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Webzine dedicated to the metal band fronted by girls. We also like ambient,darkwave,rock & electronic music.
Interview by Matteo Bussotti
It is always a pleasure when an important name in the music industry comes back to the scenes after years of retirement. It’s Morgana Delaude’s case: Morgana’s singer is back with a new fresh, powerful album (and another one arriving “Mayan prophecy allowing” she said). It was my honour to interview her and listen from her what she thinks about music nowadays, from a detached point of view of someone who’s seen lots of things in this ambient.
First of all, Morgana, introduce yourself to our (and your) fans, would you?
45, female, Caucasian…oh no, it looks more like my autopsy.. I start singing I was only 16 in a metal band called Damnath. After its split I joined the thrash band Jester Beast. I went out from this to experience a darkest project I called Hurtful Witch. We recorded a demo called “Spectra”. In 1988 I formed Morgana.
Tell us, how did Morgana form? What’s your story?
Morgana was born as band but, very soon it turned into a solo project. In 1988 my first EP called simply “Morgana”. The line up changed so many times I can barely remember all my band mates. In 1991 I recorded my last full length in Germany and I simply decided to shut down with music. I was really disappointed and tired to fight against labels and managers and so on.
Yours is a very peculiar album, it merges different musical genres, from rock to metal, to, I think, soul. At least, for me your voice is very near to the Soul or Blues genre, especially in some tracks. Where does this uniqueness come from? What’s the creative process behind this “fusion”?
I come from Blues and Hard Rock. My fav singers were Janis Joplin, Bette Middler, Gillan, Plant and so on. I start to sing under their influence and they really touched my heart.
The first and last track, “Alive” and “…And kickin’” looks like a quote from the famous band Mr.Big to me. In addition, we find a very unusual cover (very well made, I have to say) for a hard-rock/metal band like yours: “Bang Bang” by Sonny Bono. Why the choice of putting all this “tributes” to different bands? They’re just “quotes” or do they have a special meaning for you, or for your band in general?
Honestly I don’t know the Mr. Big song you’re talking about…sorry… About “Bang Bang”, it’s a song that belongs to my childhood. It was written in 1969 and it brings me back so many memories… my parents use to play the Italian version on this song on their record player! I simply love it.
Is there a special meaning behind the album’s title: “Rose of Jericho”?
The rose of Jericho is a shrub from desert origin and it’s called “the resurrection tree” because it can live up to 25/30 years apparently dead. A sole drop of water brings it back to life. This shrub it’s me. After 20 years of silence I am here again with a new album.
Your musical genre is not very famous among the young people. In fact, we can say it’s definitely not “mainstream”. Also the young musicians decide too often to take the “commercial” path, the easy one, instead of a more personal, complex one. What do you think? How can we change this trend? What’s the reason behind this “victory” of the easy listening music against a more powerful (also emotionally) one?
Ideas impoverishment? Money? Anything runs fast, anything must be simply ready to be swallowed up in a moment. New generations seem to live trapped in a virtual life, unable to feel what’s real and what’s fugitive. There’s no place for real emotions because it takes too much energy maybe…
Also, nowadays, too many singers or band decide to put the stress on their “extravaganza” (like, speaking only about clothing, Lady Gaga), without a solid technical background. Is there really such a lack of technical effort and practice nowadays? Does music look so “simple” to boys and girls? According to your personal experience, what do you think?
We do live in an historical moment where there’s a chronic lack of contents. That’s a fact! Take a look to TV talent shows. It seems to be a chance for any looser, for any ungifted nerdy. All these false chances bring money…any boy and girl identify themselves in this people..they say “I can do it”… it sells pretty good…
What is the future of music, in your opinion? Will there still be physical supports (CDs), or will it be completely digital, and totally integrated with internet, maybe social network-based?
Heaven knows…Digital I suppose but, I’m pretty sure that the socials will play an important role in the business. Now a days socials are the best place to promote any kind of artistic project.
Talking about social networks, how do you approach to your fans?
Every day I receive tons of friendship asks on my personal profile. People search for Roberta Delaude and not Morgana. People read my posts and watch my personal pics and after this go to our fan page. We all “sell” little pieces of our life to promote our music. It sounds cynic but that’s the way it works around here…
What was the best moment in your career, and what you hope to get to, or where? Believe it or not but, my best moments were after live shows. People come to congratulate and they want you to autograph your last album or shot a picture with you. It gives me the strength to carry on such difficult world no pro music biz is. I don’t have hopes. I did my time, I had beautiful moments and I had tears of joy and tears of pain and disillusion. I just want to taste a little more of it for a little more time. In your opinion, what is that distinguish the italian musical scene from the others in the world? Don’t ask me..there’s a total lack of place to perform, no financial incentive for musicians, no music culture at school. It’s a hard place to be a rockstar! We are millions miles away from other European countries that support artists and their ideas. Any project as a band for the future? We are working on a new album out in 2013 Mayan prophecy allowing… Thank you for your answers! Thanx to you all! Links Latest Multimedia
What was the best moment in your career, and what you hope to get to, or where?
Believe it or not but, my best moments were after live shows. People come to congratulate and they want you to autograph your last album or shot a picture with you. It gives me the strength to carry on such difficult world no pro music biz is. I don’t have hopes. I did my time, I had beautiful moments and I had tears of joy and tears of pain and disillusion. I just want to taste a little more of it for a little more time.
In your opinion, what is that distinguish the italian musical scene from the others in the world?
Don’t ask me..there’s a total lack of place to perform, no financial incentive for musicians, no music culture at school. It’s a hard place to be a rockstar! We are millions miles away from other European countries that support artists and their ideas.
Any project as a band for the future?
We are working on a new album out in 2013 Mayan prophecy allowing…
Thank you for your answers!
Thanx to you all!
Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
An interview with Mark Jansen from Epica. The band Epica does not really need an introduction. 2009 was a busy year for the band. Epica did a festival tour this summer and released a live album,“The Classical Conspiracy - Live in Miskolc, Hungary”. Even better is the news that Epica will also release a new studio album in October. This interview is with Mark Jansen, the mastermind behind Epica.
Did you always wanted to become a guitar player and singer?
No, I wanted to become a cyclist and I also have a master degree in psychology but none of these made it to a profession. When I was 15 years old I went to a show of the Dutch death metal band Gorefest and from that moment on I knew I wanted to be on the stage as well. By then I didn’t have the intention to become a singer. I started playing guitar and that was fun enough but when the male singer of my previous band After Forever left I started singing as well.
And did you have any other bands before After Forever?
No, After Forever was my very first band and Epica my 2nd. I never played in any other band.
How do you see yourself, as a guitar player that can do some grunts or as a singer who also can play the guitar?
As a guitar player that does some grunts as well. But above all I see myself as a composer who plays the guitar (… and do some grunts as well haha).
And did you follow any singing/grunt lessons?
No, it was more or less trial and error, grunts should not hurt your throat but everybody who tries to grunt for the first time won’t feel comfortable doing it, you just need to find the right way and there you go ;-)
What kind of guitars and amplifiers do you use?
We just signed an artist deal with V-empire guitar amps, it’s a Polish company and they make damn good amps. We were using Mesa Boogies before and they were good as well but when you have the possibility to sign a deal and get all these great amps for free you just have to grasp that chance with both hands :)
To what kind of music do you listen yourself and what are your favorite bands?
I often listen to bands which I liked when I was a teenager: Dream Theater, Megadeth, Guns N’ Roses etc, it brings back nice memories. A band that I discovered 5 years ago and listen to a lot is Opeth. Besides that I also like to listen to film scores and classical music.
Is it difficult to combine Epica with your personal life?
