Stephen O’Malley

canceled flight wasnt so bad after all!

Posted: Feb 24, 2005

So the snow here in NYC canceled my outgoing flight to Melbourne via LA. Bummer. Not a good way to start a 6 week tour/journey. Returned home to many new vinyl pressings. GrimmRobe 2LP. ULVER remixing SUNN test pressings. EARTH remix album test pressings. Could be a worse end to that episode!

Here's an old BURNING WITCH interview written at least 5 years ago. The bitch was not yet either semi or fully decayed. Thanks to the German warlock Simon Goertz for sharing it again. Solonari sure didnt stand the test of time!





‘At one performance, six people passed out when an actress, whose eyeball was just gouged out, re-entered the stage, revealing a gooey, blood-encrusted hole in her skull. Backstage, the actors themselves calculated their success according to the evening's faintings. During one play that ended with a realistic blood transfusion, a record was set: fifteen playgoers had lost consciousness. Between sketches, the cobble-stoned alley outside the theatre was frequented by hyperventilating couples and vomiting individuals.‘

--Mel Gordon, The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror

The above quote aptly captures the blood-soaked catharsis released by the infamous Parisian shock-drama known as the theatre du Grand Guignol and strangely parallels the sonic catharsis released by the ‘heavier than comprehension‘ Burning Witch.
The tiny theatre started, innocently enough, producing theatrical adaptations of the violent crimes reported in Parisian newspapers. As fate would have it, this soon mutated into realistic representations of sickening, unimaginable horror.
This band's story started, innocently enough, with a ‘doom‘ act called Thorr's Hammer that mutated into Burning Witch.
I had a chance to speak with Stephen O'Malley, guitarist of Burning Witch, about labels, genre-damning categories, proper doom bands, catharsis, sound as sculpture, graphic design and a few things in between. [ This interview was conducted roughly six months ago. - JM]

