Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Interview with Cheryl owner of Witches Brew Rec. done by Patrick on 7-29-15

Metal  Hails
Here  is  a  new  interview   with  Cheryl   who  owns  the  great  metal  label  Witches Brew  Rec.from  Germany.If  you  are  into  old-school  thrash,traditional   heavy  metal   or  even  some  death/thrash  metal  then  give this   label  a  chance.

Interview  with  Cheryl  owner  of  Witches  Brew  Rec.  done  by   Patrick 

1.  Metal  Hails  Cheryl  when  did you  first  get  into  metal  music? Who  are your  all-time  favorite  bands?
Cheers Patrick! I could make it really short and say I've been into Metal since birth (haha) as my dad was and still is a huge music fan and always had stuff like DEEP PURPLE, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, KISS, QUEEN, THE BEATLES, etc. playing non-stop in our house! Of course it would depend on one's definition of Heavy Metal but for me personally, some of those bands are Heavy Metal. Anyway, it wasn't until one night with insomnia that I discovered  what I deemed "something heavier than what my dad listened to". It was around 2:30 in the morning in 1984, I was switching stations on my small boombox looking for something interesting and I came upon the most amazing and aggressive sound I had ever heard! The riffing, the pissed off vocals, man, it was like nothing I had heard before! I listened on, hoping the DJ would announce what band it was. Lucky for me, he did! It was METALLICA and that is where my Metal journey began! Since I didn't have any money back then I depended on the radio to get my Metal fix! I checked through the stations late at night for months afterwards and eventually discovered a late night radio show that aired every Saturday called The Metal Zone on 94HJY, a local station in Providence, RI. Later on I started to watch Headbangers Ball on MTV (remember when it was about music videos all the time? Hahaha) and at the same time taped The Metal Zone (and a college radio station that played a lot of Death Metal) so I could listen after HB was over. The bands I immediately fell in love with were mostly from the Bay Area, METALLICA, MEGADETH, TESTAMENT, SLAYER, HEATHEN and then I started getting into ANTHRAX, OVERKILL, IRON MAIDEN and from there it snowballed. I was hungry for more and more Metal! By the time I had money and a car, a lot of people were already moving away from Metal, dumping massive amounts of their tapes at used record shops. I was purely a tape collector back then since I liked to be able to take my music on the go plus tapes were cheap. I discovered so many bands by reading thanks lists or taking a chance if the cover, logo or even band picture looked cool! I always look back fondly at those early Heavy Metal Hunting adventures! It was exciting every week, cashing my paycheck and making the rounds to all the used record shops in a 3 State radius! There were times where I'd rather buy some metal than buy groceries. Hahaha. I've got a list of all-time favorite bands that could probably wallpaper an entire floor in my house so I'm just going to make it short and sweet with my top ten right now (not in order): SKYCLAD, OVERKILL, MORBID ANGEL, TESTAMENT, SEPULTURA, BOLT THROWER, SLAYER, IRON MAIDEN, JAG PANZER and ANTHRAX. Ask me in another week and I probably would give a different list. There's so many great bands!

2. Cheryl,  I  believe  you  started  Witches Brew  in  2002... what  gave you the   idea  to  form  the  label? Do  you  work  on  the  label  by  yourself  or  do you  have  some  help to run  the  label?

Yes, you are correct, it was spring 2002 when I started the label. Since mid 1998 I had been running an online zine called The Metal Gospel (maybe some of you readers remember this? :D) and through that I had received some great demos and independent releases for review. At that time there weren't as many DIY labels as there are now and I wanted to help out some of those underground bands get a professional release out. Anyhow, my husband was running his own label, Barbarian Wrath, which I helped out with and gained experience from so I figured why not give it a go as well? I had considered calling my label Metal Gospel Records back then but decided against it since not only would it be rather redundent but I also wanted there to be a clear line between the two entities. I do all the work for the label (and Barbarian Wrath) myself these days so often it can be overwhelming, especially since I have a regular job as well. On most days I work from 0630 in the morning until past midnight and repeat that over and over. Haha.

3. What  are your  current  releases  available? What  are  some things  you   look  for  when  signing  and releasing  a  band?

I've been really busy at the Brewery with quite a few releases since restarting the label in 2013, joining forces with a lot of great new bands since then and also working with some of the ones I had previously worked with in earlier years. 2015 has been our busiest year in the label's history so far! Nearly all Witches Brew releases from the very start are still available except some of the bigger names like TOXIC HOLOCAUST or THE CHASM. We've got a website that contains our complete release list at for anyone who wants to check that out! However, I'd like to go through a bit about the 20 releases since 2013 because it marks somewhat of a milestone for the label! I was able, thanks to the money I saved with my regular job, to finally realize my dream of doing some vinyl releases! The first one was the MIDNITE HELLION Hour Of The Wolf 7" with a huge poster! I'm a huge fan of 7" records, always have been! Naturally this has been something so cool and addictive I've followed it up with a split 7" of REDIMONI/GRAVEYARD - Thrash meets Death, a 2 song EP of Greek Euro style thrashers ENDLESS RECOVERY and the ever so successful ACERO LETAL "Veloz Invencible / Duro Metal", simply outstanding Speed Metal from Chile! That one is currently at the factory as a repress version! I've also done some 12" records with TERRA CAPUT MUNDI Lost In The Warp, completely underrated Speed/Thrash/Heavy Metal from the US and TYRANT'S KALL Dagon, fantastic Doom Death from Belgium! Quite recently, just last month the VOLCANIC Okkult Witch Picture Disc 10" was unleashed! Came out great too and recommended for anyone who craves Black Thrashing madness!! Of course we've done quite a few CD releases as well, working with some Greek maniacs, old style thrashers NIGHTBREED with their self titled CD, new band formed from members of OUTCAST, SABOTER with their self titled MCD - sounds a lot like a mixture of SANCTUARY, JUDAS PRIEST (Painkiller) and early 90s MELIAH RAGE!!! And a very nice split of between newcomers HILLBILLY REVENGE and HUMAN SLAUGHTER! Serbia has taken the Brew by storm with ALITOR and their tech thrash release "Eternal Depression", a combo of Bay Area and DEATH! BelFAST offers ACID AGE, a new cooperation from last year with their completely nutty "Drone Shark Ethics"! You want speed and insanity? Check these guys out! A band that absolutely blew my mind last year comes to us from Egypt!!! They're called EXCIMER and we went ahead and made an official CD release of their previously digital only album "Thrash From Fire". The talent and energy in these guys is mindblowing! There's also been some follow up releases from some of our old bands, AMOK with their second pounding offering "Somewhere In The West", CHAIN OF DOGS with a compilation of their EPs and some bonus material and those crazy Finnish maniacs, PYÖVELI with "Still Underground". Of course I had to balance out the thrash with some fine Doom Metal from the US with the double disc set of STONE MAGNUM (featuring Dean Tavernier from SKULLVIEW fame). Witches Brew joined forces with Iron Shield, also from Germany for a SEASONS OF THE WOLF Anthology 2CD which features the two albums before the self titled album! Our current releases are rounded out with young Brazilian Thrashers BLACKENED with a reprint of their MCD "Underground Attack", (aggression and energy abounds on this!!) and SPEEDWHORE from Munich with "The Future Is Now" CD, amazing Black Speed Thrash Metal! I have a very simple philosophy when it comes to deciding whether I want to work with a band or not, first of all does the music grab me and make me want to pop open a beer and headbang like a maniac even if I was sitting in my office? If it moves me like that then chances are I'll get in contact with the band. I get a lot of band submissions each week and it would be fantastic if money were no issue because sometimes it is very difficult to have to choose between 3 or 4 awesome bands! Usually the next step, after I have struggled with myself about NOT going to rob a bank so I could work with all the bands and have chosen one, I contact them and then discussions start. If I get the feeling that the band I'm talking to also has the same passion and underground mentality as I do and is not looking to become rock stars with world tours and tons of money then we agree to work together. I'm very easy to work with and I look for bands that are also not so complicated either. I expect there to always be open communication between me and the band. It is important to iron out any problems right away rather than have bad feelings later on. My main goal with Witches Brew since the very beginning is first to release the styles of Metal that made my metalheart pound (mainly Thrash and Death) and second, to give smaller, lesser known bands a chance to have a professional, factory pressed release and some extra promotion. For me it was and still is about helping out the bands, even if the entire label landscape has changed over the years. 

4. What  are  some  bands and releases  you  have  planned  for  2015 please tell the readers a  little  about  your  upcoming  releases?

The Brew has been going full speed with releases since January of this year and we've got quite a few more lined up. Recently unleashed is the debut full length from Finnish Death Metal band SHRAPNEL STORM entitled "Mother War". This is for all those that like pounding, very heavy Death Metal in BOLT THROWER tradition! Totally killer! There's also the newest one from Serbians NADIMAC entitled "Manifest Protiv Sudbine" which means "Manifest Against Destiny". Despite that the lyrics are completely in Serbian there's a very nice, detailed description of each song in the middle of the booklet. Definitely a powerful, energetic and forceful rip roaring Thrash ride with that one! The second full length from Doom Deathers TYRANT'S KALL, neatly entitled "Gla'aki" along with a fantastic piece of Blackened Heavy Metal from Slovenia's VIGILANCE entitled "Hounds Of Megiddo" will both be released at the end of August, they're currently at the pressing plant. We've recently joined forces with RAPTURE from Athens, Greece, a hungry, young Thrash band that will surely snap plenty of necks. Their album will be titled "Crimes Against Humanity" and will be out in September/October. The guys in EXCIMER are working on a follow up to "Thrash From Fire" so we'll see when that one hits the Brewery! Let's see, what else do we have... we're going to do a split 7" between Croatian band WAR ATROCITIES and WHIPSTRIKER which will unfortunately only be out MAYBE in December but most likely due to the huge back up on vinyl orders nowadays, in January. A new MIDNITE HELLION full length, new GOAT OF MENDES full length, a CHAIN OF DOGS 7" featuring their anthem "Hobbit Killer" and lastly a split CD between Austrian Black Thrashers TRIUMPHANT and TRANSILVANIA. There's a couple more things in the works but for now I don't have enough details to mention them. :)

5. Witches  Brew  releases  both  vinyl  and  cd  releases  how  do  you  decide  what  format  to  release a  certain  band  on? It  seems  cassette tapes  are  making  a small comeback  any  plans to  release  any  of your  releases  in  this format?

When deciding to go with vinyl or CD, it usually depends on what the band wants to do and then on how my finances are at the time. By far CDs are much cheaper and easier to deal with than doing vinyl (in regards to storage, shipping, etc) so I'm more inclined these days to do mainly CD releases with a few vinyl releases sprinkled here and there. I am probably going to look into partnering up with some other labels for some vinyl later on in the year. For some of my releases on CD I want to do a vinyl version as well but that depends entirely on if I can raise enough money with the CD sales to afford it. Vinyl is bloody expensive, especially if you want to do it right and I require high quality releases on my label so dropping 2000 EUR for one release is not out of the ordinary. I grew up with tapes, in fact I preferred them over LPs at the time because I needed my music on the go and they were much cheaper as well but I do not have any plans nor would want to start doing tape releases. Tapes are great but they don't hold up in the long run. In our house we've spent hours transferring demos to mini disc! Hahaha.

6. Witches  Brew  Rec.  comes  out  of the  mighty  German  scene  what  is  your opinion  on  Germany's  metal  scene?

Germany has an extremely healthy and flourishing scene in regards to the amount of bands, shows and festivals available! Sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to find the time and money to take it all in! Hahahaha. I think that with any scene around the world though there are your absolute die hard Metalheads who absolutely love and LIVE the music (these I like to surround myself with) and then you have the "pass throughs" who usually have big mouths for awhile and then fade away. I think that Germany will always have an extremely strong scene because it's just so easy to get access to the apparel, the bands and people who are likeminded (for the most part). :D

7.  Who  are  your  all-time  favorite  German  bands?  Are there  any  new  German  bands  that  have  caught  your  eye  lately?

Another long list coming right up! Hahahaha. To start, probably my number one all time favorite German band is RUNNING WILD (pirate metal supreme!!) followed very closely by ACCEPT/UDO! "Russian Roulette" was the first album I got from those guys! Others that follow the top two are KREATOR, old HELLOWEEN, WARLOCK, DESASTER, RAGE, CREMATORY, SODOM, SUBWAY TO SALLY, GRAVE DIGGER, BRAINSTORM, MAJESTY, FALKENBACH, NOCTURNAL, SACRED STEEL, WARRANT, PARAGON, BLIND GUARDIAN, SUIDAKRA  and POWERWOLF. There are probably about 50 more but I'll leave it at that. :) As far as new bands, there are some really great ones in the German metal underground these days! One of the strongest styles here is Black Speed/Thrash with bands like VOLCANIC, BLACKEVIL, WITCHING HOUR and BULLDOZING BASTARD. Heading towards the realm of traditional/speed metal my eyes are on STALLION, BLIZZEN, IRON KOBRA and ALPHA TIGER. Thrashing my skull regularly are bands like ERADICATOR, REZET, TORMENT TOOL, DUST BOLT and BATTLECREEK. One of my most recent discoveries though that has completely blown my mind is PATH OF SAMSARA who play a very occult sounding Heavy Metal! It's completely unique and I recommend everyone check them out! They're also looking for a label should anyone have some room on their roster! I sure wish I did, hahahaha!

8. What  are  some  of  your  favorite  fan/web-zines from Germany and  around the  world?

Germany does have quite a few good fan/web-zines! Going back some years, one that I read a lot was Voices From The Darkside (which you could get in the US as well) and the online version is very nice too so when I have some time I check that out. There's Thrash Attack zine which has a good connection with the pulse of the underground and can be great for discovering some killer, newer bands! It doesn't come out as regularly as it used to since the owner is busy with his own label but when it does come out it's an enjoyable read. Not sure if Flo is still doing it though as it's been quite awhile since the last issue came out. A really good online zine that I read as often as I have some time is Crossfire Webzine! Everybody should check that out! For those that really like the 80s metal sound and lifestyle you can check out Metal Command. That mag just drips with the 80s spirit! In regards to glossy mags in Germany, the one that's big now is Deaf Forever edited by former writers of Rock Hard. It's got some really cool articles in it (if you can read German anyway hahaha). For the more extreme, death metal oriented fanatics out there, the G.U.C. zine is a great choice. It's truly a shame that they put out the last issue last year. I also sometimes check out and The Metal Observer. Another one that I think everyone should read, especially if you like to learn a lot of information about the history of a band is SnakePit. Probably one of the best Metal magazines out there! Looking outside of Germany, Morbid Tales from Canada was one of my number one reads. Unfortunately for those who waited for issue number 7 to come out it didn't happen since Annick is very busy seeing the world and cooking awesome food! Michel's Metal Crypt is a really long lasting online zine that I've been reading since he started it. Same thing with Metal Rules. Metal Horde zine from Portugal is outstanding. The Romanian Slowly We Rot is also fantastic, especially for extreme Metal fanatics! To me it doesn't even matter if I get my hands on some older zine either because reading what the bands thought when they were younger and comparing it to now is interesting and sometimes amusing. Between my regular job and the label I'm quite busy and I regret that I don't have more time to read fan/web-zines these days. 

9. In  your   opinion  what  is  the  best  and  worst  thing  about  the  metal  underground? And  what  does  the  term  Underground metal  mean  to  you?

The best thing about the metal underground is certainly the camaraderie! I've met so many great people in this scene and a lot of them have become close friends I can depend on! I love being able to talk to people from other countries and get different perspectives on life, Metal scenes, food, etc. I think it's important that we broaden our horizons when it comes to other cultures because only then can we overcome the many idiotic stereotypes that prevail across the planet! We're all just human beings and should not be judged on what our governments or fanatic idiots do. Bands in the underground seem a lot more "genuine" to me because they play for love of music and not making money or becoming famous. The music is full of passion and that can be felt! That's important to me. I can enjoy mainstream bands and their polished productions but when it comes to raw energy and emotion, the underground is where it is found! I guess the worst thing about the underground would be those people who use it to pretend they are "elite" or "kvlt" and those types of people I don't care for one bit. Lucky for me they don't like me either so I don't encounter them that often. :D Underground Metal means a sort of struggle for what you are passionate about. It's not easy to be in the underground and keep going on limited funds or time but those in the underground keep up the good fight for their passion for Heavy Metal! The underground is where you will spend half a day scouring used record shops looking for that one thing missing from your collection! The underground is where the real Metalheads reside and even if some mainstream people pass through they never stay long because they realize they'll never be one of us!

10. The  metal scene {and  in  most  scenes}  it  seems  that  digital-releases  are  getting  big  nowadays. What  is  your   opinion  on  digital releases? Are any of the  Witches  Brew  releases  in  digital  formats?

To me a "digital release" is not a release! It has to be physical! I'm simply from a different generation and I grew up with physical only. There was no internet back then and I do not accept that a collection can be 1s and 0s. Maybe that pisses off some people but it's how I feel. I can completely understand how someone born in this "digital age" has a different view on it since they don't know any different and would never give someone shit for having their music on a square box hooked up to the computer but it's not for me! I will check out some albums or when bands submit stuff to me, in order to save them some postage, I usually will accept digital submissions to first screen out the stuff I don't like though. Of course now I have to sound like a bit of a hypocrite and say I do have one digital only release on the Bandcamp page, "Twenty Fifteen" from ACID AGE which was donated by the band, to me, to raise some money for future releases. I have no plans to ever do digital only releases myself. I also encourage people to purchase their digital copies of my releases from the bands themselves! Support those underground bands, don't just download from a torrent site! I only include entire albums on my Bandcamp page so people, A, can check out the entire album before deciding to buy and B, so those who buy the physical copy have something to listen to while they wait for it to be delivered.

11. Besides  doing  work  on  the  label  what  are some  of  your  other  hobbies/interests?

Who's got time for hobbies when there's a label to be run? Hahahaha. Just kidding, one of my favorite things to do when I'm not doing label stuff or at work is being out in my yard, taking care of all my very nice plants. I'm a nature lover, so going on walks in the forest, working outside in the yard, just being outdoors is something I truly love just as much as I love Metal! I also used to be an avid long distance runner which I hope to return to once I go into early retirement next year. I injured my knee in 2007 after having run a half marathon (mostly hills) too soon after I completed the Berlin Marathon. It sort of put my running to a halt but the few times I find time to get on the treadmill these days I have no pain so that's cool. Just finding the time to fit everything in can be hard. I also like reading, especially Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Been reading Stephen King books since the early 80s!

12.Thank  you  Cheryl  for  doing this   interview. Do  you   have  any  final  comments  for  the  readers? 

Thanks so much Patrick, so sorry it took me about a year to return this to you!!! Hahaha! I just want to say to everybody who's been really supportive of Witches Brew, THANK YOU!! Without the underground support I could not keep doing this! I'm going to keep on doing everything I can for Witches Brew (and Barbarian Wrath) so we can provide quality releases for those who are about the music and not scene points, cult status, etc. I also want to thank all the bands I'm working with for giving me some kick ass, headbanging Metal!!! I live for this, it's in my heart, mind and soul! Thrash 'til death and beyond everybody!

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