It’s a challenge and I need challenges in my life. My girlfriend lives in the US, so you can imagine it’s not easy to combine, but nothing is impossible. At the moment we are 1 year and 8 months together and we see each other quite a lot in spite of the distance. Besides making music, we also manage the band ourselves, we don’t want to throw money in the pocket of a lousy manager. The disadvantage is that there’s a lot of extra work. But I still manage to have some free time and during this free time I like to enjoy the beauty of nature, sport and watch football ;-)
What are your favorite Epica songs?
It’s hard to choose as I like many of them. But if I’m forced to make a selection with a shotgun pointed on my forehead I would say: “Cry for the Moon” (“The Phantom Agony” - 2003); “Consign to Oblivion” (“Consign to Oblivion” - 2005); “Fools of Damnation” (“The Divine Conspiracy” - 2007); “Kingdom of Heaven” (“Design Your Universe” - 2009)
I think that the trouble with Transmission Records was without doubt a negative experience for Epica. But what are the highlights so far?
There are many highlights, to name a few: - Lowlands and Pinkpop, playing these great festivals in the Netherlands were highlights; Wacken Open Air (2009) Germany, for me a dream come true to finally play the biggest metal festival of Europe; - “The Classical Conspiracy” and the show itself with orchestra and choir, the biggest highlight so far; Signing with Nuclear Blast, the record company I always wanted to be on since I started playing guitar; Being the first metal band from abroad to play in Tunisia, people were crying of joy, I will never forget that.
And do you have any updates about the Transmission Records situation?
Yes, the label owner signed a deal with Nuclear Blast to re-release the old albums and the previously unreleased “Live in Paradiso DVD”.
Epica has two new band members now, both from God Dethroned. The God Dethroned music is very different from the style Epica has. Will the new blood in the band have much influence on the new songs? This is because I’ve noticed at live gigs (like Wâldrock) Epica has far more energy on stage.
You’re right, since these two guys joined us we are a way more energetic band, not only music wise but also the stage performance has become more energetic. The guys have also an influence on the songs as everybody in the band influences the songs so some differences are due to them. But I like it this way, new blood means also the chance to integrate new elements (like solo’s) and we did :)
Where do you get the inspiration for the music and lyrics?
Inspiration is a fantastic thing, you don’t know where it comes from and what causes it, it’s a mystery ;-)
What is the idea behind the name of the album?
“Design Your Universe” basically refers to the capacity to take control over your own life and create your universe. Many people don’t live their dreams as they think it’s unrealistic and out of reach. I am one of the many prooves that you can succeed, don’t fear the unknown and take risks :)
And can you tell us something about the songs on “Design Your Universe”?
We went quite deep into the details this time. We want to make improvements on every album and as “The Divine Conspiracy” got great critics by press and fans we had to come up with something better this time and that’s quite a job! haha. So we worked our asses off to try to make an even better album. My favorite song is “Kingdom of Heaven” a very long song but we managed to keep it interesting, long songs can easily get boring but I think we finally found the perfect ingredients for the longest song of Epica ‘till now.
Three songs on “Design Your Universe” are a part of the “A New Age Dawns” saga. This saga has now six chapters. What is the relation between the “Design” chapters and the “Oblivion” chapters?
The relation is that we need to make a change, we lost contact with nature, each other and the earth. We need to get rid to some of our addictions which will destroy us in the end. Like our addiction to earn more money than our neighbour, money is the “antichrist” of our civilization..
You have also recorded a song with Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica. How was it to work together with him?
Great, we toured with Sonata in Europe and asked him one of these days if he would be interested to record a song with us. Fortunately he was and with his very unique voice he lifts the “White Waters” song to a next level.
There are plans to record DVD at the Metal Female Voices Fest in October. What can we expect?
We will record DVD material, so whatever turns out great will reach a future DVD but if we’re not satisfied nothing will happen. The facts are that we are gonna do a big show there, probably the biggest we have ever done. So probably you’ll find at least some of this footage on a future DVD together with other concerts. MFVF made advertisements with the message that we will record a DVD there but we don’t want to disappoint our fans as long as we’re not sure.
Besides the upcoming tour, what else can we expect from Epica in the future?
We don’t look to much ahead of us, so I don’t know but until the summer of 2010 the whole schedule is fixed already so for like 1 year we know already what to do haha.
And the last question, is there anything the reader should know that I have not asked?
Erwin, you covered it all :) Thanks a lot!
Review Gig & Photo by Tony Cannella
You have to give it up for Doro and her band. It doesn’t matter the size of the venue or the size of the audience, one thing you can always be certain of is that the band will give a maximum effort always. You know that if you buy a ticket for a Doro show, you are going to come away having experienced a great performance. Whether it be in front of 80,000 metal maniacs at Wacken or a club size crowd like tonight’s performance at the Webster Theater Underground in Hartford, Connecticut, you won’t be disappointed - and I can safely assume that on this night, no one was. Support came from two very impressive bands. The first of which was the newly signed to Metal Blade Records Ravage from Boston, Massachutess. They performed songs from their impressive debut CD “The End of Tomorrow”. Their style is traditional power metal with thrash elements and it was quite energetic - they even played a cover of the Judas Priest tune “Nightcrawler” that really went down well. They were followed by the all female band Jaded also from Boston. Both bands did such a great job in getting the audience amped up for Doro - I definitely wouldn’t mind checking out either band again some time in the future. Good stuff! After a brief intermission, it was indeed time for the metal queen to take the stage. After a short intro, the band absolutely attacked the stage with opener “I Rule the Ruins”. This is a song that band use quite often to open their shows and it is easy to see why. It is just a great adrenaline fueled number that always manages to set the right atmosphere. The band followed that up with an energetic version of the classic Warlock track “Burning the Witches” which of course went down awesome with the fans in attendance singing word-for-word. “You’re My Family” from the underrated “Warrior Soul” was next and this song has the potential to be a fan favorite for a long, long time to come and a staple of her live sets, judging by the overwhelming reaction of the audience. From there the classics kept coming in the form of “True as Steel” and “Fight for Rock” with “Night of the Warlock” from the great new release “Fear No Evil” sand-witched in between.
“Celebrate” - another new one - really got the audience going and this is another one that has the potential to be a crowd favorite. The set list featured a pretty good cross section of material from Doro’s career, like “Unholy Love” and the guitar driven classic “Metal Racer”. Other songs that were played, “We Are the Metalheads” (the official Wacken theme), “Breaking the Law” before the classic “All We Are” closed the main set and is always a highlight for any Doro performance. The band returned to the stage for the encores “Earthshaker Rock” and “Hellbound”, before bidding us good night for the final time. Long time members Nick Douglas (bass) and Johnny Dee (drums) are always reliable - they always give solid, energetic performances and are a perfect compliment to Doro’s powerful vocals. For this tour, the band is completed by two new members: Harrison Young (keyboards) and ex-After Forever guitarist Bas Maas, both proved to be great additions to the line-up. After having seen the band perform live many times, I am always amazed at the sheer ferocity the band exhibits, at each performance. They really do own the stage and it doesn’t matter - big crowd or small crowd - the audience is always going to be entertained. At this point Doro and band are such a potent live machine that I would put them up against just about any other band or artist. That’s a debate for another time, but one thing is for certain - on this night, Doro rocked the hell out of Hartford.
Interview by Tony Cannella
I have interviewed Doro Pesch countless times and she always remains one of the nicest and coolest people to talk to. Her passion and enthusiasm is apparent and what is also obvious is her genuine love for her fans. As she gets ready for another North American jaunt that begins on March 20th in Philadelphia, PA, she was kind enough to take a few moments to discuss her tour and other things.
