Michelle Nocon – Death Penalty

Interview by Miriam C.

It’s written Death Penalty but it’s pronunced Cathedral. No, peeps you’re not misreading ’cause in DP‘s ranks hides Mr.Gaz Jennings, one of the former members from the doomsters UK’s maestros Cathedral. Well, time ago Jennings declared to the media that he “didn’t have any intention of getting another band together” but apparently it seems that he doesn’t want to give up for real. Supported by his Belgian companions, the band published on September 16th, 2014 via Rise Above Records their selftitled debut, so the frontlady Michelle, took some time to reply to our question!
 
Hi Michelle, first of all, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you?

Hey there! Thanks for having me. I’m doing pretty well.

So, on 16th September 2014 Death Penalty is debuting with its selftitled album, how do you feel (probably) to have accomplished a major goal in you life and how the press is reacting? “Death Penalty” is already gaining some fantastic reviews.

I’m extremely happy it goes so well indeed. We didn’t know what to expect. People who know Gaz will somehow always compare us to Cathedral. So that will definitely lead to some extreme reactions. I think we are somewhat love it or hate it, but that’s what I like about it. I never thought I would do anything like this. It wasn’t even on the achievements list, rather on the impossible list. But here we are. The press is very curious and very supporting! So that’s awesome really.

But let’s do a step back, according to a recent interview Gaz stated the primordial ideas for Death Penalty were already hatching in 2010 though we must set your official band debut in 2013 at the Rise Above Records 25th Anniversary Party. When happen and what do you recall of your first approach with Gaz Jennings?

He contacted me through Lee [Dorrian] first and then he mailed me in August. When Lee contacted me asking about it, I thought “Yeah yeah we will see”. I gave Lee the email address I was available on but I didn’t believe he would really contact me. So when Gaz did mail me that was pretty weird. He was very humble and nervous to ask me, which is pretty crazy haha. He send me 14 songs in his first mail and again 8 or so in a second mail… And I started putting vocals on em as soon as I could. We got along really well from the start and everything went pretty fast.

Let’s delve into DP‘s album – what you can share about its genesis?

 Well, as you said Gaz already had some ideas in mind. He wrote a lot of material already long before there was even a whisper about the band. So he had riffs lying around, and after Cathedral was done he found the time to make songs out of them or write new riffs and songs. So he send me a shitload of songs and I just started recording randomly. First vocal line was “Children of the Night”. It was pretty funny because Gaz had asked me to sing like I did in Serpentcult. But it’s very hard because I had this vocal line in my head that didn’t sound like special at all. Nevertheless I send it to him. He told me afterwards that he thought ‘what is she doing’. But then he listened again and he liked it more then anything, luckily… I recorded a vocal line at my place every week. So we soon had 6 songs ready to play at the Rise Above Anniversary. I worked on more songs after that gig. He had ideas in mind but whenever I delivered a song he said “you sing on all the wrong parts”. But afterwards he says, “fuck yeah that sounds even better then I wanted”. So I’m very very happy that my voice and his riffs match so well together. During the recording In London I showed Gaz some pictures I made of a cemetary nearby in the woods. He loved them and after reworking them a little we used them as artwork. He also gave me total freedom with the lyrics. So yeah, that’s pretty amazing. During the making of our Debut he gave me so much trust that I had the feeling I was actually good at what I was doing haha. Everything came together at the right time I think.

Well, Gaz, after Catherdral‘s split, said (and I quote from the press release) “I didn’t have any intention of getting another band together”. I realize that is a question I should forward to him personally but I think that you can give us your point of view on this matter as well. What you can say about it?

 It’s not problem to forward the question to him if you like? But what he told me he basically wanted to record an album and that’s it. But Lee made him somewhat watery about Japan so he soon decided that we would form a band and play live. Ofcourse I was very happy with that. The best thing of being in a band is playing live!

So you, Raf (bass), Frederik (Drums) are coming both from Belgium. How did you manage to work together, when you were distant from each other? And what does, in your opinion, being from different countries add to the band from a cultural and creative point of view?

Gaz basically writes all the music. He sends the songs to me. I write all the vocal lines and lyrics. Ofcourse I sing on all the wrong parts so he adjusts the songs a bit. Then we send them over to Cozy and Raf so they can practise. After we agreed to try on Cozy we rehearsed once and we knew this is it. Same with Raf. I think we rehearsed twice before the Rise Above Anniversary gig. So if you work with people you must be sure they are going to deliver. Ofcourse I knew Frederik (Cozy) and Raf but Gaz basically had to trust on my judgement. Rehearsing and playing live is also a big difference. Live the dynamic of the band is much more important then when you rehearse. But yeah I think we make a good team. Frederik and me live pretty nearby. Raf lives a little further but I basically just need the guitars to make my vocal lines. Gaz programs the drums so I get the flow. To be honest I thought it was harder to be in a band with someone from another country. But we have a very efficient way of working, for us at least I think. Let’s say I started making vocal lines around September and we recorded in April. With a band that hardly rehearses and meets because of the distance that’s pretty good I think. It went better then we could ever imagine.

I kinda love that Gaz lives in England because I get to make awesome trips to England whenever we need to record/ practise/…. Or he comes over and it’s like having a friend over, rehearsing with the guys and talking about music. We don’t see each other often so then we try to make to most of it. He gets to know some Belgian habits and we some English ones I guess. We are all different personalities in the band but ofourse there is a big difference between an English person and a Belgian one. Makes things even more exciting I think.

Beside being Death Penalty‘s singer, you have in the pipeline an interesting project called Bathsheba. Do you have any details to share?

I would be happy to tell you more about it. Well we started off as a 4 piece, making doom basically. We just finished mixing 4 songs that we will release ourselfves on tape. The rest of the band is Jelle Stevens known from Sardonis, Dwight Goossens from Disinterred, Raf Meukens who also plays in Death Penalty. Shortly we have a 5th member for second guitar, Filip Dupont who used the be the main person behind Gorath. We are doing some gigs now and soon we will have the honour of releasing some great news in terms of working together with a label… but that news will be online soon enough. We just put the official video online for the song “The Sleepless Gods” from the demo. The demo we recorded ourselfves and was mixed by Marc van Duivenvoorde from Herder. I also have a little one (wo)man project going. Very love it or hate it. It’s called Leviathan Speaks and it’s kinda ambient black. It gave me the chance to do samples for some cool bands like Deuil. Here’s the link with some music if you like: http://shewolf777.bandcamp.com/or https://www.facebook.com/cultofwolves

We are at the end of this interview, would you like to say something to our readers? Thank you so much for you time!

I would like to say thanks for supporting us and hope you’ll enjoy the album! And great to see a webzine especially interested in all these cool metalchicks 😉 Thank you so much for your time.

 

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