There are some incredibly inventive bands out there that seem to be overlooked by a mass media that laps up a non stop stream of reality show karaoke stars and massively over produced and interchangeable manufactured “idols”; as a visitor to Ave Noctum, you gentle reader, have shown willingness to seek out such gems. One such rare treasure if Cybernetic Witch Cult, and vocalist/guitarist/barefoot manipulator of a mass of effects pedals Alex, and master of the “Groovaceous Battery” Lewis have been kind enough to take time out to answer some of my rambling and inane questions.
Ave Noctum: Firstly, let me offer massive congratulations on ‘Absurdum Ad Nauseam’, as it’s an absolute blinder; despite Ave Noctum’s very early December 2019 insistence of submissions that cruelly denied the album an entry to “best of 2019” lists it has gone down very well elsewhere; were you surprised by just how positively the album was received over the wide metal spectrum?
Lewis: The response has been very humbling! It’s been our fastest selling album by a significant margin, appearing in Metal Hammer and winning track of the week on Louder were particular highlights. It’s been a little surreal seeing our name up there with such established acts as Hawkwind!
Alex: Yeah we were really pleased with the reception! It was a weird one for us, as we wanted to try something new with this album and write something for ourselves without really thinking about mass appeal, its definitely darker and weirder to our old music so it was bit of a relief that people have enjoyed the new direction of this release!
AN: With yet another critically lauded album being released, but no major label support, what mindset do you need to adopt to overcome the short-sighted mainstream indifference to your music which has such a massive cult underground following?
Alex: Haha massive might be a bit of an overstatement! We’re not too concerned with the mainstream; the underground is fun and definitely where we belong. We just enjoy making the music we do and if other people like it, then that’s great. A label would be nice, make things cheaper for us as individuals and opening some bigger doors, but we’re not desperate. Being DIY lets us stay in control of every aspect and maintain direct communication with the fans and to us that’s the main joy of it all.
Lewis: With this release we decided to focus on a strong PR campaign from someone who believed in what we do, we’ve had the privilege of working with Rob at Stampede PR to help us highlight the record to more mainstream publications. He’s done an outstanding job, and I suppose time will tell as to the long-term results!
AN: It’s fair to say that you folks love your classic Sci-Fi, if themes of the tracks are to believed; is there something about the unrelenting negativity of modern life that makes you want to concentrate on Sci-Fi from back in the day as an influence, or could some of your music be considered as a modern allegory? As a slight aside, as you know, I’d love you to musically tackle one of the great Sci-Fi movies of days gone by, ‘Silent Running”; any chance of that?
Alex: Silent Running is actually one of Doug’s favourite Sci-fi movies! Personally I just find ‘old school’ sci-fi a lot fresher in terms of its ideas, it feels like it comes the same mindset that we have with our music. Modern life can be very negative and it’s interesting that 60s-80s sci-fi explores a lot of the dystopic ideas we experience day to day at the moment!
Lewis – I don’t think I’ve ever really looked into it from that angle; classic sci-fi just has a charm that is rarely captured by more modern cinema. There are a lot of examples of more unusual and wacky concepts coming from those older films and novels that have given us a lot of inspiration!
As for ‘Silent Running’, we have an extensive wish list of films that have yet to be included in the CWC cannon, watch this space!
AN: Your previous album ‘Spaceous Cretaceous’ had an arguably more frivolous sound, anchored as it was in mainly cheesy slew of 80’s Sci-Fi “shoot-em-up”movies; would you think that’s a fair comment, and if so, what did you do to progress beyond that particular musical pathway? The latest release has a far darker, more pessimistic feel to it, seeming to hinge around the rightful concern for our environment. If I’m wrong, please, post your rebuttal.
Alex: Spaceous Cretaceous was written in a completely different way and still when we were ‘finding our sound’ as a band. The last album came from a few months of recording jam ideas, we were all in a dark place and it just came out that way. We said at the time ‘we’ll write fun lighthearted songs again when the Tories are out of power!’ I don’t think we’ll be moving away from this sound anytime soon, but I’d like to incorporate a few more of the ideas from our older sound.
Lewis: That’s a fair assessment! I think mine and Doug’s inclusion to the lineup has had a significant effect on the band’s sound. What with Doug having a firm rooting in Krautrock and Space Rock, and my background in extreme metal, they’ve ended up complimenting Alex’s growing interest in darker, more philosophical themes. We still love Spaceous Cretaceous though!
AN: For me, Cybernetic Witch Cult is almost intrinsically linked to another most excellent underground act, Morass of Molasses, especially because of your regular co-headlining tours together; have you ever considered recording together, either a split, or as a new integrated entity? If you can post an answer without looking up their reply to the same question recently published at this site would be most interesting.
Lewis: It’s not something I’d ever rule out, if we ever were to record a split I think those guys would be top of the list, maybe one day we’ll both have some unused material kicking about at the same time…. Who knows?
