Interview by Miriam Cadoni

What it would come out if we put together Nina Hagen‘s extrovert vocals, the magnificent grandeur of Wagner‘s classical operas and the brutality of black metal? The reply is quite simple and it’s in front of your eyes: the fantastic power of Folterkammer. The band, that among their ranks features Imperial Triumphant guitarist’s Zachary Ezrin, is here to set a precedent in the metal genre. We have spoken with the singer and main deus ex-machina Andromeda Anarchia about their debut album “Die Lederpredigt” recently released via Gilead Media.

Hi Andromeda, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you and how these precarious days are treating you?

Currently, I’m thinking about many things. For instance, who is struggling and all the musicians who aren’t able to live their profession. I’m trying to do my best as much I can.

I try to stay focused on the music, to compose, to write songs, to play bass, to sing and to teach. I’m doing whatever I can do to produce new projects and mostly, it’s how I keep myself busy on these times.

First of all, for our readers that aren’t familiar with Folterkammer, would you like to tell us how the band got together?

[Laughs] It all started with Zack, the guitarist of the band. Due to mutual friends, we are in contact since a couple of years and also, we have a lot common interest such as German opera, black metal and extreme metal. In the beginning, he asked me if I wanted to sing some guest vocals on Imperial Triumphant’s album “Vile Luxury”. As mentioned before, we both enjoy the same things and especially, he likes how I successfully blend my classical musical training with growl and screams.

So, I completed these recordings and we had so much fun to the point that he proposed to build an entire project around it. He also told me about Darren Hanson who had some compositions available to be used. Its compositions were perfect because they had quite a baroque black metal approach. Then, I proposed to write some lyrics on it while Darren suggested the addition as drummer, Brendan [McGowan].

After this, we just jumped into this adventure and tried to see how this would have worked out. Subsequently, I’ve received Darren’s musical demos and I’ve immediately started to do some research for my lyrics. Actually, what simply was left to do was the recordings and there it was our debut “Die Lederpredigt”. That’s also how the band got together.

The band has released their debut “Die Lederpredigt” (translated from German “The Leather Servant”) back in December. What can you share about its general production? How all the material was collected together? When you started to compose for the lyrics?

As I said, it was Zach who proposed me Darren’s compositions and soon after, I received everything, I started to write. I didn’t want to write out of fiction but I wanted lyrics that were based on dark events happened in life. Naturally, I researched quite a bit, I watched a few documentaries and I read a lot of newspapers.

Our main goal was to treat arguments with that black metal evil vibe without involving any satanic thematic. I wanted to understand which are, for example, the monsters that can affect the lives of a real human being. This matter has heavily inspired me and I have to admit that, it wasn’t an easy process.

However, I wanted to write something that was really dark, strong and something that can help my vocals to have a dramatic interpretation. Since the operatic vocals are quite intense and the extreme vocals too, I needed something that had substance.

Then, everything flowed because the poetical music was suited for my lyrics and my vocals. I just got inspired by listening to it. Actually, I recorded my parts in 2 days and there was a lot of creativity even in that session.

I didn’t exactly prepare all my parts because I was expecting some inputs on the spot from Zachary too. Personally, it was an important experience and I’m so glad that I had the chance to express artistically myself, to put all those strong emotions in those dark lyrics. As a last step, Zachary recorded some additional guitar lines while Imperial Triumphant’s Steve Blanco took care of the mixing and Colin Marstand, the mastering.

“Die Lederpredig” seems to put on an agreement both fans who love traditional black metal and the ones who are more inclined to welcome experimental elements. Do you agree?

We all hope so, I guess so [laughs]. Musically speaking, for sure, there’s an old school black metal approach in tandem with the experimental one, the opera approach. The latter pushes our music into a new dimension, an artistic expression within the framework of the traditional black metal. To be honest, it can be interesting for everybody who likes metal in general, to enjoy our music.

I was curious to learn why did you opt to sing in German rather than in English. Has this decision a specific meaning?

It has a personal meaning because both me and Zachary love the German opera like Wagner’s. And, in this case “Die Walküre” was one of the biggest inspirations. Though, at the same time, we love Nina Hagen too. We appreciate a lot how her operatic vocals are contextualized within a context of punk rock music. I was really fascinated by it to such extent that I would like to propose something like that. She’s so expressive, she has such an important voice and I love how she acts when she sings. She’s a real actress with a lot of humor.

Well, after this, I thought if I had to combine two musical worlds so distant as black metal and opera, it has to be humorous and provocative. In short, try to imagine if Nina Hagen is singing black metal while combining the dramatic grandeur of Wagner’s “Die Walküre”. As a matter of fact, it’s what we have attempted to achieve with “Die Lederpredig”.

Instead, for what concerns the use of German is because it’s my mother tongue since I’m originally coming from Switzerland. So, for me it’s quite natural to speak German and there’s something special about this language when used for metal screams and classical operas. It sounds very aggressive and cold but in meantime, it’s so poetic and beautiful. In a sense, there’s a strong ambivalence and contrast like the two musical universes that we have proposed here and all this, it was intentional.

