10 April 2013

Interview: The Water Witch

Today we have as a guest the English band The Water Witch, a vibrant new metal project recently founded by Jon Cumiskey. Welcome! First of all, let’s talk about your latest release, The Heavens In Traction: Do you think that it’s a good representation of the current thoughts and aims of the band?

Jon: Hello Akaah and thanks for the interview! The Heavens In Traction is a positive product of all that inspired and changed me between 2010 and 2012. Sometimes the words of others are better than my own and it was described by The Monolith recently as "a worldly mist of Earth-metal", which portrays it it far more concisely than I could myself.

After almost two years spent on writing this album, in October 2012 you’ve published only on digital version, waiting for 2013 to come before making the CD release available. Were you planning to follow this plan from the very beginning, or was it an experiment, to see which the fans’ reaction to this new band would have been?

The primary intention of the  digital release was getting it out there for people to hear. The practicalities, without having a record company to fund a pressing, meant that it took a little while to get the CD out. It is now available to buy through thewaterwitch.bandcamp.com however.

Last March The Heavens In Traction has finally become available as a physical release. This version is but re-mastered and includes a new version of the song formerly called lluminance, now entitled The Soul Of The World. Could you explain the reasons of these choices? Weren’t you satisfied with what you had previously released, despite spending so much time on its writing?

There are always "tweaks" and changes that you want to make after a release. The gap in time between the digital and CD release presented an ideal opportunity to really fine tune it and present a definitive version of the album, which re-introduces ideas to 4 of the 7 songs of the album. 
To say why, many of my favourite albums are incredibly concise and stick to a 45 minute running time - I feel that this is personally the longest length that I can enjoy music for in one go. I decided when I first began writing this album to apply that ethic. Close to the end of the writing period I stripped away about 15 minutes worth of filler out of the songs. I felt afterwards that I had been too over-critical in stripping away "un-necessary" parts and so returned to the studio and began to bring some of them back, including a truly fearsome thunderstorm that I managed to record last summer (luckily living in a very quiet part of the city at the time I was able to capture it well).

As said, The Water Witch project was born from your talented mind  and started growing after you left another great and slightly eccentric English group, A Forest of Stars. How much of this past musical influence still influences The Water Witch today?

I am hugely indebted to The Gentleman's Club of A Forest of Stars personally and creatively. In tribute to that, one of the main musical themes re-occurrent in their last album A Shadowplay For Yesterdays also appears in The Heavens In Traction, although I'm not telling you exactly where!

Nonetheless, it clearly appears that you and its former fellow mates still are on good terms, since all remaining the line-up slots have been filled with current members of  A Forest of Stars. How can this surprising feature be explained? 

Purely through friendship, many of us have been friends for quite a long time now and even though I was not working with them in A Forest of Stars we perhaps felt like we had something to say together, particularly lyrically as half of the lyrics are written and performed by Mr Curse
I must add that my connection with A Forest of Stars is a story that with an extra twist in it, which will be revealed on the 20th April at Roadburn festival in Holland.

Why have you chosen to sell both your physical and digital releases at a cheap price on Bandcamp, despite the band being formed by very well-known English musicians and your unique style? Isn’t it an undervaluing?

I can certainly see the point you make of "undervaluing" the work,  but there are none of the mechanisms of record companies, promoters and distributors around this release so I feel able to do it this way without feeling like I am selling myself short. Many people feel obliged to pay more than what I ask for, which is incredibly generous.

You’ve described your music genre as ‘asomatous’. Why? And, if you had to label the original and variegated music played by The Water Witch in a more conventional way, how would you describe it? 

In general, I am always concerned more with the atmospheres created by music rather than genres, so the way I describe music can sound pretentious! I was interested in creating something that was rootsy, earthy and an expression of sober worship and inner peace. I guess that there is a tiny bit of all of my favourite musical genres in there - black metal, death metal, doom, ritualistic ambience, dark folk, progressive/kraut-rock, dark electronica. These are mainly genres that sound best when they are reactionary and fuelled by  various darknesses, but in this case I tried to turn them into vehicles of light.

Another peculiarity of your band is the fact that, despite working in a world where promotion agencies seem to have taken control on the music industry, your band has always a bit remained in the background: you don’t have your own website and, even on your social network page, not many news about this project are to be found. Which are the reasons behind this against-the-tide choice?

This is very intentional. I am personally put off my those who in my eyes over-promote themselves online so I thought that I would like to see how the old ways of word-of-mouth can be used and the let the audience find the music. I don't mean to be intentionally obscure or difficult to find, if you know to look for this music then it is easy to hear.

Is there any chance to see The Water Witch soonish performing live?

I would say that this is currently a very doubtful prospect, but you never know what the future brings. I would say that there will definitely be more music from the studio but I do not wish to to write it quickly. I often feel that life needs to be lived for a while first to replenish creative energy!

A very last curiosity: why have you chosen the name The Water Witch? Has it something to do with the practice of water witching?

You are absolutely correct regarding the reference to water witching and dowsing. To really get into what this album is all about, why it exists and what has inspired it - dowsing is a technique to divine water, metal or even power from the land. I do not believe that it the act of dowsing itself stands up to scrutiny and I would not regret describing it as more of a belief or pseudo-science, but I took a lot from the metaphor of "divining power from the land" that it represents. There are many things that you can divine from a place emotionally and spiritually. That is in itself is something very real and un-dismissable. 
This came from visiting a beautiful place where my family grew up for the first time in my adult life in 2011 - the land and river spoke deeply to me about both my own heritage and it's own beauty. I returned to my home town in England with my eyes opened - I began exploring disused old buildings and derelict parts of the city and took a lot of inspiration in the way that nature was reclaiming these places and sweeping away man's influence shockingly quickly.

Our interview is now coming to its end. Do you have something else to add or something to say to our readers?

I would just like to say thanks to those who have taken interest in this music and to keep your eyes peeled for an interesting announcement very soon.


  1. finally! i was waiting for this interview!!

  2. complimentoni davvero ben fatta :)

  3. thank you for this great interview