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Witch Cross's Michael Koch: "We don't really do much escaping these days but for sure turn up the volume (to 11) and forget about your troubles for a while"

Interview with Michael Koch from Witch Cross
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 15 June 2021, 11:40 PM

To be relevant, now that is quite a task to take on. Such phrases as surviving the test of time can be quite a headache for old bands wishing to become something more in the present, perhaps similar or beyond their reputation in their golden, and youthful, years. In order to satisfy a new generation, or at least have some of their attention, their chances to be made. Nonetheless, it depends on the artist because there are that wish to remain true to the bone. Witch Cross has always been true, yet made a few adjustments on being true to the classics of Metal in the now. With the release of the long waited "Angel Of Death", Steinmetal caught chat with Michael Koch of the band in regards to the new age of Witch Cross, the new album and the darkened nature…

Hello Michael, it is with great pleasure for me to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Hi Lior, Thanks for showing interest in our band it's always great to be allowed to have a conversation about something that we as a band enjoy and love.

I believe that it was a little more than a decade ago that I discovered Witch Cross, thanks to one of your most powerful songs ever “Rocking The Night Away”, a hymn of its own accord. A little different side of Danish Traditional Metal no doubt. And it has been going on with you guys up until now. I wonder, how does it feel to be an 80s driven Metal band in particular when nowadays, nearly everything has gone modern?

We didn't really know that people were listening to the old songs so when we found out, we were blown away with the amount of support for the band. Now we are trying to create a more modern version of Witch Cross specially with the new album which we are very proud off.

Talking about modern times, the world is still trying to fight as hard as possible against the pandemic, how has this thing affected you personally? How have you been coping with the situation?

We really miss playing live as we love to connect with the audience but we have been busy writing new songs and done a video for Phoenix Fire from the new album. We really hope things will change very soon as a lot of festivals and venues are struggling due to Covid-19.

It was a few years ago that I listened to “Axe To Grind” and for some reason I had the feeling that you simply went out on an unlimited hiatus. What has been going on in the Witch Cross camp throughout this time up until the new blessing that came forth?

We just played live for a few years and changed the drummer. Now we have Jesper and he's a real kick-ass drummer so once we were happy with what was going on at live gigs we could start planning the new album but then we had a few set-back. However, we were ready to release the album when Covid-19 put a stop to everything. So we can't wait to hear what people think about the new album.

That blessing that I talked about was titled “Angel Of Death”, pretty straight forward I might add, and also rather zealous. Since it was evident, whether through the music and lyrics that the new album’s predecessor was your heritage as a people, this time around it was between darkness and obscurity, wouldn’t you say? What is your take on the surrounding themes of the release?

We enjoyed putting out Axe to Grind in 2013 but it was more a traditional NWOBHM album and since we have played a lot of live gigs we could see people liking the heavier songs. Therefore, we decided to just make the Angel of Death the best album we could. Angel of Death is a lot darker and more sinister than the previous albums but it felt like the right vibe for this band.

I think it was also the first time that you didn’t use your 80s logo for an album, but a logo that is rather simple, modern to be exact, although the music isn’t. What changed your manner of perception of how the band appears on the outside? Was it out of your wish to be relevant with the present times?

To be fair the logo wasn't on Fit for Fight so also we didn't use it on Axe to Grind. For this album we wanted to change things a bit and we really love the art work for the band name on this release as it's fits the cover really well.

Does “Angel Of Death” have a reflection on our current present in matter of the worldwide pandemic crisis or is it rather a means of escaping the harshness into a new, and different, kind of world that in a special way is less provoking?

The album was written before Covid but it is a fitting title to this mad situation we are in at the moment.

We worked on a couple of songs and the Angel of Death song was a strong and kicked some serious butt. Also we picked it as the opening track. And we then decided to call the album Angel of Death as well. We don't really do much escaping these days but for sure turn up the volume (to 11) and forget about your troubles for a while.

