A Hex On Your Head Interviews Bogwitch

I sometimes get days where I struggle to find any new music to connect with, and I think to myself the most terrifying of thoughts ‘will I listen to anything good ever again?’ I decided to take action on this particular day and raced over the Bandcamp, where I stabbed the word WITCH into the search bar and started scrolling through all the releases that came up. 

I searched for a good while, and nothing was hitting the spot. I found myself all the more desperate, and then I caught sight of Season of Reckoning by Bogwitch, and leapt on it. And oh, oh my, it was so good, and precisely the sort of thing I didn’t know I needed at that moment in time. 

Bogwitch is dungeon synth but created in an entirely different way than you’re used to hearing. When Season of Reckoning finished, I hastened to Bogwitch’s first album, A Tale of Vengeance and after that, sped to the track A Swamp Witch’s Lullaby. When I’d listened to everything, I didn’t know what to do with myself. So just started all over again. Bogwitch hooked me. 

While listening, I found question after question flickering through my head. There was SO MUCH I wanted to know about the project. So I set out to try and get an interview, and folks, as you can see, I was successful in my pursuit. The discussion below dives deep into the murky depths of Bogwitch, and I hope you get well and truly tangled in it. 

– Katie.

To begin, can you please divulge how Bogwitch came into being and how you decided on the name Bogwitch? 

Kind of a funny story there. In 2019 in the US we were in the midst of the Trump presidency. It brought to the forefront some groups with utterly vile worldviews, not to mention how horrendous the man himself was/is, at least in my opinion. I had wanted to write something darker than the other music I’d been writing, and combined that with an imagined bogeyman of sorts that would serve as a deterrent to the hate groups that were louder than ever. That came in the form of the spirit of an accused witch burned at the stake (blame my love of Hammer horror movies) who returned to drag what I just dubbed “the Guilty” into the swamp. It was a mix of horror movie escapism with an underlying want to see some justice brought upon the bigots, misogynists, and generally shitty people we seem to be surrounded by. I was playing around with words combined with ‘witch’ for a name, and since the wetlands are fascinating to me, Bogwitch was where I landed.

I’m enamoured with your wonderfully unsettling album A Tale of Vengeance (2019). Would you be able to give something of an insight into the process of making it? 

It began with the premise that started the project, so A Tale of Vengeance served as the intro to the spirit of vengeance I was picturing. My process itself tends to vary wildly, but for that particular album that envisioned story was a place to funnel emotions, like a lot of anger, at the time. One of my favorite aspects of making music is playing with and distorting sounds to create something that inspires me, and then the music follows. So for A Tale of Vengeance I was playing with software synths to create what felt like swampy, damp textures. Combining that with the story I wanted to tell and plenty of pictures of dark swamps for inspiration, the music flowed. I’m all about atmosphere in music, so forming images and tangible textures was my main goal.

I noticed your albums A Tale of Vengeance and Season of Reckoning were written and recorded in the seasons of Summer and Fall. Are these times of the year when you feel particularly creative?

Fall is definitely when I feel most inspired to create. Summer not as much, but writing is a great excuse to escape the heat. I started writing both albums in summer mainly because I wanted to release them in October for the Halloween season, and that’s become the tradition with Bogwitch.

What did your relationship with the strange and shadowy look like in your younger years? Is it something that’s pretty much always been around?

Yes it’s definitely always been around. I was obsessed with Vincent Price movies when I was a kid. I started ducking out of family movie night young when I was able to talk my parents into renting House on Haunted Hill or the like on VHS so I didn’t have to sit through the Disney movies. They would let me borrow the small VCR/TV and watch a horror movie in my room. That also translated into books or comics I wanted to read, posters I wanted to decorate with, you name it. If it was spooky or strange I was interested.

When did you decide ‘right, I want to make Dungeon Synth!’ And what encouraged you to go down that particular musical path?

I’ve been making various types of music since I was a kid, and dungeon synth was such a perfect landing spot for my particular interests and styles. I’m a drummer/percussionist originally; my late grandpa got me going in that direction when I was really young. So I’ve played with bands in various genres, and dabbled in several electronic genres, like trance and industrial. My love for black metal got me into dungeon synth, and when I came out of a years-long creative dry spell in 2018 it was the perfect combination of electronic music, nostalgia, and atmosphere. So I dove in and tried it out.

