Skeletonwitch’s Scott Hedrick on ‘Serpents Unleashed,’ Disneyland Ban + More
A decade into their career, Skeletonwitch are running stronger than ever. The band is living proof that hard work will bring you success if you’ve got the belly for it. Of course, solid material is important as well and Skeletonwitch will release their fifth studio album, ‘Serpents Unleashed,’ on Oct. 29. We recently had a chat with guitarist Scott Hedrick to delve into all things Skeletonwitch.
In this exclusive interview with Hedrick, the musician speaks about ‘Serpents Unleashed,’ his distaste for the “thrash revival,” being banned from Disneyland, playing a couple’s wedding, the band’s future goals + much more. Enjoy our discussion with Skeletonwitch’s Scott Hedrick below:
The ‘Serpents Unleashed’ album rips! Are there any nuances in this album that haven’t been present in your past works?
I do think so. The beginning of ‘Unending Ever Living’ is a good example of that in general. ‘From a Cloudless Sky’ is another good example; the wah-wah pedal solo for example, for years we were such old-school guys saying that the only effects pedal we’d use was a tuner. We became a little less rigid and were able to add another sound. I guess that’s an example of our openness there and willingness to change ourselves. You might see more of that in the future; not more effects pedals, but you know, a little less adherence to strictly old-school things. It’s always going to be pretty far in the front of what we do, but we can unclench a little at this point.
It’s been almost 10 years since ‘At One With the Shadows’ was released. How would you describe the writing and recording process for that record compared to ‘Serpents Unleashed’?
Good question. That one, we had no idea what the hell we were doing. [Laughs] We had absolutely no money. Writing was still about the same. Even for this record, Nate [Garnette, guitar] has always been the main songwriter. The easiest analogy I can make is Nate is the cook and I’m the sous chef, then everyone is the help in the kitchen. Some albums I have more contributions, particularly on the newest record. It’s the most stuff I’ve ever written for a record. I’ve written entire songs instead of just ideas and pieces.
The process itself has been the same. Nate and I write individually with a drum machine and share what we have; send it to each other and sort of hammer it out. When we have it in a rough demo version with a drum machine and two guitar tracks, we then email it. Or in the past I used to just get, cassettes, of course, since our first records are so old. I used to tape trade, then I’d cut down to CD and send it to the guys. Now I can email files. Then everyone has their two cents.
It seems like you guys are always on the road. How important is it for you guys to be constantly touring when it comes to the continuation of Skeletonwtich?
It’s very important. It’s what we love doing, too. It’s fun and to actually do this for a living, which is what we want to do, we have to play a lot of shows and get out there. Fortunately for us, we love doing it and that’s the way to make it work. You can’t just sit around, put out a record and hope. The days of putting out a record and just selling a million copies in the metal world, then they get to go tour and do all this fancy stuff; that doesn’t really exist. You have to work your ass off and get out there in front of people and do it. Each year, the stuff we do gets a little bit bigger. More people turn up, we get to play bigger festivals and get more opportunities.
This spring, we’re probably going to go to New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia, which is something we haven’t done yet. There’s always new experiences like that too that come up. Staying on the road is absolutely vital and it’s where we have the most fun. Writing is fun. Once the album is recorded it’s wonderful to go back and have it there. Creating it is great and when it’s finished it’s great, but actually tracking and sitting in the studio is not any of our favorite things to do. We love the live show.
One term that’s been floating around for a while is “thrash revival”…
Ohhhh, Jesus. [Laughs]
[Laughs] That’s the thing, I wanted to ask you about that term. As a member not only of a band that gets put into that group, but a band that’s toured with like every other group put under that umbrella, what is your opinion of the term?
I think it’s funny when people put us in that, for one. It’s also annoying. Obviously, we are fans of thrash metal and that’s certainly a part of our sound, no one is denying that. But for us it gets a little frustrating when we would get lumped into something that was very, very mono-toned. Bands like that are super one-dimensional in the sense that they’re always trying to write a record that sounds like it came out in the ’80s and they’re not really bringing else to the table. The other thing about a lot of those thrash revival bands; they seem to forget the Exodus records and those early Metallica and Megadeth records had a ton of melody and great songwriting.