Hi Doro! The tour begins this week (March 20th). What can fans expect when they come out to see you?
We are going into rehearsal tomorrow and I want to of course get all of the classics in like, “All We Are” and “True as Steel” and play a couple of songs off records that we very much like - all the highlights off each record. I will always play according to the fans, I want every show to be different and I want to feel it out like whatever the fans want to hear. If they want to hear more heavy stuff than I’ll play more of the heavy stuff, if they want to hear more anthems than we will put in more anthems, if they want to hear more headbanging, double bass stuff than we will do this. In the encore, they can call out songs they would like to hear and we will try to prepare everything and make it interactive. We want to do a killer, high energy show. I just got to New York on Thursday and yesterday I went to the Iron Maiden show at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and I talked to so many fans there and they are all coming to the shows in the New York area. Touring America is always super, super special and I want to make it special in every way.
So the set list is always going to be changing then?
Yes, every day it will be slightly changing, according to the vibe, to the people and to always keep it fresh. Sometimes some people travel to many different shows and the fans always have something to get excited about and to look forward to. It is not exactly the same every day and it will definitely be a good mix from the Warlock songs and the Doro songs. It will definitely be very special.
Have you ever thought about adding some of the songs from albums that were never released in America?
Yeah, actually we are going to put in a couple of songs and one of the favorite songs from the fans seems to be “Love Me in Black”. They call it out usually in the encores and I was so amazed because the “Love Me in Black” album never came out in the states. I’m so glad that the die hard fans are very familiar with even the songs that didn’t come out in America.
You came out with the EP “All We Are - The Fight”. Tell us a little about that.
It was for a very good friend of mine Regina Halmich. She is the 12 year women’s boxing champion. She had a special fight, it was against a guy and she asked me if I would play a classic like “All We Are” and I said OK. We played a little bit different version, we played it live and it was broadcast on TV - in front of like 10 million viewers. After it was broadcast, so many people called the radio stations and the record company called the fan club and said, “Wow, we love it and can we get it?” and some people didn’t even know the song, some people were not metal fans and they loved it. The record company said “OK, let’s release it”, I put in some songs which people who know “All We Are” would be happy to hear some other material on it. There are like five videos on it and four other songs. So I thought it is good to have another single out or an EP.
When you played the song live on TV, you had some special guest musicians with you. Who were they?
It was Schmier from Destruction the bass player and Bas Maas from After Forever was the guitar player. It was just because it was very short notice and Regina called me a couple of days before. At first the plan was that I would sing it alone and then I thought that I would like to invite some friends of mine if I can’t have the band over. Schmier is a very good guy and I just did something for his album (“Inventor of Evil”), “The Alliance of Hellhoundz”. So I called Schmier up and he said he would love to do it. It was such short notice, otherwise the band would have been there.
You also performed a duet (“Who I Am”) with Floor Jansen on the last After Forever album. How did that come about?
I met Bas from After Forever many years ago on a promotion tour in Belgium. We also did a South American tour together in Brazil and in Mexico we played together. It was really, really great and we all got along. I love Floor. I think she’s a fantastic singer and I always wanted to do something with another female singer. They called me up and said they have a great song and I listened to it, I loved it and then we did it. I think it came out really good. I was very pleased when I heard it.
Is it flattering to be asked to be on other artists albums?
It’s always a big honor when other people ask. Yeah, I love to do it, It’s always extra special. Every time I have done collaborations I was really happy to do it and It always came out really good. It’s very nice when people ask.
I wanted to ask you about the “20 Years a Warrior Soul” DVD. It’s one of the best music DVD’s I have seen in quite awhile. Tell us a little about that.
We took so long (to put it out) because the concert now is a few years ago but we had to clear all the rights. We wanted to not only put out the concert but we wanted to make a little tour movie as well, so we just put on the best stuff from the “Warrior Soul” tour. There is stuff on there from all over the world, from Russia, Germany, Spain, so we thought then let’s do a double DVD. I always like to put as much on it that I think the fans will find interesting.
The packaging was great as well.
I love good packaging with great artwork.
I think the fans can see that too. They really appreciate the fact that you always take care of them.
Yeah Tony, as you know, I only do it for the fans. Every single day the fans are in the back of my mind and I hope I can make them happy. I get inspiration from the fans. They’re the most important thing in the world to me. I always think that I have to do extra, extra good and put as much good stuff on the DVD or CD. Sometimes it’s hard, because with the record companies the more you put on the more expensive the production gets.
You are going to do a 25th anniversary show in Germany in December. Tell us about that.
I’m getting really excited for it. We want to do a couple of shows all over the world, but the first one will be in Germany in my hometown Dusseldorf. I want to invite some great bands, many, many special guests. We are just talking to some bands, nobody is confirmed yet except Leaves’ Eyes. We have a great big metal market where people can go and check out new stuff. We want to do a great stage show with many, many surprises.
Will there be another Warlock reunion at the 25th anniversary show?
We are in the middle of talking about it. It’s a possibility.
Are you working on new music?
Yes, I’m working on the new record. The song writing is going really well and I have tons of ideas. I got so inspired by all the touring experiences. After the American tour I want to go back to songwriting and then go back to the studio and record it. Probably put out the first single or EP later this year, before the 25th anniversary concert and then the new record maybe in December or January. It depends. I don’t want to put the pressure on me that I have to have it done for the 25th anniversary, but I definitely want to have an EP out where I can present some new songs. I have some collaborations in the making, which I think the fans will really be excited about.
Do you plan on filming the 25th anniversary show for another DVD?
Yes, we are planning for that. Definitely.
You are playing the Magic Circle festiva. Is it the festival organized by Manowar?
Yes, that’s it and that will be the only festival in Germany that we play, because I don’t want to overplay I just want to wait for the 25th anniversary. We will do a couple of festivals I think in Spain and Portugal, but I want to keep all of the excitement and energy pretty much for the 25th anniversary, so we will play just a couple of festivals this summer. I think we will play in America again on the 13th of September in Albuquerque.
Do you think that the European only releases of the early to mid-90’s will ever be released in America?
It’s so hard, because all of the record company people they change. I don’t know, we’ve tried like a couple of times but it’s not easy. At the moment, there are no plans, but I would love that.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you would like to add or say to the fans?
I can’t wait for this American tour to start. The last one, it was so fabulous. It was unbelievable, all the experiences and all of the fans I met. I hope they will come out again, I hope they will bring out their friends, so we can have good, packed places and I want to thank them for their endless love and support. I would do anything for the fans and I always try my best and my hardest. I wish that everybody stays happy and healthy and that we can rock together for a long, long time.
Photos by Tony Cannella. Taken from the site dororocks.net
Interview by Roberta Ilaria Rossi
Many are her collaborations in the metal scene, such is her reputation in Europe. After having released an album for her new project, Trillium, the peppery Amanda Somerville is back to town. We had the pleasure to chat with the blonde American singer, who told us many things about her latest work. Here is what she has revealed to us!
Hi Amanda and welcome to Femme Metal.net. Recently, you’ve released the album “Alloy” for your last metal project, Trillium. In my honest opinion, it is a very good album. Would you like to share with us something more about this project, for those who haven’t listened to the album and/or to be updated about your last work(s)?
