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We caught up with Cornwall's Cybernetic Witch Cult at the recent HRH Doom Vs HRH Stoner III Festival, so here's the result of a chat with the band and a brief live review of their set.

Interview with Cybernetic Witch Cult.
"I had heard Cornwall-based Cybernetic Witch Cult's earliest couple of albums, but I certainly couldn't claim to be any sort of expert on the band. However, they were playing at the HRH Doom vs Stoner festival in Sheffield, and since we were on the attending press list, Alex got in touch to ask if we wanted to do an interview. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to fill in some blanks, so we gathered in a rather noisy side room, while groovy Stoner Metallers The Grudge were somewhat audibly warming up on the adjacent second stage.

Well, the trio turned out to be very relaxed and in good humour: there was a lot of laughter, a fair bit of interjecting, and the occasional ribbing, just as you'd expect from a close group of friends. Fair to say, I think, that they're serious about their music, but not necessarily about taking themselves too seriously. All of which made for a very entertaining and informative chat.

Apologies to the guys if anything below is wrongly attributed, or not quite perfectly captured - my phone didn't do too bad a job of recording on the night, but there was still a fair bit of chaos and background noise to sort out when typing it all out!"

Cybernetic Witch Cult: Alex (Guitar, Vocals), Lewis (Drums), Doug (Bass).

Well, good evening gentlemen and welcome, perhaps you'd like to introduce yourselves?

Alex: Yeah, Alex, guitar and vocals.

Lewis: Lewis, drums.

Doug: Doug, bass.

Alex: We're Cybernetic Witch Cult.

Is this all of you, the whole band?

Alex: This is - three-piece, yeah.

Doug: It only needs three of us!

Awesome, so, what brought you all together? How did you get started?

Alex: Well, we started about four years ago now, and it was me and two other guys, and that drummer left and we got another drummer - basically the first three years was a revolving door of drummers, and Lewis came along and he stuck, and our original bass player left and we got in Doug, and it's probably the strongest amalgamation of the band so far - so we've found our recipe...

Lewis: You're definitely obliged to say that, aren't you?

Alex: Yeah, yeah, I have to say that!


Doug: Do we have to give you a fiver later?

Longest-lasting, too?

Alex: Yeah, this is the longest-lasting line-up as well.

As the founder, what was your main inspiration when you started?

Alex: It started off and we just wanted to have some fun and write some riffs in the vein of Cathedral, and then gradually it became more of its own weird Psch-y science fiction, I dunno, riff-fest, I guess. It was just about writing riffs and singing about space and, yeah, that's what started it off, really.

Band founder Alex. Photo: SD Photography, headbangersball.co.uk.

Funnily enough, that was my next question, having listened to the first couple of albums I had them pretty much pegged as Cathedral meets Monster Magnet...?

Alex: That is, yeah, we hear that a lot from the first few...

Lewis: I think we get that a little bit less these days.

Alex: Yeah, the first two albums, definitely Cathedral meets Monster Magnet. Nowadays it's more people throw Hawkwind comparisons our way, and Sleep comparisons our way.

Lewis: Yeah, Hawkwind meets Sleep instead of Cathedral meets Monster Magnet (laughs) So we've still got the same core ideas, but we've taken them to new heights!

Does anyone ever say Ozric Tentacles...?

Alex: In parts...we actually did a show where Ozric John did the sound for us.

Lewis: That was the Bird's Nest in Deptford, December last year.

Alex: Yeah, we love Ozrics - as listeners...

Lewis: I don't think we've really got enough keyboards to be compared to Ozrics...one day!

It was more the album titles...

Alex: Oh yeah that would definitely be Ozric-ish.

Took me back a few years, that!

Lewis: Alex likes to make up words, that's kind of his shtick when it comes to titling albums.

Cybernetic Witch Cult - 'Cult Of The Druid' (Official, 2017):

So, I have now listened to the latest album: re-recordings, mostly. Why did you feel the need to revisit them?

Alex: The first album we always felt was a bit - well we did it in a mate's studio and he was training to be a music producer, and we were quite rushed and it was an older line-up of the band, and listening back to the songs, they never quite punched like they did live. So we thought we'd pick our favourite ones, make them shine, and then that's that door kind of closed, that sound's finished we're kind of happy with it and now we're free to move on to what we want to do next which is what we're - so we've just been in the studio recording album three but we felt like we had to finish off those songs first, so the world had a version that we're happy with.

