witchtheband.com

2009
February 13, 2009
The Doll Hut
Anaheim, CA

Headline Act: Psychostar
Opening Act: Angus Khan
Archived: Video
SET LIST:
"Stripper Theme" Intro Tape
Nervous Wreck
Cinderella (In Black Leather)
Damnation
(No More) Suffering In Silence
Hit the Road
Take Me Away
1:45
Bewitched
Wet n Wild

Holding just 50 people, The Doll Hut is by far the smallest venue WITCH has ever played (photo at right by Mike 'Ozzy' Gibbens)But, this was also one of their most fun shows.  With a history that goes back nearly as long as WITCH, The Doll Hut has been the punk venue in Orange County for more than two decades, playing host to bands like SOCIAL DISTORTION, JANE'S ADDICTION, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, ADOLESCENTS, and lots more.  Your living room is probably bigger than the whole club, so imagine sticking a stage in the corner and a bar in the middle and you have the Hut.  This was WITCH's first Anaheim gig in exactly 20 years.  Punky began dressing like a Catholic School girl starting with this show.  Headlining band PSYCHOSTAR have their own Punky on guitar and vocals.

February 14, 2009
Paladino's
Tarzana, CA
Co-Headlining Act: Spiders & Snakes
Opening Acts: The Premises, The Perfect Stranger, Revolution Kill Pill
Archived: Video
SET LIST:
"Stripper Theme" Intro Tape
Nervous Wreck
Cinderella (In Black Leather)
Damnation
(No More) Suffering In Silence
Hit the Road
Take Me Away
1:45
Bewitched
Wet n Wild

After an excellent show the night before, tonight's show was musically a little rough. (photo at right by Heavy Metal Mary).  However, some songs--particularly "(No More) Suffering In Silence" and "Hit the Road"--were very good.  This was supposed to be a co-headlining show with a reunited LONDON, but  guitarist/co-founder Lizzie Grey pulled the plug on that band a week earlier.  Instead, his solo band SPIDERS AND SNAKES closed the night.

On March 24 Betsy's interview with Kenny Pick on the "Turn Up the Night" podcast began airing.


April 18, 2009
The Black Castle
Los Angeles, CA
Headlining Act: Abattoir
Opening Acts: Winterthall, Phantom Armada, Taking Over, Advent
Archived: Video
SET LIST:
Nervous Wreck
Cinderella (In Black Leather)
Damnation
(No More) Suffering In Silence
Hit the Road
Take Me Away
1:45
Bewitched
Wet n Wild


A great show for the band at a venue usually played by black/death metal groups, located not far from the L.A. Forum.  Fans traveled from as far away as New Mexico and the place was packed.  An intro tape was not used.  "Damnation" was considered as the opener, but the band opted for the heavier "Nervous Wreck."


April 19, 2009
The Cat Club
Hollywood, CA
SET LIST:
Nervous Wreck
Cinderella (In Black Leather)
Damnation
(No More) Suffering In Silence
Hit the Road
Take Me Away
1:45
Bewitched
Wet n Wild

WITCH's first show on the Sunset Strip in exactly 20 years.  As is typical with Hollywood clubs these days, the band had to use the house backline, and they were not allowed to use an intro tape, special effects, or even the WITCH banner.  And because of the placement of the house backline, for the first time ever Ronny played on stage right and Jim played on stage left.  Although some cell phone camera footage was shot, a complete recording of this show is not known to exist.

In June, an amicable split was made between Ronny and WITCH.  After a brief search, Geoff Gayer--founding member of LEATHERWOLF and an old friend of Punky and Jim's--was chosen as the new guitarist.

On August 9,
Geoff rehearsed with WITCH for the first time at a studio in Garden Grove, and the band ran through the set twice. This was the first time Punky and Geoff had played together since the first incarnation of LEATHERWOLF 29 years earlier back in 1980 (LEATHERWOLF was one of Punky's very first bands), and Jim played with Geoff at least once back in 1991 when he auditioned for LEATHERWOLF.  Famed photographer Heavy Metal Mary was on hand at the rehearsal to capture the first pictures of the new lineup (left).


