It seems like in 2010, the reception of "witch house" or "drag house" went from positive to negative faster than Rebecca Black's rise to, er, infamy. But this year, "witch house" has slowly been garnering respect and hype again, partly due to local parties like 120 Minutes and record labels like NYC's Pendu Sound Recordings. With heavy influence from Goth industrial and hip-hop, the music most closely resembles a hauntingly slow chopped and screwed sound. Local DJ WhITCH, who has been around the Bay Area's DJ/music for nine years, recently shared with us his views on why this musical movement can't be classified, the short-lived Suicide Club night in S.F., and more. Channel your inner Addams Family character this Wednesday, when WhITCH opens for kings of the style Salem at 103 Harriet.
When did you adopt the moniker WhITCH? Did you think it would come with any backlash?
My whole name is Marco Antonio Enrique De La Vega, and I'm still figuring out what to use. For awhile I was Marco Vega, for awhile I was Doctor Teeth; I'm basically on a six-month basis of changing my name. However, I ended up sticking with WhITCH for a long time because I'm fascinated with the occult and Mexican Catholicism. It was also a contraction of "whore bitch," so it seemed a little tongue and cheek, too. As of late, I've been going between WhITCH and Santa Muerte, because as much as I love what everyone calls "witch house," it can really pigeonhole someone.
Can you give us a little history of your knowledge of "witch house?"
It came from an interview Pictureplane did in 2009. It's one of those things blog media latched onto really quickly, and started throwing a single term at everything. There's here's a couple of things that tie the genre together like its darker goth industrial and hip-hop influences, and the DJ Screw tapes. And there's also a visual aesthetic. Todd Pendu just did an interview where he said something that really resonated it with me. He referred to it as fog music, and the reasoning behind that is the dim lighting in the clubs coupled with way too many fog machines.
Why do you think it got a bad reputation so quickly?
It had to be the moniker. There's such an inclination for people to label something, especially when writers wanted to describe it. There's "witch house," "drag," and "rape gaze." Every other week they wanted to call it something different. It's just people grasping for straws to define something.
And musicians-wise, no one's even in the same fucking state. Chris, better known as oOoOO, can't stand the idea of being called "witch house." However, there are 14-year-olds across the nation that claim "witch house " is God or Satan's gift to the world. That's what's beautiful about it, though. I remember being 14 years old and being claiming to be punk rock and thinking it was beautiful. But I've been in clubs playing the same music for years. I'm glad people give a fuck about it now.
You used to play hip-hop and electro clubs back in the day. How did you transition to what you play now?
I'm a big record collector. The first record I ever bought License to Ill. Next record was Skid Row. Then it was all bullshit, popular MTV stuff. I started getting asked to DJ, and I owned all different genres of records. The actual issue was learning how to mix. Playing hip-hop clubs was really genre specific. With electro clubs, half of those kids didn't know 90 percent of what you played anyway; every 4-5 songs you just had to play something they knew. Somewhere along the line, I realized I wanted to do my own night. Everything shouldn't be genre specific; I thought Goth kids should get a taste and listen to Wu-Tang.
What was the first night you started?
It was called The Suicide Club at Cat Club. We had blood wrestling with fake blood where we would fill a kiddy pool with fake blood. I had a friend who worked with special effects, and he knew how to make it. It took hours to make the stuff, but it was vegan blood!
That's quite a selling point. So it was successful?
We always made it versatile, that's why. Everyone knew the vibe. We had an MC that would judge the wrestling, and gave anyone that would wrestle free shots. People would get naked.
Why did this party die out?
It was super awesome at first, with 600 to 700 people through the door. The unfortunate part was six months in, word had gotten out that hot chicks got naked and wrestled, and it turned into a bro scene. Six months in, the crowd became frat boys that wanted to see tits, so we shut that down.
This Wednesday, you open for Salem. How do you feel about it? What kind of vibe are you going to set?
I adore Salem. The first time we did 120 Minutes with Light Asylum, John from Salem was in town and he came to our first show. Since then I've been in communication with him and soon paired with Blasthaus to make it happen.
As far as what I'm going to play, it's about mixing music with visuals. Instead of just DJing, I started VJing. Every single track that I play I actually edit music videos to, and I do live mixes of video and music using Serato and a video plugin. So I use vinyl as a MIDI controller for music and video. I also do a lot of live mixing, lots of drag mixing, and then lots of chopped and screwed stuff.
Lastly, which direction do you think "witch house" is going?
The thing with the scene is that it's tied together so loosely in the first place. I personally don't have issues with the term "witch house." I don't think any of this music has not been here, and I don't think it's going anywhere. There's been a natural evolution based on Internet culture, and of Goth finally taking on a lot of much-needed pop influence. As far was where I'd like to see it go, I really don't know. I don't think anything's changed, and I like the attention it's getting, but even that comes in phases. I'd like for these musicians to be able to go places with this exposure. Witch House is just a tagline; the music is gonna keep happening.