Interview with Psychoberrie and Dr Von Stottenstein of WARD XVI
By Sheri Bicheno
I was so happy to be able to sit down recently and talk to UK based Avent-Garde, Theatrical/Horror Rock/Metal band WARD XVI to get an insight into their music and concept behind their art. Ginger and lemon tea at the ready, I pressed the Skype button and was greeted by two familiar painted faces, Psychoberrie (Kerrie – Vocals) and Dr Von Stottenstein (David – Guitars)! WARD XVI, based in Lancashire, tell us all about their fabulous new album “Metamorphosis”, the concept of the band, the Whittingham Asylum and how the music has unexpected twists. They also go back to their roots and explain the meanings of their music below the surface.
Sheri: We know that the name WARD XVI was inspired by Whittingham Hospital and the disturbing reports surrounding the Asylum. For our readers, let’s explore a bit on what drew you to this and how it represents you as Artists?
Psychoberrie: We spent quite a long time finding a name for the band at first, because the story element was in place but then we couldn’t agree what to call it and one day I was reading on the internet and I found the Asylum which is based near us – Whittingham Asylum – where there was some horrific abuse that took place there and the worst of which was on Ward 16.
Sheri: So that’s how it came to light?
Dr Von Stottenstein: And you thought you’d have it with Roman Numerals so that forever and ever we would have our name said in different ways, mispronounced haha.
Psychoberrie: Hahaha just to make it hard for people to find us on social media…
Dr Von Stottenstein: Bring the Roman Numerals back! Haha
Sheri: I was gonna say the Roman Numerals are a good input because it confuses people but in a good way…education! Hahaha.
Psychoberrie: Hahaha yeah!
Sheri: As theatrical artists, you have a concept to the band and your brilliant live performances. Tell our readers about what expression on stage means to you and how you put your message across?
Dr Von Stottenstein: It means quite a lot to be honest. I think, myself and some of the other members of the band, they’ve been influenced in the past by bands that dress up like idiots haha. Or like Iron Maiden or Alice Cooper – Artists that aren’t just turning up in jeans, there’s a concept to it. It’s almost like it’s 3D – I know music shows are 3D anyway but it feels like there’s more of a bridge between ourselves and whoever’s in the crowd and it’s easier to bring the crowd into the stage show. For me personally, I’m quite boring in real life…
Sheri: Surely not!!
Dr Von Stottenstein: At first I was quite worried about putting face paint on and things like that and then it actually…well, when you get to the gig, to be able to become somebody else and disassociate yourself! When I’ve been in bands in the past where you just wear T-shirt and jeans and whatever, it’s hard to become who you are on stage and then come back off stage to the same person. So, at first, I was hiding behind the mask and I became more liberated on stage to become someone a bit freer, to express how I felt. In the 7-8 years I’ve been in the band, I actually almost feel like this is me now and when I go to work in the suit and whatever, that’s the alter ego. When I feel stressed the first thing I wish is that I had my face paint on. So, it’s like a front in terms of who I really am.
Sheri: So everyday life sort of thing…
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah.
Sheri: Understood. What about you, Kerrie?
Psychoberrie: I think I’ve just always wanted to be in the ultimate form of entertainment sort of thing. Because I think it’s best to appeal to as many senses as you can. The whole point of doing it is to entertain all the people that listen to it and all the people that watch it so rather than just being auditory, you’ve got something to watch as well, it’s entertaining.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, It has evolved in the last 5 or 6 years because at the beginning we were all just dressed up in random masks and face paint and it really didn’t mean anything, it was just like a gimmick really although the seeds of the concept was there, there was no uniformity to it, it was everybody just dressing up and it was hard to get engagement either from the band members or the people that would come into see us and then go away because we wouldn’t be able to associate it with anything. So we slowly started to build a story as we got along towards the first album and it’s got to a point when we started to record the second album that it was like an identity and there was a storyline that was then ready to be created and developed even more.
Sheri: So, there’s an ongoing concept to you guys. When I think of WARD XVI, I don’t put your sound into a label or box, you cover a lot of genres and don’t conform to just one… you’ve got different elements to your style – how would you describe your sound to those that are starting their own journey with you?
