Interview with Jim Warmon of Witch
Witch were very much a part of the 1980's LA scene. They played many of the big clubs with a lot of the top bands of the day. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing bass player Jim Warmon to find out about their past and the possible future of this band.
MM-Hello, what are you currently up to?
JW-Well me and Punk have been working on a couple of projects. Witch and Punching the Clown.PTC is basically an offshoot of Witch, It’s the music we both love performing, basically hard driven backbeats with a melodic vocal…..Anthem rock comes to mind. As far as Witch goes it’s a labor of love to reunite with these great musicians and to re-visit the material. We (Witch) got together over the Labor day weekend to begin re-hashing the material. It took about 4 tunes to shake off the cobwebs and by the second day of rehearsal the band sounded better than ever! It looks like we’re gonna be doing a Halloween special at Elsinor stadium, then the plan is to head off to Germany for a series of festivals……everyone’s very excited and looking forward to getting back out on the road. BTW…..the Punching the Clown stuff is available for free downloads off either the Myspace Punching the Clown icon on my page or off the www.witchtheband sight under the records and CD’s tab. Take a listen…..I’d love to know what you think!
MM-Now you are originally from Minnesota. When did you move to LA? Did you move with a band to make it or did you go out hoping to find a band to join?
JW-Actually I hail from Boston, Home of Tom Brady and the greatest team ever assembled the “New England Patriots” I came out cause I was hearing about this band called Crue and the buzz they were generating in LA. This was/is exactly the kind of band I wanted to be part of.
MM-What bands were you in before Witch? Were they all hard rock or metal bands?
JW-I started out getting my feet wet with a band called Messenger. Great studio band but they had no desire to play out live, sooo the writing was on the wall for those guys as I couldn’t hang with that for long. Then I jumped into a group called Jekel n Hyde….Good band more along the metal lines I was looking for and they gigged their balls off……But I was still looking for “:THAT BAND” My Band….ya know? For some reason I ended up with all the chicks in that band and it started causing a few problems when band mates girlfriends started calling me in the middle of the night ya know? ….Just for the record….I never fucked any of my band mates chicks….that was until I got in Witch that is….then all bets were off! (Witches Bitches were model quality and who the hell could say no to that?)
MM-Now I believe you were offered the job in Witch before they started playing shows and you turned it down. Why?
JW-Yeah, that’s true. I actually hold the record for the dumbest bullshit ever pulled by anyone ….well I think me n Vince Neal are tied for that mistake! I had just joined Hyde and was pretty comfortable with their playing when Pete the singer from this brand new group walks in like he owns the place and hands me a note. (I thought it was weird cause I kept seeing him in the front row at all the Hyde gigs before this happened) I guess he was scouting me for the new group. Anyway he hands me this note in front of my band so I had no choice but to read it……it was something like, fuck this loser shit come jam with me n Punk in Witch! I turned it down and Pete told me I had just made the worst mistake of my life……he was right!! The reason I turned it down was I had actually jammed with Pete in Messenger for a little while and the guy was a total flake, So I thought yeah right, this guy again huh? But it turns out he just wasn’t into Messenger at all and in retrospect I can’t blame him…..we were both looking for that “Special” something that can’t be defined…..It’s either magic or not.
MM-So then you accepted the second time they offered the job right? Why did you accept that time and is there a story that goes with it?
JW-Oh Yeah, Well just for yuk’s I went to Witches opening debut……it was like Ozzy meets Motley!! And I shit right then and there …I shit! Oh my God I have turned down the biggest best band I have ever seen……I was bummed to say the least. But then I began hearing rumors that the band wasn’t getting along with their second choice…..Hmm….maybe all is not lost. I was getting phone calls from their manager Johhny Schultz owner booker of the Woodstock (a freaking great club in Anahiem that really should get credit for starting all this great music that began coming out of the O.C. Johhny was like ….they hate this guy man…..they want him out of the band ASAP…..So with Johhny’s insistance I was re-offered the gig……Punk drove up to my place, I hopped in his van and off to Hollywood we went. I had 3 days to learn the entire set and choreograghy and then play a sold out Troubador gig. Life got good baby, real good!
MM-What were your thoughts when you were you first joined them? Were they different from other bands that you had been in? If so then how?