Stephen began, "There was a band called Thorr's Hammer, in Seattle. We played together for a while, but eventually broke up. Myself, the other guitar player and the drummer, from Thorr's Hammer, decided to keep playing together and it eventually metamorphosed into Burning Witch once we got our bass player. That was sometime in 1995. Then Edgy, our singer, joined in early 1996." He continued, "The other guitar player, Greg Anderson, left and formed a band called Goatsnake. Our original drummer Jamie Sykes left Seattle, so we found another drummer. He filled Jamie's place and even played drums on our second recording, but he left and Jamie has since rejoined the band."
The current line-up of Burning Witch consists of Stephen on guitars, Edgy 59 on vocals, Jami Sykes on battledrums and Stuart Dahlquist on bass. This whole scenario, of course, would not be proper without a unique twist. Stephen explains, "Stuart, our bass player, lives in Seattle, I live in Los Angeles and Jamie, our drummer, lives in England. Edgy is in his own world." [ Since this interview, Stephen has relocated to New York City. - JM]
This situation has to make for difficult working and creative conditions. Stephen agreed, "Yes, it is difficult, but that's how things are. I really cannot explain them in a logical way. As for now, I think we are working on material. At the present, we are negotiating with Candlelight Records to do another record, but that is all up in the air. We have already agreed on an advance recording budget, but on the other hand, we do not have a contract yet, so it could all be neither." [ With Stephen living in New York it remains to be seen if Burning Witch will record again. - JM]
To digress, is Candlelight Records not a Black Metal label?
Stephen stated, "I do not know if I would call Candlelight Records a "black metal" label. They have a few black metal bands, but they actually have a few atmospheric, Goth-oriented bands and that is what I generally associate with that label. I like the label."
The difficult, almost disjointed, working conditions are one thing. To further complicate matters, depending on how you view the situation, Edgy 59 sings in another band called Sinistar who are close to completing a deal with the major label Sony.
When asked if this scenario might create further problems Stephen said, "I'm sure it will. I'm sure he will have some sort of contract, or stipulation, with the label were he won't be able to record with any other bands as Edgy. Of course, we could have someone else record with us, that is not named Edgy, but sounds exactly like him - let us say another aspect of his personality. Honestly, Burning Witch would not have the same character at all without Edgy. Edgy's vocals are unusual, but they fit perfectly within the framework of our sound." Continuing he said, "Yes, I think it would create problems, but in Hollywood things like this happen every day. I don't know what to believe. If it happens that would be great, because that is what he wants, but, Hollywood... I don't know what's realistic. The fact that you don't live in this environment is good."
As if all those factors were not enough, there seems to be an interesting reactions revolving around an advertising tactic used by Southern Lord Records to promote their release of Burning Witch's Crippled Lucifer [ Seven Psalms For Our Lord of Light] CD, which states something about the "slaying of false doom hippies."
"That statement, if you will, is the label's advertising ploy. Southern Lord is run by Greg Anderson, one of my best friends. Ironically, I'm also pretty involved in the label, but I did not write that, he did. I understand why he wrote that, but it sort of creates this artificial conflict, or opinion, because the band doesn't have really anything to do with that. It is not that I support hippies, but it has nothing to do with the band at all. It is kind of cheesy. I totally understand why that statement was made, let's say it was a provocative thing, and there's a bunch of bands now playing this watered-down rock style and still considering themselves doom, which is fine, but I think it was meant to provoke the fans that are into those kind of bands, or possibly create interest in people that are not satisfied with those ‘lighter‘ bands."
So it would be fair to say that Burning Witch is a doom band? I have seen the phrase 'total doom at a molasses pace' used to describe Burning Witch's devastating sonic sound.
"We are a doom band if you want to categorize us like that," he stated bluntly. Continuing, how can I say, with a little more acidity in his voice, "I think genres are something that shouldn't exist. Genres are something that journalists, no offense, have created to make their jobs easier. By categorizing bands, within genres, it gives the reader a closer idea of what the band sounds like, which is fine, but at the same time it also puts these barriers on their sound and I think that most good bands can be put in categories that are generally better then those categories. Take for example, Emperor. They are categorized as "the" black metal band - one of the ultimate black metal bands, which they are, but there are so many more elements to their sound. Consider their classical influences. As far as Burning Witch is concerned, and in regards to the doom scene... The proper doom scene is extremely small. Burning Witch has more in common with Grief, the Melvins or Eyehategod, then with the proper doom metal scene and bands like Pentagram or Solitude Aeturnus. Those doom metal bands are more dramatic, expressive and weeping."
So describe Burning Witch?
"Burning Witch is more primal..."
Or feral?
"...Or feral in a way..."
What about aggression?
"...Burning Witch is more powerful, than overtly aggressive. It has its own unique aggression. It is sort of a cleansing sound, especially in regards to the vocals. They are extremely penitent, and combine that with our sound, and what Edgy's actually saying, and it comes across as if he is trying to save himself somehow."
As for the song writing process, Stephen said, "Edgy 59 writes the lyrics. He shows up and goes for it. Whatever he wants to do... We might suggest something occasionally. In the band, everyone does everything in regards to their specific instrument. The only thing that is collaborated upon are the riffs between myself and Stuart."
Those riffs Stephen spoke about make an excellent starting point in regards to Burning Witch's recordings. Burning Witch worked with Steve Albini on the Towers LP in 1996 and recorded Rift.Canyon.Dreams with Aaron Evil in 1997.
As for working with Steve Albini of Rapeman/Big Black infamy Stephen stated, "He was amazing to work with. Steve Albini is an incredible engineer."
The Towers LP was released on Slap A Ham Records in 1998. The Crippled Lucifer CD, which combines both the Towers and the Rift Canyon Dreams recordings, was released by Southern Lord Records earlier in 1998?
Stephen explains, "We were trying to find someone to release our material. A couple of labels were interested, but they flaked out. One of the labels I sent a tape to was Slap A Ham. We didn't hear anything, then a year or so later, when I was living in England, I got a postcard from Slap A Ham's Chris Dodge that said, 'You know that tape you sent me? I've been listening to it every day.' And he said that he wanted to put out some of our material, especially the Steve Albini material. He really liked the music, so he pressed the Albini material and it is called Towers. And I am pretty happy about that because I had never had an LP of my own, come out, before." He continued, "Crippled Lucifer came out, because Greg Anderson, who runs Southern Lord and who played in Thorr's Hammer and Burning Witch in the beginning, wanted to put it out. The CD was actually released before the Towers LP, but the LP was arranged prior to the CD being arranged. I hope it doesn't confuse people. Towers is a proper LP, the Crippled Lucifer CD is more of a compilation."
Crippled Lucifer, for recorded sound, breathes with a leaden, preternatural life almost beyond the thresholds of tolerance. At the risk of draining someone's ire, "total doom at a molasses pace" is not that far from the mark. The oppressively heavy, monolithic, feedback-laden riffs build each dirge slowly, enveloping and then constricting, ultimately leading towards complete sense paralyzation. The penitent, shrieking vocal style of Edgy 59, that Stephen mentioned before, cuts through the dense tapestries with a unimaginable, inhuman immediacy. This merciless barrage of punishing sound seems to offer an omnipresent "god's eye view" of sound quite beyond normal, mortal comprehension.
He explained, "Burning Witch is about sculpture and the tempo is very definitive as certain textures that come across through the riffs."
What about the speed, I use that term loosely, at which the songs are played?
Laughing he stated, "Burning Witch is really slow. But, with the music it is more of a release than anything."
Would calling Burning Witch punishing through repetition be fair?
"You could say that the music is meant to punish you. The songs are composed in mirror images of themselves and the riffs...It is more like architecture then proper pop songs, with chorus, verse, chorus, solo. We are creating this monument out of sound and in order to do that, in some of the songs, we have to build a pretty big foundation and create certain moods in the listener and ourselves. Sometimes it takes a long repetition of riffs, or punishment if you will, to get to that level. As for myself, I don't know about the others, the fact that by repeating the riffs so many times...It puts you in this trance mode, which is one of the reasons for playing in Burning Witch. I would like the fans to become entranced..."
Mind control? One of my favorite topics of conversation...
"...It may sound like mind control. Burning Witch is not a malevolent form of mind control, but we like to create a certain mood, possibly contemplative, in people. Edgy's whole perspective on what he is doing in the band is very mind control oriented."
Switching subjects abruptly, I had read somewhere that you founded the well respected Descent Magazine.

