New Zealand might’ve just survived two cyclones but doom metal will be the next destructive force carving a path down the North Island this April.
Melbourne’s WATCHTOWER are one of two Australian bands visiting for a three-show tour starting April 22. We caught up with vocalist Nico Guijt to find out more about his crushingly heavy band…
NZR: We’re pretty damn excited to be receiving two rather epic stoner bands playing in New Zealand at once, especially here in Hamilton, the former chlamydia capital of this great country. What can we expect from the WATCHTOWER live show?
Nico: I’ve done some Googling and Hamilton seems to be an STD infected hole. I can’t guarantee anything at this point. Thanks for the heads up.
NZR: You’re welcome and look, it’s not as bad as it used to be, just be thankful your tour hasn’t taken you off our main highway!
Nico: It’s all good. I’ve seen Black Sheep. I’m comfortable with our itinerary.
NZR: Anyway, you recorded the ‘Radiant Moon’ EP in 2014 at Goatsound studios and the two tracks on there are just crushingly heavy. How proud are you of the result and what did those guys do that helped translate your live sound to a recording so well?
Nico: Thanks for the kind words! We are pretty happy with the end result to say the least. Goatsound always delivers. Jason Fuller does a killer job in capturing raw, loud and heavy noises and it all just happened very naturally.
NZR: How’d you get signed to Magnetic Eye Records?
Nico: We were shopping for a label so we hit them up as well, since our mates HORSEHUNTER just had gotten a deal in motion with MER around that time. Mike was interested in us from the outset, and after some negotiating he offered us a contract and here we are.
NZR: That label released a cover album of HELMET’s ‘Meantime’, did you guys get given an opportunity to put a track on there at all?
Nico: Yes. We we were penciled in to record ‘Ironhead’, but then we didn’t. Even though ‘Meantime’ has been one of my favorite records for years I’m glad we did not end up on the album because I think it was not really meant to happen.
NZR: Bummer, so why’s that? It would’ve been cool to hear WATCHTOWER do that track!
Nico: I’m not sure if it would have been cool actually! It would not really come together naturally and we were really pressed for time at that stage. There’s nothing worse than a shit cover version of a sick song so we did not really want to be those guys. HELMET is a pretty hard band to fuck with anyways. Props to all the songs on the tribute though!
NZR: The ‘Radiant Moon’ vinyls look awesome and going by social media they’re in hot demand. How stoked are you with how they turned out and how many vinyl fiends have purchased one of every colour?
Nico: Vinyls is not a word. Let’s just recognise that fact everyone, please.
NZR: Struth you’re right, that spelling has sure upset a few people on Reddit over the years! But you guys do have some great vinyl (in the plural sense).
Nico: True. Not only on Reddit, but also out in the real world. I can guarantee you that! And cheers man. All pressings look amazing! Pretty stoked with the latest shipment. There’s some pretty looking slabs in there. A couple of nerds copped all the versions, but not many. We just had a repress done so grab yourself a vinyl on the way out from bandcamp. Gotta catch ’em all!
NZR: WATCHTOWER fans have some of the most hard case reviews I’ve seen. Like this one… “This just came into my home, didn’t remove it’s shoes, used the last of my toilet paper, drank my last 5 beers, ate my slim jim and I didn’t give a fuck.” How does it feel to have that effect on people?
Nico: Where the fuck did you get this from? What’s a slim jim? I have no idea what this means but it sounds sick. It’s probably the best review I’ve ever read. I’ve read a few reviews around the release of RADIANT MOON but none of them were like this. Lots of review content in this section of the heavy music scene seems to be very serious and dusty, almost uninspired doom-jargon. Hyperbolic statements about riffs drenched in whatnot and swampy mammoths and all that sort of stuff. It’s nice that people have something fresh and funny to say.
NZR: That one came from your Bandcamp. Another reviewer describes your music as some of the weightiest psychedelic sludge that I have heard since ELECTRIC WIZARD’s ‘Dopethrone’. That’s a pretty cool compliment, would you agree with that opinion?
Nico: It’s very flattering when people do that sort of stuff. ‘Dopethrone’ is a monumental cult record so that’s a huge compliment. It’s not an opinion I share with this person though! It’s a no-brainer because it has so much sentimental value to me. But it’s very nice to hear because obviously ELECTRIC WIZARD has been a steady source of inspiration for us when we just started out as a band. For me it’s very hard to form an opinion about your own releases, or ‘review’ them properly. I’m always hypercritical and find it hard to compare it to other releases in a healthy way anyway. But I can’t stress enough, that this is such a nice and flattering compliment.
