Of all the nightmare situations a musician can find themselves in, probably the most unlikely sounding is having the producer of your record and leader of your other band turn himself in to authorities for breaking into the US Capitol in support of the most unpopular president in 50 years weeks before your new record comes out.
For Jake Dreyer, it’s 2021 turning to 2020 and saying “hold my beer”.
For obvious reasons, Dreyer isn’t able to talk about the issue, but what he can talk about is Witherfall’s killer new record, Curse Of The Autumn, out March 5th on Century Media. Combining the darkness of Nevermore, the orchestration of Queen and the musical exploration of Dream Theater, Curse Of The Autumn is a treat for fans of Witherfall’s brand of epic metal.
We caught up with Jake to discuss the record, modelling, and one of the US’s most legendary metal landmarks, Morrisound Studios.
Congrats on the release of Curse Of The Autumn. How do you feel this record is different from Nocturnes And Requiems and A Prelude To Sorrow?
The writing process for Witherfall has never changed at all its very natural between my writing partner and the vocalist for Witherfall Joseph Michael. Its very organic and harkens back to the 70s where it was just guys in a room with an acoustic guitar and pen and paper. We never do the file sharing thing.
With that said sonically I feel that by using our production team we did create a step up in the sound quality. I like to think that all of our records are their own thing and each one has its own story to tell lyrically and musically. I think that Curse of Autumn is a very diverse record. Our main goal was to be a band that had no boundaries when it came to songwriting and to be a band that could almost be compared to a heavy version of Queen. No two Queen records or songs sound the same. I find that very exciting.
I feel as if we just expanded upon our Witherfall sound. This record has some of our shortest songs and it also has our longest Prog opus on it too.
Were you guys at all hesitant to release an album that you couldn’t immediately tour behind?
We knew we had to get the record recorded and put out. If we had sat on the songs until the world was open the record would have been totally different and would have lost its initial energy. With that said we actually pushed the record back from November 2020 because we had a tour booked for February and March of this year. Of course that didnʼt happen due to the ongoing pandemic. We would much rather work than just sit around so we have used the downtime from touring to write more for the next record. Of course in a perfect world we would have loved to have toured it properly and done the festivals as planned. Since we cannot do that, we knew it was never an option to just let it sit around for a year or who knows how long.
Would you say this album was in any way affected by covid lockdowns? I know some bands took the opportunity to spend much longer than usual in writing and rehearsing new material.
Jospeh and I already had the record completely written by March of 2020 so we didnʼt take any extra time to write neither did the pandemic have an artistic influence. The main thing that the pandemic affected was that we had to completely abandon our original schedule. I mean we had flights, studio hotels all booked and everything went out the window. So it was a bit frustrating and expensive. Once we actually got into the studio everything went very smoothly. I do have to say that there is this anxiety that was transmitted onto the record that just had to do with the overall world at that time.
Some of the recording and mixing for this record was done at the legendary Morrisound Recording in Tampa, home of an absolute ton of classic metal records. Do you have any Morrisound favourites yourself?
Working with Jim Morris was an absolute pleasure the guy is extremely talented and has incredible ears. We also had Tom Morris mix which turned out great.
As for records from Morrisound I love the Death records – I love “Symbolic” and “Sound of Perseverance” – Savatage and Crimson Gloryʼs “Transcendence” that were all recorded there.
Guitar gear wise, what did you use on this record?
For Curse of Autumn I used my Jackson Custom Shop 7 string V and a 1991 Ibanez Uv777gr both tuned down a half step, This was paired with 2 different Gibson Baritones, Fender Strat and teleʼs. Then multiple Taylors and Martins for acoustic performances. For the main “Heavy” tone I was using a Revv 120 Generator and for the leads it was a Soldano SLO 100.
If someone wanted to learn something from the record on guitar, what would you say is the most enjoyable passage to play, either for intermediate or advanced players?
I have a few to pick from, for alternate and sweep picking the arpeggio theme of “Last Scar” is a pretty tricky etude. Especially to really execute it cleanly at tempo. For a fun solo that has overall technique the main solo toward the end of “…All Blew Away”. It pretty much is my nod to Andy La Roque, Jason Becker and Yngwie Malmsteen. Very fun to play as it has many different techniques and many parts “float” over the rhythm. For a riff, the main verse riff of “As I Lie Awake”.
There’s a lot of talk among guitarists these days about digital gear, be it modelling or profiling. Where do you stand on the issue?
Honestly I really haven’t experienced to many modeling or profiling rigs. I mean I am very old school and love the sound of a real amplifier. I would never record using a profiler. For my ears there is something there that just is almost too perfect if that makes any sense. I do enjoy them for their convenience though in a live situation where they do sound reliable every night and its easier than moving many road cases to build a proper rig.
I know you use a kemper for touring, do you tend to use your own profiles or do you have any favourite profiles of others that you could recommend?
For my Kemper I had an engineer in Germany Charlie Bauerfeind that built my sounds for the Demons and Wizards tour that I will probably use for future Witherfall tours. Other than that I really am the wrong guy to ask when it comes to the digital guitar rigs. I let my guitar tech do all that work. I am terrible with it.
As a guitarist, what would you say was the biggest “a-ha” moment when you were starting out on guitar? Something that you realized or learned that quickly opened many doors for you as a guitarist?
I practice all the time and love playing so I still get these “A-ha” moments all the time.
I mean a really basic answer would be for me to say that once I started embracing playing very slowly with the metronome and slowly building up speed my timing and overall cleanliness improved drastically. I had moments though too in just finding out the right way to bend notes in tune and in rhythm that developed my vibrato and overall finger tone.
It is hard to say and really I am not sure if there is a specific a ha moment because there is just always new stuff that I find that I need to work on. Whether its technique, Ear training, Site reading it is endless.
What’s next for you? I understand there’s another Witherfall record already in the works?
Yes, actually Joseph and I just had our first writing session for the another Witherfall record. We are always writing so honestly it never stops. Besides that we have some tour dates in 2021 that are booked but not sure if they will happen due to the pandemic. They are the Prog-power festival in Atlanta in September and a European tour in October and November with Evergrey. Again hopefully the world lets those dates happen.
For Curse of Autumn we shot a video for almost every song on the record. We have two studio play throughs coming out that feature Marco Minnemann on Drums and Anthony Crawford on Bass.