Contributor’s Note: What could possibly be a better time of the year to dive headfirst into dark, melodic metal? While the shadows of winter are creeping up upon us and the nights are getting longer, it’s the perfect time for Curse of Autumn to unfold. The album art is once again a hand-painted masterpiece by the legendary Kristian Wåhlin, the fourth painting in the WITHERFALL series. Witherfall’s Curse of Autumn is scheduled for a worldwide street date of March 5, 2021, with the U.S. vinyl available April 2. Pre-order it here. Witherfall have released the cinematic video for “As I Lie Awake.” The clip was directed by Zev Deans (Ghost, Behemoth, Chelsea Wolfe, St. Vincent.) The band also shared the lyric video for “Another Face.” Mark Dean of Madness To Creation sat down with Joseph Michael and Jake Dreyer of Witherfall to discuss “Curse of Autumn”, writing music during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the artwork behind the album. *Disclaimer: It’s Jake not Jeremy of Witherfall. Madness To Creation regrets this error. Thank you for listening.
Fans can find Witherfall at the following locations:
Mark Dean: How have you both been getting through the last year of a global pandemic?
Joseph Michael: Trying not to die.
Jake Dreyer: Yeah. Avoid the plague recording records. Yeah. We actually were able to… We finished our record first of autumn. During this time which was a little difficult to do obviously. So that was the main thing, but we were able to get it done.
Mark Dean: How were you able to do it? Was it recorded? Did you swap files? Was it already done before all this started? Or how was it done?
Joseph Michael: No, we don’t swap files. We recorded in three different, well four, if you count some of the keyboard stuff. But we did the drums in LA, we did all the guitars, bass and vocals, up in Indiana. And then we mixed and mastered it down in Florida at Morrisound.
Mark Dean: Okay. I wonder if you could take me through the album and basically pick out a couple of tracks and tell me how they came to be created?
Jake Dreyer: Oh, yeah. Well, I guess we should start with Last Scar, which was our first single that we did with it. That was one of the first ones that we had had written for it at that time. Of course, it’s a very aggressive, heavy and aggressive type song. And that’s what we were feeling at that moment. So it also dictated a little bit of what the album cover, the colour, the colour scheme would be, which is more of that red-ish hue. But basically I gotten off tour, and Jackson had sent me out some new guitars. And so I basically just picked up one of the guitars I had, and came up with that riff, and then put it down in a voice memo, and sent it over to Joseph. And he liked it and we started working on it back in LA, whenever I got off the road. So that’s one of those songs.
Mark Dean: What about yourself? Do you want to pick one?
Joseph Michael: Yeah. I mean, The River, that song, it’s a very personal song. It’s about my father where we spread his ashes, actually. I wasn’t able to be there when they spread his ashes back in 2002. It was right after 9/11, and I didn’t have an ID, they wouldn’t let me on a plane. So there’s a fishing spot up in New York. And that’s what the song is about. It’s very personal. The record is very personal compared to the last two records.
Mark Dean: How do you cope in terms of time? Because you’ve all got, obviously, you’ve got other bands, other projects going on. I mean, is it difficult to adopt the mindset going from one band to another? Do you have to write differently or approach it differently each time?
Jake Dreyer: With Witherfall, we just exactly do what we want to do. That’s how we came up with the band in the first place, was Joseph and I were playing in a band, and we didn’t want to have any sort of boundaries when it came to songwriting. So every record that we do, it’s very organic with Joseph and I. We sit in a, basically, in a room together with some wine, acoustic guitar, pen and paper, and just write. And so there’s really no thought process to it at all.
Mark Dean: You mentioned regarding the colour of the album. That seems to be an ongoing thing with you guys, that you have a different colour connecting to a theme on each album release. How does that work? What’s the thought process behind it?
Joseph Michael: The thing is that they’re hand painted pieces of art. So Kristian Wåhlin has that monochromatic thing going on with a lot of his artwork. I mean, some of the stuff isn’t like that. I think Wildhoney had a bunch of different colours on it, the Tiamat. But most of his modern stuff is very monochromatic. And we’re not going to argue with him. We basically, when we’re ready to start talking to Kristian, we have some demos that give him the vibe of the music, and the lyrics, and we just send it over, and tell him what the theme is. And we always have a dark female character on our album covers as well. We’ve both been plagued by dark females our entire lives. Yeah. I mean, we’re a very visual band. We really like bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and Queen. Everything has a connection to those.
