Saturday, September 18, 2021

Ward XVI “We can’t let down fans who have us tattooed on them” Road To Bloodstock 2021

Any Bloodstocker knows that the best way to get on the festival bill is to apply for Metal 2 The Masses which takes place all over the country. One of the bands who got through this way was Ward XVI, who has returned to play the festival since. Ward XVI takes inspiration from Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Iron Maiden, and more to not just bring us a gig but a great show. They are playing the Sophie Lancaster stage on this year’s extra day (Wednesday) so we caught up with vocalist Psychoberrie and guitarist Doktor Von Stottenstein to talk about their music and how much Bloodstock means to them.

In a nutshell, how would you describe the music of Ward XVI?

Psychoberrie: We’re a theatrical band and the albums are a soundtrack to the live show. Both albums tell a story from the perspective of a female serial killer. Our debut, The Art of Manipulation, is all about how she manipulates a man into killing for her own kind of twisted entertainment, and our second album, Metamorphosis, delves into her past and why she became so evil in later life. It’s important for us to capture the right mood and use sounds that help represent the story being told, therefore no two songs sound the same. For instance, the opening track on ‘Metamorphosis’ starts with a music box playing a lullaby as we really wanted to capture from the very first note that we were going back to Psychoberrie’s childhood. From then on its twists and turns and by the end of the album, it becomes quite dark and heavy. Rock and metal remain at the core but across both albums, there are elements of electro, ska, horror to full-blown ballads. Our latest single ‘Burn the Witch’ is a middle-eastern sounding progressive metal track. It really does depend on the story being told, there’s no one bracket that we fit into.

Doktor Von Stottenstein: That’s one that has confused many for an age (laughs) …we’ve been called so many things over the years! 

The core of what we do is influenced by heavy, melodic, and theatric/ conceptual music, but we’ve used all sorts of instruments, genres to express the story we tell.

We’ve used elements of Prog, shock rock, electro, thrash, Goth, and Ska in the past, and we’ve been fortunate enough that people have enjoyed what we do.

To be honest, we try not to pigeonhole ourselves, as that would put limits on how eclectic or experimental we could be.

You have very theatrical shows, do you feel this is a lost art in the current rock/ metal scene?

Psychoberrie: Yeah, there are obviously theatrical bands out there but one of the reasons I started this project is because I watched Alice Cooper‘s Welcome to my nightmare show on VHS and I thought why aren’t more bands doing this? 

Doktor Von Stottenstein: I think that it’s starting to become popular again with the likes of Ghost, Avatar, and Evil Scarecrow doing what they do to great success in the mainstream, but I can remember the first time I watched Iron Maiden’s ‘Live after Death’ VHS and was blown away by the whole experience.

We look at our show from being a theatric performance first off, that’s when the penny dropped… how or what would you expect from a theatric Broadway show rather than just a gig…the set design, actors, scripts, how do we abridge complex stories when we have short sets or to people that don’t know us, etc…

So when we were writing the album, we were simultaneously designing and screen playing what would be happening on stage with the sets/ actors and props.

We’ve by no means perfected it or are doing anything original, we’re building on what we’ve seen done in the past and standing on the shoulders of the giants, but also learning from those around us and the people we talk to, It’s ever-evolving and we’re always learning.

I think as we build everything ourselves and have a very limited budget, it’s appearance is more rustic and quaint than what for instance Maiden or Cooper do… we just bodge it.

It’s not for everyone, you can’t just turn up an hour before a gig in jeans and black shirt, prep for a gig starts hours and hours before and our prep overall isn’t just nailing the music, there’s the whole other side to it, extra expense and time spent on image/ promotion and so on. You can’t be half-arsed doing it if you want to do it well (or try to).

So what can we expect from your Bloodstock set?

Doktor Von Stottenstein: The biggest, most ambitiously explosive, crazy, theatrical, interactive show we have EVER dared to play.

We’ve basically been building this from the ground up since we were invited in March and haven’t stopped thinking about it 24/7. We’re going to throw everything we have at this. 

This is the greatest honour we’ve ever been granted so we’re going to leave it all up on that stage.

You originally played the festival by entering M2TM, would you recommend other unsigned bands to do this? Any Advice?

Doktor Von Stottenstein; Yeah! Appearing on the stage isn’t the end of your journey…It’s a stepping stone. 

