I cannot be the judge in the differences of opinion between the two WITCHFYNDE line ups, that are going on right now. I was very pleased and flattered when I got in touch with Montalo, after so many years of absence fromthe scene, and got the chance to do an interview with him. The albums of WITCHFYNDE are a milestone to all the fans that like the dark side of the NWOBHM sound. When I listened to the great Metal sound, that’s on “The Awakening” CD of Luther Beltz’s WYTCHFYNDE, I knew that this band needs all the attention as well. Again, I will not comment about the revalry between these two bands. All that counts for me is the great music of both bands. And some stories might even get more interesting, when you have a look at them from different angles. In Snakepit #8, you could read Montalo’s version of the WITCHFYNDE story. In Snakepit #10, you can read Luther Beltz’ version of the whole case, completed with a few questions answered by his bassplayer Dave Hewitt, formerly WARRIÖR. And we also get to hear the story of his new band WYTCHFYNDE. Read on and find out what Luther had to say to us……
This interview is dedicated to a fanatic true metal fan, Nigel King from Wakefield, United Kingdom, who sadly died on June 11, 2001.
Who is in Luther Beltz’ WYTCHFYNDE right now and when did you start as a band again?
Luther Beltz: “Salutations, Metal Maniacs! Luther Beltz (vocals) proudly presents to you WYTCHFYNDE: Dave Hewitt on bass, Ronnie R. on guitar, Rick Gilliat on guitar, and Tez Brown on drums. I managed to get these heathens together in February 2000. Since then, we have been writing and gig wise we have gone from strength to utter mayhem”.
When did you join WITCHFYNDE in the early days?
LB: “In October 1982”.
Why did Steve Bridges, the first singer of the band, leave the band? And was it difficult for you to replace him?
LB: “He left the band, because of musical differences. But I can’t understand why. I think there were underlying matters. Personality clashes”.
From which bands did you get your influences back in those days? And can you name any specific bands or people that were a big influence to you as a singer?
LB: “I would especially name a band like BLACK SABBATH here. My own personal influences vocally were HALFORD, OZZY, GILLAN and DIO”.
Was WITCHFYNDE the first band that you joined or did you play in other bands before that??
LB: “No, WITCHFYNDE were not my first band. I was in HIROSHIMA with Pete Surgey and then DOG SOLDIER, who supported WITCHFYNDE at a gig. Hence, I was offered the job to replace Steve”.
The title track "Give 'Em Hell" can be seen as a real NWOBHM anthem. Could you please tell us your favourite NWOBHM songs?
LB: “Yes, I strongly believe “Give ‘Em Hell” to be a NWOBHM anthem. Long may it reign! My fave NWOBHM songs are all of the JUDAS PRIEST stuff, some SAXON, and IRON MAIDEN’s “Number Of The Beast” “.
What’s your favourite WITCHFYNDE songs (name three) and why did you chose these three?
LB: “ “Give em Hell”, “Conspiracy” and “Rather Go Wild”.”
The first tour WITCHFYNDE did was with DEF LEPPARD, but you were not in the band at that time. Can you name some bands you played with, when you joined them? And maybe you can still remember some nice tour stories from these early days?
LB: “The bands I played with, with WITCHFYNDE: DUMPYS RUSTY NUTS, MAMAS BOYS along with PHIL LYNOTT, DEDRINGER, etc.etc. Tour stories?!? With the lack of record company backing, it was hell!! Believe me! No stage show, no food, no money and P.A rigs. We could barely afford to go on tour. It was soul destroying! We had one candle arbra with maybe seven candles on it. We were trying hard to create an atmosphere. Really fuckin’ shit, man! It still makes me angry! I feel we were cheated, but so were the fans! Hate – hate – hate.”
I read in some old magazines that a WITCHFYNDE live show was something spectacular. Somewhere I even read about nude - or at least topless - women on stage and you burning black candles on stage. Could you tell us what a WITCHFYNDE show looked like in those days?
