To-Mera interview (11/2009)
|With:||Julie Kiss [vocals]|
|Conducted by:||Ivor (phone)|
I was supposed to do this interview with Julie quite a while ago, a while before Delusions was released. However, things and stuff (read: life) got in the way and it got postponed a couple of times by both sides. Now, when the Earthbound EP was about to be released, we picked it up again and got it done. We had a nice chat over Skype, although there were a couple of bumps and the voice of one or the other side got lost for a while. Nevertheless, here it is.
Let's start with the main question. What are your goals for this Earthbound EP?
I don't think we recorded the EP with a particular goal in mind. It was more a kind of... We had 4 songs which we thought like really belonged together. And obviously we had just left Candlelight, so we thought it might be a good idea to try and do this EP ourselves, see what we can do. But also to have a CD with just those 4 songs on because we thought they needed to go on a separate CD themselves. 'Cause they represent a certain kind of period. And for example Tom [MacLean] feels like anything that he would write now would probably sound quite different 'cause he just listens to different things and maybe feels different. That's basically it.
I can hear quite a bit of a change in your music. What are your directions that you are heading?
I don't think we ever really had a direction. It was always about writing whatever was, whatever influences we had at the time. I mean, most of the music is written by Tom, so a lot of it depends on him, his influences, whatever he wants to express. And then obviously vocals and lyrics come later. So, it's kind of mixture of things. I mean, definitely our new stuff is different. It is a bit more mellow. In a way that, for example, we use a lot more major scales which makes the sound a bit more friendly, I suppose, or happier. But really, if you listen to lyrics, read lyrics, and listen to it as a whole it's a kind of very mixed. And it's still quite dark but it's dark in a different way.
You are the lyricist for the band. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Well, as usual a lot of the lyrics are kind of half-personal, half-philosophical. And the new stuff is a bit of socio-political. I've been doing environmental-political course for the last year or so, it's part of my degree. So, I read quite a lot about politics of all sorts. And you can find little bit of that as well in the lyrics.
When you started out with Lee [Barrett] you went out through quite a lot of changes before you settled on a more stable line-up before releasing a début album. In what way those changes influenced the outcome?
Do you mean changes before Transcendental or after Transcendental?
Before. Later we can talk about what happened later.
It was difficult at the beginning. It took almost two years for me to find the right people for the band. We had a couple of bad starts with various people. It really just wasn't working. Two years after I left Without Face I met Tom. And then at the time we had a Hungarian drummer [Akos Pirisi]. So, it was obviously very difficult to rehearse. We basically had maybe two rehearsals, three, before we actually recorded Transcendental. So, it was basically just sending the material over the Internet and just programming the music and sending it back and forth. I'm sure it had some kind of an effect on the music but I think we got it together somehow. (Laughs.)
But how have later changes influenced the band. Well, first, I think, the drummer left the band, then Lee went away, and further changes in the line-up last year.
Actually, our drummer, the Hungarian guy, he left – or we parted ways is more correct – right after Transcendental, right after we recorded. So, after that we had fairly kind of stable line-up until after Delusions was released. So, basically, I mean, that change with the drummer, that was kind of necessary 'cause we couldn't really exist as a proper band with a drummer in Hungary. We needed members who were based in England. And then we recorded Delusions and then afterwards Hugo [Sheppard] left, the keyboard player, who basically just wanted to get on with his other projects. It was always just kind of a station, kind of a brief adventure for him. He was never really into metal. We have the new keyboard player [Richard Henshall] who did bring more classic prog kind of vibe into the band. Obviously he's writing for Haken, another progressive rock band. Although, he doesn't write for To-Mera but still has an effect. And then of course we had Lee departing ways with the band. I guess his departure was felt a lot more in the management of the band rather than musically 'cause musically he didn't actually contribute that much. He brought a couple of kind of death metal riffs into the music but that was pretty much it.
When you started out you managed to get the Candlelight and quite many people were surprised about that. How did that happen?
What do you mean?
What do I mean? Good question! (Laughing.)
(Laughs.) That's a good idea to think about what you mean before you ask.
What I mean is that it was pretty surprising that you had only the first demo out at that time with two tracks, as far as I remember. And your début album was quite expected before the release. It caused quite a stir in the music world.
Obviously, as you say, the demo caused a bit of a stir and we were kind of lucky in that respect, I suppose. We had a good sounding demo which just made some labels interested. Lee used to be involved with Candlelight but the actual fact, until we signed with them, they weren't really getting on that well. In fact, they kind of had a fall out from what I know. When we'd done the demo, it was actually then that they contacted each other again and Candlelight was very interested in To-Mera and they kind of made up and became friendly again. So, you know, they gave us a very good offer, so we thought "Okay, sounds good!" And so we just signed with them.
Were there any specific reasons why you split with them this year?
