Interview with Witchery guitarist Patrik Jensen | By Lord Randall

In the sprawling metropolis of Linköping, Sweden, the band Witchery were born 20 years ago, and lo, did the handwringing begin. To the elitists, the self-proclaimed legitimacy police, their gravedigger’s-grin-styled black humor was a caricature of the music they loved—or just simply “not cool enough.” Thankfully, most fans recognized that Patrik Jensen and his crew of cadaverous cohorts had crafted a sound harkening back to the ‘80s heyday of metal, yet fierce. Modern. With teeth.

And now, Witchery celebrate two decades with In His Infernal Majesty’s Service, out Nov. 25 on Century Media Records. “Yeah, no drama at all, apart from it being sad that schedules clash so much that someone needs to leave the band,” Jensen begins, referring to the departure of longtime drummer Martin Axenrot and vocalist Emperor Magus Caligula earlier in the year. “Opeth [for whom Axenrot drums] has been very active these last years. We’ve tried to get rehearsals going for a long time. Sometimes, we manage to make them happen, but often not. The issue has always been out in the open for discussion within the band, since we all want to keep the band moving forward.”

“Caligula was to record the new album, but a week into the recording session, he had had to visit his doctor over a problem with his balance,” Jensen continues. “He was told that he had a sudden and sharp decrease in hearing in one of his ears and that this was somehow connected to the problems with his balance. He was to avoid all and any loud environments, both at work and in his spare time. So, unfortunately, Caligula had to leave the band too.”

Yet, like some charred and bloodied phoenix, Witchery have regrouped and emerged from the fire dead, hot, and ready as ever to honor two decades as a band with In His Infernal Majesty’s Service. “We now have Chris Barkensjö on drums and Angus Norder on vocals,” Jensen confirms. “I think [Barkensjö] was kind of looking for a new band when I approached him. Rehearsals with Chris took off flying, and there was an immediate chemistry there between us. Angus has a great voice, and after also meeting him in person, we knew we had found our guy.”

From the pounding of opener “Levay-athan” to the Lovecraftian “Escape from Dunwich Valley,” In His Infernal Majesty’s Service finds the quintet with fuel to burn, possibly energized by the new blood. “I think Chris [is] a great part of us sounding ‘raw’ again,” Jensen attests. “He has a similar approach to playing as most of us in Witchery, always wanting to push the beat forward in the vein of early AC/DC, Motörhead, etc. Also, when I spoke to [producer] Danne [Bergstrand] about what production sound I had in mind, and I said the drums needed to sound like the drums on Van Halen’s 1984 album, he said with a longing, enthusiastic voice: ‘Wow! A natural drum sound? No one does that anymore. Let’s do it!’ That’s when I knew I had the right guy!”

Clearly warming to the subject of Witchery’s return to their rough ‘n’ ready roots, Jensen continues, also giving an all-too-apt explanation of why a band like Witchery are relevant—nay, vital—today. “We also record live in the studio,” he says. “A lot of people think tracking the instruments one by one is how you need to record an album, but it’s mainly for the insecure: the bands that need to be able to prove scientifically that they stay exactly on the correct bpm throughout the whole song and that all the instruments are played to such a level of ‘perfection’ that all personality is guaranteed to have been wiped out. Music is made by playing together. I can eat a slice of bread, then a teaspoon of butter, after that, some cheese, and then finally, a few slices of cucumber, but I still wouldn’t say I’ve had a sandwich to eat. Would you?”

Catching himself, the guitarist pumps the brakes. “Sorry!” he laughs. “This topic really gets me going. It’ll be the death of good music when everything needs to be so ‘perfect’ in time that all bands could record each other’s albums equally well, because it’s been so utterly depersonalized!”

When asked about the band’s plans, live dates scheduled for next year, Jensen’s response is as hopeful as a gentleman in Witchery’s can be. “We want to play everywhere in 2017,” he says. “We have a few festivals lined up, but want many more. We have been talking about recording a live album, but we’ll see what will come of that.”

Purchase In His Infernal Majesty’s Service here: Physical | iTunes

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