Interview | BURNING WITCHES
A True Metal Coven
On the 28th of May the brand new Burning Witches album `The Witch Of The North’ will be launched. These ladies are the kind that can’t sit still and keep producing new content for their fans, almost as if it takes them no effort. Lead singer Laura Guldemond is the subject to a list of questions for HeadBangers LifeStyle. Laura has actually just arrived in Switzerland, the home base of the witches, and is still a bit tired from her trip. But that certainly didn’t affect her enthusiasm to talk to me about the new record, tour plans and more.
First of all I would like to congratulate you and the other ladies with the upcoming record `The Witch Of The North’.
,,Thank you! Great to hear you like it.’’
What I would like to know is whether all the songs were already written before the new guitar player Larissa [Ernst] joined the band, or was it a band effort? Or did most of the music come of Romana’s [Kalkuhl] hand?
,,Actually all the music comes from Romana, but yeah she did record parts together with Larissa, so to speak, being together in a room and record. After Romana wrote all the song structures we all could do our own thing. But of course it had to fit in the song.’’
Does the same go for the lyrics, or is that completely up to you?
,,Almost everything comes from my pen as far as the lyrics are concerned. I did talk to Romana about the theme ‘the witch of the north’, which eventually was chosen to be the main theme for the album. I then went into this theme further, because the idea was clear, but with a bit more depth in that northern stuff, druids and maybe even a little Viking-like storylines. Nordic Mythology! From that point I soon came to a Goddess who gives witches the power to see into the future. Goddess Frea or Freyja came out there and sometimes the two are seen as the same, but sometimes also as two different characters. So that’s pretty much how the theme came about.’’
So the whole album is built around this theme at least in terms of lyrics.
,,Yes indeed, almost all texts are built around the theme. But what I did do with ,,We Stand As One” is that I really wanted to turn this one into a metal anthem. I texted all the girls with questions about what they really like about metal. For instance a concert or something in that direction, which resulted in a lot of reactions, which I have incorporated into the song, so to speak. So that’s the one song on the album that differs from the theme approach. But other than that it all comes from inspiration about the Nordic Mythology.’’
,,So being more private and isolated from that this year might have contributed to a healthier voice.’’–Laura Guldemond
This is the second full-length album with you as the lead singer. Did these recording sessions feel more comfortable to you in your role as a singer than on the previous album `Dance With The Devil’?
,,Because I had already done the previous record, this time things were more recognizable for me. Of course I already knew a little bit what was coming my way, or was expected from my side. On the other hand, that sometimes also works against you. If you assume that things are going to happen in a certain way and then won’t happen that way. So never make assumptions because it might work out differently. But what I did notice is that it had become a little easier for my voice. At the end of the recordings I was like, I could have go on for a few more days. In all honesty that was a bit different on the previous album. Not that you can hear it in my singing performance, although I think I have been growing my vocal skills, but it did feel more relaxed this time. It is actually amazing that I can feel that difference, but cannot hear it. There are more people who say that I have done my own thing more, but I think it is mainly because the album is based on telling the story, which ultimately led to more dynamics.’’
Do you think that you had a different kind of preparation? Because of the pandemic, there were fewer concerts and maybe that contributed to more relaxed vocal chords.
,,You know, I like to think, at least I hope, that I constantly become a better singer, but it could be that, because of the pandemic, I had less contact with people who use a lot of perfume. I am quite allergic to things like that. You don’t interact with colleagues on a daily basis or you don’t use public transport every day, and you get all those substances on your voice all the time. It may well be that my voice has been healthier now than it was a year ago, before the pandemic. So being more private and isolated from that this year might have contributed to a healthier voice. Which in itself is a logical consequence.’’
Is the complete album being recorded in Switzerland?
,,Yes, luckily it was allowed to travel for work and I didn’t have to be quarantinedwhen I went there to do my parts.’’
I think it is safe to say that Burning Witches are a bunch of very busy women. Founded in 2015 and already released four albums and having `The Witch Of The North’ even released a year after `Dance With The Devil’. What should we make of this; can we expect a new album next year?
,,Haha, good question. I think, actually we really want to go on tour. That was of course already the plan with `Dance With The Devil’, but it did not go quite as planned. But I suspect that the next album will take a little longer this time, but of course that has everything to do with how the pandemic is going to evolve and that COVID-19 hopefully will be over soon.If that doesn’t happen, there will probably be a new album in a year [laughing].’’
Yes, I can imagine that the previous album did not have the well-deserved promotion it deserves.