August 15, 2009
The Black Castle
Los Angeles, CA
Opening Acts: Ruthless, Resistance, Gallow's End, Ninth Circle
Archived: Video

SET LIST:
"Pricking Of My Thumbs"/Organ Intro
Nervous Wreck
Cinderella (In Black Leather)
Damnation
(No More) Suffering In Silence
I'm No Rainbow
Hit the Road
Take Me Away
1:45
Bewitched
Wet n Wild


WITCH returned to the Black Castle for their first headlining show since their reunion nearly one year ago (photos at right and below by Heavy Metal Mary).  A big night for the band filled with many firsts: Geoff Gayer's first show with WITCH; their first show with RUTHLESS since 1988; for the first time ever WITCH had an all-female road crew (the way it should've always been!);  and the biggest first of all: the live debut of a brand new WITCH song--"I'm No Rainbow"--written and sung by Jim.  Punky again used the torches at the top of the show, but he did not throw out DAMNATION CDs from a lunchbox during the band introductions as he had at previous shows.  The band couldn't have been happier with Geoff's performance and look forward to many more  shows with him.  Besides the club-cam recording, a professional video crew was on hand to video--at least--"I'm No Rainbow," and they possibly recorded more of the show, as well.

On September 28, Punky and Kelsey were married at the court house in Santa Ana, California.

December 31, 2009
The Doll Hut
Anaheim, CA
Archived: Video
SET LIST:

"Are You Ready" Intro Tape
Cinderella (In Black Leather)
Keep The Light On
Damnation
(No More) Suffering In Silence
I'm No Rainbow
Hit the Road
Take Me Away
1:45
Nervous Wreck
Bewitched
Wet n Wild


WITCH ended 2009 the way they began it: with a show at the tiny Doll Hut.  The show started in a unique way, with the band taking the stage to a recording of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD's "Are You Ready," a song WITCH performed live a few times back in 1985. 
Tonight's set list also saw the inclusion of the old WITCH favorite, "Keep the Light On," a song they had not performed since  January 16, 1988.  Punky's costume for the evening was a nurse's uniform, after having retired the Catholic school girl outfit following the August 15 Black Castle show.  There was another unique element to this show: the band allowed me to play guitar with them on "1:45." (photo below by Mike 'Ozzy' Gibbens)  Earlier in the month Jim and Punky asked me if I would like to play, and of course I said yes.  I chose "1:45" as the song and we rehearsed it on December 30.  This put me in some pretty good company because WITCH has only allowed two other people to 'jam' with them in their career: Tommy Lee and Lita Ford.  Needless to say it was an honor for me to play with Jim, Punky, Betsy, and Geoff, and I can't thank them enough!  Fullerton punk legend Rikk Agnew and his band POOP were scheduled to close the evening--and bring in the New Year onstage at midnight--but Rikk phoned the Doll Hut in the middle of WITCH's set and canceled, saying he was too ill to play.  This made WITCH the only band on the bill.  They took the stage at 10:10pm, and during Betsy's intro of "Take Me Away," the Doll Hut sound man grabbed a mic and announced that POOP would not be playing.  WITCH stretched their set out as best they could, staying on stage for over 65 minutes.  

****************************************************************

On February 14, 2010, Ronny Too picked up his amps and guitars from storage at Jim's garage.  Punky was also there and the three hung out for a few hours.  At the end of the day Ronny took his gear back to Idaho.

On May 31, 2010, Punky and Geoff debuted their new classic rock cover band NO DRESS CODE.  The band played three sets over six hours on an outdoor stage at the Street Fair in Orange, California.  The band lineup featured Punky on drums, Geoff on guitar, Bino McMann on bass, and "Cowboy" Dave on vocals.