Yeah, I mean, there are many reasons but amongst them mainly the fact that we just wanted to do things a bit differently and we couldn't really agree with Candlelight the new terms of the contract. So, we thought okay we'll just kind of try and do it our way.
Are you looking for a new label and if you are what do you expect from them?
Not necessarily. Actually we are quite enjoying being our own bosses at the moment. And just basically, you know, owning our own material. (Laughs.) And so far so good. I don't really know where we're really heading or going. We're just kind of try to enjoy what we're doing at the moment, the fact that we know what is happening, what is being done, who is doing what and why. And that's quite good 'cause during the past five years, not necessarily Candlelight, but we've had a lot of bad experiences with, for example, promoters and agents. We were just basically waiting for [people] who were supposed to do things and never really did. So, now we just felt like screw everybody and we just want to do things our way and put as much work into it as we can ourselves, you know.
You had a video released in 2006 called "Blood." Do you have any plans for a new one?
I'm not sure yet. Yeah, we've been talking about it and we might do one. But I'm not sure yet.
Is there any help at all from doing video? For distributing your album, or promotional help?
Yeah, to be honest, I think we had a ridiculous amount of views on YouTube on the video. I can't remember the exact number. But definitely I think it's a good idea. At the time it felt unsure whether it's worth it or not 'cause it's very difficult to get it into main TV stations, such as Kerrang they are very, very fussy about what they play. And Scuzz in the UK at least. I mean, we had some plays in other countries, for example Finland and Hungary, Hungary's MTV, and stuff like that. But in England it's very, very difficult. But on the Internet it has done very, very well. So, yeah, I think it is worth doing a video.
Do you think that the Internet is good for promoting young bands, for starting out bands?
Yeah, it is good. But I think it's becoming increasingly difficult 'cause there are just so many bands around now. You need more and more filters, in a way. For example, MySpace has just become impossible, I think. You just get about ten thousand friend requests a day from millions and millions of bands and I think people just get a bit tired of it all. At least I know I'd be. (Laughs.) I think it's really difficult, especially if you're starting up right now. It's very difficult to try and find those platforms where somebody still listens, if you know what I mean.
Does the old fashioned approach of handing out demo tapes and demo CDs at concerts still work?
(Laughs.) I don't know, we haven't done that recently. (Laughs.)
But you were doing that when you were starting out! (It's probably worth mentioning that in January of 2006 I was in London to see Stream of Passion and it's at that gig that I got handed To-Mera's demo CD by Julie. That's how I got to know the band.)
(Laughs.) Yeah, absolutely! I think it's a very good idea, actually. If you target the right audience that could be your best chance. 'Cause if you go into the Internet, as I said, you're just going to get millions and millions of people. But if you go to a gig you don't get, you know, twenty CDs a day. So, yeah, why not!
What do you think of a capella music as a singer? For example, I don't know if you have heard Fork or Van Canto.
No, I haven't actually. I haven't really been following the scene as I should have done. You know, I think that they [Van Canto] have been playing at Metal Female Voices Festival, as well.
Yeah, how did it go, the festival I mean?
For us or for them? For To-Mera?
Yeah, for To-Mera, was it good?
Yeah, it was good, it was fun. We were playing really early in the morning [10:30].
Oh yeah, that I remember. Why that early?
(Laughs.) Well, that's the slot we'd been given. That's basically the simple answer. (Laughs.)
Were there many people around at that time?
There were actually. So, we were actually really surprised because we kind of thought there would be about five people there, at ten o'clock in the morning, looking really sleepy. (Laughs.) But according to the organiser there was approximately about a thousand people there already.
By that time?
Yeah! So, we were really shocked actually that so many people turned up. It was really good of them. I don't think it's something I would have done personally. (Laughs.) I am very, very bad with mornings. Unless I really have to get up I don't.
Julie Kiss at Metal Female Voices Fest VII 18.10.2009
Yeah, I think it's pretty hard to be up that early at a festival.
Yeah, I think so. And it's going on all day as well. It's just such a long day. I've been to that festival before but I've never gotten there before 2 o'clock. So, I thought "Oh, dear! It's going to be fun." No, it was good. Although, we were really, really tired as well 'cause the previous night we played in Holland with Stream of Passion. So, after the gig drove to Belgium and unloaded all our stuff at the hotel. So, by the time we got to bed it was about 3. And then in a few hours we had to get up and get on to stage straight away. (Laughs.) So, it was out of bed and on to stage. We literally didn't have time for any kind of warm-up or anything. We just felt like hell. It was really tough from that point of view.
Yeah, I can imagine it being tough.
Yeah, I was very, very tired.
You have been supporting quite big acts over the years. You supported Emperor in 2006, I think, and you supported Dream Theater a while later. How was it to support these bands?
