Background information
Origin Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Genres Stoner Rock, Progressive Rock, Stoner Metal
Years active 2003 - 2012
Labels Tee Pee Records, Indica Records, Ace Fu, RCA
Associated acts Vision Lunar, WetMetal, Trigger Effect, Mountain Dust, VBA, Kurt Vile, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Sons of Butcher, Tame Impala, The Dropouts
Website Priestess Official

Priestess was a Canadian rock band formed by singer/guitarist Mikey Heppner in Montreal, Quebec, Canada circa 2003. Since its inception it has featured Heppner, singer/guitarist Dan Watchorn, singer/drummer Vince Nudo, and bassist Mike Dyball. Priestess were considered a key band in the early millennial "retro rock" movement, although they denied intentionally attempting to emulate the sounds of classic rock bands such as Black Sabbath and AC/DC, whom they idolized and to whom they were frequently compared. The band was also often dismissive of the "heavy metal" tag they often obtained.

The group admired classic rock mainstays such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Nirvana was an early inspiration for Heppner, whose earliest repertoire was entirely made of Nirvana songs. Watchorn says the Melvins are his favorite band, and also enjoys folk and country music.[1][2][3] Along with these inspirations the band also expressed admiration for Dinosaur Jr., Metallica, Pink Floyd, YES, Genesis, King Crimson and Frank Zappa, the last of whom being Heppner's favorite artist in general.

Priestess are frequently cited as a classic rock revivalist act, using such rock 'n' roll staples as guitar solos, and are often compared to legendary acts such as Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin[4] and Deep Purple.[5] Heppner denies that they are actively emulating the sound of the likes of such bands on purpose, arguing that they simply play what they want to play, and that such comparisons are only incidental. The band also considered themselves to simply be a rock band and denied any notion of label of being "heavy metal".[6]

Priestess was established in the early 2000s after all but one of the members of punk band the Dropouts left the band. The sole remaining member, Heppner, sought new bandmates after changing the group's sound, and after a name change they released their first album, Hello Master, on independent record label Indica in 2005. Initially only released in Canada, the album was noticed and released by RCA Records internationally the following year, and the single “Lay Down” brought the band much success after being included in the popular video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. RCA disliked Prior to the Fire, the result of the group's attempt at a second album, as the label feared its progressive rock-influenced sound would not be marketable; the band subsequently left the label and the album's serially-delayed 2009 release occurred in Canada on Indica, followed by an international 2010 release on independent label Tee Pee Records. A third album was intended to follow in 2012 but the band would go on hiatus that same year.


The Dropouts (2000 - 2003)Edit

Mikey Heppner attended Vanier College in Montreal to major in music and find other Frank Zappa fans like himself to start a band with. He found no one suitable for the job; he described the people he met there as "all elevator jazz geeks" and became discouraged about being able to form an experimental band.[7] Heppner discarded his experimental rock goals entirely after being inspired to form a punk rock band instead; a friend he met at Vanier named Olivier Corbeil took him to see a punk band in concert, which enthralled him so much he formed the Dropouts with Corbeil, Tim Fletcher and Dave Hamelin to partake of the same high energy he saw at that performance.[8][9]

Heppner wrote "really simple Ramones-type of songs" for the group while the other three achieved gradual fame in their side project, the Stills. Heppner had no lasting ambitions for the Dropouts, who only recorded a demo, but after the Stills left the group for New York City in 2003 to continue on their own, he felt surprised by their success. He changed his musical goals and decided to reform the Dropouts, this time hoping for a more serious project in the vein of Tricky Woo (and their resemblance to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath).[10][11][12]

Future guitarist Dan Watchorn, who also moved to Montreal to attend college,[13] was inactive musically when Heppner asked him to join the group. After hearing a demo of songs Heppner had been working on, Watchorn agreed to join, and Mike Dyball auditioned for the band with an unnamed drummer (who left a year later and was replaced).[14] Heppner discovered Vince Nudo when the latter played a concert with another band in the club at which Heppner worked as a disc jockey, and Heppner was impressed by his performance. Recalling the performance, Heppner asked Nudo to join the Dropouts once their second drummer was fired three months later. Heppner felt certain he had found all the right people for the group when their first jam session with Nudo resulted in a new song. By this point, the band still called themselves the Dropouts[15] and would not take the name Priestess for another year. The new name was chosen only for how "heavy" it sounded, but it led to the misconception that they were trying to be a heavy metal band[16] (a claim they have repeatedly denied), and Watchorn has explained that it also leads some concertgoers to think they are "an all-female Judas Priest cover band".[17]

