Devil on their side
Grungy duo Witchdick might be the ultimate outlaw band
Lost On Main319 Main St.
Chico, CA 95928
Witchdick is a couple of crusty hillbillies who just rode down from the foothills to plug their acoustic bass and acoustic guitar into huge amps and play scary monster riffs in a rowdy dive bar.
Or, Witchdick is a Chico horror-metal duo in black corpse facepaint playing scary monster riffs in a rowdy dive bar.
Or, Witchdick is a pair of road-seasoned bikers, covered in tattoos, itchin’ for a reason to bust a bottle over someone’s head as they play scary monster riffs in a rowdy dive bar.
All of those descriptions—in spirit at least—of enigmatic Chico acoustic-blues-metal duo Witchdick are apt. Bassist Tim “Snakebite” Nicholls and guitarist/vocalist Kenny “Speedwolf” Ruggles (who also plays much louder guitar in local doom-metal crew Amarok) have accomplished that rare feat in rock music: They’ve created a band, in image and sound, that is very hard to pigeonhole. Just about every identifiable hard-partying, rebellious, outlaw and amoral extreme in America’s rock ’n’ roll culture can be spotted in the mix—outlaw country, death metal, punk rock, biker gangs, strippers, bar fighters and even devil worshipers—and yet no one descriptor does the band justice.
That commitment to the grimier side of life would seem to make Witchdick a perfect fit for Chico’s dive bars. And after their Halloween debut in 2009 the guys dived right into the Towne Lounge in downtown Chico, practicing their chops at the regular Honky Tonk Nights—that is, until the bar banned the theatric duo.
Now that former Honky Tonk Night promoter Katie Perry (of Devil Kat Rock Productions, and also Ruggles’ girlfriend) has switched to Lost on Main with her weekly local-band Rock and Roll Social showcases, Witchdick has become a regular, and welcome, part of the new rotation.
On a recent chilly November night in Ruggles’ living room—with a case of Pabst and bottle of Bushmills on the table, Swiss metal band Hellhammer on the stereo, and a DVD of ’60s occult film The Devil Rides Out playing on the TV—the gracious duo sat down (in full makeup) and talked about partying hard, their debut recording, and the devil in their music.
CN&R: How’d you guys meet?
Ruggles: We grew up in the outskirts/desert area of Los Angeles. It’s shitty.
Nicholls: We were brought together by the love and hate of heavy music, punk rock and beggin’ for 40s outside of 7-Eleven.
How’d the band come about?
Nicholls: The band came about from us both wanting to create something completely different from what everyone else is doing, [and to] preach Satan, get shit-faced and release some hate.
How do you describe your sound?
Nicholls: Describing Witchdick is tough: Whiskey-drinkin’, beer-shotgunnin’, weed-smokin’, Satan-preachin’, foot-stompin’, hootin’ and hollerin’, muddy, filthy, country, black, demongrass.
Ruggles: Demongrass. A fucking mess, raw and dirty, the Luciferian Doctrine and drunk.
“The Ballad of Dirty Dick Out West,” with its repeated stomping riff and spooky vocals, sounds almost like a Native American chant.
Nicholls: “The Ballad” came about just like every other song—boozin’, smokin’, hangin’ out playing guitar, and something just works. We don’t plan out anything, nothin’. Our songs are creations of themselves.
Ruggles: It is a chant! We were just fucking around and jamming. [It] turned into some evil, archaic sounding Indian/Western theme song that gets you stomping shit!
How do people react to you live?
Nicholls: If you’re there to have a good time, drink till you black out and kick the shit outta life, you’ll probably like it—maybe even love it. If you believe in God, Jesus, any other of that bullshit, or are there to stand there and be too fucking cool to shout, stomp yer foot or pound a beer, you’ll probably hate us. But reactions like that help more than hurt us. At least for me.
Ruggles: The drunken evil ones get it.
How’s it been playing in Chico?
Ruggles: Good and ugly. Lots of pissed locals, banned from a few bars, and a handful of newly converted blackened souls.
Nicholls: Playin’ in Chico has been good. Good amounts of people show up for us—a couple handfuls of regulars, which is good. But we really want to take this crap on the road.
Any memorable performances?
Ruggles: The places where we can do whatever we want without worrying about making a mess. The Art Shackle and Halloween at Red Room [Tattoo] shows were both awesome because we could unleash and spit blood and feed the crowd whiskey and get them to interact and spit shit back at us! I love that shit. The more that happens, there’s no telling what we might do next. The more the crowd is drunk and into it, the more of a god-damned show they will get!
Tell me about the recording you just finished.
Ruggles: We recorded it on the Electric Jesus cassette tape recorder. Done at our house, in the dark. Five or six songs were done with a bunch of noise and feedback and some other unmentionable things going on. It sounds raw and evil just the way we like it.
Nicholls: Everything will only be done in runs of less than 25 cassettes at a time, all individually hand-drawn inserts and numbered for authenticity.
Is this the devil’s music?
Ruggles: We are the gospel of hell. Where do you think our instructions come from?