Interview by Miriam Cadoni
A quick note before dig into this amazing interview. What you can read below was discussed just a little bit before the pandemic COVID-19 escalated, so please take in consideration this small but fundamental detail.
Now, back to our interview, I think Canadian artist and harpist Lindsay Schoolcraft needs no further introduction. After her stint with the UK’s Extreme melodic metal band Cradle of Filth, Lindsay went literally solo. Its outcome can be seen in her debut full-length “Martyr”. Besides talking about her upcoming musical projects, she candidly admitted that still is quite pervasive the ignorance over mental health among the musicians and the musical business. Surely, this topic offers some food for thought. Well, enjoy!
Hi Lindsay, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you and how life is treating you right now?
I’m good, thank you. Life is going pretty well. Really really well, actually.
The last time I interviewed you was back with Mary and the Black Lamb, we can totally affirm that a lot of water is passed under the bridge, so, considering that this band is part of your musical background, how Mary and the Black Lamb show up in your debut full-length “Martyr”?
Oh my gosh! [Laughs] Wow, what? It has been 11 years since we released the album “The City Sleeps”. Unfortunately, Mary and the Black Lamb is no longer a band and that is ok. But it’s just crazy to look back and think about it. When I came to that project, I was one of the main songwriters and I was writing “Martyr” as a solo artist and I felt that the song “Stranger” from Mary and the Black Lamb would fit the sound of this album. So, that song was written between me and the keyboard player Matt Kelley and I got his permission, of course I treated him really fair and I made sure that he received his royalties. We went ahead and we brought it to Rocky and my producer Tyler and we just worked on it. I’m so happy how it did come out and so, it’s Matt. I’ve been slowly pushing to my solo album and I think it will be the last album on which I’ll do recreation of old songs but I want to do songs like “Stay Away” because I really love it. However, I’ll try and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I’ll take maybe two more songs from Mary and the Black Lamb because I feel like those songs deserve an update and it might work very well and if they don’t work, it’s ok. At least, I can say to myself that I did try. My songs are like my babies and I always feel like they deserve a fair chance, you know? [laughs] And they have to grow up with me [laughs].
So, we have talked about Mary and the Black Lamb and I’m gonna focus on the production of your debut album “Martyr”: how was it? When did you start collecting the first ideas and planning for it?
Oh man, well, we actually started making it without a plan. Unfortunately, next time we will have it and everything started at the beginning of June 2016 when Rocky Gray contacted me with the serious intent to collaborate together. So, we worked on the first two songs: the first was The Cure‘s cover of b and it did turn out really good, we are really proud of it and then “Warn Me” and “Remember” followed. Back than, both songs sounded quite differently from now. At the beginning, they were just simple ideas but I like that because Rocky sends it like that and then, you have room to build the melody and the lyrics. I love working with him and he’s on board for the next album too, which is good. In the end, there was no plan and we kept on writing together and then I took my old phone into the night from my first DP. At one point, probably at the end of 2017, we had 17 songs and we took the decision to stop because it turned out to be too much and we had just to pick 13 songs which includes 2 bonus tracks and went ahead to finish this album. It was intense because there were other people involved like Spencer Creaghan who played the strings and also, he wrote the strings sections for songs that may or may not be on the album. We didn’t want to waste anyone’s time cuz’ we are all very busy people. So, at the end we strategically decided to adapt everything and finish with the guest vocals on which different singers have participated. That was it. It was concluded and mastered at the beginning of 2018 but due to my commitments with Cradle of Filth and not finding a record label, there are a lot of delays. It’s fine because I make it work anyway. However, it was a long process and I’m hoping that, for the next album it won’t be long as between the beginning (the production). I think this time we’ll have a clear plan and we’ll just focus on the 13 songs that we have and just that. For sure, we won’t waste any time and it was a big learning curve for me, for my producer Tyler and all my team. Now that we know how we work together, we also have a system and it should not go as long as before.
You have been recently nominated as a Juno Award artist. How does it feel to have reached such a milestone? And how this event will reflect on you and your music?
It’s a dream come true. I was not expecting it. I didn’t know that was going to happen but it did and when I found out, I just couldn’t stop crying. I was so happy, I’ve been through a lot in the past months. Not necessarily good things, that’s ok, they come and go and when this happened, it was such a huge honour because I had been dreaming of it since I was a teenager. I didn’t want to win but just get a nomination and the fact that happened is totally unreal to me.
