Having helped set up Angel Witch’s gear and generally having hung about on The Marquee’s stage for a few hours, we again switched on the No Class tape recorder (as tempermental as ever) to record a brief chat with the three Angels: Kevin Riddles (bass), Kevin Heybourne (vocals, guitar) and Dave Dufort (drums).
What happened to rhythm guitarist, Rob Downing?
He lost interest. At the time we were playing small clubs and it was a joint decision almost. He decided to leave at the same time we decided to get rid of him.
Why didn’t you get another guitarist?
After being a four piece and coming down to a three piece, it sounded so good on stage we stayed as a three piece.
Same with David Hogg, the drummer?
Basically the same sort of thing. He lost interest because we were doing the same circuit.
Do you owe a lot to Neal Kaye?
In the early days, yes. He did us a lot of good. He was one of the first people to start babbling about us. Those were the days like us, Maiden and Mantis were all doing the same sort of gigs and he was rabbiting about all of us. Did us a lot of good, I think.
Did you change much?
Oh yes. We are more professional and playing better as well. We enjoy it more. That’s what we’re here for: to have a laugh, have a bit of a grin. The more you play the easier it becomes and the more you can spend time enjoying yourselves.
Have you got a lot of unrealeased material?
We’re in the process of getting new material together for the next album.
Are you satisfied with the production on the first album?
No. It wasn’t loud enough. Wasn’t pokey enough. A lot of it’s down to the studio we did it in. The studio is one of the best studios in Europe.
The digital one?
No, we didn’t use the digital, but it’s the same studio. Very dead sort of sound.
You didn’t like it?
No, not really. Hopefully when the next one comes we will be doing it somewhere else.
It didn’t represent what we are all about. It doesn’t make your speakers leap up ‘n’ down in your bedroom like it’s supposed to do.
Who chose the album cover?
Kev (Heybourne) found it in a book: a witchcraft and magic book.
Talking about that, a lot of the lyrics are about the occult.
They used be. They ain’t so much now.
Was anybody into it?
KR: I wasn’t. It frightens the shit out of me.
KH: It was a good subject to write about, instead of writing about birds all the time.
KR: We’ve got more important things to write about, like where you’re gonna get your next fucking groceries from.
What about the logo, the Baphomet?
That was from a book as well.
Is that where the name Angel Witch comes from?
No. We’ve been Angel Witch for about three and a half years. The whole band’s been going for about four years.
Any previous bands?
KR: I’ve been in quite a few that you’ve never heard of.
That’s what the band used to be called originally.
Did it get anywhere?
KR: No. It didn’t get out of your (KH) dad’s garage.
What about The Socerers? Was it called The Sorceress?
Sorceress, yes. On the album it’s a printing mistake. It should be Sorceress, as opposed to Socerers.
Do you still cover Paranoid?
What about Lights Out?
You’re going back a bit.
We followed you from the beginning.
We still do it occasionally. It still is a bloody good number.
Why wasn’t Extermination Day on the album?
It had already been recorded. It was on the BBC album from the Tommy Vance Rock Show: Metal Explosion.
Were you a three piece when you recorded the session for Tommy Vance?
Yeah. Rob Downing left just before Christmas 79. Just after – literally two weeks after – we had our first big gig at the Lyceum with Budgie, the day before Christmas eve.
Why did he lose interest?
He didn’t like playing the Ruskin Arms and things like that. And yet he knew the bigger venues were coming, which seemed silly.
we’ll add the rest as soon as we can……
Angel Witch: the album
Your view of this album will depend upon your previous view of Angel Witch, the band. If you hated them before, you still will. If you had seen and enjoyed them, you will be disappointed by the over production. If you hadn’t seen them but thought you might like to, you’ll love it,
The Angel Witch sound is – as far as HM can be- original. It was described in early days as ‘Sabbath played through a cement mixer’ which accurately describes the wall of sound rhythm guitar work and the complex bass lines. Since then a rhythm guitarist has been mysteriously dropped, and highly distorted and even more complicated bass playing from Kevin Riddles has taken its place. Kevin Heybourne’s excellent lead playing and Dave Hogg’s drumming are still, however, their same old selves.
The album comprises mostly old tracks, with the addition of some new material. The track Sweet Danger was perhaps unnecessary as it was released recently as a single, and the omission of classics like Extermination Day and Baphomet will disappoint those who know them.
One cannot help feeling on listening to this album that Angel Witch were perhaps trying a little too hard. Every track is note perfect, and most are contoured by overdubbed background synthesizer from Kevin Riddles. Kevin Heybourne’s vocals are way over the top on some tracks, particularly the mock-live chorus of Angel Witch and Sweet Danger. The producer, Martin Smith, is a little inconsistent though, some tracks being the old Angel Witch noise where all instruments blend together, other tracks clearly separating them.
On the whole, despite these criticisms, the album is an excellent one. There are pieces with incredible atmosphere (notably Angel Of Death, Gorgon and Sorcerers). Nearly all tracks display the ability of all three musicians: Hogg’s rhythm changes, Riddles’ riffing and Heybourne’s solos are all supreme musicianship.
The album is then although inconsistent still very good. For the most part it has atmosphere and musicianship, Heybourne’s guitarmanship being noticeable and even original in places. An interesting interpretation of the Angel Witch noise.