After five albums, four record labels and a procession of a dozen steadily contributing members, its likely that the band has never yet been properly documented because its identity still feels opaque...
Rehearsals were like loose hang out sessions, said Agolli--who hosted a few at her Ferndale home, back in 96. Gregory brought lyrics and skeletal structures to then be fleshed out. "We would play each song once each. There was a comfortable level that was completely liberating. Everyone fell into place when someone started a jam; no questions, just play."
And that's what it came down to... This man, this songwriter, this rampantly idea-spewing, song scribbling maniac... simply spent to much time engaged in the work to really save any time foisting it upon A&R desks and poking publicity agents.
"Prolific is putting it mildly," Smith said. "It's definitely like Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices) or something...that level of being prolific."
"Troy is so out there," Strobe said admiringly, "he's like the sparkplug."
"Troy is extremely prolific," Agolli added. "There was never a shortage of new stuff to play."
"I truly think Troy is one of the most talented people around," Diamond said. "I've told people that around the world, and will continue to say it."
Yet, still, The Witches struggled somewhat to find an audience, whether it was in distribution or whether it was in distinguishing itself from the rest of the early 00's "garage" scene.
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A Haunted Person's Guide (to The Witches)
"I knew of The Witches," said Boissel, "but I hadn't realized the extent of Troy's body of work until he sent me his albums. I thought the quality of the music was so amazing that it needed a second chance. I came up with the idea of a compilation; an introduction of sorts, of the Witches. I think the album stands on its own among the band's discography."
After Toronto-based Music for Cats released Thriller (in 07), the band went into sort of a holding pattern. "The band never broke up..." Gregory said, "we were just all doing other things for a while...." (Strobe began teaching at the School of Rock as well as developing his own project, Cosmic Light Shapes; Skarich toured with LCD Soundsystem through 2008; Nash toured constantly with Electric Six and is currently producing said-band's forthcoming record; while Gregory spearheaded the Stepsisters as well as reactivated a new band for his solo material). "The whole idea was: we'll try not to force this stuff so much..."
Boissel got turned onto the Witches by Smith. The rest...leading up to February 25th's release show at Small's, is history.
"I like the Witches because they didn't sound like anything else," Skarich said. "A lot of bands wear their influences on their sleeve and I've been in bands like that. But I've always liked the bands that have a sound that is themselves. The Witches didn't really have any sort of influence outside of very broad genres, like the -psych and 60's pop stuff. Troy's a fun guy, he's a good guy--I like his outlook on life."
Skarich continued: "He's mentioned that he really liked this line up (Nash+Strobe+Skarich), but I think there's been plenty of great line ups. Everbody's easy going, there's no primadonnas, nobody's really in charge...which, heh, can be a bad thing sometimes..."
Skarich said that he, Nash and Strobe are "pretty introverted, quiet, and mostly shy. Troy-is the extrovert. The one who can talk a mile-a-minute. There's a kind of dichotomy there. Troy might have a hard time being in a band with himself."
Nash said, "Troy has a very magnetic personality and he is easy to work with. Phil is indifferent and Eugene is enthusiastic. Like Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman--it was instant synergy."
Strobe said: "Phil is the silent rock that keeps the foundation with a smirk and witty sense of humor; John is the quiet genius on guitar, whose sometimes overshadowed by Troy's boisterousness. Troy is the sparkplug, John is the wick, Phil is like the wind, or something...and I'm the stones trying to help Troy ignite... Well, Phil is as much the wick as John is the wind. Or maybe we're all different elements of the Earth. Troy is definitely the boisterous element, whichever one that is, I don't know if it's sulfur or...salt?"
Gregory: "Phil Skarich's sense of humor is just brilliant. Gene is never one to say: 'I'm bored.' And if he's bored he'll do something about it. And Nash, just an easy guy to hang around with and I really like the way he plays guitar. It's just, like, someone you really like making music with--when you get together you tend to inspire each other and give each other ideas."
"One thing," Gregory surmised after recently reuniting with this line up in the run-up to the release show, "playing with these guys, well, has always been wonderful, but, it's got even more of this other kind of groove happening, now."
The band plans to tour later on, in the spring, including trips to both coasts, Chicago, New York and hopefully Europe. "(Recording) a (new) single is a great idea," Nash said, especially, "in this day and age. It's like the music industry is starting over again from scratch, except minus the industry and making-money part."
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"The history of the Witches...it's one of those Detroit bands that have shared a lot of members," Strobe said, "either just for a little while or for longer; which was kind of the Detroit-mantra for a bit. The Witches brought different elements of the Detroit music scene together and presented it on stage; people could jump off and do their own thing for a while and come back. That was the beauty of the Witches. It was more a revolving cast of influences and musical sounds, playing through the framework of these particular tunes."
"I get this impression," Smith said, "judging from people's reactions of hearing those records, years later, that this stuff just sounds really fresh to people now. So, maybe this stuff was just ahead of its time, maybe what we were doing then- while at that time it just frightened people, it all seems pretty normal now."
Milo: ...are people catching up?
Smith: "I think so..."
Matt Smith is currently producing the next Outrageous Cherry album and preparing a tour for the Volebeats. Jim Diamond is wrapping up recording work on The High Strung's forth coming LP. Deb Agolli, along with raising her two sons (age 7 & 10) continues to run Crash Edit in Royal Oak. The various hours logged at audio recording studios (through bands) helped Agolli make the switch to video - and Crash Edit's been going for 10 years now.