material to help convey the essence of the music! The music videos we’ve just released I think reflect this!

Over the years, HELLWITCH’s sound has evolved while maintaining a distinct identity. How would you describe the musical progression or evolution showcased in “Annihilational Intercention” compared to your earlier works?
I wrote all of the first album and most of “A.I.” while “Omnipotent Convocation” was more of a full band effort. The first album was done analog with Scott Burns at Morrisound. It still sound great today! But, we’ve been fortunate enough to record with Jeremy Staska at The Original Studio 13 on “O.C.” and “A.I.” ! Jeremy has recorded Malevolent Creation, Poison the Well, Divine Empire and many other well known bands. He’s incredible and KNOWS what HELLWITCH should sound like! I think like other writers, you either get better with age or you run out of ideas and begin recycling stuff! I prefer to think I fall into the former category. I refuse to just spit out regular ideas for songs. There has to be a spark! The music must be driven! I think it’s evident that originality is our main goal. That’s not always good for some writers. I think on “A.I.” we’ve found a great balance of originality and cohesiveness. It’s original, but not off the map into bizarre absurdity. The first album was a bit more odd. Many parts now seem disjointed to me.

Technical proficiency is a hallmark of HELLWITCH’s music. How do you balance intricate musicianship with ensuring that the emotional impact of the music isn’t lost on the listener?
Thank you for the kind compliment!! I don’t spend much time actively thinking about such things when writing. I write what I think sounds interesting and intriguing. I try to keep the adrenalin level high in most parts as well as a cognitive journey in others. That’s really only the tip of the iceberg. As you can hear, the ideas and moods are very diverse throughout some songs like Mordirivial Dissemination, Hellwitch, and Anthropophagi.

Lyrically, HELLWITCH often delves into dark and intense themes. What are some of the central lyrical motifs explored in “Annihilational Intercention,” and how do they resonate with the overall atmosphere of the album?
Some motifs include cannibalism, torture, infanticide, urban confinement, and solipsism. In some way they are all elements of an annihilational intercention.

The album features nine songs that create an intense experience. Can you discuss the sequencing of the tracks and how you aimed to take listeners on a sonic journey from start to finish?
It was a tedious process that we all collaborated on. We wanted to put the newest, most punishing tracks first then relent with songs that had more diverse dimensions. Toward the end we put the songs that we thought kind of wound down the “A.I.” experience. But, Torture Chamber is the song we end shows with, so we put that last to give people the feeling of “the show is ending now… leave in hate and seek your death”.

“Annihilational Intercention” features a collaboration with veteran producer Jeremy Staska. How did working with Staska contribute to capturing the essence of the album, and what unique elements did he bring to the production process?
At our core, i t is critical that HELLWITCH always sound real and NOT digitized, simulated or artificial! One thing I’ve noticed for some years now is that extreme metal “production” all sounds very similar if not the same! We don’t like that type of sound! HELLWITCH is about being different from all others in every way! We insist on it! We shared this vision with Jeremy at the beginning when we were still shopping around for the right studio and he KNEW what we meant! He’s 56 and has been recording bands since ’86! He comes from the era of analog/tape recording. “A.I.” is all live guitars being played through real amp heads and real speaker cabinets that have microphones in front of them! The drums are Brutal Brian’s own drum kit recorded live with microphones! No artificial samples anywhere!! Everything you hear was played by a band member in real time! Jeremy is incredible and KNOWS what HELLWITCH should sound like! Furthermore, he actually used some analog processing units in recording the guitars and drums.

HELLWITCH’s music often demands technical prowess from its members. How do you prepare and approach the recording process to ensure that the intricate musical details are captured effectively?
Practice, practice and more practice! It’s like anything in life, the more you repeat an action, the better (hopefully!) you get at it! I use my portable home studio to write/practice my solos/rhythms/harmonies before going to the studio. Also, I always come in to record albums with a notebook full of detailed information regarding the process. That notebook is amended as the recording process progresses. I have notes on every little detail from doing a deeper growl/a higher screech on a certain line in a song, to what position my wah-wah pedal should be at the very end of a solo! When I go home, I listen back to daily recordings with headphones to pinpoint any errors or undesired outcomes that may have been recorded.

The album’s release marks a significant point in HELLWITCH’s extensive career. How do you see “Annihilational Intercention” fitting into the band’s discography and contributing to its legacy?
I see it as HELLWITCH growing/evolving to a higher level than ever before. I think that “A.I.” having songs that span from 1985-2022 make it an epic work that hopefully will be remembered as our best!
Usually after 37 years a band’s new material is not on par with what they did previously. I believe HELLWITCH is the OPPOSITE of that! The writing is getting better now!

The album was released on Listenable Records. How did this partnership come about, and how did the collaboration with Listenable Records influence the album’s creation and promotion?
I had known of Laurent (Listenable) since our underground metal days in the 90’s! I’ve always seen his name in the UG scene and have had a lot of respect for his enthusiasm! He’s a fuckin’ diehard like me! A mutual friend introduced us around 2016-17 and Laurent revealed that he was very interested in signing HELLWITCH. We signed with Listenable in 2018. We did indeed also have interest from VIC Records (we are still working with them on our past releases!). Listenable has more resources for promotion, recording budgets, promotional videos, etc. I actually discussed our offer from Listenable with VIC and he agreed Listenable would be a better choice for the band.

