Interview by Si Smith
Ephel Duath have always been at the cutting edge of metal, exploring the possibilities of the genre rather than following trends. As such any new output by the band is welcome, even if it be only three tracks. So in the wake of new EP “On Death and Cosmos”, Femme Metal spoke to new vocalist Karyn Crisis and her counterpart Davide Tiso.
First of all thank you for this interview and welcome to the Femme Metal Webzine.
Karyn: Thank you very much for this interview and your support.
Ephel Duath has been going for a good 14 years or so now. How does it feel getting involved at this stage in your own career?
Karyn: It’s a feeling of vitality and achievement to be in a band with Davide. Doing creative work with someone you love and who loves you back is a wonderful thing, especially when there’s a great deal of clear communication and honesty involved. We are both passionate about being the best we can creatively, and we both are big fans of each others’ talents. Becoming the singer for Ephel Duath, however, was something we both weren’t sure would work at first. I worried about changing the relationship the vocals have had already with the music for years , and Davide wondered if my voice would be too wild for the music. I insisted he continue writing the lyrics and vocals as he’s done in the past so I would not change that dynamic. This way, not only was I free to be a part of the music in a more enjoyable way (by singing someone else’s rhythms allowed me to feel the music in a different way than I would had I written the rhythms), but also challenged me in a positive way to find aspects of my voice that would be appropriately emotional for the music.
Working with close family can be difficult. How easy is it to work alongside Davide on a project such as this?
Karyn: So far it’s been a pleasure. I think it’s because Davide is such a visionary with his music: he both lets the music flow from within, but he also has a standard for his compositions that he must meet. So while he lets the music begin on its own, he hears a definite and clear version of how it should end. This makes communication and working together a smooth process. He gets the songs and lyrics to a perfect point, and from there I work on several voices I think might be right, and once he hears them we discuss what is perfect and what would be better. I’d say we each have similarities in work ethic; we both feel an urgency to be the best we can be.
You have described yourself as “seeker, shaman, witch, healer”. How do you express this part of you through your music?
Karyn: These sides of myself come through my expression: whether I’m writing for myself or singing for Ephel Duath, I allow Spirit to move through me and move me emotionally. I allow myself to be a conduit for very intense emotions that empower this little physical body I have in enormous ways.
You recently had the pleasure to design a T-shirt for the band: how did you go about deciding on an idea for the design?
Karyn: I didn’t decide so much as how to design this shirt but rather made the choice to begin experimenting and hoped I’d find my way. I wasn’t confident I was the person for this job. I knew the design needed to feel fresh. Something told me to create a triangle stamp and build a shape with it..it took its own form from there. It was very quick because I approached it with an attitude of openness and creativity and was willing to try something outside my comfort zone.
The new EP is very focused when it comes to concept, as represented by the title. Could you elaborate for us about the main themes found on the EP?
Karyn: This would need to be answered by Davide, because he wrote and composed the songs and lyrics.
Davide: The main concept of “On Death and Cosmos” rotates around the idea of feeling rootless. The creative process this time started from a personal loss: that event marked me so deep not just because I’ve lost a person I felt very close to but because together with his disappearance I feel I broke the bond with the place I’m coming from. At this point in my life I think I could live pretty much everywhere without feeling home sick. I have a “cosmos” of opportunity opening up in front of my eyes, and while this can be considered a positive things for a human being, the lyrics in the EP dig in the painful process of detouchment from what for 30 and more years I felt were my roots. Living in SF I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who mostly finished here from elsewhere: it’s not that common to meet SF born and raised people in SF. This is one of aspect of the city I live in that I probably like the most. People are here because for a reason or another they choose to be here. Like me. Here, I feel I have at least this thing in common with most people.
The EP already seems to be popular through pre orders. What are your hopes for this EP?
Karyn: For me, the hopes for the EP change as things move along. At first, it was my hope to be invited to sing and then my hope was to prove I could find the most powerful vocal expression for these songs and prove to Davide I was right for the position.Then the hopes became about getting the right producer who’d understand the music, for the people who’d resonate with these songs to find their way to Ephel Duath, for new and old fans of Crisis and Ephel Duath to embrace the songs, and for these songs to get big enough response to move onward and record a full length album. Songs always begin from an inner need to create, then at some point hope becomes about the songs communicating to others.
The new material is very distinctive vocally. How did you approach the vocals for this release?
Karyn: I didn’t want to change the relationship the vocals had with the music already in Ephel Duath. Davide has always written to vocals and music, so I let him know I wanted things to continue in this manner until I understand the relationship from the inside out. So it was for me to read his lyrics and get him to record them in his voice, the way he’s always done. I made a few changes here and there, then I rehearsed them using several tones of voice. That way, once we were in studio, I could show him how each of the voices would sounds singularly or combined. I wanted to be prepared and remain flexible. And in fact, the recordings went so smoothy and quickly (almost too quickly-we were sad about that because it seemed like we weren’t in studio for more than a few hours!) that I was able to record several passes with different voices for each song, and from there we’d discuss what worked best, then I’d erase those tracks and record a new one with incorporating several tones, then record a backing track of lower or higher textures. Mainly I wanted my voice to sound different from what people might expect of me because it’s what the music called for. It was an exciting challenge.
This is the first Ephel Duath release since 2009’s “Through My Dog’s Eyes”. How has Davide’s approach to the guitar playing and composition developed since the 2009 release?
Karyn: Davide is a consummate composer: he’s very in touch with his writing process, and is constantly writing, playing and recording his songs. I’d say, if I were to generalize things, that his songwriting and composing have become so effortless. He blinks and a new song is born. It’s really exciting to witness.
There have been many line-ups for Ephel over the years: can you tell us about your current rhythm section?
Karyn: Davide and I felt there was no other choice for drums than the best: Marco Minnemann. Marco recorded drums for “Through My Dog’s Eyes”, and he just melded with the music so well it seemed as if Davide had written the drums himself. Marco just instinctually “gets” Davide‘s style. So we knew he’d be able to meld with these songs and bring them to another level. When it came time to find a bass player, I asked Davide to imagine he could ask any bass player in the world to play, and then tell me who it was. He told me his favorite player is Steve DiGiorgio, whom he then emailed, and to our delight Steve said yes!
I understand that work has already begun on the next upcoming album. How much have you been involved in that? Have you any teasers you can share with us…..?
Karyn: I’m not involved in the writing, but I’m witness to it..and I can say these songs are at a whole other writing and emotional level than the ep. I’m so so excited. Davide‘s shared the vocals he’s written and they are so imaginative and vivid. I will have more hand in writing the vocal parts this time. A humorous note is that they are all around 6 minues 36 seconds each!
Your past live performances have always been very physical and dynamic: will Ephel Duath be touring at all to promote the EP and upcoming album?
Karyn: No touring for the EP, it doesn’t make sense to do all the work needed to tour for 3 songs. Davide is busy writing the album right now, so the priority of focus is there. There’s so much work for us to do in preparation for recording right after the new year. If the right conditions are there for touring after the album is released, then we may tour.
Over the years you have gained a lot of experience in the metal scene. Will you be continuing with your solo work at all?
Karyn: Yes. It’s coming around much slower because I keep experimenting.
Finally, thanks for talking to us at Femme Metal, and we wish you all the best for the future. Also on a more personal note, all the best for the upcoming “Myth” showing at Modern Eden in July and your solo show later in September!
Karyn: Thank you so much! And thanks for mentioning the “Myth” show as well. I have a solo show Sept 1 at Articulated Gallery in San Francisco as well. All the best to Femme Metal and much success for the years to come!
Photos by Bonnie Rae Mills