Enter Priestess and Hello Master (2003 - 2007)Edit

In 2003 the quartet would officially be known as Priestess and begin gigging through Canada while working towards a debut album. Heppner had been writing new material with several classic rock inspirations, but was embarrassed about the new musical direction at first, as he was not sure how his bandmates would react. Consequently, he did not show them the material he was writing for a time, and when he did, their reaction was the opposite of what he was expecting. This debut album was intentionally written to be simple in terms of the music.

The band's debut album, Hello Master, was produced by the Stills' producer, Gus van Go,[18] and released on 18 October 2005 on Indica Records in Canada.[19] After its release, the group admitted to being dissatisfied with its sound; Heppner described the album rather apathetically as "just the recorded version of twelve of our songs" and as "a really weird sounding album [where] everything is so tight and really produced". Critics took note of the album's hard rock style, sometimes to point out that it was not terribly unique. Critics like Ultimate Guitar,[20] Pitchfork[21] and IGN[22] cited the classic rock-influenced style on Hello Master as being repetitive and stale, while others enjoyed it for that very reason.[23][24]

Comparisons to Black Sabbath were frequent, as were others to AC/DC and even Motörhead (even though Heppner has never been a fan of Motörhead, who ironically would take them on tour). Hour magazine specifically pointed-out that the comparisons to Priestess' spiritual ancestors actually proved the band were trying to pay respect to their musical roots instead of claiming a unique style.[25] Heppner was somewhat taken aback to learn of the impression critics were under; he noted that the album sounded "pretty modern" to him and the group did not consider the record to be a metal one at any point during its creation.

To promote the album, Priestess committed to a regular touring schedule which saw them frequently being selected to support more well-known acts. Motörhead took notice of Priestess and made them the opening act on several dates in Canada in 2005 before the release of Hello Master. To close out the year Priestess also hosted an album launch party on 16 December 2005 at Petit Campus in Montreal.[26]

RCA Records noticed the group and signed them in January 2006, becoming their label for all territories outside of Canada, remastering Hello Master and releasing it internationally, beginning with the United States on 13 June.[27] After the Canadian release, the group spent early 2006 supporting The Sword, Early Man and Dinosaur Jr. (Whom they heavily admired) in North America, having performed 110 shows by the time they would tour with GWAR that August.[28] The rest of the year would be spent touring with the likes of Nashville Pussy, Black Stone Cherry and Black Label Society. This aggressive touring schedule would continue into 2007 as the band traveled with Mastodon and Converge that Winter[29] followed by the band's first live performances in the United Kingdom, five of these shows as direct support for Megadeth.[30] Priestess would close out 2007 touring with Puny Human and Clutch.

The single "Lay Down" was included in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, which elevated the band's profile drastically.[31] Enthusiastic about the success of that game, Heppner has stated he believes Guitar Hero and such games to be perfectly valid ways of finding new music, noting that his first exposure to Black Sabbath was through the Super NES video game Rock n' Roll Racing, and Vince Nudo has given the genre credit for its potential to expose younger generations to classic rock.[32] Another single from the album, "Talk to Her", peaked at #33 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 2006.[33] Priestess were voted Montreal's heaviest band by readers of the Montreal Mirror in 2006.[34]

Prior To The Fire and Hiatus (2008 - 2012)Edit

While signing with RCA seemed to have promise Priestess' second album, however, was constantly impeded before, during, and after recording. All throughout, RCA debated with the band over whether any of the songs were worthy of being singles that could sell the album substantially. RCA first delayed the beginning of the recording process trying to force them to write more songs,[35] then delayed the album release by asking the same thing again, which the group refused.[36][37] The production process itself was plagued with problems that prolonged it, as any producer hired before David Schiffman quit the project and after recording had begun in Los Angeles, the police forced them to change studios to avoid noise violation penalties.[38][39][40][41]

