Interview by Michelle HenriquezRecently we’ve had the opportunity to interview Witch Mountain singer Uta Plotkin while they were on a European tour. For those of you who don’t know Witch Mountain, be prepared to hear something very different. Witch Mountain is a mix of doom and blues with songs about horror stories, life experiences and dreams. The band founded in Portland, Oregon, will soon be releasing a new album, “Mobile of Angels”, in September 2014. Witch Mountain is in many ways a very unique band. Witch Mountain is a Doom Metal band with clean female vocals and it therefore brings another feel to doom metal. In this way, it differs from traditional doom metal bands that have mainly male grunts. Greetings, Uta, and welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. We are thrilled to have you here.
Thank you.How is the European tour going? Is there a difference between the American crowd and the European crowd? Doom metal bands seem to a have a much tougher time in the United States.
It is going very well. We started in Oslo, Norway and we headed South from there. This is our second time in Europe and It’s much nicer to tour in Europe than in the US. They just take better care of us here. It’s a lot harder work in the US; they don’t give us a place to stay and they don’t feed us. We have to figure all out and all.And who takes cares of you here in Europe?
Whoever sets up the show, the promoter, the booker. They also find us a place to stay and they feed us when we get to the venue and they feed us dinner a few hours later again. In the States this does not happen. Many times in the States I stood onstage and said: Hey we need a place to stay, can anybody put up four people? Sometimes people are pretty excited about it, it usually works out.There aren’t a lot of Doom Metal bands with a female as the lead-singer. Of course you have a few of them as Jex Thoth and Blood Ceremony, but such bands are still few. Can you tell us how you landed the role?
It kinda was just a coincidence. The scene in Portland is really great right now and I started my own band about six years ago called Aranya and it’s kind of in the Metal Genre. And so I was playing shows with other metal bands in Portland. I noticed that this guy named Carson was putting on a lot of really good Metal shows in Portland, like a lot of the really interesting underground stuff. So I made it a point to keep my eyes on what he was doing. When he needed an intern for his booking agency I signed up, because I wanted to learn how to book my own band better. But then Nate found out I can sing and Witch Mountain was looking for a female singer, so they invited me to do one song with them opening for Pentagram and I did that and it went well. So they asked if I would come on fulltime and I thought it would be a good experience and I thought I would learn a lot, maybe I could travel. It was really just a happy coincidence that the music turned out to be something I think is really good.How did you bandmates from Aranya take it when you told them you were joining Witch Mountain?
Oh, I’m in both bands. I’m not fulltime in Witch Mountain. I also sing, play guitar and viola in Aranya.That sounds amazing, you’re multi-talented!
Yeah I’ve been doing music since I was six years old.What can a female singer bring to a Doom Metal band that a male doesn’t?
It’s just a different town I guess. It helps to get female fans more involved and interested in the music if they see another woman up there on the stage. I like it, I like a band and I can relate more if there is a woman in it.When you first released “South of Salem”, how did the old fans receive the change of the band’s sound with you as the new member?
I have only heard one person say that they liked Rob better. So that’s pretty good out of pretty much all of the fans that Witch Mountain has I think is a very very small amount that say they like it better the old way.How did you feel about joining the band with such an established sound and fan base? Have the fans been treating you well?
Witch Mountain has taken a long break before I joined, so the band didn’t have a lot of fans that were following them closely. When I joined the band it was like a resurgence.How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to it before?
Heavy and Bluesy. Rob loves Jimi Hendrix and he likes the solos in the blues style. Pretty much all of his solos are improvised and a lot of people compare my voice to Ann Wilson from Heart or Grace Slick. So just imagine a heavy doom sound with blues solos and Ann Wilson singing. (laughter)
When you sing, I hear a lot of soul. What are your influences and inspirations for this manner of singing?
I love soul music. Some of my favourite voices are Otis Redding, Sam Cook, Aretha Franklin. I love gospel singers like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. She’s really good. I’m really styling myself after that kind of soul. In Aranya I sing in a completely different style. That band is not bluesy at all so in that band I sing more just like straight almost operatic style or like punk style.So you have a very versatile voice!
Yeah, I like to be able to switch it up and do much different stuff.“Cauldron of the Wild” was released in 2012, just one year after “South of Salem”. Is there a thematic pattern in the names of the album? Are the themes between the albums related ?
The first two albums are kind of like tongue in cheek puns. “South of Salem” has a few different meanings behind it. Me and Nate were born in “South of Salem” Oregon in a town called Corvallis. Rob lived in a place South of Salem. So we all grew up in South of Salem, Oregon. Then, there it’s also a plan that there’s also South of Heaven. Then there is “Cauldron of the Wild”, you know call of the wild. It’s sticking to the witchy and occult theme, but it is a pun again. Our next album breaks from that style of naming, the next album is just named after one of the tracks. That would be “Mobile of Angels” which is a dream that Rob had. We named it after that.Can you tell me more about this dream that Rob had?
He had this dream of this mobile of angels descending towards him and these angels had fangs and they were like very scary and creepy like demons. They were kind of a mixture of a demon and an angel. There was a song playing on an organ in the background and he woke up in the middle night with the song stuck in his head. He couldn’t go back to sleep until he had written it all down. So he told me what his dream was about and I basically wrote a poem about it as the lyrics.Speaking of lyrics, what are your main inspirations for writing? Were the lyrics more about witches in the past or something?
“South of Salem” is almost all Rob’s lyrics, because when I joined all those songs were already written and they were just about things that went on in his life. The lyrics on the album of “Cauldron of the Wild” was more about my own imagination. I wrote a song about a post-apocalypse trying to get home, I wrote a song about forgotten gods that are bitter and they want to come back and take revenge, I wrote a song about a heroine experience I had one time. So the lyrics are like all over the place. For example “Aurelia” is basically just a horror story from a small town I came up with.Your upcoming album “Mobile of Angels” will be released in September of this year. What can we expect of your new music?
It is very dark. It is darker than our previous albums. There are a couple of songs that are heavy and metal, but most of the songs on the album are slow and bluesy, dark and depressing. I did a lot of vocal harmonies on this album. Rob did a lot more layers on guitar compared to the previous album.Will you be showcasing any of the new music on this tour prior to the album release?
We’ve been playing a couple of new ones every night. We usually do a couple of a new and three old, something like that.So why tour before the release of the new album and not after? Will you be touring after the release too?
That is a very good question. We got invited to play at Hellfest! That is the only reason we are over here. We couldn’t say no to that. We thought while we are coming over here in Europe anyway, let’s book a tour.Will you be touring after the release again?
We don’t have plans to come here again [in Europe], but we have two US tours scheduled for after the release.Is there a message you want to give to the readers of Femme Metal Webzine?
I think publications like Femme Metal Webzine are very important and I really appreciate everybody who’s working on making it happen. I love seeing women at the shows, I want more women to come out and support each other and support the scene and feel comfortable in the scene.