“We Want Rock n’ Roll to be Dangerous Again”: In Conversation with Bewitcher bassist Andreas Magus

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, “Satanic speed metal” trio Bewitcher has become a major force to reckon with in the US heavy metal underground since their 2013 inception, and after the 2016 release of their self-titled debut full-length in particular. Known for their relentlessly fast and violent tunes and off-the-chains ritualistic live performances, Bewitcher looks all set to conquer the metal underground and rise above the surface in the foreseeable future. As of right now, Bewitcher is getting ready to embark on the “Western Blasphemy” US West Coast mini-tour. Bassist Andreas Magus spoke to Metal Assault recently about the tour and all other things Bewitcher. Enjoy the conversation below, and join the Satanic speed metal cult!

Andreas, it’s good to have you on Metal Assault. I’ve been hearing about Bewitcher quite a lot in the last year or so, but you guys have been around for a little bit longer than that. First of all, just for an introduction to readers, can you tell me a little bit about how you guys started out in 2013?

Sure! Me and Mateo, the lead singer and guitar player, our previous band folded, and we were just kind of hanging out, kicking around the idea of starting something new. Basically he came up with the concept of doing something along the lines of “let’s marry Motörhead and Venom”. Those are two of my favorite bands as well, so it was kind of a no-brainer. That was early 2013, and around that time we also started discovering bands like Midnight and Speedwolf, who were already kind of spearheading this sound, I guess. So we took what they were doing as a template, as well as the influence from the early first wave black metal sound, kind of that Motörhead d-beat groove, and we started working on some demos. Through the 3-year period between 2013 and ’16, we released some cassette demos around the world, limited to around 50 copies each, and we sold out of them almost immediately in all cases. So, at that point we found a drummer and started gigging, and that’s also when Diabolic Might Records came along and decided to put out a full-length for us. From that point, we’ve been on the map, and haven’t looked back, I guess (laughs).

That’s true! You play this brand of “Satanic speed metal”, which like you said, is inspired by the old-school classics but also the younger bands that have been doing it for the last decade or so. I think it’s a good thing that you’re doing something along the same lines, because people who like this style, they want to discover newer bands that play a similar style. You don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel.

Exactly! The term “Satanic speed metal”, I don’t think we were the originators, but we always had a big interest in the occult and witchcraft. When we were looking at this genre of speed metal, there was just this vacancy or hole where nobody was really touching on those subjects within this sound at that time, around 2013. Midnight dabbles in it but I think they’re all across the board with their subject matter. Other than that, there was nobody else. So we feel that in some way we’re the progenitors of this niche corner in speed metal (laughs). And during these past few years we found all sorts of bands that all discovered this either through us or on their own, which is really exciting because now the sound is just growing. Just the term “speed metal” is now a very popular term that everyone throws around, which is very exciting, because even five years ago, almost nobody used that term, and now you hear it all the time. Everyone is listening to speed metal, which is awesome.

Bewitcher self-titled full-length (2016) album cover

Your bio says, “Rock n’ roll is the devil’s music and heavy metal is its bastard child.” Truer words have never been said, because I always think that it all comes under the same family tree. I don’t separate rock and metal, like a lot of people do. I think it’s cool that metal is going back to the roots in that sense, adapting that same rock n’ roll tendency that was prevalent four or five decades ago.

Oh yeah, and that’s what it all really came down to when we first talked about  what Bewitcher was going to be and what we wanted to achieve. We kept coming back to that era of music when it was dangerous, when your parents were afraid for you, that you were worshipping the devil when you were sitting in your room listening to heavy metal. We really kind of latched onto that early ’80s thing, the “Satanic panic”, and that was real! It’s just a novelty now. The world is so desensitized nowadays. Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, people were really freaked out! You can even trace this all the way back to Elvis Presley .. Rolling Stones .., Led Zeppelin … Black Sabbath .. I mean, these bands who were pioneering what they did. Every time that happens, society is jolted, and a lot of them don’t know what to make of it. It scares them, and to them it’s evil. That’s what I think rock n’ roll stems from. It’s meant to be dangerous. Your parents are not supposed to like it. So, that’s definitely a huge influence for us. I love that element of music. For lack of a better example, I grew up with Guns ‘N Roses. When GNR was at the height of their infamy, they were dangerous. You didn’t even know whether they were going to perform on a given night! Was Axl Rose going to get arrested? There was just this element of danger. I think that has been lost and that is what we’re trying to reclaim. A lot of the artists and musicians who are in the same category as us, we’re all on the same page. We want it to be dangerous again.

That’s very cool. And from what I can tell, you guys have developed a good fan-following, specially since the full-length came out. Do you think that’s partly because of the demo tapes that were circling around, or is your live show a big part of it as well?