NZR: Henry Bennet’s artwork goes so well with your music. He’s based in Brisbane which is more than a quick drive down the road from Melbourne. How did he become involved with WATCHTOWER and did you commission him or did his art just fit?
Nico: We asked Henry to do work with us when he appeared on the radar with doing art for bands such as FROWN and DREAMTIME. Thanks to the world wide web we could send him an email and ask him if he was interested. Lucky for us, he was. Then we asked him not to use any skulls, pentagrams, goats and crucifixes in the art and that was that. I think we all couldn’t be happier with the cover art for RADIANT MOON.
NZR: Haha I love the criteria you set him. That sets you apart from 99% of doom album covers and yet you’ve still got the vibe going on. Have you sold or thought about selling prints of the artwork?
Nico: We tried to print it on a shirt but it didn’t really seem to work out the way we wanted it to. Goats and skulls sell better anyway. Some nice screen-printed posters would have been nice but it never happened. I think it would look super nice, so if any of your readers feels like helping us out and getting their hands dirty then they should send us a message! Maybe we could make something happen.
NZR: I’ve had a few listens to your older single ‘Absinthism’ and it’s really hard to believe it was recorded live, who was responsible for that recording wizardry?
Nico: That song was recorded live at Pony studios by Anthony Iorio. It was a live studio-recording, so it’s not a live show or anything like that. He offered to do that with us completely free of charge purely for the love of it and because he wanted to practice to become a more skilled engineer. It worked out pretty well for a couple of hours of fucking around on a lazy Sunday afternoon. All this came about when he ended up being our front of house mixer one night and stayed in touch with us.
NZR: Is it true your band is named after the Jehovah’s Witness publication and if so what’s the story behind that?
Nico: More or less. When we started the band and were going without a name for a while as you do. Then one day leading up to our first show the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on the door and left a copy of the Watchtower magazine behind after a rather painful chat about the Lord Jezus. I almost saw it as some sort of a sign and thought that WATCHTOWER would be a good name for a heavy band. I obviously forgot about the progressive dad-rockers from Texas but it has been good since we pissed all of their fans off when they got back together in 2015. We still get trolled by them on a regular basis and it’s pretty funny.
NZR: That’s hilarious, you’ve managed to give them plenty of shit in return I hope?
Nico: Nah, we just ignore them. Humans don’t like to be ignored. It infuriates them. It seems to be a pretty good way of handling this stuff.
Nico: Robbie has a talent for toasting amplification. There’s so many stories, but the most memorable incident was on a very memorable night in an Essendon squat. It ended with him spilling a full stubbie of Victoria Bitter right onto the power section of a Roost ST22. It was pretty dead afterwards. We had to finish the show with only one full-stack.
NZR: Are there plans for a WATCHTOWER album anytime soon?
Nico: There’s some new recordings in the works, but at this point we aren’t sure if it will be another EP or a mini or anything like that. The tracking will start a couple of days from when I’m writing this. Our own Ben will handle all the engineering and the tracks will be mixed and mastered by J.B. Van Der Wal (HERDER, ABORTED, VERWOED) Keep close to get the news.
NZR: Last year you played the Doomsday festival with ACID KING, and you’ve also opened for THE SWORD… a couple of great bands there. What was it like to hang out with those guys?
Nico: We’ve only hung out with ACID KING. They were really lovely and really down to earth. It’s great to see that those people have day jobs but still do their band and travel the world from time to time purely for the love of it. We did not open for THE SWORD but played on a night where they would do a DJ set while they were on tour in AUS. I think it sort of ended up being one of the guitarist’s iPod doing all the work while they were doing shots at the bar with everyone else. It was a great night. I mean, chicks and dudes in bands are just chicks and dudes. No matter how popular their bands are.
NZR: What’s the slowest, heaviest, dirtiest stoner track you’ve heard in recent times? You can be cheeky and pick one of your own if you like!
Nico: To be honest I haven’t been paying much attention to heavy music in a while and heard anything in the genre that really wowed me since the AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED – ARC EP that came out early last year. It’s one in the series of releases that is done by each individual band member. This one is by the singer Katherine. It has programmed drums and it’s insanely good. The opening track NOT A DAUGHTER is my favorite.
NZR: Anything parting words for us Kiwis ahead of your tour?
Nico: Come to a show. Share the events with your mates. Invite them. Round some people up because we will need to see as many headbangers come out to these shows as we can and we need your help. I really mean that, And we need some petrol/beer money, desperately. Obviously.
NZR: Cheers for doing the interview and see you in April
Nico: Thanks heaps for stopping by! Can’t wait to get over to your beautiful country.
MERCHANT & WATCHTOWER NZ TOUR
Interview By Dave Borgioli-Jones