Under the Sign of the Witch Cross

witchcross2013_2 _400x267The earliest metal incantations of the mighty Witch Cross arrived in the dark year of 1982 – a 7′ single entitled Are You There b/w No Angel followed two years later by the epic Fit For Fight full length.  Fate and destiny would render the band dormant for many years, until a recent appearance at the infamous Keep It True Festival resurrected the mighty Witch Cross – and there is no stopping this collective now! Fit For Fight was re-released as a box set through Hells Headbangers (All That’s Fit For Fighting), containing a massive cauldron of extras such as the sought after first simple, unreleased demos. and a Live In Eindhoven Concert!  Not one to rest on battle of the past, Witch Cross and Hells Headbangers has issued Axe To Grind, a triumphant recording with brand new material, showing a band at the very height of their creative prowess.  We caught up with founding member Mike Koch to find out more about the reawakening of underground legends Witch Cross and their metal spells for a whole generation of fans.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Witch Cross, and how long the band has been together.
Hi Mike Koch here. I am the lead guitarist and founding member of Witch Cross. We started the band in 1980 and after a few hectic years the band then packed it in in 1985-86 but we then reunited in 2012 and now we’re here to stay.

Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We are a Danish band and we started out in a small town outside Copenhagen in 1980. These days we are split in 4 countries with 4 Danish members and one Englishman. I live in London these days and the music scene is very much alive though Old School metal is just starting to grow a bit here. For sure Iron Maiden, Judaz and Ozzy/Sabbath are as big as they ever were but the new bands have to work really hard to get gigs etc. We still haven’t played UK but hope to do so very soon.

How did the cooperation with Hells Headbangers come about?
I first heard about it when a French magazine asked me about it. Hells Headbangers got hold of the “Fit for Fight” album but decided to do a all-in packages with lots of demos and photos etc. They did an amazing job and it help us get some more gigs and we had some merchandise to sell at gigs which helped pay for expenses. When we had finished recording the new album we approached Hells Headbangers and asked if they would release it. Again they have been so good to work with; we really couldn’t have asked for a better label.

axetogrind1After a long hiatus, what made you decide you reform Witch Cross again?
We got asked to play at Keep It True festival in Germany and said yes straight away. It was an amazing experience and all the gigs we have done since have been great. It’s good to be back in business and yeah. We’re still fit for fight.

Who produced Axe To Grind and what was it like working with them?
I produced the album and I am sure the rest of the band thinks I am an arsehole. Hahahaha no I have years of experience and I knew exactly what the band needed so it made sense that I produced it. We used Chris Tsangeridges for the mixing which made everything sound big and rocking.

Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Axe To Grind?
Not a story maybe just the fact that we wanted to prove that we can still come up with the goods and hopefully people will still love what we come up with. The artwork sort of carries on from “Fit for Fight” with the giant Bat monster and the Viking Warrior.

Select two songs from Axe To Grind and what inspired the lyrics.
Demon in the Mirror is about how some people are using the Internet to be rude and nasty to others.
Lost with out warning“, is about all the men that were lost at sea working for rich shipping companies. My grand dad use to sail all over the world so it’s a bit of a tribute to the ol’ sailor!!

Who did the cover art for Axe To Grind and how much input did you have on it?
It was done by a Russian painter/artist called Dimitar Nikolas and we had a clear vision of how we wanted the cover to look. I think he did a great job and he’s the one that does all the poster artwork for Keep It True and a lot of other bands.

fitforfight1You released all of your early work on the All That’s Fit For Fighting Box Set. What do you think when you look back on your older songs now?
It’s fun to hear the old stuff but there’s a reason it never made it to the album. So I hope people understand that we were just finding our feet so to speak. The later demos are for the 2nd album which we never got to record.

Has Witch Cross ever played here in the States and if so, what was the experience like?
No we never made it across the pond. But now we are back and would love to play in US!!  Any promotors reading this should get in touch.

What could one expect from a live Witch Cross show?
We always try to make our shows interesting and kicking. There’s never a dull moment.
We play all the old songs and a lot from the new album. And we always try to add a few new songs and changes. And the audience has been amazing everywhere so far, so we just love getting the chance to play our music.

Are you or any of the other members involved with any other bands outside of Witch Cross?
Me and Kev have been together in a Sweet tribute band for a number of years and I work with the original singer Alex Savage in a band called “Big Riff Society” playing shows in Denmark. Lars is working in a few function bands beside playing in Witch Cross.

If Witch Cross could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
We would love to open for any band really but if I had to pick one or two it would have to be Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.

What happened to Alex Savage Nyborg Madsen, the singer who was on the Fit For Fighting album?
He’s a famous national radio DJ host and he is still very active musically and I have the pleasure of working with him in “Big Riff Society” where we play versions of classic and modern rock songs.

What is your favorite beer or choice and why?
Mike: It has to be Tuborg; it reminds me of those early days playing gigs and rehearsing with Witch Cross back in Denmark and you know that Danish beer is the best in the world.

Any final words of wisdom?
I would like to thank everyone who has supported the band over the years and all the people around the globe that help keep metal alive. We will be playing near you no matter where you live in the near future. And check out www.witchcross.dk for more information.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
Thanks a lot Ken! It was a pleasure. Keep metal alive!!

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

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