Time to dig deep and find out a bit more about a band which may be new to you. So scroll down, read on and enjoy a sample of what Italy’s Circle of Witches can produce…
We are from Italy, our hated and beloved boot shaped country. Precisely, we live in the South side.
How did you meet?
Two of us, guitar and bass, were bandmates in some disbanded metal acts with no future. The third one, the drummer, was a friend playing some rotten punk music. The last one to join the line-up was the singer, a dumbass guy coming from another metal band, but he played just a bunch of gigs without learning lyrics and eventually was replaced. We were all from the same city, Salerno.
How long have you been playing as a band?
We formed in 2004 but we changed many times pieces and elements. I am the founder, the singer and guitarist, the last original member since then.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
We’ll never be bored replying to this question. Circle of Witches is a “multilevel” meaning moniker. The first thing you can think about is the link with occultism and magic. Yes, it’s true but more than this. Our lyrics dig deep into the ancient Italian folk culture, old local stories and superstitions, all that set of pre-christian cult, even Greek-Latin and pre-Roman paganism. This is the ancient culture belonging to the witches, women and men who lived with a strong connection with Nature and its wisdom, people who were persecuted because of their freedom way of life. Furthermore, the so called “circle of witches” is a peculiar shape of a mushroom community growing up in circle. As the grass was black in the centre of this circle (because of the presence of fungi’s roots), people used to believe this was a trace of witches’ sabbath. The “mushroom” is the connection we took with stoner influences we had in the early times and all the “occult” themes we wanted to deal with. People often think we are an all-female or a female-fronted band and it’s funny, because band like Queen or Twisted Sister had no women in the line up.
What are your influences?
In the beginning, on one side we were influenced mostly by ‘70s hard and heavy rock, early Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Black Widow. The other main root was all the ‘90s stoner scene based upon bands like Kyuss, Nebula, Fu Manchu and Orange Goblin. During the years, we thickened our sound with a Motorhead touch, as we had a distorted bass since the first day. At last, we landed on the heavy metal doom shores, playing under the sign of Judas Priest, Candlemass and Grand Magus, without losing contacts with our Sabbath tunes, of course.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
I think the blending of powerful rhythm and the melody, avoiding the heavy metal cliché of massive shredding guitar and a high pitch voice is our clearest characteristic. The big presence of bass lines, working as a second or third guitar, is also an other factory signature for our band.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
I’m into the XIX century gothic literature, side by side with fantasy, anthropology studies and classic horror cinema. I’m also fascinated by local stories learned mouth by mouth through the generations that comes from a time when people used to tell and not to write their knowledge. I’m a Nature lover and warden, I find myself several times next to pagan themes too. I’m also highly critic against religions that turn off the brightness of human intellect. So, I put all these elements when writing lyrics, maybe starting from a real fact, everyday matter, History and Philosophy.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
Our concerts are meant to be collective rituals. We start with an intro choreography during which we concentrate and let flow our positive energy. While we play and sweat on the stage, we try to connect with people releasing our volume in the hall, trying to fascinate everyone with our performance.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
Once, we were playing in a small venue and a couple of friends tried to lift me up upon their shoulders while I was riffing with my guitar and headbanging. We all fell down and I was able to backflip and hit the ground with my back, so protecting my precious “axe” while keeping on playing on the floor. And other crazy stupid moment was when we played the first time in England. It was also our first time abroad among foreign people. The bass player was scared to death, even he was totally the best at speaking in English. I slapped him hard in face to calm him down and kicked his ass on the stage. That become our “ritual” for some other gigs.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
I’m a simple “plug and play” guy. I use one kind of distortion with no other effects (hall, delay, modulation…). I used to have valve heads with cabinets, Marshall and Engl mainly. By the course of times, I chose a smaller and lighter gear, the Hughes and Kettner black spirit 200, after playing with Candlemass in 2017 during a festival. I was sincerely bored about heavy, cumbersome and fragile heads. I definitely decided to turn to something different when valves cracked twice during a tour. I saved my ass as I had a small Mooer head emulation pedal in the bag as a backup, so I was able to play other three gigs in that way.
I always used to play Gibson guitars like Les Paul and SG. I really like their thick sound but not their price, indeed. When we started to travel with instruments, I needed something cheaper, lighter and replaceable. So, I turned to an Ibanez Iceman, with active EMG pickups. People tours around the world with “cheap” LTD/ESP or lower models… Why should I play with a thousand-euro instrument, taking risks such as damage or theft? Our ex-bass player didn’t agree with that… He saw his Ricko bass being crushed upon the highways by two cars, after it flew away from our wan…
Concerning the voice, I use Sennheiser E-945 microphone that best fits the shape of my voice, a TC Helicon voice processor and Sure in ear monitor.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
As we are forced to stop live shows, we are pushing our online social identity and activity with lyric videos, bandcamp page to sell some cds or merch, call to action, contests. We scheduled some other visualizer videos from our latest album Natural Born Sinners, and a Black Sabbath cover to release up to 2021 winter.
What are your plans for the next 6 months or so?
It’s really hard to make plans when the rest of the world can’t do it. Anyway, our management arranged a tour along with the Russian band Imperial Age on January 2022 when we will play in Germany, Belgium, England and Scotland. 2022 will be the time for our next album to be released (Ep or Full), to join some summer festivals. These are the plans we made, while gods laugh…
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Two words… Judas Priest. If we talk about opening act, I think this would be the greatest goal for us. We shared the stage with Udo, Doro, Candlemass, Death SS and many other great international bands, we always learnt something and stole some “secrets” from those real pros. But JP would be a matter of heart as some of us grew up listening to and playing their music.
I think it would be great playing also with our friend la Janara or the Ossuary, two great doom band we already played with in the past. Both are genuine, fascinating and high-quality bands, two side of doom (more intimate and atmospheric the first, heavier the second) and two good performers. I think someday we will gather in an Italian Doom Festival to make the earth crumble.