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VINTERDRACUL's Weirding Batweilder: "For us, the draw wasn’t just the idea of the vampire — it was the idea of people like actors and directors of horror movies who made vampires so central to the way they made art."

Interview with Weirding Batweilder from Vinterdracul
by Fred Bonanno at 24 July 2022, 4:49 AM

VINTERDRACUL is a gothic, black metal band from, of all places, Baltimore, Maryland. Formed in 2021 by Weirding Batweilder and Jean Farraige, they have just released their latest album "The Lee Variations," based on vampires and horror films. It’s a soundtrack into the interior mindset of the villain. It’s intriguing, dark and scary. Metal Temple writer Fred Bonanno was able to dig into the mind behind this concept with Weirding Batweilder.

Can I get a brief history of your musical career/start?

Started playing music aged 14. This was the late-80s and it seemed at the time that it was just one of those things that you did. You went skateboarding, you rode your dirt bike on makeshift ramps, you grew your hair out, and you played loud music in a band. I played in punk bands and bands inspired by the Dischord Records bands — especially Lungfish, Slant 6, and Shudder to Think. Then got into a lot of cassette underground stuff at the time — starting with Daniel Johnston but then later stuff like East River Pipe and the stuff Jim Santo was going on about. Played a bunch of Dinosaur, Jr type stuff — to this day, J Mascis is my favorite rock guitar player. As a kid, I’d wanted to be Eddie Van Halen, but when it came to my actual skill level, I had to find different role models. Robert Smith’s playing holds a special place for me. And I really got into Bob Stinson’s playing. And as I tore into heavier music, sludge was a big influence, though I never liked having to tune down my guitar. But I did like that it was an approach to metal that didn’t demand a certain type of technical proficiency — at least compared to the jazz stuff that I’d learned or the hair metal and neoclassical stuff that was tabbed out in all the guitar magazines at the time. Liked that about black metal as well. Especially loved Darkthrone. There was also a lot of weird and dark music in Baltimore. Favorite band was Candymachine. Also a lot of homegrown club music like Miss Tony and Rod Lee. I learned how to use a drum machine trying to copy those rhythms. And I’ve always liked the VU-Iggy-Bowie line of rock-and-roll and I think that combined with all the crazy things going on in the early 90s heavy music scene — from Nirvana to industrial music to black metal — it all sort of came together in the way I approached things.


What year was the band was formed?

We’ve been playing together for years, but this band officially started up in 2021, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Where did the name Vinterdracul come from?

It actually came from a screenplay that I’d started writing based on an idea that JF had. It was a story about a group of campers who get trapped in a snowstorm and find shelter in an old farmhouse that turns out to be inhabited by a vampire.

Where did the album name The Lee Variations originate?

The album name is a nod to Christopher Lee, who played Dracula in the Hammer horror films. He’s the Dracula who appeared on the big screen at the same time that rock and metal were ascendant.


Is it just you and Jean in the band?

Yes.

How did you and Jean meet?

We met at a cabaret.

What instruments do you both play?

I play guitar and we both share duties on synth and drum machine. And we build all of our own instruments — I build electric guitars and we design our own synth patches that we play live using midi controllers.

Who does the singing?

So far, I’ve sung everything for Vinterdracul. Though JF has sung on other projects of ours and may end up singing on a future Vinterdracul release. She has a better voice than me.

How many previous releases?

We’ve released an EP and two full-length digital releases. The new one is essentially part one of a two-part concept. We release everything ourselves and are looking at getting into physical releases. Maybe even alternatives to things like cassettes and vinyl — like publishing a book that includes a download. We’ll see. For now we keep track of everything in an archive we call Canticle Throe. Canticle Throe

How did you get into the vampire themed music?

For us, the draw wasn’t just the idea of the vampire — it was the idea of people like actors and directors of horror movies who made vampires so central to the way they made art. So on the last two albums we’ve written about people who make vampire movies. All of this started around a conversation about what it means and what it can do to you when you are loved for being the villain. Like in the case of Christopher Lee, he made an entire career out of playing villains and really evil people. I’m fascinated by that. I’ve always thought of myself as something of an actor, in regard to how I approach singing, for example. And I’m really interested in the effect that always playing the villain has on a person. Horror movies and vampire stories give us an opportunity to explore that.

Do you write all lyrics, or is it a collaboration?

Generally, JF will come up with an overarching concept and I’ll refine it into lyrics. We take the approach that the lyrics should help to tell the story. So, there is no pretending that they stand up as great poetry on their own — but that’s not really the intention. They are more like the words on a script and they need to be brought to life by an actor.

When you perform live, does your stage show include a "vampire show"?

Now this is a good idea. We’ve been thinking about doing some kind of internet broadcast — and this might be exactly what we should do. We could play music, listen to vampyric metal, have guests on to talk about movies. There would be much fake blood.

Can you see Vinterdracul ever expanding into more band members?

No, we already have two too many.

As a child, were you scared or obsessed with vampires/monsters?

I was definitely obsessed with horror movies. We had a local video store that had an outsized collection of horror on VHS. I remember as kids in middle school spending all summer riding BMX bikes and then going over to someone’s basement to watch horror movies that you often could hardly see on the TV screen on account of the VHS copy being in such poor shape. It was a fantastic time to be a kid.

Do you believe in heaven and/or hell?