Thank you very much; I’m happy and honored that you like it! I tend to call the music on Trillium singer/songwriter metal” because most of my songs started out as piano/vocal demos from me and have a lot of emotion and heart in them, in addition to the hard edge and heavy guitar riffing that’s so typical of metal. Also, since I’ve traditionally been a singer/songwriter and have worked in the metal scene for so long, it was bound to happen. I think there are several subgenres of metal represented here, as well as rock. Elements of melodic, gothic, doom… I like diversity! Still and all, this is the single most straight-forward album I’ve ever released, stylistically speaking. Being that I’m as much a writer as I am a musician, the lyrics are of utmost importance to me as well as the music that goes along with them. My songs are always very emotional because I don’t believe in writing or performing anything you don’t totally believe in or can’t make people feel along with you. On the most basic level, they’re all about human struggles and relationships; something we can all relate to, but many of the songs have a very violent streak in them. All of my songs are personal-based, whether it was something I went through or a dream that I had or someone/something that inspired me. My songs are little windows into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville. :-)
Which is the concept behind the creation of this band?
It’s debatable whether to call this a project or a band. For me, it’s simply a new facet in my work as a musician. I wanted to keep it separate from what I release under my name for the simple fact that I’d like to keep it as “pure” as I can, genre-wise. For years now, I’ve been asked by fans who know me from my work in the metal scene when I would either form my own metal band or release a metal album. The idea had to grow on me because I simply wasn’t ready for it until just the past couple of years and I don’t do anything I don’t believe in 100% and can give 110%!
Was the Trillium project born randomly or was something already created in your mind since a long time ago?
I think I kind of summed up that answer in #2, however the true turning point in the desire to make my own metal album came when I was working on HDK with Sander Gommans in 2007. I loved writing and performing metal music (which only continued to grow after I went on tour with Epica in 2008 to fill in for Simone Simons when she was ill and then with Avantasia) and had planned to make my next solo album more uniformly in that direction. But after some careful consideration, I decided to make it a project to keep it totally separate from my solo music so that I can still put a jazz ballad or Jamaican drinking song on my next solo album and not have to explain or apologize to anyone. ;-) It’s still 100% me and those who know me as a solo artist are used to me being rather musically schizophrenic, but since I’m relatively new in the metal scene, I wanted to keep it more clear-cut. The ideas kept coming together and about a year and a half ago, I had everything lined up the way I wanted it to be and Trillium as it exists today was born.
Listening to the album, I’ve been surprised about the second “half” of this record and I’ve noticed that there’s a great cooperation with an artist I really admire: Jorn Lande! I know that there’s a good friendship and a professional relationship with him, moreover he also took part in the Avantasia project. How was the cooperation with him born? What did make you choose him for the track “Scream It”?
Since working with him on Avantasia and touring with him, he’s become a very good friend and won my utmost respect as a musician and vocalist. The man is an incredible talent and I adore his voice! He’s also a wonderful person and can play a role perfectly. I had him in mind when I wrote the antagonistic role in “Scream It” because his voice and character fit so well and I was fortunate enough to have him gladly take part. He did an incredible job and it was exactly what I had in mind!
How did you choose your music partners? I know that there’s a strong feeling between you and Sasha Paeth (since early days with “Virgo”) since so many years now…
I’ve been working with Sascha so long now and we know each other so well, both professionally and personally, that our work flow is always very smooth. Sascha’s the “Big Boss” and so we all (everyone involved with the Gate Studio) owe everything to him. He’s absolutely brilliant and one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever known and I love, appreciate and respect him dearly. Miro and I have a similar taste musically and being that we’re both keyboardists, he catches on very easily to whatever I deliver to him demo-wise. I can give him a very rudimentary piano-vocal demo and it seems like he reads my mind in terms of what I’m imagining arrangement-wise. Robert Hunecke and Olaf Reitmeier I met in 2001 and we’ve done lots of things together, both in the studio and playing live. Those guys can play anything!! Simon Oberender came into our team around 2004, I believe, and he was an amazing asset to our team. Mat Sinner and I got in touch through Kiske-Somerville and we’ve also toured together with an outfit called “Rock Meets Classic”. He’s a powerhouse, a good guy and a big talent and has come to be another close friend of mine in the scene. Sander Gommans and I have worked together for nearly 9 years and we complement each other quite well as songwriters, even though we’re so completely different in the way we approach songwriting. I guess opposites attract and this particular constellation works out beautifully in our cooperation with one another! Sascha and Sander add a totally new aspect to my songs very much of the time for the simple fact that they’re guitar players and take a different approach to song structure and instrumentation than I typically do. It’s a great balance!
I’ve noticed that, inside your crew, there’s also Sander Gommans, ex After Forever former guitar player. How are the working relationship with him that, however, has been a good member for a band that made history in the Dutch metal music?
Yep, he’s pretty great. I call him my Riff King and anyone who knows After Forever, HDK or Kiske-Somerville can hear what an incredibly talented songwriter/musician he is. But I rambled on about that in the previous answer!
Is there a song taken from “Alloy” to which you feel more connected to? If so, why?
I’m really bad with “favorite” questions because my songs are like my children and it just doesn’t seem fair to call one out over the others. That being said, it’s also difficult for me because each is special in its unique way and I’m constantly changing my moods. So one day, I’ll be like, “Man, “Coward” is seriously such a great song!! I think that might be my favorite yet,” because it’s so decadent and the line, “Justice comes to dance upon the graves of cowards” so aptly sums up my belief in karma. Then the next day, it’ll be “Justifiable Casualty” because it’s so emotional and makes me cry every time I hear it, especially the line, “She said there’s no one who can declare a war on warfare.” I don’t know why - it gets me every time!!! Then another day it’ll be “Scream It” because Jorn really nailed the metal “Romeo & Juliet” tragic love story vibe I was going for and it turned out so perfectly. Then the next day, it’ll be “Machine Gun” for its powerful imagery and empowering anger it encompasses Then the next day… do you see a pattern here? ;-) Anyway, I love and treasure each song in a different way for a different reason because each one also has its own unique story and personal connection for me.
How the recordings have been so far? How long did they last? How long it took to write the lyrics and music?
Some songs I wrote already a couple of years ago, some I started working on just before we started on the production. All in all we were demo-ing, recording, mixing & mastering from March until August 2011.
On a technical level, “Alloy” is an album based on a deliberately obscure and chilly production, ingredient that combined with the songwriting process could already predict a masterpiece itself, sounding pop/rock, which also shows a great elegance. If you were to describe the album just with three words, what adjectives would you use?
Emotional. Loaded. Dark.
You will start a tour with Trillium in the next months and you will visit so many cities in Europe next to another Dutch band, which was born in these last years: Delain. How did the choice to support this band for the very first Trillium tour happen?
Sander and I have been in touch with them for a while regarding various aspects. I think they’re a good fit to Trillium and it’s something new, so I’m really looking forward to the collaboration.
What are the expectations for this tour?
I’m not a person who believes in having expectations. I like having a blank slate and filling in the spaces as I go along. In my opinion, expectations can only get you into trouble. If you let yourself simply enjoy the experience as it comes along, it’s much more fulfilling and you’ll never be disappointed. :-) I’m just looking forward to the tour and am grateful that I have the opportunity to do what I love to do and share the experience with some great people. I hope for the best and that’s all.
What do you expect from this band?
Ah, yes. See my previous answer on the subject of expectations. :-)
Besides being an excellent mezzo-soprano and composer, you’re also a vocal coach. You’ve been the teacher of many singers (like, for example, Simone Simons from Epica), what have you learned from your pupils? What is it left of each of them inside you?
First of all, thank you very much for your kind words. I must correct the statement, however, that I’m a mezzo-soprano. Though my range is actually all the way from tenor to soprano, I feel most at home as an alto. :-) I’m not quite sure where this whole”mezzosoprano” description came from that someone placed on my Wikipedia page but I can assure you that’s not the case. And that being said, I’m a student of life. Each person I’ve worked with, each project I’ve been involved with has presented me with new challenges to change and grow, both as a person and as a musician. I think it’s important to always find new stimuli to keep you on your toes and strive to always be better. In the same turn, I also learn about how I would not like to be and things I definitely don’t want to do. It works both ways!
