Burning Witches release their fifth studio album, entitled “The Dark Tower”, through Napalm Records on 5th May. The all female band formed in Switzerland in 2015 and Dutch singer Laura Guldemond joined in 2019. “The Dark Tower” will be her third fronting the band. I had an opportunity to chat with Laura via Skype on 3rd April and we talked about the new album, the band, tour plans and much more.
That interview was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 7th April and repeated again on 5th May - those Shows are available via the Rock Radio NI On Demand Player for a few weeks - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/hosts/ni-rocks-friday-rock-show
The 7th April Show is also available from our MixCloud page -
The interview can be read below.
Burning Witches website - https://www.burningwitches.ch/
The Burning Witches are singer Laura Guldemond, guitarists Romana Kalkuhl and Larissa Ernst, bass player Jeanine Grob and drummer Lala Frischknecht. Lead guitarist Larissa Ernst plays on the new album, but has left the band temporarily to have a baby and has been replaced by Courtney Cox from The Iron Maidens.
QUIREBOYS - Hey You
CIRCUS OF ROCK - Alive and Kicking
BONFIRE – SDI (MMXXIII version)
THE SCREAMING EAGLES - 27 Club
BURNING WITCHES - The Dark Tower
Interview with LAURA GULDEMOND Part 1 (9 min)
BURNING WITCHES – Unleash the Beast
Interview with LAURA GULDEMOND Part 2 (6 min)
BURNING WITCHES – Dance with the Devil (Acoustic)
Interview with LAURA GULDEMOND Part 3 (9 min)
BURNING WITCHES – Flight of the Valkyries
SHADOWRISE – Atlantis
WHITESNAKE - Child of Babylon
RAINBOW - Stone Cold
SAXON - Wheels of Steel
SERGEANT STEEL - Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool
SCREAMACHINE - Church of the Scream
THE FORGED HEARTS - I Touched The Fire
KAMELOT - New Babylon (ft Melissa Bonny)
JESSICA WOLFF - Sleeping Beauty
DEVICIOUS - Are You Ready for Love
THIN LIZZY – Chinatown
MAMAS BOYS - Crazy Daisys House of Dreams.
TRIGGERMAN - Valhalla
NI ROCKS – Hi Laura, thanks for taking some time to talk to Rock Radio NI. Burning Witches release their new album “The Dark Tower” on 5th May. The track “The Dark Tower”, which we just played, was the first single from the new album. What can you tell us about that track and the video that was released with it?
LAURA – Hi. “The Dark Tower” is essentially the album theme. It’s about the Countess Báthory being locked up in her own home after she killed her servants by torturing them to death. She is basically the first recorded serial killer ever. It was pretty long ago and she lived in a brutal time where as a kid she would see maybe a guy being sown into a horse because he did something wrong – different times basically. She turned out to really like that and her hobby was torturing those girls to death. And at some point she started to torture the daughters of noble men and women.
NI ROCKS – A good subject for an album. That’s is obviously the theme running through the album. Why did that track become the title track. Any particular reason why you chose that one as the title track?
LAURA – We always loved the whole idea of having the artwork and everything fitting together and we were thinking ok let’s do “The Dark Tower”. We wanted something a bit darker again. For example, I think the album “Hexenhammer” was also a bit more dark – it had a dark feeling. We wanted something like that and I think this song kind of reminds me that song specifically. Some people also thought hey that reminds me of “Hexenhammer”. So I guess we meant to do that in the end (laughs). It was just a fun idea to have it on the cover.
NI ROCKS – That brings me on nicely to the next question. The album artwork is great as usual. Who did the work for you on the album cover?
LAURA – Gyula (Havancsák) did it again. We just really love his artwork and we actually gave him a lot of work. We said make all the artwork, make everything, and we have some really cool stuff. I love the picture he made of Countess Báthory; I think that one is really cool. What he does is perfect!
NI ROCKS – Yeah, it’ll be a great album cover on vinyl, which we’ll talk about later. Who have the band worked this time with for production and recording of the new album?
LAURA – We were once again in Little Creek Studio in Switzerland with V.O. Pulver. And Schmier (Marcel Schirmer) was there and Damir (Eskic) helped out once in a while. Mostly I was there with Pulver and Schmier. In the studio we finish everything; so we have already recorded a bit at home and we know what to do. They make sure everything is beautifully recorded and that the last parts of the songs that might need changed and maybe made a bit better are done.
