The Witches Drum
The Witches Drum
Background information
Origin Cardiff, Wales
Genres Heavy Psychedelic Rock
Years active 2009-2014
Labels Levitation Records
Associated acts Lacertilia, Zinc Bukowski, Johnny Cage & The Voodoogroove, The Cosmic Nod, The Ginger Rogers, Thorun, Gung Ho, Spider Kitten
Past members Matt Fry
Joel McCauley
Mat 'Doc' Warren
Steve-O Jones
Owen Griffleson
Mike Lancaster
Leo Stamps
Ben Lawrence

The Witches Drum were a five piece heavy psychedelic rock band from Cardiff, South Wales. They were known for their high-octane, energetic and wild live shows. They split up in 2014 after a farewell gig at DesertFest London. [1]


The Witches Drum's origins can be traced back to a small club in Cardiff called Tafod in 2009 where founding member Owen Griffleson worked as a manager. Owen organised a wide range of events at the club from drum n bass and electro nights to folk, psychedelia and heavy rock gigs. Through working at the club Owen met guitarist Joel McCauley and drummer Leo Stamps and they began jamming some noisy psychedelic music. It was around this time that Matt Fry met Joel and Owen. Fry was a regular at the gigs and clubnights at Tafod and he also started his own night there called Psychotic Reaction. Fry shared Owen and Joel's enthusiasm for psychedelic music and they decided to arrange a jam together.

The band started jamming at Music Box studios in Cardiff. Their sound was very experimental with Joel playing abstract noise and slide guitar through lots of effects pedals, Owen playing repetitive dub or funk bass lines, Fry playing acoustic guitar through the effects on the PA system and Leo playing a fluid style of funk drumming. Mike Lancaster was brought in to play guitar and a session musician called Sadie played saxaphone and flute.

The band needed a name and Owen came up with 'The Witches Drum'. The name derived from Fry's stories about growing up in the Rhonnda Valleys. Fry and his friends would go on camping trips in the local woods in Blaenllechau, have big fires and bash rusty oil drums with heavy branches. Rumours circulated in the area about Satan worshippers and witches in the forests banging on drums late into the night.

The Witches Drum kept practicing and they began to solidify into a funk / dub / rock outfit which dipped into Krautrock and psych territory. Matt had switched to vocals and Mike Lancaster provided riffs and melodies. Owen set up a jam night called Cosmic Slop at a little venue called Gwdihw and The Witches Drum became the house band. The songs were very loose and members of the audience were encouraged to participate. Fry read lyrics from a note book and rarely faced the crowd. Sadie left the band at some point during this period. Their first gig as a booked band was at The Old Library in Cardiff via Mikey at Video Nasties Promotions. They shared the bill with Little Eris and Eject Pilot Eject. The band played a mix of half structured songs with improvised passages and by this time Fry had started to face the crowd and spent a lot time jumping over the wooden balcony and kicking a strobe light around the stage.

The band recorded their first demo titled - '7 Shades Of Atomic Pain' sometime in 2010. They hired Music Box Studios for the day and recorded 7 tracks all live with first takes. The Witches Drum continued to play at Gwdihw among other venues in Cardiff, most noteably Tony's Kitchen Gallery. The gigs at Tony's were chaotic with lots of bands downstairs, DJs, poetry and art in the rooms upstairs and acoustic music in the garden. The police were regularly called to the venue to stop the shows due to complaints from the neighbours. Leo Stamps played his last show with the band at the venue and left to persue a career in visual media in London.

Steve-O Jones was drafted in as Leo's replacement and The Witches Drum developed a harder, heavier psych rock sound. The band went on to play various shows in South Wales including Fair Play Festival at The Boiler House in Cardiff. It was at this show that Fry adopted his signature look of no shirt and bright yellow rubber gloves. The band got tighter as a unit and gained a reputation on their energetic and wild stage performances.

Fry started covering himself with thick layers of vasesline, greasepaint and glitter and wore odd combinations of clothes like swimshorts and wellies to go with his trademark yellow rubber gloves.

The Witches Drum's shows became wilder with Fry regularly entering the crowd, writhing and crawling on the floor, hanging off rafters, crowdsurfing, drinking people's drinks and hurling abuse at the audience. Joel frequently climbed up on the amplifiers and walked along the bar playing his guitar. The entire band were highly intoxicated for most of their performances. The shows reglarly ended with band members and audience heaped up on the floor, equipment scattered everywhere and the pa system knocked over.

The band put on their own shows in unusual venues, hired a PA system and booked the bands of their choice. They shared stages with bands like Thorun, The Death Of Her Money, Godbomber, Johnny Cage & The Voodoogroove, The Sweet Spots, Zinc Bukowski, Not Since The Accident, Spider Kitten, Amber Canyon, Hip Route, Whistling Biscuits and Gung Ho. They also played at levitation events, these were big generator parties in forests, fields or random venues in the middle of nowhere. A diverse range of subversive performers would play followed by hours of repetitive techno music and psychedelic trance.

In 2011 The Witches Drum recorded a 4 track EP at Soundspace Studios in Cardiff called 'Future Kings Of An Empty Throne'. The record was recorded by Fudge Wilson (Exit International) and mixed and mastered by legendary producer/DJ and former member of Khagool, Tim 'Slamfish' Garraway. The record release party was held at The Moon Club in Cardiff in 2012 with The Witches Drum, Trippy Wicked & The Cosmic Children Of The Knight and Thorun on the bill. The EP was met with great reviews by The Soda Shop, Heavy Planet and The Sleeping Shaman. There was a lot of hype about the band at this point and the band appeared in local magazines and newspapers and they received airplay on BBC1 Wales. Their track 'Climb Aboard The Bus Of Devotion' was featured on Metal Hammer' cover mount cd entitled 'Satanic Doomadelica'. They were also featured on Heavy Planet's 'Bong Hits From The Astral Basement' compilation. In 2012 The Witches Drum went on to play various festivals such as Troyfest, Blue Lagoon Festival and Beltane Buzz.

The Witches Drum were one of the first bands to play The Moon Club in Cardiff. They became one of the venues house bands and brought in other bands to play.

To be continued . . .



Extended PlaysEdit




Former MembersEdit

External LinksEdit


  1. The Witches Drum Facebook Info section

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