Witch, Please

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You folks in the metal-know might’ve heard of a little band called Skeletonwitch out of Athens, Ohio. And chances are, if you’ve seen a metal tour in the past four years, you’ve seen them blow up on stage, inciting madness and mayhem in metal fans the world over. Their latest, “Breathing the Fire,” was met with acclaim and landed a spot on the Billboard charts. And, as would befit a group of excellent metal players, they happen to be excellent metal dudes. In my fifth overall interview with the band, I stood outside the Rock in Tucson, Arizona with guitarist Scott Hedrick, with cameo appearances from brothers Nate and Chance Garnett, as well as Derrick “Mullet Chad” Nau, who explains what it really means to be crushed beyond dust.

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You guys are known for your extensive touring, so, first question: what’s the odometer on your van reading these days?

SH: Great question! (to Nate) Hey, how many miles are on the van? (after a brief pause). We have 193,000 miles on the van.

When did you guys get the van?

SH: Oh shit. It’s been…I don’t even remember. Probably around four years. Something like that. I’m going to be totally wrong on that; it may be even less than that.

So you’ll be up to 200,000 miles by the end of this tour?

SH: Yeah, I’m pretty sure we will. We have a thousand-mile drive in another couple days.

And you guys are doing a 7 to 8 hour drive to Albuquerque tomorrow.

SH: We’re doing about 450 miles tomorrow, and then we’re going another thousand miles the next day. So, I think we’ll hit it. By the time we roll into our driveway back home, I think we’ll hit it.

You’ll have to take a picture of that.

SH: I will! I’ll send it to you.

Like I said, you guys are known for touring. What do you like to see in the bands that you tour with?

SH: One of the biggest things is actually just people we can actually have fun with that are good dudes. The worst thing is if you show up to a tour and there’s a band collectively or a dude who’s just an asshole or a dickhead and really bossy. We like to have fun, y’know, cause it can get rough. You get tired, you get hungry, you get hot without air conditioning when you’re driving in Arizona, so it’s fun to be able to show up to the show and have fun with everybody and joke around and be like a team, if you will. Everyone has a good time together. So one of the biggest things besides music is, “are they good dudes? Are we gonna have fun with them?” That’s really important to us.

I imagine that’s been the case with this tour.

SH: Oh, fuck yeah, Cannibal Corpse are some of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Absolutely. And going into it, we were very curious as to what 1349 would be like, a very serious Norwegian black metal band. And it turns out they’re fucking great. We laughed our ass off with them, told jokes, hung out. We expected these stoic, serious Norwegian black metal dudes that had no fun, and we were so wrong in even thinking that, because they were fucking great.

Any bands currently you’d like to tour with?

SH: King Diamond! Immortal! Of course every metal band wants to do the Judas Priest or the Iron Maiden or Metallica tour.

Surprised I’m not hearing Overkill.

SH: Oh, Overkill would be fucking killer too.

I actually saw those dudes recently.

SH: Did you see the Overkill and Warbringer tour? The one with 18 bands or whatever?

Yeah, Overkill, Warbringer, Woe of Tyrants, God Dethroned, Vader, and Evile.

SH: I’m curious, was it fun the whole time, or was it like, “oh my god, there’s too many bands?”

It was pretty rad the whole time. Vader hit the stage and it was pandemonium from then on out.

SH: Awesome. The first time I saw them, we were on a tour with Hate Eternal and Cephalic Carnage in Europe and they merged our tour with Vader’s headlining tour in Italy. It was fucking awesome, really good. Nate broke or left his glasses there. Mullet Chad I think is brain dead from drinking vodka with those guys that night.

You dudes are known for nicknames, and one of the nicknames that popped up recently was Jackie Dean-Dean. So who is Jackie Dean-Dean?

SH: I love that you asked that! That would be Jack Endino, who recorded our last record, Breathing the Fire, in Seattle. We called him Jackie Dean-Dean, Jacko, and then Nate just started calling him Chuck Endino. He’s an awesome dude. Really nice guy. He’s kind of a mad scientist…he’s a wizard behind the console. He knows what the fuck he’s doing, and he’s great at it. And it’s funny to watch him work. The word I was looking for was ‘eccentric.’ He’s very…running all over the place, flipping switches and kinda scatterbrained but knows what he’s doing.

Anyway, Nate was like, ‘come on, Chuck!’ And he was like, ‘what? Wh-wh-why are you calling me Chuck? What is this Chuck?’ Nate says, ‘y’know, Chuck Endino.’ And Jack’s like, ‘but my name’s not Chuck.’ And Nate says, ‘sorry Jackie Dean-Dean.’ Jack just shook his head and goes, ‘I hate you guys.’

So he’s a little unorthodox in his recording methods?

SH: To an extent. He’s not doing super-crazy shit like hanging microphones all over the ceiling. He’s not doing anything totally unorthodox.

So he just pursues his recording in a different way?

SH: Yeah, in a more natural, more organic way. There’s a lot of modern metal records, in my opinion, that sound overproduced, oversynthesized, or computerized. And that’s one of the reasons we went with him is that he was able to capture such a large production kinda sound, but make it sound very natural, like everybody played, which is what we did, and not make everyone sound like fucking robots. Not like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit. So yeah, Jackie Dean-Dean was there to nail that.

Does he work fast?

SH: Yeah, he does. We were there for three weeks. And it went pretty fast. The cool thing is that when you work with Jack Endino, he’s somewhat a known name from working with Nirvana on the Bleach album, and the whole grunge scene, and recently more metal like 3 Inches of Blood, High on Fire and Zeke. But when you work with Jack, it’s just him and the band. He doesn’t have an engineer.

He has no assistants?

SH: Nope, it was just us and Jack Endino, 12 hours a day. Noon to midnight. And no one else around. So that was killer, because he was like, ‘If I put my name on this fucker, I’m doing it all. Not like I’m putting my name on it and I just stand there and tell this guy to touch these switches.’ It was just Skeletonwitch and Jack Endino, which was really refreshing to see.

Would you guys consider using him for your next record?

SH: Probably not, just because we would like to get a different sound and keep changing things, but I would never ever hesitate to work with him again. The experience was great, we’re happy with the sound, we loved him; but just to try something different, just to put us out of our element, get in a new studio, new mics, new guy behind the console, we like to mix it up, I imagine we’re gonna change it every record just for the hell of it, just to keep it different. But we don’t know who yet. We have no idea.

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  1. Commented by: Jodi

    Really good read. I recently saw these guys for the first time (that I remember) and they totally blew me away.

  2. Commented by: Facial La Fleur

    Really good interview… and fun too. Far too many interviews are uninteresting Q&A sessions where neither party really wants to be doing it. But not this.

  3. Commented by: Staylow

    Great interview. I love these guys, they seem so down to earth and easy going. And of course, they love to party which means they’re my kind of people.

  4. Commented by: Storm King

    Pretty decent interview, and then Mullet Chad shows up and it turns to sheer GOLD. These guys sound like they know how to have fun.

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