Interview by Si Smith
And here we are having a nice chat, this time, with Kat Ward about the second platter of the UK Progressive Gothic masters hAND. Let’s hear what the singer she has to tell us…
If you don’t mind, let us take a walk back in time. You describe your current musical incarnation loosely as “Prog goth”, but originally you were a rocky trance duo? How did that work?! And where did you find Cris? (FYI Cris has now left the band and Dan Thomas is now our new drummer).
We started off with a piano, a guitar and a drum machine, the very early work of hAND is quite industrial sounding and very different to our current sound. We recorded one EP before we decided that adding a live drummer to the mix would really add impact and presence, especially on the live front. We advertised for a drummer on our local music forum, Cris turned up for an audition and we just hit it off straight away.
So moving on a little we find the band releasing 2 EPs, the second of which appears to have gained you some sponsorship and reputation in the industry. How was the feeling in the band at this time? Did you see something good coming, or were you just playing things “by ear”?The second EP was really just a chance to see how we sounded as a three piece, it was also the first time we went into a studio to record so it was a nice experience all round. We sent it out to a few people for critique and overall response was very positive. At this point we just wanted to get some live experience, write some new songs and look into releasing a third EP. We were enjoying being a band more than anything else. In 2007 you took part in the AKG Unsigned Heroes competition and won through to the top 20; eventually you signed to Copro Records. How was the band evolving at this time? Were you still reworking your original material, or constantly writing new stuff? We’re always writing new songs! When we signed to Copro it was a little bit of a wakeup call, I think we all took a step back and thought “ok let’s start taking this a bit more seriously and see what we can do”. The first album consists of most of our original material; there are songs on there that are from back when hAND was a duo.
And so the inevitable debut album loomed large on the horizon!! “Deadroom Journal” (July 2008) seems to have been received well in the press, with Metal Hammer describing it as “surprisingly inventive”, and Kerrang comparing your lyrical world to Amy Lee but your musical approach as “reminiscent of Tori Amos-style experimentalism”. Great praise indeed from two of the UK’s most popular music magazines! How did you as a band view your debut album? Did it end up as you had hoped? The whole experience of recording “Deadroom Journal” and hearing the final version was one of the best times of my life so far, I’m pretty sure that goes for the guys as well. It came out far beyond expectation, and we are all really proud of that record. Sure we listen back to it now and think we should’ve done this differently or that could be better, but it’s still a great sounding album. It was really nice to hear all the songs we’d been working on and playing for a couple of years brought to life and done justice.
“Manuscript” and “Clannad Mass” were the only two tracks to make it to your debut album from your earlier releases. What was it about these two pieces that you felt was particularly worthy of a place on the album?
“Clannad” was always a favourite with the band and our fans, so we felt that it had to be on our debut album, everyone loved that song. We really wanted to represent the piano more and we had some interesting ideas for an album version of “Manuscript”, so that’s why it ended up as the first track. Much gigging and promoting of the new album followed, but at the beginning of 2010 your UK tour dates were cancelled. Two cancelled tours in 12 months? That must have been a real downer for the band. What was the problem with the management? And how do you “bounce back” from something like that?
It must have been a real buzz to join up with Femme Metal Records, as committed as they are to supporting and promoting their acts. Has it made a difference to the bands outlook and approach at all?
Towards the end of last year you were asked to guest on Isor‘s new album on the cover of “I’ve Got the Power”. That must have been exciting! Did it tempt you to progress in an even heavier direction? Or are you happy with the band’s “heaviness” as it is now?!It was a last minute and spontaneous thing but I was very happy to do it. It was a nice feeling to be asked as Nick (drummer for Isor) has worked with lots of artists but chose me to guest on his album. In terms of heaviness, I would say we are writing “heavier” sections for some of the brand new material, but for us it’s about a piece as a whole and we love contrast and unpredictability. I don’t think we’ll progress much more into the heavy side of things, but you never know. The first thing you revealed with regards to the new album was the cover, which you posted up on your various sites. Could you explain its significance to us? The whole album artwork was loosely based around a vinyl by Toyah called “The Blue Meaning”. We all really liked the front cover and wanted to create something along the lines of that. We invested a lot of time and energy in a photo shoot for the artwork and let Gustavo run with it, we wanted photos to play a big part of it. He came up with about 4 different covers which were very hard to choose between, in the end we picked the one we did because it was a little bit darker and had a bit more mystery to it than the others.
