When the inmates of notorious Ward XVI came to visit my hometown of Edinburgh, they very kindly gave me, on behalf of CGCM, an interview. In this they talked about the background of the band, the recording processes including their videos, their influences and putting rock stars into headlocks and more!
We started the interview upstairs in the flat above the venue before they went on and then continued it after the show in the venue itself where they played (part 2 coming soon). They were most generous with their time. It was a lot of fun, as people, they are happy to chat, sometimes all at once when they talk about certain things (like their love of Alice Cooper) and by gum they like to laugh and joke as well whether with me as an interviewer or amongst themselves.
The whole entourage took part, the band themselves along with the actors who help make the show what it is. Now as I am transcribing from a phone recording, I cannot always remember who was sitting where (especially as we did it in 2 places) so at times I am not sure who is always commenting. Where I can remember I will name, apologies to the band/crew for anyone I miss out. So let’s get started, sitting in the living room of the flat around a very big table where my phone sits trying to take everything in…
CGCM: Hi, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for the website. If I may can start with the “boring” questions (band are laughing), the obvious ones which give a bit of background to our readers. Can you tell us how the whole thing started, band and image etc?
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie): “It started back in 2013 with myself and some other people, we had quite a few lineup changes in the beginning, you know trying to get the most solid line up. The Doctor (Dr Von Stottenstein guitarist) joined in, what, (looks around at Doc and he says”2015″)2015. We didn’t release the first album until 2017 (The Art Of Manipulation) and that’s where it properly kicked off. We played Metal 2 The Masses and then Bloodstock Festival for the first time and that led us to start the second album (Metamorphosis). Wolfie (bassist) joined in 2018 and then the 3 of us worked on the new album. We also had a session drummer and keyboardist as well on the album although we did some keys and things ourselves. After that was done Bam Bam (drummer) joined permanently on the drums.
At this point, the recording is a little dodgy but Psychoberrie went onto explain how “mother” came on board having been in the “Burn The Witch” video and that the other inmate/actor (Rico) having been on another video and both were asked to join them as part of the show specifically 2021 Bloodstock. She finished by saying “and that’s how we became the unit we are now”.
CGCM:Cheers for that. If my memory serves me right from chatting online with the good Doctor that you have several stories written to turn into albums?
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie): “We have a plan for 3 albums, a trilogy with this character, we have now done 2 of them and have started demos for part 3. So we vaguely had the plan for 3 albums from the beginning”.
CGCM: So how does it work recording and writing. Do you write the lyrics first due to the stories being kind of in place? Then add the music to fit? How do you go about it all?
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie): “It has been different for both albums. On the first I had the story in mind but I was having to constantly put lyrics over music that didn’t necessarily fit, the others wanted to jam and write stuff, but on this second one we had fewer musicians involved and everyone was more passionate about the story. That really helped. Some songs came lyrics first and some from guitar lines and melodies but the story was always there…”
Ward XVI (Doctor): “The mood and context of the actual beat of the song is what we focussed on. Sometimes (pointing at Psychoberrie) you would go “I think you could start the riff like this” or you would record a few piano pieces which I would listen to and then put the guitar over that so it developed. It is a bit of a mix, but to me as a guitarist it is important to know the mood of a piece, to capture the emotional core of the song.
“The music should on the whole match what she is singing about. We do have a couple where the tunes sound upbeat but the actual content of the song is quite melancholic, we sometimes do mess around a bit”.
CGCM: I feel the solos are lovely, well constructed, more mood than flash.
Ward XVI (Doctor): “That was important to me. On this album I was more able to construct how the music should be underneath, creating the right soundscapes. The solos to me should enhance the mood of the song. I don’t think I managed that on the first. I was new to this at that point, quite fresh, nervous, perhaps a bit self-aware and on top of that you don’t want to put other’s people’s noses out of joint. This one I felt I could stand more for what I believed, I had some ownership of it, it was what I wanted to be like.”
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie): “I think what also helped was this time we demoed everything. The first album we jammed lots of things then went to the studio and we didn’t notice what was clashing until in the studio and we were having to try and make changes then. This time we did demos of everything onto laptops. It was written that way. For instance if the Doc put a solo down and didn’t like it he could do it again and again until he was happy with it.”
Ward XVI (Doctor): “We were able to listen to the demos, they were on our phones. I would listen to them every day. You could see if they were going to work or not. It was important to see what worked and what didn’t. We could change things when we needed to.”
CGCM:As a listener, this album flows so well, it all connects up.
Ward XVI (Doctor): “I think there are what you could call less stand-alone songs on this. It has been more difficult to release singles compared to the first one. I believe the songs are better heard together which is the same for most concept albums.”
CGCM: I think some of the singles work well on their own. “Mr Babadook” is one. I believe the girl in the video is one of your daughters? I love how at one point when you all attack her she is stifling giggles, looks like she enjoyed being involved.
Ward XVI (Doctor): “We were worried about that. We didn’t want to freak her out you know traumatize her for life, but she loved it. She’s amazing in it to be honest. It’s nice for me especially to have my kids involved. She also did the voiceover prayer on the album. On “Cradle Song” the baby crying is our baby (The good doctor and Psychoberrie are a couple in real life). There is a part on “Broken Toys” which all our kids are singing in the background. For me it is wonderful to also have this as also a family thing. Something to treasure in years to come.”
CGCM: There is one bit where you (Psychoberrie) and the wee one are under the covers staring at each other. The innocent child and the not so innocent anymore, it is really creepy and disturbing.
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie): “That was all due to lockdown. We were restricted as to what we could do. We had to make “Babadook” in the house, so we completely transformed the bedroom and turned the bathroom into a cupboard. We literally ripped wardrobes out, we destroyed our house” (laughing as she says this).
CGCM: That is dedication to your art. No half measures with you guys.
Ward XVI (Doctor): “We built the padded cell (for the video of Shadows“) in our rehearsal room. We made it all ourselves. We did it in one afternoon. We had to keep it minimalistic…” (see video below the interview)
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie) “It is such a personal song for Psychoberrie it made a lot of sense to just have me in it all alone”.
CGCM: I love the way you say “me“, there is an eeriness and also a sarcastic vibe to that.
Ward XVI (Doctor): “The video actually enhanced it”
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie): “We actually slowed the song down loads and made me sing along to slow motion because we thought that when speeded up we would get the twitches and things and make it more eerie. (She proceeded to illustrate that by singing it as she did as the video was filmed, with lots of laughter around her). Not all the video was done slo-mo but it took about 15 minutes to sing a few words I think. It does look creepy”.
CGCM: That track with all the multiple personalities made me think of “Steven” by Alice Cooper.
Ward XVI (Psychoberrie): “It is my favourite Alice Cooper track”.
CGCM:I take it you all have a connection musically with Alice?
Ward XVI: “Voices all around me say yes or absolutely. Psychoberrie then turns around to drummer Bam Bam and goes “you had him in headlock didn’t you?”. Everyone started laughing. As you can imagine I couldn’t let that lie…”
Psychoberrie: “It is a running joke about Bam Bam as he has photos with lots of celebrities. I think he was a serial celebrity stalker (laughs). We played HRH festival and met Arthur Brown. We were like to Bam Bam ” put him down”. He (Bam Bam) was so drunk and trying to get a photo with him. Arthur was absolutely lovely, an absolute gem of a man. (Everyone is laughing and pointing as this story is told). Every time we hear he has another photo with someone we ask if he put them in a headlock”. (laughing).
Bam Bam: “I think I frightened Alice Cooper half to death in my eagerness. That’s our reputation now… “we are Ward XVI and we scared Alice Cooper“. (Everyone is in hysterics) Mind Alice is bloody lovely”.
CGCM: Outside of Alice what other influences do you all bring to the band.
At this point we went around the room and I think I have the right names to influences:
Ward XVI: (Bam Bam) “I listen to a lot of punk, The Clash, also Slayer“
(Wolfie) “Justin from Tool, also Igorrr because of how weird and different it is”
(Rico) “Main thing is 15 years in musical theatre, but also psychobilly and black metal, so theatre mixed with high pitched screams and rock n roll”
(Mother) “Being new to this I am again more into theatrical music, my favourite band is Avatar. I look for things with an edge, that’s how I found these guys!”
(Psychoberrie): “Alice is the reason I started the whole project. I saw the video of “Welcome To My Nightmare” and thought “that’s what I want to do”. I do like In This Moment seeing their performance at Grasspop made me go “wowee”. I really like The Ritual album.”
(Doctor): “Iron Maiden really, Seventh Son album especially, also Floyd‘s The Wall, Marillion‘s Misplaced Childhood and Dream Theater‘s Scenes are the standouts. I always like heavy lyrical content concept albums, they inspired me to do what I do.”
Until next time…
At this point, we stopped so they could go downstairs and set up for the show. Coming soon is Part 2 where we will learn about the good (or is he?) Doktor Von Stottenstein, the making of Psychoberrie, whether villains should be likeable and are we made or born evil… Coming soon.
In the meantime may I express my thanks for the band’s time and patience. I and CGCM are appreciative of that.