You’ve started singing from the early age. How your passion for music was born? How did it happen?
I grew up in a very musical family where music was a very basic and essential part of life. According to my mother, I was singing before I was talking. It was always a “learning-bydoing” process and I was fortunate to also have very good music mentors in both my family and at my elementary school, so I learned to read music and play piano at a rather young age. There was no sudden moment or conscious decision in my wanting to become a musician; that’s all I ever wanted to be and do. All throughout my life, I was giving concerts, performing in talent shows and competitions, even DJ-ing, hosting karaoke & singing in cover bands and jazz combos to earn money when I was in university. It’s just always been a part of my life!
Which are the artists or bands who have most influenced your artistic growth, your music and your Arts education?
I never did study music formally, nor was I classically-trained in singing. My grandmother taught me how to read music and gave me the basic foundation that I still use for composing today. As far as turning points go, the big milestones were: starting to work with Sascha and the Gate Studio team and releasing my first solo album in 2000; then writing “Aina” in 2002-2003; doing more and more work for and with metal bands; writing thrash metal in HDK with Sander Gommans; getting involved in Avantasia; releasing “Windows” and now working on Trillium. I’d say those are the big ones!
We could say that you have a great long path behind. You’ve worked with artists like Kamelot, Michael Kiske, Epica, Avantasia and so on. What these people have given to you on an artistic level and/or a personal level?
Every new album, each new project or band or artist I work with or write and record is a further step in my growth process as a musician and as a person. So each one has changed my life because it left a lasting influence on me that’s led me to who I am today.
How do you feel, at this point, in your career? Are you satisfied about the work done until now? Do you have some other expectations or some other project you would like to do in your artistic career?
I’m very satisfied. I get to do what I love to do, travel all over the world, meet and work with some wonderful and amazingly talented people and I can pay my bills from that. I don’t think anyone could ask for anything more fulfilling on a professional nor on a personal level. I would love nothing more than to just keep the ball rolling!
As I’ve said before, you are best known for having worked with so many bands, in particular one of these bands reflects your fame: Epica. How do you feel like working with this famous Dutch band?
I’ve been working with them since before they were even called Epica (back then, they were Sahara Dust and had Helena Michaelsen as their singer!). They’ve joked that I’m the not-so-secret 7th member of the band and it’s been great being involved.
In 2008, you’ve had to replace Simone Simons, who was facing a serious illness which has forced her to retire herself from the music scene for a while. How did you feel like replacing one of your most famous pupil? I remember that, in the same year, you both performed together in Italy (for the festival called Rock In Field) in a beautiful duet. What could you tell us about it?
It was certainly a logical choice for them to ask me to fill in for her since I’d co-written all of their songs, coached Simone, produced the vocals and sung on every song. For me to agree to it was because I didn’t want my friends to have to miss out on a huge opportunity because the tour was going to be a very important one for them. It wasn’t easy, however, because I had no idea what to expect from the fans, whether I’d get tomatoes thrown at me or what because it’s always a tricky thing to replace a lead singer and not everyone is interested in the details or background story. However, it all worked out great and the fans were very gracious. Our duet in Italy was simply natural since we were both playing at the same festival; Epica and Avantasia. We had a good time!
Having mentioned one of the most famous female fronted metal bands of Europe, what is your thought about bands with female singers? Are you in favour or against the bands that use a girl for their own music? Which is your thought in general? Haha!! Is this supposed to be a “new” concept, having a woman fronting a musical event? Being a “girl” myself, why on earth would I be opposed to it? :-) I think the term “femalefronted” is a rather laughable one, to be honest. You never hear the term “female-fronted pop” or “female-fronted jazz”, or “female-fronted R&B”, right? So what’s the big deal about it in metal? I think some guys need to get over themselves a little because chicks rock just as much as - and sometimes, quite frankly, even more than - dudes do. I loved the song and thought the musical portrayal was beautiful. I’m a bit of an actress and a lot of a romantic, so it was fun and fulfilling. I think Serenity is a very talented band and wish them tons of success. It was scary but extremely exciting. That was my first real, big project I did in the metal scene and I had no idea how I was going to do it, I just thought, “I’m going to accomplish this, come what may!”. And I did. I didn’t do everything by myself, just the concept, story and lyrics and I co-wrote a minimal amount of the music. That was my initiation into the Gate Studio team and I proved myself and was soon a steady member. I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads. If I have an idea that’s just not moving further, I set it aside and wait for it to “speak” with me again. Some songs have taken months or even years to finish for that reason; they just need their time. And sometimes, a deadline can be a miraculous motivator. ;-) As far as songwriting goes, I don’t really have a “normal process”. Sometimes a song will begin as a chorus or a verse, or just a melody, or some chords. Sometimes it’s just lyrics and the body of the musical composition comes later. And sometimes a song will come to me from start to finish in its entirety; chords, vocal lines, lyrics and all! So every time, it’s different. Being that I’m as much a writer as I am a musician, the lyrics are of utmost importance to me as well as the music that goes along with them. My songs are always very emotional because I don’t believe in writing or performing anything you don’t totally believe in or can’t make people feel along with you. On the most basic level, they’re all about human struggles and relationships; something we can all relate to, but many of the songs have a very violent streak in them. All of my songs are personal-based, whether it was something I went through or a dream that I had or someone/something that inspired me. My songs are little windows into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville. :-) My albums, my songs are like children to me. It’s a huge labor of love, filled with soaring highs and sometimes horrible depths. Music is my highest form of emotional and personal expression. It’s very fulfilling to see everything come together and wind up being a work of art and rather a snapshot of myself at a particular stage in my life. Nope, I’m going to keep on truckin’ and keep the ball rolling! Not to sound greedy, but I want more, more, more! Thanks so much for your time and interest! I really hope I can see some of you while I’m out on the road - it would make me super happy!! xx Amanda Links
Haha!! Is this supposed to be a “new” concept, having a woman fronting a musical event? Being a “girl” myself, why on earth would I be opposed to it? :-) I think the term “femalefronted” is a rather laughable one, to be honest. You never hear the term “female-fronted pop” or “female-fronted jazz”, or “female-fronted R&B”, right? So what’s the big deal about it in metal? I think some guys need to get over themselves a little because chicks rock just as much as - and sometimes, quite frankly, even more than - dudes do.Talking about collaborations and cooperations, in 2010 you’ve released an album with another famous partner: Michael Kiske and last year, you’ve also took part in the new Serenity album, called ”Death & Legacy”, where you’ve played the role of the Queen in the amazing song “Changing Fate”. How was for you interpreting musically speaking a so important historical role? Which were your impressions when this Austrian band asked you to cooperate?
I loved the song and thought the musical portrayal was beautiful. I’m a bit of an actress and a lot of a romantic, so it was fun and fulfilling. I think Serenity is a very talented band and wish them tons of success.As I’ve quoted before, you are also a great composer. In 2003, you’ve been the backbone of the band Aina, for the album “Days of Rising Doom”, in which you’ve done most of the work: you wrote the lyrics and the music and you’ve also taken part as a singer. What do you remember about this experience? Was it hard to do everything by yourself?
It was scary but extremely exciting. That was my first real, big project I did in the metal scene and I had no idea how I was going to do it, I just thought, “I’m going to accomplish this, come what may!”. And I did. I didn’t do everything by myself, just the concept, story and lyrics and I co-wrote a minimal amount of the music. That was my initiation into the Gate Studio team and I proved myself and was soon a steady member.How does a work, created by Amanda Somerville? Where does the inspiration for the music and lyrics come from?
