Intervista di Arianna Govoni
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people”. We could introduce you this way the new album by Dutch extreme metal act Dictated, “Phobos”, that will be out tomorrow. It’s never an easy task to tell your own scariest fears and analizing them through words and music and both Yessica Netto and Sonja Schuringa know it perfectly. The two guitar players wanted to rely their own fears to this brand new record, analizing the scariest and darkest fears of the human mind. Esclusively on Femme Metal, we’re going to introduce you these fear through-out this in-depth interview.
Hi girls and welcome to FMW. It’s a great pleasure hosting this chat with you today, how are you doing?
Yessica: Thank you! Aaah, I’m busy, we have so many things going on right now, it’s a little bit hectic and crazy but I’m good.
I’d like to start out our chat making a small step back in order to introduce the band to those people who aren’t familiar with you. Would you mind introducing Dictated?
Sonja: Uh, I think Dictated has officially started in 2010, I think.
Yessica: Yeah, I think so, I think the plans were there in 2008, but we officially started in 2010. Oh, it seems such a long time ago!
Sonja: I remember Yessica and I came up with the idea to both start playing guitar in a band, so we just started to sort out what kind of music we both liked and I think that from that moment on, we immediately grew into something we figured it would never be apart, because Yessica and I are like sisters, we’re like relatives, we’re so connected within our music as well, so we had lineup changes during all these past years, but Yessica and I have always been the core members of the band.
Yessica: And I think in 2012, Sonja, we listed our first self recorded album, we had an EP before in 2010, I think, but in 2012 we released “Summary of Retribution” and then we had another line up change, I think, and then we started all over again in 2014. We wrote a new album, we got new members, we even had Henri Sattler from God Dethroned joining us and that album, “The Deceived”, in 2014 released by Metal Blade and that’s a very short history, ehehehe.
On October you will release your brand new album, “Phobos”. Compared to your previous records, that were more based on old school melodies, here we deal more with brutal and death metal, two music genres that are still very appreciated by metalheads. What can you tell me about the recording process of the record?
Sonja: Usually, the previous albums we’ve recorded were a various mix of drums recorded in a studio where we played the guitar, home, vocals studio-based sometimes as well. It was sort of a mix of different ways of trying and I think with “Phobos” we all agreed it was time for us to step in to the studio. We had a difficult time in choosing between a couple of studios, because they were a lot of good ones, and actually we picked Double Impact, because we had some other studio but they were further away. Recording the album was as much you could think you’re prepared for a studio, you’re never on, because there’s always something going on. There’s always kicks back, in our case we had a huge problem with the guitar, I couldn’t figure out what the problem was and it caused a delay for a couple of days, eventually the vocals went fine, drums were amazing, the guitars as well. That was our first experience along with the full band in the studio. I thought it was pretty awesome.
Yessica: I think it was our first time we actually recorded the guitars in the studio as well, we’ve been recording at home. We have our home studio, so we can experiment whatever we want and this was the first time we had in a specific time we had to record all these songs, like the guitar problem. I mean: if you have two more days to go and you still have six more songs to go, that’s quite stressful and I think that’s also the beauty of the tracks! I mean, you can hear in the guitars… well, I can hear because I wrote it! I can hear the panic and we even have one song we completely flipped around. I mean, the basics were there but at some point, we were: “This is not okay, it’s not okay for Dictated, so what do we do? Do we skip the song? No”. Within an hour we changed everything and then the drummer came in the studio and said: “Oh, how’s this song going? Do we have to play it?”, yeah and he just did it, ehhehe. It was amazing. Yeah, it was the track we just released! That was written within an hour! True story!
As the album title suggests, this record deals with human’s fears: indeed each song of the record depicts a certain phobia, like the fear of water (or travelling by the sea), the fear of heighs or even the fear of being buried alive. What has pushed you, girls, to base an album dealing with these topics, the scariest human’s fears?