Beside being an amazing vocalist, you are also an amazing harpist. Now, I would like to focus on your musical background: considering that you enrolled at the Royal Academy, how much did your academic upbringing impact your music?
I started singing when I was a little kid and a big influence on me was Disney, well a 90s child that is going to happen and I was also singing in a choir at school. The first time I learned about harmony was very interesting and I was such a young child. I didn’t start taking serious music until High School and at the time, I was in a punk band and I was taking bass lessons and singing too, even if not so very well. Then, I decided at the age of 21 to start taking music seriously and that when I found about the Royal Conservatory of Music where I went studying classical piano, classical voice and I was learning my theory and I did for about 3 – 4 years while in the meantime I reached a certain level. After, I was considering the option of going back to University at the age of 25, though I did my final application when I was 26. I got into University and I did my first semester and I was chosen for the minor “Classical composition and conducting for orchestra” and my major was “Opera Singing” but it got cut short because I was called by Cradle of Filth. Eventually, one day I may go back to my education. Nevertheless, for now, I’m taking the time to learn the harp from a few people and I would love to go back to study theory. On the other hand, the business and other things in my life have been very intense. I’m on the right path, so, once business is settled maybe I’ll come back to learn more about theory which I would love to do. It’s still a goal of mine in life.
“Martyr” was released via Cyber Proxy Independent. Does it have to be considered your own imprint or are you taking in consideration other external deals?
So, it’s my own little record label composed by me and my laptop in my corner of my room. [Laughs] it’s nothing crazier, still it feels nice that I have that. The reason that happened was because there were a lot of things I was going through like getting distribution, getting the CDs in the European and North American stores, filing the royalties and there’s even more that I do independently with my assistant. All these actions justified a label’s name, so we did come that. Actually, the origin of the name is due to the fact I’m a huge fan of cyberpunk and my favourite anime is Ergo Proxy. I know, the name was just last-minute and we didn’t put a lot of thought into it [laughs] and we just made up the name. Simply, that was it. We were kinda like “We’re Cyber Proxy Independent which is literally me and my assistant in my bedroom named after all my favourite anime” and we just kept going and that’s that. Anyway, it’s just a name in order that people have something to refer to my music, I guess.
You know, if we talk about distribution and licensing, will you consider some external deals?
Yes, what I have to do is that I have to wait until the end of Juno‘s because with a nomination there’s a lot of opportunities for me of which I’m very happy. For example, I have a better chance to have my music featured in movies and TV and it does represent one of my biggest dreams and I would love to do that. Whoever if I win, I don’t care if I win or not, if Kobra and the Lotus, if The Agonist or The Striker and the Single Mother, I’m happy for whoever wins. I’ve always kept the attitude that in the heavy metal world community we always support each other. If I win, owning the title completely changes everything and I’ll have increased opportunity to reach out to a wide audience. In the end, I’m just waiting to see what happens and I’m just being smart.
I think that being appointed just a nominee changes because the name is out, they know how you are and people start raising their heads…
Oh yeah, Canada is a big deal and because of that I gained a few fans. It’s crazy.
Yeah, I know because at the time back in the 80s artists like Alannah Myles, Rush, Autograph and Bryan Adams…
Oh, I love Alannah! Yeah, oh man, I don’t know if Bryan Adams‘s gonna be there and I hope, he’s and I would love to meet him. I hope that Billie Eilish and The Weeknd show up because I love them both. It’s crazy. it’s just crazy. So, this year at the Juno’s is the 49th edition and Jenn Arden, who has been an huge influence on me as a singer-songwriter, of course she’s one of those dark folky types of music really famous in Canada, she’s getting inducted in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and that’s simply huge. Also, the Canadian musical legend Ann Murray is getting inducted. I think my dad is more excited for that than I am [laughs]. Well, my dad has met Jenn Arden and I really hope to meet her too. There are a lot of women in the Canadian music industry like Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne, Chantal Kreviazuk. They all proved to be such an inspiration that they pushed me forward towards my artistic percorse as a singer-songwriter. Even if it was a bit stressful to get ready with the outfit for the red carpet, I’m just so honoured. We’ll make it there and we’ll make it work. [Laughs]
We know that we have recently split up with Cradle of Filth and the intent of this question isn’t delving into the situation, per se but what did you learn about this experience and how did you improve you as an artist?