I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads. If I have an idea that’s just not moving further, I set it aside and wait for it to “speak” with me again. Some songs have taken months or even years to finish for that reason; they just need their time. And sometimes, a deadline can be a miraculous motivator. ;-) As far as songwriting goes, I don’t really have a “normal process”. Sometimes a song will begin as a chorus or a verse, or just a melody, or some chords. Sometimes it’s just lyrics and the body of the musical composition comes later. And sometimes a song will come to me from start to finish in its entirety; chords, vocal lines, lyrics and all! So every time, it’s different. Being that I’m as much a writer as I am a musician, the lyrics are of utmost importance to me as well as the music that goes along with them. My songs are always very emotional because I don’t believe in writing or performing anything you don’t totally believe in or can’t make people feel along with you. On the most basic level, they’re all about human struggles and relationships; something we can all relate to, but many of the songs have a very violent streak in them. All of my songs are personal-based, whether it was something I went through or a dream that I had or someone/something that inspired me. My songs are little windows into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville. :-)Which is the most beautiful part in creating an album, entirely written by you?
My albums, my songs are like children to me. It’s a huge labor of love, filled with soaring highs and sometimes horrible depths. Music is my highest form of emotional and personal expression. It’s very fulfilling to see everything come together and wind up being a work of art and rather a snapshot of myself at a particular stage in my life.Do you have already something new in your mind after the tour that will see you around Europe with Trillium or are you going to take a little rest and work, later on, on new projects?
Nope, I’m going to keep on truckin’ and keep the ball rolling! Not to sound greedy, but I want more, more, more!Thanks so much for the great chat, Amanda. I really hope to see you on tour with Trillium very soon. Is there something you would like to tell to your fans and to Femme Metal users?
Thanks so much for your time and interest! I really hope I can see some of you while I’m out on the road - it would make me super happy!! xx Amanda
Interview by Robin Stryker
Amanda, a warm hello to you and a belly-rub to Blitz! Thank you for returning to Femme Metal for Somerville Part Deux.
Thanks so much! It’s nice of you to have me, and Blitz is pleased, as well.
We are thoroughly smitten with “Kiske - Somerville”, your new album with Michael Kiske. Duet albums are rare creatures in the world of metal. Who was the mastermind behind the idea of recording an entire album of duets?
Why, thank you; so am I! It was actually Serafino’s (of Frontiers Records) idea. It seems that Michael has the boss of a record company as a huge fan and a musician couldn’t wish for anything better, I suppose!
When and how did you first learn about the project? What was your reaction?
It was sometime in the spring of last year, I believe. Mat Sinner called and asked if I’d be interested in doing a duet album with Michael Kiske and I was very flattered that I was on their list of prospective singers. I thought it would be great to finally be able to work and sing directly with Michael after a long time of kind of indirectly working with him on projects like Aina and Avantasia, so I was thrilled!
“Kiske/Somerville” has a stellar line-up of musicians. My doodle of who worked with whom and on what projects ended up looking like a diagram for a microchip. Would you introduce your cohorts, and tell us which of the gentlemen you have collaborated with before?
Certainly! Mat Sinner (Sinner, Primal Fear) was the creative mastermind behind the project as the producer and principal songwriter. I’d never worked with him before, but it was really a great experience because he’s very competent as a musician/producer/songwriter but he’s also a very laid back, nice guy. After we did the recordings, it went so well that he asked if I’d like to go on tour with him with another project he was overseeing called Rock Meets Classic and that was also a lot of fun.
Magnus Karlsson (Starbreaker, Primal Fear) did some great guitar work and songwriting for the album, as well. I’d never worked with him before this and haven’t had the chance to meet him in person yet, but I’m sure I will.
Jimmy Kresic (Voodoo Circle) co-wrote some songs and performed keyboards and did an excellent job. This guy is a freak, and I mean that very positively!! He was on the Rock Meets Classic tour with Matt and me and totally blows me away as a musician and as a person. He’s quite the character!
Martin Schmidt is a great drummer and all-around good person. It was in his studio that we recorded my vocals for the record and he did the engineering. He was also on the Rock Meets Classic tour and we had a blast together.
Sander Gommans and I had worked together already back in his After Forever days and he and I also did the HDK project together. We wrote 3 songs for the album and he also played some guitar parts on the project. He’s also quite a talented guy and has become an even better musician and songwriter since I first started working with him back in 2003.
Was this your first time working with Frontiers Records? Was it a good experience?
It wasn’t really my first time because I’d helped Oliver Hartmann out with a few things for his albums while he was still signed with Frontiers, though it was my first time being really involved with them. And yes, it’s been a very good experience.
Mat was originally slated to write the entire album but you and Sander ultimately wrote three of the tracks – “Arise”, “A Thousand Suns” and “Set Afire”. How did the switch come about?
After Mat had asked me to be a part of the project and sent me some songs, which I liked, I called him back to ask if there was any room for getting involved in the creative side of the music. He said they were open to ideas, so Sander and I got busy and wrote 4 songs for the album initially but one was too heavy on the metal side, so 3 made it onto the album, which is cool. I’m just as much a songwriter as I am a singer, so it was really great that I was able to add to the creative side of things on this album, as well. It makes my connection with the project even closer and more personal and it’s like my baby, too. :-)
Considering that you all live in different cities, what was the song writing and recording process like?
Well, I’m not sure how Mat, Magnus and Jimmy went about their songwriting and recording exactly but nowadays with the internet, it’s so much easier to collaborate from afar. I like to do my songwriting one on one, if at all possible, so Sander and I wrote and recorded the songs we did in his studio (Eternia) together in the Netherlands. Michael recorded his vocals in his own studio in Hamburg and I recorded with Mat and Martin in Martin’s Audiospezialist studio in Stuttgart.
A quick detour before getting back to the music. I laughed myself silly reading your recent twitter post: “You know you’ve made it when girls are taking their clothes off to your music. Yep. Strip clubs are playing my songs.” In your wildest imagination, did you ever think your music would be the soundtrack for the thong-and-stiletto set? As a public service to, errrmmm, stimulate the global economy, are there any particular tracks that really make those dollar bills and Euro notes fly?
Haha!!! I’d never really given it much thought, to be honest, although I always could picture “Get Me” in a movie soundtrack set to some sexy club scene. Once a couple years ago, a woman who gives lessons on how to strip actually asked me if she could use that song in an instructional video she was making, so that was already the start of it. Apparently, “Get Me”, “Inner Whore” (surprise on that one, eh? ;-) and “Out” are favorite choices.
The other completely random thing that caught my eye was the jingle you wrote and recorded for a swine flu vaccine. What was your inspiration while writing the song – rashers of bacon, piles of pork chops, endlessly watching the movie Babe? And where, oh where, can we get a hold of it?
Oh, man, this is funny! Yes, it was truly one of the weirdest things I’ve done in my career, but I still think it’s so cool. I mean, it was for a vaccine against this sickness that caused diarrhea in pigs and the ad campaign had a huge pic of a little pink pig butt. How hilarious is that? I’m extremely silly, so I didn’t really need any big preparation for writing this but I’ll tell you what: it was the hardest singing job I had because I could not stop giggling while I was singing! And seriously - you cannot sing well when you’re laughing. As far as where you could find it, I really don’t know. Only my family (it was a huge hit with my nieces) and the company I did it for have it. Perhaps that’ll be a Somerville Rarity that I’ll include in some compilation at some point!
Okay, back to more serious things. The first single “Silence” and its music video were released on 20 August 2010. Why was this song chosen to introduce fans to “Kiske/Somerville”?
