A casual listener might initially think that Witch Taint songs have all the standard black metal elements: shouty/growly vocals about “evil” things, buzzsaw guitars, and pummeling rhythm section. The band looks the part, too, with their grotesque corpse paint makeup, black leather and fearsome spiked accessories. But a closer listen to their lyrics shows that they have one quality that isn’t typical in this most nihilistic musical genre: a sense of humor.
“To me, it’s barefaced to walk around without corpse paint / Even if you’re doing fucking laundry!” screams lead vocalist Matthias Backwards and vocalist/guitarist Lance “The King of Black Metal” on “Are You Ready (to Black Metal)?” – one of the standout tracks on Witch Taint’s debut album, Sons of Midwestern Darkness (out on Tee Pee Records on April 10). In the video for “Sons of Satan,” the first single, Matthias and Lance (in full metal regalia) ride bicycles through suburbia and having a heart-to-heart chat with the Devil.
Parodying black metal is brave, considering the violent history that scene has seen since it first started in Norway in the 1980s. Case in point: leading black metal band Mayhem soldiered on after the singer committed suicide in 1991 – only to have their former bass player murder the guitarist in 1993. (But Witch Taint’s willingness to satirize a scene such as this makes sense, because co-frontmen, Matthias and Lance, are actually the alter egos of musicians/comedians Phil Costello and Dave Hill, respectively.)
Lance and Matthias recently responded to The Aquarian’s questions via email—below are their verbatim answers about Witch Taint’s origin story, what other black metal musicians think of them, how having a family also means having a little less time for Satan, and much more.
This self-isolating thing we’re all having to do seems pretty black metal, wouldn’t you agree? But it seems like it’ll make your album launch a bit harder. How do you plan to reach out to your fans during this virus crisis?
LANCE THE KING OF BLACK METAL: Self-isolating is indeed pretty black metal. In fact, I personally have been self-isolating since the nineties at least, especially whenever my mom has her friend Donna over. The lady literally does not shut up ever. The second she even pulls into the driveway, I just turn off the basement light and just wait for that nutjob to leave. Anyway, as far as reaching out to our fans during the virus crisis, we are making extreme music videos and also checking our DMs on all platforms at least every nine minutes. Also, we have been performing nightly in the woods to help kill this virus once and for all. We cannot say which woods, though. This is not because of the virus. It is simply a zoning issue.
MATTHIAS BACKWARDS: Yes this whole virus thing is working pretty well for us, as we do what we always do anyway — live in isolation — only now we no longer need to feel guilty about it (laughs). It is as if we have lived by our own code, and rather than change to conform to the world, the world has changed to conform to the Taint.
How did Witch Taint come to be, and how did you two know you’d work well together?
LANCE THE KING OF BLACK METAL: Witch Taint began in my mind in the early 2000s. In 2004, I began emailing a Norwegian Black Metal record label trying to get a contract even though I had yet to record any music. You can read our legendary correspondence at www.theblackmetaldialogues.com. Anyway, in true underground form, Witch Taint remained largely dormant until 2017, when Matthias Backwards and I began reading the email correspondence at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, which was far from home but they gave us drink tickets so we said yes. From there, we did sold out shows at SXSW, in London, Oslo, and finally at the 2018 Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, the biggest metal festival in the world. By then we had added a few songs to the show and, after noticing that the people of Europe preferred our music to our standing there and reading, we decided to finish recording our incredible full length debut. Now we are the best band in the world. We have stickers and everything. As for how Matthias Backwards and I knew we’d work well together, we both share the same dark world view, which is essential in any working relationship. Also, Matthias has a driver’s license and almost never gets carded when buying beer. So, yeah, those three things, I guess.
MATTHIAS BACKWARDS: Nor wine coolers eithers. I buy Coors Light for me and Lance, and wine coolers for the ladies. It is always good to keep stocked up on the wine coolers in case any ladies show up, you know. My garage is filled with wine coolers, including a second refrigerator in there, which doesn’t work but is perfect when you need that extra space.
Your hometown of Gary, Indiana doesn’t seem very “black metal.” Why not relocate to Norway, the epicenter of black metal?