Don’t relax and just hope it all fits into place and it will all just take off after, work at promoting and networking before your set and do the same straight after You need to sell yourselves and make yourselves unforgettable. You’ll look back at this point and realise how lucky you are.

The world is your oyster and as big as your ambition. unfortunately, we’ve seen some just turn up and just do bare minimum thinking ‘this is the top of the world’… including some of our previous members to be brutally honest.

The New Blood stage opened our eyes to everything that could lay before us and it focused us on how to communicate, perform and conduct ourselves. (Or try to).

We’ve also made lifelong friends and solid networks with people that are absolutely priceless.

Psychoberrie: Absolutely, we’d entered the competition the previous year too, and even though we didn’t win it opened up a lot of doors for us and allowed us to network with a lot of new bands. Each round gave us the opportunity to play to a new audience. My advice to those entering is not to get so hung up on winning the competition, there are a lot of great bands who enter and it’s not healthy to treat those bands like your rivals, network with those bands, and use the opportunity to talk to people in the audience and gain a new fanbase. 

How does it feel playing the first full capacity metal festival in the UK since 2019?

Psychoberrie: It’s an absolute honour to be playing Bloodstock again so we’re excited and also nervous as there’s no warm-up show for us. This is the first gig with the new lineup and new theatrical show with new props. I just had a baby a week ago so I’m not physically on top form and it’s prevented us from rehearsing as much as we’d like but we’re gonna give it our all. We’ve worked hard building a new stage set and some rather large props in a really short space of time. It’s gonna be good.

Doktor Von Stottenstein: To be honest, no different than we would have felt at any point. Being invited by Bloodstock is a privilege whether it’s to 25% 50% etc…

This is incidentally our first gig since 2019 so the scarier question is ‘how does it feel playing your first gig since 2019 in the first full capacity metal festival since 2019’ So…..Bricking it (laughs).

It’s going to be an explosion of emotions… we were shielding for the majority of 2020 as I’ve underlying health issues that I was required to isolate from the world.. it’s going to be strange being surrounded by more people than I’ve seen in 2 years.

One of your tracks is included on an NWOCR compilation, do you identify with this movement?

Doktor Von Stottenstein: In part I guess. They’re a passionate bunch that loves music and the community as do we.

We also share many influences at the core of what constitutes ‘classic rock’… Alice Cooper, AC/DC, and so on… they are at the foundation of what we do… we’ve just taken what we heard and loved and taken it down another path, which I guess is what those dudes did back in the day… listened to the Stones / Beatles and took it down a new path.

I think there is an accepted sound and look expected from that movement and we don’t sound or look anything like what is stereotypical NWOCR (which has been told to us), but you don’t evolve by just playing the same as what was played 30 years ago.

Music evolves as musicians hear something they like, interpret it through their own ears and fingers and create something that resonates with them.

Do you feel there will be another boom period for rock/ metal soon?

Doktor Von Stottenstein: You mean we’re not in it now? I think it’s a pretty healthy and vibrant scene at the moment… may not be totally mainstream, but that creates a great environment for rebellion.

When it’s not rebellious it’s too safe.

The only concern is a lack of support or openness by the mainstream press and big festivals for little bands like us… Maiden and Priest can’t do it forever and I don’t always believe that the support or hunger is there to invest in finding the next generation of headliners.

Psychoberrie– Honestly I think it’s down to the bigger festivals and bigger media companies to start supporting up-and-coming bands. They’re still writing about the same stuff they were 10/20 years ago and it’s boring. It’s also very difficult for new bands nowadays, there’s no money in music and we’re constantly seeing great bands disband because of it. Don’t get me wrong it’s always been a financial struggle for artists at the bottom of the ladder but the difference is that now it looks so bleak at the top of the ladder so they give up.

How did you spend the last year or so when you couldn’t play gigs?

Doktor Von Stottenstein; We’d intentionally kept 2020 mostly free anyway as we wrote, produced, and marketed our new album from top to toe. We left the studio after completing the recording 2 days before lockdown happened which was really fortunate.

Having all that time shielding means we had all the time in the world to focus on making the best album we possibly could regarding the music, we coordinated the art, merch, videos, release PR, and so on reining our sunny lockdown garden. Also, we didn’t get left behind during the break.