I think it’s a great song but it’s also a good “middle road” pick to sum up what people can expect from the album. It’s one of my favorites that I didn’t write.It was interesting to read that, despite having worked on albums together previously, you and Michael met for the first time while shooting the videos for “Silence” and “If I Had a Wish”. How was it to finally meet him in person?
Interview by Eetu “Ene” Niskanen
We have reached singer and vocal coach Amanda Somerville for discover the latest news about Epica, her new solo album “Windows” and more project too. Enjoy!
Hello Amanda thank you for accepting our interview!
Well, thank you so much for having me!
So for the beginning, as we’ve been told, you are working on a new project with Michael Kiske and Mat Sinner, how is it going and what can we expect of it?
The songs for the album are now complete (I’m contributing 3 songs myself to the album that I wrote together with Sander Gommans) and Matt and his partner Magnus Karlsson are now finishing up the recordings. I was in Stuttgart and recorded my vocals about a week ago and am very excited about the end result. Everything went very well and I was looking forward to it because this was my first time working with Mat & Co. I very much like the songs that are on the album and I’m also honored to be working with Michael Kiske again, since I’ve already been on albums with him before with Aina and Avantasia. You can expect songs that are more rock with a metal edge and I think it’s going to be great!
This year you released your new solo album, the brilliant “Windows”, how much work did it take to get it finally officially released?
Thank you for the compliment. :-) I can’t begin to tell you the emotional, physical, mental and financial efforts that went into getting “Windows” finally released. The album was several years in the making (5+!) and then it was a self-release, so a lot of work went into everything from the cover & booklet design to pressing the CDs to doing promo. And I’m not done!
“Windows” had huge musical variety, how about your next solo album, will it follow the same kind of mixture or maybe something else?
Since my own taste is rather eclectic, my songwriting seems to follow that pattern, as well. I’m sure variety will always be a factor in my albums, but I’m constantly growing, gaining influences, changing. So far I have several songs already written for a new album and they’re a bit darker yet than “Windows” .
Also this year you worked on a project called HDK with Sander Gommans (ex-After Forever), how was the experience working as a vocalist on a lot heavier material than work on your solo material?
It was great! I love a good challenge and this was without a doubt the heaviest thing I’ve done in my career up until now. I was also able to try things out and sing in ways I normally don’t because the material was so incredibly… thrashy! ;-) But I totally got into it and feel like it’s my baby, too. I’m quite proud of the work Sander and I did together and since then we’ve been working together pretty regularly. So it was all around a win-win situation!
Another thing you did in 2009 was Epica’s new album “Design Your Universe”, you worked as a vocal coach for Simone, sang the backing vocals and in the choir, how was it working with Epica again?
I also made a guest appearance and sang a duet originally on “Unleashed”, for which I wrote most of the lyrics, as well. That version is apparently a bonus track for “Design Your Universe”. It’s always been fun working with the Epicans and we came up with more good stuff this time, too, in my opinion!
You are working on new songs with Sander Gommans, how is it that turning out?
Oh, it’s always a lot of fun working with Sander. We’re a pretty good creative match, so the work flow is always great and the end results are solid. We’ve got more work in progress for a few different projects, so we’ll see!
Years ago you were part of project “Aina”, you wrote lyrics and the concept and worked as vocalist, can we expect any more music as follow up for the brilliant “Days of Rising Doom”?
Goodness, that’s a wholly different can of worms and, even though I’ve written a sequel for it, it doesn’t look like that’ll be happening any time soon. Who knows for the future, though…?
You have worked with so many bands and projects, have you ever thought of fronting a band of your own? With this I don’t mean solo work, as an equal band member.
I have my respect for bands but I really don’t think it’s my thing. I’m not one to say “never,” however it’s not something that I can see myself doing right now. I’m much more of a solo musician when it comes to my own music and always have been!
Last year you were touring with both Epica and Avantasia, how was the experience?
Fantastic! I’m a gypsy at heart and performing is my favorite thing to do, so I was completely in my element. I think you could tell from my video blogs, couldn’t you? ;-)
What kind of music do you listen yourself and how often?
Quite varied, actually, and I listen to music almost all the time. Usually it’s something that relaxes me, helps me be sad when I need to be sad or gets me in a good mood
Who are your biggest influences?
My family and the musicians I’ve worked with the past several years (the Gate Studio team).
With all these projects and collaborations what can we expect from you next year?
More live shows, more guest appearances with various bands/projects on albums, new songs, new crazy videos - the works!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Doing the same thing, but more of it, on a higher level and probably with 2 or 3 kids to take care of on top of all that. Not sure which continent or country I’ll be in, however!
Thank you for the interview and take care!
Best wishes to you!
Interview by Ed MacLaren
Boasting a heavy progressive metal sound, France’s Devious eXperiment of Synthesthesis – or DXS –immerses us in a dark apocalyptic world with their debut album “Cathar5y5”. But the devastation on this impressive concept album is not of nuclear holocaust or war spinning out of control: the destruction takes place deep with the recesses of the mind. Vocalist Alienor Colin took some time to discuss with Femme Metal the foundation of “Cathar5y5” and some of its deeper meanings.
“Cathar5y5” is a seriously awesome debut. You’re treading in some serious concept album territory though – we’re talking major Ayreon, Queensryche sci-fi stuff here. Give us a little background on the story of “Cathar5y5” and how it evolved?
Well, first of all, thank you for the compliment. As for the story, Jean-Michel, our keyboards player, laid its foundation, drawing his inspiration from events that happened in his own life to create a fiction based on people’s psychology and their ability, not to say their need, to develop their own torments. Then we worked on these themes to harmonize them with our musical needs!!! I’d like to remind you that “Cathar5y5” was first “born” in a futuristic fictional world, in which a free from physical sufferings man, particularly thanks to pharmaceutical and genetic progress, will more than ever enjoy psychological torments (romantic philosophy).
“Cathar5y5” makes some bold philosophical points over the course of the album – most prevalent the disruption of natural order through scientific manipulation. It’s interesting that in “Cathar5y5” as mankind masters its external environment through the eradication of disease it loses control of its internal mental mechanisms. What is the connection you’re trying to draw here?
We can see through that inevitability, a mere irony of fate, that despite the Cartesian aspect “Cathar5y5” takes advantage of, remains a notion that governs our world in a cruel manner.
The “Cathar5y5” vaccine provides an artificial self-actualization in response to society’s desire for instant gratification in all areas of life. Will this ultimately always fail?
The Cathar5y5 world had to be plausible indeed, but by definition, a totally imaginary futuristic fiction. Even though the concept origins lie in many winks, we never wanted to transfer the ins and outs of the story to the futuristic or contemporary real world. The script was to end badly to show the whole tragic and therefore “metal” extent of the album form and content! Our music is meant to naturally be in minor keys, dark and melancholic!
The people in Cathar5y5 strive for peace and perfection but actually enjoy the suffering they endure. Is it that the reach for the unattainable always comes with pain and hardship?
Human nature has always wanted to be equal to the Creator, perhaps out of vanity and therefore to reach perfection. However in Cathar5y5, the question is about controlling rather than reaching perfection. Nevertheless, if there was a message to learn, it would be the contradictory and perverted necessity for man to endure suffering! Here indeed, as he is deprived of physical sufferings, he develops new mental torments, which are the subjects of each song. So Cathar5y5 does take its essence in the romantic philosophy.
Is there a biblical allegory in Cathar5y5? Man strives for perfection through its faith in false idols (or corporations) instead of God and suffers the ultimate consequence?