Personally speaking, I love this musical contrast and since my German is not really good, by the way you interpret the lyrics I can guess that they are imbued with strong themes. Am I correct?

Yes, of course. They’re also very provocative. But no matter if you understand the language or not because as a singer, it’s my duty to express and project my feelings into my singing. Then, if you understand the lyrics, it guides you in a certain direction. However, if you just focus on the sound of the singing, then you are more emotionally open-minded to what can happen.

The press release states that “the debut album is a statement against the abusive nature of the oppressive system of religion, authority and faith blind”. How these elements reflect in the lyrics present on the album?

In different way, they’re in every song. You know, one of the main treated topics of the traditional black metal is Satanism against religion, mostly related to Christian churches. Considering that I’m not religious and not even into Satanism, I didn’t want to approach this argument. On the other hand, what I find interesting to sing about is how oppression works, how brainwash works, how we can rebel against that.

Our main intent was to step away from blood and Satan and write about oppression and dominance. As I said before, I wanted to step away from religious figure and in doing so, I’ve created a female goddess which is very evil and vicious spirit. Normally, we identify Satan or God as a male entity. So, I’m a woman and I don’t want to sing from a man’s perspective. Also, here, in Europe, the Christian doctrine portray the woman as someone kind, loving and protective.

But, in reality, it’s not always like that. My attempt was to portray a really vicious, extremely powerful and harmful female character who personificate domination, hurt and suppression. I wanted also to pointed out how dangerous to give away and trust some white you’re in an abusive situation. Also, I wanted to be critical from a feminine point of view.

In a way, it does relates a lot with sociology. One of the main dogmas in Sociology states that everybody is equal but then, it’s the society changes all that…

I think that everybody should meet on a eye level. Unfortunately, it’s not what happening. Oftentimes, people is trying to dominate each other which consequently, it creates a lot of pain. In the end, it feels like a manipulative system and I don’t like that. And this, it makes me write about it in a provocative way. But, I need the drama onstage and the music is about the contrast of intense emotions and this vicious feminine character. Of course, it’s not who I am but once again, I needed a character that defied clichés and with a specific weight.

I was literally blown away by your performance on the album and this triggered my curiosity about you and your artistic background. How you approach the opera and classical music?

Well, I didn’t started with an orthodox manner. Actually, I started to sing since I was a child and I followed to learn to play the piano and the bass. I’ve been always aware of that fact that I would become a musician one day. Though, I didn’t know how, where or what will happen but I know that would have supposed to happen.

Then, what simply has followed is that I had the opportunity to study classical singing. I’ve always thought that it’s helpful to have a basic knowledge of classical education for the voice. But previously, I was into all the musical styles. I love to sing soul, R’n’B, rock, metal and jazz.

Actually, classical singing wasn’t something I was listening to at home. So, I began to take some lessons and then, to be more serious about it. At the time, I’ve followed some lessons with a professor. Though these lessons, I’ve understood that I didn’t want to became a traditional opera singer because I love to experiment with my voice.

For example, sing roughly and with distortions while in the opera singing, you voice has to be clean and technical. Also, it’s extremely challenging and virtuoso. Of course, I love the grandiosity of the operatic voices and their dynamics . Despite all this, I had earlier in mind to write and compose my own stuff and I wanted to be expressive as jazz singer. Eventually, I dropped out of my classical lesson and I’ve joined jazz classes.

However, the downside of this musical genre is that quite opposite of opera, so, there’s no grandiose voices. And that, for me, it was a bit sad and boring. Then, I simply went back to my first love: the metal singing style. As a matter of fact, what I do right now is combining all my acquired singing technical knowledge. Thanks to this, I get involved in progressive rock, metal, avant-garde metal, extreme metal and black metal.

I love everything that’s not normal and throughout the years, I was featured in the most diverse musical projects as guest vocalist. About this, I recently toured together with the metal jazz band Kilter. Also, I have my own progressive rock project called Dark Matters. The fact is that I adore to use my voice as an instrument and Folterkammer gave me the chance to use all my vocal peculiarities. Additionally, I’ve teaching for quite a long time in Switzerland and now, I live in New York and I just focus on performing.

What the future holds for Folterkammer?

At the moment, we’re really excited about our release and we’re looking forward to see how the general feedback will be. Also, we are already thinking about new ideas for Folterkammer. Of course, we would totally love to play live and due to the COVID pandemic, now it’s not possible. From the singing point of view, it will be a real challenge [laughs] but we cannot wait to do that. Hopefully, it will happen soon.

Sadly, we are almost at the end of the interview. Please be free to say hi to your fans and our readers as you want.

To everybody, I hope that you’ll enjoy the music that, so far, we have created on “Die Lederpredig”. Please reach out to us for letting us know more about because we are always curious to learn more your opinion and feedback. Please stay safe and enjoy a good moment with your friends and family. Keep always an open mind about music and dive into beautiful things that are in this world.