Lewis: We started discussing quite early on into me joining the band because I was adapting a lot of the old drum parts, because they were different drummers, I was adding my own spin to them and they were starting to sound different enough that it was worth completely re-recording them and one of the songs we completely rewrote it and turned it into a half-tempo sludge song whereas before it was like a quite upbeat '70s rock song, and then obviously there were two brand-new tracks on that album as well, and as soon as we finished it we were like: right, need a fresh full-length album now, I want to get my teeth into Writing. Some. Fresh. Material!

That sounds...pointed...is that a strong hint?


Lewis: Nothing against anyone else, I just wanted to take own - (drowned out by loud music)

Doug: I'll shut the door. It's the drums...

Lewis: Very strong drums! Yeah it was just a case of wanting to take ownership of the band's material because I knew that I wanted to stay in the band long-term, that's essentially the point behind that.


OK, so you're putting your stamp on proceedings

Lewis: Absolutely!

Well I've got to say I was impressed with the quality of the revisions, re-recordings, call 'em what you like - very nice sharp production.

Alex: Yeah we really brought them into what they should have been originally - we heard it originally, and now we can hear it physically.

And that's your first physical release is it, Troglodithic Trip?

Alex: Troglodithic? No, it's our first vinyl release, but before that all three have been on CD, so it's just the first vinyl.

Was that a bit special?

Alex: Yeah, we've been wanting to do vinyl for ages, and we finally thought let's get that one out there because it's the perfect length for a single album vinyl, and then the next one - the one we just recorded - we want to bring that out on vinyl as well, but it's going to be a double LP...

One thing I was struck by is the songs have a very strong studio jam feel to them - is that something you rehearse doing, or do you just wing it a bit on the day?

Alex: It depends. The old stuff was kinda sat down and written, whereas the new material definitely was all written through jam sessions, listening back to jams, revising on the jams so we've kind of always been going in that direction we just feel it's a bit more natural than being sat down, calculating things - it's better to let it flow as it's written.

Lewis: I definitely think that as we've grown closer as a band, because this is the first really solid line-up. We've just been able to write a lot better that way, in terms of just sitting in a room together, jamming, seeing what comes out, seeing what we like and just shining that diamond, as it were.

Doug: I think we're the same age as well...

(laughter) (Not precisely the case - Doug looks like he has maybe twenty years on Alex, and maybe ten more than that on Lewis...!)

Alex: Compared to previous line-ups as well I think all know what needs to come next, so there'll be a riff, and then we'll move onto the next and everyone will be on the same page. It's nice to finally have that in the band.

Doug. Photo: SD Photography, headbangersball.co.uk.

Well I guess you're not strictly a doom band, but we're supposed to be strictly a doom site, so I've got to ask - what do you think the essential qualities of doom are, and how much of them do you have?

Alex: That's so hard! We've always had the whole "is this doom?" question and it's asked all the time - I'm still not sure, like, the boundaries between doom, stoner, sludge. There's - well, I think we like to skirt around all three, and you could kind of call us a different genre based on which song you're listening to - it's what we like to try and do so - doom riffs, psych riffs, stoner riffs, prog riffs...

Lewis: It's got to the point where I really hate trying to define what we sound like using genre terms. Like, I can't stand it because I go well we're kind of doom psych-slash-stoner sludge with a bit of prog and...

Doug: Listen to the bloody album! (laughter) Alex: But what is doom, that's a hard question - doom is riffs and atmosphere and sometimes we want to use that, but sometimes we want to go in a rock direction or in a psych freakout way and those, strictly speaking, aren't doom, but doom can get away with doing that so we don't write to a formula.

Lewis: I mean, if I'm not talking about this band the quintessential doom band to me is Sleep they do it the best, unequivocally: the better you are at doom, the more you sound like Sleep.

Cybernetic Witch Cult - 'Cetacean' (Live, 2018):

Alex: What do you reckon, what's your...?

Doug: Let us know after. Are you watching the show?

Yeah, definitely.

Alex: Cos you can argue you know you've got your funeral doom and your operatic doom, it's just like the old-school doom and then the new-school doom is Conan, and it's just hard...

What I think is that when the extreme genres came in as a strand of doom, that blew the musical aesthetic up completely...

Alex: Yep. (Laughs)

And now I kind of see it as the bit of the underground that collects everybody that nobody else wants...

Alex: It is, yeah.

...so it's kind of defined by what it isn't.


Alex: Yes! You can state that definitely has no doom in it, but everything else is a weird haze, a green haze of...

I hate the genre thing myself, but it is kinda my job...


