Interview with vocalist and guitarist Patrick Ranieri
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 9, 2015
As many of us know, Hellwitch is one of the longest running Floridian underground Thrash/Death Metal bands and a criminally underrated combo as well. Over the course of three decades Hellwitch recorded only two full-length albums; Syzygial Miscreancy in 1990 and Omnipotent Convocation 19 years later, in 2009. It's very unlikely we will ever see a new album from Hellwitch, though never say never...
Happily, there's a Hellwitch box set in the works that should contain almost everything these Floridian Thrash/Death metal pioneers ever released along with some rare stuff that's never been officially available to fans of the band to say nothing of never-before-seen Hellwitch photos from the early days.
While waiting for this luxurious box set to arrive, the founding member and true heart and soul of Hellwitch, Patrick Ranieri, gave us a glimpse into his current world and let us know about some of the recent happenings in the Hellwitch camp as well as his thoughts about the history of this legendary Thrash/Death Metal band. All of you should know that there can be only one Hellwitch and that is Pat's Hellwitch. Let's open the cage and unleash the beast...
Luxi: So, how was the coffin last night? What about the night itself? What did you do?
Pat: Well, last night was pretty comfy. The weather was cold (like a summer night in Finland!) and the coffin put my tortured soul to rest. Last night I didn't do too much but let me tell you about three nights ago. It seems there was this international Metal fest that took place on a cruise ship (!) that departed from Fort Lauderdale, FL (five minutes from my home). Magically, these Finnish Metal freaks appeared at the beach near me! Apparently, a mob of German Metal freaks was causing a ruckus on this same beach. So, being a good citizen, I came to the rescue of my fine, freaky, Finnish friends. I gave one of them a 40-pound axe for protection and assured them all would be well (see pic)! Later, my wife and I invited them to dinner at a grand Mexican restaurant (Finnish people LOVE Mexican food, you know?). Afterward, we still feared for their safety and gave them a ride to the airport for their arduous journey back to their frosty Finnish freezerino. This epic saga actually spanned a couple of "nights" but I know your readers are eager to hear this harrowing tale of heroism.
Luxi: Hellwitch has been pretty busy this year and has played a good number of shows. As you told me a while ago, 2014 has been the busiest year for Hellwitch as far as playing live is concerned. What has made it possible for you to be this active with Hellwitch this year?
Pat: I guess 30 (years) is the magic number. Strange, I always thought it was 666. Anyway, opportunities keep popping up and we love to play! Of course, I would have preferred all this action to have occurred in 1991 or so but we'll take what we can get. But yes, in 2014 we played the most shows in one year in our 30-year history! I think it had to do with Solstice being kind enough to invite us to do a tour with them AND the fans finally catching on to what Hellwitch is all about. I think 1990 was too early for our style to be unleashed on the world! People were NOT ready for that style in 1990!!! By 2014 they appreciated the obscure riffing... finally!
Luxi: The "Sentenced to the Torture Chamber" summer tour that you did this year with Solstice contained nearly 20 dates all in all. Was it a rough tour for you guys and how did it go overall?
Pat: Rough tour?? Nooooo...how rough can it be with 10 people in a van driving 5,000 miles in 18 days?? It was a cakewalk, as we say in the U.S. ha ha hah!!! In fact it was sooo easy that our drummer actually purchased a plane ticket at the end of the tour so he could fly back to Florida from California to avoid the final 47-hour, non-stop drive!! I think capping off more than two weeks of sleep deprivation with a quick, 47 hour, NON-STOP drive through the country is good for a person, both physically and mentally! Most shows went well, but there were rough spots along the way, of course. In El Paso I accidentally ate cocaine. In Tucson, a little girl literally "kicked my ass." We suffered a broken windshield along the way. But, overall, I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything, except not doing it again, maybe. ha hah!! I actually wrote a tour diary that lasted about five days. After that, I was constantly in and out of consciousness.
Luxi: How hungry did this tour with Solstice leave you as far as doing gigs/tours is concerned?
Pat: Well, since it was sooooo rough, I was happy to be home and relaxing in comfort for a change. I would NEVER do anything like that again under those conditions, ha ha ha!!! In other words, it left us hungry to do a tour but under more humane conditions, definitely!
