Mark Greening: “There’s a big cemetery just ‘round the corner from where I live. It’s a massive place. I just go there and sometimes I take my guitar. I don’t know how long I actually spend a week down there, but especially in the summer I spend a few weekends and the evenings down there.”
Dead Witches brengt deze week hun tweede album uit, ‘The Final Exorcism’. Na een aantal ingrijpende line-up wisselingen komen ze met een nog eigener geluid dat doet denken aan jaren zeventig horror films. We vonden Mark Greening, oprichter en drummer van zowel deze band als ooit van Electric Wizard, bereid om ons te woord te staan en te praten over doom, de rust die begraafplaatsen uitstralen en festivals.
Door: Bart Meijer – 06 mei 2019
Hi Mark, how are you doing?
Not too bad, doing alright. Just chilling.
What are you doing?
Nothing much, I just got home from work, really, and I’m chilling out.
This is Bart from Lords Of Metal.
Yeah, for the interview. I was just checking the email. There’s just so much going on right now, that I asked to do this by phone if that’s alright.
What kind of work do you do, by the way?
I work at a big factory sort of place, it’s very shitty really, but it pays the bills. At least I don’t have to work the weekends, so I have those to chill out, get drunk, haha. I have had so many interviews to do, and it’s just easier to do them over the phone.
Do you do all the interviews, or do the other band mates do them as well?
I’m pretty much doing most of them, really. The trouble is that a lot of the questions are about Electric Wizard, and some of them are about the first album. Obviously, Soozi and Oliver didn’t play on the first record. I’ve been getting lumbered by most of them, which is cool, it doesn’t matter, but it’s been pretty hectic. I’ve hardly done any interviews ever before in my life, and now I must have done a million, haha.
I see you’re very active on social media, especially Instagram, and you’ve been giving a lot of teasers for the new album. Is that a way to build suspense?
It’s just a good way of getting your message across. Social media IS a bit sad and cheesy, but unfortunately it’s the way things are going now. I think it’s good to make a build up for an album before it gets out. Sometimes you need it to get to the right people, and to let the people know what’s going on. I find there’s so many bands out there now. Back in the mid-nineties, when I started all this there was no social media, there was no huge scene and so many bands, and apart from using social media it’s hard to get the message out. Apart from going out and play, but because Dead Witches only had the one album it was kind of awkward to get out and play, so we needed to get this second album.
Well, you did a great job. I actually started following you because you were the drummer of Electric Wizard and all of a sudden I noticed you were in this new band, Dead Witches, and it blew my mind.
I’m happy to hear that. That’s just the way of the world now. When I think back to the mid nineties I didn’t have a mobile phone. I didn’t even know what it was, and the kids sort of rely on it now. We would just be playing shows and make music. That was enough back then to get the message across. But like I said, because there’s so many bands out there now you need social media to let the people know. Otherwise you get forgotten.
It’s interesting to see all the bits of horror, and priests and exorcisms, it gets people interested and wonder what the album is about.
I’ve always been obsessed with stuff to do with demonic possession. ‘The Exorcist’ has always been my favorite film, and I’ve always had a big love of horror films, the classics and stuff. I just like to get cool horror images and put our logo on them. Horror is a big part of this music, of doom, and I like to put the two together as best I can.
And how is that going?
I think it’s going okay. The thing is with this doom music, horror IS a big influence on this style of music. The music is grimy and dirty and doomy and horrible. You wouldn’t put an image of a rainbow or something. When I first started this band I wanted it to be along the lines of horror and demonic possession. This album, I wanted to call it ‘The Final Exorcism’ and everyone agreed and we took it from there. It just evolved from all that, and I’m very happy with the end result.
Yes, I understand why. There ARE a few differences. You have two new members after the terrible loss of Greg Pearson, and Virginia Monti leaving. What made you decide to go on? Or to not quit?
I have had trouble before in previous bands. I built this band up and I didn’t want to quit, because I knew the band had a lot of potential. After Greg passed away we all had a little bit of a break and we weren’t really sure what we were going to do with the band. We didn’t know whether to continue or to give up. Greg had mentioned before that he wanted us to continue with the band. He left us just after we had recorded the first album ‘Ouija’. So, social media again: I live in Bournemouth, on the south coast and it is hard down here to find musicians who are into the scene, the music I want to play. I left it for a while and did a post on social media and Oliver contacted us about playing guitar. I’d met him before, playing with one of his other bands when I was in Ramesses. We planned for him to come around and he had learned the songs, and it locked together like that. After playing some shows Virginia decided she wanted to concentrate on her other band, Psychedelic Witchcraft. She lives in Italy, so it was hard for her to keep coming over to the UK. After that happened I still wanted to continue and I had to find a female vocalist. So I sent messages through social media to women who were in bands. A few were interested, a few weren’t, but the problem again was that they lived in other countries. One night I was at a local rock bar, down the road where I live and I was talking to an old school friend and he said he knew a female vocalist, Soozi, who lived in London. I got the wrong end of the stick, because she was looking for a drummer in HER band, but we both had a lot of drinks. Then he set up a chat and I spoke to Soozi and asked her if she would be interested in coming over for a rehearsal. She said she would be. It took a while for us to get together but when we did it worked really well and she ended up joining that day. And then we set out to write new songs. There were times when I thought about giving up, but deep down I didn’t want that because it would be a shame to finish the band on just one album. And our first album was very rushed. Soozi and Oliver have brought a lot to the band and the new album.
