About Me

Interview with Burning Witches

“Dance with the Devil” is out with a lot of magic, strength, energy and everything else you can expect from a Burning Witches album. With the gigs along with Ross The Boss postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we took this chance to talk with Laura Guldemond, the new singer for the band that was born in Switzerland. The new album, Wacken Open Air, disrespect and discrimination in Heavy Metal are some of the themes we addressed. Here’s what Laura has to say.

M.I. - Greetings from Portugal and everyone at the Metal Imperium team, thank you so much for granting us this interview, Laura. It’s a huge honor for all of us. How is it going, especially with the given circumstances with the new Coronavirus?

Yeah, it’s too bad, you know? And we really, really wanted to play new songs to everyone, everyone’s really disappointed. Actually, right now we’re writing some new music because we don’t have a lot to do right now. I’m also enjoying the weather, because actually yesterday was one of the warmest days until now, after winter, so, that’s really nice.

M.I. - ­So, it’s been 3 years since the release of “Burning Witches”, the very first album. I guess we can say that it’s been a pretty wild ride so far with two studio albums released and some successful tours, including a spot on one of the biggest stages of ‘em all: Wacken Open Air in 2019. “Dance with the Devil”, has been recently released, and it is the band’s third studio album. Tell us all about the recording process. What challenges did you have to face?

­Everything was new for me, of course, and if you want to start all the way from the beginning, I had the audition and they took me in with the first gig already planned, and they gave me a new song which they wanted be recorded to show the world that they had a new singer. Everything happened really fast: there was this first song that would give me an idea about how the recording process would go, so it was really nice that I got to know how it would go and it made me feel comfortable with the process in the end, because I was a bit nervous of people liking my voice. People are very sad, of course, that Seraina left but, in general, they seemed to like the new song, so it gave me a little bit of faith for the rest. But, seriously, now that the album has been released, I’m actually happy now, I’m happy how it turned out and, for me at least, I do this so other people can enjoy it and, if the reactions were too negative, I wouldn’t be happy… but they we’re pretty positive, so I’m happy!

M.I. - This recording process, is it something that naturally comes out, something that is improvised or is it carefully planned to the detail?

Not to the smallest detail but I do like to prepare very well, so I write the songs at home but the recordings are made in the studio. For the ballad, they sent me the acoustic guitar version and I started recording until I had the studio version, because it’s obviously nice to have all the instruments and then I would record at home. I would also record all the lead vocals and everything how I wanted it to be. Sometimes there would be parts that I think they would be so easy that I didn’t have to record them so I didn’t, but sometimes I really like to try out some things, so I try that already at home in order to know exactly what I want do in the studio. I even took with me my laptop so I could check all the layers because I like to double check, due to the fact that at some point I think “This is it!”, and then I want to do it exactly like that. But we left a lot of details out due to the fixing in the studio. Everything sounds different, you’re in the moment, you have to record everything from scratch again, and at that moment you come up with better things and different things, but we had time for that to happen, so that was nice. As for the really small details and effects, I am now using Reaper because it’s easier to record vocals and put all the takes on top of each other and choose which one you like the best, so it’s really nice for demoing stuff but I still have to figure out how to put the effects. So, I don’t do anything of that at home. It was kind nice to do those things in the studio.

M.I. - Apart from the obvious changes, considering this is your first album with the Burning Witches what other differences can be seen, or rather heard, between “Dance with the Devil” and “Hexenhammer”, for example, the previous album?

­It’s a little bit more diverse in the styles that you can find, because it’s inspired in the 80’s. There’s old melodic 80’s stuff. I mean, we could’ve have missed something but the melodic side is there, anyway. So, “Hexenhammer” has always been really diverse, but I think this is slightly more diverse. I can’t really find a lot of differences. We tried once again to make the mix sound like old school and at the same time modern and I think it turned out fairly well.

M.I. - And you had very positive reactions so far! How does it feel?

Yeah, we had a 10/10 from a review in the UK and 80/100 in Blabbermouth so that was really, really cool. We also had another review of 80/100 in The Netherlands, so I’m glad. And we ended up in the UK charts. I think we’re developing into a more diverse band, I think Sonia is more and more developing her own style and I really, really love it. I think they called me at the right moment because, although there are things that I would like to be able to do better with my voice, I’m pretty happy with where I am as vocalist right now, so I’m glad I could do this and I think that it’s pretty cool that they contacted me at the right moment, because if they had contacted me at the beginning of this band, for example, I wouldn’t have been able to deliver this. So, I think it’s a good thing that I wasn’t there to be honest. 

M.I. - Is there any song in this new album that you would consider to be your favorite one?

­No. Because I already realized that every time I listen to it there’s a new song that I like the most on that moment. And it’s not really weird, because it’s clear that it’s pretty diverse. So, if I really listen to this album, it just keeps me really engaged and entertained because it’s all a bit different, but it does mean that every time I listen to it there’s another song that I like at that moment. So, in general, most of the times, I like “Black Magic” the most because it’s the one that triggers emotion in me the most, but sometimes I like the “Final Fight” because it’s so happy and it’s the heaviest song in the album; sometimes I like “Dance with the Devil” because it’s so catchy, and sometimes I really like “Wings of Steel” because it’s super-fast and energetic. There’s something for everyone and for every moment. “Sea of Lies”, it’s more serious, and it’s such a good song but if I’m not in the mood, it’s not going to work for me.

M.I. - “Burning Alive” is the band’s first live album. It sounds like the Witches had a lot of fun, tell us: is this something that we can expect in a near future?

­Yes, for sure! Yeah, hopefully, after the Coronavirus, of course, we can have some fun!

M.I. - About that: do you think this new era we’re living in, with the Coronavirus and all, has affected the release of this new album?

Of course that after releasing a new album we have some gigs to go with it, so the number of gigs could be less than it should be. I’m not sure, to be honest, about what will happen. Gigs are not being canceled, they’re rather being postponed, so yeah…unless this goes for too long, in which case there’s not much we can do.

M.I. - Onto another subject, it’s undeniable that Switzerland and Portugal share this great connection for a very long time, considering that we have so many people living and working in Switzerland. Last year, Alenquer hosted the very first Burning Witches performance on stage here in Portugal. Tell us all about your experience with the Portuguese community either here in Portugal or in Switzerland…or in any other part of the world, for that matter.

­I really like the Portuguese people, they were really warm and it was really nice to be there. I have been in holidays on there, in Algarve, it was really cool. It was great. People are very spontaneous! 

M.I. - Also, while it’s true that some of the bands like Samael, Coroner or Celtic Frost have been around for quite some time, we have seen a huge rise of Heavy Metal bands from Switzerland as of late, like Bölzer, Schammasch and, more recently, the Burning Witches as well. How do you explain the spawn of this new generation of Swiss Heavy Metal bands?

­I don’t know. To be honest, I’m from The Netherlands so I have no clue! I know a lot of the bands, I love Eluveitie for example. It’s one of my favorite bands. I really, really love it. I think there’s a strong core there and there’s some good venues. I watched Demons and Wizards there and it felt like a festival. I think there’s a really good group there.

M.I. - Backtracking a bit to the last year, you performed in Wacken Open Air, the biggest stage of ‘em all in the Heavy Metal industry. Tell us all about that experience and what is it like to be a part of this and share such a stage with so many other great bands?

Of course I had to be very focused, so I could not enjoy it that freely. We were one of the first bands on stage, so we were kind of like opening the festival. There was this guy introducing us to people super excited and it was really weird. All of a sudden, you’re there! And I had that in my “to do” list for a very long time, because it’s one of the most awesome festivals in the Metal scene of course. So it was really special, a little bit nerve racking, and of course pretty awesome at the same time…and it was also my very first day! It was a very, very nice first day present.

M.I. - Onto a more controversial matter, some of the most notorious Portuguese female Heavy Metal artists have reportedly felt some form of disrespect and discrimination in Heavy Metal. However, that time when Heavy Metal was a more of a male-dominated industry, for the most part, seems to be growing thinner with women rightfully conquering their place amongst the best names in the business. How does it feel to be a part of that? 

I think it’s fine. I didn’t meet any disrespect except for all the Internet trolls. I have seen a very professional layer of musicians. Basically, if you play in a big festival I’m assuming you’re a professional. As long as you prove yourself to be mentally strong enough to be at this level of musicianship, then apparently you’re not an asshole either. I didn’t run into any disrespectful people until now, on the contrary, I had a lot of respect, actually. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but I think it has been okay and nothing happened. So, I mainly had positive experiences. I don’t know why other people have had bad experiences. Maybe I have them too, but I don’t realize it and don’t take it as harshly maybe. Probably if I think about it, yeah, those issues are there, but it’s not something any different from any other job. Of course, there are more men than women but I have never felt that, fortunately.
Maybe I’m also good at talking to people, because I do door-to-door sales and you just have to wait until someone opens the door and then you basically have to make sure that whoever opens the door is going to view you as a positive person, so I also am aware, very much aware of how much I can influence the reaction of someone towards me. Basically, I control someone’s reactions towards me for 90%, and I’m aware of this and I think it makes a huge difference. That’s basically why I don’t have a problem with that because I’m used to making people’s reactions positive. It sounds a bit a weird but I think it’s part of why I never had this problem.

M.I. - After 5 years since the birth of the Burning Witches, what accomplishments have been made and what are your plans for the future?

We played at Wacken, wooo! (laughs) We are looking forward for the World Tour, because right now we have to do the European Tour that got cancelled, we have to do the UK Tour that got cancelled ­ and we really have to do the UK Tour because people really like us there ­ so…we’re going to have to try to do everything after the Coronavirus has been solved and, hopefully, we can go to the United States and the rest of the World, that’s what we’re aiming for, for now at least.

M.I. - Laura, thank you so, so much for your time, it’s been a huge honour. We wish you all the success in the world and may the magic of the Burning Witches never ever die. Keep going strong.

Thank you so much! Until next time!

For Portuguese version, click here

Interview by João Guevara