NO DRESS CODE played their second show on July 1.  Punky, Geoff, Bino, and vocalist Karl Detken played a five-song set at Perqs in Huntington Beach, California.  It was the first time these four friends had played together since 1980.  And to make things even more ironic, the Perqs sound engineer was former AMPAGE guitarist and Punky bandmate Henry Stone.  The set list was as follows:
Whole Lotta Love
Tush
Tie Your Mother Down
Man In the Box
Rock On/We Will Rock You

NO DRESS CODE played Perqs in Huntington Beach again on July 15, 2010.  Featuring the same lineup as the July 1 gig, the set list was as follows:
Tie Your Mother Down
Tush
You Really Got Me
Rock On/We Will Rock You
Rock and Roll All Nite
Two Tickets To Paradise
Eleanor Rigby
I Wanna Be Sedated (Geoff on lead vocals)
Whole Lotta Love

On August 4, 2010, NO DRESS CODE played again at Perqs with the same lineup.  The set list was:
You Really Got Me
Rock On/We Will Rock You
I Wanna Be Sedated
Tush
Eleanor Rigby
Tie Your Mother Down
Rock and Roll All Nite
Play That Funky Music
Brick House Rock
Whole Lotta Love

In October 2010 former KERRANG! MAGAZINE contributor Malcolm Dome interviewed Punky and published a fantastic article on the history of WITCH for CLASSIC ROCK MAGAZINE ONLINE.  The complete article can be seen here
And here's the text:

Now these chaps are what we call Cult Heroes. A band who hardly ever played outside of California, only released one EP and a single, yet had bands like Guns N Roses, Slayer and Poison support them! So, why hasn't the world at large ever heard of Witch? Now's the time to find out. Time to meet Peter Wabbit and Punky Peru et al. Check out all the other Cult Heroes here.

Words: Malcolm Dome

I still recall the first, and only, time I saw Witch and it was by accident. The date was April 20, 1985. The location was The Troubadour in West Hollywood. The whole thing was down to Venom, actually.

What happened was this. I was in Los Angeles covering a Venom/ Slayer show at the Palace, which had happened the previous night. It was for Kerrang!, and the photographer with me was one Pete 'Big Nose' Cronin. The gig itself was tremendous and I'm talking about the Venom one here. Slayer were imperiously Slayer-like, and then Venom tore up the venue with the sort of tirade that made their name and the Slayer chaps were right at the front of the stage during Venom's set. Headbanging ferociously. All of which is utterly irrelevant, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

So, the next night, there we were at a loose end. Myself, an' Big Nose, Venom, their manager Eric Cooke when somebody made the suggestion of going to The Troubadour. Don't ask me who, because it was 25 years ago. All I know is that the whole entourage, more like a rag tag of Englishmen, ended up in that club, not knowing what was to happen, or who was playing. And as it turned out, the band we saw were Witch. Now, they were typically trashy, sleazy in a Hollywood style. Cronos from Venom was so appalled by them that he spent the whole of their set leaning over the balcony, trying to goad some sort of comment out of them, anything which could allow him to let loose and give them a right old Geordie smacking. He hated them.

Me? I loved what they did. Sure, it was obvious. But here was a real spandex clad, souped-up sybaritic sensibility. They had simple, strutting songs and a lascivious eye for the ladies. They even mounted their own Cinderella In Black Leather beauty contest, titled after probably their best song. It was like watching Baywatch populated with extras from a Ron Jeremy movie: great fun. I could understand why Cronos hated it. This was everything he loathed. Fair enough. But the little girls, and their older sisters, understood.

Now, this should have been the start of a glorious chapter in rock history and one to make Motley Crue's look like a charter for abstinence, because this lot did have a reputation for the sort of behaviour that put the anity in insanity. But, they never really got going. And one can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for one of the biggest and hottest bands in LA at the time to watch history glide by without even offering them a quick shag.

"At first it wasn't frustrating because I would say Great White, Witch, and W.A.S.P. were probably the three biggest bands in LA," says drummer Punky Peru. "W.A.S.P. and Great White both signed with Capitol Records, and went into the studio leaving Witch the top selling LA band.

