Performing at this year’s Mechanismus Festival and having unveiled a new music video, Murder Weapons drops a few hints as to what is yet to come from the Seattle horror/industrial band.
An InterView with Dawn Woodkill & Jesse Razorr of Murder Weapons
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Murder Weapons has been gradually building up a reputation as one of the Pacific Northwestern music scene’s most reliable entities. Blending shock/rock aesthetics inspired by horros both fictional and historical, the band features vocalist Dawn Woodkill and composer Jesse Razorr now backed by new guitarist Shon Shiv and drummer Billy Mace. Having shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the realm of industrial and dark rock, the band has performed at numerous festivals like PIGFest and Crypticon (at which the band was joined by legendary metal diva Pamela Moore), and this year will be making a splash at Mechanismus Festival – Let’s Go to War. Not only that, but the band has followed up on the 2015 Guilty debut with a new music video for the song ‘Serpent,’ offering the first hints of what is to come from Murder Weapons’ new album. After assisting ReGen with its coverage of several acts performing at Mechanismus, Dawn Woodkill along with Jesse Razorr took the time to answer a few questions about the group’s latest activities.
Let’s start with your recent release, the music video for ‘Serpent,’ which is a totally new track. What can you tell us about it – in what ways you feel it progresses the sound of Murder Weapons from the Guilty EP, and how do you feel it’s representative of the new material you’re working on?
Woodkill: The track is actually written about serial killer Hatchand Bhaonani Gurumukh ‘Charles’ Sobhraj. He was a charming sociopath known as ‘The Serpent Killer’ and ‘Bikini Killer’ and is said to be one of the most notorious serial killers of all time, killing dozens of people in the ’70s and ’80s. Although he was caught, he kind of saw himself as a rockstar and quite the charmer of ladies. He was notorious for escaping and banging his lawyer and several other women while trying to get off (laughter) of the charges. This dude was the original fuckboy. As sickening as it is that these type people are still breathing, I am fascinated by what makes them tick. My lyrics were directly influenced by reading a ton of material about him. Obviously, we didn’t have a budget to film anything biographical, but I did use Kali for inspiration and being fans of ‘horror’ films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Devil’s Rejects, these were instrumental in relaying effects to Tetraknot, who also filmed our first video, ‘Hive.’
As far as progression of sound, we have a new guitarist for this album. Shon is a metal guitarist and he also has a metal band called Whythre. My dear friend/mentor Pamela Moore recommended him. He has been a blast to write with. He comes up with tasty guitar licks immediately. He and Jesse seem to write music well together and I like having his input for vocals too. He is quite knowledgeable in what tonality and frequencies sound good together.
The video really put me in mind of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and gore/horror plays a significant role in the band’s visual and lyrical subject matter. To what extent is the horror genre a means of expression for you? Or to put it another way, is it intended to be pure entertainment, or is there a message or some other purpose to Murder Weapons’ horror presentation?
Woodkill: Yes, for sure, horror films are a huge influence on our music. Jesse’s and my reasonings differ here, but we both are lifelong huge horror fans. For me, old school horror and vampire films/memorabilia were ways to escape as a kid and young adult in an environment I didn’t feel I fit in; however, in college, I studied criminal justice, serial killers, psychology, and sociology. I have an almost overactive ethical ‘harm none… unless you are protecting your loved ones’ mentality. In studying serial killers, a common victim’s theme is error in judgement and trusting evil people. Think of all the girls who helped Ted Bundy because he faked disability or tourists who were lured to their deaths by a charming Charles Sobhraj. There have been huge improvements in Forensic Science – 40 years ago, one-third of serial killers had to commit more than four murders to get caught and they never caught the Zodiac Killer. Thankfully, prolific serial killers seem to be on the decline since the ’90s. I still believe every person who feels vulnerable needs to be aware of their surroundings at all times, have a weapon(s), and take some sort of self-defense – Krav Maga being my personal recommendation.
Razor: Our first music video says, ‘Don’t look behind the scenes, there is no order there.’ I’m not big on social commentary. Some of our songs reflect our philosophy on life to some degree, while other songs discuss what has happened. The listener/viewer is left to draw their own conclusions.
‘Serpent’ seems to be only available as a music video – will we hear the song on a new EP or full-length in the foreseeable future?
Woodkill: Yes, we are working with the amazing X-Fusion mastering for us now. So, we are aiming for this summer(ish).
More and more bands (it seems) are focusing on shorter releases – EPs and singles. What are your thoughts on this? Is the full-length album format becoming a thing of the past? What are your thoughts on the album format as it applies to Murder Weapons?
Woodkill: I would imagine it is because of all those bands who recorded 12-24 song albums/CDs (myself included) only to have the MP3 option to ‘buy one song’ and how easy it is for music to be pirated. The days of the big rock shows and huge albums seem to be gone in America… at least for now. I think many industrial/electronic musicians have their recording process down to a point that releasing EPs and remixes makes the most sense.
Performing in the Pacific Northwestern area, you’ve taken part in more than a few shows and festivals, and you now have an appearance at this year’s Mechanismus Festival – Let’s Go to War. How did you first come to become part of this year’s lineup?
