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Interview: Witch Mountain’s Rob Wrong

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Witch Mountain formed in July 1997 from the rubble of Rob’s band Iommi Stubbs, which he describes as a “kind of a sludge band along the lines of Eyehategod” and with a lot if “fuckin’ internal bullshit”. Witch Mountain drummer Nate Carson was a fan of Stubbs and after a tour with Stubbs ended badly, Rob called him up and they started jamming. The rest of this long-running Portland, Oregon, band is history. Founder and guitarist Rob Wrong recently spoke to Sean McGeady about their three-week tour with Cough and how singer Uta Plotkin came into the fold after 12 years with a dude singer. The interview took place at Sound Control in Manchester, England. Witch Mountain were supported by Nomad, Bastard of the Skies and Ten Foot Wizard.

— Vanessa Salvia

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Photos by Patrick Phillips.

How did things progress following you and Nate starting to jam, and how did Uta get involved?

Well, Uta came in a lot later. I sang for the first 12 years of Witch Mountain. Essentially, I went back and forth with Iommi Stubbs over the years, and juggled both bands. I was married at the time and I had a couple of kids. I kind of slowed down for three years, between 2002 and 2005. Then, my marriage was crumbling and I was like ‘OK, I need to do something that makes me happy.’ So I started playing with Nate again. We’d always had this desire to get a singer. I never sang because I wanted to sing; I always wanted to play guitar. I sang out of necessity.

Uta was interning at Nathan’s booking agency, Nanotear. He went to see her other band Aranya play, and the next day he phoned me up said I really needed to see this girl sing. We had a show lined up with Pentagram in the summer of 2009, and we asked her if she would learn one of our songs and just sing at the end of the set. She did, and she fucking killed it. It almost brought me to my knees in tears on stage.

The next day, I was talking to Nate, and we had this show lined up with Jucifer, who was one of Uta’s favourite bands, and we bribed her basically – we told her, “Hey, how about trying out our whole set and learning all of our music?” So she learned all of the stuff that I had written, because I’d written all the music and lyrics at that point, and we recorded South of Salem after that. She was in.

Then, the last album we recorded a year ago, Cauldron of the Wild, she actually got to do her own melody lines and vocal parts and harmonies, and write her own lyrics. So it’s loads different than the album before it. We’ve got a good thing going now and it’s really easy for us to write music.

Uta Plotkin Witch Mountain

Uta Plotkin Witch Mountain

What was the doom scene like back in 1997?

It was fuckin’ shit. Essentially, the band I was doing from ‘94 until ‘97, Iommi Stubbs, we were kind of the kings of that, but the problem was we had the same 20 or 30 people at every fuckin’ show. No one gave a crap about hard rock. No one gave a shit about doom. Witch Mountain kind of followed into that, you know. Stoner rock got really popular in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, but still, it was very discouraging. We went on tour with Spirit Caravan and Weedeater and Bongzilla and all these bands . . . for instance, Spirit Caravan, Wino is a fucking legend, and we’re touring with him in 2001 playing all these clubs and there’s like fucking 12 people there. It was embarrassing. I’d wear a Pentagram t-shirt and somebody would be like “who’s that?” and now Pentagram’s like the biggest fuckin’ band on the planet. But now it’s developed into something really cool and I’m glad it is what it is now because it was a struggle, and it was kind of like, ‘aw, man, why are we doing this? We’re only doing it because it’s a labour of love.’

Did you have any idea at that stage doom would ever become what it is now?

No. Not at all. Not at all. I mean, we were playing Stoner Hands of Doom and Emissions From The Monolith, and we were playing with really cool bands and people that we really admired and people that admired us. But I don’t think any of us imagined that it would actually come to fruition like it has.

What’s the metal scene like in Portland? Has that changed since?

It has changed a lot. In the last five years the metal scene in Portland is where it’s at. We’ve got bands like Agalloch, YOB, Holy Grove, Lord Dying, and, let me think for a second of other bands that we have that are really cool, like, Dark Skies, Danava, all these bands are just coming out of the woodwork. Yeah, it’s really incredible how it’s developed. Right now, Portland is kind of the place to be for metal in the States. A lot of people are moving there just to play metal. It’s good and it’s bad because you get all these copycat Kyuss and Black Sabbath-type bands and then you get the bands that have been around forever doing it. There’s a lot of people that mean well and they’re into it but they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Then you’ve got bands that stand out, like Agalloch and YOB and Danava, I mean, those guys are like the fuckin’ shit. They’re playing this heavy, incredible, original, doomy music that I think can only be written in such a shitty environment. The weather there is similar to Manchester. It rains a lot, like, 200 days a year.

Keep reading to find out if the doom scene is doomed.

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