Interview: Martin Witchskinner/BLOOD

Blood - Live Eupen, Martin Belgium 1991.jpg (2)

Useless disclosure:  Before an untimely technical clusterfuck with my domain registrar & web hosting company(s) derailed my plan, the original name of this blog/webzine was “Dogmatize,” in tribute to the German death/grind legends, BLOOD.  (I mention this as it will make sense of Martin’s final comment in this interview!)

Far more importantly, BLOOD have just finished recording material for a new release (sadly, no details available yet!) and will be playing at the Montreal EARSLAUGHTER festival this summer (June 2 & 3, 2017). 

Many thanks to Martin Witchskinner for the interview!

BLOOD is one of the longest-running bands in the grindcore scene, having recording your first demo back in 1986, and a very influential one, as well.  From your perspective, what has been the most difficult aspect of keeping a band alive for such a considerable length of time?

First, thanks a lot for giving me the opportunity to speak; I guess this is the first interview I’ve done since the ’90s.. It’s been a while since I was in hibernation for the last, well, 15 years, haha.  After my band DAWN split up in 1999 I wasn’t active. So, concerning your question, I may be the wrong guy to answer that. When I joined BLOOD in 1988, they already had their first demos recorded. I joined them before the debut LP (“Impulse to Destroy,” 1989) and I was so excited to sing in a band, especially a band that may have been the fastest in Germany at that time. Being an 18-year-old who was 110% into underground death metal/grindcore and hardcore, that was the best thing that ever happened to me.

After I left BLOOD, the others kept the fire alive because I guess that’s what they love to do, it was/is something that sticks for life, and as long as it’s fulfilling, that’s a good thing to do. I’m very glad that everyone (and I mean everyone) that ever played in this band, did what he did. The most difficult part was maybe the changes in the line-up; the singers. But as Clausi (vocals), who was my follow-up was in the band for about 20 years, that wasn’t really a problem.

Another problem, I guess, is that Eisen (guitars) lives in Berlin, which is 500 kilometers away from our base here, that makes things difficult. We don’t practice with pre-recorded stuff or computers, so I guess we’re very old-school.

Unlike many grind bands where you often (more or less) know exactly what you’re going to get with each release, each of the BLOOD releases have a fairly unique/distinct vibe, sound and aesthetic to it. Was this intentional? Do you have a favorite BLOOD album?

When we recorded “Impulse” in 1988, there weren’t too many studios that had the
experience to record and mix a grindcore band. So we found a studio that did
rock/hard rock bands. When I look back, it was funny – I guess the producer tried to vary the sound between the songs, as he was maybe thinking that makes the songs more distinguishable. He obviously thought that each and every song sounded the same! He used some effects for (different) songs, drums sounded a bit different from one song to another…

We were excited, never went to a studio before, we had “Reek of Putrefaction,” “Scum, “Scream Bloody Gore,” in our heads, plus all those bands we knew from tape-trading. I guess, we wanted to sound just brutal, and with every knob he turned we thought “Wow, that’s cool, more echoes…”

Later on, producers knew more about blastbeats, plus the band developed, as well as my vocals. Being in a different studios, that’s maybe one of the reasons why everything sounds different.

I like the “Christbait” and “O Agios…” albums the most, I guess.

Blood - Weinheim_Germany-2015 (1)

In 1989, “Impulse to Destroy” was released. This was the first BLOOD that I heard, and seemed to get fairly good distribution and zine advertisements in the United States, as well, through Wild Rags. Do you have any specific memories of recording this album? How was the band’s relationship with Richard/Wild Rags?

We had two weekends to record “Impulse.” It was a small studio and the producer never heard a band like us. Obviously we were really excited and it was cool to use features like a harmonizer. On the song “Terroraise,” which was recorded in this session (and ended up on the “Recognize Yourself” 7″) we used much harmonizer and it was like: “Ok, we want to sound like Carcass here,” then we had a laugh after we listened to the distorted vocals. The producer was like: “We can increase this effect, if you’d like,” and we said, “yes, do that!” and laughed even more!  And that was ‘the harmonizer song’ for us. We used this effect on a few songs more, which earned us some critics afterwards..I didn’t like the idea that we were put down for that and I said, never again effects on vocals. Yes, afterwards I was a bit pissed.

About Wild Rags, back then we were very glad at first to be signing up with a label. Richard seemed like a very nice guy at first, but unfortunately, he made some promises he couldn’t keep. I was pretty angry about that, because I took some of his words too literally.  Then some things went wrong on the business side and the whole thing collapsed.

I spoke pretty badly of him and his label back then. Nowadays, I’m thinking it was a good idea that we did this record on his label, because a lot of great stuff was released by Wild Rags, and it spread our name.  The only thing that wasn’t too good was the fact that they didn’t have proper distribution in Europe. A German band releasing a record in the States that was only available as an import. That was the downside of the deal. If we had a European label, things would have been different.

Blood - Live Eupen Eisen_Taki _Martin aka the guy with the Acheron shirt_Belgium 1991 (1)

May I ask some of your favorite, perhaps not-so-well-known horror movies?

I confess, I’m a movie buff and still an excessive collector of Laserdiscs – if anyone wants to know what that is, it looks like a gigantic 12” CD with movie data on it – my favorite genres being horror, action and sci-fi. That’s a pretty hard question, since you can see almost every movie online today, even the hard-to-get stuff. My all-time favourite movie is “Dawn of the Dead;” it’s just the crown of everything that is bleak and nihilistic in movies.