Yessica: I think the first inspiration came back in 2016, we were of course writing a riff already but we had no basic ideas about this album, I always wanted to have a concept album and in 2016 we went in India and Nepal on tour, we did five or six shows and it was such an amazing experience! I mean amazing, but also very down to Earth, we’ve experienced some stuff there that inspired us so much. Especially when it comes to fear, we went through some stuff there, I can’t even explain to normal people, or people who haven’t experienced it or who are not into metal, so I was thinking: “How can we translate this experience into a new album?”. When we came back, we just had so much inspiration that it was easy from there on, so we had a couple of topics and automatilly we got the idea: “Okay, wait a minute! These are all based on an experience about fear? Why not making the album about that?”. So of course we all did experience thalasso, the fear of deep water, we didn’t experience it there, but we had an idea that grew into this.
Maybe I’m going to say something that will sound trivial to you, but I think this is the most ambition record you’ve done so far, both musically and lyric-wise, since i guess it wasn’t that easy to think of a concept record, given that you had to cope with those fears. What has been the toughest part of the writing process of this concept?
Yessica: Uuuh, that’s a good question! The toughest part… I think it was getting all connected to each other, I think that was the most hard part, I mean, Sonja and I write most of the songs, except for the drums, we get ideas, we record and then we start to re-record it, we say: “Oh no, this should be different, this shall be different”, but we want to have on the album a build up and also a moment of silence in there… I think in combination with this sort of musical change we did, like you said, we swifted from the old school death metal to a bit more extreme, in my opinion, so I think the whole combination of writing this down and putting it down and recording it, then waiting for a reaction for people like, are they gonna accept this or do they want us to be old school death metal or what the press is gonna say? I think the whole experience of this new album was very hard and raw. I don’t know if you wanna add something, Sonja.
Sonja: Yeah, I was thinking that usually when Yessica and I write music, we listen to other bands to get inspiration, to find a certain vibe from different kind of music, different kind of bands… Some band can really have a good work, sometimes you can hear something really fast and you can listen to awesome music. I think the difficulty with this album was to try to go back and look back to what the initial riff kinda gives you a sort of feeling. I remember, during the writing process, when Yessica wrote a riff, as soon as I listened to it I said: “I wanna throw myself off”, it was such a miserable riff and that feeling kinda stucked with me, because you usually write an album, well, we all did write an album, thinking that we needed to write some kick-ass song and now this album to me is more like we need to feel every flavour of these songs and if we don’t feel it, it’s gonna kick off the album because it’s not good enough. So we scratched a lot of songs, because we just felt it wasn’t connected to all the other songs on the album, and we did eleven songs, we actually looked at the songs carefully. “What kind of vibe do I have?”, “What does it look like this song?”, “How does it feel?”. That connection to make the songs getting together I think it was quite hard.
Yessica: I know what you mean, for example you were talking about that riff, I think it was the track n. 4, so it’s a very atmospheric kind of track and we had to combine it with tracks like the track number 5, that is a very aggressive track and to combine it with something very atmospheric we had to find the right balance between those two kind of songs… but I think in the end it all turned out for the best!
Sonja: Yeah, I agree!
Also the album cover is very suggestive! How does it reconnect to the phobias you’ve described?
Yessica: I think it has everything, we saw that cover from the artist, we saw the painting and we said: “This needs to be on the cover” and immediately the connections in your head became too… well, depicts what a fobia is, and I think it is, because if you look at the face, you can see all the troubles he has, inside he’s like cut up, you can see the trypophobia on his face. I think when you explain a phobia or a fear in general it applies to that image, like fear is always from the inside and especially from the brain, of course, so… If you have a skin on it, you won’t see anything, but I think it’s cool that we see right through him, all the fears that he’s having. He? Or She? I don’t know, ahahah!
Which are the fears that depict you the most? What are your biggest phobias?