There are some biblical hints in the script, in particular the seven vaccines and the seven diseases that echo the seven seals of the Apocalypse, however the ultimate punishment that ends this fiction doesn’t really embody anything allegorically biblical but merely tragic.
“Cathar5y5 ” highlights a bleak world-view. Do you think humankind is in a downward spiral of self-destruction? Can we do anything to change it?
The album indeed develops a rather pessimistic vision, perhaps simply to match the traditional aesthetics of metal music we’ve heard so much about lately (Hellfest). Nevertheless, we must confess and note that the members of the group ceased believing in “man’s nobility”. Fortunately, fantastic people are still to be discovered in our world that are worth forgetting the rest!
Why did you decide to tackle something so conceptually intense for your debut?
That’s not an easy question. Let’s say that, even though it’s a debut, it is a project into which we wanted to put ourselves totally and show a great maturity to compensate for its status as a “first album”. And also, the making of a universe for a group seems to me an essential matter that helps musical, visual and textual cohesion.
How directly is DXS invested into the “Cathar5y5” storyline? Will future releases continue to be extensions of the Cathar5y5 concept?
The story of Cathar5y5 remains a fiction as a source of inspiration for this first opus; we have already started working on the second album that should offer a different concept, still based on an imaginary script!
A great story and lyrics are a big part of a great album but you need to back it up with a strong musical foundation. DXS has the musical skill to really bring the concept and lyrics alive. Was the music written to match the concept or did the music come first?
Thanks again! Well, I don’t really remember whether we had already written some lyrics before completing the concept album, however some songs like “Mirror of Terror” or “Catharsis” obviously showed from the composition a schizophrenic will through the elaboration of their asymmetric riffs or of their structures. Other tracks inspired themes matching the concept but peculiar to the universe about them, for example “Nocturnal Phobia”.
DXS displays some serious prog chops with some great riffing that match perfectly the tone of the story. How difficult was it to conceptualize the music to fit around the story?
This was done fairly naturally because, through the colour we wished to give to the album and the concept that was written in order to never betray that will of darkness, we all were in a very special state of mind during the stages of difficult composition!
Your vocals really stand out on “Cathar5y5”. Your singing is strong with a beautiful tone that drives the music forward. Did you experiment with your technique to get the right vocal feel for each track?
Thank you! Generally and also to face the other productions, progressive music leaves little place for singing; however as a singer I have more freedom than my fellow instrumentalists. I must confess that once the musical parts are ready I can quite intuitively and easily compose my vocals. What takes me more time is to find the right vocal feel for each theme. And I’m not used to always singing the same thing! The vocal parts evolved as the pre-productions and also as the recordings progressed thanks to the advice of the sound team I worked with!
Alexandre Ardisson’s grunts are excellent but you also brought in some guest vocalists for “Cathar5y5”. How did you get Clément Marse of Continuum and Julien Leon of Darkenhold involved in the project?
It happened quite naturally. Clément is a long time friend who sings in another prog music group Continuum and we have played some dates with them. We really needed a particular male voice to punctuate “Amnesia” and we are fond of sharing our musical trips with our close musician friends. The same thing with Julien Leon alias Cervantes. Alexandre is also Darkenhold’s bass player and we are all very close friends of Julien, who is quite an interesting person, humanly speaking! “Psychotic Depression” is a very dark song and we wanted a very strong and typically “black” voice to confront the lead vocals!
What were the influences and inspirations that fed “Cathar5y5”? DXS seems like it would have many other influences other than music though…literature and film?
From a musical point of view, with a concern for originality, we give a great importance to combinations at the same time: prog with Andromeda and Dream Theater; black/death with Dimmu Borgir and Ihsahn; and symphonic with Symphony X, Revamp and After Forever! As I said before, the concept album was widely inspired from the Romantic philosophy.
Finally, several members of the band are students in audiovisual courses and all of us are widely influenced by cinema: as an example, the lyrics of “Mirror of Terror” are a tribute to David Lynch’s Lost Highway.
We have to talk about the band name: Devious eXperiment of Synthesthesis. It’s a bit of a mouthful. Can you explain the origination of the name, especially the Synthesthesis part?
Let’s say that in a way, we adapted the definition of “synesthésie” (synesthesia in English), a mental pathology consisting of the association of two senses like sight and hearing and that’s exactly what we wanted to translate – that is to say music and colour, especially from a harmonic point of view, which is not always easy thing to do… and we must also confess that we wished we had a much longer name than our friends in Spheric Universe Experience, who by the way, asked me to sing on one of their songs “White Willow” during the recording of their last album.
Are you planning on touring and showcasing “Cathar5y5” a la Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime?
It’s really difficult to find dates in the metal circle, especially with a first album. However, we should work on a tour project by the end of 2011!
(Famous) Last words?
Describing the world of DXS is not an easy thing to do. I do hope that, thanks to our answers, you’ll fancy having a look at our MySpace and giving “Cathar5y5” a listen.
Label : Life on the Moon Records/Cargo Records
Review by Tony Cannella
Talk about a long break between albums. It has been 19-years since Fiona Flanagan released her last album “Squeeze”. Now she returns with a brand new album “Unbroken”. This one kind of took me by surprise since I had no idea that she was planning a comeback, but it was a pleasant surprise at that. As soon as the first track, “Loved Along the Way”, kicks in, it’s like an old friend has returned and it is the perfect track to announce to the world that she’s back. The song has all of the great qualities that represented Fiona in the 80s. Tons of melody, a gritty hard rock guitar riff, a memorable chorus and just a kick ass vibe. This is just the type of hard rock music you just don’t find that much anymore, which is a shame. The second track “Broken” is possibly even better than the first, with Fiona’s raspy vocals and another rock solid guitar riff. “Unbroken” includes a cover of the Pat Benatar song “Shadows of the Night” which was very well done and definitely lived up to the greatness of the original. “This Heart” is a great ballad that features a duet between Fiona and Robin Beck and it became a huge highlight. “Unbroken” closes with the emotional “Everything You Are”. Other highlights include: “I’ve Released You”, “Wild One”, “Salt On My Wings” and “I Love You but Shut Up”. This is just energetic, fun, hard rock music, and it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. The thing that I really liked about “Unbroken” was that this is most definitely a Fiona album. This is not Fiona playing what is trendy or the big thing of the moment, this is Fiona as her fans remember her, she is not going after the trendy fan base, it is most definitely for her fans. After listening to “Unbroken” it is a welcome return to form for one of the most criminally underrated artists of the 80s.
Rating - 90/100
Label : Amarus Cantus Records
Review by Tony Cannella
Fans that are missing Tarja-era Nightwish may have another band to rally around. They are France’s Die After Day. Of course they have a long way to go before they reach the greatness of that classic Nightwish line-up, but on their first “Ad Illuc Memoria”, Die After Day is off to a pretty good start. Die After Day is fronted by the ultra-operatic style of Rose (she also plays violin) and her style may be considered a bit over-the-top by some, while others will find it beautiful and passionate. Me? I find it somewhere in the middle, but definitely more on the good side as this lady proves that she has a powerful vocal delivery. The 10-song disc features a playing time of over an hour with most of the songs in the 6-8 minute range. A heavy guitar riff drives the opener “Thunderstone”. In addition to the vocal gymnastics provided by Rose, the musicians in Die After Day prove that they are more than capable in providing a good, solid musical base to keep the album moving along at a brisk pace. The melancholic “99 Nights” is next and has a slow, grinding feel to it. Other highlights include: “In the Shade of You”, “Angels Must Die” and the phenomenal 8-minute closing number “Moonlights Wound”. While “Ad Illuc Memoria” is not the perfect album, there is still plenty here to appeal to fans of operatic, symphonic metal.
Rating - 70/100