JW-My thoughts were there is a God! It’s very, very hard to describe a band that has “that magic” something……you basically have it or you don’t…Witch had it period”! There were no rules to this thing called Witch….it was a hundred miles an hour 24/7….literally all the whores, guns, fire trucks and narcotics you could ever want. Again….life was good brotha!The thing with Witch is….these guys were for real…..a perfect example was at a Witch gig, we would wonder over to Rikk Fox’s dressing room (he was in Sin at the time) and they were sitting around cutting out buttons and making promo stuff like it was family night or something…..then you go over to our dressing room and the place LITERALLY WAS ON FIRE!!!! No shit….I don’t know how we never burned a place to the ground cause we set just about everything on fire…..I think Great White (A band I have always loved, Great guys to!) got a really bad bad shake out of that whole Rhoad Island club fire thing…..hell they weren’t even known for using fire…..whereas we had the fuckin fire department following us around from gig to gig! God I love Jack Russel's voice and Mark's guitar playing always reminded me of George Harrison….Great Band! Again guns, whore’s and fire trucks man…..it was fuckin crazy!
MM-How fast were things going like during your first year in Witch?
JW-I’ve been asked this before honestly the best answer I got is: Imagine being loaded into a gun and fired into the air…..that’s what Witch was like! From being the featured band in feature films, to centerfold Hustler shoots and anything and everything in between…..giging our asses off, constantly on the road, constantly in the studio……the old cliché of sex drugs and rock n roll desribes it perfectly…..Hanging out with Crue, Ratt, Wasp, Van Halen….Jesus it was nice!
MM-So by like Spring of 1984, you guys were getting some notice. Slayer and Lizzy Borden opened for you at one point. What were your thoughts around that time?
JW-Slayer was always pissed that they were never the headliners at all the gigs we did together, We did the culver auditorim gig with them opening and we had to be separated in order to reduce the backstage fist fights. The thing is …it was based on record sales and we were out selling the shit outta them at that point. (interesting point to note: I talked with Axel Rose at a party a while after the Appetite for Destruction album came out and he told me that he was at the Culver show….working security!!) I remember Slayer was gigging at a club about 300 yards away from us and they were all over the radio saying shit like…"There’s gonna be a Witch burning tonight”……turned out we out drew them 3 to 1 that night…..I remember a Wolf and Rissmiller Country Club gig where we had Poison and Stryer opening….if ya know the country club the stage is about 10 feet up in the air….So Poison opens the night by Brett walking straight out and off the front of the stage BAMM!!!!LOL!!! They carried him out on a stretcher with a broken collar bone!......Ya gotta remember “The Hex is On” was outselling Kiss and Dio in Japan at the time (granted it was Kiss’s Elder days so I’m not sure how impressive that was) but it was nice to know that as I am a lifetime KISS Aholic!!
MM-Why did you guys not get signed back then?
JW-Man good question and it’s gonna take a little splainin Lucy! First of all we were offer’d a deal with “Combat” Metallicas first label but out management company (who it turns out needed us wayyyy more than we needed them) would not allow it. So we talked with Brian over at Metal Blade…very cool deal. Brian offered us everything including the kitchen sink! We closed a verbal deal with Brian and gave him our word that we would sign with him. Again Tapesty Artist’s (our management would not allow it) They had us by the balls with their F’n contact that we all regretted signing! They were holding out for a deal they had in the works with Capitol that never materialized. So we had to walk away from Brian…a move we regret to this day! Brian didn’t get what the hell the problem was and has put a ton of resources into signing his new band Witch……I think Brian is still mad to this day! Guess what…..So are we!!! Later our management company were shot dead by a guy who went crazy on them……to be honest, my first thoughts were….Wow, somebody beat me to it!!@We fired the management company as soon as the contract expired by refusing to renu with them but the damage was done! Same kinda thing happened with Atlantic, Epic….and everyoine in between……it’s takin' me years to get over all that shit…..man, fucking paper pushers running the careers of artists is just inherently bad for the art itself……you have to realize these manager bastards are out to line their own pockets……nothing more!
MM-Why did you break up in 1985?
JW-Had no choice, Punk was in trouble with the law and was going to jail and contractually we couldn’t perform without him. Yet the band had several commitments to complete….so he had to be let go…..something none of us wanted to do but there was no other option for the band at the time.
MM-The band reformed and added two guitarists in 1986. Do you think that version of Witch was as strong as the previous version? Why or why not?
JW-The 2nd run of the band was technically much better than the first. It had a great energy but you never forget your first love, that being the first and original lineup that took the bull by the balls and ran with it! Also ….and this was a biggy for me, the material started to get softer with the 2nd lineup…..fuck that!
MM-Were things as crazy with the late 80’s version of Witch as they were in say 1983-85? Why or why not?
JW-Yeah the crazy aspects were always there, but again nothing can top your first time thru!The guitar players were kinda like the guys in Sin that I mentioned earlier…..a little girly for my tastes but the deal vreaker was when they guitarists submitted a song called LOVE LOVE LOVE? They were quickly replaced. (David Ezrin son of Bob) was brought in at that time and pretty much had the same results…..David just lacked the killer instinct to survive in Witch. So it was back to Ronny on guitar (who was currently jamming in Max Havoc) and all was well with the world again.
MM-What were you doing that was getting you noticed in what was a very competitive scene?JW-What set Witch apart from the crowd was the fact that this wasn’t an act….these guys were the real deal…..that turned out to be a DBL edged sword cause a lot of the labels were afraid to sign the group cause they didn’t wanna be responsible for someone dieing out there on the raod……we basically frighten’d them. We had Crue old stage setup (they gave us their gear when they signed with Elecktra). Our look was freaking unreal combined with the heavy music we were dubbed the world first Death Metal Glam Band…..fire/fog….again it was more magic than any other single thing…..again and I can’t say this enough…..you either got it or you don’t….Witch had it!
MM-You guys used some pyro on stage quite often. Who got caught on fire? Didn’t a ceiling once catch fire as well?
JW-Every member of the band went up at one time or another…everyione except Pete! (lucky bastard) I remember one gig….Ozzy had just given Ronny 2 new outfits to wear…..custom leather shit…..really nice….really expensive…Ron missed rehearsal the night before the show and Punk was so pissed he changed the fire ques with the road crew……needless to say Ronny was standing directly over one of the pots when it went off on que….(the new que)He completely went up in flames…..the guy was hurt bad…..his outfit was burned almost completely off his entire body…..anyone else I know would have gone straight to the emergency room….but Ronny just had his tech wrap a towel around him to cover up his exposed everything and he completed the show….(note: he went up during the first tune and finished the entire set before going to the emergency room for treatment). You gotta understand Witch was tough man, these were dangerous guys and people got hurt…..mostly US!!!! We did the Stardust ballroom and got sued by them for using fire, the stage mamager for the club was on top of us all day screaming and threatening us that if we use any fire they’d pull the plug and we’d never play there again…….We assured her that we were not like that and would never dream of using fire! The crew didn’t like this to much so they DBL’d the pyro explosions…….there we are, the band just starts playing when the first blast goes oiff…….BAM!!!!The flames reached about 30 feet into the air catching the stage curtains and riser on fire….the blast was so powerful that the can the blast was loaded into shot off the stage right past me and tagged the clubs stage manager in the chest blowing her off the stage and down a flight of stairs where she lay for quite some time……can you say “Law Suit”?
MM-What are some of your most memorable shows with Witch?
JW-Honestly, All of them….every last one. Fucking insanity in a bottle baby! New Years with Great White, Roxy with Mallice, Troub with WASP…..there’s a freaking book to every F’n one of them man….that’s actually why "The hex is on" was released on OTT Records….over the top…..way over the top.
MM-Is there anything that you wish that you had done differently in your music career?
JW-YES!!! Truly and honestly I wish we had the balls and the experience to fire the fuck out of our management company when they told us not to sign with Metal Blade……Tapestry Artists along with some broad name Jennifer should have been sent to the curb as the incompetent hacks they were….I truly believe that had we honored our commitment to Metal Blade and Brian Slagel…..we’d still be with them to this day…….But as I said earlier …some crazed gunman got even for us!
MM-Pick the band from each of the following pairs that you prefer and tell why you picked that band.
Quiet Riot or Twisted Sister
Quiet Riot they freaking rocked with Randy and I had know them well before they broke in LA. Twisted was nothing more than a carnival of guys that were typical of bands of the day……they were all image and no substance…..again see earlier reference to Sin…
Guns and Roses or Poison
I admired Poison for what they were able to pull off…..Me n CC used to exchange earings we stole off of bitches we’d fuck’dBut my hats off to Axl and Guns cause when they were faced with the same shitty management bufllshit he straightend them right to fuck out by saying fuck you were signing with Geffen period…..if he had allowed the standard shopping around bullshit that happened to us they may never have done anything. Plus they fuckin rock yo!
Ratt or WASP
Love both bands…..know them both well but I must say WASP was thee best metal band I have ever heard period!@ Witch was never humbled by any other band and had even less respect for all the pussies out there at the time but WASP was one group that delivered….they were for real! Best vocals in the world award goes to Blackie, Ronnie James and Peter….The 3 best singers I’ve ever heard in my life!!
KISS or Motley Crue
Kiss, hands down……Crue to me never really delivered….the guitar playing was weak as was the vocals…..Tommy and Nikki were of the killer variety but of all the bands that broke….why Crue? I don’t get it.
MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about yourself, your music or anything else?
JW-Just that it’s been a pleasure to get a few things straight out there. There’s been a lot of print that gets some of it right but mostly not. As I said earlier I’m in the writing stage for the next PTC disc and am hoping to submit it to Metal Blade and a host of others to see if we can get a new disc out in the not to distant future. Old School records founder King Fowley has already offered to release it or the next Witch disc that we’ll be entering the studio to record in early December…So just remember“THE HEX IS STILL ON” BRUDDA