LB: “We once had a few semi naked chicks on there and seven fuckin’ candles, a poxy P.A. and of course all the high energy from the band. If only the record company had put some input into the band. Christ, what we may have done…..”
Some people see you as the founders of the black metal trend and "Give 'Em Hell" and its lyrics are obviously responsible for that. What do you think about that?
LB: “Yeah, I suppose WITCHFYNDE were the founders of black metal, but the godfathers are BLACK SABBATH. WITCHFYNDE just took it a step further. The lyrics of “Give ‘Em Hell” went a long way to that end. A real classic – eh?!?”
Once there was stated that the difference between WITCHFYNDE and BLACK SABBATH was that BLACK SABBATH used their 'black message' just as an image and to WITCHFYNDE, it was a way of life. Please explain here. Has your attitude changed throughout the years or are you still having the same 'black thoughts'?
LB: “BLACK SABBATH definitely had the image. To Montalo, it was a way of life. But then says anyone acting like that, has strange behavior patterns. I certainly do have black thoughts every fuckin day.”
"Cloak And Dagger" was WITCHFYNDEs first LP on Expulsion Records. WITCHFYNDE also released this album on picture disc. You became their new singer and the band also released a seven inch called "I'd Rather Go Wild". Things seemed to go right, but one year later you changed again to Mausoleum Records, who released your "Lords Of Sin" album. Did Expulsion Records, which was actually more a punk label, give you the right promotion or did they actually not know what was going on in the minds of the members of an heavy metal band?
LB: “We never had the right promotion from any of the so-called record companies.”
Do you know many copies of "Cloak And Dagger" were printed as a picture disc?
LB: “We were never aware of how many picture discs of “Cloak And Dagger” were printed or even how many were sold. It’s the same old story with the record. We never heard anything.”
The album cover of that should originally have some pictures taken at the London Dungeons. Were those pictures taken actually or didn’t you get the chance to shoot them?
LB: “The London Dungeon photos were featured on “Lords of Sin”, not “Cloak And Dagger”. They wouldn’t let me anywhere near the naked girl at the Dungeon. I wonder why. Ha ha ha.”
Can you tell us what the words on the back sleeve of "Stagefright" mean?
LB: “I am not aware of any words on that album.There were some Basque words on the back of “Lords Of Sin”. Maybe we could run a competition about what it means between your great mag and myself.”
In the interview that I did with Montalo some time ago, I already mentioned the song “Belfast”, that you wrote and which was on none of the WITCHFYNDE albums. Can you tell us a bit more about other previously unreleased songs? And is there a chance, that they will be released in the (near) future?
LB: “Songs we never released are “Over The Top” (1980) and “Voyager” (1984). “Belfast” was released on a Friday Rock Show Album, by the B.B.C and Tommy Vance.”
Montalo also mentioned some video recordings of a rehearsal with you. Do you know if there is more video material of WITCHFYNDE or is this the only stuff that exists?
LB: “Only the Rehearsal Video was ever done. That was made by the band. Yet again, there was no record company backing. The sound on the Rehearsal Video is awful, but we tried.“
Could you tell us a bit more about THE ACCELARATORS in which you and Pete Surgey played in 1995? It was more like a blues soul band, wasn’t it? Did you record anything with them?
LB: “We don’t have anything in the way of recordings, as far as I remember. A great blues soul band! I felt like a male prostitute only in it for the money. Don’t wanna talk about it anymore.”
Wasn't the "Best of…" release (on British Steel) the perfect chance to bring out some unreleased tracks? Were you involved in the making of this compilation CD?
LB: “It would have been the perfect vehicle to re-launch the band and new songs, but as usual I didn’t even know it was being released. It’s good though, that someone thought it worthy of putting it together!”
In the beginning of the interview you already told us, who’s in the band right now. One person, people might remember, is Dave Hewitt, formerly WARRIÖR (UK), who actually got me in touch with you. Thank you for that, Dave! How did you get in touch with him? And did the other members play in other bands also, before they joined WYTCHFYNDE?
