Ten years after emerging from the basements and DIY spots of Athens, Ohio, the blackened thrash-metal masters of Skeletonwitch still ride strong and fast. No stranger to the road, Skeletonwitch has paid its dues with hundreds of thousands of miles traveled and innumerable stages leveled. This fall the band embarks on a monthlong engagement with previous tourmates the Black Dahlia Murder, stopping at the Firebird in St. Louis on Friday, November 22. Guitarist Scott Hedrick recently took some time out to answer a few questions for us about life on the road, wearing one's own band's merch and jamming out on a boat.
Kyle McNeil: This year, Skeletonwitch celebrates a triumphant ten-year anniversary, spanning five albums and a lot of hard miles. How you did you develop your signature sound, and how has it evolved over the years?
Scott Hedrick: We developed it by living and loving metal. We take influences from all over the world of heavy music. It's a bit self-serving, but we write the metal that we want to hear. We're writing songs that get us excited. With each release the goal is to become better players and songwriters. Hopefully we're achieving that to some end.
A ghastly, evil, horned skeletal figure adorns each of your five album covers. Who is this character? Is this Skeleton Witch?
Hedrick: We call him Skeleton Mitch. He's our Vic Rattlehead, Eddie, Johnny the Riot Seal, etc...
You guys are on tour with melodic death-metal forerunners the Black Dahlia Murder, widely reputed to be quite the pranksters. Do you guys engage in the highjinks as well? Got any crazy stories from the road so far?
Hedrick: To be honest, we tour so much that a lot of things your average person would find shocking, or at least odd, seem commonplace to us. Regarding things that seem shocking to us...I'll plead the fifth here, to avoid incrimination.
Skeletonwitch has toured Europe seven times. How does touring in Europe compare to touring in the United States? Are there any cultural differences you found just plain hard to adjust to?
Hedrick: It's not drastically different. There's more beer, crusty bread, cheese and fret watchers in Europe. Their metal fans tend to be a bit more skeptical of foreign metal bands and don't show a lot of energy until they are really familiar with you. American metal fans will headbang to the PA system in between songs.
The first time I saw Skeletonwitch was at a now-defunct DIY venue in St. Louis called Building R. How does it feel to come from such humble beginnings to touring with such bands as the Black Dahlia Murder, Amon Amarth and Danzig?
Hedrick: It feels great. It's called paying your dues. John Baizley and I were reminiscing the other day about Skeletonwitch and Baroness playing house shows and DIY spaces together. We would sleep on the floor of the same dirty, beer-filled sweatbox that we performed in. And funny enough, we're recounting these times fondly! We loved it!
Wearing your own band shirts and merchandise on stage: for it or against it?
Hedrick: I don't do it, but I won't judge if someone else does. Iron Maiden does it. Do you have a problem with Iron Maiden, buddy?
Are there any indie-level bands you look forward to sharing the stage with when you guys hit the road for a headlining tour?
Hedrick: Sure. It's a really long process involving a lot of debating when we choose bands for a headlining tour. It's been a while since we've headlined so we haven't gone through the process lately, but the bands Noisem and Inquisition spring to mind.
Continue to page two for more of our interview.
For the album Forever Abomination, you guys embarked on a rigorous 63-show, 65-day tour. In support of Serpents Unleashed you're undertaking a monthlong tour, which amounts to a massive amount of driving for the band. How do you guys divvy up the driving? How does the 'Witch stay busy on those long drives and late nights?
Hedrick: Nate drives every mile. By choice. The guy is a fucking machine! He jokingly calls himself a "rogue trucker." He's the safest driver you'll ever encounter. He's driven more than half a million miles in North America and never got into an accident or got a speeding ticket! Cranking the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack is definitely one way to keep Nate (and myself) awake.
How do headline shows compare to supporting sets?
Hedrick: The only real difference is time. When we support we have a shorter set and have to be conscientious of not running over our allotted time, and clearing the stage quickly. Other than that we go all-out all the time.
Do you ever get to perform in any unconventional or unusual locations or circumstances? What is the weirdest show Skeletonwitch has played?
Hedrick: We played on a boat in NYC once. It was great. It wasn't some massive ship, so it really swayed a lot. People were falling all over the place and going insane. I'd love to do that again.
Five albums into the band's career, Skeletonwitch has established its own brand of blackened thrash metal. What can fans expect more of, stylistically, from previous efforts, and what new sounds can they expect to hear?
Hedrick: We'll just keep sharpening the blade we forged ten years ago. Thanks to everyone who has supported Skeletonwitch!
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