Sonja: My fear is thalasso, thalassophobia, I don’t even have to think about it, I remember when we wrote the album, I went to all the band members and I collected all their fears so it’s a very personal fear to share and of course, they’re men, they don’t have fears! Ahahaha, it was hard to get fears! They all have fears! Mine is Thalasso, I watched “The Meg” just yesterday and it’s a good representation of my kind of fear! Whatever it happens in the deep, dark ocean, I can’t even look at it, even big boats, everything that is under the dark or large objects under the water… I can’t even look at the pictures. It’s a rational fear, but I do prefer not to go into the oceans or lakes, you know, swimming pools are fine for me.
Yessica: We all have one fear on this album, so five people = five fears that are personal, and mine is the track number 9, trypophobia. It’s not really a fear, it’s more the disgust, it’s the fear of holes, I think I always had this fear, just looking at holes, like, for example, honey combs or beehives or anything with holes, they just make me nauseus immediately. When you have these cars driving around, I think it’s a new car and they have these brake lines and if I drive right behind them and they break, you see they have these holes on them, it just immediately turns my stomach. I would like to gain more info about this fear, but I can’t google it, because I advice you not to google it, because it’s fucking disgusting. I mean, I’m not really afraid of it, so I don’t lose any sleep over it, but if I see it, it’s immediately disgusting.
Sonja: It’s good to have a list of all the fears of your band members, so whenever they misbehave, you can pull out the pictures!
Yessica: York, the vocalist, has the fear of being buried alive, the guitar player’s is hypso, the fear of heights, but what about Frank, the drummer?
Sonja: He’s afraid of losing his mind!
Yessica: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah!
The record sees the attendance of Mendel from Aborted and Julien from Benighted. What could you tell me about it?
Sonja: Oh, Julien has been a friend for many, many years, Julien is the vocalist from Benighted and we see him a couple of times every year, his grunts, his vocals are very, very gore, that is what he’s known for. We figured he would have been a good combination with our vocalist York, he has a different style, but definitely Julien has the gore side and York has a sort of clear vocals to me, so we asked him to join us for one song, “Hypso”. Unfortunately he couldn’t come to the studio, but he made his way in time to record in Germany, in the other studio. Yessica, maybe you want to tell about Mendel?
Yessica: We’ve known Mendel for a long time as well, in the past we did a couple of shows with Aborted and Mendel is so great, so we’ve known him for a long time and we ran into each other in the Dutch metal scene, of course, all the time, because the country is super small! At some point, we were fixing our guitars, Sonja, we needed a tech for the recordings, like making sure that everything was alright and Mendel offered to do that for us, because he has a studio of his own, he knows shitload about guitars, and then one thing led to another and we asked him: “Dictated doesn’t really use solos, but we have one song that kinda asks for it” and he was immediately super excited, he got it super quick! I think after two days we already were like: “Okay, here it is!”. Super!
Sonja: I remember asking him: “Can you please turn it down and not make it too difficult? Because we have to play it live”, he stand up and said: “Fuck you, mate!”.
Yessica: We’re not gonna do this song live! Ahahaha. It’s so amazing, so good.
The record also has one instrumental track, “Glosso”, where we can perfectly see and hear your amazing skills. What about this choice? Has this song been thought this way in order to give the listener a break before the big finale, so to speak?
Yessica: I think it was one of the first riffs, like the begin riff, I think it was the first thing we wrote, Sonja. I remember that we locked ourselves in the woods, that sounds creepy but we did! I think it was one of the first tracks that we wrote, but for some reason, we couldn’t write it in a way that vocals would be appropriate on the song, so we put it on the fridge, like: “Okay, maybe this will come later on, we can combine it with different track” and then we were like: “Maybe it’s a nice idea to put it on the album as a breathing point”. The focus just didn’t fit, we tried and tried with all the set tools, it just didn’t work, so eventually we got a concept album going and people like: “You know what? Let’s keep it this way” and that came the track “Glosso”, because that’s the fear of speaking! The song is too good not to put in the album or to put it as an intro, in my opinion.
Sonja: I think when Frank had the drums that was a sort of an army, was going to confuse and we had this imagination: “Well, why is he playing drums for that song?”. He had a vision, so I think it would be the reason why we eventually decided not to turn it into a song is because it had no meaning for vocals and even further we will use it perhaps as an intro for our future shows, but I think it adds the drama of the album!