From what I understand, you’re based in Denver, Colorado. I was just wandering around on Google images, losing my head over how gorgeous and diverse the scenery is. The wetlands clearly have a significant impact on your work, and I’d love to know what it is about them that draws you in? And, as someone with a thing for mountains, I have to ask… do you intend to write about the Rockies one day? I’d love to hear the tales they have to tell.

Yeah, that’s correct. I love Colorado, and we certainly take the scenery for granted sometimes. I have virtually no experience with wetlands, and since I live in an arid mountainous region, swamps are such a mysterious, unfamiliar location that they fascinate me. It’s probably the unknown that draws me to it, but the atmosphere of twisted trees and fog in a swampy area is a magickal setting. I do love the mountains as well, and definitely plan to derive more inspiration from them in future works. I’m moving the setting of Bogwitch a little bit this next album, so who knows where it will take me in years to come, but deep in the mountains is very probable.

Horror movies and soundtracks fuel your creative fire, and I’m incredibly interested in learning how you glean your inspiration from them and which films and soundtracks particularly inspire you. 

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been obsessed with horror movies since I was a kid, so it’s been a consistent passion throughout my life. My favorite soundtracks usually come from Italian horror from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and also Hammer horror from the same time period. Artists like Goblin, composers like Ennio Morricone, Riz Ortolani and Fabio Frizzi have been huge inspirations in all of my music. Lucio Fulci is my personal favorite director and his body of work is always inspiring. John Carpenter’s films are as well. As for soundtracks- I love a variety of them but am particularly fond of the soundtracks for Cannibal Holocaust, The Beyond, Zombi 2, and Suspiria.

I’m besotted with the album art for both of your full-lengths releases. How did your collaboration with Silvana Massa come about?

Silvana is a legend and has created so much great artwork for dungeon synth artists. When I decided to commission artwork for Bogwitch, she was the artist that came to mind. At the time I think it was specifically the cover for Mors Certa’s ‘The Ever-Turning Wheel’ that made the decision to commission from her all the easier. She has always been fantastic to work with, and can translate the general ideas I have for the concept into beautiful and eerie album art that perfectly sets the mood for the music. She has also created the artwork that will be on the upcoming Bogwitch album this fall.

I adore the comment richfox on Bandcamp said about your exquisite track A Swamp Witch’s Lullaby – ‘Like accidentally having somebody else’s most sordid fantasy and not knowing the safe word.’ Can you talk about the creation of this track and the podcast it was made for? 

First of all I love that you mentioned that comment, one of the best things about releasing music in this current age is the interactivity, and richfox’s comments on my music are some of my favorite. The creativity and humor in some people’s reviews/comments on Bandcamp is so much fun to read, particularly in these fantasy-centric genres. But to address the actual question- Scare You To Sleep is a podcast I’d listened to from basically its beginning, and I frequently fall asleep to it. I reached out to Shelby to see if she wanted any intro music, and Bogwitch fit the bill. So the track itself was aimed to capture that dreamlike atmosphere while still keeping the horror feel, I wanted to do what she’d already been doing with the podcast, which is combine horror with a sense of peace and calm. It might seem oxymoronic to some, but ghost stories are so cozy to me. Shelby and I share that feeling so it was fun working with her and creating that track. She’s since changed up formats, so I don’t think she uses the track with the intro quite as much anymore, but it’s still there from time to time.

I’m barrelled by waves of feelings when listening to your music. This is dungeon synth like I’ve never experienced it before. I can, in turn, feel a sense of calm, intrigue, trepidation, excitement, bewilderment and astonishment. The variety encompassed in your songs is brilliant, and I relish how each piece has its own distinctive personality. I’ve returned to your music countless times, and there’s always something new to hear. I think there always will be. It’s very much like a mire in that sense! Can you talk about the feelings you experience when making your music and how you know when you’re onto something? Also, is there a particular piece of feedback which you’ve received that really stands out for you? 

Thank you for the very kind words! Music is and has always been my lifeblood. Creating music is therapeutic in a way that nothing else can be, in my experience. So I don’t know that I can put words to the feelings involved, other than I just follow whatever emotions are fueling the creativity that day. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression, I think that’s a common thread among many artists. I’ve found that dark ambient music is the perfect form for me to express that.

It’s not a piece of feedback that I’ve personally received, but I once listened to a talk about how writing music is just a series of yes/no decisions. That has been extremely helpful in my process. It’s not that it’s a structured or rigid format, but at any point an element, instrument, melody, sound, beat, etc becomes either a yes or a no for that particular piece in context. And the more that I learn to trust each decision along the way, the more I’m able to continue creating rather than overanalyzing and hyper-criticizing.

