Members: Mark Mongiovi (vocals/guitar), Phil Bryer (guitar), Doug Davisson (bass), Matt Canning (drums)
Location: Philadelphia, PA
The members of Witness have a long history in the Pennsylvania and Delaware hardcore and metal scenes. Tell us more where you guys are from, your background and how Witness was formed.
We’ve each been playing in metal and hardcore bands since the mid-1990s, and recorded and toured in bands such as Dark Day Dawning, Worth Dying For, Always the Victim, and Shai Hulud. In the mid-2000s, we joined forces under the name The Twilight Collective, where we crafted a unique sound by coloring progressive metal with a punk-influenced intensity. Together we toured the US for years before disbanding amicably. In 2015, four of the five members of The Twilight Collective formed Witness, drawing influences from bands like Botch, Burst, Cave In, and Converge. We entered Atrium Audio in May of 2016 to record Everyone Is Weak, a 5-song EP recorded by producers Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland (August Burns Red, Polaris, Texas In July, This or the Apocalypse, etc.). Sin and Sanctuary is the first track from the EP, which is a concept record about nightmares.
Seeing as you’ve been active in the scene for quite some time, how is the scene today compared to back in the day?
Scenes are scenes. Passionate people, great energy, etc. That’s never changed; what’s changed is how people digest music.
When we started out in bands, if you wanted your music widely distributed and heard, you needed to be on a label. I remember the first time I went into a record store in another state and found one of my band’s CDs in a rack. It was mind-blowing. Now, you can do it yourself and upload it to a place where it’s accessible by billions of people across the globe. The game changed and not only is music more available – with unique and interesting sounds virally rising to the forefront of the collective consciousness – but as an artist, inspiration is more readily available. A lot of people our age may not agree with this, but we think it’s in many ways fostered a lot more authenticity. We’ve entered a world where good music finds its way to ears. Period.
The members of the band are spread out over two states and your way of composing music is very modern – using computers and sharing song ideas and arrangements over Dropbox so that me members can contribute on their end. Tell us more about why this works so well for you and how Toontrack’s products help in the creative process.
Yes, Witness is a truly modern band in that the majority of our songwriting is done by digital means. Scattered across Pennsylvania and Delaware and with full-time jobs and children, we find ourselves in a drastically different situation than we did while living together and touring in years past. Ideas are typically shared via phone video and the band meets about once a month to refine and arrange songs. Matt records MIDI drums using an Alesis DM5 Electronic Drum Kit and sequences them using Toontrack’s EZdrummer 2. Then all other instruments and vocals are recorded in the band members’ home studios (mostly Mark’s because he has a great setup) and workshopped using MP3s shared via Dropbox until final demos are completed.
Using the standard metal drum kit, EZdrummer 2 has made it possible to create professional-quality recordings at home. Each piece of the kit is bounced to its own individual track and then adjusted with EQ and subtle effects. The original samples are excellent and provide a solid basis for creating a rich mix that lets the band get a true sense of our vision for each song even during the early stages of writing. Witness also uses EZ Mix for drum, vocal, and guitar effects and to add flourishes to create a “producer’s touch” and refine our vision for what will ultimately be recorded in the studio.
What’s the best thing about being in a band and making music?
The release. There’s nothing like turning up and letting it rip. The world and its problems become much quieter after playing.
Dream tour to be on?
If you ask the four of us, you’re going to get four very different answers ranging from classic metal to 90s Revelation Records post-hardcore acts. But I think we could all agree on Steven Segal, who apparently tours with some sort of blues band. Just for the story.
What’s next on the agenda for the band and what is your ultimate goal?
At this point in our lives, it is a journey, not a destination. We want to keep challenging ourselves and creating music that references our roots but takes us out of our comfort zones. We are currently working on songs for a new record that we will be recording sometime in mid-2018.
Witness is featured in the fourth installment of the 2017 Metal Month Customer Jukebox: