Amidst the drunken insanity that was 70,000 Tons of Metal earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to score an interview with Hugo “Witchhammer” Uribe. Hugo is the drummer for Colombian black/thrash trio Witchtrap, whose most recent album Trap the Witch was re-released via Hells Headbangers late last year to high praise here at Angry Metal Guy. As a founding member, Hugo has been drumming in Witchtrap since 1992, and had plenty of awesome stuff to share about working with Hells Headbangers, the Colombian metal scene, and future plans for the band. The group’s tour manager also participated in our chat (denoted as TM below).
How’s it feel to be doing 70,000 Tons of Metal?
The feeling is a very strange experience for the band! Especially our old members, because we are playing in a big festival. In Colombia especially, it’s in small bars. In Colombia, festivals are almost all Colombian bands and few international bands. Right here, we are in a festival with tons of metal bands from around the world and only one Colombian band. So this is very strange, because you have people from around the world, and we have a big responsibility. It’s a big experience, an experience different than any kind of festival around the world. So, for us, it’s strange, amazing, beautiful, and very funny. This is funny as hell! I mean, there is no other place like this one in the world.
What’s some crazy stuff you guys have done or seen so far on the cruise? Any wild experiences?
Yeah… tons of sex. [laughs]
[laughs] That’s good.
No, no. I think the experience is the time when we are on the stage, because we have everything we are looking for to have a good presentation, a good show, a good performance. And it’s just strange because we used to play with a small drum set, small amplifiers. And right now we have good gear and we’re doing as we want to do, we love to do, and as we love to sound in a concert. And this is the amazing thing we have here in this experience.
It seems like it’s a great opportunity for you guys.
Yeah, it’s a big opportunity! Absolutely.
Speaking of, you guys recently had your newest album Trap the Witch re-released on Hells Headbangers a couple months ago. Have you seen a big increase in exposure since that happened?
Hells Headbangers has been working with us since 2006. They have pressed the last three albums — they pressed No Anesthesia in 2006, Vengeance Is My Name in 2012, and this year, the Trap the Witch album. So, I think Hells Headbangers gave us big support. Big support spreading our name far away. We got some emails before 2006 from Germany, and maybe from Japan, because we have some connection in Colombia with those countries. And maybe in Norway, and America of course. But Hells Headbangers has given us a big exposure, more than we were expecting. Right now we got emails from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Australia, Singapore…. we have gotten a lot of emails, messages on Facebook, and it’s amazing. It’s amazing to discover people from different places around the world. And Hells Headbangers is an underground label, but it is bigger in the United States. And they have some distribution in Europe as well, so we love that. We love the way they work because they are very loyal, they are very friendly with the band, and they believe in our job. They believe in our music, and as I told you, it’s a big opportunity. We will see what happens in the future – why not to work in a big label, why not? The thing is to keep our feeling in our music.
It seems like sometimes bands want to stay underground, but it sounds like you guys have aspirations to get even larger exposure.
I’ll be honest. In Colombia, there are very few bands that have exposure like Witchtrap or maybe Masacre. Two years ago, Masacre was here. So, I mean, any band in Colombia would love to have a big exposure and a big deal with bigger labels. It’s strange because I am one of the people who believe from the bottom of my heart all metal bands in Colombia are fucking awesome. There is big talent in Colombia. But we don’t have big media to spread our musical feelings and metal bands out there. So if we can get something here, especially for this opportunity for the label we are working with, to support other metal bands from Colombia, I will do it. I will do my best, as our tour manager is doing with this festival.
TM: I’m the South American booker for this festival. So far, I’ve booked eight bands from South America. Seven from Colombia, and one from Ecuador. This year is the first time that I’m trying something outside of Colombia. Total Death is the band, they’re the first one I’ve booked outside of Colombia. But this is probably the biggest opportunity for Colombian metal bands so far.
What are some of the bands in Colombia that you think you’d like to see get wider exposure, that you guys are personally fans of?
I have tons of bands!
TM: I would like to say one, it’s very special, it’s called Reencarnación.
Yeah! It’s an old band.
TM: Because they developed a sound that is very particular, only from our country –
We used to call it “ultra metal!” This genre was started in 80s. When we heard something heavier than Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica — everything that sounds heavier than them, we used to call it ultra metal. So it’s kind of a way to say to those bands who are heavier. So when we listen, for example, in 1985, to Seven Churches, we call it ultra metal. And the bands that started to play in Colombia in the 80s years, in the late 80s years, we used to call them ultra metal.
Oh, instead of like death metal, or black metal…?
TM: No, it’s a very particular sound.
It’s a raw sound. It’s very, very known in the Norwegian scene.
TM: Influenced the black metal.
They influenced black metal, even Euronymous and old guys in Norway, when they hear Reencarnación, Parabellum, and Masacre – old stuff from Masacre — they call it ultra metal. Even Jon Metalion used to call our very first EP, he called it ultra metal, too. It was a big honor that he said that about Witchtrap. It’s a big honor.
TM: It’s super interesting, because a sound that we developed in Colombia, that is very known in the underground, influenced the northern European metal. Coming from South America.
But I’m going to mention three bands that you ask of me. Besides Reencarnación, you have to check, about Colombia, three bands. They are Revenge, Savage Aggression, and there is another called Nightmare. Those three bands are awesome! Awesome! Of course, they are old school. But they are very known in our country, and very known outside of Colombia in the underground metal scene. But they are pretty good bands. But I could mention a lot of bands, a lot of bands – maybe twenty, maybe thirty.