"Yes, I created the magazine. I guess I am the editor, the designer and do some of the writing. There is a new issue coming out as soon as I finish the layout. I didn't do very much of the writing in this new issue..." His tone seemed rather blase for someone who has complete control over a project like that. He continued, "Descent used to be a release, but now it has become...I think this might be the last issue coming up, because I think it is time to bury it. [Volume Five, the Death Issue, hit the stores this past June. I have no further word on Descent's future. - JM] I do not get the same satisfaction out of it anymore. I would rather do other things, like play music and design albums. I would like Burning Witch to take up more of my time."
That is completely understandable. Are you involved in any other projects at the moment?
"Yes. There is another band that I am in with Xan Hammack who played in Divine Eve and Crimson Relic. The bass player and drummer from Morgion are also members. Actually, the guitars on Morgion's new album Solinari were played through my amps so that's why the guitars sound so heavy," he stated with a hint of pride. "By the way, their new album is really good."
Stephen also designs albums for Misanthropy Records. [Realize that since this interview was conducted Misanthropy Records is no more. The last release on Misanthropy was Burzum's Hlidskjalf album, which Stephen happened to design. - JM]
"Yes, I have designed every Misanthropy release for the last two years: Burzum, In The Woods, Mayhem, Solstice and the Presumed Guilty compilation CD. I also designed Emperor's Anthems To the Welkin At Dusk and their latest album, IX-Equilibrium."
Speaking of design, the cover image for Crippled Lucifer is a rather striking piece. "The cover image was done by a Surrealist painter named Max Ernst. I found that in a book about dreaming. Of course, I altered it a bit. There is a second edition of Crippled Lucifer coming out with different artwork that I think is more appropriate. I am not happy with the original cover. Designing albums is not easy to do, but for some reason, designing my own band's album was extremely hard. I never thought about the music in such visual terms before, so finding the best design concept was difficult."
Can we expect any new material in the near future?
"The new Crippled Lucifer CD should be released in April. [ The new version is out and the artwork is somber, yet stunning. - JM] We are supposed to have a split 10" with Goatsnake coming out on HydraHead Records, but I do not know when, and if, it will happen.