LANCE THE KING OF BLACK METAL: That’s where you are wrong. Gary, Indiana is the most extreme city in Indiana that we can even think of right now unless you count Fort Wayne, Terre Haute, South Bend, and Indianapolis maybe. Also, Michael Jackson is from Gary, so there’s that too. We thought about relocating to Norway but it’s much more economically feasible to be the greatest Norwegian Black Metal on earth while living in Indiana because Norway is stupid expensive. A bag of Doritos costs like seventy bucks there. Also, the Norwegian government makes you learn how to speak Norwegian if you wanna live there, which is awesome but also super hard. When it comes to Norwegian, I know how to say “Thank you,” “Fuck Varg Vikernes,” and “Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is an esteemed and brilliant play of social criticism in the sense that it has criticized the traditional marriage, man-woman relationship and the domination of the female by the male in the name of love or family” but that’s it.
MATTHIAS BACKWARDS: I have relocate to Gary, Indiana from Norway … I come here on horseback by the way. But it is like this you see … I owned a [record] label. Well, I guess I still own now technically too, I’m not sure how that really works with your business if you just up and disappear. In Norway the government will always pay for everything so I assume they are keeping my label afloat in any case. But it is like this television commercial I see, an old one on YouTube, this American television commercial I think it is Gillette where they guy like the razor so much he bought company. This is like with Witch Taint. When Lance send me demo I pretended not to like of course, but the reality is I like so much, I had to join the band!! Get it? So it is like this Gillette commercial. (laughs)
What sets Witch Taint apart from all the other black metal bands out there?
LANCE THE KING OF BLACK METAL: Aside from being extremely extreme, our music is very catchy and danceable and super fun to get hammered and sing along to in parking lots. Even if you don’t even like Satan all that much, it’s hard to deny that we are the best at music and takes things to a level most people can’t even handle, even us some days. In fact, many times during the recording, I had to just go sit in a ditch for a while just to give my head a rest. Also, our goat access is unparalleled. In fact, you give us fifteen minutes and we’ll have the place crawling with whatever livestock you want. Fuck it.
MATTHIAS BACKWARDS: Plus of course, at our shows we have girls. And not only the ones who work in the bar or whatever. There are girls who come to the show!
Have you gotten any feedback on what you’re doing from any leaders in the black metal scene? Is it secretly a supportive and caring scene behind that antisocial exterior?
LANCE THE KING OF BLACK METAL: Yes. When we played Oslo as a duo a couple of years ago, Fenriz from Darkthrone was in the front row and said he “liked” it, which is the highest praise we could ever ask for. Also, Malphas from Carpathian Forest and Mike “Mykus” Hickey from Venom both rip solos on our album, which is awesome. We sent them T-shirts and everything. We do cool shit like that all the time. We are the best guys.
MATTHIAS BACKWARDS: I have never had any conversations with anyone in my capacity as member of Witch Taint, besides Lance and occasionally the members of our live band if necessary. Then of course sometimes at store I must interact with a clerk sometimes, like “Hello, do you have men’s room?” or some such thing. Oh and Lance mom when I first come. “Hello, my name is Matthias.” But beyond some such things as this, conversations are strictly off limits, so I would just not know the answer for this question.
Matthias, you sing about your commitment to your family as well as to black metal. Please explain how you reconcile these seemingly conflicting loyalties.
MATTHIAS BACKWARDS: Well, I am mostly only able to reconcile these loyalties in the form of song, if I must be honest. The song is “Changes (A Little Less Time for Satan)” you are referring to, and at any point in my day that I am not singing this song, I just try to not think about it, you know. Not everything in life is meant to be reconciled, and sometimes we just have to live with this fact. It is all about acceptance, and often to accept something, we just have to bury it deep inside until the appropriate time to just let it all out and have a good cry or something. Look, I have two kids and a wife, you see? And they bring so much joy to this grim motherfucker. But the reality is, I have less time for Satan. It is what it is. With that said, I want to be clear … when I sing that line that with all these Changes in my life I have less time for Satan, I do not mean to imply that Satan is not a huge part of my life … He is. It’s just a little less, like when one kid is not brushing his teeth before bed and I must say, “Have you brushed your teeth yet?” Well, in the two seconds I ask this question, I am no longer thinking of Satan and I will never have those two seconds back. I have accepted this as the “new normal.”