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Interview: Windhand's Dorthia Cottrell Talks Country Music And The Richmond Doom Scene

Interview: Windhand's Dorthia Cottrell Talks Country Music And The Richmond Doom Scene

Thursday 30th March, 2017 4:41PM

Just one more sleep and Richmond sludge metal merchants Windhand will be touching down in New Zealand for two highly-anticipated shows on these shores. Their last trip downunder saw the group play with Wellington riff lords Beastwars, but this time around they are bringing their hometown buddies and Relapse Records labelmates Cough with them to double-down on the doom madness.

Since their last visit here, Windhand released their third full-length album Grief’s Infernal Flower, an record that further cements the group as masters of their realm and showcases the talents of Dorthia Cottrell, a frontwoman who deftly walks the knife edge of beauty, melancholia, power and vulnerability with her voice. In anticipation of their upcoming visit we took the opportunity to talk to Dorthia, not only about her work with Windhand, but also her solo work which sees her pen gut-wrenching country songs...

Hey Dorthia, how you doing today?

I'm doing alright, we're just coming off some practice right now.

You guys are coming here with Cough, with whom you did the Reflections of the Negative split, not to mention that they are from your hometown. How does it feel to be touring with your buddies?

Ahh, it feels like we should have done this a long time ago. I'm kinda surprised it's taken this long since we've always practiced in the same building for the past eight years more-or-less. So we're pretty excited about it.

How did you guys get acquainted in the first place?

Umm, when we had just become a band, they practiced in the same warehouse as us, like one floor up. So we'd always pass each other. And I think they played the second show we ever played, and they were the headliner for the night, and we opened for them.

So you literally met through the scene in Richmond…

Yeah, uhuh.

Can you describe what Richmond's like a little bit. It seems like there's a lot of heavy music coming out of there. What's it like as a town?

It's a surprisingly small town for as many bands and artists that come out of here. But because it's so small pretty much everybody hangs out together, you know, there's only a couple of degrees of separation between any musician or artist here. So in that way it's really kinda cool. You see people out all the time that you know, everywhere you go. It's not Austin, it's still kinda undiscovered, so it's not too trendy yet - but I think it's going that way. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it.

Hahaha. So do you still go out and hang out and go to shows in Richmond?

Yeh, a fair amount. We all kind of work a lot. And Garrett just had a baby, and Parker just bought a house. And me and Ryan work a lot. So it's a little hard to get out, but we do try and get out at least once or twice a month.

So you guys were last in New Zealand in 2014, when you last toured with Beastwars, and then shortly after that you unveiled your third album Grief’s Infernal Flower. What have you been up to since then, have you been working on any new music?

Well, we actually took a little bit of a break because Garrett had his first child, so we haven't really been writing too much new stuff. But we actually just finished our first new song for whatever next album we're going to record - pretty much tonight, I guess. It's really solidified up tonight.

You just laid down a demo?

Well, we haven't recorded anything of it yet, but we hashed out the arrangement and it's at that point where it feels comfortable. It feels like a song finally.

Cool! I imagine you probably don't want to give too much away since it's early days, but are you working in the same vein as Grief's Infernal Flower, or where do you think you're heading?

Um, it actually kind of reminds me more of the first album. It's kind of a throwback. And in that way it was really easy, it happened really fast. So that's cool, everybody's excited about it.

And personally you've been working on solo music as well. You put out your self-titled album in 2015, are you still doing more solo projects?

I am... I haven't really written too much new stuff lately, but I've got a couple of shows booked.

It's interesting, the dichotomy of the music you're making. Windhand is vastly different from your solo music which is more on the country side of things. How do you split your time and creative energy between those two projects?

Well, I think with the solo stuff, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid really. It's been a constant for me, even before Windhand. So whenever I'm bored or sad or happy or mad, like when I'm just sitting around the house, that's what I'm doing or what I'm thinking about. With Windhand, it's more of a thing where I go to practice, and I think about that. Then I write a Windhand song. But with my stuff, I'm just like basically reading my diary.

When did you first discover your love and your talent for singing and writing those kinds of songs?

Um, I think I've always done it. My mom said I was a really morbid child when I was younger. I would just sing songs about different family members dying that weren't dead yet, hahaha. So I dunno. My dad played guitar and my grandma played piano and I grew up with both of them, so they would teach me things here-and-there and I just passed my time in that way. We lived pretty far in the country and there's nothing else to do.

Was country music pretty prevalent in your upbringing?

Oh yeh, all kinds of music though. My grandmother loved classical music, my dad liked classic rock and old country.

So how did you eventually connect with the Windhand guys?

Once I became an angsty teenager and I really got into metal, at around 12 or 13, I really really really wanted to be in a heavy band. So I started playing electric guitar and I always wanted to play with the older boys, who never wanted a girl in the band. I always had that idea in my head. So when I came to Richmond, I would always scan Craiglist for bands looking for guitar players, singers, whatever. And I came across an ad which was Windhand at the time, but I don't think they had played any shows really, but they were just jamming in their practice space, and they said they were into Kyuss and Sleep and High On Fire, and listed a bunch of bands that I already really loved and it was exactly what I was looking for. So I messaged them, haha, and they didn't kill me. They weren't weird Craigslist serial killers, hahaha. You guys have Craiglist there right?

Ahh, not really but we know haha. Anyway, maybe I can ask you one last question before we have to wrap up. One of my colleagues pointed out an article about King Woman and another band, who left a tour with Pentagram last year…

Ahh. I don't really know too much about that. I know Kristina from King Woman. I've played my solo stuff with her project before and she's an amazing talented woman. I love all of her stuff, but I didn't really want to get into any of that stuff, it's all hearsay you know.

For sure. I've only recently discovered King Woman, and I think they're an amazing band. And I can see that people would easily draw parallels between King Woman and Windhand. Not to slot you into the same box. But just thinking about the wider implications of what happened on the Pentagram tour, do you think that metal as a subculture generally defies the norms of gender politics?

I feel like I've personally had really cliched experiences. Everybody as a woman in music has that moment where you walk in and people think you are the merch girl. Or that you are dating somebody [in a band]. I've had that happen to me but I've never had anything really terrible happen to me. But I know that it does exist. And I'm not sure if that is going to be changing anytime soon, unfortunately. But I feel like in certain genres of music, uh how do I say this... there are two different crowds. There's that macho, chauvinistic crowd that doesn't like women in rock, or doesn't like women in whatever, and they feel very protective of it, because they want it to be a masculine thing. But then there's the other group and they are embracing it, and celebrating it, and they think it's a thing to be proud of.

And I think that people like you and Kristina, are good people for other emerging female artists to look up to, as well. I think we have to finish up now, but thanks so much for taking time, and we're looking forward to seeing you soon!

Thanks so much, we're looking forward to it!

Windhand & Cough

Friday 31st March, San Fran, Wellington
Saturday 1st April, Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland

Tickets available HERE at UTR and instore at RPM/Slowboat (Wellington) and Flying Out (Auckland)


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