You’ve been the first European band playing in some city of Nepal and India. What can you tell me about this? What kind of experience have you lived? How is metal seen in these two countries?
Yessica: We’ve been asked this question a lot, I think the metal scene over there is absolutely fantastic, you wouldn’t see it in Europe anymore, the people there they’re saving up to see your shows and they go completely insane! At some point, we had a show, I can’t remember the place but that was the one we arrived in a taxi and when we opened the door, they came as a storm to us, asking for autographs and stuff… It’s insane, because you are just the band, you’re playing, we played in front of bigger bands we’re not used to that kind of attention but there are people there who printed their own t-shirts with our faces on it, you can see that there’s any metal there, and if there’s any metal, they go completely insane! On the other hand, those two countries, in my opinion, are not really ready for acts like the European ones, like, for example, you only have a late show, they cannot make any sounds in the evening, so we were playing at 5,30 or 6, the crowd went insane and at some point the police came in, not the regular police and you were on stage and you see these men came in… that was quite scary for me! I remember that our tour manager there gave some money to the police and they left! Aahahahah, so we could finish the show! When I think about this experience, I’m happy that I did it but I wouldn’t do it again, let’s say like that, not now at least!
You are the only girls in the band and you’ve also founded the band. Since day one, you’ve gained a lot of satisfactions, what is the biggest goal you manage to achieve?
Yessica: For me it’s putting up this record, because this is the one where I like almost 100% and I’m happy about, we did everything for this record and I’m so super proud of it that is coming out, eheheh.
Sonja: I think I have to agree with Yessica as well, because everytime you hit a milestone, you think this is it, when we got signed to Metal Blade I was over the moon and I thought it was the biggest picture, the first we ever dreamt of going! And then we had the Nepal and India tour, it was amazing and now we have a new album out and we have Dragon Productions on our side! So it’s hard to say, I think the goals shift every now and then, but it’s good to look back every now and then to realize where we’re coming from, what we’ve been through and as now, what I’m most proud I am about is the lineup that we have!
Sonja: We’re very, very close friends and we know exactly when we are on tour, we know exactly how to rely on each other, so I’m very grateful for that!
Yessica: Yeah, I agree with Sonja, the lineup has been steady for a couple of years now and, in my opinion, it’s the best line up we got ever.
The album will be out in October. Will there be any tour in the netherlands or in Belgium or even in Europe or is it too early to talk about it? I really hope to see you in Italy sooner or later!
Sonja: I think we will have our release show in Limerick, on the 27th of October, and we will have another gig in Belgium. I think it’s in November, but like you just said, we just posted the message that we have joined the family of Dragon Productions, so we’re still negotiating or talking about what our plans will be, but definitely the band discussed that we shall go back on the road, back on tours again and doing a tour in Europe, because it’s convenient. Usually you don’t have any flights and I think Europe has the best venues, they are always so amazing and usually they have good crowds, good people, good big venues… so probably I think there’ll be a smart time to get back on the road somewhere in February or March but we have just to wait and see!
As you perfectly know, metal is still seen as a music genre dominated by men, so everytime somebody notices a woman in the lineup, a lot of criticism comes next. Some people tend to show off a certain kind of sexism. I still believe that everybody should pay more attention to the product quality (the music), rather than judging the band’s members. What is your thought about this matter?
Yessica: We’ve been doing this for a long time and we have experienced exactly what you’re describing. I remember it was 2012 or 2013 we were looking for a label, of course, to release the album, we were sending our infos, our music, the pictures and we just got an horrible advice back like: “Yeah, are you willing to show more skin?” and messages like that…
Sonja: Maybe changing the hair color?