,,In terms of live performances indeed. During that period we, like many others, found out that we couldn’t do live performances. So we decided to do some acoustic live stream stuff and it was something that worked out surprisingly well. I personally really like that acoustic guitar sound. I didn’t expect it to be this cool, but that’s also is the reason why we decided to release the recording as an EP, `Circle Of Live’.
We already touched the subject of tour plans a bit, but I also noticed on your socials there will be a live stream, on May 28th, in support of the release of the new album. Can we expect something special from that performance?
,,Well that’s a good question and we discussed a lot of ideas together already, but now that I have just arrived in Switzerland, I have to see how exactly we are going to approach it. It is not yet entirely clear actually and we are still going through all the options. But our intention is to make something really special out of it.’’
,,Super cool to have her dad sing along to that song and it has given it an extra dramatic charge.’’–Laura Guldemond
Are there any other gigs planned besides the autumn tour with Primal Fear? Festivals or stuff like that.
,,Yet again, a good question. Such plans are often decided or announced last minute. Often it goes like “how are you?”, “we have painted the pool”. [Laughing] I feel really ashamed now, but I really have no idea at this point. Hopefully I will find out now I am back in Switzerland again. New plans will probably be released soon now, because of course things are already being planned for 2022.’’
One song that struck me most on the album is the power ballad ,,Lady Of The Woods”. It is a song where Romana’s father sings the operatic parts. How did this great and dynamic collaboration come about?
,,I hate to say it, but I don’t know exactly, but what I do know is that it was a really special experience for Romana. Super cool to have her dad sing along to that song and it has given it an extra dramatic charge. He also enjoyed doing it, normally he sings professionally in the Opera house in Zurich. But because of the current situation, there is not much to do there either, so it actually all came together nicely for this collaboration.’’
Where would you personally want to be with Burning Witches in 5 years? In terms of musical goals, development, etc., in a general sense.
,,I hope we will continue to develop and grow as a band. Perhaps a bigger fan base, a worldwide headline tour. I don’t know if that is realistic at this point, but it seems to be a great goal to work towards. Personally, I had wanted to play at the Wacken Open Air festival for a long time and when I joined Burning Witches I got to play there, on my birthday! So I guess to next logical step would be headlining the festival at some point. It is a nice anchor point to work towards I think.’’
,,When I was younger, I would have liked it if they had diagnosed me earlier on, so if speaking up like this helps a bit then I like to do that.’’–Laura Guldemond
How about the covers on your albums, do you have a list of classics that you finish one by one? ,,Holy Diver”, ,,Battle Hymns” and now you have recorded ,,Hall Of The Mountain King” of Savatage as a bonus track.
,,No we do not have a list, but in this case, ,,Hall Of The Mountain King” was a great addition to the whole concept of the album. I sometimes cover songs myself and came across this great song and then I thought it would be a shame if we didn’t do this with Burning Witches. And actually it came out just right, because the others were kind of looking for a good cover for the album, when I mentioned this one. For a next time I wouldn’t know which song we will select yet, but it must be a suitable and logical cover. Otherwise we will not do it.’’
I saw a great initiative on your social media: ‘Don’t Bottle It Up’. How did that come about, were you approached for this?
,,Yes, I was approached and I thought it was great because it appeals to me. If you have read my story, you’ll know that it was only quite recently, maybe two years now that I have been diagnosed with ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder]. And you will actually never find out until that moment when you do something very simple, and then you notice the focus is just not there. It’s not hard, but I can’t do it, you know. It’s just going to be very difficult. So I certainly found this initiative interesting, because you also get to know yourself a little bit better. And to be honest, what really annoys me in the medical world they only reach for the most accurate measuring instrument when there is really no other way. And because of that, things are often diagnosed too late or even worse, misdiagnosed. Just try to invest in the right measuring equipment. The technology is there, but it just isn’t used (for whatever reason), and that annoys me. And it is of course important that it is also talked about, otherwise you will never find out. After I posted it, someone approached me within a rotary club and who appears to have a metal community, which is a cool thing I would never have known. Of course the whole thing was all a bit exciting. Normally when I talk to people 1 on 1, I am usually pretty open, but writing it online publicly was another thing. When I was younger, I would have liked it if they had diagnosed me earlier on, so if speaking up like this helps a bit then I like to do that.’’
In any case I think it is for a great cause and it takes courage to speak about this kind of topics.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me and I would like to give you the opportunity to speak some words to the HBLS readers.
,,Well, great that you are reading this article and be sure to check out our live stream on May 28th to celebrate the release of the new album AND it’s completely free so there’s no excuse not to watch.’’
Credit header photo: Kevin Grab