Psychoberrie: That’s one of the questions we’ve always struggled to answer which is why we came up with Avent-Garde Theatrical Rock, we didn’t actually want to put ourselves in a box cuz we’re trying to represent what that story is about in that particular song so…
Dr Von Stottenstein: Well it’s funny isn’t it because going back to being liberated by the face paints and all that – we don’t actually force ourselves into writing in a different way, we don’t go “We’re gonna write this bit dark and we’re not gonna write this bit like Eastern European or whatever – we’re not good enough musicians to do that…”
*I pull a frowny face*
Dr Von Stottenstein: No, no, but we’re not technically and theoretically good enough, we blag it haha! So, we kinda jam stuff and then because we like so many different types of music, it just falls into place. So it means that we cannot be tied to quite a narrow tool when we’re writing music…and to be fair, when we wrote this album, because there’s a few more of us writing this album than there were writing the first one, I thought it was very much more focused and the range of music was a lot narrower…but we’ve been told that it’s actually even broader than it was in the first one which surprised me and made me happy.
Sheri: I felt that too! Let’s briefly talk about your first album “The Art of Manipulation”, which was released in 2017 – the concept to this was of a psychopathic woman manipulating a man into killing her for her own pleasure. In the album, it speaks as if it’s in the first person, we can see this in tracks such as ‘Take My Hand’, ‘Blackened Heart’ and the title track – however ‘Crystal Ball’ is different to the others, which indicates another side to the story telling. Can you broaden on that at all?
Dr Von Stottenstein: We’ve never been asked that question before! Haha.
Psychoberrie: Haha! That one’s about him – he’s going to see a fortune teller and he is warned against her so I think that’s a part of the story that just was needed for someone to tell him “This person is really bad.” But not for him to completely ignore them because he’s got his rose-tinted glasses on.
Sheri: I love that track, it’s one of my favourites actually because it comes from another person’s perspective. There are a lot of different emotions in “The Art of Manipulation”. The one that stands out to me is ‘Hold Me’ which shows a glimpse of inner recognition and clarity in a warped kind of way, like an ocean of sadness – it makes the listener sympathise with her which ultimately, could be the most dangerous track on this album, so to speak. What are your thoughts?
Psychoberrie: I think that’s bang on to be honest because that would be the intention really, would be to get everyone to feel sorry for her and for her to use it as a form of manipulation.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, it’s almost like Stockholm Syndrome – but it’s funny because we get that almost like the ‘Every Breath You Take’ similarities. People have told us that they love the song and we’ve had it at weddings and like really romantic parties and it’s actually quite a sinister song haha. People think it’s actually something that’s a just position to what the actual music’s about.
Sheri: You brought out a new album on 25th September! “Metamorphosis” and I have to say, from my perspective, this album is much darker in some ways! You’re still true to your touch on theatrics and exploring the deep corners of the mind. I feel this is a follow up to Psychoberrie’s story in “The Art of Manipulation”?
Both: Yes, it’s a sequel-prequel haha.
Psychoberrie: If we follow the timeline of the interviewer, it’s all about what order of the questions he’s gonna ask and the first album is asking about some events that have taken place before she’s locked up and talking to him. But in this one, he wants to find out why she is the way she is. The only place you can go is right back to the beginning.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, so it’s a flashback So the first story is the prequel, and the second story is the sequel haha.
Sheri: So, we’re taken back essentially to find out why she is the way she is. That’s brilliant.
Dr Von Stottenstein: We’re twisting it to the point where in the first one she’s just a random nutter haha
Psychoberrie: Haha. Yeah, we’ve had to kind of flip and turn it on its head.
Dr Von Stottenstein: But yeah, at the end of this, what the hope, is that you go “Well if it was me, would I have done the same kind of thing?” and really empathise!
Sheri: Yeah, it makes you think.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, she’s ruined. (To Kerrie) You’ve ruined Psychoberrie for me haha.
Sheri: I’m looking forward to what else you’ve got in store for her because I feel like this is not the end…
Dr Von Stottenstein: Nope! Once the nervous breakdown has finished from writing this one, we’ll start writing the next one.
Sheri: When we enter into this album, one of the first tracks, ‘The Cradle Song’, which is another of my favourites on the new album, shows a depth of songwriting that is displayed through this album that touches on the emotional and I want to say – a somewhat mysterious connection to mentality – in both lyrics and composition. How do you decide on your songwriting and what makes it all come together?