I think it’s definitely a combination. We were actually amazed by the immediate response to the demos, right out of the gate. After the demos sold out, we had people from all over the world contacting us and asking when we were going to release the second edition or where can they find copies. That’s pretty exciting when it’s just two guys recording stuff in the bedroom (laughs), putting it online and on cassettes and letting the world just feast on it. So we knew we were onto something based on that response. But, playing live is very important to us. It’s not just a concert. We really want to create a “ritual” kind of experience. It’s meant to be very liberating and very rock n’ roll. I think when people see us, and it’s one of those special nights, I really believe that people connect with it, that primal urge to let loose, forget about the day job and the bullshit, and just bang your head and worship at the throne of heavy metal. That’s very important to us and I think that’s why we connect with a lot of people. We try to get the vibe through in all the albums, artwork, t-shirts and all that kind of stuff, but you really have to be part of a show to really experience it.

Totally agreed. You said that the live show is important and you guys have done a good amount of touring already. Do you think you’re a band that wants to be on tour a lot, or do you think it’s equally crucial to find a balance where you’re not touring excessively or burning yourselves out?

Well, right now, we’d like to have that balance but we also realize that we’ve got to strike while the iron is hot. Honestly, being on tour, I don’t take it on granted. It’s the greatest thing a person in heavy metal can do. Living on the road to me equals absolute and real freedom. There is no day job to get to, I’m not worried about the bills. All that stuff is taken care of. Now it’s just about getting to the next city and putting on a show. I love living in the moment like that. So we’re really trying to push this as hard as we can, get out and tour as much as we can, and keep coming back to the same cities, ones that did well and even ones that didn’t do that well, trying to find new cities, and just keep reaching people. We’ve grown up in this scene and we’ve watched other bands do this and live the dream. We realize that we’re at that point where you have to make that decision. Are you going to worry about the day job and the bills, or are you going to live your live and actually go out there and do it? That’s the choice we’ve made. This is all that matters. At the end of the day, man … it’s that cliche. When you’re on your death bed, do you want to look back with regret or not? We choose not to. We choose to live in the moment and play heavy metal (laughs).

That’s the way to do it! Talking of touring, you guys have a little West Coast run coming up?

Yeah, basically we got invited to return to the Frost & Fire Festival in Ventura again this year. We’re going to be the last band to play the fest this year, which is going to be really cool. We’re doing the after-party on Saturday night, and following Satan which is awesome (laughs). By that point in the night, everyone is going to be nice and lubed up, so it’s going to be a party. But once we got offered that, we knew we had to make it worthwhile. We’re not going to just go down to Ventura and play one show. So that’s when we teamed up with Sheldon Byer from Road Rash, and he had already started working on shows, so he pretty much kept offering us opportunities. So we just built up that tour with them and Soul Grinder, down through Southern California and then slowly work our way back home. So it’s just a quick little final tour of the year, and also, it’s really the final tour of the first album’s touring cycle. We’ve been touring for almost a year and we’ve done three full North American tours, so this will be like a culmination of all that. And the fact it’s with Road Rash and Soul Grinder who are all really good friends, it’s just going to be a party. We’re still going to bring that Bewitcher show and that ritual experience, but it’s also just an opportunity to hang with our buds and blow off some steam (laughs).

That sounds great! And yes I was going to ask you about the next album, since it’s been more than two years since the first full-length came out. What’s the progress on that and what’s your plan?

So actually, we’re pretty excited to announce that we’ve signed with Shadow Kingdom Records. We made the major announcement a couple of weeks ago. We’ve already got the second album recorded. We’re looking at a Spring 2019 release, and you can expect a 7-inch single to be released prior to that. But right now we’re in the mixing and mastering phase, and everything that goes into an album, working on the art and all that stuff. So the plan is, ideally if the offers come in and the right opportunities present themselves, we’re going to be on tour pretty much for the next two years starting next Spring. We want to hit everywhere, we want to tour the entire world!

– by Andrew Bansal

Bewitcher “Western Blasphemy” 2018 tour dates w/ Road Rash & Soul Grinder:
10/06/2018 – Ventura, CA @ Frost & Fire Fest *
10/07/2018 – Long Beach, CA @ Que Sera
10/08/2018 – Fullerton, CA @ Slidebar
10/09/2018 – San Diego, CA @ Til Two Club
10/11/2018 – Reno, NV @ Shea’s Tavern
10/12/2018 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder
10/13/2018 – Portland, OR  @ Twilight

* = no Soul Grinder

Bewitcher links: facebook | instagram | bandcamp