What I’ve learned while I was in Cradle of Filth is that it totally pushed me on a more professional level when it comes to handling the touring and the business side of things. It was an amazing opportunity and I’m so grateful that it did happen. I still have so much love and respect the band and the boys. You know, we’re still friends and it’s good. On a final note, it taught me which are my strengths and my weaknesses, so in this case I know where I should improve. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy industry and in my case I’m very lucky because I have a group of good friends who are in the industry and we all understand what’s going on. Although, when it comes to mental health in this industry, I don’t think there’s enough support and respect towards people who suffer from it. Sadly, this industry has taught me too, whatever the situation a lot of good things happened and one of them for sure is to live honestly, to live the truth and to be truthful to what I believe in and to what I want to put into the world. I think I’m ok and I’m grateful for that experience, so to say.
Now all this mental health issue raises a question: in which way, we can start spreading awareness in this industry? Because you know I like writing, I like doing interviews and both you and me, we share a similar history. From an artistic point of view, what can we do?
What we can do is be kinder to each other and when a person in a band, in a community is suffering, it’s nice to reach out and support one another. I think it’s something that can save lives by acknowledging that we are only humans and we are not money music machines. We’re not robots and recognizing that comprehension when we reach a limit because you have been working too hard and you need a break is important. Nowadays, we live in a period and age where there are a lot of expectations towards the touring musicians and where it is required to hold from 3 to 5 different job titles. It’s not healthy and it’s not fair. Fine, it saves money and in the beginning, you have to do it for a few years after that, please consider the mental health and wellbeing of the other band members too because if you don’t start hiring people for these positions, there’s an enormous chance for a burn out. It’s a terrible experience and lately, it comes down to respect and kindness. Naturally, this industry is stressful but we are all in it together and we should all take care of each other. If we lose that idea, we just lose one another.
It sounds really good but tangibly speaking, what can we do for example starting spreading information? It’s something that is really interesting but how can we be much more proactive towards it?
There’s now a hotline for musicians in the United Kingdom where they call in if they’re having mental health problems. I think we need more support like that. Recently, I have read this article about this girl that is actively fighting for women’s equality at Download when it comes to the woman being on the stage and I don’t necessarily think that is needed because there are plenty of women working there. However, what is really needed for example is having a tent in the backstage where women can go when they don’t feel safe or what we should have access to is counselling. I think festivals should start offering a private tent with counselling and if someone needs to go talk about their problems, grieve, cry or have a safe space. Surely, that would make the biggest difference and save lives because touring is not so easy. You miss weddings, you miss funerals and there’s so much that happens to touring musicians and they are just expected to suck it up, carry on and deal with it. It’s wrong because it’s time to start providing more services to musicians to have a place to go. It’s time to put the business aside and acknowledge their feelings. It’s time to be heard and know that they are cared about, all this will make a huge difference.
Well, it’s something interesting, if you ask me, we can join forces together and see if that can work out because it’s something that no one has ever thought about and I find quite frustrating…
I agree. We have lost so many lives lately in the metal community. Some due to health and some other due to some related circumstances, but part of it is because of the drug and alcohol abuse to numb the pain while you have to work. I think if we just start to be kinder and respectful to one another while we set in motion to help everyone’s suffering, we can save a lot of lives so they don’t continue down the dark path and they don’t feel unseen and unheard. I bet what don’t have that this possible to achieve.
This was a complicated question and it does make it difficult to change topic. However, I had a question about your upcoming project Antiqva with Ne Obliscaris‘s Xenoyr. How did it come together and which are the latest updates?