John Mincemoyer



Never heard of this band before even if they’re terrorizin the unholy spheres of blacking funeral dirge since the early days of Thorr's Hammer, their previous heavy dooming outfit of death. First I got in contact with their guitarrero Stephen, but he send me further away towards the dark dungeon of Bootsy Kronos, the until now relatively unknown bass guitar tormentor of th‘ Witch( now also with the infamous Goatsnake). These shadows surrounding him are now unveiled to a certain degree by the following conversation about sex
( some hints), drugs( quite an amount) and heavier rock’n fucking roll( all the way down) than the grimreaper himself.

Stuart, tell me bout the early days and nights of the Witch and how the hammer transformed into a burning witch.
And how did you guys hook up each other, Greg of Engine Kid, Steve of Descent and you Stuart of don't know perhaps liquor, valium and Venom? What happened to the beautiful Norwegian valkyrie who fronted the Hammer?

Burning Witch is the direct descendent of Thorr‘s Hammer. Greg and I were both in fairly successful bands, Engine Kid and Hungry Crocodiles respectively. We had seen each other play and even done some shows together ( Engine Kid always blew me away...) plus my youngest brother Michael plays drums in Silkworm who had toured with E.K. so it was only a matter of time till Greg and I hooked up. This town Seattle isn‘t very big!
We all ( Greg, Stephen, Boggy) met while getting drunk, er, I was actually on the wagon, at a Tad show and walked around the corner to my car shop where I had some gear, drums and amps and stuff, and Greg said try tuning down and the Witch was birthed! At that time Runhild was back in Norway so we had to find a vocabulist. We thought of Greg cuz he can sing well but really we needed a front man and I knew Edgy 59 was interesting and talented so he sang and that worked out aswell. I was never in Thorr‘s Hammer, and never met Runhild... thats a drag.

What about the sinister droning and drowning in sound twinbrother of the Witch namely Sunn? Is this a kinda tribute to Earth, coz they use they same amplifiers or is it something totally of it's own?

Earth is certainly a huge influence on Sunn as well as Burning Witch. There‘s something I think really guttural in the droning and warping of these guitars, I imagine people who listen to didjurydo stuff ( which I can‘t really listen to) get sort of the same thing out of that. I mean its really interesting to listen to but you can also tune it out and it becomes atmosphere, like smoke or like a really clearheaded drunk it can be disorienting yet open up fresh perspectives. It‘s all in your mind and you, the listener, can do whatever you like with what ever your introspections lead you towards. Sounds like doctrin of some kind... Everybody should practice Earth!

Are there any other projects besides Sunn and Goatsnake inhabiting members of the Witch? And besides what are you guys striving for, musically?

Music of others, Greg or Stephen? I don't really know. Greg is working hard on his label Southern Lord and I think he‘s having some success. I know he just quit his job to pursue that as his primary interest. Stephen is in NYC doing freelance art for some labels there and living with his girl. Edgy 59 I'm afraid I havent kept in the best contact with. He's in LA and probably chasing the record deal of the century which has always been his goal I think. Maybe mine aswell. I'm restoring cars in Seattle. We all though, are thinking music, music, music, and writing more hopefully compelling material as individuals. I'm very sure we will do another album as it‘s a hell of a lot of fun and as friends we get along aswell. I've came up with some pretty interesting riffs lately, some of which are very much in the realm of BW and hopefully we'll be playing together again soon. Oddly enough the last time Stephen and I played we found we had written virtually the same riffs... after not jamming together for about 8 months!

Is Seattle really as desolate as it seems? The only things I can associate with the city are dead grunge( with it’s brains being blown out... ), of course quality Queensryches and narcoleptic Nevermores plus Sub Pop records which released some fine albums( also the Earth gems).

Its funny but I don‘t really consider Nevermore or Queensryche when I think of Seattle bands( defintely!). I don‘t think of Burning Witch either I suppose because the 'Seattle sound' became a genre in itself it seems, and these and quite a few other bands really don‘t fit the stereotype.
I actually hung out with the Queensryche cats when just out of high school. We all played at keggers and roller rink battle of the bands type shows. At the time there wasn‘t much more to do. Jeff Tate and I worked at a telemarketing job selling carpet cleaning over the phone. I think we're both real glad that job didn‘t last long... I think he owns his own jet

Nevertheless the area you live by gotta be naturewise very beautiful with it's numerous lakes and hills. What about that? Tell me of your surroundings.