Because of the disagreements, Priestess were relinquished from their contract with RCA and allowed to release the finished product on another label.[42] Tee Pee Records, who had approached the band in their early days[43] before they decided to sign with RCA who offered them more money,[44] subsequently signed the group and the release finally occurred.[45] The band also released a video for "Lady Killer" on 4 February 2010.[46]

Indica Records waited until the band had an international label before releasing Prior to the Fire, and released it in Canada on 20 October 2009[47] while the international release occurred early the following year. David Schiffman's more-relaxed approach to recording led to a sound for the record the band were more satisfied with; his production style was summarized as "[being] about recording it and not fucking with it", avoiding such studio tools as click tracks or editing, resulting in a record that more closely mirrors the band's live sound than Hello Master does. They have also expressed feeling more comfortable being signed to Tee Pee than to RCA.[48] Prior to the Fire was meant to be somewhat more complex on purpose without being too different from Hello Master, drew from more progressive rock influences, with more complex music and more obscure lyrical themes. The stylistic shift was attributed to the band's desire to create something more challenging for themselves.

Prior To The Fire would see some criticism from the likes of Pitchfork[49] and Punk Rock Theory[50] but receive critical acclaim from several reviewers such as Rock Sound,[51] SPIN,[52] Exclaim!,[53] Sputnik Music,[54] Metal Reviews[55] and The Skinny[56] among others.

In spite of delaying concert plans to compose Prior To The Fire, Priestess would hit the road extensively once the album was finished, starting with a Canadian tour alongside Bison B.C., Barn Burner and Flash Lightnin'.[57] This would follow with touring alongside GWAR and Cattle Decapitation in the Spring of 2009. Once Prior to The Fire was released the band would to a three-day tour of New York with included Tee Pee Records showcases, following tours of Canada and North America alongside Quest For Fire, Trigger Effect and Early Man.[58] 2010 would see the band's first full European tour alongside Bigelf followed by an appearance at SXSW. Extensive Spring touring with High on Fire would follow, closing the year out with labelmates Naam touring North America. Some dates are listed for 2011 on but cannot be confirmed.[59] The band's final known live performance took place on 30 September 2011 at Katacombes in Montreal.[60]

Priestess had planned to embark on a tour of Europe in the spring of 2012, including a marquee appearance at Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands. On 30 January 2012 it would be announced that this tour was canceled[61] Priestess would explain that the cancellation was due to "personal reasons" and "we'll talk soon, hang in there!" on their Facebook in response to the cancellation.[62] Around the time of the announcement Priestess had been working on a third album to which it would have been out around the time but no music had been released or announced.[63]

On 3 September 2012, after a long period of silence (which he attributed to issues for all the band members he was not at liberty to discuss), Heppner posted to the band's Facebook page via his own account to explain that the band lacked confidence in the material being recorded for their third album, and elected to simply “let it happen naturally”.[64] From the Fall of 2012 onward Priestess have been on hiatus.

All four members would embark on different projects in Priestess' departure. Heppner would form a garage rock band in UBT (formerly Uncle Bad Touch) and later contribute as a guest to the band Mountain Dust. An article via Planet S Magazine interviewing UBT would note the "rumored demise" of Priestess.[65] Dan Wachorn and Vince Nudo would form a film score group known as "Freres Lumieres" while Nudo also became the drummer for Kurt Vile's backing band The Violators.[66] Michael Dyball would move on to the heavy metal project WetMetal from 2012 to the latter half of the 2010s.