Being with Listenable drove us even harder to make the best album possible! We knew a label of such stature could propel us to the next level so we had to create an album that was worthy of such stature. Laurent LOVES the album!

In terms of instrumentation and production, what were some of the key challenges or breakthrough moments you encountered during the making of “Annihilational Intercention”?
There were a few! As I mentioned, we wanted a REAL recording! Nothing artificial! Realizing that concept in and of itself was a challenge. Aside from that, the biggest was having our rhythm guitarist, J.P., recording his tracks remotely from his home near Atlanta, Georgia. We’ve NEVER done recording like this! We have always been together as a band for studio sessions. Also, there is a classical orchestral arrangement which we have never done in a recording before. I worked with Roy Burns (The Merkins) on that. And, of course, the various HELLWITCH vocal, sound, and instrumental FX, always present a challenge. We spent hours on each of them. Overall, everything came out better than planned! Listen to that production!

As HELLWITCH continues to evolve its sound, how do you strike a balance between pushing musical boundaries while staying true to the band’s established style and identity?
I ONLY know how to stay true to what I create. I have no clue how to create music for some sort of ulterior motive. As one review said recently, “A.I.” is NOT phoned in! This album is from the heart!”
I really don’t look for “balance”. I write the best music I can write. I work with my bandmates to come up with the best stuff they think of. I then listen back, review, revise, rework to get to a point where it’s flawless in every way.

Hellwitch’s hiatus and subsequent comeback marked a significant period. What inspired the band to reform, and how did the lineup changes influence your approach to music?
Soooo many reasons led to the hiatus. A big part was fear of more rip off record labels! Remember, we were ripped off big time by Wild Rags (Ricardo Campos) for the first album. Then, Michael “POS” Piesch ripped us off in ’92 with his shitty label Lethal Records. Then, Joe “Witch” left in ’93! After that we did the ’94 demo with a temporary drummer but no “solid” drummer could be found for the next 4 years, so we split in ’98! The 6 year break up stopped everything for us. Joe “Witch” actually contacted me in ’04 and that was the beginning of the reformation. Within 2 years of reforming we had almost the entire “O.C.” album written. It then turned out that Omnipotent C. was a bit of a struggle to record. Joe “Witch” was not committed then or beyond that point and it really delayed us in moving forward. We worked on some new songs here and there after “O.C.”, but it was not easy. And then Displeased Records (Ron Veltkamp-another PIECE OF SHIT!) ripped us off! When Brutal Brian joined in 2015, the band took off again! We recorded the “At Rest” 7″ right away. We actually wrote several new songs within a couple of years. We were contracted/set to record “Annihilational Intercention” in 2019 but I had a health scare with my throat and then Covid! These factors halted everything! Finally, we were able to fire things back up in 2021 and record in ’22.

HELLWITCH has a loyal and dedicated fan base. How do you ensure that the new album both appeals to longtime fans and attracts new listeners to the band’s music?
I don’t attempt to ensure anything. As I said, I write the best music I can write. I listen back, review, revise, rework to get to a point where it sounds as ramped up as it can be.

The band has a history of captivating live performances. How do you plan to translate the energy and complexity of the new album into the live setting for upcoming shows and tours?
Thank you for the kind compliment. For me, when I saw Slayer live 2X in ’85 I learned what an explosive live performance should be! That is the standard we aspire to! We’ve already been performing the new songs live. We toured the Eastern US in June and just returned from the Destroying Texas Festival last week. We headline one night of the Tampa Deathfest in Oct. and then another U.S. tour in November which will include an appearance at the Mass Destruction Fest in Atlanta. We go all out on stage and I communicate to the audience that we are there to put them in the fucking ground as they all deserve a painful death.
Hellwitch’s music has endured through various metal subgenres and changes in the industry. How do you view the band’s role in the ever-evolving landscape of extreme metal?
It’s all about originality and a “straight from my black heart” attitude. Our role never changes. We originated a sound that is like no other and we simply continue to build on that foundation.
That’s our role.

“Annihilational Intercention” showcases HELLWITCH’s resilience and creative spirit. How does the album reflect the band’s current mindset and aspirations for the future?
It reflects where we are right now! Those songs ARE what we’re always thinking. Fast, focused, relentless, boundless and always looking for our next victim.

As a pioneering force in the metal scene, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians looking to make their mark and create music with a lasting impact?
Do something no one else is doing. I know it’s tough in 2023, but strive to be original! Be your own worst critic. Don’t listen to your music and quickly say, “This is really great! This rocks!” Frown at it! Say things like, “That part kind of drags…what can we do to spruce it up? That riff sounds like a riff from (insert another band name!)! Maybe we can mix up the singing rhythm here a bit. Maybe there should be a solo over this part?” After you’ve done all these things repeatedly, THEN you may say, “This sounds decent.” Ramp it up! Don’t settle!

Looking ahead, what do you hope listeners take away from “Annihilational Intercention,” and how do you see this album influencing HELLWITCH’s trajectory moving forward?
I really hope listeners understand the concept, feel the power, spark and overall kinetic energy that is “A.I.”. I hope they come away believing that there IS still some originality left in the scene! It’s not all recycled riffs and new school sterile production found on every street corner in 2023. We want them to know there ARE still some bands with heartfelt writing who don’t use a generic template for songwriting. I think this album will push HELLWITCH to a new level of recognition. Though not by design, I think it does indeed appeal to listeners from 16-6!

Thank you for your time!
Thank you for the well versed interview Stanley! I appreciate the quality questions!

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