Audio restored and mastered by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in September 2020.
Up until a few years ago (and the release of »The Lost Tapes«) Witchfynde were considered more or less as a classic NWOBHM band but the band actually pre-dated the movement a good four or five years. Bassist Andro Coulton explains in full detail: “Witchfynde actually started in 1974, with a line up of Montalo on guitars, Gra Scoresby on drums, Richard (Butch Blower) on bass and Neil Harvey on vocals. It was basically a band of school mates plus Montalo. I joined as a roadie/lighting engineer in 1974 and later when Butch had a car crash I took over on bass in early 1975. Steve Bridges then joined on vocals around early summer of 1975. Witchfynde at that time was purely a covers band, but later that summer we began to write our own music of which the first five songs became »The Lost Tapes«, recorded in December 1975. By 1976 Witchfynde had a set comprising of 90% of our own material. We then took what became »The Lost Tapes« down to London on cassette demos and received a totally negative response. We then spent the next three and a half years playing anywhere and everywhere we could in England and Wales.”
In 1979, when the glorious NWOBHM hit the United Kingdom, the members of Witchfynde were between 23 and 27 years of age. “We as a lot of bands at the time were just swept along on the wave of new interest for heavy metal,” reflects Andro Coulton today. “As a band there was no conscious decision of ours to portray us as a young band. If the record company Rondelet applied such tactics, I can't say.”
For the band's debut album »Give ‘Em Hell«, one of the classic albums of the NWOBHM period, there was a certain pool of material: “If you count 'Why Dontcha' and 'Twilight Lady', which we played live up to recording of the album, we had eleven songs to choose from. Those two songs mentioned, 'Why Dontcha' and 'Twilight Lady', were later on the »Live Sacrifice« album recorded at Ipswich in 1979 and at the moment the only way to hear these tracks.”
The original tape box of »Give ‘Em Hell« did feature two songs which did not make it onto the album proper: “The Devil’s Gallup” and “Tetelestai”. When and why was it decided that these two would not end up on »Give ‘Em Hell«? “Firstly, 'The Devil’s Gallup' IS on the original vinyl release in 1980 as a hidden track at the end of the album after 'Pay Now Love Later'”, corrects Coulton. “It was our idea of a joke at the expense of the innovator of the term NWOBHM, Geoff Barton, then of the Sounds music newspaper, who we asked many times to come and see us live but never did. The joke backfired on us as he did give us two stars. However, in his sleeve notes for the CD re-release he admitted he was wrong and gave it five stars. But there were still two songs that did not make it onto the album proper, they were 'Tetelestai' and 'Wake Up Screaming'. They were left off because Rondelet wanted no more than 20 minutes of songs per side of a vinyl album as this was considered to give the best sound quality etc. for pressing. There was a lot of thought into which two songs would be left off and we had to choose between the two long tracks 'Unto The Ages Of The Ages' and 'Tetelestai' and both were firm favourites of our core fans, but it was decided to leave out 'Tetelestai'. 'Wake Up Screaming' was left off due to at the time we considered it to be the weakest recording.”
The album was originally issued on local Mansfield-based label Rondelet Records: “Rondelet was the first after Montalo and Gra took a demo tape of half of what became »Give ‘Em Hell« to them and they loved it. Half of the album was self-financed. Rondelet was a fledging label from Mansfield and Witchfynde were their first signing. EMI did want to sign Witchfynde, which we found out about after five gigs of the support tour with Def Leppard in January 1980. Rondelet, however, wanted too much money to buy us out of our contract and EMI walked away. In actual fact by the end of the tour on the 1st of March 1980 every major label had approached Rondelet with the exact same result.”
The lengthy “Unto The Ages Of the Ages” probably is the most unusual composition on the album, as Andro Coulton explains: “That song was written in very early 1976 and is in the lengthy three to four part style that we first did with 'Grimoire'. This was written with all of us making our own contribution to the writing of the song and we also used the same style with 'Tetelestai' and many others, some of which have been lost in the mists of time. This was because we were influenced by such bands as Rush in their early years and their long opuses such as 'By-Thor And The Snow Dog' and of course their album »2112«. It became a firm favourite of our fans as it was used as a ritual with incensed burning and Steve ringing out a bell like tone in the middle part on a piece of metal tube, whilst Montalo did his solo using the violin bow.”
“My bass playing on the album and in general was influenced by quite a few people,” continues Coulton. “The first time bass really got to me was Mel Schacher’s playing on the Grand Funk live album, quickly followed by Lemmy’s playing on Hawkwind’s 'Brainstorm'. Amongst other influences were Jack Bruce and Geddy Lee. Witchfynde being musically a three piece means that the bass cannot just sit playing root notes, but needs to have its own melody within the rhythm. However, it is fun sometimes just to dig in and play the rhythm. I play with a pick at all times apart from the start of 'Leaving Nadir' where I used fingers and thumb technique. I find it easy to play that way as like Lemmy changed to bass from guitar.“
Of the iconic artwork of the album Andro Coulton says: “We all got the general idea of what we wanted and usually up to that point all art work was done by Gra, but my brother’s girlfriend at the time, Lorraine Hoyland, offered to do the front cover and we accepted. She was at Newcastle University with my brother Gary who roadied for us in his holidays and it was done free hand on their kitchen table. Montalo was always involved in the occult and Wiccan magic and I too was interested in reading about all forms of the occult and supernatural. The other two not at all.”