LB: “Yes!! Like you already mentioned, Dave (on bass) was in WARRIÖR (on vocals), then played with AXIS, before forming STORMWATCH. I have known Dave a long time. Ronnie joined STORMWATCH after playing in quite a few other bands. Rick played with FRONTIER for about ten years. He’s from the same town as SAVAGE. Tez has been pro, since he was ten years old. I rescued him from a band called STORM GODZ.”
Maybe Dave can answer a few questions here, too. Your band WARRIÖR became quite popular through their self financed, self produced and self promoted LP “Let Battle Commence” How many copies were made of this LP?
Dave: “We had five hundred copies of “Let Battle Commence” pressed. We borrowed the money from the bass players mother to do it. It was recorded on 8 track equipment. The whole process taking just two days from recording all the tracks to mixing. A far cry from today!!”
Is it true that you made the drawing of the sleeve during your daytime job?
Dave: “Yes, it’s true. I drew the sleeve at work (I was a Cost accountant at the time). I hated my job, so an excuse to do something like the album cover was great. Good job, I wasn’t caught doing it!! I would have been sacked!”
I can hear a touch of JIMI HENDRIX on this LP. Were you influenced by the man at all and which other influences did you have at that time?
Dave: “HENDRIX was Steve Allsops hero! Personally, my biggest influences, especially in the song writing were WISHBONE ASH and THIN LIZZY. But I was listening to a lot of punk, so I suppose that influenced me also.”
After WARRIÖR disbanded, you formed AXIS, together with your bassplayer. What kind of music did you play? And are there any interesting bands, that you shared the stage with as AXIS in those days (1982)?
Dave: “My second band AXIS only played about ten gigs. We were picked up by Niteshade, a prominent promotion company. We were playing bigger venues and travelling longer distances. We didn’t share the stage with any major act as we were billed as headliners. The musical syle of AXIS by now was a lot more brutal... A sort of punk/metal mixture. It was pretty new back in ‘82 and we picked up a lot of kids, who were pissed off with pretty boy metal acts but didn’t really fit the punk genre, sort of metal orphans!”
Something terrible happened, so you quit playing music for a long time. Can you tell us what exactly happened?
Dave: “I quit, because I had a sort of nervous breakdown, actually on stage. I will never forget the gig. We were going down great and the crowd was going nuts two songs in. I just wanted to get off the stage and go home. My confidence went and I felt I was dying inside. The gig was a fucking nightmare for me. We finished the gig and I just said to the band: “That’s it! That’s the last time I ever sing in public again.” And it was... for a while anyway!”
However, in 1992 you came back with a band, called STORMWATCH. How was that possible? Although you said in 1982, that you would never be able to perform music in public again.
Dave: “Actually, my next endevour was called DAS RAAVEN. The band started in 1989. We changed the name to STORMWATCH in ’92, because we had some fucking neo nazis following the band. In 1988 my wife had bought me a bass guitar, because I was forever moaning about how I missed being in a band. I couldn’t play the thing, when we started DAS RAAVEN. I loved the thing, so I practised for hours everyday. Eventually I could hold down a bass line pretty well. That was it, old fears gone ... Rock ‘n roll was back in my life! We had a great time with STORMWATCH, some of the members went on to play pro. Nick Barker (CRADLE OF FILTH, DIMMU BORGIR) was with us for nearly two years, John Slater (BLAZE BAILEY) was with us for seven years. Now me and Ron are with Luther, so STORMWATCH was a great launch pad for us... Plus we got to play with some of our heros like BUDGIE, WISHBONE ASH, SAXON, SON OF A BITCH and BLAZE BAILEY.”
Let’s go back to the WYTCHFYNDE story again. My next question would be: Why did you actually decide to call your band WYTCHFYNDE? The only difference with WITCHFYNDE is that you use a “Y”, instead of an “I” in the name. People may find that confusing.
