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Ward XVI / “As musicians, we blend into the background and let the story take over”

Having built up their reputation on two sterling albums and some inventive theatrical performances, Ward XVI were finally able to take their tour on the road promoting their Metamorphosis album.

This nationwide jaunt has the band playing the acclaimed album in full, complete with a full production that sees props, mannequins and monsters aplenty. MetalTalk’s Paul Monkhouse and Steve Ritchie caught up with the band following their awe-inspiring show in Norwich.

The stage set was first designed with larger stages in mind. “Every venue we play is completely different regarding the size of the stage,” guitarist Doktor Von Stottenstein says. “We had to scale this down a little bit, or at least have it translatable for a smaller place. So every time we get to a new venue, it takes us about half an hour to spec the place. We need to have all the main elements of the show in place. We probably spend more time doing that than getting our instruments ready.”

Doktor Von Stottenstein, Ward XVI. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk
Doktor Von Stottenstein, Ward XVI. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

MetalTalk described Metamorphosis as disturbing, unsettling, grand and exhilarating, but the presentation of the show live is something wonderful to behold and totally unique.

It is this design of the stage and the visuals for the music which sets the band apart. It is a fantastic watch, and you imagine people experiencing Alice Cooper in the ’70s for the first time, although the Ward XVI show is much more immersive than that.

“I don’t see any of it,” Von Stottenstein says. “We are focussed on the music,” bassist Wolfy Huntsman agrees, “and we don’t see it from the other side.”

With the vast array of stage props and backdrops, there is a big setup effort required. “It’s getting easier the more regimented we are,” Von Stottenstein says. “We forgot a couple of things the first couple of times, but now we have a list with tick-boxes, and everything is labelled.”

The addition to the team for this tour and album has been impressive,” Von Stottenstein says. “When we did our first album, we did the theatrics ourselves. We didn’t have any actors. While the music was still playing, we had to move props on and off and get killed ourselves. But since we had a bit of time to design the stage show along with the second album itself, we now have two actors who like the band and the music. We got them on board, and their responsibility along with Psychoberrie, the singer, is to do the stage show.”

Wolfy Huntsman and Psychoberrie, Ward XVI. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk
Wolfy Huntsman and Psychoberrie, Ward XVI. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

The stage show includes huge beasts that prowl through the audience, a nine-foot-tall Mother and a multitude of other delights. “I see the big puppet that comes on,” Von Stottenstein says. “It’s quite a relaxing and easy song to play. Then I see everybody’s reaction, which makes me smile. Then I zone out again. We, as musicians, should blend into the background and let the story take over.”

Huntsman agrees. “That’s my whole mindset when I’m on the stage,” he says. “I am in the background. The visuals need to be there. The visuals need to be seen. So for them to be seen, we need to provide the atmosphere. We need to know our place.”

The band have spent a lot of time and effort putting the show together, practising, building props and rehearsing. This is a unique show and far removed from Eddie The Head appearing at an Iron Maiden gig. The three-song rule is a killer for photographers for the show as there is so much going on. New characters are introduced as the show progresses.

Ward XVI. The Brickmakers, Norwich. 14 April 2022
Ward XVI. The Brickmakers, Norwich. 14 April 2022. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

There is a lot to do to get the show ready to hit the road, packing vans and all the logistics. You would not be surprised if there were occasional thoughts that they should have been less ambitious. “We’re fully aware that people come to see us,” Von Stottenstein says, “because they connect to the theatrical side. You can’t remove it. It’s not even a regret that we decided that we would rather do this than be in jeans and a t-shirt. We do this because this is what this is.” Even when Psychoberrie injured the guitarist Von Stottenstein’s eye in makeup.

Did the band enjoy the gig? “It was wonderful, actually,” says Von Stottenstein. “It was hard. It was a six-hour drive, and we knew that we had a very, very tight schedule. We had our soundcheck at seven, and then another two bands had to soundcheck before eight o’clock. But it was like a big win.”

“There was no time for chill,” Huntsman says. “It was all very much the fun starts when you hit the first note.”

Now that Covid-19 is over, it must be great for the band to be able to start promoting the album. “It is nice, you know,” Von Stottenstein says. “It’s been two years since we released the album, so it’s nice to do something organic rather than just on social media. But it’s an old album now, and we’ve got to start thinking about the new one already.”

With the second album looking back at how the main character became Psychoberrie, thoughts turn to the third album in the trilogy. Ward XVI have recorded a couple of demos. “We need to finish this tour,” Huntsman says, “kind of grow and chill a little bit and then take a breath and get influences elsewhere and start throwing them into the mix.”

Psychoberrie, Ward XVI. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk
Psychoberrie, Ward XVI. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

As the spread of this “modest” band increases, there are hopes that they can play to more of the country. “It costs us quite a lot of money to put this on,” Von Stottenstein says. “You know, rental vans and stuff like that cost us quite a lot of money, and we’re lucky to kind of break even at times.”

There are festival spots over the next couple of years, and the memories of Bloodstock 2021 are still strong, along with a slot with Cradle Of Filth.

The band have a direction, a plan, and great support from the ‘Inmates’, you sense the future is bright. There seems no limit to what Ward XVI can achieve when they set their brilliant and twisted minds to it.

may

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