Interview : Elisabeth Vásquez – Six Magics

 

 

Interview by Ed MacLaren


In the last few years, female-fronted metal has turned into a revolving door for vocalists. To satisfy the bands and their fans, vocalists have to be able to do justice to the older material plus have the potential to take the band in new directions. We’ve seen bands conduct highly publicized searches across countries and continents trying to find that next great singer. In the case of Chile’s Six Magics, they had to look no farther than their band manager. The smoldering contralto of Elizabeth Vásquez officially debuts on “Behind the Sorrow”, the excellent new album from Six Magics. Femme Metal got a chance to speak to Elizabeth about “Behind the Sorrow”, how saying “No” can get you the job anyway and what we can help the victims of the recent earthquake in Chile.

“Behind the Sorrow” is a re-release of your 2008 album “Animal” with a new track and new packaging. Why did you choose to re-release the material?

Well, “Animal” was just a promotional CD that we made for Chilean friends and fans. It was something very small and we did it because people were crazy asking and asking about our new material. We were looking for a good label at that time so we decided to edit a limited amount of copies here. So our real third album release is “Behind the Sorrow”.

You spent years as Six Magics’ manager before you became the vocalist. How did you get the gig? Was this your plan from the beginning – do the manager thing for awhile and then strike when the opportunity appeared? Were you the first choice or did you have to convince the band to give you an audition? Perhaps you didn’t even give them an option. 😉

Ha-ha! Yeah, that could be a good strategy but I was too young when I started with the band as the manager so that never was on my mind. I started with the band seven months after they decided to have a band. I did all the stuff managers do. I was very proud of them because they were very talented and the band had started to be well known here too. When they recorded the second album, “The Secrets of An Island”, which contains a lot of voices on it because of the choir, Erick Avila, the composer, was crazy looking for a contralto voice. As it was so hard because most of the girls were soprano, he asked me to sing in the choir and record the lines with them. After that I was also asked to sing some female parts live because it was also needed for two songs. When Sergio Dominguez decided to leave, we were looking for singers even in Argentina and the States but it was hard to find a foreign singer who fulfilled all the requirements the band asked. So, when I was also looking for a singer, Erick had the idea to ask me if I could do it. My answer was no: I was very impressed and I thought it was an insane idea!!! So as I wanted to free myself from this, I told him I would record a song – the most difficult song. I recorded “Behind the Sorrow” and when they listened to my version it was just silence. I thought, “Cool. I did it!” but then Erick said, “It’s amazing!! I love it!. Send it to (producer) David Prater to know what he thinks!”. The band liked it and David Prater said he was impressed and that I was what Six Magics needed to be complete! Everything was unexpected!

Considering the band was established for many years, why did the band choose to change directions and move from a male singer to a female one? Was it considered a risky move?

Fortunately, the band was always taking risks with everything: the performances, lyrics, etc., so when Sergio quit they thought it was a good opportunity to get another singer better than him so it wasn’t a traumatic situation for them. They just wanted to solve the problem soon because Sergio quit when he had already recorded four songs. They never thought about having a woman singing because they thought that having a girl among them could be a problem because of her requirements, or because she would be a soprano singer or something like that. As the band was very recognized and valued here, they thought it could be hard – not for them – but for fans to understand it. The guys did what they had done before: not to be afraid about the risk and they were very convinced that this was the best for the band.

How was it for you to step into a male singer’s shoes especially in a recognized band with a large repertoire of songs?

As I am a contralto, the band’s songs weren’t a problem for me – the thing was to be respectful with each song and show this to the fans. I didn’t change the songs for me; I still sing the old songs in the same way Sergio did it. I think fans understood that and they felt good about it too. At the beginning, we thought that when the news about my arrival to the band was published, fans would be annoyed or something but on the contrary, they were surprised but happy. It was really crazy! We thought that as they (the fans) have always trusted in the band’s decisions, fans (would think) that if the band decided to have a female singer now, it was because it was the best for the band and they would respect that. People were very, very, kind with us since the very beginning. I think it was also because they knew me from when I was the manager! Personally, I have a lot of respect for all the guys in the band. It was amazing to share the stage with these monsters. All of them are well recognized here as virtuosos and all of them are music teachers. So it has been an honor for me to be with them.

Was there an adjustment period for you, the band, and the fans while you learned to make the music your own?