LB: “We played Headbangers Open Air last year. So many people, a great majority fans, asked me why the band I was over there with, was not called WYTCHFYNDE. I could not find a good enough answer. Really. I was never happy calling the band LUTHER BELTZ. It seemed so egotistical. I would rather leave that sort of crap to Montalo – oops - yeah.”
There is a rumour that last years gig of WITCHFYNDE at Wacken Open Air didn’t take place because the organisers found it confusing that there were two bands with (nearly) the same name. Is this the actual reason or don’t you know anything about this rumour? Did your band actually get in contact with the organisers or did they only get in contact with Montalo’s band?
LB: “Yes, we were booked to play Wacken last year, but Montalo stuck his nose in. Can’t blame the organisers of Wacken to blow it off. It put them in a very sticky situation and the fans might be confused. They won’t be after playing our new album!!! His (Montalo) rantings and ravings. Pulled a lot of dirty tricks on me and my Band. The little shit!”
You’re playing live shows again. Will you also offer your fans a show like in the old days or are there no show elements at all?
LB: “Naked ladies on stage…. Where?!? This is a joke! We never had any financial back up off any of the record companies. I can assure you, just a couple of black candles and the best sound system were all we could afford. There never was a stage show. Bands like DEMON and ANGELWITCH were making us look like a club act. A stage show?!?? They are joking!!!”
Which old WITCHFYNDE songs will you be playing?
LB: “Yeah, we do play some old WITCHFYNDE songs (“Stab In The Back”, “Conspiracy”, “Rather Go Wild” and “Give ‘Em Hell”). They all still kick metal ass orgasmic!!!!”
How did your first (four track) demo sell (as LUTHER BELTZ) and what style of music do you play? Which songs are on this four track demo tape?
LB: “Our demo was never meant for sale. But we had so many fans pleading for a copy, so we let a few folks have it. Tracks on it were: “Hell Hath No Fury”, “Blessed Be” and “Unknown Soldier”.”
You also appeared on a DEMON tribute CD. Which song do you play here and why did you choose this particular song? Was there a special reason, why you wanted to play on this compilation CD?
LB: “We agreed to record “Sign Of A Madman” for the “Unbroken Metal” compilation album, because Rudiger is a good friend and it would tell us, if anyone was still interested in hearing my screamings. They were… It caused minor stirrings in Europe. Hey, let’s write an album and see what happens.”
Do you play this song during your live shows as well?
LB: “We don’t play “Sign Of A Madman” in the set yet. We have got an album to promote, ya know. No, we would love to, but we have so many great songs to play. It’s hard to know what to leave out sometimes.”
Montalo told us that you were also part of his ‘new’ reformation of WITCHFYNDE for a short time. You quit very soon afterwards and started your own band. What went wrong??
LB: “I don’t hate Montalo, in fact I feel sorry for the guy. As far as my strange behaviour is concerned. After “Sign Of A Madman” was released, it caused minor ripples in Europe. Montalo decided to reform the definitive (his words) WITCHFYNDE. Let’s all be friends again and make music. No problem. After the second rehearsal I suggested, we should maybe add a second guitar to beef up the sound during lead breaks. All the successful bands had two guitarists. Shock Horror! How dare I suggest such a thing to the mighty Montalo. I’m only the singer. Those were Montalo’s last words to me, when I also said Surgey’s a good bass player, but he had lost the metal from his playing. We never were a heavy metal band. Good night betrayer! You’re off!! Back to my own band. So then the dirty tricks started. Low spiteful goings on. He has not and never will stop us! The lower he gets, the more determined we are. Don’t hide behind your lawyers, Montalo. Let the fans decide, who keeps the name. I hope the people out there understand, why I am so angry. In our last telephone conversation, Gra and myself agreed not to slag each other off. I kept my word, until Montalo fired the first salvo. I did not want all this crap. I still had a modicum of respect for the guys. I didn’t even read his interview. A staunch fan (who died on June 11, 2001) sent me a photocopy and said: “Luther you can’t let him (Montalo) get away with this. You must answer back!” (Blessed be, Nigel! Hope you can still hear the music, my good friend). With fans like that all over the world, I don’t have the right to deny them the music, they love. My band is not STORMWATCH. It is not a third rate pub band. We are not a WITCHFYNDE tribute band. I just hope that I can carry on recording good songs. In fact, Montalo, if you are so confident. Let’s have a head to head. Any where in Europe, outside the U.K. As a sign of respect to the fans. My band will go on first. Both bands to do ninety minutes set. Let true Metal Fans decide…...!!”