NI ROCKS – Do you always get together for the final process – for the final bit of recording; rather than doing it in different parts?
LAURA – Yeah, but it’s always difficult to find time for everyone to be in the same spot at the same time. It’s not always that everyone is there. It’s also sometimes not helpful to be working on something with too many people at the same time; so most of the time it’s three people maximum. Romana also was there sometimes to help out. So, sometime Romana, sometimes Schmier, sometimes Damir. If Lala came to the studio we’d record these little intros and creepy stuff. Everytime she joined us for some of the creepy stuff. Larissa, together with Romana, did the crying girls in the story I believe. If you know their voices you can hear it – so that’s funny! Everybody did something. I don’t live in Switzerland so I’m not really there for the guitar recordings to be honest.
NI ROCKS - This is the band’s first album with Napalm Records. What has it been like working with them and how have things gone so far?
LAURA – It’s good. We were looking for a label that understood that we also really wanted to have the physical product and not just digital. It’s very important, I think for every heavy metal band it’s important, but especially for us with the old school stuff. The whole heavy metal culture is partly about having this special thing. So it was a bit sad that they (Nuclear Blast) didn’t want to have this amount anymore – that would usual for us; so we decided to go with another label. Napalm understands us. And also, for some extra vinyls, which you can order. And we’re also together with Atomic Fire Records so that’s cool.
NI ROCKS – There are some great pre-order packages for the new album on the Napalm Records website and the band’s website as well. Some have already sold out actually. Is there any discussion with the band about the different formats or how does that happen? Is it down to the record label?
LAURA – That’s a good question! Who does everything! I think it’s Damir actually who works a lot on that. He helps us a lot with the different colours and different layouts. Gyula is the one that draws everything and Damir is the one that makes everything fit onto the shirts. To be honest, I’m not sure if the label actually makes stuff themselves. They’ll always take the front of the album – the album cover on the shirts; but I’m not actually sure if there is another person for doing that. Maybe there is. I’m not sure.
NI ROCKS – I went for the blue and black marbled vinyl so I’m looking forward to getting that in a few weeks time. Are you a fan yourself of the vinyl format or do you collect vinyl?
LAURA – Yeah, I really love vinyl. It is a different sound most of the time and usually I like it a bit more. It depends also on how it is made. You have room on the vinyl for all the musical information too and I like that.
NI ROCKS – And the artwork always looks better on the bigger scale than on a CD too.
LAURA – Yeah, that’s also true.
NI ROCKS – The band have just released the second single from the new album called “Unleash The Beast” which we’ll play now. We’ll talk about the new video shortly, but what can you tell us about the song itself?
LAURA – It’s a bit of a special track. I think it was one of the last ones that we finished. Just to go back to “The Dark Tower” again; I took the liberty to go a bit outside of the theme with the lyrics. But, it is based on the feeling that you grow up to be someone, and maybe you get a bit crazy from it. “Unleash The Beast” is the same. You’re basically in a weird environment so it drives you crazy. Romana had this idea to start the melody at a point. So you had this cool thing where you start before the chorus starts…I’ll just sing it “animals in a cage”... then it starts. It’s kind of cool. I liked that idea. It’s just one of those up tempo songs you know that really stretch. And it’s so cool now that Courtney could help fill in and now we have two versions of the song. There is something for everyone – you have the stretch and the version with Larissa on it actually has more harmonised guitars so that is cool. There is also a little guitar melody in there and I think that’s nice. You should check out both.
NI ROCKS – That was the new single “Unleash The Beast”. Just ahead of the video being released it was announced that Courtney Cox, who you mentioned, would be coming into the band to cover for Larissa who is pregnant. Was Courtney an obvious choice for the band or how was that decision taken?
LAURA – Yeah. She had already, for a long time, been in contact with Romana and she had played on one of the songs on “Hexenhammer” – a solo. So, for longer than I’ve been in the band they have known each other. They have a good relationship. It looked like it was possible for her to join – she’s also in the Iron Maidens – and she has people filling in for her at times so it was possible. We’re really happy that she wanted to do it and she’s a really cool person to work with. It’s great.
NI ROCKS – The video came out last week. Did all the band manage to get together for the video shoot? You obviously live in different countries and Courtney is in America. Did you manage to get together for the shoot or were you all doing your own bits for the video?
LAURA – Yeah, we all went together to Nuremberg. It’s a beautiful town with really old stuff. They have this wall of the city I guess it is, that goes on for ages. It is really cool and it doesn’t stop. It’s like the Chinese Wall of Germany (laughs). There is a beautiful building that has a dungeon inside and we used that to record “The Dark Tower” all together. Then we were together again in Nuremberg, because we worked with Dreamfield Factory, and the second one was recorded in a building somewhere in Nuremberg. I’ve forgotten where exactly. Also very cool and some old stuff on the walls. There was some kind of old technical system there, I don’t know what it was for, but it looked really cool. It was behind Jay I remember. To be honest there was a whole collection of weird things and there were chains hanging from the ceiling; so we did some cool stuff. We had plastic so that it would look scary; up close to the plastic with some light on it and it looks cool.
NI ROCKS – Are we likely to see any more singles being released from the album, ahead of the release of the album on 5th May?
LAURA – Yes, two more.
NI ROCKS – Can you tell us which ones or are we not allowed to know yet?
LAURA – Nah, I don’t think I can tell you (laughs)
NI ROCKS – The band have three album launch parties planned for Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. I presume those will be the first live performances with Courtney. What can you tell us about those shows?
LAURA – Actually the first show with Courtney will be on the Cruise – on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. That will be fun. The release is right after we arrive back on shore again – the release of the album on 5th May. Then we go to Switzerland and we have a signing session in a shop there. Then on 12th May we have the big show in Z-7 (Pratteln) to release “The Dark Tower”. Then on the 17th, 18th and 19th we have a few shows in Belgium and Germany to do the release party at some other places too.
NI ROCKS – At the weekend it was announced that the band would be playing a festival in Mexico in December. I presume there are more live shows between the album launch parties and that gig in December?
LAURA – Yes there are. We have a lot of festival shows now planned and there are more in the works. We’re thinking of maybe touring the west coast of America because the last time we did the east coast. If we were in Mexico anyway, we’d hope to do some more shows in Latin America. We have to figure out how to make it work. Maybe we’ll get to come to the UK finally.
NI ROCKS – That would be great! In 2021 the band recorded some live shows which got released as a Live Bootleg album in fairly limited numbers – they are hard to get. Those tracks aren’t available on any streaming or download sites at all. Are there any plans to give those more widely available or to do another live album at some stage?
LAURA – Yeah, we are actually thinking about recording some live stuff, but we’re not entirely sure how and when yet. (laughs) We’re thinking about it.
NI ROCKS – The one that was released in 2021 is very hard to get. You released on cd and vinyl but they are very hard to come by.
LAURA – Yeah, it was kind of a bootleg thing and unofficial.
NI ROCKS - During the covid pandemic in 2020 the band also released a few acoustic tracks. The reason for doing those was obviously because you couldn’t do anything else during covid. Was that something that you enjoyed doing – the acoustic tracks?
LAURA – Yeah, it was fun and it was different. To be honest, it’s easier because it’s always easier as a singer if you don’t have the wall of noise around you. It’s cool to have this other side to try. I’m always a singer that likes to do a lot of stuff and it was just fun to do something else.
NI ROCKS – I was going to play one of those acoustic tracks now. There were three released – “Black Magic”, “Dance With The Devil” and “We Eat Your Children”. Which of those would you want to play?
LAURA – I heard from a lot of people that it was really cool to hear the acoustic version of “Dance With The Devil”; so I would do that one. It was just a bit – I don’t know; it was just a different vibe.
NI ROCKS – Prior to joining Burning Witches in 2019 you fronted Dutch band Shadowrise and had released an album and EP with them. Had there been any thought of trying to continue with both bands or was it always going to be a case of Burning Witches being your priority?
LAURA – Yeah, it was kind of busy, so it was just difficult to combine it. I wouldn’t say impossible, but I think the problem was that everybody was a bit busy. We were studying – everybody in the band was basically first of a all still a student, and live got hard after that. (laughs)
NI ROCKS – Who were your musical influences at the time when you were starting out in music and when you started Shadowrise? Who were your influences as a singer or as a band?
LAURA – It’s difficult to say. I just tried to find a sound within the band so my sound definitely changed a lot. In Shadowrise we wanted to have a clear differentiation between the female vocals and the guy vocals. Roman was screaming back then and I was just singing plain – I couldn’t go too rough, but that was fine. I did some backing screams, but we basically inter-changed vocals. It was just a whole different thing. Looking back, one of my examples for the sound I wanted to have in that band was actually the singer of Kamelot – Tommy (Karevik) – and also the Europe singer, I don’t know his name to be honest.