When it appeared that we couldn’t play the launch show as planned, we diversified and released an acoustic EP and created a FB group to continue to interact with the inmates and followers of the band.

Staying in touch with people was so important for us and for them so we all pulled each other through a pretty crappy time.

Oh, we had a baby too – who was born 10 days ago. Our singer will be performing less than 4 weeks after giving birth to Luka. She’s a warrior, absolutely formidable and inspirational… it’s not just a stage persona.

Psychoberrie: For the past 9 months I’ve been a miserable pregnant lady haha. That said we’ve been full steam ahead with prop building pretty much every evening and weekend since they asked us to play bloodstock.

You call your fans ‘The inmates of Ward XVI’, who are passionate about what you do – what does it take to be part of this?

Doktor Von Stottenstein: We’re all in it together and we couldn’t do what we do without those who for some reason support us.

We’ve had a couple of instances I’ve got over the years where we’ve been close to splitting and then realised that we have a responsibility to those who have our art, music and have even tattooed themselves with our logo, etc. We can’t let them down just because we’re pissed off that our drummers keep exploding or mysteriously disappearing. 

What does it take?? Some would say a poor taste in music and a love of black and white stripes (laughs).

You just released your latest track ‘Burn The Witch’ – what’s the song all about?

Psychoberrie: Spoiler Alert- After watching her mother transform from a kind and loving woman to a cold and abusive monster, as the result of years of drug and alcohol abuse, Psychoberrie kills her. In this song, she is dealing with the torment as the realisation of what she’s done sinks in. After killing her she burns the body and this serves as some kind of ritual, she’s sad that her mother is dead but also feels happy that she’s now free from her illness.

Doktor Von Stottenstein; Burn the Witch is one of our most progressive and epic songs to date and maybe the biggest departure from the style of music that WARD XVI is most known for.

The track follows Psychoberrie as she deals with the consequences of her situation- both psychologically and physically, and focuses on regret, anger, compassion, and sorrow.

The video was filmed on a very cold day in the Lake District In early 2021 with Forshaw media which saw temperatures drop to minus 8 during some of the performance scenes. We all changed that day (laughs)

It’s also great to play on guitar and has my favourite solo to play. Loads of guitar hero pose capacity in this one.

So what’s next for Ward XVI?

Doktor Von Stottenstein; Obv Bloodstock, we’re also playing HRH XIV in Nov and then the album launch (anniversary) gig in dec in Manchester Academy.

We’ve a tour to announce for 2022 in addition to shows like Hammerfest, Tanking and then I guess world domination.

We did have plans to release Metamorphosis on vinyl in time to rerelease in September (it’s the anniversary ) but the vinyl press industry is under a massive amount of pressure at the moment so that’s added 4 months into every order. 

We’ll prob start working on the third and final album of the Psychoberrie Trilogy sometime next year too.

  1. The Art of Manipulation 2017
  2. Metamorphosis 2020
  3. ?????

Ward XVI will play the Sophie Lancaster Stage on Wednesday, August 11th. Bloodstock Festival 2021 takes place August 11th-15th. Main stage headliners are DEVIN TOWNSEND (Friday), KREATOR (Saturday), and JUDAS PRIEST (Sunday). The festival will also feature sets from SKINDRED, PARADISE LOST, DIAMOND HEAD, THERAPY?, VENOM PRISON, JINJER, VIO-LENCE, SAXON, THE WILDHEARTS, GLORYHAMMER, BLEED FROM WITHIN, NAPALM DEATH, PHIL CAMPBELL & THE BASTARD SONS, MEMORIAM, RAMAGE INC., GREEN LUNG, CONJURER, ORANGE GOBLIN, RAGING SPEEDHORN, LAWNMOWER DETH, CONAN, SYLOSIS, WINTERFYLLETH, HACKTIVIST, THE CRAWLING, EVIL SCARECROW, ACID REIGN, SVALBARD, BORSTAL, SEIDRBLOT, MOTHER VULTURE, BLOODSHOT DAWN, EVILE, and more, with plenty still being announced.

Neale McGeever
RAMzine Senior Contributor - I'm an entertainment writer ('journalist') from the North East. My favourite bands include Slipknot, Nirvana and Ninja Sex Party... I've freelanced for the likes of Kerrang!,Closer, Front, ZOO, and many others! I'm also big in to movies, video games, live comedy and ...beer!

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