Alex: We love those guys, our first ‘out of Cornwall’ show was with them and we’ve done close to 30 shows together since. I’d love to do a split, we chatted about it a while back, but then we both had member changes and got too excited about writing our respective new albums!
AN: When I listen to Cybernetic Witch Cult, I hear the influence of so many classic power trios like The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, albeit utilising technology that was not available then to layer and build up the wall of sound live. Have you ever considered expanding your line up beyond a three piece, and if not, how the hell do you manage to reproduce, and for that matter, expand upon, your recorded sound live as it must require a masterly of electronic pedals way beyond the tedious blandness of such acts as Ed Sheeran that are for some bizarre reason lauded and fill modern “pop” charts?
Lewis – Expanding our lineup is mostly hindered by the sheer convenience of chucking gear and 3 humans into a van and hitting the road. We did recently have a keyboardist feature in our live set at our Absurdum launch party last year. It’s certainly something we’d like to do again in the future!
As for our current live sound, Alex is an absolute wizard with his rig! But explaining that is definitely best left to him.
Alex: We might be getting a keyboard player. Watch this space. I use a Midi switching rig so that I can activate multiple guitar effects pedals at once without having to tap dance, and run all that through two separate guitar amps. It took a while to learn how to rig it all up but it’s a vital and irreplaceable part of our setup nowadays!
AN: I don’t want to sound like the aged hippy you know I am when I say this, but there is a really organic synergy between your music, and the visual work you’ve chosen to illustrate it, especially with your use of live projections that reminds me so much of early Pink Floyd happenings (I’m not quite that old, I’ve seen the videos!); is there a deliberate decision about how your songs should be projected live when you compose them, or is it just a fortuitous coincidence that you manage to find images to fit your music after it’s recorded?
Alex: We just started with videos from our first gig, and the idea stuck and got expanded upon. Having said this our projector recently died so we’re in video limbo at the moment. One day we’d love an LED screen and some ink drop acid projections, but here’s to the future!
Lewis – The music always comes first! It is admittedly quite easy with the songs that are based on specific movies, but there’s so much out there which Alex uses and abuses to fit our sonic assault.
AN: Cybernetic Witch Cult does seem to appeal to the underground scene, despite having a slew of albums that genuinely deserve far greater recognition, not doing buy-ins or getting selected as openers for major acts. Personally, I can only imagine that larger bands would be intimidated to go on after you, but I’m probably biased; have you ever had a more mainstream act approach you, and if so, what has stopped you taking the opening slot on a major tour? If no, which major act would you want to open for?
Alex: Hahah thank you! I’m glad someone thinks so!! We couldn’t afford a buy on, and I don’t think I’d ever feel right about it, if we got big enough to offer buy-ons I’d feel like a cunt charging a smaller financially struggling band to pay for the privilege of supporting us, so wouldn’t want to be a part of this. I hate a lot of aspects about the music industry. However, I’d love to open for King gizzard and the lizard wizard and would possibly part with a rib/kidney/gizzard (do humans have these?) to make it happen.
Lewis – We’ve never had buy on offers, or big tour offers, from mainstream acts. We have been lucky enough to be approached for one offs as support in the South West (Purson, Blood Ceremony, Karma to Burn). I think people tend to be fairly genre savvy when asking us to support international acts. I’d be able to die happy if we were ever approached to tour with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
AN: As a two part follow up, if you could tour with any current act, who would it be, and if there was a fantasy tour featuring Cybernetic Witch Cult and any act that has ever been, extant or not, who would you like to play with?
Alex: Current act; again, King Gizzard, Fantasy act; The Doors or Steppenwolf.
Lewis: For current acts, it’s still KG&TLW! The fantasy dream of course would be to be on the road with the classic Black Sabbath lineup, OF COURSE!
AN: Finally, you must have to plough through a pile of interviews and the same old questions. Is there a question you would like to be asked, what is it, and what is the answer?
Lewis: Worst gig mishaps is always an entertaining one to be asked. Currently the worst by far is my drum monitor falling from the riser at HRH. It cut out Doug’s rig right near the end of our set, we managed to get it sorted fairly quickly, but it was a pretty stressful situation.
Alex: I guess like to be asked about the ‘Cybernetic-Witch-Cult-verse’, which is the master concept that underpins all of our songs. But I guess I need to make it more obvious through the lyrics as no one has picked up on it yet. As a serious question; ‘What is the next album going to be about?’
A post climate catastrophe world and the struggle to survive.
Many thanks again to the Alex and Lewis for taking the time to do this interview for Ave Noctum, and also for putting up with my assorted drunken buffoonery at previous shows. I’d like to promise I won’t be that way next time, but well, sorry, with the infectious hooks they’ve written, visitors to their future shows must anticipate a fat old grey haired hippy bellowing “The Spice Must Flow!”
To keep abreast of all things in the ‘Cybernetic-Witch-Cult-verse’, check out the following links: