Interview by Robin Stryker
Gritty, Jack Daniels-fueled punk rock is alive and well in London. Nemhain, formed in 2006 by vocalist Amber Erlandsson and her husband, drumming maestro Adrian Erlandsson (ex-Cradle of Filth, The Haunted, At the Gates), have just unleashed their debut album, “From the Ashes” (released 22 January 2010 on Tiefdruck Musik). The band’s name captures the essence of its music perfectly – Nemhain is the Celtic goddess of battle frenzy. And what a frenzy it is! With a pair of oven mitts and a fire extinguisher close at hand, Femme Metal sat down with Amber (aka Morrigan Hel) to get the whole story from the fire-breathing Welsh dragon herself.
Welcome, Amber! Please tell us more about Nemhain’s blues-stained style of punk rock.
Cheers! It’s best listened to when absolutely hammered apparently. We’re loud, confident and wrong!
“From the Ashes” includes a raging cover of The Gits’ “Second Skin” as a duet with Pete Dolving (The Haunted). Why did you choose this song to cover?
It was actually Lakis who came up with the idea. He came to try out for us and said whether he joined the band or not we had to hear this song and maybe cover it. It’s a great song and fits what we’re about. It’s also a tribute to Mia Zapata and The Gits.
Which tracks mean the most to you personally?
They all do really, although my personal favourites are “Clear My Eyes”, “Heroin Child”, “Jane Doe”, “Babylonia”, “Speed Queen” and “Second Skin”.
If I understand correctly, you were in a couple of bands and wrote many of the lyrics to “Girls Like Honey” as a teenager but Nemhain is your first experience with recording and gigging. What made you decide to go for it as a professional musician?
It’s something I’d always wanted to do. I got to my 27th birthday and figured if I don’t make a go of it now I’ll have missed the rock n roll boat for good :S
Would you introduce the other members of Nemhain and tell us a little something about each one?
Lakis (Guitar): Is a strange creature from the planet Lak. He gets tangled in guitar leads, has nearly been run over a few times and attracts nutcases where ever we go. He also likes to pace a lot, especially in confined spaces!
Sam (Guitar): Is currently being taken over by his own beard. He has a talent for scat and does some cracking drive by scatting! He also seems to have a hat fetish and smokes brown roll ups.
Lisa (Bass & Vocals): Has OCD and a herd of wild Shitzus. She seems to attract hairy things. She also has narcolepsy and is made up of really intense energy drinks and the blackest coffee…
Adrian (Drums): Likes to hit things, a violent love/hate relationship with mobile phones, horrendous flatulence and a pocket full of pranks ready to weaken people at every opportunity. He’s also extremely food aggressive, be warned.
Here at Femme Metal, we are suckers for romance. How did you meet your husband, Adrian? Was there a specific moment that made you think, “yeah, he’s the one”?
I was working for Cradle of Filth at a signing when we first met, he’d only just joined the band. He chased me around plying me with Jack Daniels and trying to feed me things. He also fixed my boot which is always a winner. We got married after 7 weeks and now we’re coming up to our 9 year anniversary! J
Lest people think that my dragon remark was rude, you really are a fire performer who has torched the stage with bands like Motorhead, Cradle of Filth and Godhead. How in the world does one get into the fire-breathing biz? Have you had any close calls?
Initially I was just messing around with a load of friends in the park, just for fun. A few years later I met my partner Sophia Landi and she taught me a lot and it all went from there really. When I was learning to eat fire and body burn, I got quite a few burns in my mouth/tongue and on my body but nothing too serious. The worst thing that’s happened is that I ended up with Chemical Pneumonia from fire breathing. I was really sick for almost a month. Fire breathing is pretty lethal and I really wouldn’t recommend it, it can kill you if you’re not careful.
Turning from one type of blistering vocals to another, I understand that you have been working with a vocal coach for quite some time now. What areas are you focusing on at the moment?
I’d never had any vocal coaching other than two lessons with a friend back in 2006 and one three weeks ago with a lady called Tona Da Brett. I’ve got some vocal books and CDs but other than that I’ve just learned through trial and error and believe me there’s been a lot of it ha ha!
Do you play any instruments?
I played violin at school but haven’t touched one in years. I’ve got a lovely matt black Les Paul guitar and a red Zombie. I play mainly for fun and writing vocal harmonies but I’d really love to play live one day when I’m good enough.