Seattle is fuckin amazing! If you can see past the intolerant police, city counsel, regulatory bullshit, its really a great city. The surroundings are truly picturesque and its not hard to get far enough away from the city to forget it‘s even there. The water‘s pretty cold and it‘s true, it rains a lot. I am not tan!

How do you kill your average day up in the north of the States?

Any and every day starts with lots of coffee backed by brutal shitting, just like anyone else in Seattle got to have that coffee or the bowels won‘t move. I eat the same thing everyday, bacon and eggs. I go to work and have a beer or two after then get cleaned up and usually pick up the bass and work on some music. Lately I've been writing a few things so very little reheasal with others unless someone wants to jam or something. Lots of feedback noise control! Also lots of reading, currently Jaun Rulfo's 'Burning Plain' and a German/English side by side book of poems by Georg Trakl. Man, that guy is good. I'm trying to teach myself German... pretty tough language ya got there. At the end of the day it‘s bedtime and I masturbate furiously until drifting off to blissful sleep.

Explain also to our dear readers why you carry the stagename
‘Bootsy Kronos‘? Do the other members of the Witch also carry evil pseudonyms like you?

I dont think Bootsy Kronos is all that evil...( yeah and I dont think I meant that evil dead serious) I think it‘s funny actually. It came about at a Thorr‘s Hammer rehearsal (just prior the onset of Burning Witch) cuz I'm deathly into Bootsy Collins and Metal. The combination naturally makes up my moniker. I am no monomaniac when it comes to music, everything from Mayhem, to Ultramagnetic, to Pederecki, Miles, Nina Simone... it‘s just got to have soul. One thing I really want to hear more of is Digital Hardcore, sadly I'm way behind. Outside of Merzbow I don‘t know shit, but it appeals to me. We laughed our heads off at Bootsy Kronos!
Edgy 59; if you knew him 'Edgy' is real easy, he's fairly high strung. Like all of us he likes the drugs but his choice is speeds where as mine are the downers. He was entirely sober when I first met him. 59 is ( partial explaination) THE year in the states of the most amazing automotive design and Edgy is fully tuned into that fact. He owns a Studabaker and I a couple of Oldsmobiles and an Edsel. That‘s how we originally met, through our cars.

How many live shows did you play? Do you remember anything outstanding? How did the crowd react towards your orthodox funeral anthems( sounds sth like sacral church instrumentals, but what I actually meant was unorthodox hahah)? I myself for example would just love to witness the first song of the Towers LP live( ‘you said I‘d be wastin my time... my life over and over again... dahdahdah..‘). We played that shit a lot in our holidays.

What Orthodox funeral anthems? B.W. has played about a dozen shows most of which have been in Seattle. A few here were pretty good but I'd say the best was one in San Francisco when Slap a Ham released 'Towers' . We played really well, the crowd ( it was packed) understood... rarely have I felt so good about an audience as I did that night. We got paid as well. Once I booked my old funk band for a show in Everett (near Seattle geographically, 1,000 miles away culturally) and showed up with Burning Witch instead. The doom was so on, corpse paint, volume; in 30 seconds 3/4's of the Christian drunkard sinners ran for the door and the lights and PA were shut off. We finished that first song (Sea Hag) and the bouncers pushedus off. They refused to pay us and as I fought with the manager and prick bouncers; Boggy, bless his shrivelled black heart, stole their keys. Everything; door, bar, safe, liquor cabinet, toilets, owners car, house...there must have been 150 keys on that ring. Like Hansel und Gretel we tossed them out the van window all the way home. The bar called a few times with threats and pleading but fuck that... don‘t fuck with the Witch!

Your second album Rift.Canyon.Dreams or something will be released in Germany by Volker of Merciless Records as Stephen told me. How did you get in contact and when will it be out? Anything about the layout?
And by the way who‘s the one smokin the bong on the second song of that album( were you probably inspired for this thru the Down album, whoah I love that sound)?

O'Malley put that deal together and is just now done with the artwork. I haven‘t seen it yet but I like his art so I'm sure this will be as usual, a masterpiece. Rift Canyon Dreams will be out in October or somewhen like that...
The bong hit? O'Malley as well. As far as inspiration I'd call it love of pot. Who doesn‘t have a bong hit on a record... 'New Kids'? I can't believe that shit is still illegal for cryin' out loud.

Staying there at the dope theme I wanna ask you about drug laws in the States. What kind of problems do you have to encounter if you're sweetening your life with illegal substances e.g. narcotica? How do the consequences look alike? Personally, did you ever get caught in such circumstances?

Narcotics? Actually I've never been caught. Many, many close calls though. Pot hasn‘t been my drug of choice for many years but I sure appreciate the things it‘s done for my friends and I, creatively and just for good ol' funnin around. Now alcohol, there‘s my calling. I like to mix valium and booze, usually 3 or 4 10's to nine or ten beers. Any shots are pleasing aswell and then see what happens. Never drive with this concoction in your system, try wrestling with your girlfriend or something... powerful good sex can be had. When I was younger the booze laws were pretty lax in the states; driving drunk was nothing out of the ordinary and many a good ol' boy and girl got killed. Then people got pissed about that ( understandably) and whew, police got on your ass fast. I spent some time in the clink for drunkdriving, won‘t ever do that again. As far as heroin and coke and all that it’s popular as ever. The needle exchange van parks twice a week right outside my shop, I've tried all that but it never really meant much to me. Booze... there‘s a well stocked bar right here in my house.

Since you are part of the rhytmn-(dis)section of th‘ Witch I gotta ask about how you work out on a song? First the guitars and then the skeletal eruptions of bass and drums or the other way round? Or do you just plug in, tune down low and tear shit up slow, but heavy live? What about the screeching’n chanting of Edgy?

The guitar and bass are written seperately. O'malley and I get together and hear what each other has come up with then we twist this and pull on that and in a little time we have a decent riff. I'm more about timing and syncopation than he. Once we got together after about a year off ( he was in England) and found we had written virtually the same riffs over that time away. Weird. To get back to the question; then we get a drummer. This is the hard part cuz it is so fucking hard to find a drummer who can play this slowly. You've got to be so patient and most drummers are so busy anticipating the next crash or whatever they can‘t cope. Drives them nuts. So we get a drummer and work out the music good enough to make a recording for Edgy. He listens, writes a lyric, and we rehearse. Recording is strictly live, so if anyone fucks up we start from the top. Part of the reason is again the tempo, this slow music almost requires visual contact with one another. Edgy sometimes will hear a vocal bit when we listen back so he will redo or add something here and there but basically your hearing us live. Steve Albini also pushes you in ways so you really focus and he captures, I think, the bands he records very authentically. A historical record of what really happened. He's also a really decent fellow as well.

What really interests me are the future outputs of you guys. Will there ever be sth unleashed anymore? If you still will I think it would burn everything down to the ground just for the cause of musical deprogression( if there's any on your side.. hahah). Same went down for Winter from NYC. So don't fuck
it up like them!

Themes fightin' words Simon... Of course we won‘t fuck it up. First off we won't release anything thats anyless than sonically mind fucking (check Sunn...) If we do anything else called Burning Witch it will only be dark as fuck. I've come up with some riffs, O'Malley has riffs... When it feels right we'll do it. My focus is on making Sunn a reality for the time being and when it‘s time for B.W. lookout! All you drummers out there start slowing down!

Alright, Senor Dahlquist,then we got this witch burned by now, uhm, I mean the interview is over. I want to thank you for your dedication and all the rest o‘ th‘ shite, muchas gracias!! Just tell me still what‘s the last record you‘ve been listening to and gimme your lost words for the damned out there. Cheerz‘n Beerz, Bootz!!

Last thing I listened to is Goatsnake as I'm going to be playing with them later this month. I've been listening the shit out of that album; it‘s pretty goddamn good, rocking stuff. Also lots of the upcoming Sunn release... What a mother that is. What‘s not my own umm, Ultra Magnetic Mc's. Every fucking morning Ultra Magnetic Mc's right after bacon and eggs. ULTRA MAGNETIC MC'S. That‘s what I've been listening too. Any last words for all you evil hesher fucks? Yeah; Get Happy!