Oh man, that was a drunk decision [laughs]. In 2015, we started to talk about the fact that I would like to do something musically different that wasn’t neither Ne Obliscaris nor Cradle of Filth. But, however something along the lines of traditional black metal that meets the classical sound with strings, choirs and Gregorian chantries. Oh my god, the whole massive idea and I was already composing some stuff which at the end it wouldn’t work out for Cradle of Filth at all. He is just Mr.Darkness like Dark Aestical all the time, always incredibly writing poetry into his lyrics, he’s such a creative source. Definitely, he’s one of my muses. We have just started working on things. Oh man, when I wrote these first demoes, I sent them straight away even though they were so bad. At the time, I was just working with what I had and now, it turned into such a massive project. I’m very grateful because the relationship that I have with the other two songwriters Justine Ethier which she plays drums and we collaborate together on the orchestrations; and Fabian who’s known as Urzom from Negator which he plays the guitar and he collaborated on the writing and arrangements). Between the three of us, we have such a deep connection and friendship. It’s such a beautiful experience and I never really believed in the spiritual aspect of that gathering together and having the magic among other musicians when you write, however, we have definitely that. It’s really amazing and I feel really grateful to have that. Instead about the latest updates, It’s going good and we have to finish writing a few more songs to have a full album . Then, we are going into the studio in April to record the first single and all this, it’s just for getting the things started which is exciting. I’m really looking forward to it, I love the single, I love the songs we chose. The fans are already excited even though they have listened to anything and they have so much faith in us. I know what I want and I already have the ideas quite clear about the whole plan. It’s good that we’re starting with one song and surely, we will be included on the new album. By then I hope to have more funding to record a live string section and hire the required musicians. We’re just so excited and it has been challenging ‘cuz all the members all over the world and we have to keep up on communication and organisation. We do that very well and of course, they have me and Cyber Proxy. Now that I have established this label, I’ll take care of this band in the best way possible through the help of my team too. I think Antiqva has a good start and I’m happy for that opportunity. I love everyone in the band and I love working with them. They are so talented and they are such good people. So, I think that hopefully by 2022 all the engines will be set in motion for the album and playing festivals, everything depends on how quickly we get through the single [laughs]. But, I don’t wanna rush it, it’s a project of passion, it’s definitely a calling in life. I love doing my solo work, I’m so proud of it and whatever comes from “Martyr” I enjoyed. It’s like my baby, my first child while with Antiqva is something that I wanted to do since I was a little kid because at the time I used to write classical music in my head but I didn’t have neither the knowledge nor the tools on how to translate out my mind in a tangible way. Now, I do and I have so much dark classical music in my head that I just want to give to the world. I think we are doing an OK job because I showed to some friends what we have written and they just burst into tears. So far so good but it’s a very slow process and I don’t like how slow it is. I feel like I’m waiting and waiting but I have definitely taken the initiative with the band to super plan our future and to do the best in keeping up with the tour deadlines and to take care of one another. You know, we have been all through a hard time in the industry and we’re not treated very well. This band also represents a brand new start because we’ll set our boundaries and we’ll get treated in the way we deserve. We’ll always try to take care of eachother and always do that, I love this because that can be a huge motivation for longevity with this project. You know, I’m approaching all this with a lot of optimism and positivity, even though I know that a black metal is about [laughs].
My last question is about your next plans: in order to promote your solo album, do you have any concert planned for 2020?
So, the problem is that touring these days is very expensive and it costs a lot of money. We’ve been trying to get some opportunities but how much it costs to go, it’s an insane amount of money and as a record label, I’m trying to be realistic about finances. However, it has been an opportunity for me to tour with just my harp and I love doing those harp tours and those acoustic tours because they are my favourite. I’ll announce some information on that later while right now, what I’m doing is celebrating my 10th as a solo artist by recording an ambient harp album and with that I’ll cover my entire catalog. I’m aiming to release this special full-length this summer. I’m looking forward to it, it will be a little different and it’s not gonna be like on “Martyr” on which I dedicated a lot of promotion and I featured a lot of extras. It’ll be quite a soft launch and it’s something I want to do for my fans. Then, from there we’ll start working on the second album, there’s no schedule or deadline for that. But, I think once we dedicate the right amount of time, it’ll go very quickly because a lot of the music has already been composed. So, I have just to fix some lyrics and change some parts in the songs. It’s gonna be amazing because I’ll work with my team again, they are such talented and fun people. Also, I brought with me my guitarist Cody Johnston because it’s a really good songwriter and hopefully, he’ll have much more space on the album. Once again it will be a big project but we’ll start before Christmas. More than anything, the focus of this year is to make myself happy and take care of my health which so far, it’s going good. I just hope to continue.
This was my last question. Please be free to say hi your fans and our readers. Lindsay, I really thank you for this interview. It was a real pleasure. This is your space.
Thank you. That’s amazing that you gave me my first writing job in the industry. How long was that? Maybe 12 years ago and I thank you, because it all started with you, thank you I found my way to Eve’s Apple, because of Eve’s Apple I found my way in Cradle of Filth. You have been so supportive of my career from day 1. Thank you to you and Femme Metal Webzine. Also, I would like to send you a quick thank you to my team that helped you to launch my album. Last but not the least, I want to say thank you to my FANS who didn’t give up on me and they are still supporting my career despite my departure from Cradle of Filth. The fact that people want to stick around and see what I’ll do next that just means so much and I’ll promise that I’ll work very hard and I won’t let you down.