Psychoberrie: With that particular song, it started with the music box at the beginning because I’ve always been obsessed with the idea that the first song on the album would take you back to childhood with the music that you hear, so I wanted to kind of mimic maybe a children’s mobile or the kind of sounds that you would hear as a child – even if you took the introduction away that’s at the beginning, you would know that that’s what happened. So, with that particular song, that’s where we started it and we built the rest of the song from that introduction.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, it was quite easy after that. I know we had this idea in mind of having almost like an idea of waltzing around the baby, so that could be quite easy to come up with that polka type of feel. But I thought it would end up quite a bit heavier, but it ended up being quite power ballad like.
Sheri: Yes, it is powerful!
Dr Von Stottenstein: Which surprised me because we didn’t expect it to go that direction, it just did.
Sheri: But you’re happy with it?
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah… the baby is on it as well!
Sheri: That’s brilliant! In terms of your songwriting how do you piece it together? Kerrie, do you write the lyrics and does someone come up with another part or is it something you all piece together?
Psychoberrie: A mixture of different things. On the last album it was very much the band was jamming and I was having to cram in lyrics to whatever they had done, but with this album a lot of the songs came as the lyrics were first so it was mainly me and David working on it…
Dr Von Stottenstein: Who’s David? Hahaha.
Psychoberrie: Martin was doing the keys so we were demoing at home and jamming at the Room so we really structured it around the story, and it really enabled us to put a lot more thought into the direction of the song. So, Dr Von Stottenstein had come up with an intro or something like that and it would lead into how it goes…
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, we discovered home computers and home studio and we didn’t do it with the first one, the first one was bodged, really, all put together jamming. But this one we could just be really pre-meditated and record a demo all the way through and see if it worked and if the sound was good – you could just listen to it just like an normal album, you can pick out flaws then quite well.
Psychoberrie: I think last time I would come up with vocal ideas but then I would be going to a room and expecting people to just be able to jam. I think putting music underneath vocals is something that a lot of people find quite hard to do.
Dr Von Stottenstein: But I like to have an idea of what the mood is so that I can then write it in that mentality, where Psychoberrie likes to have the guitars first sometimes and it’s kinda finding a happy medium to it.
Psychoberrie: I don’t like to have a whole song in place, sometimes maybe just an intro because that would then set the mood and inspire some of the lyrics. Because what I don’t want to do is get caught in the trap of singing in the same key and then the same chord progression, where I can hear a different chord progression, I can think of something a bit different.
Dr Von Stottenstein: It’s also luck, loads of luck really. You never think of what it’s going to be like…
Psychoberrie: It’s just natural.
Dr Von Stottenstein: A lot of it, we didn’t put a lot of effort into writing some of the music. We practised a lot and we worked hard on it, but we didn’t really strain ourselves, we didn’t get writers block or anything like that, it just flowed out…
Sheri: It went pretty smooth?
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, it felt a lot more natural than it did last time.
Psychoberrie: It went a lot easier working with less people and I always thought that would make the music less eclectic. What we didn’t want was to lose how random our music is, it incorporates a lot of different genres so I just thought with less minds working on it, it would end up becoming too narrow.
Dr Von Stottenstein: But because we got two minds on it, we’ve got the double psychotic similarities haha.
Sheri: Partner’s in crime! Hahaha. You have a different ambience on this album, you have some melodies that really take you through to a realm of longing and sadness, like ‘Shadows’ and then there are tracks such as ‘Mister Babadook’ that are heavier and more fast paced and also ‘Broken Toys’ which is more fun, fast and upbeat. When you do come to song writing, how do you decipher which feeling fits with the way you are heading on a particular track?
Psychoberrie: I think it’s because we said that we needed this album to be the darkest album as the subject is dark, but it’s also got to be childlike, I think! With ‘Broken Toys’ I always wanted to do a prequel to the song ‘Toy Box’ which is on the first album so I wanted to tie into the Toy Box theme when she’s an adult and the reason why she goes to that when she’s grown up is because that was her safe place when she was a baby. We kind of tied it together in that way so there’s different thought’s behind every one of then I think.
Dr Von Stottenstein: You just added so much to it! When we wrote ‘Shadows’ I never expected it to be as powerful as it is. I knew it was meant to build up and build up to some kind of crescendo, but the lyrics are just phenomenal…
Psychoberrie: I think where ‘Shadows’came from is the idea that we wanted the last song on every album to have their own storyline so it’s always going to be about a time when she was in the Asylum so, it was always gonna be the last song wasn’t it?