Lewis: It's so difficult to get away from, but I do feel like Doom is far less concerned with pigeonholing itself than a lot of the more extreme genres.

Alex: Where you've got to be purist, or you're out (cough)Death Metal(cough). (laughs)

Lewis: Yeah, I was going to say, I don't know nearly as many partisan Doom fans as I do partisan Death Metal fans, so I think people have less of a stick up their arse about it! (laughs)

Photo: SD Photography, headbangersball.co.uk.

So, how much time do you actually spend on the road then?

Alex: On the road? Not enough!

Lewis: I think we're on the road to get maybe 45 by the end of the year?

Alex: Yeah, tends to be about forty or fifty a year for us. It's quite a lot when we're working full-time jobs and writing and basically doing a release a year as well. We want to up that, so we were looking to go to Europe - ideally next year, at some point - and, yeah, we just love being on the road it's where we get to try out a few things and experiment

Random passer-by:
You're Cybernetic Witch Cult? OK, cool!

Doug: We do two proper tours a year, don't we, and then lots and lots of weekends?

Random passer-by:
Have you guys seen Stoned Jesus about?

Alex: Sorry, no.

OK, so you do all your own management as well?

Alex: We do at the moment but we're looking into maybe early next year getting someone to start taking some of that off us, start looking at next-level kind of gigs and festivals. So far it's been going pretty well doing it ourselves, it's just quite hard work, is the thing.

Lewis: I think we'd quite like to get someone on board with the next album cycle, just to kind of push it to that next level, because I think even though we get out on the road a lot -and a lot of people see us that way, and become aware of us that way - in terms of the general metal consciousness, I feel like we could definitely stand to reach a lot more listeners with this next album.

What's your most triumphant appearance to date, then?

Alex: There's a few I think - I mean the biggest crowd was Bloodstock two years ago, which is a shame because we've come a long way since then. We're really looking forward to today, today's going to be a big one!

Lewis: I think if you ask us in a few hours time we will hopefully say today, but there was a fantastic show we played at the beginning of the year in Cardiff, it was our friends Lacertilia's fifth anniversary big blow-out and they really put a lot of work into that show and they played at the Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, which is a really large venue and that was great we had a real good time supporting them on that show.

Alex: We've got Facebarmageddon at the end of the year, that should be quite good as well.

Doug: Did that last year as well, didn't we?

Alex: Yeah, there's been quite a few - the massive ones, though: Bloodstock definitely is still the biggest to date.

Doug: We've done some really nice small gigs too - I mean, Ecstatic Vision, Karma To Burn...

Alex: Yeah, Ecstatic Vision in Bristol, Karma To Burn in Exeter, so it's all ramping up each year, basically, it's always exciting.

Doug: We've also got a tour this year, haven't we? Kicking off October 18th.

Alex: Oh yeah, that's the big one. We are touring the UK...

Lewis: ...next month.

Doug: Pack your sandwiches.

Alex: Yeah, that starts on the 18th of October and we're playing most of the big southern UK destinations, so Birmingham, London, Cardiff - no, Newport...

Doug:...Portsmouth, Southampton...

Close - I may well pop down to Portsmouth, then

Alex: Do! we ought to play Salisbury as well, that'd be nice, go and see Stonehenge afterwards...

The Junction, Feb 2018. Photo: Scott Calnon Photography.

And you're based down in Cornwall, right?


Doug: Two hours away from everywhere!

I was going to say, makes it a long haul doesn't it?

Alex: It does. Any normal show that the bands in the middle of the country play you can add two or three hours, that's our - but we like road trips, listen to music and all that! (laughs)

So what goes on the CD player when you're travelling?

Lewis: At the moment King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizards, that is the band of the month.

Alex: But Sleep, Monolord, what else did we recently have a lot of?

Doug: Surf rock...

Alex: And a lot of '60s psych and rock as well.

Lewis: Any time we go into London we've got a dedicated '60s psychedelic playlist that goes on...

Alex: London's miserable but if you drive through it listening to 1960s pop everything suddenly becomes tie-dyed technicoloured and it's a lot happier!


Lewis: It's like you end up in your own little bubble where the hustle and bustle of London doesn't really affect you, you're sort of in flower power land, it's great.

Alex: So we love London gigs for that reason

How far along the line are you with the new album?

Alex: We've finished recording it, we should be getting the first mixes in the next couple of weeks and then release probably early next year, we haven't set a date as yet.