Is there anything else about what Montalo said, that you want to respond to?
LB: “My answer to his ravings. He ain’t man enough to tell it to my face. He hides behind solicitors, and interviews. He says, I acted strangely. Well, just listen to our album. I think, I made the right choice. Are you at home, Montalo? Stamping your little feet??!? I hope so.”
Let’s chance the subject now. What do you think of all the 80’s NWOBHM bands, that reform again? Think about JAGUAR, ANGELWITCH, HOLOCAUST, HANDSOME BEASTS, TYGERS OF PAN TANG, etc. Do you still listen to them?
LB: “Why not? If bands like ANGELWITCH, JAGUAR, HOLOCAUST and TYGERS OF PAN TANG want to reform and they have something to offer, why the hell not? I am sure that these bands do have something to offer. Let’s keep it metal! Yeahhhhh!!!!”
Are you still in touch with other people from the early days or have you lost contact with all these people? And who were the bands that you hung out with in the eighties?
LB: “I don’t see much of the bands from the old days. I speak to Graham Oliver (SAXON) now and then and Dave is in contact with one of the guys from ANGELWITCH and BUDGIE.”
You’ve recorded an excellent new album, called “The Awakening”. How would you describe the music on this great comeback CD? I would definately call it Heavy Metal with a lot of JUDAS PRIEST elements, which you may see as a big compliment! It blew me out of my f*cking chair, by the way!!!!!! Especially “Ghost Dancer” is a very powerful song. It’s like a slam in the face with a crowbar!
LB: “I suppose you could say it’s a melting pot from the past and a sprinkling of what’s about now. We didn’t sit down and say let’s write a track like this or that. What is on the album is just what we felt was good heavy metal. That’s all, really.”
The lyrics for “Arken Asylum” are not in the CD booklet. Why is that, and can you tell us what this song is about?
LB: “After all the shit we put up, this was just a way of getting my anger out. At the time with the dirty tricks brigade. Just a way of letting you all know what was happening. Listen carefully to the lyrics.”
If there was one band you could tour with in England, which band would you choose then?
LB: “I would love to support HALFORD and/or OZZY. What a gig! I am ejaculating already!!!”
Are you planning to tour on the continent as well?
LB: “With the reviews we are receiving in Europe, we shall see you all soon. Don’t let the shit between myself and Montalo sway you in any way. Judge for our music, not the politics.”
What are your future plans with WYTCHFYNDE?
LB: “As well as in Europe, the album is being well received in the U.S.A. They are beckoning we shall go. Then two more albums to do.”
Where can the people find you on the Internet and what do you think of this medium?
LB: “You can find our web site at:
You seem to be a big metal fan. Are there any rare items you have in your record collection or don’t you have a big record collection at home?
LB: “I have all the early BLACK SABBATH, early PRIEST, DEEP PURPLE, SAXON and loads of stuff from RAINBOW.”
Do you have any messages or is there something you'd like to add to this interview? The last words are for you. Now's your time to speak out!
LB: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, who has contacted me!! Thanks to all the fans and press alike for your e-mails and letters of support. It does my black heart proud to know so many of you like our new album. When we do visit your countries, we hope to see and speak to all. Metal is not for yesterday or today, but forever!! May your guiding spirit guide you true. Blessed Be. LUTHER BELTZ.“
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(originally appeared in SNAKEPIT, issue #11, 2002)