Studio AlbumsEdit

  • Hello Master (2005, Indica Records; 2006, Tee Pee Records)
  • Prior To The Fire (2009, Indica Records; Tee Pee Records)

Other ReleasesEdit

  • Priestess Sampler (Sampler) (2005, Indica Records)
  • Talk To Her (Single) (2006, RCA)
  • I Am The Night, Colour Me Black / Living Like A Dog (Single) (2006, Lime Records)
  • Canadian/European Tour 2007 Promo Sampler (Sampler) (2007, Chrysalis Music Group)


  • Dan Watchorn - Guitar, Vocals (2003 - 2012)
  • Mike Heppner - Guitar, Vocals (2003 - 2012)
  • Vince Nudo - Drums, Vocals (2003 - 2012)
  • Mike Dyball - Bass (2003 - 2012)

List of Known ToursEdit

  • 2005 Canadian Tour (With Motörhead) (2005)
  • Age of Winters North American Tour (With The Sword, Early Man) (2006)[67]
  • 2006 Spring North American Tour (With Dinosaur Jr.) (2006)[68]
  • 2006 August North American Tour (With GWAR, 2cents, Suicide City) (2006)[69]
  • 2006 September/October North American Tour (With Nashville Pussy) (2006)[70]
  • 2006 Fall North American Tour (With Black Label Society, Black Stone Cherry) (2006)[71]
  • 2007 North American Tour (With Converge, Mastodon) (2007)[72]
  • March 2007 European Tour (With Mastodon) (2007)
  • March 2007 North American Tour (With Mouth of The Architect, Mastodon) (2007)[73][74]
  • United Abominations UK Tour (With Megadeth) (2007)[75]
  • 2007 December Tour (With Clutch, Puny Human) (2007)
  • 2008 Canadian Tour (With Bison B.C., Barn Burner, Flash Lightnin) (2008)[76]
  • Fights of Spring (With GWAR, Cattle Decapitation) (2009)[77][78]
  • Prior to The Fire New York Tour (2009)[79]
  • 2009 November Canada Tour (With Quest For Fire) (2009)
  • Priestess Canadian Tour (With Trigger Effect, Early Man) (2009)[80][81]
  • 2009 December North American Tour (With Early Man) (2009)[82]
  • 2010 European Tour (With Bigelf) (2010)[83][84]
  • 2010 SXSW Tour (2010)
  • Snakes For The Divine North American Tour (Spring) (With High on Fire, Bison B.C., Black Cobra) (2010)[85][86]
  • Snake For The Divine North American Tour (Canada)' (With High on Fire, Skeletonwitch) (2010)[87]
  • November 2010 North American Tour (With Naam) (2010)[88][89]
  • 2012 European Tour (Canceled) (2012)[90]

External LinksEdit


  1. Montreal Gazette
  2. Spinner
  3. Jam Canoe
  4. Courant
  5. AllMusic
  6. Music-News
  7. Nightlife
  8. Crusher Magazine via Wayback Machine
  9. City Beat
  10. Shockhound via Wayback Machine
  11. The Fanzine
  12. Montreal Gazette via Wayback Machine
  13. Crusher Magazine via Wayback Machine
  14. Spinner
  15. Jam.Canoe
  16. Hour.Ca
  17. Spinner
  18. Shockhound
  19. Hour
  20. Ultimate Guitar
  21. Pitchfork
  22. IGN
  23. AllMusic
  24. Bullz Eye
  25. Hour
  27. Chart Attack
  28. Blabbermouth
  29. IGN
  30. Music-News
  31. City Beat
  32. Midnight Poutine
  33. Billboard
  34. CBC Music
  35. Chart Attack
  36. City Beat
  37. Lords of Metal E-Zine
  38. Way Too Loud
  39. Canoe Jam
  41. Noise Creep
  42. Noisecreep
  43. Way Too Loud
  44. AUX
  45. The PRP
  46. SMN News
  47. The Coast
  49. Pitchfork
  50. Punk Rock Theory
  51. Rock Sound
  52. SPIN
  53. Exclaim!
  54. Sputnik Music
  55. Metal Reviews
  56. The Skinny
  57. Lambgoat
  58. The PRP
  61. Lambgoat
  62. Priestess Facebook
  63. Montreal Gazette
  64. Priestess Facebook
  65. Planet S Magazine
  66. Sentinel and Enterprise
  67. Blabbermouth
  68. Chart Attack via Wayback Machine
  69. Blabbermouth
  70. Blabbermouth
  71. Blabbermouth
  72. Lambgoat
  74. Lambgoat
  78. Lambgoat
  79. The PRP
  81. Metal Underground
  82. The PRP
  84. The PRP
  86. The PRP
  87. Bravewords
  89. Lambgoat
  90. Lambgoat
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