Jake Dreyer: Yeah. And I think Kristian is one of those guys too, it’s one of… Because Joseph and I, we like to have the restraints when it comes to a lot of the creativity. But Christian is such a… You could call him a legend, I guess. And that again, we’ve had… He says this is the fourth one in his Witherfall series. And we pretty much are so confident with him that, when we’re going to open up what he did for us, for our album cover, we don’t really have too much trepidation going into that anxiety. Because yeah, he’s just amazing. He’s knocked it out of the park for every release.
Mark Dean: Obviously you guys have had touring plans disrupted to promote the album. How have you been killing the down time now that you’re not able to play live? I mean, you guys, obviously you’re professional musicians. You spend most of your lives on the road. I mean, now you’ve got all this extra time at home. How do you fill that void? Has it-
Joseph Michael: There’s no downtime for us, we’re always writing.
Jake Dreyer: Yeah, or perfecting the craft.
Joseph Michael: Yeah. I mean, I’m in my office slash studio every day, 16 hours a day, no matter what. And then we’re actually getting together in a couple of days to work on the next record. So there’s no downtime for us. This isn’t a part-time hobby for us. We don’t do anything else. I think also our favourite part of the whole being a musician thing is the writing. It’s creating new music. So it’s fun to go out and share it with the fans, and see new places, and eat different food, see different scenery. But the main reward is when those new compositions come to life.
Jake Dreyer: Yeah, I agree.
Mark Dean: So you said you’ve already got the next album together. What sort of release date do you have? Do you have any expectation on a date for that one? Or are you just going to wait and see how things go?
Jake Dreyer: Oh, no. We’re in the very beginning stages of that. This will be our first writing session for that. And we usually have quite a bit, because with the pandemic now, we’re on opposite sides of… Everyone’s been dispersed a little bit. So it’s not like you could just pop over, and have a weekend of debauchery, and song writing. It has to be planned. So, yeah. There’s no release, but we try to do a release every year. We would have had a Curse Of Autumn come out in autumn, in November. That was the plan.
Joseph Michael: I would say before November.
Jake Dreyer: Yeah. And it was all set, but at that time we had a tour that was going on, around this time actually, but it had gotten cancelled. But we were sending it off for that point. So we would have had one, that was our thing. We wanted to be like the band from the ’70s that had… Some bands would have two albums almost every year. At least thinking of one.
Joseph Michael: We’re closer to that pace than most modern bands that release a record every four years.
Mark Dean: Yeah. Yeah. Just taking you both back, what was the first music that you recall hearing growing up?
Jake Dreyer: Wow. The first band that I really loved was Kiss, as a kid because I think just the whole superhero aspect to it. I love Gene. I’m a guitar player, but I love Gene. I still love Gene. I love Kiss now. Yeah, Kiss was the one band I fell in love with as a kid. But AC/DC, Hells Bells is what made me want to play guitar. That intro, arpeggiated A minor thing that Malcolm Young does, that was like, “I got to do that.”
Mark Dean: What about yourself?
Joseph Michael: Well, I mean, my dad used to hold me hostage in his car when we’d go on our weekend fishing trips. I used to hear all sorts of crazy music like Alabama, Neil Diamond. Fricking every country music or pop singer songwriter that existed in the ’80s. And my first concert was Loretta Lynn, but I don’t remember it because I wasn’t even two years old. But we have a photo of Loretta Lynn kissing me on the cheek. But I don’t remember that at all. First concert I remember is Kenny Rogers doing The Gambler tour with Lee Greenwood opening. And Kenny Rogers was a total rock star, even though he looked the way he did. He would come down from the ceiling on his tiny little pedestal, and descend all the way, and then start The Gambler. First music that made me want to play an instrument though, probably going to be Aerosmith. I wanted to sing. I didn’t really get into guitar until I started getting into Guns N’ Roses. And I think Jake and I share that bond.
Mark Dean: What about then the first song that you ever performed live? Can you remember that?