I wonder, on the first album the vocals sound a lot more “buried” than they do on this one. Is that her influence?
I think we got sick of people saying the vocals were too quiet. To me, Virginia’s vocals on ‘Ouija’, that was how we wanted them. We wanted them to be affected and sit lower into the music. I found that if the vocals get too loud with this sort of music they can get annoying after a while, they just overpower the music. Because this music is heavy there is that point where you have to get the vocals just right. A lot of people in the reviews, and there’s nothing wrong with that, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but in a lot of the reviews everybody would say the vocals were too quiet. At the time that was how we wanted them. With Soozi’s vocals on the new record, we didn’t want them loud, loud, loud and up front but we perched them up a bit. It’s about getting the right balance, not too quiet, not too loud.
Are there more big differences between the two albums?
I don’t know, we did spend a lot longer time mixing ‘The Final Exorcism’ than we did with ‘Ouija’. Doug Shearer doing the mastering of it also brought a lot to it. Patience in the studio, and having Doug to master it made all the difference.
If you don’t mind I would to go back to your Electric Wizard era. I wrote in my review that Dead Witches definitely has influences from that band, which makes sense because you’re one of their founding members. Dead Witches sound a lot more like an evolution of that band that decided to go into a different direction.
I guess so, I never really thought too much into it. I mean, I was in Electric Wizard from a very early age.
How old were you?
I think I was about sixteen, seventeen when I did the first Wizard album. I think whatever music I am going to do it will always be Electric Wizardy sort of thing. In Dead Witches I wanted to do a doomy band with female vocals to sound different. So it wouldn’t just be an Electric Wizard sounding band. I just do what I do, and I make the music that I want to make. It is what it is, the four of us being in a room and come up with a few bits and bobs, and we don’t really think: “We wanna sound like this”. Electric Wizard was a big part of my life, and always will be, so there will be comparisons to Electric Wizard a lot of the time, unless I totally do something different. I’m into a lot of late sixties, early seventies music. Psychedelicy stuff. One day I’ve always wanted to do something like that, something totally different.
I have heard a lot of stories and rumours about why you left Electric Wizard, but can you tell me the real reason?
Are you talking about the first time round, or when I rejoined in 2012?
I mean the first time.
The first time round. We were doing a lot of tours. We have been to the States quite a lot, we toured Europe. When you spend that amount of time with the same two guys, you’re not going to see eye to eye on everything. You’re living in each other’s pockets. Touring does take its toll on people and individuals and at the time there was a lot of alcohol and drug use. I remember being at an airport and we had done a lot of tours and we were all completely fucked. We were on our last legs and we were pretty sick of each other, which was a shame. And I made a rash decision and said to Justin (Oborn): “I’ve had enough, I can’t continue with this anymore”. It was just a rash decision made when you’re at an airport, you’re tired, and it’s probably a decision that I regret. At the time we were still quite young. After I recovered from the tour and I got my brain back on track, I spoke to the record company and unfortunately I had already been replaced by Justin Greaves. It’s a shame, but it is what it is. I think it’s the same with a lot of bands. When you’re living in each other’s pockets you’re gonna have arguments and you’re never gonna see eye to eye on certain things. Lack of sleep, too much alcohol, drugs and the rest of it. Sometimes you don’t think properly.
Is it possible to have an Electric Wizard/Dead Witches tour one day, or not?
Hahaha, I really don’t think so, but you never know. I can’t really comment on that. At this precise moment I don’t think so, but I’d be up for it. They do say time is a healer. It would be cool.
The way you approach the lyrics. Are you the lyrics writer, by the way?
No, I’m not. I did write the lyrics for the short song, ‘When Do The Dead See The Sun’, that’s the song that I sing and play guitar on. Soozi wrote all the lyrics.
You approach the topics you sing about not in a vicious, anti-kind of way. You’re speaking about demons or the devil or Jesus in a way Black Sabbath did. Neutral. That makes the music a lot more mature. Was that a conscious decision of Soozi to do it like this?
