Spotlight on … Jamie Gilchrist and Laura Donnelly (King Witch)

*When did you really get involved in music in general and into metal specific? Who was responsible for your interest in (metal) music?

-Jamie (Gilchrist – guitar): When I was a kid my friend’s older brother was really into metal, so when he was out we would sneak into his room and listen to his tapes: “Ride the Lightning” was the first Metal i remember hearing. After that I went out and bought “Master of Puppets” and that changed everything for me! It is still my favourite album. Shortly after that I started playing guitar and listening to all the heavy music I could.

-Laura (Donnelly – vocals): Whilst at art collage I made a lot of musician friends as the two departments were in the same building. I used to jam with them at many a drunken party. A few of the guys had started a band and asked if I’d like to be a stand in vocalist until they found a permanent one. That was that. I became their singer. Another friend let me listen to some demos Jamie made and asked if I’d like to audition for the band in Edinburgh. I loved his style so hopped on a bus and tried out for the band. I was in that band for 10 years with Jamie before we decided to start King Witch. I was into metal before I met Jamie but he introduced me to a wider variety of it.

*Which artists or bands did influence you the most?

-Jamie: Well Metallica were obviously a big influence early on, but really Sabbath were probably the biggest influence. I got into them early on and that really sort of directed the kind of music I wanted to play.

-Laura: Bands like Hendrix, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep purple, Janis Joplin etc. had a huge influence on me growing up. My father also listened to a lot of Scottish folk battle music so I guess I have been influenced by that too. I started getting into bands like Dio, Candlemass, The Obsessed etc. a bit later. Dio, Janis Joplin and Messiah Marcolin especially had a huge impact on me. I love the seemingly effortless power they exude and I love the emotion and drama they achieve live on stage.

*Which instrument do you play and how and when did you learn to play? Did you have lessons in school or private lessons? If so, was that because your parents expected that from you? Or did you learn to play the instruments by yourself? Do you still follow some lessons?

-Jamie: When I started playing the guitar I was just getting lessons at school, and there would be 3 guys in the lesson with 2 of them wanting to learn Oasis or Stone Roses songs and me just hammering out the riff to “Damage Inc”! My parents were really supportive though, and I know they put up with a lot of years of me blasting my little practice amp and full volume and playing really badly. When they realised I was serious about guitar they got me lessons. When I left school I went to music college for a short while but it didn’t work out – I was more interested in partying than anything else. But it was fun!

-Laura: I come from a Scots / Irish family so you always had to “take a turn” when we had family parties. Everyone usually sang a song as not many people played instruments. These would mostly be folk songs. I never really realised I could sing the way I do now until I was 20. I quickly found I had a pretty powerful voice. I’m self taught I guess. Over the years I have taken a couple of lessons to help give me warm ups but my style of singing is just something I’ve always been able to do. Warmups are important though especially when on tour and playing lots of gigs so I try to keep them up.

*Do you follow other or are you interested in other styles of music besides metal? If so, what is the music you prefer to listen to?

-Jamie: I listen to a lot of 60s and 70s stuff I guess. When I was younger my Dad had a lot of awesome vinyl in the house; Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Yes, Jeff Beck. So I’ve always loved a lot of stuff from that era. I love guys like Rory Gallagher and Robin Trower. There is a lot of slightly more obscure 70s stuff that I think a lot of doom fans would enjoy as well; Spooky Tooth and Atomic Rooster are worth checking out for anyone that hasn’t heard them.

-Laura: Like Jamie I also like a lot of 60s 70s stuff too. I also really like bands with folksie vibes like Rory Gallagher, Richard and Linda Thompson, Bob Dylan etc. In the end they all have rock roots just like metal.

*Is music a full time job for you now or do you have a job beside music? If so, what kind of job are you doing? If you would be really successful with music, would you quit your other job?

-Jamie: We all have jobs as well. I’m self employed, which is very useful when you are a musician! I do Audio-Visual installation work. Fitting systems in offices, oil rigs, museums, that kind of thing. I quite enjoy it to be honest, but I was earning loads of money from music… maybe I would let it go!

-Laura: I’m a graphic designer by day. I studied art so I think even If we made enough money as musicians I’d still be doing art in some form.

*If you could start a band with other musicians on other instruments, which artist would you pick for which instrument and why? (Something Like an “All Stars Band”.) Would you still go for a heavy metal band? Or would you do something completely different?

-Jamie: That’s a good, and very tricky question. I’m going to imagine that we can use anyone living or dead, so here we go. I would go for Gary moore on guitar (along with me, obviously), so I could copy loads of his licks. Rhythm section would be Brian Downey on drums and Cliff Burton on bass. Maybe Ian Gillan (early 70s Ian Gillan) on vox. That would be my supergroup – would it be metal? I don’t know. It would be awesome though.

-Laura: I’d get in my time machine and grab a young Bill Ward for drums. His groove and feel was outstanding and he really smashed them. Page and Wino on rhythm. Both guys rule but I love Page’s playing style and Wino has great tone and feel. I’d have Gezzer on bass because his parts are always really interesting and me on vox. That would be a fun band. I’d like Iommi in there but then it would basically be Sabbath minus Ozzy haha. Fuck it. I’ll have them all – I’m sure it would be epic

*If you had been banned to an uninhabited island and you may pick 5 albums to listen to, which albums would you choose and why?

-Jamie: Another tricky question! I would definitely have ‘Master Of Puppets’ (Metallica) and ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ (Black Sabbath). Let’s also put in Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live and Dangerous’, ‘Nightfall’ by Candlemass and ‘Blood Mountain’ from Mastodon. I’m not going to think about this question any more or I will spend the whole day worrying about what albums I should pick!

-Laura: That is a hard question!! I’d have Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’. I’m a massive Pink Floyd fan girl and I think the album is utter perfection. Led Zeppelin ‘The Song Remains The Same” live soundtrack as I absolutely love the movie and I think the live versions of the songs sound way heavier and better on this than the actual recordings. I’d have Candlemass ‘Nightfall’ because Candlemass rule, Rainbow’s ‘Rainbow Rising’ because the songs are epic and lastly I’d have Black Sabbath’s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ as life without Sabbath would be a sad one.

*Every new album of a band or an artist is the best one, that’s what they always say. So here is a chance to promote the album. Why should a music lover buy your album? What are the standout tracks for you on this new album and why?

-Jamie: Well, the whole album is pretty epic, but if epic tracks like ‘Return To Dust’ or ‘Beyond The Black Gate’ don’t get you going, then this probably isn’t the right genre for you! I think ‘Of Rock And Stone’ (which we did a video for) is a good place to start – that tells you everything you need to know about King Witch.

-Laura: The album is a bit of a musical and emotional journey. There are many layers and styles which should cover a wide range of the rock and metal spectrum – a bit of something for everyone. As Jamie mentioned, ‘Body Of Light’ is epic!. It’s also powerful and uplifting at times too. Dig out your battle jacket and blast it loud.

See “CD-Review” for a review (written in Dutch) for the new King Witch album ‘Body Of Light’ (Listenable Records) –

*I suppose you will promote this album through live concerts (when of course everything is getting back to “normal” after the Covid 19 disaster). If so, would you prefer small clubs or big festivals? And is there a chance we can see King Witch in Belgium?

-Jamie: Yeah – as soon as we can get back on the road, we will be! It’s always awesome playing festivals, but sometimes a club show when it is packed out is unbeatable, there’s so much energy. We would love to be back in Belgium. We have played in Antwerp a few times and Brussels as well, we will hopefully see you soon!

-Laura: We will definately be back on the road as soon as the world goes back to normal. Festivals are always fantastic fun but some of our most favourite shows have been in smaller venues. A more intimate and sweaty experience 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to chat to us.