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Witchseeker's Sheikh Spitfire: "I mean for real, I believe many didn’t expect a heavy metal band would exist in Singapore. Some didn’t even know that a country called Singapore existed"

Interview with Sheikh Spitfire from Witchseeker
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 28 February 2021, 10:29 PM

Out of experience, and knowing bands as such, it is never easy to be a Metal musician in a small country, needless to say a small island. Moreover, it is hard to be on a wave of Metal that the larger part of the Metal scene simply is not on. Call it survival or endurance, it doesn't contribute to motivation that much. But, whoever is up to stand up for it is believed to be good and in quality, why not? Witchseeker, of the island of Singapore, are doing the impossible, a Heavy Metal band within a small extreme Metal driven scene. However, they made it happen and now are releasing their sophomore album, "Scene Of The Wild", through Dying Victims Productions. Steinmetal had a chat with band founder, Sheikh Spitfire, about the nature of the band, being kind of isolated, the new album and more…

Greetings Sheikh, it is great to have you with me for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Hey there! Thanks for having me in this online magazine. I’ve been well and busy with work and other stuff. But yeah, all is good. Hope you are too.

I haven’t had the chance to talk to anyone from Singapore yet, quite frankly, I can’t say that I know too many bands out of your country, perhaps a little bit on what is going on the Metal scene other than specifics. Before we dive in, what can you tell of what is going on with the pandemic going on worldwide, was Singapore affected by what has been going on or rather isolated?

I should be thrilled for being the first one from Singapore in this interview then \[laughs]. Well…in Singapore, we have a relatively small but dedicated metal scene. Not much of a big crowd for shows, unless a big international band like Metallica were to play here. There are a couple of great local international acts we have like Impiety, Wormrot that pretty sure many have heard of.

Regarding Covid, what I can say is that we were hit a little rough at the start. I remember when the first Covid case that arrived here on January 23rd, 2020, people were finding mask and sanitizers around to purchase and it was sold out almost everywhere. Following that, the insane panic buy/frenzy at our supermarkets for toilet paper, school closures, and the rise of local infections, especially in the foreign workers' dormitory. But I think what hit us the most were the loss of jobs. People were laid off slowly, unemployed and that took a toll on their mental being. There was a rise of people seeking help for mental health with all the fear, uncertainty, anxiety. We had like our lockdown called “Circuit Breaker” for about 2 months plus. Oh yeah, to top it off, we were in a battle with another evil virus called Dengue fever. As people were mostly quarantined or working from home, mosquitoes began to breed and there was a sharp rise in cases. Some weird times we’re living lately.

Towards the 2nd half of the year, things began to pick up again as certain restrictions were lifted, people started to have jobs again, although there are still people on unemployment. Many had to reskill themselves and jump to another industry to work. Our local cases are also under controlled for now. I wouldn’t say things are back to the way it was, but it is certainly better than from the start.

Usually what I have been receiving from Singapore were brutal kinds of bands, playing varieties of Death Metal. Therefore, I was a little bit surprised when I came to notice Witchseeker. Have been feeling blended in? Do you have other acts locally to play with on shows that are of similar direction?

Actually, a lot of people were surprised when a band like us from Singapore existed. Like you mentioned before, bands here are playing much more of Death and Black Metal. We actually don’t blend in musically because, we’re the only ones in this country that is playing this style. We never had any intention to fit in. We wanted to be different and lead something else.

We have some great local acts that we’ve played with. None are of our style. They lean more on thrash metal, death metal, black metal, grindcore etc. Some of the guys that you could check out would be our friends from Dezaster, Infernal Execrator, Bloodstone, Snaggletooth, Xanadoo, B.C.

Since Witchseeker has been an old school Metal band, and I assume that it will remind of that kind until its last breath, even though we never really know, I wonder what do you find that is missing on the other side of the street, contemporary kind of Metal, even if its popularity has exceeded the tradition over a decade ago?

I believe that it’s missing a little of that lifestyle and rebellious attitude to the music, you know? But what can I say. Its 2021 and we’re living in weird times. Haha.

Following the previous question, other than your passion and devotion for the 80s, which no doubt were a golden era for the genre, what keeps you motivated in playing the traditional vibe?

Hmm…I guess it’s just good, timeless and honest music. And something I can’t get enough of. Growing up, people think that this kind of traditional music is just a phase, but not to me. I just find metal of this traditional kind, just have everything that doesn’t grow old. I’ve had my fair share of messing with various genres of metal and other music over the years, but I just can’t see myself doing anything other than this traditional style that we speak of.

Recently you made another step in your career, as a band, by signing with the German label, Dying Victims Productions. How did you know that it was the right timing to sign with an offshore label? Are you planning to invade Europe anytime soon?

Actually, when I was writing the 2nd album, I knew that these songs will stand the test of time. So this has got to be put out there on a bigger scale and one of the way was to get signed through a label. Not just any label. I had my eyes on record labels that were beyond Asia. From long ago, I had always wanted to put Singapore metal on a global scale. We want to be noticed, we want to be heard. True enough, we hit it off with Dying Victims Productions. One of the best labels around in Europe, releasing relevant bands around. We’re thankful that DVP saw the fire and dedication in us.

Definitely when we’re out of the woods from this Covid chaos, we would want to invade Europe and other parts of the world.

Through Dying Victims Productions you are set to release “Scene Of The Wild”. I have been thinking on which scene you have been talking about, is there a connection to the local scene or rather all the world's a stage kind of thing, where we are united under the banner?