There are some very curious sounds on the She Rises From The Waters At Full Moon song, starting from 01:28. What is that sound?!

Frogs, actually. I’m glad I don’t live near a swamp because those are some fairly terrifying sounds they make. I was scrolling freesound.org for public domain ambient sounds, particularly swamps, and found those frogs. If I remember correctly, I think it’s a recording from a Louisiana swamp.

Also, what’s the noise at the beginning of She Stirs As Darkness Settles?

Frogs again, haha. I knew I wanted to bring back some creepy swamp frogs for Season of Reckoning, so I hunted down a different clip. One of these days I plan to actually purchase my own field recorder.

Do you have any other music projects on the go or other creative endeavours that we can investigate? 

I have a handful of different projects, most of which are tied to a DIY tape label where I hand-dub and hand make small-run tape releases. That label is Pagan Fortress Records, and currently I have three projects tied specifically to that label. Læraðr is my forest synth project, and where I started out when I decided to make dungeon synth. It focuses on nature and mythology as inspiration, and a lo-fi vintage sound like tape-warbling.

Angnesum is a more open-ended project, from drone to neoclassical, but that has served as a dedicated outlet for anxiety, whatever form it takes. The name is Old English for anxiety, as a plural. And the newest project on that label is Bramble Wolf, which is an experiment where I don’t allow myself to use any traditional instruments or synths, but instead manipulate found sounds like tool clanks or engine rumbles into instruments. It’s a fun side endeavor. And then I have a ritual dark ambient project out there that I’ve been keeping anonymous.

I also still play around with different styles of EDM, like synthwave, glitch, and witch house. The only current public project that has come out of that experimentation is called Ritual Flood and there’s a small album on Bandcamp. My definite weaknesses are in mixing and mastering as I’m hard of hearing and only recently rely on hearing aids to help a bit, so EDM has always been an uphill battle, but I enjoy creating it.

Is there a possibility there might be some Bogwitch physical releases coming soon? 

Bogwitch physical releases have seemingly been cursed so far. A Tale of Vengeance was on track to get a physical release with a label that went out of business due to COVID, and then was on track with a different label where the timing was never right and it kept falling through the cracks.

However, there is finally some motion on getting the upcoming Bogwitch album released on cassette at around the same time as the digital release through a label that I adore in the genre. I’ll have more definitive info on that here in a month or two, but it’s shaping up to all work out this time around. I’d still love to get physical releases of the first two albums, but at the moment I’m still exploring options on those.

I’m chomping at the bit to learn about bands and musicians which have inspired you over the years. Also, what’s your preferred way of listening to music?

I have an eccentric taste in music. So while black metal is my staple genre and the direct connection to dungeon synth, I also love pagan folk, southern gothic, folk punk, noise rock, post-rock and shoegaze, vaporwave, and a slew of other styles. I honestly could list two-hundred bands/artists here and still think I missed some, but here are a few of the main ones that have strongly influenced me over the years: Paysage d’Hiver, Sigh, Darkthrone, The Ruins of Beverast, An Autumn For Crippled Children, Blackbird Raum, Daemonia Nymphe, Faun, The Blood Brothers, The Dresden Dolls, and all the composers and soundtrack artists from the earlier question. Like I said if I don’t stop myself there this list will get ridiculous.

I’ll listen to music just about any way I can get it (with the exception of radio), but I have a particular fondness for cassettes and vinyl records. I use Spotify, and I have a large database of digital music mainly from Bandcamp that I listen to, but there’s certainly something special about the physical media. Youtube is also a fun way to discover music. I’m fairly obsessed with NPR’s Tiny Desk series of small live performances.

What can we expect next from Bogwitch, and do you have any final words for those reading?

The next Bogwitch album will be released this fall, likely October, and is titled ‘Into the Lair’. As the name suggests, it’s a bit of a different setting, and has allowed me to explore a large cavernous setting rather than the swamp and the nature surrounding it.

Thank you for your interest in my project and for reaching out for this interview, and to those reading thank you for reading! I love connecting with like-minded artists and people with shared interests, and music is a fantastic means of connection. And I’m sure most people reading know Cave Mouth, but if you don’t, go listen to Cave Mouth cause it fucking rules.

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