Just musically speaking, because we had known each other for 10 years! We had a lot of rehearsals because I knew all the songs perfectly but we needed to understand each other with my new role. I was ready after a month of rehearsal. I must say all of them were very generous and they always showed me they were happy to have me with them. The problem was then to find another manager. Ha-Ha! Erick is the main composer and our musical director. He was very, very, demanding, but it wasn’t in a dramatic situation. Erick started taking advantage of having a female voice and we started to make some new melodies for the new material, etc.

Six Magics’ music is very atmospheric and dark with many heavy and progressive elements. Being from Chile, is there a sound associated with South American metal that makes it distinct from the rest of the world? Have you made it a part of your music?

In the second album of Six Magics, you can find a lot Latin-American elements: the lyrics are about a Chilean island and their mythological stories, musical rhythm, and also in the instruments the guys played. At that moment, we wanted to save our roots and record an album with all these elements. It was a very well recognized album here and the band was considered as a contributor to the music and Chilean culture too. After that, we decided to record a third album with a different point of view, musically speaking. I think as Erick loves classical music, and in the band we all have different musical likes, it’s easy to find different influences in our music too. I think Pablo Stagnaro, the drummer, is responsible for the Latin-American patterns we play live sometimes.

You tagged David Prater of Dream Theater fame to produce “Behind the Sorrow”. How did you get him on board and what did he bring to your music?

A couple of years ago we decided to record a new album. Our main idea was getting this new album considering other sounds, rhythms, melodies and lyrics. He had recorded another band here in Chile some years before and as we knew these guys we could contact him rapidly. We wanted this third album to be different from the previous ones. We also thought it would be a good idea to reach this goal if we worked with a producer. With all of this in mind, we contacted some people to take this job and after some months we decided to produce the new material with David Prater. He wanted to work with us because he thought the band had enough potential to get good results and the idea of working with him was quite attractive to us because, talking about music, he wanted the same we wanted. I mean, we were lucky because we found a producer that didn’t want to change our music as his wish and we wanted to do the same he wanted! It was a long time in which many things happened: since his arrival with the band, we had almost everything recorded and the singer quit the band. So then I took his place and David had to come to Chile again to record the vocals with me having a very serious illness etc… At the end of the process, we realized that everybody was very happy with the result and that all the sacrifices were absolutely paid with this new album. I think what he brought to our music was the idea of simplicity, the previous albums had thousands of notes sounding at the same time and the musical spirit went more for having a lot of complex arrangements working together at the same time. Fortunately we wanted to do something more simple too.

South America is crazy about metal music. What is it about metal, especially European bands that South Americans respond to?

Yes. Latin-American people love metal bands from Europe and they used to go to their concerts too. In Chile, we have the chance to see almost every band so I think people are losing their capability of being surprised: one day we have Metallica, next month Iron Maiden, then Blind Guardian, Sonata Arctica, Slayer, Dream Theater etc…so sometimes we need to save a lot of money to go to the concerts – especially because they cost a lot. Chile is one of the most expensive countries to have a concert; even small band’s gigs are expensive. About language: Chile is a bit different from other Latin-American countries: people love bands that sing in English but in other places I know they prefer bands that do it in Spanish. As Chile is more influenced by the USA and Europe, that’s not hard to understand. Here we have a lot of good bands but as we don’t have a “metal industry”, it’s always difficult to make music and live from it.

Your vocals on “Behind the Sorrow” are very sultry, very low and ominous. The vocal heat really adds a level of seduction to songs like “It’s Not the Way”. Your voice also allows you to easily stand out from the upper-register operatic singers in so many other female-fronted metal bands. Were you always a singer or did you come to it later in life?

Thank you so much for your kind words and I’m happy to see you have listened to our music carefully. I have been listening to music since before I was born! Music was also my favorite subject at school and I was asked to sing every time I could do it. As I like jazz and rhythm & blues, I had some cover bands where I learned a lot. As I told you before, I like R&B and jazz and metal of course! My favorite singers are Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Peabo Bryson, Freddy Mercury, Dio and many other metal singers, so I used to sing this music too. When someone asks me to sing something from the 80s pop or rock I don’t have any problem. Sometimes I sing bossanova or jazz depending on the moment and feelings. All music gives you something special but what metal is for me is part of my entire life!