It appears from the “Recording Breathing” video series that you released that you had a great time in the recording process of the new album!! What would you say is the key to successfully getting through this process alive and well at the other end (and with a great product!)? Preparation before you even get to the studio is a major factor. The more practiced you are with the material the easier it is to record and it’s going to make the process more relaxed and fun. You want to triple check every piece of gear and take spares if you can, something will go wrong!!! Other than that, discipline in yourself. Recording an album is a great experience and personally I want the finished result to be the best that it can be, if that means detoxing on caffeine, dairy, alcohol and the occasional smoke to make sure my voice is ready, then that’s what I’ll do. The album starts with a deceptively simple song, after which we get “The Pier”, a six minute journey through mellow parts, a really fast interlude and finally almost shouted/spoken vocals over riffing towards the end. With all that variety, how on earth do you decide upon the final structure of a song? Do you all have similar ideas as to where a song should be going, or do you all have conflicting influences and preferences that somehow create a coherent whole? Sometimes we have a rough plan for a certain type of song and work round that, others we just go with the flow. We generally tend to write songs with the music first, and most of it comes from us having a jam until one of us plays something we all really like, and that’s our starting point. I write all the lyrics completely separately from the band and match them up with whichever song I feel they suit the best, the vocal melodies are always the last thing to be worked on. All of us have very different influences and taste in music but we’re happy to include bits from everyone’s pool of experience, it’s what makes our music so varied.
Being only a three-piece, the vocals are quite prominent in the mix and some of the backing is quite minimal in places. Do you feel that the band is limited at all because of this? Have you ever thought of having additional members? I definitely don’t see it as a limitation and it helps in writing by pushing us to think of more interesting ideas. We did experiment on this album with the track “Re-animation” (and are continuing to do so); it features some synth from Tom Johnstone – which works quite well! We’re always trying to think of new elements and have discussed having a second guitarist from time to time; we usually come to the same conclusion that we feel it would make our sound more “mainstream” and lose some of the quirky edge it has now.
The album comes out on the 2nd May (It’s was changed to June 6th) in the UK. Judging by the reviews you have received so far, how do you anticipate the album being received? I hope the overall reception will be very positive, based on the reviews and comments so far it’s heading that way. I think most reviewers will be able to appreciate the musicianship and intricacy of the music even if it’s not a style that they would normally listen to. A big “thumbs up” from the UK prog scene would be very nice too! You have played in the past alongside bands such as Delain, Octavia Sperati & Lahannya. Will you be (hopefully) touring the UK promoting this album? Any festivals planned? Unfortunately not long before “Breathing” was released our drummer Cris decided to leave the band due to having other commitments; this has meant that any dates or plans for a launch party have had to take a backseat to finding a new drummer. Fortunately we have very recently recruited Dan Thomas to be our new drummer and are looking to get back on stage and playing shows as soon as we can. Well we look forward to hearing more from the hAND camp in the future, but until then thank you so much for talking with us, we at Femme metal webzine wish you all the best with the album release!! Cheers and thanks for the interview!
Interview by Erwin van Dijk
Dakrya is a gothic metal band from Greece and the bandname means “Tears” in Greek. They recently released their debut album called “Monumento”.
The first question: can you tell us something about yourself?
Christina : Hello, I am Christina and I am singing in Dakrya. Singing sets my soul free, makes me feel alive, and I hope that through our music the audience will find a way to express their feelings.
