2014-08-25 Castle

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Three shots, three hits and released within three years: "Under Siege", the third album recorded by the American trio CASTLE ties directly up to it´s outstanding predecessors "In Witch Order" and "Blacklands". So this is a good time to ask guitarist and founding member Mat Davis about songwriting processes, the still ongoing 70´s-/Retro Rock movement, Alice Cooper, KRAFTWERK and Satan...Interview

Hi Mat! How are you?

Great, thanks!

Between the releases of your last two albums "In Witch Order" and "Blacklands" lay just about six months. "Under Siege" has taken about two years after the last album, so did the songwriting proceed a little bit slower this time?

Actually between "In Witch Order" and "Blacklands" was one year but yes "Under Siege" took a little longer. It came out just under two years after "Blacklands". Two reasons for that - first, about half of "Blacklands" was written during the time of "In Witch Order" writing so it went a little quicker obviously and second we toured A LOT after "Blacklands"... something around 200 dates in a little over a year. It was just a matter of putting energy into that before we could sit down and write the new record.

Your new album on the one hand sounds a little bit more catchy than the last records, but on the other hand the songs are more long-lasting than on the predecessors. I miss "Hits" like "Shaman Wars" or "Ever Hunter", but the songwriting altogether is on a higher stage. Did you intend to have the album this way?

I guess those are both good things! Our writing process has changed a little bit over the three albums but the intention is the same. We try to write music we love and also try to do new things for us and not the same. So if the album has a different effect on the listener than say "In Witch Order" or "Blacklands" then I have done what I intended. If the song sticks in your head after you hear it then that's even better.  Even way back on In "Witch Order", when I was writing that music in 2007, 2008 it was the same.  I wanted to write Metal that was catchy and hypnotic.  So now maybe we have more confidence in the process and that has allowed us to elevate the music.

In my opinion your last album "Blacklands" sounds considerably rougher and darker than "In Witch Order" while "Under Siege" has a somewhat more polished and less dull sound again. Did you want to have the new album a little bit clearer than the last one?

Again that's an evolution for us and also a result of playing live some 200 shows after "Blacklands". Just progressing as players and also having a clearer vision not only while writing but also in the studio. Ultimately the overall effect of the music is just that.... "Blacklands" was dark, that was the concept really as where "Under Siege" although quite dark as well has an uplifting feel that comes from somewhere in the music, the melodies. There's only so much planning or intent there - sometimes it's the just way it adds up. 

In my official band-information it is written that by some means or other you have been influenced by German Progressive Rock of the 70´s. Even here in Germany bands like TANGERINE DREAM are not famous and KRAFTWERK´s early "Krautrock"-releases are even more unknown. How did you get to this kind of music?

Of course - I have loved that music since I was younger, in my early 20's. I have always been an avid record collector so in that way you tend to discover bands. I first heard KRAFTWERK, TANGERINE DREAM, AMON DÜÜL and others by buying old records at thrift shops back in the late 80's and early 90's before it was considered hip to shop at places like that. This music had a big effect on me because it was so deliberate and alien sounding but at the same time very seductive in it´s approach.

For the limited 7"-record that preceded your new album "Under Siege" you had recorded the song "Second Coming" by Alice Cooper. Why did you select just this song?

I just loved the track when I first heard it a long time ago and at some point hearing it again I thought this is a song CASTLE could add to and in a way we did.  Really that's the only point of doing a cover - and why it's not something that would be my first thought to do. Can you, not make it better but bring something new to it? 

Just now in Germany we have a big movement in 70´s/Retro music. Can you confirm a similar development on the other side of the Pacific? And do you see any differences between your fans in your home country and Europe?

Yes I noticed that in Germany when we were there but we have very little in common with this movement. For one we don't play blues and have very little of that sound.  So it's hard for me to comment on it.  In the States you have this same movement but it is a little more underground and not as literal of an interpretation. You find here in the States everything has to be tongue in cheek or ironic to get noticed, it's a little more of a pose. As where in Europe I think that movement has more authenticity if you would, it's paying more of a tribute to that time and sound. 

Would you name CASTLE a Satanistic band? In what way do you call yourself religious?

I get asked this question and also how important is spiritualism in your music? And honestly I don't think like that so I don't know how to answer that. I have no idea. We just do what we like and I've never been one to align with a movement whether it's musical or religious or whatever, you know? I'm into freedom and all that entails which if you've got to that point you realize there is very little belief beyond fear, more of an understanding if you will.

In what kinds of bands had you and Liz played before you founded CASTLE? And what sorts of musical styles did you play there?

Liz comes from a musical family and has played music with them her whole life.  A lot of old psychedelic music, Blues and Jazz - that kind of thing. I started playing in an old Thrash Metal band when I was 15, back in 1988 and we were together for 6 or 7 years. After that I got into a lot of different projects and some bands, Punk Rock, Hard Rock, Metal and experimental music... lot's of things. It's a good way to grow as a musician and writer. Along the way I played different instruments as well, drums, bass...

When looking at your current tour-plan there are just dates in the US and Canada. Do there presently exist plans to play shows in Germany again? And if so, would you rather prefer festivals or club-gigs?

We are announcing a month long Canadian tour and trying to follow that up with a return to Europe in either December or February but we will see!

Do you have some special final statement for your fans in Germany?

Germany is the best place for Metal and we are always looking forward to coming back - it is our second home so if you have come out to see us before - thanks! And if you haven't yet then next time we hope to see you there.