Just a few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to work with one of the newest and hardest-working bands beginning to make a name for themselves in the unsigned UK metal circuit. Ward XVI blend together a mix of the heavier, theatrical side of genres to cook up their own concoction of horror music.
We put together a ‘feast for the asylum’ for a recent photo shoot off the back of their tour with Misfits legend Doyle and to help prepare them for the busy year ahead. These are now being released exclusively with The Moshville Times.
I took the opportunity after the shoot to ask them a few questions about how the last year has been for them and for a few details on what they have coming up.
You have been announced for the second ever Amplified Festival. How did you feel when you were asked to play?
Dr. Von Stottenstein: Honoured and surprised. We’d just had a full European tour cancelled days before in which we basically sold all of our gear, took personal loans out for and we were probably as low as you could be as a band. This came out of the blue and pulled us out of it. We’re huge fans of several of the bands in the line-up so to be part of it is insane.
Have you got anything special planned for your performance?
Lex Whittingham: We’d hate to give away any surprises.
One of your members will also be joining another band at Amplified, tell us more about this.
Dr. Von Stottenstein: I’d been asked before Xmas if I could potentially fill in. I love Footprints in the Custard and their music, style and stage show etc. It’s a massive departure from Ward XVI, so I’m really looking forward to showing a different side of me (in more ways than one). Needless to say – I’ve been focused on riffing and my gluteus maximus!
You first came to our attention through your win at Metal to the Masses and landing a spot at Bloodstock Festival’s New Blood Stage. How was that for you and do you feel it’s had an impact at all on the band?
Psychoberrie: Apart from It being a real shock to the system performing at 10:30am, it was an amazing experience and a major stepping stone in our success. All the festival appearances we have lined up including Amplified, Hammerfest and HRH Metal we owe to the success of our M2TM performance on the New Blood Stage. I’m hoping we’ll be asked back as it was one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve been to many festivals but being on the other side of the barrier entertaining a huge crowd was mind-blowing, that’s where I belong.
Lex Whittingham: Winning Metal to the Masses almost felt like a big win for more alternative music as a whole. In the competition, we were up against a lot of thrash, death metal or metalcore type bands, so when we managed to win, it was such a surprise ’cause we’ve never really classed ourselves as a metal band and when we got to the New Blood Stage, the stage techs there were saying during our sound check that they’d never had anything like us playing their stage before. We all enjoy bands of the genres we’ve just mentioned, but the whole idea of Ward XVI was for us all to get to do something a little different, and we’re all very grateful that so many people enjoy what we’re doing.
What was it like being asked to play a special guest slot at this year’s competition?
Lex Whittingham: It’s always good to get invited back to places again, it feels good to know that people enjoy our music so much.
Dr. Von Stottenstein: It was great to go back to one of the greatest nights of our band’s life so far and share it with a new group of people who will experience the same. The difference this time was we saw the effects of losing too. We had experienced it ourselves, but you don’t really notice the other bands. It’s such a gap between the emotions of ‘winning and losing’.
Since then, you’ve been very active on social media. For you, how important are sites like Facebook and Instagram for new bands?
Dr. Von Stottenstein: The ability to share your music with such a diverse and huge audience is massive and a great opportunity (once you work out how to do it). I’m still learning and I spend a massive time on social media as it’s pretty important to keep visible but also talking to people who like our music or need to be introduced to it. I make sure that I don’t send anonymous band invites etc. but introduce us and the philosophy and such; It’s really important to interact and chat rather than spam. I’ve learned through trial and error. It does take a big chunk of my day and I do get in trouble for it at times… it’s hard to balance life and band!
Being a very image-heavy band, how did this come about and for you, how important is it to keep to this image?
Psychoberrie: I drew my character, Psychoberrie, in the back of a sketch book before I even started the band. I wanted a character to hide behind because I was very nervous about getting back on stage. I’d previously been kicked out of a band for not being good enough and that shattered my confidence. It was 2 years before I picked myself up and decided to go for it again. I had a few singing lessons and then auditioned for a band. I wasn’t in any way interested in joining, I just wanted to test whether I really did suck. I got the part then ditched them and set up what is now Ward XVI.
Originally, it was just the keyboard player and myself that dressed up but after a few discussions we decided it would be best if we all dressed up, though we were very mis-matched at first. I wore a striped jacket as the stripes represent optical illusion and my character is very manipulative and messes with the mind of her victims.
When we recorded our debut album, The Art of Manipulation, we decided the stripes should be a running theme and it has been great for the band as the fans recognise and associate them with Ward XVI.
Will you be looking at developing or altering this image at all?
Psychoberrie: The Black and White stripes are something that will always remain constant. I already have four costume changes per show and I’m pretty sure that number will only increase. I’m definitely happy for the costumes and stage set to get more elaborate.
Have you got any advice to give to new bands wanting to follow your recent successes?
Psychoberrie: Firstly, try to create something new. I’m as much a fan of the old stuff as anyone else but it’s been done to death and if you’re one of three million bands doing the same thing that’s a lot of competition. Secondly, get decent recordings. It will cost you but it will pay off in the long run. If a studio is charging a lot it’s usually because it’s good.
Dr. Von Stottenstein: Stay honest, humble, original and remember the people who like your music are the important ones. Ego means bugger all if you alienate those who you are trying to attract. Likewise, don’t piss off other bands and venues. It might get you short-term gains but this community is amazing and it’s better to be part of it rather than an outlier.
Lex Whittingham: You’ll only get out what you put in: we see so many bands arrive at a venue as close to their set time as physically possible, play, and then pack up and leave immediately after. Turn up early, do some advertisement, then afterwards, stick around, talk to people from the crowd, sell your merch and CDs, continue promoting yourselves – what you do on stage is only a small part of a bigger picture.
If you could play any stage with any line up, what would this be?
Dr. Von Stottenstein: I’d love to play with Iron Maiden, Evil Scarecrow, Alice Cooper and us, I think there’d be a shortage of fake blood in this tour. Main stage at Bloodstock festival for me!
Lex Whittingham: With so many genres and styles going on in our music, it’s kind of hard to say, maybe if we could open for someone like Diablo Swing Orchestra, they cover a lot of different styles and sounds too, maybe their fans would appreciate what we’re doing too. As for a stage, we’re not fussy, but I guess something big enough to have some breathing room for jumping around and stuff while we’re playing, but nothing so big that the theatrical and visual elements are lost to everyone at the back of the crowd.
Who have been your main influences musically and conceptually?
Lex Whittingham: Musically, we’re all pretty diverse, some bands we all enjoy, whereas with others there’ll be one member that’s super into them, but no one else gets it. The main musical influences for the band as a whole tend to come from the likes of Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Avatarium and Diablo Swing Orchestra, to name a few. As for the band’s concept, again, there’s a lot of influence from Alice Cooper, but also some Rob Zombie, and I guess there’s some influence from certain films in there too, for example, when we were talking about the theatrics and visuals for our live show to accompany some of the more bloody songs, like “Adrenochromania”, there was mention of Dracula and some other horror films and characters.
Is there anything else we should be looking out for from Ward XVI?
Lex Whittingham: Hopefully, some new music in the not-too-distant future.
And finally, is there anything else you’d like to add or tell us about?
Lex Whittingham: Thanks to each-and-every inmate that’s supported us so far, after Amplified we’ll be back out on the road with Red Rum for a few dates on their next tour… it’s going to be mental.
Photos by Watchmaker Studios