Witchfynde were aware of bands like Angel Witch, Venom, Demon and Witchfinder General back then but their paths never crossed: “We were unable to get any London gigs until 1979. The only London bands we actually played on the bill with was Iron Maiden at the Music Machine in 1979 on a Witchfynde, Iron Maiden and Saxon bill plus a gig with Girlschool and Girl at the Electric Ballroom in the same year.”
At the time of the first record Witchfynde did a 40-date British tour along with Def Leppard, which must have been quite fantastic. Coulton explains: “The first time we knew about the tour was after a gig at a local school when Rondelet came into the dressing room and announced that they had got us a tour with Def Leppard. We asked when, this being on a Tuesday evening, and they said it starts Saturday. Both Steve and I were working, so had to go into work the next morning and explain what had just happened. Fortunately my bosses were very good and waved my weeks notice and wished me all the best. I then drove from there to meet up with the rest of the band at the 'Carlsbro Sound Centre Music Shop' in Mansfield to buy some new equipment before the start of the tour. On Thursday all our equipment was loaded onto Def Leppard's 40ft articulated truck and on Friday at 5.00pm we departed for Edinburgh for an overnight stop ready for our first gig of the tour in Aberdeen, Scotland. We were used to playing at least every weekend so the tour was no major shock and already had a polished stage show ready to go. It was good fun and had quite a few mishaps and incidents along the way.”
Coulton himself left Witchfynde after »Give ‘Em Hell« and this is the real reason why: “I have seen a few quite honestly ridiculous reasons put forward for my leaving the band in July 1980, including ‘his girlfriend drained his energy’. The reasons were multi-faceted and started early 1979, when it became apparent that the band was, to me personally, not a four-person democracy and I felt that I was being shut out and I told them I was quitting a few months later. I was talked out of it and for a time things picked up and we recorded »Give ‘Em Hell«. Then when Rondelet was contacted without either Steve’s or my knowledge, that also rankled. I didn’t feel that the Rondelet offer was good, especially as they wanted us to sign not only a record contract but also sign over all publishing rights and be our management too. We should have consulted a solicitor before and unfortunately didn’t. The others wanted to sign as soon as possible leaving me no choice other than to leave. During the early part of the Def Leppard tour I talked to Pete Mensch of Leber-Krebs, Def Leppard’s management, and saw the level of promotion etc. that they and their label were doing for them and Rondelet was a mere shadow in comparison. Once I found out that every major label had wanted to sign us and walked away due to Rondelet demands, I knew in my heart that Witchfynde was finished. At the same time my girlfriend Shaz, who is now my wife, received calls and visits from bailiffs about payment of a loan on my amp that Rondelet had agreed to pay off but hadn’t and it soon became clear that they had run out of money. After the tour we started writing for the next album »Stagefright« but I was starting to become increasingly unhappy within the band and decided that I needed to form my own band. However, I was still under contract with Rondelet, so made them make the decision to get rid of me. In July 1980 after a gig in Wolverhampton, Alan Campion from Rondelet took me in the dressing room and stated that it was not working out to which I agreed and I walked away with all my gear and was released of my contract obligations. On looking back at all this, I realise that some of the blame has to rest on my shoulders due to my lack of communication skills having found out recently that I am on the Autistic Spectrum.
Regarding »Stagefright«, the title track is superb and in true Witchfynde style but 'Wake Up Screaming' is to me and a lot of other people a far worse recording than the version that was left off »Give ‘Em Hell«. After that it descends into pop rock madness. (Another reason I decided to leave because I no longer liked the direction the music was going.) The whole album feels rushed and thrown together with the overall sound just not the original Witchfynde style and sound.
'Wake Up Screaming' was written by all four of us, 'In The Stars' I contributed to and I am acknowledged in the song writing credits. 'Would Not Be Seen Dead In Heaven' I was involved in it, but hate the song so much I refused to have my name associated with it. However, I did not just contribute to the song writing I actually play on those three tracks on the album, even though I am not credited on the album as doing so. This ended up after receiving a copy of the album and 'In The Stars' single (on which I play on both sides without any accreditation again and a photo of my successor on the cover) in me consulting a solicitor with regards to not only suing for damages etc. but to stop the release of the album. It went to a High Court Barrister who told me that I had a fantastic case, but ‘you can’t get blood out of a stone’ and to put it down to experience as neither Witchfynde nor Rondelet had any money.”
Today, Andro Coulton is once again in contact with the various members of Witchfynde: “Yes, because Steve Bridges is my brother-in-law as we married two sisters and therefore we are in regular contact. In 2011, the original »Give ‘Em Hell« line-up met for the first time since 1980 as we had managed to get the rights of the songs back from Rondelet but had lost all royalties prior to the year 2000. At the meeting I made a point of saying whatever went of in the past stays in the past and let’s start again. We did have some royalties and still do and we had a good laugh reminiscing about the good times. When I was diagnosed with Myeloma (Bone Marrow Cancer) Montalo rang me after he heard the news and we have stayed in contact ever since. I contacted him when I formed my official Witchfynde band Andro Coulton’s Give Em Hell and he not only gave me his blessing but promised to give me any help that he could.”