Thanks to my wonderful and supremely talented friend Liz at Earsplit PR I was able to score an interview with Scott Hedrick, guitarist for SKELETONWITCH who have quickly become one of my favorite bands since this past summer. With Serpents Unleashed, the band’s latest album, they have truly crafted a Blackened Thrash masterpiece, so I couldn’t wait to pick his brain about the writing and recording of it. We touched on some other things, too and we laughed…a lot. Check it:
Amps: Hi Scott. Thanks so much for taking a few minutes out from the road to speak with me.
Scott: Not at all, thank you. I was checking your site out yesterday and I really like the Classic Albums thing you guys do. Who writes them? I love that it takes me back in time, so I’ll keep tuning in.
Amps: Those are all me. That’s actually my favorite segment to write, so thank you! But never mind A&GS, we’re here to talk SKELETONWITCH! OK…First of all. Like ANNIHILATOR and SOiL, thank you so much for fucking up my Top 10 Albums of 2013 List. I had to redo the whole list because of Serpents Unleashed!
Scott: (Laughing) Well, I’m very glad we were able to ruin your day in that way. That’s excellent!
Amps: One of my best friends up in New York reads our site religiously and on my recommendation went to the little High Fidelity mom & pop record store to order the new album and he loves it.
Scott: Oh thank you! I also love that he went to a little record store. One of my buddies owns a record store and I still work there occasionally. I worked there in college when we first formed the band. I have a huge affinity for record stores! And thanks for spreading the word, that’s awesome.
Amps: Blitz from OVERKILL had some very nice things to say about you guys recently. “Those guys caught a great wave, there’s really good buzz. They’re hard-working, same kind of ethic we have with regard to that blue collar let’s-get-it-done, let’s get out there and play as much as we can.”
Scott: WOW! That’s very, very nice. Nate and Chance (Garnette, guitar, vocals), the brothers, are HUGE OVERKILL fans. We’re all big fans, but they’re BIG. Nate even has an OVERKILL tattoo. You just made my day with that, and now I can’t wait to tell Nate (laughs). When I do, he’ll probably impersonate Blitz for about four hours, running around doing the Blitz voice.
Amps: Will he do the laugh, too?
Scott: Oh, absolutely. He does it really, really well (both of us laughing, NOT like Blitz!)
Amps: Do you feel like this is your best album? Because a lot of people, me included, sure do.
Scott: Definitely. Each record we strive for better songwriting, better production, and progressing as players. And I think it all came together really well. So I absolutely agree that this is our best one yet.
Amps: What was the frame of mind for this one, as far as your writing approach? Did you push yourselves as writers? There are some differences on this record for sure. Good differences, mind you.
Scott: We pushed ourselves just in the sense that we don’t let anything slide. We sort of own a no-bullshit filter when writing riffs or songs. We make sure we complete the thought and complete the cycle, so we know what’s good and what’s not. And sometimes you just take a second if you get stuck, and come back to it. We didn’t deliberately set out to write more thrash metal or more black metal or more rock and roll. But we did hold ourselves to a high level of, you know, no filler and everything having its place on the record. That’s how we’ve always done it; I think we’re just getting better at it. I hope so after ten years (laughing)!
Amps: Well, I am not a ten year fan. I got into SKELETONWITCH this summer after a conversation with Michael Leon from HAVOK at a club in Dallas. He was wearing one of your shirts so I asked him about the band and now here we are four months later and I’m a rabid fan!
Scott: Oh, nice! They’re such good friends of ours, too. That’s awesome!
Scott: Chance writes the lyrics and comes up with the song titles, album titles and everything. That’s all his department. As far as the music goes, the best analogy is Nate’s the Cook and I’m the Sous Chef and everyone else is in the kitchen, too. Historically I would give Nate riffs and twenty different unrelated ideas and he would make sense of them because he’s better at arranging and composing. He can really fit things together well and I’m more of an ideas man. And now on Serpents Unleashed this is the most I’ve contributed for an album and it’s the first time I’ve written entire songs instead of throwing pieces in there like ingredients to cook with. So in that sense I’m extra proud of it because I worked really hard. Nate always jokes with me that, “If the record does really, really well WE did a great job, but if it sucks it’s your fault, Scott!” because I wrote more.
Amps: What are your favorite tracks on Serpents Unleashed?
Scott: I really like “Beneath Dead Leaves” and “From a Cloudless Sky”-
Amps: (Screaming) YESSS!! I said in my review that the opening reminds me of AMON AMARTH who you will be here in Dallas with on January 21, 2014!!
Scott: (Laughing) Yeah, I can’t wait! We’ve toured with them before and met up at festivals. We’re old friends at this point and it’ll be really good to see those guys again. Plus, ENSLAVED is with us and they’re friends of ours, too. Great beer-drinking Scandinavians so we always end up getting pretty hammered with them.
Amps: “This Evil Embrace” is such an amazing song, and so different in a lot of ways. Tell me about that. It’s also my favorite.
Scott: (Excitedly) that’s one of the ones that I wrote! The opening riff was something that I had for a while and it was structured a little differently and wasn’t quite up to par, so I reworked it and wrote the rest of the song and when I presented it to Nate this time around he was totally on board, he really liked it. It all came together pretty quickly, actually. I love writing in 6/8 time signature. For some reason it comes more naturally to me than 4/4, which is kind of weird, I know. “From a Cloudless Sky” I had the opening riff for a long time and for some reason it took us a long time to come up with the rest of it. That’s what I was talking about earlier, not forcing it and coming back to it a few weeks later and all of a sudden it came together really well. It’s a weird process of getting into that zone.
Amps: After this run with AMON AMARTH and ENSLAVED will you be back on your own?
Scott: The short answer is yes, but probably not till late spring. After this tour we do Europe with OVERKILL, and from there we fly to Australia and New Zealand with TOXIC HOLOCAUST, which should probably take us till May-June. At that point we’ll most likely do a headlining tour.
Amps: OK, good. Because I need a full hour of SKELETONWITCH, if not more!
Scott: What do you think we should do setlist-wise this time out?
Amps: Scott, I’m an idiot, I don’t know ANYTHING. But I do think you should do a big chunk of this record. As a guy who has listened to four albums back to back times four, I think this is such an amazing record that you need to play a lot of it live. But that’s just me.
Scott: That’s awesome. I think this really came together well because we finally found our guy in our producer Kurt Ballou. He really got the best out of us. He’s a lot like us, has a great sense of humor and work ethic. I would guess that he’ll end up recording the next one; he’s got such a great ear.
Scott: I just wanna say thank you to everyone who has supported us, whether they bought a record, bought us a beer, or came to a show and gave us a high-five. The support of anybody who likes our music means the world to us. And we don’t take that lightly, so thank you.
Amps: I recently became friends with a guy named Eric from Delaware on Facebook because of you guys. He’s an awesome dude, and I have the band to thank for that.
Scott: Oh yeah, Eric the Bull!! He’s awesome!! He’s a really, really good guy. We’ve hung out with him a few times in the Baltimore/Delaware area, he’s great.
Amps: Scott, thank you so much for taking time out to talk to a fan first, writer second. I can’t wait till January 21; keep kickin’ ass on the road!
Scott: Thank you, looking forward to meeting you!
So, that was pretty fun, huh? SKELETONWITCH will be hitting your city with AMON AMARTH and ENSLAVED soon. I will be in attendance here in Dallas thanks to my awesome friend Kelly from Prosthetic Records who is also far too good to me. You really should be there; gonna be one of the best shows of 2014!! Look for our write-up right here and go buy Serpents Unleashed, willya?