Luxi: Hellwitch has never played one single gig outside of the States (or doesn't my memory serve me?) so do you have the energy and motivation to get the band to Europe for some gigs?
Pat: We ALWAYS will be open to playing outside the U.S. Even if we split up, we would reform to do any non-U.S. shows! The closest we've been is Puerto Rico! That's only outside the continental U.S. but a step in the proper direction, I guess. Ha ha hah!!!
Luxi: How about a Hellwitch/Demilich tour around Europe (without forgetting Finland)? Now that would be worth the effort, wouldn't it?
Pat: No, that would be the GOD tour! I would PAY to do such a tour! To see Demilich on a nightly basis would be a definite boost for me. Demilich is GOD, by the way. Them and Paraxism! Finland bands RULE!
Luxi: 2014 also marked the 30th anniversary of Hellwitch. Have you ever wondered where all these years went? 30 years is a long time to keep a band together.
Pat: I do remember most of the years of our existence, mostly... MOSTLY (aliens reference, LOL!)!!! Yes, 30 years, three decades, 10,950 days IS quite a lengthy jaunt, indeedy! Not many bands of our genre can make that claim! Satan keeps me young! Praise the MASTER! 666!
Luxi: From 1998 to 2004 Hellwitch was on hiatus. What was the reason for this hiatus? Was it that nothing was happening in the Hellwitch camp prior to the hiatus or was it something else?
Pat: It was the lack of a suitable drummer. The last numbskull drummer we had drove us sooo nuts that quitting was the best idea, period!
Luxi: Hellwitch has only recorded two full-length studio albums in 30 years, which feels a bit unfair from my own point of view. You wouldn't say you are a bunch of lazy fucks that aren't interested in creating new "diabolical hymns" would you? Does it have to do with lack of label interest? I'm sure it gets old after a while when no labels seem interested in your band.
Pat: You know, I just did an interview yesterday for a Russian 'zine and he asked the SAME question! BUT, he said, it's not cool that Hellwitch has two full lengths in 30 years...!" Ha ha hah!!! I will tell you what I told him. Yes, it's not cool at all. It's actually very UNCOOL, ha ha hah!!! And, yes, lazy when it comes to creating new songs is the key! Also, when you have as high standards as we do, churning out songs is quite cumbersome. And, yes, again! If there was a decent, supportive label that we had to look up to there would undoubtedly be motivation to compose music quickly to meet our contractual demands. And, YES, again!!! Wow, you're really on cue Mr. Interview Master! After decades of no real supportive labels, you become quite complacent with regard to productivity. No one is making you write songs so you take your sweet time. Though I have to say Omnipotent Convocation is really a quality product! We spent about 400 hours creating that masterpiece! Plus songwriting from 1996 to 2008... phew!
Luxi: Do you believe label owners have found Hellwitch's music a bit too complex, hard-edged or even weird and have thus far avoided Hellwitch like the plague?
Pat: That sounds about right.
Luxi: Are there some Hellwitch songs that still surprise you as to how on earth you were able to create something as tricky and complex?
Pat: Yes, definitely! In particular I listen to "Viral Exogence" and "Mordirivial Dissemination" and am impressed by the litany of directions those songs encompass. They sound a bit alien to my present day mind, hah ha!! My usual thought is "I wrote THAT? What the fuck..?!?!" Ha ha ha!!! We definitely created our own sound that NO one to date has been able to copy. Not that anyone would want to either, ha ha ha ha!!!!
Luxi: Do you think there will ever be a third Hellwitch album with all new material despite the setbacks that you have had settling on a steady recording/live line-up?
Pat: No. Maybe an EP, if we're lucky.
Luxi: There's also this Hellwitch box set in the works, which is being done in cooperation between Germany's Iron Bonehead Productions and Chile's Compilation of Death. As far as I know, there are still lots of things to be done before it reaches the anxious hands of Hellwitch fans. What are your plans regarding it; what will it (hopefully) contain or do you hope it contains once it's been put together?
Pat: Yes, that is correct. It's a "luxury box" as Gabe from Chile states! It will have various skin lotions and cushions and velvet lining. It WILL be a luxury box for sure, ha ha ha ha!!!! I'm currently thinking about all the items I need to complete for it. I know it will contain the first ever release of the first ever Hellwitch live show! There are some rare rehearsals and I have the 24-track studio tape of Syzygial Miscreancy so I may do some remixes of a few of those songs and a remix of Terraasymmetry which never had a proper mix to begin with. It will also contain new liner notes and never before published photos.
Luxi: How proud are you of Hellwitch thinking back across your whole career with the band? Hellwitch have been fortunate enough to share stages with many well-known and lesser-known bands so don't be shy when answering to this question... ;o)
Pat: Ha ha ha ha...!!!! I'm quite proud of Hellwitch's accomplishments actually! Yes, hundreds of great shows with legendary bands spanning three decades! Most importantly, the lyrics and titles that are beyond all others of this genre, except maybe Dark Angel! They have some great lyrics. And music that does not sound like anyone else. The sound is exclusively Hellwitch! Now let me see if my head will fit through the door, ha ha ha ha!!!!
Luxi: How much do you think the fans appreciate you as THE face of Hellwitch? I am sure there are die-hard Hellwitch fans that have been following your doings since the dawn of time and that must feel pretty heart-warming.
Pat: My friend, this is a LOONGG interview! Fuck! But, you've waited patiently for my answers so I will behave and oblige. Hahaha!!! I think there is a handful that see me as visionary or something like that but not that many. I don't follow Facebook or anything so who knows? Hahahaha!!!! Yes, it's quite moving to be appreciated for our music. Don't make me have to go get a tissue, okay?
Luxi: What do you still have in store for all the Hellwitch fans around the world? Again, the third Hellwitch album would sound pretty nice, I must say... ;o)
Pat: A luxury box with lotion, sunscreen, beach towel, 600-thread count sheet set and matching comforter.
Luxi: Do you regret things that you never fully accomplished with Hellwitch, whether it is single tour, missing a support slot for some important band due to getting sick, making some wrong choices between labels, etc. and do you believe you can still turn the tide and change the course for Hellwitch a little bit in the future so that you could be a happier man with your accomplishments/grand victories perhaps?
Pat: Not really, but the one thing that comes to mind was the mistake of NOT signing to New Renaissance Records in '86! We would have recorded many more songs and possibly been picked up by a bigger label. Other than that I have no real regrets. At this point, I'm not into playing as much as I was in '90, so if the tide turns great, if not, great!
Luxi: How do you believe you'll fill the gap in your life if you end Hellwitch for good some day?
Pat: Oh, that's easy, watch more movies, listen to more Metal, go to more all you can eat buffets, ha ha hah!!! There's not much space to fill, really. Hahahahaha!!!!
Luxi:. As Hellwitch definitely has a place in the Floridian underground Metal scene what kind of mark do you think you have left in the minds of metalheads in your area?
Pat: I think the Florida scene sees Hellwitch as legendary. I've actually been told that by many younger fans in our area. I'm surprised, ha ha!! I've also been told we are "cult!" That's a nice word.
Luxi: Well that is it Pat. Hopefully you had fun answering my questions (if not, then I am sorry). Any last words of wisdom and life experience for the readers of The Metal Crypt perhaps?
Pat: Oh fuck, no more questions?? What the fuckin' fuck??? I got a lot to say!!! Yes, Luxi, you are the pinnacle of underground, journalistic integrity. Plus, you swing a mean axe (see photo)!!! It's been a pleasure to support you and The Metal Crypt for many years now! Thank YOU for being the coolest guy around! Last words are always to check out my list of OVER 12,000 CONCERT videos for sale/trade at: Darkest Soul Promotions (www.thrill.to/DSP) - AND write to Hellwitch! Check out www.hellwitch.com
I answer all emails and snail mail personally! We have shirts, CDs, stickers, old demos, live DVDs and more! As for words of wisdom, don't listen to all the stuff that sounds the same. Listen to Demilich, old Death (demos and first LP), Sadus, old Morbid Angel (demos and first three LPs!), Insanity (CA) and Paraxism! And only drive Japanese cars, they're the best! HONDA RULES!!! Hahahahaha!!!!
|Other information about Hellwitch on this site|
|Review: Syzygial Miscreancy|
|Interview with guitarist and vocalist Patrick Ranieri on April 2, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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