Thomais : Well… I am Thomais sharing the vocal area (the more classical one) with Christina in Dakrya too. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it… haha I’m just kidding. Love sharing the stage with those guys cause they are my friends, and like a family to me.
How did you get into the music business? Did you always wanted to become a singer?
Christina: I always wanted to become a singer, since I remember myself. As a child I used to give performances in front of my parents! My deepest will was to sing and share this joy I felt with others. When I graduated from high school I thought that journalism was a good idea, so I studied mass media at the university. But singing is something that has always been chasing me and I’m quite sure that I won’t let it go! At the age of eighteen I started singing lessons and soon I came across people who helped me find my way into the music business.
Thomais: Certainly a tough one, and difficult to handle with! Well, its classical background makes it even more demanding when I have to combine the techniques in this kind of music and it has its needs of space and time. That’s why I believe emotion and expression are so important. They give colour and meaning to a voice, helping you pushing your limits further.
Guitarists and drummers can talk endlessly about their gear. Since you are one of the singers of Dakrya, what do you do to keep your voice in top condition?
Christina : As I said before, I’ve attended singing lessons for 4 years and I’m still working on my voice with exercises. Actually, I’m going to continue the lessons and try to improve my technique and my potentials.
Thomais : For me keeping my voice in a good condition is really important. It’s my instrument and the way I handle it shows in the results so I have to be careful. I always prepare my voice before a show, rehearsal or entering a studio. Of course there is a weekly exercise too. The voice is a very fragile instrument and a unique one in every human being. You have to practise its different abilities every day and it never stops to amaze you.
Have you played in other bands before Dakrya? Or do you have an other band besides Dakrya?
Christina : I’ve participated in another band before Dakrya. That was my first experience in a band, which helped me to learn how to cooperate with other musicians and move on. We didn’t have discography or even a band name, we were just a group of people who shared their love for metal and rock music. At the moment Dakrya is my only band and try to give my best to it.
Thomais : Yes I have been in other bands. I was the singer of Insidius Infernus for a period of time, a Greek black metal band, releasing two albums in our active years. I was 17 years old back then and had the cliché nickname Luciferia… hahaha. I have also participated in some theatrical choirs and giving session performances… at the moment I’m giving my full attention to Dakrya and I’ll keep it that way for a while as we have new recordings coming and shows to give.
To what kind of music do you listen yourself? And who is your favorite singer?
Christina : I love music in general, but metal and rock music have a special place in my heart. Black Sabbath is my favourite band, with their incomparable riffs stuck in my head! Lately I’m more into southern rock, and listen to bands like Monster Magnet and the Greek’s Nightstalker. As for the voices I admire, I love the powerful voice of Bruce Dickinson, the absolute rock voice of Axl Rose and the black voice of Joss Stone.
Thomais : I prefer listening to music that suits my emotional state at any time, I have some favorites starting with Primordial, Shinning or Meshuggah (the third one will make our guitarist really happy! Haha), ending with Loreena McKennit, Ayreon and so on. I listen to metal and classical music of course but I also love industrial, folk – acoustic and rock in general.
Christina, what are the differences between you and Thomais when it comes about singing for Dakrya?
Christina : Thomais has a more lyrical voice with a classical background and as I said we try to combine our voices. Of course, each voice has a different role in the songs. I believe that in Dakrya we are experimenting so much with our voices that sometimes our voices seem like one.
Thomais, what are the differences between you and Christina when it comes about singing for Dakrya?
Thomais : Well, first of all how our voices make as different… plus she is blond! Haha! Every song is a different concept… we have to express different emotions, playing a different role in a more theatrical aspect. That gives us different orientations, but makes us more bonded too. Depending on what you need to feel that very moment you listen the song.
What is the idea behind the band name?
Thomais : Dakrya is a Greek word written in Latin characters and it means ‘tears.’ I guess Sophia came up with that name for the band because she was having a kind of dark and esoteric period, nostalgic or even a hopeful one. A tear can be shed for many reasons… joy to anger, sadness or fulfillment.
