Coven: The Year Was 1969

"Who knows how long this will last, but while it does we're here in the moment and we're trying to do the best we can and enjoy it as well."

The year is 1969 and a stunning young woman, baring the sign of the left hand path, appeared as a sacrifice in the artwork for an album entitled, ‘Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls’. This woman’s name is Jinx Dawson, the vocalist of Occult- Psychedelic Rock band Coven. They graced the stages around Chicago in the late 1960’s, shocking audiences with their use of occult imagery and lyrics, mixed with the other-worldly vocal range of Jinx, they created a style of music that was the first of its kind and far beyond their time. Now after a long hiatus Jinx has resurrected the band and has chosen some new members to join her Coven... So just who are these mysterious hooded beings behind Jinx and taking the lid off her coffin? Who are these talented musicians that have worked with Jinx and brought Coven back into our lives and onto the stages of Europe? Before Coven’s performance at France’s Fall of Summer festival, I set out for Metal As Fuck to find the answers to these questions. 

In a trailer being pounded by the last of a summer downpour, I was welcomed in by a group of friendly men who are the new line-up for Coven. Sitting beside me we have guitarists Ricktor Ravensbruck and Chris Wild, bassist Milo Kovacevic, keyboardist Alex Kercheval and drummer Johnny Concannon. These guys are humble, proud and as eager as ever to help Jinx continue something magical she started more then 40 years ago. 

So where do we begin? Coven is back! This is amazing and there's so many people here, that are losing their minds about seeing Coven today and you guys are the new line up, with of course Jinx on vocals. Ricktor cuts in, "Well she is basically the Coven", Chris chimes in with - "Jinx is Coven!" Ricktor continues, "Coven is her legacy, no body gives a fuck who we are, we'd like to change that, but we like to defer to Jinx because she is truly the grand mistress of Ceremonies and this is her vision that we're helping her realise and I can probably speak for the entire band when I say that its been a complete honour for us to do this."

I can just imagine how special this is for you guys, so how did you go about getting this specific line up Ricktor? "Well Jinx and I had been working together for a little while, it started when I had wanted to do a cover of one of her songs as I had been a Coven fan since I was thirteen and now I'm 52, so I've been a fan for a long time. I had realised that Jinx was creating occult sigil's for bands, so I first contacted her for a sigil creation, you would send her 20 bucks and she would make [pointing at a patch on his vest], in fact this is the sigil that she created for me. So I started talking to her that way, after she made the sigil for me and I don’t know maybe she just felt friendly, but we just started chatting online. I told her I would love to do a Coven cover on this album, asked her if she would be interested in reprising her vocals on the song and she said to send her the track and she would take a listen, she did and she liked it. I had another song that I had written but with no vocals or melody, I sent her that track and two days later she's returned a demo that had the lyrics completely written, the melody line was phenomenal and it just made the entire track. That's how it all started and we just became friends after that, she came up to Chicago to record those two songs, we had a really good time down at the studio there and basically, we became friends. She started talking about coven and how the psychedelic rock thing had already been well into its resurgence and I said to her, 'Jinx, the world would love to see Coven again’, I mean people think that they would never, ever have a chance and if you gave them the opportunity to see Coven again, I said 'Jinx, it would be really huge, you would probably find it rewarding’ and you know we started talking and she said she thought it would maybe be something to consider. So she then forwarded me a list of offers for various festivals and there was some really big names you know, Roadburn, Sweden Rock, Wacken was on there, Rock on the Range in Ohio was on there too. There was a whole list and I was looking at it saying 'Jinx, this would be huge, we should put a band together. That was a few years back and in December of 2015, I brought Milo into Coven, as our bass player from my other band, Wolfpack 44, I introduced him to Jinx and then there was the three of us. We started auditioning people and those people didn’t work out and that was discouraging especially for Jinx, she spent two days, trying to find a band! Cut to late last year when Walter from Roadburn made us an offer and it looked so cool that we said Yes! We didn’t have a band, but we said Yes! So then the search was on, she had found a drummer that was in a named band from Indianapolis, we were going to go with him but it didn’t work out, but through that guy, she found these three fella's here who are now our band and are amazing." Its all smiles around as he motions at Chris, Johnny and Alex. "Alex, you, by all means, should tell the story of how you met Jinx, it was like all these forces converged to make this happen and he has a great story on that so over to you Alex.”

