Interview: Mat Davis of Castle
There is something to Castle’s mixture of traditional metal and doom that makes their sound intoxicating. Castle is a power trio that features the husband and wife team of Mat Davis (guitar/vocals) and Elizabeth Blackwell (vocals/bass), as well as drummer Al McCartney, who manage to meld many different forms of metal into one powerful sound. While some heavy bands that feature female vocals stick to a single genre, Castle mixes up doom, thrash, and traditional metal forming a multi-faceted attack which is on display on their second album (and Prosthetic Records debut) Blacklands.
Blacklands builds on the foundation of its award-winning predecessor In Witch Order, with dynamic and catch songs that put on display the powerful pipes of Blackwell. It makes an auspicious debut for their new label, and should win the band more fans.
Shortly before Castle headed out on tour with Witch Mountain, we sent Davis a bunch of questions on a variety of subjects, ranging from the band’s lyrical approach, to their winning the award for Metal Album of The Year in Metal Hammer Norway for In Witch Order.
How important is occult philosophy to the band? How does it manifest itself in the music and the lyrics?
It’s a lyrical approach and a way to embellish the mood of the music. We write from a point of view that interests us and that tends to be somewhat dark and, at the same time I would hope, enlightening. I like to think that we stretch our own imaginations by writing these songs — there isn’t an overall effect we are aiming for with the message, but there is with the music. That might be where the occult comes more in to play, in a less obvious manner, when you look at the numerology and chance involved in the writing process, the effect of repetition or the lack thereof in an arrangement — there’s different ways to infuse what you are doing with the freedom an open mind offers rather than just the obvious.
How is the new album Blacklands different from In Witch Order? How is it similar? And what is the significance of the new album’s title?
For me, it was a powerful image, and it was the catalyst for a lot of the riffs and ideas that surfaced on the record. It was a natural choice for a title. A lot of the Castle elements remained the same from the first record: our arrangements and melodies, multi-tracked guitar — things like that. The difference lies in the leanness of the playing and sound. It’s more direct, and we did that to sharpen the focus of the songs and bring out the vocals.
How was the making of this album different than the previous one? What was it like working with producer Billy Anderson?
Working with Billy was great. He has a really great ear and knows his way around getting sounds…so it moves quickly. We did this record in two weeks’ time, give or take a day or two, as opposed to our first record In Witch Order, which was spread out over eight or nine months. That was due to money, travel, etc. A lot of factors kind of fall in line with that reasoning between the two records.
The first record took four years to write, mostly because I was working on other stuff… The new record was really focused and written in a much shorter time-frame. It has a more cohesive sound and feel throughout because of all those things.
What is the theme of the new album?
There was no grand design while I writing, but afterwards you can see a theme or two. The lyrical ideas come out of our everyday life; it’s just a way of looking at things. Some of the ideas are from books and movies that Liz and I were into at the time. Each song begins as a spark somewhere with something, whether it’s a riff or a melody, some idea or sound you hear, so it’s hard to really pinpoint a theme when the ideas represent a wide spectrum of influence. But the lyrics really tend to dwell on the dark side because it fits the mood of the music.
What is the appeal of the power trio set-up to you?
It works well for us. I like it on a lot of different levels. Personality-wise, sound-wise, there are lots of advantages. I guess it just depends on what effect you’re looking for. We could easily have a five- or six-piece band. Most of the songs on the record have two or three guitar parts, and that would be a lot easier to do live with more people — but I like the difference between the studio and live [sound], and I like the challenge of presenting the material in a new way. Who wants to hear an album played exactly the same live? Well, I suppose some people want exactly that, but that doesn’t really concern me. I want to do something different always.
What was it like to win metal Album Of The Year in Metal Hammer Norway for In Witch Order in 2011, given that Norway has a fine tradition of metal? Was there a backlash because of that?
It’s great to get the recognition, especially because we weren’t expecting it. Is there a backlash? I don’t think there was. I think you have to be a little more widely known than we are to get a backlash…so I guess I wouldn’t complain either way.
What are the future plans for the band once the album is released? Is there going to be some touring?
Yes. We already toured in Europe when the record was released there in the spring, and did some Canadian dates in the summer. This fall we are touring with Witch Mountain across North America. We’ll see you on the road!