"For the next year everyone opened for us, from Slayer to Poison to Guns N Roses. In the middle of 85 the rest of the guys in Witch made the mistake of firing me, and within three shows the band broke up. A year later I put the band back together with two new guitarists and we were bigger than ever sound-wise and draw-wise. But by that point, bands such as the aforementioned Guns N Roses, Poison and Slayer had already signed major deals.

"Six months later we were selling out clubs in Orange County and Los Angeles once again. And with (Runaways guru) Kim Fowley wanting to produce us, our momentum was brought to a halt once again when I was sent to jail for a year. So, it wasn't as much frustrating watching bands make it as it was to face all the obstacles that kept us from making it."

Yes, we have got ahead of ourselves a little. So, let's backtrack. It all started with a band called Ampage, who started in Huntingdon Beach, California during 1980. Their vocalist was the impwobably (sic) named Peter Wabbit. A year later, Peru joined, and for about year, there was confusion, line-up changes and the general melee one might expect from a young band trying to find a direction and stability.

By the beginning of 1983, Witch were in place, with guitarist Ronny Too and bassist Michael Williams-St. John (we'll call him Michael Williams from now on) bringing with them connections to Metallica (Ronny had auditioned unsuccessfully for an early James Hetfield band) and Armored Saint (Michael had briefly been in the band). In the meantime, Punky had been the first drummer for Leatherwolf and had also been in a band called Damian with the crazy Don Costa (he of the cheese grater on the back on his bass, which was there so he could literally shred his hands!), before the latter joined Ozzy's band.

"When Ozzy snatched Costa out from Damien, Peter and I decided to make a band together," recalls Peru. "We wanted something heavy yet theatrical, and we started auditioning guitar players for what would become Witch. We were trying to take part of our influences from Alice Cooper and Sweet and mix it together with Motorhead and Dio. The outcome was Witch."

Witch showed their attitude from the start, typified by a show at The Troubadour in June, 1983, when supporting W.A.S.P. Specifically told by Blackie Lawless they couldn't use pyros or any effects, what did the band do? Yep, you got it. Punky also showed a healthy disdain for such headliner egomania by clambering all over the W.A.S.P.  metal logo hanging above his drum kit. The two bands would never play together again, although there are reports that Peru was offered, and turned down, the chance to join W.A.S.P. in early 84.

By August of 1983, the band fired their bassist, replacing him with Jim Warman, who'd previously rejected an offer from Witch.He didn't make the same mistake again. Incidentally, Williams very nearly replaced Francis Buchholz in the Scorpions. But it didn't quite come off, after the Scorps had a change of heart and stuck with the man in situ.

Now with what's regarded as their classic line-up in place, Witch pushed on. In March 1984, they recorded what would become their debut EP The Hex Is On. Now, they already had a three-track demo done in July the previous year, featuring the songs Nervous Wreck, Damnation and Bewitched. On these they removed the bass lines put down by Williams, replacing them with Warmon's own interpretation. To these they added Cinderella (In Black Leather) and Wet N Wild. We'll come back to this EP a little later. But in the meantime, the band signed a management deal with Tapesty (who'd looked after Y&T at one point) and got a cameo role as a mutant metal band in the futuristic SF movie Radioactive Dreams, set in the year 2010 (seriously!), 15 years after a nuclear holocaust.

On July 26,. The Hex Is On was finally released by O.T.T. Records, which was effectively a self-release. However, the elusive big deal, on which they'd  banked for ages, was never to materialise. Here's Peru's insight into that ongoing non-going deal scenario:

"There were bad decisions from the beginning between Tapestry Artists and the band, followed by my trouble with the law, and then by bad timing because all the 80s bands were done being signed."

For a short time, it seemed as if the band would sign to Metal Blade, but that went wrong, amidst reports that Peru had agreed a deal with label owner Brian Slagel, only for Tapestry to cancel the deal at the last minute.