Alex gets comfortable, "Yes, so I'm a recording engineer and I own my own recording studio in Indianapolis and while I was in the middle of opening my new studio, I was working in another studio where I was recording a band called We are Hex, in the A room. They were recording a song called 'Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls', it was kind of a homage to coven because the singer was such a big fan of Jinx. The studio asked my partner if he would go downstairs and run a session down in the B room, so he went downstairs and it was with Jinx!" Some slow laughter ensued. "So she was there recording and neither Tyler or myself knew who Coven was so Tyler came back upstairs and explains how he is recording this cool band from the sixties, Coven! Jill, the singer for We are Hex just flipped out, she was like 'No way', she thought we were lying to her and then Tyler talked Jinx into come upstairs and she ended up singing on that Hex song. So yeah, there was definitely some weird magic going on there." Ricktor agrees, "Yeah, it’s like what Alex said, the forces were converging and its weird the way these things happen sometimes." Alex continues, "Russell Simins was the drummer Ricktor was talking about earlier, from the band Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and he was going to be the drummer, but backed out and I know him because we’ve been friends for a while. Jinx was a bit scared about it and I said not to worry, that I could bring in Johnny [as he points to Johnny on his left] who is my regular go-to studio drummer, so then Johnny and myself joined and we got Chris like a week before the show!” Ricktor announces, "And we had already signed a contract for Roadburn so we had to have a band. We always knew we wanted to have another guitar player in Coven and when the earlier auditions hadn’t worked out, we weren’t sure after that if we should get another guitarist. But, we needed one and it just worked fortuitously. Then like we said, a week before the show, Chris came in and what a fucking rock star, he came in and nailed it!"

Chris speaks up, "Yeah, Roadburn was on the Thursday and I think I got the first call the weekend before and it was Johnny saying, 'Hey, have you ever heard of a band called Coven and do you have a passport?' I was like um, I think so and yes I have a passport, why? Then he said they might be looking for a guitar player pretty soon. [A few murmurs of laughter fill the trailer throughout Chris' story] "I told him to send me the material, I listened to it and I was just like 'This is awesome!' I spent the next two days at my house just playing it over and over again, then I called them up and said I was in, I liked the songs and I was ready to do it. Then a night or two after that Alex calls me up, late at night and asks if I can be at rehearsal tomorrow. Now look, I live in Nashville, near the bay side of Indianapolis. I asked him where the rehearsal was and he said 'um.. its in Indianapolis'. Which is like 600 miles away!!! So I asked what time the rehearsal was and then he said it was at ten in the morning. So I said "Ok, so I should leave now?'" By this time, everyone is laughing. "So I just packed up my life, drove up there and I think we only did like one or two rehearsals very quickly before they said 'Good job, pack it up, we're going to the Netherlands, like tomorrow." Ricktor agrees, "So then we went to Roadburn."

Wow, Rick, So you guys just just packed up and went to the Netherlands? "Yeah, we all got on a plane, went there and I don’t know if you've been to the O13 venue in Tilburg, where Roadburn is held, but its a state of the art venue. I mean we'd seen pictures, but you don’t really get the full scope until you walk onto that stage, see the lighting tross and view the magnitude of how awesome that venue is. That's really how it all started."

Coven's performance at Roadburn was the first show of Coven's return, how was that reception for you guys and for Jinx, how was Coven welcomed back? Ricktor continues,“It was an amazing welcome back! I had a few technical issues during the show, but that’s neither here nor there. But if I'm honest with you, the biggest satisfaction for me, was being able to do that for Jinx. I mean you know, Jinx has had a couple of tough breaks in her career, many people have, but she had been in retirement for quite a while."

It must have been quite different for Jinx to come back into such a thriving scene and Coven fan base after such a long hiatus, how was that for her? "Well like I was saying before with the resurgence in the interest of the occult, the psychedelia, doom and stoner rock, people are rediscovering Coven. Coven gets lumped in with doom and stoner metal a lot but Coven is not that kind of band. I kind of describe it as a proto-prog-occult rock, its a rock band and if you listen to that first record, its some complex material, especially for that time period. They were no slouches, those guys that played on her earlier albums you know, they were her band. But for me, when Jinx walked off that stage and she just said 'thank you', it was like melting my heart a little bit and I still get a bit choked up about it.” Queue a big group ‘Awwee’. “I honestly don’t think she thought she would ever do it again, everybody has their insecurities, but she didn’t think she could ever find the people, go through all the hard work it takes to get a band together and bring it up to that level, but we helped her with that. Every person here worked really hard - now here we are. At the end of the day, the fact that you’re interviewing us, without Jinx is interesting because as Alex likes to think, 'nobody gives a fuck who we are', people are here to see Jinx. But to me, its ok, you know, this is about Jinx and Alex again, is fond of saying - 'its a labour of love’ and it is. Nobody is getting rich off this, not even Jinx, but we are here and who knows how long this will last, but while it does we're here in the moment and we're trying to do the best we can and enjoy it as well."

I can totally understand that labour of love and its beautiful, so tonight Coven play here at Fall of Summer and then London next week, do you have any more shows lined up for now? Ricktor takes this one also, "Yes, we are playing Halloween in Chicago which is the birthplace of Coven so we will be doing a special show, its going to be filmed and we will definitely be bringing out some surprises for that one. Then maybe a small American west coast run in February and then our agency in Europe is talking about all our offers already for festivals in 2018, Sweden Rock and Hellfest are on the table. Also Maryland Deathfest is in May, which has been confirmed and announced so that’s going to be awesome." So with a few shows on the horizon, is Coven thinking of producing new material any time soon? Alex jumps in, "Oh yes, we are definitely going to start recording new material, I mean that’s what I do!' Ricktor laughs, "We rehearse in a recording studio! There's been a lot of talk since Jinx and I started working together, we've had a number of labels come and approach us and say this and that. But the music industry is in a weird state now, you know, everybody wants you to present a complete album and you don’t get a lot of advance money for recording, that’s not a big issue for us though, when you have your own recording studio. But at the same time, we want to do something with a label who we can trust, that will have the right promotional power behind them and be able push the record to get it out there to the fans. People don’t really know, but there has been a lot of bootlegging of Coven's music over the years and right now its kind of a black hole that we need to get back on track."

Okay guys, I have a pretty important question to ask, what the best thing playing in Coven? This was a communal answer of a tie between "Jinx" and "being in Coven". So Johnny elaborated, "Its kind of surreal in a lot of ways. On one of our flights, Jinx and I got separated from our group and I felt like I should be Jinx's bodyguard. It's just kind of interesting to be 'buddy-buddy' with someone who is so influential, its really cool." Ricktor ads, "Yeah, I've been working with Jinx, coming on five years now and sometimes at practice, I look over at her, I mean I've slept on this woman’s couch, I've used her toilet.” The whole group laughs. “I've seen her as a normal everyday human and yet sometimes I still look over and think to myself, That's Jinx Fucking Dawson, right there and I play on stage with her!" Milo pitches in, "It’s true! Sometimes you’re talking away with her and something just snaps in your head to remind you and you’re like 'holy shit!' Then its Chris' turn, "It is surreal, you know, just in the past month since I met her, she's been teaching me a lot about Satanism and she is like my Satanic Godmother." Ricktor then points out, "The occult aspect of Coven is not a joke, Jinx takes it very seriously, I take it seriously, I don’t think Coven officially labels itself as a Satanic band, but Jinx is very knowledgeable in that aspect. She has a book coming out, she is holding all the good stuff back for the book, I've heard some of those stories and its gonna destroy minds and reap some souls,” he chuckles. “She has had quite a life and hopefully we are just contributing to that. Its so amazing, Nikki, it’s like you were saying, after all this time, suddenly Coven has a career again and we never knew if it would be a one off, but as long as everything is still kicking ass, then why not continue.

Followed by quite a bit of banter about cult Australian movies, (i.e. Bad Boy bubby) and some debating about tape cassettes being as cool as records, we said our goodbyes and I wished them the best of luck for the show and for Coven’s future.

 

Coven play for Halloween on October 31st at Metro in Chicago, IL

Coven also play Marylands Deathfest May 24th-27th 2018 in Baltimore, MD

 

Photo of Jinx Dawson at Roadburn Festival 2017 - courtesy of JJ Koczan, The Obelisk