Yessica: Yeah! So we always tried to be just one of the guys. It certainly helps as some point as well, because people who are often coming up to you, like talking about the band, they recognize you a lot more when you’re a female in the band, but I think it’s a big, big downfall. It’s not really fair because… I love making metal music so much and I just don’t get why it’s man dominated! Yeah, it’s a struggle everyday and even after so many years we’ve been doing this, there’s still so much struggle, because you will always have people coming up to you, saying: “Hey, it was a good show, man!” and they will say it, because you’re a woman and in a different case, people will say: “yeah, everybody likes them, because they are women”, so there’s a winning in this case. I remember, talking to Sonja, I said: “What are we gonna do with our stage clothes? Are we really gonna put on some fishnet or sexy stuff?” and we both agreed like: “No, we’re not gonna do that” or “No, we’re not gonna wear a t-shirt, of course, but we don’t wanna grow as a band in that way, we don’t wanna be known for that”. I couldn’t even do it, because I don’t really care that much about my appearance, do you know what I mean? I just wanna the music to stand for Dictated and not because there are two women there.
Sonja: I do want to say that I’m very happy that when I look at upcoming new bands, new members, I see a lot more women and a lot more absolutely great women, because as long as you play music you get the attention for playing music, because you’re a woman and you get an extra focus because you are a woman and you wait and see if she can actually play that bass or actually play that guitar or actually sing. I’m very happy to see that there are a lot of upcoming women that can kick your teeth and are absolutely amazing, really good musicians, very proud to see more women in metal in general, I’m very happy about that.
Girls, in addition of being two great musicians, you also work in other areas of interest. Jessica, you work in Season of Mist, and you, Sonja, are a photographer. So far what have been pros and cons about your job?
Yessica: For me it’s difficult to combine it, to not have double agendas. People often ask me “We were looking for a label for this record” and people often ask me like: “Why don’t you release it with Season Of Mist?”, but those people don’t realize that I’m on the promotional department, so that means that if I was signed with Season of Mist, I would have to do my own promotion! It’s weird, because if we go, for example, to Metal Hammer, and say: “Hey, I have this amazing band, it’s from the Netherlands”, it’s weird to talk about your own band in that way. I mean, I can do promo for it, but if a big magazine comes back to you and yell: “We’re gonna publish this if you pay for an ad or whatever”, then it would be fair for me to say yes or no, because I’m involved in a different way, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot use the knowledge I gained in Season Of Mist and the promotional department to whatever we’re doing now, but we have an external promoter hired as well that has nothing to do with Season Of Mist. I mean, we are distributed by Season Of Mist and it could only happen because I work there, because the lines are so short… and further, working for Season Of Mist and doing Dictated means I’m 24/7 busy with metal and I’m bit tired sometimes, of course, of music scene because I’ve been listening to so much music for today as well and I’m just happy to be home and sitting and I have no music in my hands, so it’s hard to combine sometimes, but it has its pros and its cons.
Sonja: As for me as a photographer, I think it’s the best combination I could ask for, the music in the metal industry is a sort of “mix”. People keep on telling me but I keep on finding so many people listening to metal… so… You can think about metal is very creative with its dark art, dark lyrics and that match in photography is me. Usually during the summer I photograph weddings which is definitely not my thing, the best thing I love to do is joining bands on that tour or during a show, just to document their all experience. Another kind of photographer would take pictures in front of the stage, for the bands are more intrigued of what would happen to them just before they get on stage or if they get off the stage. Are they happy? Are they angry? Will they start a fight? So my photography work is actually a very good combination with playing in the metal music industry because you have the connections, it gives you a better opportunity to gain more musicians you can start working with.
Thanks girls for giving me this spot. As our tradition wants, I invite you to share the final words with our readers and your fans!
Yessica: Yeah, I just want to thank you for the interest and I’m really curious to see what you’ll make out of this story, ehehe. Thanks so much for this, really appreciated!
Sonja: Yeah, thank you, grazie Arianna, I’m very happy to do this interview, I’m happy to see you very enthusiastic and you compliment us on the songs. Thank you so much and obviously, everybody who’s gonna read or hear/listen to this interview. Thank you for taking your time and obviously we will see you at least when we’ll come around!