As soon as the album started playing, and of course with Kevin Moore on vocals, I felt that sign of the times, the glory days, the amazing early to mid 80s. Witch Cross appears bound by the classics and probably forever will be. Do you believe that even now, with you guys having been around for decades, seeing and feeling a lot, Witch Cross has to prove itself time and time again?

We felt like that on the previous album but this is the album where we decided to make an album without limitation and how we wanted it. No pressure at all as we knew we have good support from the people we have meet at gigs and festivals the last years. We hope people will like this album as much as we do.

When it comes to the nature of darkness within the music, and yes it can also be noticed along with the lyrical content, how were you able to implement that crucial element into the band’s music and of course to generate that immense feel?

The songwriting part was really a matter of writing lots of ideas and it soon became apparent that we felt like this was going to be a heavier album so we just worked hard to make a complete album with songs that worked well together.

Even though you are quite the veteran songwriter, and your experience is vast, would you say that the work on “Angel Of Death” contributed to your skills as a songwriter and musician? If so, did you feel challenged, as if you were able to cross borders that you never crossed before?

I certainly felt that I had some ideas in terms of using slightly different backing vocals but also percussion and even a glockenspiel which I really wanted to try out on this album. When we develop songs we keep going until we are 100% happy so at least we know we have done the best we can in the given situation.

Finding that cohesion between the lyrics and music is somewhat of a task that isn’t that easy to fulfill. How were you able to achieve that on “Angel Of Death”?

Kev Moore and me always talk about lyrics and when I have a riff then we sometimes try to get the title right for the feel of the song. When you then have an idea of lyrics the music falls into place easier.

Mike Exeter and Jacob Hansen were the ones behind the mixing and mastering of “Angel Of Death”, together they made sure that the 80s musical direction of the band would also be in kind for the sound, and boy did they make it happen. How do you find the overall work done on the album’s production?

We are so happy with the album Mike and Jacob did a fantastic job. Mike made everything sounds so amazing and as he has worked with bands like Judas and Sabbath we knew it was going to sounds awesome. Jacob works with a lot of Danish bands and we like the way he applies the mastering element. So yes we were in good hands. We produced the album ourselves so it's always good to let someone else mix and master.

When it comes to being a true classic found, right from the get go I saluted “Warrior”. A musical output that its direction is a sheer proof that traditional Metal has what it takes to survive the test of time and of course, without a cliché, it will never die. How do you find this particular track?

We really like the way the track drives starting with a true metal riff and all the different parts as it develops. The vocals work great with the guitars and I love the kick drum doubling up at the very end.

Being a little more energetic, and I can understand why you also make a video out of it, as it serves as a great single, there is “Phoenix Fire”. It is mythical / legendary type driven, strong in its essence and quite influential. What can you tell about this track’s creation? Do you find it as a game changer for Witch Cross?

Phoenix Fire was the first track we wrote for the new album just like Demon in the mirror was for the previous album so we have had it in the live shows for a number of years which is why it kicks so much ass -  even on the album. It was inspired by Iron Maiden so it has some Traditional metal feel. It's not really a game changer for us as far as I can see but a good video song and great to play live.

Looking forward into the remainder of 2021, from what I noticed the majority of the festivals were postponed to 2022, and so were most of the tours. Do you see Witch Cross performing this year or rather waiting for 2022?

We will be touring the new album next year and hope we can get a few festivals but as you said a lot of venues and festivals are booked already. So we will also work on the next album.

Once everything is back to normal, or the new normal, what is the first thing that you ought to be doing?

Go and support live music the venues and bands need a lot of support after this. We as a band will start booking shows and hopefully be touring in 2022

Michael, I wish to thank you for this interview for your time. You guys are a true classic and “Angel Of Death” is a masterful addition to your heritage. Cheers.

Thanks you so much. It's a privilege to be featured in the metal temple.


 



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