That’s awesome. It’s kind of interesting to hear about that influence, because it seems like, traditionally, Colombia doesn’t have the same notoriety in the metal scene as places like Norway. And I can imagine growing up there it was hard to get exposed to international bands. What was it like as a young metal band in Colombia — how did hear about new music back in the 1980s and when you guys first formed?
TM: I think the 1980s was a very exciting time for music in Colombia, because it was exploding. But for international bands, it was very interesting because it was very hard to get. Some of us had maybe relatives living in United States and Europe, and that’s how we got the music. But it was very hard to get and that also had a big influence into the love. Because when it’s very hard to get, you love it more.
We love it more, exactly. You know, to get gear to practice metal in Colombia is hard.
TM: We don’t have the economy for that.
Yeah, and when we were starting to listen to metal in the 80s, we used to walk for hours between neighborhood to neighborhood to find one LP to re-record from for almost ten metalheads. Because we got only a few albums in the whole city. And we used to have a meeting to share music and some drinks and listen to the recording for ten times. Maybe eight, I don’t know. Because music was very hard to find.
TM: “Las notas” — that was the name of the meeting.
It was the time we’d meet to record stuff and share music. Between us. We used to make some kind of trade for two days, trading LPs, because as I told you, it was hard to find music in those years. So we used to take some copy in black and white of the artwork of the LP, and put it in one of our rooms.
TM: Like a photocopy.
Photocopy, yeah. As a kind of promo.
TM: Yeah, it was like a medal.
Yeah, like a medal. To show to our metal friends “Oh, what the fuck? Do you have this album here? Yes, I have it!”
That’s pretty cool!
Yeah, it was great. And that’s why we love metal from the bottom of our hearts. Because everything was hard to find it. Everything was hard to get. So we give all our loyalty and love to metal. And even in those years, because we love metal in bigger dimensions, we didn’t accept metalheads that listened to other kind of music. We used to call them “casposas.” It’s a kind of poser, caspasos. It’s like the white dust, you have in your shoulders, a kind of sick in your head.
Yeah! But we used to say this word to people that listened to metal and also listen to other kinds of music – for example, salsa or something like that. We used to keep them outside of the scene and we never let them listen to metal music. It’s funny right now, we see that situation as funny, but in those years it was really really extreme. We keep out people like that, never allowed them to get in with the metal scene. Right now we find it funny, but in those years it was fucking hard.
So what’s next for Witchtrap? Any plans for a new album?
Okay, we have a couple ideas. For example, right now is the re-releasing of the very first full-length album Sorceress Bitch on LP, CD, and tape via Hells Headbangers. And obviously the Trap the Witch is out now on LP, tape, CD, and picture disc. But for the band, we have a couple ideas. First of all, in September, we are trying to book a big tour in the states, like 24 or 25 dates. We are working on the booking. We’ve been on two tours in the States, and it works good, there is a guy very interested to work with us and we are planning it. But we are also planning to make – not a best-of album, but an album of rare stuff of Witchtrap. The songs that aren’t very known for the band. Not popular or classic songs, but like B-sides. We want to do a couple new songs for the recording. But we want to do a special recording, because we want to do it as if we were playing live. Not a live recording, but the production sound. We aren’t going to do it with two guitar sounds, only one, and only one take. It’s a special idea we have in our minds, and we are thinking about it and we found it different. Because lot of bands want to do a best-of, but we want to do a rare-of, of Witchtrap! And we are going to – because this year, we are having twenty years of producing our very first two demos, and fifteen years of having our first full length album Sorceress Bitch, so we want to celebrate it to press our demos on CD format on our own label, Dirty Sound Records. It’s our own label, the label for the band.
TM: Because Witchtrap, they record themselves.
Yeah, yeah, we have our home studio, after saving a lot of money for almost twenty years! We are one of the few bands in Colombia who live from playing metal. It’s our job. We do everything. I’m the manager, my brother is a writer and composer, and supports me answering emails and with Facebook, and we sell our stuff by Internet, we produce our stuff. It’s a hard job, but we love it.
That’s really cool to hear because it seems like a lot of bands today don’t do that. Most bands might do the band on the side — maybe tour for a couple months and then do something else. It’s really neat that you guys are able to fully support yourselves.
TM: But also, life in Colombia is cheaper than the states.
Yeah, yeah! Living in Colombia is cheaper but it’s hard. Any country is hard to live in, but you cannot do this living in the states or Canada. You have more quality of life in different countries than Colombia. Colombia’s living is really hard.
Any final thoughts?
Living metal is the best thing I have chose in my life. I think metal changed my life and I would love for all people to discover metal. Because metal gives you an opportunity to open your mind and discover all the beautiful things we have in our culture. We have women, we have fun, we have an open mind to understand the bullshit of politicians, the bullshit of religion, and we can live as free people.
TM: There is a theory that metalheads are the most loyal people.
Yeah, we are loyal! We are loyal to music, we are loyal to our loves, we are loyal to everything we love.
TM: We just believe in ourselves and we are free.
Yeah! We are free.
Thanks so much for the interview!
Thank you so much!
Postscript: I’d like to personally thank Hugo and his tour manager for taking time away from partying and enjoying their cruise vacation to chat with me! I wish Witchtrap and Hugo best of luck with their upcoming tour and future recordings!