"Well, at the time Combat Records and Metal Blade were the two leading small metal record labels. Combat approached us first, and we decided to go with them. Then at the last minute we decided to independently release through Important Records, who owned Combat (it eventually came out in the UK on Heavy Metal Records). This was a mistake, because at the same time Metallica released an album on Combat (Ride The Lightning) and received all the marketing that went along with their signing, which landed them a major deal.

"We opted to go independent which hurt us, and when Metal Blade offered us a deal it was too late to change the contracts that were already signed. So Tapestry Artists advised us to stick with the deal that we had and not to worry, because we were going to get a bigger deal (apparently with Capitol, but this fell through)."

By June 1985 things were going horribly wrong for the band. Under the influence of their new manager, Shawn Damien Barusch, the band fired Peru (despite the fact that it was his band!), and within three months the band had split up.

But by the summer of 1986, the band were back, albeit without Ronny. Two new guitarists Davin St. John and Scott Ricketts came in, and by the end of the year the new-look Witch had a 12" single ready to go, featuring the songs Can't Take Our Rock and Victory Without Pain. The single was eventually released the following April, with a suitably manic launch party at Jezabel's in Anaheim, California.

At the start of 1988, the band added keyboard player David Ezrin (ex-Lita Ford; there had been an alleged dalliance between Lita and Peru the previous year, although whether this is relevant to Ezrin's arrival is a moot point!). But this six-piece line-up didn't last long. St. John quit after one show with the expanded line-up. But by July of the same year, Witch were back to the classic foursome, with Ronny returning as Ezrin and Ricketts left for various reasons. Are you keeping up? There will be a quiz later!

In April 1989, the band played their last show, before finally splitting up, having failed to turn all their potential and connections into gold. Peru has his own insight into what went wrong.

"I moved to Hollywood and the (rest of) the band were living in Orange County. We had showcased for Atlantic Records and they flew out to see us twice. They even flew me to New York once to meet with (A&R man) Jason Flom and they paid for a lot of Witch's expenses for months. We also showcased and had major interest from Polygram Records, and many others, but no one in the industry wanted to sign us.

"I started projects while playing with members of Keel, Shark Island, Black N Blue, Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, Ratt, Dokken and Alice Cooper, writing with various artists, working on soundtracks and movies. I decided it was time to end Witch and made April 13, 1989 our final show. It just did not seem worth it anymore. Everyone in the band was getting aggravated and were worn out."

However, in 2008, Witch returned, albeit without Wabbit. In his place, the band brought in Betsey from the notorious early 80s LA band Bitch.

"In 2007 Mark Piotrowski put together a website (http://www.witchtheband.com/) which showed the complete history of Witch," explains Peru on the band's surprise return. "First it got all the members back into contact, since we hadn't all four talked since 1989. It also expressed re-releasing The Hex Is On with additional live tracks and studio tracks previously unreleased on CD.

"Finally what got the four of us together was the fact that a lot of 80s bands were touring in 2008 and we were offered some European festivals for 2009, so we all got back together for a reunion in September 2008. We all flew into California from four separate states. We had a photo session, dinner and one day of planned rehearsal and one day set aside for interviews, but due to Pete's illness we were unable to complete the weekend and carry on. We decided to replace Pete with Betsy Bitch and move forward with our reunion shows. We played a half-dozen shows in 2009, but due to the fact that the line-up was not all original members, the offers to play the festivals fell through. Now in 2010 the 1980s metal hair band reunions are not demanded by the public. therefore future Witch shows are unclear."

So, there you have it. A concise (hopefully) introduction to one of the best LA bands of the 1980s, one that deserved so much more than was to be their lot. And one most of you will probably never have heard of, because Witch only ever played in California (with the exception of a handful of shows in Phoenix, Arizona). So, they never even got to tour America, let alone other countries.

"It's a long story, but without a product to sell it didn't make sense to travel very far," says Peru of the band's limited touring. "Tapestry Artists, our management company, talked us into releasing The Hex Is On independently on Important Records, so we wouldn't get tied up in a contract that might keep a major label from snatching us up. Since The Hex Is On was put out independently it was released  without any marketing efforts. Therefore, the sales were very low, and the demand for us to play nationwide was not very strong. So we concentrated on showcasing in Los Angeles and Orange County where our following was huge and we would be more attractive for a major label.