I believe that people have the capacity to be endlessly creative. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not.

At any point, do you see Vinterdracul shifting to a different music genre?

That’s actually a really interesting question. One part of me tends to think there is too much emphasis on genre and sub-genre. And it’s not just in heavy music. Same thing happens with electronic music. Same thing happens within folk music. And the nature of digital distribution platforms has just increased it because everything requires genre tags just to get noticed. On the other hand, I like the idea of genre because, when it works, it can deliver a sense of community. And just in terms of the broader category of the horror genre and horror-influenced art and music, I think that’s just a lot of fun and a great source of inspiration to go in any of myriad directions.

In listening to Vinterdracul, my first experience with Vampire rock, do you feel this genre can grow in today's musical landscape or does it remain a cult following?

I’m looking into my crystal ball and when I look at Billboard magazine in five years, I see: Pop, Hip-Hop, and Gothic Black Metal about Vampires.

Any tours planned?

I can barely make it to the grocery store.

You mentioned that you started writing a screen play, is that still a viable option?

Let’s say maybe there were a horror movie producer who saw this interview and contacted me about making the Vinterdracul screenplay into a movie. Then, yes, it would be a viable option.

(laughing) do you sleep in a coffin?

Don’t actually sleep at all. The coffin is decorative.

Your songs are, of course, dark, do you have to be in a certain "mind set" to write?

So, I’ve actually thought about this a lot over the last few years. All of the Vinterdracul work has been completed in the context of the pandemic. There have been times, holed up and quarantined away from everybody, that we felt like maybe taking on dark subject matter wasn’t such a good idea. It definitely gets to your head with prolonged exposure. At the same time, I think there is a sort of undertaker’s humor that goes along with working on this type of material. And I rather like that.

Have you ever, or have plans to visit Transylvania?

Not for the purpose of hunting vampires. There are plenty of them right here at home.

Would you compare your band to any others?

Hmm. While I wouldn’t make direct comparisons, there are a number of bands that we feel are peers and who are making amazing music. We probably share some features with them in regard to our approach to recording and putting out music, beyond just being noisy or heavy or whatever. We’re into Karnstein — vampyric blackened death-doom. Can’t say enough good things about Revered and Reviled Above All Others and their brand of doom violence. I don’t think we’re aesthetically similar except in a superficial way, but I really like Caïna. And then there are projects that aren’t at all musically similar, but which work in this space of conceptual and narrative-driven music. Stuff like Maiden Hair ov England.

I know how I would describe your music/sound, how would you?

I think the goth and black metal and punk influences probably reveal themselves. And in some ways they probably each cancel each other out, like in a math problem. And that’s probably a good starting point in describing our sound. If metal is a continuum between the “heavy” end with huge dropped tuning guitars on one side and a razor-sharp end with lots of blackened fuzz and noise on the other, we’re definitely on the razor-sharp side. I really like mid-range in a bass sound. And my guitar playing uses a lot of legato and single note phrases as opposed to heavy chords and chugging — I picked that up from very non-metal guitar influences like John Scofield and Allan Holdsworth. In the synths, we gravitate towards sort of a modern chamber ensemble sound as opposed to just like leaning on the pads. But in everything there is sort of this midrange thing, with enough articulation to register melody, but everything is recorded and mixed with a bias towards feel as opposed to fidelity. In terms of recording, I’ve always preferred things that were rough and noisy — so the black metal antecedents are obvious, as are maybe things like The Stooges — Funhouse is probably my favorite album of all time. But also all of the home-taping and outsider stuff from the 80s and early 90s. I grew up on that stuff. And so it all ends up in our sound. There is this point in the recording of our song Prince of Darkness where the guitar comes in and it just sounds like the amp’s speaker cone collapses. I love that sound.

Any personal musical influences on you?

First show I ever went to was Bad Brains playing in a small club. That set me on my course. I’ve always been a fan of music that I guess you could call ecstatic. And that’s regardless of genre. From death metal to jazz to bluegrass to opera. I want musical experiences that are overwhelming and leave me either emotionally or intellectually shaken. For my heavy metal, I always return to Priest and to Rainbow. For black metal it’s always Under a Funeral Moon. For death and doom I like early Paradise Lost. For punk and everything like that, I like the absolutely insane art-project stuff like Nation of Ulysses. I love Blondie. And I love Siouxie Sioux. And The Cure. And my favorite band of all time is The Fall. So, in one sense I’m sort of eclectic, but in the other sense this is all electric guitar music. That’s what drew me in. The electric guitar. One of my earliest memories was watching Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park on television with my cousins. I also remember being terrified and intrigued by Alice Cooper. And the earliest musical memories that really resonated with me were AC/DC and Van Halen. I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen as a kid. Right around the time I hit high school, a guitar teacher gave me a copy of the jazz fusion classic The Inner Mounting Flame. And within the same week my cousin lent me some thrash albums and a neighbor got me into Fugazi. And in the neighborhood we were all listening to NWA. And the guy I worked for listened to the Stanley Brothers and Hazel Dickens and Bill Monroe constantly. So, yeah a melting pot of music — but everything absolutely ecstatic and over the top.

Anything else the readers should know about Vinterdracul?

The next album is going to be a companion piece to The Lee Variations. We’ll be taking on the topic of Van Helsing, the vampire hunter. And as inspiration, we’ll be watching a lot of Peter Cushing movies.



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