Witch’s Hat | Real Mastery

prof_witch_smThere's some stuff stayed basically the same; there's some stuff that got major overhauls; one song got entirely re-recorded ["Space Baby"]. We went back and just made it sound a lot better. It's a more representative product.





It is a difficult if not impossible task to describe the phenomenon that is Witch's Hat, but the band makes a noble attempt on their myspace page. In response to the "sounds like" query, the Columbia, Mo. four-piece answers with "Fantastical stories told through rock music that you can dance to."

Though the description is true, it does not begin to reveal the intricacies of the universes created in each Witch's Hat song. Singer/lyricist Greg Linde conjures up well-crafted, often hilarious narratives that (depending on the song) transport the listener to gothic, western, pirate, or science fiction worlds. Nor does the short summation illustrate the variety of musical styles the band employs to soundtrack these tales. Witch's Hat use musical elements appropriate to their stories (a metallic attack is used for the futuristic war story "WWVI," a watery guitar effect permeates "Octopus") while still maintaining a distinct sound. Finally, the description fails to convey the excitement of a Witch's Hat show or Linde's ridiculous dancing.

Unfulfilled by this statement, we sat down with Linde and bassist/keyboardist Steve Doerhoff to discuss the processes used to create these songs, the decision to overhaul and re-release their album Mastery of Steel, their latest band member, and the challenge of balancing their jobs with their band.


You had already recorded this album before; why did you feel the need to re-master it and re-record parts? Why not repress the original version?

GL: Basically, the original version was kind of just so we would have something recorded. Once our label [Emergency Umbrella Records] got distribution, it was like, "Is this a product we want to send out nationally?" and the answer was no. So we decided that we should just go back and make some little fixes. There's some stuff stayed basically the same; there's some stuff that got major overhauls; one song got entirely re-recorded ["Space Baby"]. We went back and just made it sound a lot better. It's a more representative product.

So the other one was almost just like a rough draft?

GL: Basically.

I was wondering about the whole creative process. And obviously it's changed a bit since you got a new guitarist.

GL: Yeah.

How do songs get written in your group? Is there any set thing, or does it just kind of happen sporadically?

SD: We just had these brainstorming sessions.

GL: Yeah, we used to have brainstorming sessions for song ideas, which we haven't done recently.

SD: Which we could do again.

GL: Yeah. But a lot of times Steve will have musical hooks or instrumental parts, and then we'll try to devise a story that goes with it or I'll have story ideas and I'll just write stuff and we'll try to put stuff together.

That was the other thing I was going to ask. It seems like all your songs are stories. Is that an intentional design, or just your writing style, or…?

SD: All the things that happen in our lyrics are factual, have actually happened to us…

There's not much creative about it.

SD: Nonfiction

GL: We didn't want to do "I'm so sad, blah blah blah happened to me, feel sorry for me through my music." We decided it was going to be more fun. And so really fun bands out there… Primus or something… you know it's just sillier. And the way to do that most effectively that I've found is to tell a story.

SD: And I think it's stuff that we're actually interested in, whether it be through comics or video games or science fiction, Star Trek or…

Also you guys write a lot of different types of stories. You seem to have a lot of different musical styles.

GL: We like to take a lot from different places, a lot of times just to try to fit the story, and then we'll do moments that will musically fit what the lyrics are saying and do some stuff like that where we really try to combine it as opposed to, "OK, this is the verse and it's not going to be the same for the whole song."

SD: Yeah, it's like, "What's happening in the story right now, how can we help that?"

I guess that kinda works with the whole brainstorming process as far as putting them together, even though you haven't done that in a while as you said.

GL: The brainstorming thing… basically made-up names or ideas and then we worked off that, which we haven't done it that way for a while. I mean we still have been working on stuff and combining stuff but just not from that format.

SD [to GL]: Yeah, did "Glodyany [1972]" start from "gay vampires" or something?

GL: It was a depressed vampire.

SD: Okay

GL: And "World War VI" was just that. "Space Baby" was alien androgyny.

SD: Um-hmm.

GL [to SD]: Yeah, you always wanted a mountain climbing song [ "A Song About Mountain Climbing" or "Mountain Climber," depending on which edition of the album you have].

SD: "Dance Machine," that was just… that came out of nowhere, didn't it?

GL: Yeah, yeah, "Dance Machine" came out of nowhere.

Where did you get the decision to get a megaphone for the band?

GL: You know, I found a little tiny, toy megaphone and I thought it was a really cool vocal effect. And then at one point Steve had gotten me another megaphone but it wasn't very big. It couldn't stand alone in the room. That one actually got stolen from me. Now I got the big loud one. I think it's effective.

You plan to use that in future songs, too?

GL: If it's appropriate for it, yeah.

SD: Usually when you speak on a megaphone versus non, it's a different character in the story, too.

I wouldn't call him the new guitarist, but as the most recent member of the band, Dwayne: what does he do differently than the last guitarist? Do you think he adds a different element to the band?

GL: Yeah, definitely. Their playing styles are a lot different.

He seems like more of a shredder.

GL: He definitely has a lot more capability in that way. He's also much more religious about practicing.

SD [laughing]: On his own

GL: A little more self-started, which is nice.

SD: He comes from a totally different style than what we had. But as we've played together, it's fit together pretty good.

GL: It's meshing.

How do you balance your day jobs and your band?

GL: I have a job where I can basically arrange to get off when I need to. We're about to go on tour for a month and they're not happy about it, but it's working.

SD: …Nepotism. [Everyone laughs]

GL: Yeah, Steve's all nepotism.

SD: I highly recommend it. | Bob McMahon

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