I could easy watch Carpenter’s “The Thing” twice a year, “Prince of Darkness,” “Dellamorte Dellamore,”  “A L’interieur,” (aka “Inside,” 2007), “Day of the Dead,” Fulci’s stuff… well, but those are not especially unknown. I prefer older movies; can’t stand alot of the mainstream stuff that’s released these days.

How did your split 7″s with AGATHOCLES and IMPETIGO come about? Were/are you fans of these bands?

Now we travel back in time, haha…  Eisen and me were very dedicated tape-traders back then and had several contacts in those days. We visited Agathocles in the ’80s and really enjoyed what they did back then, as it was pretty much what we did – trying to play as brutal as possible. When the idea came up to record some new songs, we first wanted to release a 7″ split ep with Blasphemy from Canada.  Somehow that didn’t work out – too bad, as we are fans of their music.  So we ended up doing the split 7″  with AG and they delivered a masterpiece. “Theatric Symbolisation of Life” is my favorite track ever by them.

Eisen had contacts with Impetigo and they agreed to record some songs, they also made their statement with their masterpiece, “Boneyard.” We went crazy when we got the advance tape of the 7″ – it was just mindblowing and I guess we  were a little bit proud. On our side, we featured “Dogmatize” for the second time, which is kind of our “hit” so to speak, haha.  The cover with the Impetigo split was done by my penpal Chris “Thorncross“ Moyen, who delivered this insane blasphemous cover of Jesus being torn apart by a demon.

And now for a fun fact: I got his letter when I came from work, went straight to the toilet to..well, have a dump…and read my mail. On the toilet I opened the letter and that was the first time I saw his drawing, sitting on a  white porcelain throne and taking a dump..I guess that’s funny as I remember this fact very well. The cover for the AG split was painted by a friend of Eisen, he also played in a Swiss deathmetal band called Damnatory.

What inspires your lyrics? Do you find it difficult to come up with ideas for lyrics or do they flow easily when you are trying to write?

I hate doing lyrics, I need so much time…and I guess in the realm of grindcore and death metal, nearly everything has been said. So, well, yes, I think it’s difficult, though I love reading lyrics, sometimes it’s funny and sick what people can come up with, sometimes it’s haunting (I really like some of Leonard Cohen’s stuff, at least parts of it), sometimes it’s awesome and aggressive (everything Slayer).  I really like the lyrics of Amebix, Carnivore, and Massacre (FL).

What inspired me a lot when I was in younger were those UKHC lyrics from bands like Ripcord, ENT, and Hellbastard. They were dealing with animal rights, non-conformity, and alternative lifestyles – that impressed me. I’m still vegetarian to this day.  I’m not using those ideas in my lyrics, as we are different people in the band and we are not political whatsoever, and I won’t use lyrics that are not necessarily in line with the other band members’ opinions.  Right now I’m working on lyrics and, hell, it’s killing me.

The “Recognize Yourself” 7″ – do you have any particular memories of this recording?

Well, it was recorded in the same session as “Impulse to Destroy.” The songs were recorded pretty quickly and we didn’t have time to mix them, like some of the stuff on the LP.  Wild Rags asked us, if we want to do a 7“ and we agreed on that. Looking back, I’d rather we had used the picture from the back of the record (of me) instead the one we used for the cover. It just looks too honest.

How did your nickname “Chicken” come about?

When I was new in the band, Eisen said, “No way that we can write Martin on the need a warrior name…”, haha. So I took my English dictionary and pointed the next best word out: Chicken. You have to consider, those were the late-80s, and I was 18, so being funny was also part of it. Unfortunately people started to call me Chicken, which was kind of annoying, but hey, that name was then printed on the record, they couldn’t know better! I tried to change that – Martin Witchskinner sounds more like I directly came from the abyss, haha.

You rejoined the band in time to record “O Agios Pethane.” How do you feel about this album, nearly 25 years after its release? What led to your return to the band?

I still like it, the record is good. I didn’t have too much time to practice the songs, but somehow we went to the studio and made them sound good. If anyone wondered, the CD cover is a little sculpture I brought back from a trip to Ireland, and it features Pookas. Those are little fairies that are pretty bad little fuckers.

As far as vocals are concerned, do you have any particular influences?

Back in the day I loved ENT, Napalm Death (Scum), Massacre… yes, when it comes to an influence I would name Kam Lee, as he was inventing those growls… I love their classic live tape from Tampa and their demo tapes were outstanding.

Could you share five of your favorite grind/death metal albums?

Five? Bloody hell….what can I say..

Pyrexia- Hatredangeranddisgust
Malevolent Creation – Eternal
Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom
Possessed – Seven Churches

I can’t choose a fifth one, there’s just too many, but those above, I played them like a  madman. You see, I love death metal, most grindcore is just too much for me – I’m into heavy music, not so much into speed.

It seems you’ve been playing many shows and festivals as of late. What is next for BLOOD?

Things are going really well for us, considering the band didn’t record anything new since 2003. Playing live is always great, you should come to see us, we’re always giving 666% of pure mayhem, that’s promised. We got quite some shows ahead of us, besides that, what can I say, we’re still there and maybe there will be a new release one day.

Thank you so much for the interview, Martin! Any final thoughts?

Hell will open it’s gates in Montreal, the 2nd of June!  If you visit a show this year, come to the Earslaughter festival, we will happily crush your souls there! La vie est finie! Thanks for the opportunity to speak and the support! By the way, great name for a ‘zine!

BLOOD on Facebook

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