"Also, at the time all but Atlantic and Chrysalis Records were based in Los Angeles, so it made sense to us to just play LA and showcase for major record labels, rather than to go out across the US playing small venues."

If you ever saw Witch, or heard The Hex Is On, you'll appreciate that they were the sort of band for whom outrage, sensationalism, glitz and blitz were second nature. Honestly, they really could out Crue da Motleys, make W.A.S.P. seem more like comatose ants and leave Poison blushing with their musical dirty talking. They should have been a major force, but have ended up as one of those bands for whom the word "Who?!" was invented.

On November 26, 2010, Punky and Kelsey welcomed their son Chance Brandon into the world.

 

On December 22, 2010, Peter Wabitt moved back to Huntington Beach after more than ten years away.  He and Punky hung out that night and then called me at 3am on the 23rd.  It was great to hear Peter's voice for the first time since the 2008 reunion weekend!


In early 2011 Peter put together a new incarnation of his band HIGHWAY.  This version included Geoff Gayer (LEATHERWOLF/WITCH) on guitar, Lorne Black (GREAT WHITE/DANTE FOX) on bass, and original HIGHWAY member Buddy Clark on drums.  They rehearsed in Buddy's Huntington Beach studio until early summer, but this lineup disbanded before playing any shows.

Peter moved back to Texas in August, 2011.

At the end of August, 2011, Punky, Ronny, and Jim reassembled in Huntington Beach and auditioned a male vocalist with the possibility of booking a few WITCH shows for the Fall.  The audition went well but the decision was made to pass on the gigs.


At the beginning of November, 2011, FnA Records released a new WITCH cd entitled THE HEX IS ON...AND THEN SOME.  The album includes the first official release of Peter and Punky's 1997 GOD BOX material.  See the RECORDS/TAPES/CDS section of this site for more information.

On November 11, 2011, Johnny Schultz passed away suddenly in Orange County.  Johnny and his family are legendary in the Southern California music scene, and they figured prominently in the career of WITCH.  Punky posted the following about Johnny on his Facebook page:


"I first met Johnny in 1981 while playing in Ampage at the Woodstock. A few bands later in Damian, Don Costa reintroduced us and we became good friends. The Old Boy gave us a studio out back of the Woodstock and we became regular regulars there. And as you could imagine the trouble began. The Old Boy kept yelling at us and kicking us out and Johnny kept sneaking us back in. Johnny and I would make frequent runs up to L.A. to scout out bands as we really enjoyed hanging out. In 1983 Johnny gave me a headline Saturday night to debut my new band Witch. The result was a sellout but the Schultz's generosity didn't end there. Acting as managers Johnny, Joey and the Old Boy made calls that helped Witch land shows opening for WASP at the Troubadour and Loudness at the Country Club as well as multiple sellouts at the Woodstock. Johnny was a fan, a friend and a business partner. Mostly a friend as he never asked for anything in return.

Johnny helped me in my times of need. In 1986 after my incarceration he rented a two-bedroom apartment around the corner from Jezebels that we shared as I began reassembling my life and Witch. He even managed the band the first half of the year before Tawn Mastrey took over later in the Fall. I have lots of good times and memories with Johnny.  In 1993 the two of us drifted apart as I was living in L.A. and had found a new passion in Scuba diving. As the years went on we always stayed in touch. My only regret is that I didn't make time to go visit Johnny. In the past year we talked often but I never took him up on his offer of dinner and to meet my wife. I will however remember Johnny as a friend; fun, caring, giving with a heart of gold. I will miss you bro!  RIP.

My heart goes out to the Schultz's, Joey, Mark, Marilyn and Mom. I will try and make the Memorial and would love to Jam but it is my Son's first birthday and the family has plans.
Peace - Punky Peru"