Those records sounded like they did, because of the money and time those guys had to do them. They didn’t intentionally make them sound bad. Now there’s guys trying to get a retro sound. Those guys were not trying to get that sound back then, that’s what they could do and what they had. Exodus even went back and re-recorded ‘Bonded By Blood,’ which always … we can make our own judgments on if that was necessary. The reason they did is to actually make it sound like they actually wanted to back in the day when they had more time and a bigger budget and more studio experience. The whole thing is a bit goofy to me. I love thrash metal, don’t get me wrong, but it’s trying too hard to bring it back or emulate it and pretend that you’re living in 1983. It’s kind of funny to me.
One of your slogans, which many people have taken to, on the back of your shirts is ‘Eat Some F—ing P–sy.’ I think it’s gotten to the point, at least for me, where I go into a metal show and it’s very normal to see that slogan on the back of someone’s shirt. I see it and very casually I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, a Skeletonwitch shirt.’
It’s funny you bring that up. That’s something Nate had said a long time ago. Occasionally, Nate can be inappropriate and I forget the context, but he’d always yell weird s–t at shows; shows we went to, not ones we were playing. It would be completely quiet and Nate would scream “Satan is the Devil!” or things that didn’t even make sense. [Laughs] He’d just yell weird s–t and it made us laugh a bunch. I don’t even remember really, but he probably said it on stage at some show, and there weren’t that many people, to try and make us laugh. Somehow, he kept saying it. [Laughs] I don’t even know how it happened at this point, it’s been so long. It wasn’t something that was discussed. He probably thought it was hilarious at first and just kept doing it.
It’s kind of become your signature now.
It’s weird, yeah. I don’t know if it’s good or bad to be honest with you, but hey, whatever. [Laughs]
Do you have any idea of those are your best selling shirts?
I don’t know. We didn’t do that many of them. We brought them with us on Ozzfest, I do remember that. It was definitely the biggest seller there. Then we put it in the web store for a little bit. It did sell pretty good though, now that you mention it. Parents love that one. I wonder how many of those shirts got thrown away by pissed off moms. I bet there have been a few.
How does it feel to be banned from Disneyland?
Weird! I was surprised. It’s funny to me that Amon Amarth and In Flames passed the litmus test but Skeletonwitch didn’t. My guess is they probably saw a song title like ‘Reduced to the Failure of Prayer’ and they were like, “Nope!” Interestingly enough, Cradle of Filth has played there before and they have that infamous ‘Jesus is a C–t’ or whatever. They played that exact venue. They were up to snuff. But us and Exodus and Machine Head and I forget who else; the guys at the record label were telling me all the big bands that were banned from there. It’s kind of funny. It also pissed me off that we can’t play that show. We’re going on tour with two bands that I love and I think are awesome and not only do I want to play the show, but I also want to watch them every night. I don’t get to now. Whoever is in charge of doing that is, the filter of what passes and what doesn’t, is horrible at it. A few shows later, there are two people getting married at a Skeletonwitch show.
I was going to ask about that. Going from banned from Disneyland to playing a wedding. That’s pretty interesting.
Yeah, it’s really funny to me. It’s an interesting dichotomy there, viewed quite differently by certain groups of people, I guess.
You must be honored to be asked to play someone’s wedding.
It’s sort of the reverse. People will hire a wedding band. We’re playing a shows with the Black Dahlia Murder on tour and they said, “Can we get married at your show?” So it’s gonna be at the venue with the whole tour package. Us, Fallujah and Black Dahlia Murder are gonna be there. We’ll have the tour manager allot a little extra time between sets, so after our set and before Black Dahlia, there’s going to be a minister and everything, which is hilarious. They just came out of nowhere and asked if they could do this, I said, “Let me talk to the tour manager and make sure it’s cool. So yeah, why not?
10 years into the life of Skeletonwitch, what would you say is the overall goal of the band right now?
Good question. I guess our goal is to just keep doing it. We don’t have a certain expectation or how many years we’ll continue to do it or how much money we’ll make or how many records we’ll sell. No tangible goal really. It kind of makes us sound weird and aimless now that I say that out loud. We’re not shooting for anything! [Laughs] But we’re really not. We love doing this and we’re lucky to be able to do this and being able to do it with your best friends and that’s your living? It’s awesome. The main goal is to keep it going and get to new places, make more fans and just keep rolling. Keep kicking ass.
Skeletonwitch’s fifth studio album, ‘Serpents Unleashed,’ will hit fans on Oct. 29. To pre-order the record, click here.