Witching Riffs: Behind the Sound of Dee Calhoun

Introduction: Due to time constraints as regular individuals running Witching Buzz and focusing primarily on writing reviews, we are limited to publishing only one (occasionally two) review(s) per day. However, we strongly believe in providing greater exposure to deserving bands and musicians who have put in immense effort. As a result, we have launched a new section called “Witching Riffs: Behind the Sound.” In this section, we have crafted a series of intriguing questions that we pose to every band or musician who wishes to share more about their unique projects. While the questions remain the same for each participant, the diversity among bands ensures that the answers will be fascinating and diverse. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this captivating journey as we delve into the minds and stories of these talented artists.

Dee Calhoun / USA

What drew you to the immersive and hypnotic sounds? How do you aim to captivate your listeners with this genre?
I was always interested in sounds. At a very young age I was gifted a set of ghost story/horror story records, and the sound effects and atmospheres had as much impact as the stories themselves.

Can you share the story behind your band name? How does it reflect the essence of your music?
As a solo artist there is no band name, but my nickname (Screaming Mad Dee) is a direct product of my sound. I was weaned as a singer on guys like Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio, and the Halfordesque scream became a huge part of my repertoire. My music is also very dark and angry, hence the “Mad” in my name.

What are some unconventional or unexpected influences that have shaped your unique blend?
A lot of people seem to find it strange that metal can influence acoustic music, but then they listen and understand. Along the same lines, people who know I’m a metalhead can’t understand how I’m influenced by songwriters like Johnny Cash and Neil Young, but then they listen and understand.

How do you approach creating expansive and atmospheric soundscapes? What techniques or methods do you employ to achieve that signature vibe?
For me, it’s a matter of listening to the songs and determining what kinds of sounds will enhance what is already there. Given the stripped-down nature of my music I never want to go overboard because I don’t want the soundscape to be something that will be missed when it isn’t there when I play live. Ultimately the song should be the focus, and the soundscape should just be something to sweeten up and add mood to what’s already there.

Are there specific themes or emotions you seek to convey through your music? How do alternative music help you express those concepts effectively?
Between writing what I feel, and using my songs to tell stories, there are always specific themes and emotions in my music. If the song is telling a story, the themes are pretty clearly defined; if it’s something emotional, I try to craft lyrics in a way to present different interpretations, so that more people can latch on and identify with it.

Share a remarkable moment or incident from your journey as a band that exemplifies the spirit of your music.
When I toured Europe, the overwhelming response to my music was regarding how pure and honest it was. That meant a great deal to me, because that’s what it’s all about. No pretentiousness, just raw emotion put out there. In France, I had a painter come up to me and said that I inspired him to take a day to do nothing but paint. That touched me deeply, and I will never forget it.

In what ways do you envision your music progressing or evolving in the future? Are there any new elements or experimental approaches you’d like to incorporate?
During COVID lockdowns, I became very interested in cigar box guitars and the like. Those types of instruments made their way onto my “Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia” album, and really impacted the mood and depth of the songs. In addition to regular guitars, I employed shovel guitars, a diddley bow, and several cigar box guitars in the songs to really expand the sonic quality of the material. This is something I will continue to do in the future.

Is there a particular song in your discography that perfectly encapsulates the essence of your music? Please elaborate on its creation and significance.
Two songs come to mind. For the emotional, “this is my life” side of things is the song Godless. I was chastised several years ago by someone I had known all my life, saying that my music was “godless.” Instead of lashing out, I used that critique as inspiration and ended up with a song that has pretty much become my trademark. Where storytelling is concerned, it’s the song Jesus, the Devil, the Deed. I was so happy with the story told in that song that I fleshed it out into my second published book.

Are there any emerging or lesser-known artists within your music genre realm that you find inspiring or deserving of more recognition? Feel free to share their names and what you appreciate about their work.
There are many, but the first two who come to mind are Strange Highways from Philadelphia and High Noon Kahuna from my area in Maryland. Strange Highways impresses me because they’re a young band writing and performing great songs and carrying the torch forward. High Noon Kahuna plays a kind of heavy, atmospheric surf rock, and play it with all kinds of intensity.

What do you hope listeners experience or feel when they immerse themselves in your compositions? Is there a specific mood or sensation you aim to evoke?
I hope they just find it as being what it is; pure and honest. I also hope that they enjoy the simplicity because there’s nothing virtuoso about what I write. It’s just there to be enjoyed for what it is.

Turbo Regime:
– Fuzz or distortion? Since I’m acoustic, fuzz; that way I don’t bury my natural tone.
– Analog or digital effects? Digital, built into the amp.
– Sabbath or Zeppelin? Proud Pilgrim of Sabbocracy here.
– Heavy riff or mind-bending solo? Riffs. The majority of my solos are on harmonica.
– Vintage gear or modern equipment? Modern. I play through a Boss Katana 50 MkII.

Dee Calhoun Facebook.
You can order Old Scratch Comes to Appalachia HERE.
Label: ARGONAUTA Records
Promo: Grand Sounds PR

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