I think so. I had given her a few pointers or some of the song titles, but I just let her do what she wanted to do. She does write great lyrics. She would just show up at rehearsal with them after we had sent her a track. I cannot really comment on how she writes because I don’t know how she approaches writing lyrics, but it’s great how things just lock in together.
You mentioned ‘When Do The Dead See The Sun’. It sticks out a little from the rest of the songs and yet it really belongs on this album. What’s the idea behind this song?
I wrote that a couple of years ago. It was just me one night, after a few drinks and all the rest of it just playing my guitar in my kitchen. I just came up with the song, it’s quite basic. I messed around with it for a while, then put it away and then it came back out. The lyrics and the song just came to me. I didn’t really think anything of it. I made a demo of it and a YouTube video, but I didn’t expect to record it for this album. And then Soozi and Carl said to go on with it, because it breaks up the heaviness of the album. I did struggle a bit to record the vocals, because I am a drummer, but I managed it in the end. When I wrote the song I was in a bit of a depressed place. The lyrics were about my fear of death, just a fear of being lonely.
I noticed in the video you are sitting near a gravestone, right?
Probably, yes. I’ve always been into visiting cemetaries and graveyards. They’re just really nice and peaceful places.
How much time a week do you spend in a graveyard?
Not a lot of time, it’s more the sort of thing for the weekends. When it’s summer and it’s hot, sometimes it’s nice to just go down there and chill out. Take a few cans of beer and what have you. I just find the gothicness of it, and the churches, the graves, I find it very peaceful. Sometimes I much rather go down there than go to some pub with some angry drunkards.
It’s as if you enter a whole different world once you pass the cemetery gates.
Yeah, that’s it. Some people will think I’m a bit of a freak or weird, they are like: why don’t you go and socialize at the pub? But sometimes you feel like being on your own, being peaceful. You could go down to a pub and get stared upon by an angry drunkard or a football hooligan. There’s a big cemetery just around the corner from where I live. It’s a massive place. I just go there and sometimes I take my guitar. I don’t know how long I actually spend a week down there, but especially in the summer I spend a few weekends and the evenings down there. So that song ended up on the album. I’m glad that it’s on there now. To start with I was a bit unsure about it, but it does break up the heaviness of the album, it gives your ears a bit of a breather.
It does, yes, and it sounds really good.
Thanks. Everybody keeps saying it’s too short. I should’ve made it a bit longer, maybe we can reprise it at some point.
Would you say that you have a nihilistic view on life?
I’m not really sure, haha. What does that exactly mean?
Have you watched ‘The Big Lebowski’?
No, no I haven’t.
It would have been easier to explain if you had watched it. Your music is not very cheerful, is it?
I know, I mean I suppose everyone at some point in their life goes through depression, or is sad or is unhappy with their life. It expresses the way that I am sometimes. I don’t know if I like that, but there is a darker side. I think because I am heavily influenced with all the horror and the doom and the dark side…it does rub off on your personality and on the way you live your life. Nobody can be happy happy all the time.
I also saw that both on your personal page and on the Dead Witches one you post old pictures of women in sexy poses and outfits. Is there a connection between your music and seventies/fetish eroticism?
I don’t know if there’s a connection. I just think it’s cool, those kind of images, the retro sort of images. Stuff like Bettie Page and Elvira. It does seem to go well with this kind of music, to have cool looking, seventies women. It looks so much better than some modern models. I’m interested in that retro kind of thing, the way women dressed back then. It ties in with the retro, seventies kind of sound I want Dead Witches to have.
There are some festivals and shows coming up for you, including End Of The World Festival, Doom Vs Stoner and of course your album release party Heavy Psych Sounds Fest. Can we expect a tour through Europe?
We’ve got four gigs in Ireland in April. I’ve answered this question a couple of times, to different people, but I just want to get the album out first and see what the reactions are. We have talked about doing a tour through Europe. We want to tour, but there is no big plan to conquer the world. It depends on who comes to us for gigs. Because we only had the one album out, and with this new album I want to see how people are drawn towards it and see what offers we get to gig. I prefer to play festivals. I like the atmosphere there, and there’s loads of good bands, so you play, have fun and go home. It is a possibility, but at this time there is no plan.
You never know. I played Roadburn quite a few times over the years. With Ramesses, and when I rejoined Electric Wizard in 2012 or 2013. If we were offered to play Roadburn we would jump at the chance to do that. Like I said, so far it has just been the one album, so we need to get this second album out, have people listen to the sound of the new line-up and see if they want to book us. It’s a waiting game.
I ran out of questions! Is there anything you would like to say that I forgot to ask?
I hope people enjoy ‘The Final Exorcism’, our new album, to turn it up loud, put a horror film on, come and see our shows and support the band.
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