Woodkill: I reached out to Ali. We played a few Mechanismus shows in the early days of Murder Weapons, then started only opening for major industrial Acts for a while and got away from those roots. I admire what he is doing, so I talked to the guys about asking him for another Mechanismus show; they agreed, so I reached out. I wasn’t expecting the festival, but was pleased when he invited us to play it.
Are there any bands on the bill that you’re particularly excited to see/hear?
Woodkill: I am stoked to see Ego Likeness for the first time. I am bummed that I cannot make every night of the festival due to other obligations. There are some stellar bands playing for sure and many of our friends are on this festival bill.
Razor: I’ve been a big admirer of Suicide Commando, Hocico, [:SITD:], Rotersand, and Funker Vogt for a long time now. I recently completed remixing a track for Project .44. We’ve played with the guys in Hexheart (God Module) and Particle Son before, so we’re looking forward to sharing the bill with them again. DV8R is the project of several of our good friends and Corey is a former member and forever brother, so that will be fun to see, and we’re always glad to see the fellows in Adoration Destroyed.
What would you say has been the most significant lesson you’ve learned from the numerous other bands you’ve shared the stage with, and how would you say you’ve applied them to Murder Weapons’ live show? On that note, what sorts of new surprises can audiences expect on your shows going forward as you present newer songs and material?
Woodkill: Honestly, Combichrist is the best live performance show I have seen since the days of metal/butt rock. I have not seen Rammstein, but so much bucket list. Having interesting things to look at is key, and ever since I started seeing shows, if the bands were wearing blue jeans and staring at the floor, I walked out. I also loathe arrogance in musicians. I understand road life is tough. I have lived it, but to ignore or act like you’re better than the people who bought tickets to your show is disgusting. Henry Rollins comes out after his performance and meets every person who wants to. My friends in Killing Joke come out and meet their fans after their shows. If those guys can do it and be sweet, humble, and cool about it, so can everyone else.
Razor: Every band has something to offer, whether it’s how they engage with the crowd or how they set up the stage or how they stand on their heads and play guitar with one hand. We’ve also learned from some bands what not to do – keep it as simple as possible and have fun with the audience are the two biggest takeaways. We’re always looking for ways to improve our show and streamline its setup and breakdown. Some of the bands we’ve played with have had their entire set condensed to the bare essentials while still sounding and looking amazing. We’ve always aspired to that.
On that note, what sorts of new surprises can audiences expect on your shows going forward as you present newer songs and material?
Razor: Whenever we are able technically, we provide visual aids to guide the audience through our set. They can be hard to look at, but they represent reality in its rawest forms. The same is true for our songs. A track for our upcoming release features genuine sounds from a disturbing event in history, because what happened is important to us, rather than whitewashing reality to make it more palatable.
Dawn, in our previous InterView, you’d mentioned how important Pamela Moore was to helping you find your voice, and I see that you recently had the opportunity to perform onstage with her; tell us about that experience, how it came about? Are there any chances of further shows or fuller collaboration with her, either in Murder Weapons or in some other project?
Woodkill: Pamela is seriously like the human equivalent to an angel. I met her originally because we went to the same hair dresser, started training with her, and fast became friends. We shared the stage in promoting Crypticon. I took an active role in this year’s Crypticon including recruiting local bands who had horror videos. Cryptamnesia, I AM Infamy, and Pamela came to mind and were fantastic to work with; what a wonderful, supportive group of people. We had so much fun. And yes, I hope to record with Pamela someday. We just have to make the time to do it. We are already planning Crypticon 2020, so who knows?
I’ve expressed my admiration for your singing; what sorts of routines or exercises do you do to keep your voice so strong?
Woodkill: Honestly, touring for years, with little time off, helped build my voice. I do warmups, which Pamela taught me. I should probably take better care to not talk preshow, but as stated above, I can’t sequester myself without feeling guilty. I also drink tons of water onstage. I often get teased about my water bottle holder on my mic stand, but I sing with such power that my throat gets super dry and I get ‘ice cream headaches’ from the air needed to belt out with such force. Tons of water helps. (Laughter) I also love to run around the club (if there is room), going out and hugging people and sneaking up on them during our show. That momentum helps power my voice too!
Any chance the band will play a show or two on the East Coast?
Woodkill: We would love to. I just don’t have the desire to be on a bus/van tour endlessly anymore. If someone wants to book us playing festival(s) abroad, we are down! I would truly love for us to focus some time on music in film/TV/Video games.
What’s next for you and Murder Weapons? Anything else you’d like to let people know about, any topics we’ve not covered that you’d like to discuss?
Woodkill: Yes, please everyone, watch and share our new video! Let’s see horror music videos go viral!
Razor: We have a new release upcoming, called Pulling Teeth, and that will be out before autumn comes. It’ll have new tracks and remixes by X-Fusion, Assemblage 23, and Aesthetic Perfection. We just released a music video for one of the songs, ‘Serpent,’ and our plan is to follow up with another video sometime this year. We want to get back into the studio as soon as possible to start writing and recording more material.
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