Can you tell us something about the songs present on the debut album?
Christina: The first three songs in the album is a trilogy. They are talking about faith and its loss, the punishment that follows and the domination of pain, and finally about the newborn hope that rises from the ashes of our existence. The human element is very intense through the songs and they describe the emotional changes of a man and the function of the subconscious.
Thomais: All the songs have their own reason to appear in the album, even their order and their structure gives them a concept meaning. Past dominates and bounds a timeline when things change us personally, musically even the people participating in this attempt of giving life in this work. It’s a monument of memories that became melodies for you to listen.
About the songwriting: is there one mastermind in the band who does all the writing or is it teamwork?
Thomais : Yes, all the credits go to SophiaX for that. She begun having a dream and tried give it life through her compositions and lyrics. Christina and I create all the vocal arrangements and George D. enriches the sound with extra guitar parts and solos.
Dagwn, the singer from Nethescerial did the brutal vocals on “Monumento”. How was it to work together with a male singer?
Thomais : It was fine! We had a great time and fun during the studio sessions! We needed a masculine feeling and he clicked really nice. He is doing a great job with his band too and he was the first we though for the guest vocals.
Christina : It was fine! We had a great time and fun during the studio sessions! We needed a masculine feeling and he clicked really nice. He is doing a great job with his band too and he was the first we though for the guest vocals.
And how are you going to do his part live? With guest singers?
Thomais : George has already taken the responsibility for the brutal vocals and it works really well on stage too. Well, guest singers may appear in the future but for different reasons and not from the lack of one.
Christina: Yes, I think it’s time for George to show all of his talents!
I could find little information about Thomas K, who did the declamations on “Monumento”. Who is he?
Thomais : Thomas is a very good friend of us and had been preparing during rehearsals as a second guitarist for a small period. He left the group though for his own personal reasons and we won’t have him with us but of course our friendship still remains.
Christina : Thomas K except from our friend I believe he is our biggest fan! He is very supportive and we are so grateful about it.
There are not many metal bands from Greece and certainly not with female singers (exceptions are to name a few Ismini and Astarte) Can you tell us something about the music scene in Greece. Is it difficult there for the more heavy metal oriented bands?
Thomais : Things are very difficult in the metal Greek scene in general. Labels don’t pay a great attention to newcomers and sponsorships are rare in the beginning. So you have to try with your own forces, to prove yourself to the audience who is the only factor that will set the fate of a new group, by accepting or reject it.
Christina : Actually there are many metal bands in Greece. The problem is that it is very difficult for metal bands here to move on and become known to a larger audience and especially outside the borders of Greece. The most popular music in Greece is the local Greek music and dominates the music business without leaving any opportunities for metal or even rock bands to develop. It is really sad…
And since Greece is relatively far away from Western Europe (some 3,000 kilometres by car) is that the reason why we see not many bands from Greece tour in the west? (Besides Rotting Christ).
Thomais : All that I said before comes to the answer in your question. A label will make an attempt to support a band and helping it’s effort by booking a European tour and so on, when it will notice it’s success and acceptance in Greece.
Christina : If you don’t have some kind of financial support I think it’s too difficult to tour to Europe. Especially for young people who are working hard just to make a living and they have no savings…
So, are there any plans for a tour in Europe?
Christina : There are no plans at the moment, as we want to tour in Greece first, but there are a few potentials for European gigs in 2009 and we are going to make it true despite the obstacles! We want to see the world and taste new experiences as musicians and as persons too.
And the last question, are there things the reader should know that I haven’t ask?
Thomais : Thank you Erwin, for giving us the chance to come closure to the audience. We would love to see you soon by giving a live performance in your country.
Christina : I want to thank you too! Well, the readers should know that we have some new stuff to work on and hope we will surprise them positively!
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