Joseph Michael: Yeah. My first was a gay wedding. It was the director of the local theatre and his illegitimate husband, because you couldn’t get married back in those days. But we were hired as an acoustic band and the first song we played was a Wild World, the Mr. Big version.
Jake Dreyer: Mine was another AC/DC song. I don’t even know if you could call it a song because I don’t even think we made it all the way through, but it was at a school dance when I was 11. And it was a Halloween dance and I was dressed up as Angus Young. And yeah, we played an instrumental version of Back in Black, minus the right chord progression in the bridge. So it was a fucking disaster. Yeah. That was the first one played in front of people, and my classmates clapped, and that was the end of it. My ego hasn’t gone down since.
Mark Dean: What about, in terms of your own instrument, what would be the best album that would represent you? Best guitar album, best vocal album, from your own collection.
Jake Dreyer: From us personally, or from our… Or just other-
Mark Dean: Other bands. Other bands. Wow, it’s tough. It’s tough for me because I love so many different types of players. I mean, if we’re just going in the heavy metal aspect for the type of guitar playing, I love Rising Force by Yngwie. I mean, that just falls to the fucking wall. The neoclassical, playing that style. And Yngwie had so much fire back then. It was a perfect amount of cocaine.
Joseph Michael: I like it.
Jake Dreyer: Yeah. But for me, I mean Rising Force, if you’re a lead guitar playing, and you can’t get into that, maybe lead guitar isn’t your thing.
Mark Dean: What about yourself? What represents the best album to you?
Joseph Michael: For a vocalist?
Mark Dean: Yeah.
Joseph Michael: That’s a tough. Like Jake said, I love a lot of different styles. I would say though, the record that, once I was able to perform 99% of it myself, I actually considered myself a singer, an accomplished singer. It’s got to be Slave to the Grind. Not just the high notes, but the depth, the tone, and the variety of sounds that Sebastian Bach is playing on that. Not a lot of singers can even come close to what he did on that record.
Mark Dean: None of the early Sanctuary albums then get a mention in there, no?
Joseph Michael: No, not at the top. I mean I love Warrel Dane and I love what he did on those records. But I mean, it was almost like Warrel was a completely different singer, every record. Really strange. I mean, it couldn’t have been the LSD.
Mark Dean: Difficult shoes, though, to step into, I would imagine?
Joseph Michael: Fuck yeah. Difficult, of course. I mean, anything worth doing is going to be difficult, but a lot of fun. Especially the tour, the fans are really excited to hear those old songs live, and we probably do… Last year, we did all of Refuge Denied in its entirety. That was a lot of fun to do. That was my cardio for the day.
Mark Dean: Just the final one then. If the roles were reversed, who would you like to interview? Maybe not even a musician. Somebody that’s inspired you, maybe a role model, if you were asking the questions?
Jake Dreyer: Alive or dead?
Mark Dean: Either.
Jake Dreyer: Let’s go dead. God, Anthony Bourdain for me, for sure. Yeah, I’d love to have dinner and drinks with that guy.
Joseph Michael: End up having both dinner . Yeah, I got to go… I got really close to meeting, this guy’s my favourite author. I actually bought a bottle of scotch for him. He was supposed to speak at this library, and then he got cancer. It’s got to be Christopher Hitchens. Absolutely, 100%.
Mark Dean: What plans do you guys got then, as much as we can make plans these days? Have you got anything penciled in to promote the album? I’m thinking maybe something online.
Jake Dreyer: No, none of the streaming stuff. We do have a tour set for… Shit, I get it screwed up. I think it’s October, November of 2021, with Evergrey. Then, but that’s, you never know.
Mark Dean: Sure.
Jake Dreyer: It’s penciled in.
Joseph Michael: A bunch of videos.
Jake Dreyer: Yeah. That’s one of the ways we’re trying to promote is by doing a video for every song. So we have quite a bit more videos coming out. Yeah. It’s a tough one right now because it’s not like… These are very unchartered waters.
Mark Dean: Thank you very much.
Joseph Michael: Thank you!
Jake Dreyer: Thank you!
And there you have it! Fans can check out Mark Dean at the following locations:
Fans can check out this episode featuring Joseph and Jake of Witherfall via Soundcloud below: