The Underground Sounds Of America: Acid Witch
Welcome to the latest installment of U.S.A.: The Underground Sounds of America, our series that shines a spotlight on the most underrated rock, metal, punk, and hardcore bands in the United States. Each week, we ask one band member to answer five unique questions so you can get to know them better. Because if you aren’t already a fan of the artist featured below…you should be.
Acid Witch may not remember last night, but they remember Halloween. Everything the Detroit, Michigan, four-piece does is drenched in both billows of weed smoke and the All Hallows’ Eve spirit. The result is a stoner-death chuggernaut full of big bob-along riffs, snarled choruses, spooky synths and haunted house gang cackles.
But what makes the band unique is that while most metal acts who love horror tend to take their tracks about undead monsters and satanic rites way too seriously, Acid Witch are all about costumes, candy, and laughing in the face of death. To them, it’s less important to behave like homicidal killers than it is to be the hard-partying metalheads in an Eighties slasher movie, even if that tacitly implies that they’ll be the first ones to get gutted.
“Everyone’s doing the occult witch serious business shit, and it’s like, fuck that, let’s have some more fun with it,” says Slasher Dave, Acid Witch’s vocalist and keyboard player. “Let’s bring back the black cats, the green witches, the pumpkins. I’ve always loved comic books – Tales From The Crypt, Creepy, Eerie, stuff like that. So we try to create a character with this band. I love Iron Maiden’s Eddie. I love anything that’s got a little bit of gimmick to it.”
The band’s most recent release, 2017’s Evil Sound Screamers, out now on Hell’s Headbangers, embraces this love of heavy metal Halloween to its fullest. Loaded with grinding, atmospheric tracks about horror flicks, haunted houses, and even Martin Luther Beistle (founder of the Pennsylvania-based decoration company that pretty much invented Halloween imagery as we know it), Screamers is a perfect distillation of Acid Witch’s sound – and, weirdly enough, the band members’ lives.
“Detroit is the haunt capital of the world—we have more haunted houses in metro Detroit than any other city,” says Slasher Dave. “[Acid Witch bassist] Shagrat and I actually met working at a haunted house when we were teenagers.”
Catching Acid Witch live drives home the effectiveness of getting serious about not being so serious. The band’s August set at Brooklyn metal hub Saint Vitus Bar was a monster mash of banging heads and stoned grins. Even those uninitiated audience members dragged along by buddies and boyfriends clap and threw horns, won over by the fun of heavy metal without having to navigate the bristling attitude of those diehards too cult to have a good time. Of course, it’s hard to act grim when performers dressed as California Raisins and hairy male Barbie dolls lurch onstage for a song called Mutilation Mansion.
Intrigued by the men behind the musical masks, we spoke with Slasher Dave about what makes Acid Witch tick, gurgle, and scream.
1) Who are your greatest musical influences, personally?
1. John Carpenter
3. King Diamond
4. Witchfynder General
2) How does being from Detroit inform your music?
Detroit’s always been about characters. If you look at the ’90s, you had Kid Rock rapping on a trailer, coming from the country. You had Esham, this satanic rapper who came out in a coffin. Obviously, ICP are big characters. And Kiss and Alice Cooper really took off in Detroit. It’s what we were raised on as kids: bands with a gimmick to them, showmanship as part of being a band. Maybe it’s not a necessary for every band who comes out of here, but it’s a part of the fans from this city. I think life just sucks so bad here sometimes that you use music as an escape.
3) On your latest album, you talk about a Detroit urban legend called the Nain Rouge. What is that?
It’s a really creepy legend of a little elvish man who appears on the banks of the Detroit River and does flips whenever something really bad is going to happen. It warns the city of when something’s coming. It popped up before the 1967 riots. Hundreds of people claim they saw it. So that’s always really interested us. We’re always trying to implement things from Detroit in our music. I mean, fucking think about seeing something like that! How creepy is that? We wanted to immortalize the story, because no one’s really done it before.
4) What is the thing other than music that you’re most passionate about doing?
Smoking weed? No, um… I love doing artwork and soundtrack music. I did a video for Municipal Waste recently – I did the beginning, and Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust did the end. I do all the art for my Slasher Dave solo albums, which are synthwave horror soundtracks. Lately, I’ve been focusing a bit on my latest album – 20 Buck Spin is putting out my next solo album, Frights, on Halloween. It’s very heavy and dark – in many ways, a lot like Acid Witch.
5) What is the best thing you’ve ever been for Halloween?
Probably my best costume ever was Shawn Michaels, AKA the Heartbreak Kid. This was, like, two years ago. And our guitarist, Mike Tuff, was the Ultimate Warrior!
Evil Sound Screamers is available now on Hells Headbangers; order it here.
And Slasher Dave’s Frights drops October 26 via 20 Buck Spin; pre-order it here.
Words: Chris Krovatin
Live photos: Rory Higginson