Lewis: I think the release date of that one is going to depend on if we can get any labels to pick it up, because we're definitely going to do the rounds of sending it to people to see if they'd like to help us release it.

Alex: Yeah everything so far's been self-released and independent which has been good but we want to really try and get some mass exposure on this one. That's the plan, at least!

Cybernetic Witch Cult - 'Sagittarius A*' (Official, 2017):

And what can we expect of it?

Alex: Well it's a lot heavier, it's a lot weirder and it's a lot more proggy as well, but it's heavy prog, and more psychedelic. It's like everything we were doing, but dragged to their extremes.

Lewis: We're entering into the sort of realms of 8 or 9 minute long songs, there's a lot more soundscapey sort of stuff going on with it...

Doug: More percussion on the drums as well.

Alex: So we recorded it with Sam Thredder from Slabdragger at his Cro's Nest Studio, because we wanted to choose somebody who really knew how to bring out the big big tones and big sounds - so, listening to the rough mixes, we're already like, yes, this is what we wanted: so I can't wait to hear it in its refined form!

Lewis: I think it's going to sound bigger and better than anything we've done before so we're really excited about it, we're really happy with it, and we hope everyone that's been with us since the beginning isn't too scared by how far down the rabbit-hole we've gone!


Well, that seems to have passed really quickly, but that was all of my real questions - so, an opportunity for some last words, if you want?

Alex: Last words? Well, check us out really. If you like weird science fiction or psychedelic ideas...

Lewis: Even if you don't like any of that, still check us out!

Alex: Oh, yeah!


Doug: The usual social media platforms: we're on Spotify...

Alex: Yeah, Spotify and Facebook and all that...

Lewis: We're really, really easy to find, I don't think there's too many other bands that share our name! (laughs)

Other than the 'Witch' bit?

Alex: Yeah, the 'Witch' bit is used a lot...but 'Cybernetic', not so much...

Doug: Plus, 'Cornish'!

Lewis: We're just really looking forward to next year, we've got some big plans and if it all comes out the way that we're envisaging it, then I think that we'll be quite happy with 2019 - we're always looking forward...

Cool, well, thanks very much for your time, gents!

Alex: Thanks for having us.

Doug: Thank you very much!

Live review:

I did indeed catch the show, a few hours later. Stage 2 was packed out as the lights dimmed and the rumbling, effects -heavy guitar and bass kicked into life. No, I wasn't taking notes (try it sometime, in the dark, amidst a heaving crowd, whilst juggling a load of bike gear, if you need a challenge...), so I couldn't give you chapter and verse on the setlist. Let's settle for much of it being vaguely recognisable, even to something of a dilettante where the Cybernetic Witch Cult back catalogue is concerned, and that it didn't really detract from the enjoyment of the energetic, spacy, jamming vibe of it all.

Maybe it's just because that's what I cut my live teeth on, but the overall feel of it settled somewhere around the early '80s: that sort of second-generation Space-Rock plus Metal sound which took their '60s and '70s Psych and Krautrock inspirations and gave it a higher-tech, less raw, whimsical and analogue polish. Think of survivors like 'Sonic Attack'-era Hawkwind, contemporary '80s acts like Mournblade, leading towards the '90s beginnings of the Monster Magnet Stoner movement. And, yes, you can throw in some Sleep and Cathedral Doom heaviness as well, plus some more effect-laden passages that could, if you squinted heavily, sound a little bit Ozric-ish . It reminded me of nothing so much as smoky, hazy evenings in places like the Hammersmith Odeon, Brixton Academy or Camden Underworld, tripping out to the aforementioned and, in later years, to the likes of Spacehead. That, I can confidently say, is a good thing, even if it really does make me miss the days when you could spark up indoors...

So, as gigs go, it was a good one, and not just for nostalgic reasons. Alex does a lot in the vocal department, and obviously with all the guitar parts, though it's bassist Doug who tends to be the more flamboyant stage presence (shades of Marillion, back in the day, or of Hawkwind's Dave Brock preferring to let pretty much anyone else take the limelight while he got on with driving the band engine). Couldn't see a whole lot of Lewis, in all honesty, but that's basically a drummer's lot to bear: you could sure hear him rattling the kit, though. And at the end of it, well, I'm something of a convert, to be honest. CWC may not have an absolute originality about them, and they still may not have produced THE album which really represents everything good about their current status and line-up, but they're confident that's coming shortly, and in the meanwhile, they can certainly put that across to an audience. Check them out. Really.

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Visit the Cybernetic Witch Cult bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-10-24 by Mike Liassides.
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