“Run” implies there was more to the World Trade Center bombing than another terrorist attack. This track is a bit of a misfit lyrically among the rest of the tracks on “Behind the Sorrow”. What was the inspiration to write the song? Does the band have a political edge that fans don’t know about yet?

Not really. Chile was under a dictatorship for almost 20 years but we were children then. We belong to the generation that lived that but we don’t have a political view of certain things. Politicians are really worried because of the lack of interest of Chilean youth. I think we are tired of politics because for many years after democracy was set in 1990 we have listened to a lot of (political) discussions in our families and also seen it on TV. And as our album is very realistic and we talk about things we really believe in, that’s a song we wanted to write but we didn’t know how, then the idea of making something related to this topic was very strong. What really motivated us to do this was that all of us think we shouldn’t believe everything we are told. Sometimes we can lie and make other people believe we are the victims but we are not. We wanted to talk about different topics we strongly believe and we had the opportunity to record two previous albums where we didn’t want to do it, but we talked about a fantastic world or mythological being from our country instead. This time, as a natural process in life, we wanted to do something different. It was also motivating because we had David Prater with us and we could share a lot of experiences about this topic, his feelings and thoughts, so it was really nice to share the ideas of an American guy with our own beliefs.

We’re starting to hear of more and more bands from South America making an impact internationally. Should we prepare ourselves for the next wave of metal bands? Who are the top female-fronted metal bands we should watch out for?

I think music is a nice way to join people, countries and cultures. We have lived that! You can see how people who don’t know you can have an effective approach to you just because your music could reach their heart. So I think if music is sincere it doesn’t matter where it comes from. Unfortunately, I don’t know too many bands from Latin-America. It can be curious, I know, but I still listen to the old ones like Angra and their derivations (ha-ha) Sepultura and Criminal from Chile.

Releasing “Behind the Sorrow” must give the band some time to work on new material. Are you working on a new album? What can we expect to hear?

The album was released just last month and, of course, we are interested in recording another album soon but now we are just concentrating on the next promotional tour and supporting our label with everything we have to get “Behind the Sorrow” the best results. We wanna enjoy this album completely first! We will see about a new record during the second semester of this year and I will let you know for sure! 😉

A new album means a tour. Where is Six Magics performing in 2010? Are you staying close to South America this year or can we expect to see you in Europe and the U.S.?

Yes, a new album means a tour. We understand that and we love it, too! We have been working with some people to have our promotional tour in Europe next semester. We are still booking the gigs so you will hear about them soon. We want to go to the USA too and we have got some invitations so maybe we will have good news very soon.

The recent earthquake in Chile was a tragedy and we at Femme Metal send our condolences and support to the Chilean people. There are many metal bands that have a close relationship with their Chilean fans and are raising money by performing in Chile or in their own countries. Does Six Magics have any performance plans to help raise funds or to participate in relief efforts?

Thanks for that and we know many bands like Chile and its people. We really thank all the bands that are trying to help or are simply sending their support. We have got many emails from different parts of the world. Fans and other bands have sent us their valuable support. It’s a so sensible situation for all of us. We had returned from our promotional trip in Germany and after nine hours the disaster began. It was really scary and we are still having news about the real consequences of this tragedy. It has been something that has affected us in different ways – mainly psychologically speaking. Feeling our houses or apartments so vulnerable and feeling hundreds of aftershocks has been very hard. Emotionally, we are still affected and I think it will take a lot of time to be totally recovered. Life has changed for all of us since that day, no matter if our house was or was not destroyed or if we have relatives missing or not. As many of us are teachers so the professional situation hasn’t changed too much, but our students are also affected. It’s a circle, but we are trying to stand up. We have seen a lot of tragedy in our country and you suffer when your country is suffering too. We have been collaborating with different foundations as a band and also individually. We are always available to do benefits too. It’s also a way to cure our souls when you can help others and you realize you must be grateful to be alive and have all your family with you. If readers want to donate to the relief effort what is the best way they can contribute? As you can imagine, there are many ways people can support Chile. If they really want to do it they will find the best way. Fortunately, Chilean foundations are very confident. One is Hogar de Cristo (Christ Home) at and here you also have another interesting linkThank you very much for your patience and support. God bless you all guys. With love, Elizabeth and Six Magics.

 

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