I would say, Scene of the Wild refers more to the wild, exciting, dangerous life of the concrete jungle. I believe many could relate their lives through the songs that we have.

If there is something that I really enjoy looking at is the old school flavor of artworks, plenty of colour and great imaginative vision by its creator. Is it merely for the thrill of it, to look as a traditional Metal band should or does this piece of work have a deeper meaning? Frankly, I can think of various interpretations but I would like to hear you out

Actually, the artwork itself has no meaning. I was discussing again with Mario Lopez, the guy that created the artwork for Scene of the Wild and also our debut album, When the Clock Strikes (2017). So I wanted to continue his art style because, he delivers the best works. I was throwing ideas to Mario like, hey man, I got this new album and it's called Scene of the Wild and I have these songs and any ideas you have in mind? He’ll give me a draft of what he has in mind and I’ll throw in some ideas here and there, and then he just delivers it! Awesome dude, fun to work with, big King Diamond fan! Check out Mario Lopez works if you haven’t!

As an old schooler myself, one of my favorites waves of 80s Metal are from the US, and I was glad to listen that Witchseeker has been flying high on the margins of US Power and Speed Metal along with the obvious, yet needed, directions of NWOBHM and bits of Hard Rock. This boiling hot soup has the right formula of a vintage Metal album. How do you believe that you guys developed your skills, whether as musicians or songwriters, while working on “Scene Of The Wild”?

Naturally, when we wrote this album, we didn’t really want to stick to one particular style. I had this vision for the album that the songs would have various elements. And true enough, the 4 of us are different in our style of playing. Like Brandon (Guitars), he has this blues/punk/thrash style, Nick (Guitars) has this technical/shredding touch, Aip (Drums) is this hard hitting speed/thrash playing and I have a thing on just keep it all melodic and Rock N Roll. Haha. The guys are some of the best musicians I’ve known and played with honestly.

Like any band that treats its creation as the high and mighty, what is your view in regards to “Scene Of The Wild” being a special kind of release, in particular being part of a massive market with plenty of old school driven albums? What makes this album uncanny?

For one thing, it's made in Singapore. Haha. I mean for real, I believe many didn’t expect a heavy metal band would exist in Singapore. Some didn’t even know that a country called Singapore existed. This album I would say, says everything a timeless heavy metal album should be…loud, timeless and true.

Prior to the making of “Scene Of The Wild”, Witchseeker became a quartet, which I know that for many bands it is quite a change. How do you believe that this addition to the band contributed to the end result of the new record?

When I was writing the album, I figured that these songs need more than just 1 guitar player as there was a lot of melody and shredding going on. I needed another guitar player to compliment the other. I wouldn’t say it contributed much in the end result of the record. It’s more of it contributed a lot when it comes to our live shows.

“Candle In The Dark” is one of the few examples on the album that are somewhat odd in the scenery that you were trying to create. It is not as straightforward as the others but rather mysterious, and yet also emotional, as if pining in a way. What can you tell about this track’s creation? Is there a chance that this track is a pathway for darker motifs over the band’s future material?

You’re right with this one. Candle in the dark came in naturally as the lyrical content was dealing more of how living in this world of sin, there will come a time in everyone’s lives, that they’re going to get hurt real bad. And if you can’t handle these demons, they’re going to consume you and take you down. Musically, its more experimented and shows a different side of us.

The possibility is there, that the future material will be a little darker oriented. Thanks to Covid and all, it gave me the opportunity to do a little reading, writing and watching some documentaries. Just maybe…it might be a concept album. I already have like 8 song ideas with 2 songs complete. A new album definitely in the works!

Sinful, sharing values of both Rock and Metal, tending its melodies to create a kind of suspension, flying the flag of British Metal, you created “Sin City”. What is your appreciation of this track?

This is definitely one of the tracks, that has NWOBHM DNA written all over it. My appreciation for this one would be definitely paying like a tribute to the NWOBHM heroes and adding our personal touch to it. Personally is one of those songs for me that is like an anthem or experience.

I have been listening to plenty of Tokyo related songs over the years, songs that always make me realize that it is quite the city to be in, a night kind of city. What is the experience that is being told within this song, or it is rather a symbol of the better life?

Actually it’s more of someone else’s experience. You know how these days' people would just get it on with anyone or anything that moves. I came across a few people that had these, one off holiday thing where they just travel somewhere from here, get it on with their lustful desires and that’s it. And either one of them, would end up seeking more than just lust and how they wish they could rewind back to that moment to have something more and how they can’t let it go. And yeah, I’ll hear places like Tokyo would be a spot for these “holiday trips”. \[laughs]. So watch out who you’re getting it on with!

Have you been performing throughout this time, if the island has been isolated of course, if not, how have you been trying to promote the album?

Not at all, our last show was somewhere in Halloween of 2019. Since Covid hit everywhere, we have not been playing any show at all even locally as all entertainment venues are still closed. I know some bands are doing these livestream shows here and there. Maybe we’ll do one but we’ll see.

How we have been promoting this album is by the power of the internet. Sharing our single’s on all streaming sites and promoting them on Facebook, Instagram etc. It’s how people been consuming music these day. Also, we share the reviews and interviews we got. Some publicity is still better than no publicity I would say.

Like right now, we can’t travel to play shows so we’ve got to make our music do the travelling for us. Overall, keep pushing anything that is put out.

Sheikh, many thanks for your time for this interview. Thank you for flying the flag of Heavy Metal, it is refreshing to hear this kind of material from Singapore. All the best mate. Lior  

Thanks again for having me. It’s been a pleasure. Hope to see you someday when the Covid dies out!


 
 



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