With a background as a professional dancer, movie actress, performance artist, fetish model and Domina, you had extensive exposure to bands, performing and the media before forming Nemhain. Do you feel that your previous experience has been helpful?
To an extent it helps with stage fright but singing live for up to an hour takes a lot of stamina which is something I’ve really had to build up. When I first started out, I’d lose my voice but you learn to breathe and use the right muscles pretty quick! It’s either that or no voice.
On the flip side, are you ever underestimated as “just an über-babe propped behind a microphone” (which completely ignores the fact that you write the lyrics)?
Ha ha, propped up! I do tend to prop myself up with my mic stand if I’ve had a few too many I’m sure there are probably plenty of negative opinions out there, but if you let that bother you’ll just end up turning into a paranoid wreck. Anyone who knows me will know the amount of hard work that’s gone into this band, there’s a lot more than just writing and performing. There’s artwork, promotion, booking gigs, organising shoots, the list goes on…
Nemhain and your stage name (Morrigan Hel) are both based on mythology. What is the lure of Celtic and Norse mythology for you?
I was fascinated by the Occult from an early age and part of it involved connecting with aspects of a deity. Celtic mythology is closest to my heart as it all comes from the UK & Ireland. I came across a book which featured The Morrigan pretty heavily & I had some really weird dreams after reading it. I then decided to take it on as a stage name, I think I was about 18 at the time. The Hel part is the Norse Goddess of the underworld and seemed like a good coupling. I used to skive off of school quite a lot as a teenager and spent a lot of my time reading about the Occult and Astrology, writing lyrics, drinking way too much cider and generally being a pain in the arse!
Time for random non-musical trivia … Favourite pair of ridiculously high shoes?
I’ve got a beautiful pair of black leather Alexander McQueen shoe/boots with skull details.
Cheese-toasties or chocolate?
Definitely cheese toasties, preferably with red onion and mayonnaise!!! Chocolate I can take or leave
Favourite piece of weaponry?
I’ve got a really nice, almost surgical style Japanese knife that I love.
Things you love?
My husband and close friends/band mates, my geriatric cat andsnakes. The smell of leather, music, fire, garlic, cheese, chili, travel, wildlife, food, booze, freedom, humour, the ridiculous and a good pub!
Things you hate?
Mediocrity, single white females, insecurity and jealousy are horrible traits, liars. Teddy bears, Hello Kitty, the overly processed, people with delusions of grandeur. Crowds and people who have loads of children without thinking about the consequences and then neglect them.
Causes that are closest to your heart?
Preventing animal cruelty, hate crimes and rape.
Your idea of a perfect day?
Being in bed with my husband
I was disappointed to read that the RockInvasion tour with Nemhain, Black Sonic and Die So Fluid has been postponed. Is Nemhain lining up new gigs?
It was a real shame but it will hopefully be rescheduled for later in the year. We have another tour planned for May with The Cumshots, M.A.N and Superbutt. It’s a longer tour and we’re really excited about it.
What plans do you and Nemhain have for 2010?
Finishing “Murder Mile” our photo studio, finishing and recording the second Nemhain album, filming a new video, tearing it up at festivals and live shows, and draining bars all around the world dry!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with Femme Metal, Amber. Any last words for your fans?
Thanks so much for all the support, it means a lot. Be sure to pour yourself a stiff one (or ten) and play “From the Ashes” until your ears bleed! XxX
Label: New Model Label/Black Fading Records
Review By Tony Cannella
The strangely monickered band Lunacy Box hail from Italy and they play hard-edged rock/metal, but other than that they are tough to describe. They incorporate a number of influences from heavy pop to alternative and of course rock and metal. The guitar riffs are trance-like and ethereal and the overall musicianship and draftsmanship of the songs are very good. The band is fronted by female power vocalist Ms. Larsen. Cristiano Santini (Guitar), Andrea Bastoni (Bass) and Davide Furlani (Drums) complete the line-up. The opening track “Wrong Lane” starts off heavy and then changes tempo for the first verse. Vocalist Ms.Larsen has a unique voice that is well suited for what is going on musically. This is pretty cool tune, that has a cool dark and mysterious vibe. A good start. Next is “Save” and it keeps the mood alive and is one of highlights. The track features a heavy riff and a catchy melody, that really makes the song. “Love to Hate Me” is next and it is a very edgy track brimming with attitude and rebellion. “Broken Dreams” is just a straight forward down and dirty rocker of a tune that starts off with a heavy, funky riff and it has a great chorus. The 1-minute track “Nice Shot prelude” leads us into the biggest surprise on the CD a cover version of the song “Hey Man, Nice Shot!” originally done by Filter. The band really do an excellent version of the song and it is one of the highlights. That is not to say that Lunacy Box can’t write their own songs. They write very well a fact that is evidenced on such songs as “No Turning Back” and “I Think I’m Done”. “Hide” offers a change of pace from the hard driving mayhem, it is a really pretty ballad that has plenty of heart and emotion behind it. The awesome closing number “More Than I Do” is the absolute highlight for me and a fantastic way to end things and leave the listener wanting more. It has a dark and dreamy vibe to it and creates just a cool atmosphere. It looks like Italy has given us another fine band, although this one differs greatly from many of the symphonic metal bands that are coming from that part of the world. Lunacy Box portray a bit of a dark vibe and they certainly have no-nonsense approach that is very admirable. The CD is relatively short at only 38-minutes long, but it is the quality of the material not the quantity, and on these 10 songs, there is plenty of quality. Lunacy Box are a band that can appeal to many different music fans, all they need is to be given a chance.
Rating – 75/100
Label : Shinto Records
Review by Mortuai
Try as I might to be impartial, I find myself slightly biased about “Poet”, the debut release from Pennsylvania native Tiffany Apan. On the one hand, I’m still a bit miffed about the fact Tiffany was supposed to be one of the participants on the “Ferocity and Feminitity” compilation but never got around to sending her contribution. On the other hand, those familiar with my tastes (or lack thereof) know full well I am a self-confessed fan of the bizarre in motion pictures, and due to this, her role in Troma Films’ “Meat For Satan’s Icebox” (no, seriously, that’s the name of the film) definitely qualifies her to catch a break or two from me, so it all evens out and I’m back to where I should have started in the first place. While it may be a bit of a stretch to call the model/actress/singer’s album a metal release, it certainly is an interesting, if somewhat uneven, listen. Apan‘s modeling career seems to focus on gothic imagery, and that particular imagery carries over very well into her music, her smooth, melancholic, semi-operatic vocals blending effectively with the everything-else-in-the-band instrumental work of her co-writer Jason English. Vocally, Tiffany reminds me a bit of Sarah Brightman, a touch of Lana Lane and perhaps just a tiny hint of Stefanie Duchêne, though at no point does she sound like a clone of anyone else. Musically, atmosphere is the name of the game here and “Poet” positively drips with it, plenty of stylistic variety on display but every track conjuring up dark soundscapes which are at times classically beautiful and at other moments disturbingly discordant…sometimes both within the course of the same song. Cuts like piano-driven opener “Ghost” (which works much better than the guitar-soaked remix version of the same track included a bit later in the disc), the meditative “Destiny’s Path” and the effects-and-dark riff-laden “Ashes to Dust” are excellent songs but other tracks like the lurching, Middle-Eastern-meets-Celtic “Black Forest” don’t seem to trigger much more in the listener than confusion. Oddly enough, my two favorite tracks on the album are the two cover tunes – one a superb dark-tinged version of traditional folk tune “Scarborough Fair” (made most famous, of course, by Simon and Garfunkel) and the other a heavily Patsy Cline-influenced tune originally performed by Apan‘s grandparents in the late 50′s and early 60′s, a track which may seem to the casual listener to be very much out of place in a hard rock release yet somehow fits in here almost perfectly. “Poet” is not for everyone – listeners who may be looking for something a bit more aggressive and metallic or something a bit more commercially viable will doubtless be somewhat disappointed by the generally slow pace and often experimental nature of the music. Fans of gothic rock who appreciate moody melodic vocals should definitely snap this one up though, as it is highly enjoyable for those who have enough of an open mind to appreciate what it has to offer..
Rating – 75/100
- Porcelain Heart
- Runaway and Hide
- Ghost (Persephone’s NetherRealm Remix)
- A Prayer
- Black Forest
- Scarborough Fair
- Destiny’s Path
- Ashes to Dust
- Warrior (Soldier for Myself)
- Tiffany Apan – Vocals
- Jason English – Instruments
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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