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, but again, there was nothing pre-meditated about what made ‘Mister Babadook’ heavy, it was just you’d written it in B, and I thought “Oh! I need a new guitar, I’m gonna buy a seven string”!
Psychoberrie: Yeah because I learnt the piano piece with no understanding of the bearing on what that would have on him playing the guitar haha and he was playing along with it and because he had a six string, he was playing stuff that was really high and it just didn’t work – so he had to buy a new guitar hahaha.
Sheri: Hahaha. Perfect excuse for a new guitar!
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah! Haha!
Sheri: Your daughter is featured in the video for your single ‘Mister Babadook’! Did she enjoy being part of the visual side of WARD XVI?
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, she’s also the voice at the beginning of the song! She enjoyed it too much haha. She was in trouble for it because she was meant to look scared, but she just laughed all the way through it haha. I was worried it might traumatise her a little bit but she’s seen us dressed like this for so many years and she’s drawn pictures of us and the original ‘Toy Box’ video, there’s a bit of it where there are cartoon characters dancing, they drew them. So, I think they’ve always seen that, and I was worried it would be frightening for her but because she’s had so much time watching us do what we do and everything, she loved it! It makes it a lot more emotional for me to watch the video. I feel kind of like she’s vulnerable and I’m you know…haha
Psychoberrie: Hahaha you’ve got to go and save your own daughter haha.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah haha!
Sheri: She must have probably felt safe because it was you guys you know?
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, I’m not too sure I’d like someone else pulling her under the bed haha. She was really good. She’s only nine and so when you look back and watch the videos, she’s so sincere in walking around, she took so much interest in what everyone was doing so…
Psychoberrie: And that candle was red hot wasn’t it? She was holding it all the time and it was burning her arm, but she was persevering, she was saying “No, I’m alright.” Hahaha!
Dr Von Stottenstein: Don’t say that…don’t say that we burnt our own child, you never know who might be reading hahaha!
Psychoberrie: Hahaha. It wasn’t like 3rd degree burns haha.
Sheri: Resilience hahaha. Bless her haha! Does she portray Psychoberrie in ‘Mister Babadook’? I want to say that there are pieces on “Metamorphosis” that take us back to Psychoberrie’s past…
Psychoberrie: Yeah that’s exactly what it was, when we went to do the video, I didn’t want to play Psychoberrie, it wouldn’t make any sense, it’s supposed to be a young Psychoberrie so…
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, it was her timeline, her pathway from childhood to then so the videos will hopefully show the story, they’re obviously a single on their own but the intention is that if we were have to cancel every gig, we would get a video for every song and there should almost be a theatric timeline so it’s almost like a theatre show rather than stand-alone music videos.
Sheri: So, you would be able to piece all the music videos together and it comes out as one story – it’s very clever hahaha!
Dr Von Stottenstein: We’re just blagging it haha We just need to make it so – we’re skint now! Hahaha. We’re broke.
Sheri: I don’t know many Artists that do that kind of approach, it’s really quite clever.
Dr Von Stottenstein: There’s a few bands that are doing that, the likes of Avatar. Avatar have been doing things like that, they’re last album was so amazing, and their concept was amazing. We cheat a little bit because we do talk to people as they seem to do, they seem to immerse themselves, like Ghost do too, they do the same so I think it’s having confidence in the story and portraying a storyline with theatre that the music comes alongside to it. That makes us a little bit different to other bands that kind of do what we do. We are fully in the concept, it’s all in the story and I think the hardest thing for us to do really…
Psychoberrie: Paying for it hahaha.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Other than paying for it, when you’ve got 30 or 40 minutes to do the show, we still want to show the timelines and show the narrative and sometimes it’s very difficult, especially if people are just wandering in and out and don’t necessarily know the story so it can look like there’s a gimmick cuz there’s some crazy woman running around with a chainsaw, it’s all part of the album storyline and it’s trying different ways to still portray that and allow people to know that there’s context to it, that it’s almost like a trailer to a film. Where you can see the unabridged version of something like that when you listen to the album.
Sheri: So, it needs to be obvious that it’s part of the story when you’re on stage.
Dr Von Stottenstein: We’ve got an actor on stage with us, he hands out sort of like newspapers with the storyline in it so people can read it – so it’s almost like going to a theatre and getting a programme. We’ve started to do that because it allows people to piece together what the story is without needing to really pay a lot of attention whilst they’re getting drunk and bouncing around everywhere haha.