NI ROCKS – Joey Tempest
LAURA – Yes. I felt it would be cool to try. Maybe you can hear it on some songs; I’m not sure. I also like to do these epic stories – it was power metal basically – or death metal – a combination of it. That was the influence. Some of the songs had a bit more gothic influence too; but I’m not really an operatic singer much. I could do it, but I didn’t really choose to do it much.
NI ROCKS – I always like to ask people - can you remember what the first concert was that you went to and also what the first album was that you bought?
LAURA – The first concert that I went to is horrible! I’m ashamed. I didn’t have parents that were into going to concerts, so the first concert that I went to was actually because we went there because a lot of friends from church went there! So I went to the EO Jongerendag, which is like the public tv organisation that was focused on Christian stuff. They organised a really big concert with a lot of cool artists. That was really cool, but it wouldn’t have been my choice to go to as my first concert to be honest; but my friends went there, so! This is how I grew up, so I guess this is maybe why I’m so rebellious now (laughs).
And the first album was Puddle of Mudd – I can remember that I really loved it because it was so funny and has a lot of humour. I liked that song “She Fucking Hates Me”.
NI ROCKS – And what was the last concert was that you went to, apart from one of your own?
LAURA – The last concert that I went to was….oh, I have to think about that actually. I know I wanted to go to a lot of concerts and I missed a lot of concerts; but which one was the actually one I went to? (laughs) To be honest the last one is the one I actually performed in and it was with Gomorra; at one of their release shows.
NI ROCKS – I was actually about to ask you about that. You’ve done a few guest vocals appearances over the years, one of the recent ones being with Gomorra. How do those collaborations generally come about and is that something that you’d like to do more of?
LAURA – Yeah, collaborations in general are always fun since I love to do different things. In Burning Witches I can luckily do a lot of those things because it has everything. It can be creepy, we always have one ballad – it’s lots of fun. But definitely, I’m open for doing any collaborations because I’m always having fun trying to do things.
NI ROCKS – Are there any bands or singers that you’d really like to work with? Like a wish list for who you’d really want to work with?
LAURA – Yes. I have this thing that I want to check off and that is doing a really cool duet with a male vocal that I like. It doesn’t have to be any specific person. To name a few, and it’s never going to happen, but who knows – Bruce Dickinson would be cool or maybe Rob Halford. The more likely ones I would hope, maybe (laughs) - Yannis from Beast in Black has a really cool voice. And Tommy from Kamelot. Voices that I love.
NI ROCKS – There was just two years between the release of “The Dark Tower” and “The Witch of the North” and just a year between it and “Dance With the Devil” which was you first album with the band. You must be quite prolific in regard to writing of tracks. Is there a standard song writing process or do they develop in different ways?
LAURA – I do try to keep to the album theme these days. With “Dance With the Devil” we didn’t really have that. It was ok to do something with witches. I asked everybody in the band what I should write about and they said – ‘ah, something about witches’. So I was like, ‘ok, that’s very helpful’ (laughs). That’s the thing I’m always looking for – to do something with that. In “The Dark Tower” we have one song about a witch and it’s actually an evil witch, because she was the helper, or one of the helpers, but one of the big helpers of Countess Báthory and she would get some new girls in. She would come with the idea, or say it was a good idea to start a school for noble women; but that is when she started to torture those noble women. So she is the evil witch in that song.
NI ROCKS – Will the focus for the band for the next year or so be on touring and promoting the album rather than writing and getting back into the studio?
LAURA – Yeah, definitely. We want to do some shows, but let’s see how it goes. If there is time to write and there are new songs. I know Romana always has some ideas and she keeps them for the next album. I always write down some ideas.
NI ROCKS – You’re always writing?
LAURA – Well, not writing the songs, but if I have an idea, that it would be so cool to write a song about that in future I’ll write down maybe a title and a little bit of the idea. That’s it.
NI ROCKS – That’s all the questions that I have. I’ll play another track, but as we’ve already played the two tracks from “The Dark Tower” that have been released I thought we’d finish with something from “The Witch of the North”. Do you want to pick a track from that album for us and maybe tell us something about it?
LAURA – I think one of the most fun songs, in my opinion, from that album is “Flight of the Valkyries” because it has such a surprising song structure. I like it.
NI ROCKS – We’ll play that. Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us Laura and all the best with the new album.
LAURA – Thanks, and thanks for the interview.