It was a really big honour for us, really. I mean, for example, Emperor was one of Tom's favourite bands and it was brilliant to play with them. Although, quite scary as well. (Laughs.) 'Cause Emperor fans are not really known for their love of the female fronted metal scene. (Laughs.) So, we were considering armour on stage or something. Thankfully it actually went down quite well. So, it was a really good gig.
And then, again, Dream Theater was for all of us it was like a dream come true. I don't normally feel too, sort of, intimidated around really famous people or anything but meeting Dream Theater we were all quite, I don't know, in shock a bit. Even though, you know, for me Dream Theater meant really a lot at the time when they did Awake and Images and Words. Those are my two favourite albums of all times, not really the new stuff. Still, to me it was just amazing.
And then we also played with Pain of Salvation as well. Which was also really big for us. They are really a huge influence and brilliant musicians. So, it was really an honour.
Do you go often to the gigs of these bands?
Not recently, no. In the past year or so I haven't really had a lot of time to go to gigs. In fact, I haven't really been listening to that much metal either. So, I haven't really been to a lot metal gigs for some time.
What's the reason for you not listening to music? Or is it only metal?
No, I still listen to a lot of music but less and less metal music. Sometimes I do feel like I want to listen to some metal but it's kind of less and less. I've been listening recently to a lot of jazz and classical music. I don't know, it's just a phase. You know, when you go through different kind of phases and recently I have just been discovering those new bands who I haven't heard of before. They were just not really metal and I'm getting more and more fussy about my metal as well. I haven't really been following the metal scene so much.
Is this having any effect on To-Mera's music through you?
Yeah, potentially. I think the vocals have never really been influenced by metal singers much anyway. But I guess in the past years I've been listening to more and more to jazz and soul and stuff like that. So, probably it is having an influence in some ways. Plus, the vocal teacher that I've been working with teaches more soul and jazz as well. So, that was another way in which I was kind of hijacked a bit into different genres.
Have you though about singing in a different sort of band? In different style?
Yeah, I have actually. I am thinking of maybe setting up a different little projects in a different genre. I always like to do different things. For example, I recently joined the choir, just for fun. Which is obviously more classical music. But at the same time I want to continue with all my jazz and soul singing as well. So, we'll see.
How does To-Mera fit in your everyday life?
It's difficult 'cause, as I said, I do like to do quite a lot. And for example I'm also studying on the side. And it's always a challenge. But I guess it is for everybody 'cause very few musicians can actually afford to live from music. So, it is going to be a challenge. Unless you are Metallica. Well, then, I guess, it becomes a challenge for exactly that reason. (Laughs.)
What is the role of photography in your life?
I am quite an enthusiast, in a way. I used to do some band photography and recently more kind of architecture. It has become more and more of a hobby recently. Although, for a while I have been doing some portrait photography as well. Until very recently. Nature photography also. It is definitely something I do really love and would like to continue but only really as a hobby.
Okay, so it's a hobby for you.
Yeah, until recently it was a profession as well but now it's more of a hobby. I kind of had to decide what things I'd need to leave behind on a professional level so I can concentrate on less things basically. 'Cause it was getting a bit too much. So, photography had to go.
So, I think music won?
Yeah, definitely! (Laughs.) It did. It is something I could not really live without, I suppose. It has really just become such an integral part of my life. It's not something I could leave behind. And so, in whatever form it will definitely continue to be part of life. For example I'm learning the piano as well. So, it is very important.
What do you want to achieve in your music career?
Good question. I think it has always been about being able to express whatever it is that you want to express and being satisfied with your own music. And being able to progress and just follow whatever it is that you want to do and not be corrupted by the world, the music industry, or whatever. I think that is something that we are achieving with To-Mera in that we can follow whatever roots we want to. And of course it was also important for us to get the appreciation from our peers which in a way we kind of did get through playing with them. That was also very important for us.
Where do you actually see that you and To-Mera will be in, let's say, 5 years?
I don't know to be honest. I don't really like to plan so ahead. (Laughs.) Just take as it comes. At the moment we all, and especially Tom and I we have very little time on our hands. So, we are taking a little bit of a break from trying to arrange gigs and practising for gigs and writing new material. So, I think we'll probably resume in the new year and we will hopefully have a bit of a clearer idea about where are we going and why.
Do you have any idea when your new album will be out?
(Laughs.) I really really don't.
Or is it too early to ask?
Well, since we even haven't started writing it yet, yes! (Laughs.) Definitely. I think this EP was something that we just needed to kind of get out of our system and see where it takes us. Then, as I said, maybe in a few months we'll know more.
Okay, I think I'm going to wrap up. Do you have anything you want to say in the end to our readers?
I think that was pretty thorough. But I guess we can tell them that they can listen to the new song on the MySpace site and they can also order the new EP as well if they are interested. Distribution is a little bit limited at the moment but that's probably the best way of getting a copy. Well, thank you very much!
Thanks to Julie!
PS. And check out the songs at To-Mera's MySpace page.
Posted on 23.11.2009 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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