Sheri: It’s more fun to watch you though hahaha
Psychoberrie: I think people just put it in their pocket and read it when they get home and are like “oh that’s what it’s about!” hahahaha.
Sheri: I think it’s a clever concept and because it’s something you have to keep to as well so… I imagine that when there’s a later release, it’s going to be quite a long process of that concept on stage because it is like obviously watching a band and their music but also a theatre.
Dr Von Stottenstein: That’s the thing, I don’t usually like musicals!
Sheri: You have our friend John Badger on the drums and Russ from Footprints In The Custard joining you on guest vocals for ‘Shadows’! How easy was it for everyone to collaborate during this pain of a year?
Dr Von Stottenstein: We finished recording two days before lockdown.
Psychoberrie: I was just thinking it was another Swine Flu when we were in the studio…
Dr Von Stottenstein: We finished recording something like 9 o’clock on the Friday night and then Sunday night it was announced that lockdown happened, and I was just going into shielding, so we were really really lucky! It was difficult because our producer couldn’t get to the studio
…he had to shield a little bit as well and that pushed things back, but it allowed me and Psychoberrie 24 hours a day for 5 months to really really just go mental on it.
Psychoberrie: The artwork on it, I put a lot more effort into because normally it’s just me coming home after work and the last thing I wanna do is get on the computer and do the same thing I’ve been doing all day at work. So, this one I could just focus on it 100% and I enjoyed doing it.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah you did all the merch, all the PR and everything like that. We were sitting in the sun and it was just nice to spend time with my family and do what I love to do. Now it’s out, we can’t actually go out and sell it so it’s like OHHHH!
Sheri: I mean, there’s only so much that social media can do isn’t there…
Dr Von Stottenstein: We’re trying to do things a little bit different like running competitions and things like that just to make it a little bit less spammy which can be really difficult because Facebook have just completely closed all up the algorithms so it’s just been hard for everybody. Not just us, it’s not like we are going to lose our livelihood through it, other people are but it’s obviously something that we love, and we want people to enjoy it.
Sheri: What are your next plans for WARD XVI?
Psychoberrie: We’ve got the album coming out, so fingers crossed the album launch on 30th January. We’re hoping to also do a tour so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for that one.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, we really want to do a UK tour where we can take it up and down the country so we’re hopeful, but we are realistic. We were meant to be launching a gig tomorrow- but if we can do January with Footprints in the Custard, then Pulverise at Manchester Academy then that would be ace but if we can’t then we will just have to be responsible and try to find an alternative and find something else to keep momentum. I think we will probably have to think laterally what else to do. Because it’s quite difficult.
Dr Von Stottenstein: We’ve been offered to do so many virtual gigs and things like that, which is ace – but because it’s a show, we need people interactive within it, it’s become very difficult you know, we can’t just get in front of the camera and do it, it takes a bit more for us to do that – a bigger stage and things. Fingers crossed though!
Sheri: It will happen, and I think it’s part and parcel of testing these things out.
Dr Von Stottenstein: We’re all in it together though aren’t we so…I think it has brought people closer together. Hopefully when the scene opens up again, the scene is going to be so desperate for it, they’ll probably appreciate it more than what it was before.
Sheri: Absolutely. And people are going to be wanting to get out to them as well.
Dr Von Stottenstein: Venues were shutting down before COVID happened so fingers crossed it’s made people more of aware of what they’re missing.
Sheri: Any advice you can give to other artists?
Dr Von Stottenstein: Yeah, keep the faith! You only have to look at Van Halen and his death where it was completely uniting a scene that was 2 days before kicking off and were becoming almost tribal. The music is beloved no matter what… and people love playing it or people love listening to it, they love being a community based upon it. And we can’t lose that… if we can’t perform it live, then we all need to find ways to keep the scene moving and keep it positive and just be happy that we are still able to create music – we just might have to do it in a different way. It’s a hard time but hard times bring good things with it too. Even just really good ideas and really good things to the scene that no one anticipated. Power to the people haha!
Sheri: Thank you so much guys, it’s been lovely to talk to and see you!
WARD XVI: Thank you!
WARD XVI’s new album “Metamorphosis” is out now and receiving fantastic reviews.
Read Beth’s full review of the album here:
More Information on WARD XVI can be found at the following links:
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Sheri Bicheno and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.