Interview by Parisa Eshrati
Combining their hometown influence with the aesthetic of local haunted houses, Detroit stoner doom metal band Acid Witch has conjured up a theme of horror and fantasy for its music and performances. Ahead of their set at Northwest Terror Fest, we caught up with Acid Witch's frontman Slasher Dave in an email interview to see what's been brewin' in their cauldron. We discuss Halloween and Devil's Night memories, their latest Christmas horror EP, and much more.
Aside from Halloween, a big inspiration to Acid Witch is Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween where kids run around causing mischief. What were some of your most rambunctious memories from celebrating Devil’s Night when you were younger? The song “Hardrock Halloween” paints this picture of the crimes getting really out of hand and turning dangerous, was that a reality of what Devil’s Night turns into in Detroit?
Yeah totally haha. Just completely out of hand! Houses burning down, deadly pranks, you know...FUN! Shagrat wrote the lyrics combining a lot of trouble he and his group of friends got into, and some trouble that our drummer Phil and I got into. None of the stories in that song are made up! And it really fits the theme of Evil Sound Screamers. Warning kids of the evils that lurk in the night, and also the evils that exist inside of all of us.
Acid Witch originally formed when you and Shagrat met working in haunted houses in Detroit. What kind of characters did you play in that job? It also seems like Detroit is big on breeding these larger than life characters, i.e. Alice Cooper and inspiring bands like Kiss with the song “Detroit Rock City”. How did your surroundings (both in haunted houses and living in Detroit overall) help develop this idea of this sort of fantastical, thematic element to your music?
We played various roles from year to year, I usually always had a chainsaw in the house, I’ve been a kid's party clown in a “birthday gone bad” room, a cannibal hick a couple years! Shagrat was Little Timmy (funny if you’ve seen Shagrat, he’s towering) from the TV show Lassie one year, it was a dining room set up and guess what the main course was...? You guessed it, Lassie. A fake dog up on the table, with guts ripped open. The guts were made of various things, including red fruit roll-ups and fruit by the foot (so he could actually eat it in front of the customers). The problem with this was 1), Sugar gets REALLY sticky on the dog night after blistering hot night. And 2). It was in the warehouse of a produce market, and fruit flies LOVE sugar! So as the nights went on through out the month of October, the fake dog progressively got so vile, so smelly, entirely caked BLACK with fruit flies, he couldn’t avoid eating it all. To this day the picture in my head of Shagrat shoving month old Fruit By The Foot covered in flies and maggots in his mouth snarling and throwing it at customers disturbs me. We loved playing characters.
And you are correct, Detroit LOVES characters and showmanship! We can’t discredit ICP or Esham The Unholy here either, both hugely character driven acts that took off here and spread through out the world. Detroit loves being entertained. And us being huge fans of Alice Cooper, KISS, ICP, Esham, King Diamond makes it easy for us to add that element to our music. We don’t even need to think about it, it’s just there.
You guys came out with that great Black Christmas Evil EP last year. I wouldn’t have thought of it before, but Christmas really does have so many natural horror elements, what with Santa watching you year round and breaking into your house ‘n all. Tell us a little about the background of this release. Were there any Xmas horror films you were watching to inspire you to blend these two worlds together?
The 2 songs on the EP are actually horror movies, Black Christmas and Christmas Evil, highly recommend you checking them out, and anybody else. It’s always been an idea of ours to do a Christmas EP inspired by Xmas themed horror movies, since they really are the darkest, most fucked up horror movies out there!
You guys came out with the Midnight Movies EP a few years back covering some songs from horror movie soundtrack. Those songs were primarily from 80s movies, so I’m curious what contemporary films you’ve really been intrigued by musically in the last few years.
Well it’s NOT the fucking Suspiria remake! Haha. I can’t speak for everyone in the band about contemporary films but I know we all loved Hereditary. Not really much musically. I personally LOVED the It Follows OST, but wouldn’t say it has inspired any kind of music.
I love how last year you did a contest for the best Acid Witch pumpkin carving design. What are some of the most creative pumpkin carvings you guys have ever done? And on that note, how about your best Halloween costumes? Any pictures would be greatly appreciated.
I like carving a traditional looking Jack-O-Lantern. Different simple variations is what I usually do every year. We’ve all had some great costumes in the past, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!
I also wanted to ask about your solo record, Fright, that released last year. Aside from the stark synths, there’s a myriad of vocal and noise samples to give it a truly horrifying atmosphere. Can you talk a little more about those samples and where they came from?
A lot of the atmospheric swells you hear across Frights are baby goat screams, I just sampled them, and pitched them to the keys of the songs! You can’t really make out what they are because I modulated the screams through plug-ins and various FX pedals. I made a lot of “instruments” on the album by just recorded sounds. Another large one I used is a steel support beam in my basement I banged with a machete. I pitched that across an entire keyboard and played it in almost every song on the album. Vocal sample wise it’s just audio I’ve collected through the years, a lot were movie trailers and vintage commercials I chopped up!
CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER (Witch Edition): Baba Yaga, the Gingerbread Hag, Yubaba, or Madame Blanc. Or if you so choose, pick your own favorite witch of preference.
Gotta go with The Godmother from Witches Night Out, or the witch from The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t.
Aside from Acid Witch, everyone is involved with tons of other bands, art projects, etc. which I read is why there hasn’t been much time for a new Acid Witch full-length album. Are you focusing more on Acid Witch being a live entity, or are there plans for more music in the near future? What's the latest with everyone's various side projects, both in visual art and music?
Yeah we all have a bunch of projects! Definitely expect a lot more music from Acid Witch though. We plan on putting out way more music, both psychically and digitally. I can only speak on my solo synth material for music, but art is important in all my projects, whether its Shagrat’s art on Acid Witch albums, or my art for my solo releases, it all just captures whatever the musical theme is. For my solo record from last year, Frights, I just wanted to be weird and trippy, but it plays off some of my real life fears. I also have blue fog on all my solo albums, it’s almost like my signature now!
Acid Witch’s last album, Evil Sound Screamers, was inspired by Skywald Horror-Mood Mags such as Psycho/Scream, and Creepy/Eerie covers. Shagrat really nailed that vibe, and added a lot of his signature style to it! Musically we all have other projects relating to Metal, Punk, and Horror. My Slasher Dave stuff started out as John Carpenter and Fabio Frizzi influenced soundtrack music (both still a huge influences), but Frights has a more bass driven, heavy metallic sound to it, and I plan on experimenting more with that in future releases.
Anything else you’d like to mention coming up this year? Who else are you excited to see at Terror Fest?
We have a short tour lined up in June with Against The Grain! Playing Electric Funeral Fest in Denver, and Blood Of The Wolf Fest in Kentucky. Check out our social media for details. Pretty excited for Cirith Ungol! And to meet any cool mother fucker at the fest that smokes us dooooown! Haha.
Finally, you’re making a potion in your cauldron and you have your wool of bat, tooth of wolf, and root of hemlock, but alas - you’re all out of eye of newt! WHAT DO YOU DO?!
Take a big ol' muddy dumper inside of it!
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.