Bruising Metal from the U.S.

Greetings brothers and sisters.... Today we will be chatting with Chris E. of the metal band CELLBOUND from Cleveland, Ohio (US). Chris has a very dynamic voice and captivating stage presence and along with fellow vocalist Tom Herttna, the two of them deliver a lethal dose of high energy power metal with a touch of melody as well. Think of a cross between PANTERA, IRON MAIDEN and NIGHTWISH, but this band is most definitely not a clone of any other band. They also bring their own unique touch to the heavy metal genre.

Hello Chris, welcome to Metal Maidens. How did you first get into metal?
Chris : Well, my older sisters were into BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST and AC/DC, so I guess I was always around it and I really liked the way the music made me feel.”

Was there a particular song or performer that might have inspired you to be in a band of your own?
Chris: “Doro Pesch was a huge inspiration to me at an early age. Not sure, if it was the fact she was a woman or that I just loved her strength and melodies, but I always admired her and what she does. Ronnie James Dio is also a major inspiration of mine. His music comes from his soul and I always felt it was real and completely pure. As far as a metal band, hand's down it would be METALLICA, but I have always loved the heaviness of band's like SLAYER and TESTAMENT as well. I definitely have an appreciation for classical music as well and band's such as NIGHTWISH.”

Your voice is very impressive and you have incredible range as a singer. Were you professionally trained or are you self-taught?
Chris: “Thank you Nick, I appreciate that. I am not professionally trained, however I do try to pick up tips from other vocalists such as Angela Gossow, who I think has an amazing voice in her own right. As far as my kind of training, Ronnie James Dio said something to the effect that having someone tell you how to sing, kind of takes the edge off. It's almost too technical and you lose some of your heart, I kind of agree with that. I do try to learn what I can and apply different techniques to my own vocals and am always trying to get better as a singer.”

How did your band CELLBOUND come to be?
Chris: “Well, I had just left a band I was in, called FROM THE ASHES and saw an ad on the internet for a band looking for ‘an aggressive singer’, so I figured what the hell and went to check it out. I auditioned for the guys along with another male singer as well and we all seemed to hit it off pretty well. I guess, they liked my vocals and asked me to join the band. The band later agreed to add a guy on vocals as well, but there were some creative differences and he didn’t stick around too long. After that, we did go through a few more personnel changes and then we found Tom Herttna, who is just an amazing guy and like my blood brother. The two of us just gel on stage, like we have always known each other. The band finally had all the pieces it needed to get into the studio and record our first CD, called "Fallen Angels Of Sui Caedere". However, the tunes were a mix of some of the previous band members as well as the current CELLBOUND line-up, which includes obviously myself and Tom along with Dave Borowske and Shaun Vanek on guitars (ETERNAL LEGACY, WRETCH), Todd Alley on drums and Greg Baise on bass.”

Chris, can you expand a little and tell us what each member of CELLBOUND brings to the band, yourself included?
Chris; “These guys are like my brothers and yes, we all do kid around a lot, but also have a serious side when it comes to our music and I also know these guys always have my back. We all have this kind of openness and tactfulness when it comes to our playing, which is cool in that we are all in this together and have to be completely honest with each other. I would say, Todd is kind of like the dad of the band and seems to be the most vocal. Dave is the driving force musically behind our band and pretty much a ‘chick magnet’. Shaun is just a crazy guy, who makes everyone laugh and can play some amazing solos. Tom is the strong but silent type, who will always step up and support you, but watch out for him if it's a full moon. Greg is the wild stallion of the group and has this infectious energy that kicks us all in the ass at times. I guess, you would say I am ‘yin’ to everyone's ‘yang’ and kind of give the rest of the band a different perspective from a ‘chick’s point of view’. Know what I mean?"

With the line-up changes, it seems to me this band is as solid as ever. Would you agree with that statement, Chris?
Chris: “Hell yes, without a doubt this is CELLBOUND. This band has an amazing chemistry together and when we are on stage, it all just comes together and we mesh as one. The sum of the this band is most definitely greater than the parts. Separately we are good, but together as a band we are unstoppable!”

The band hails from Cleveland, Ohio (US), which at one time was a real hotbed for metal music. Would you say that remains the case today?
Chris: “We are very lucky to live in this town as we have the support of some amazing fans, clubs and excellent college radio, that all help keep metal music alive and thriving in Cleveland.”

The band is currently on tour supporting your debut CD, entitled "Fallen Angels Of Sui Caedere", which I think is a very impressive piece of work and an instant metal classic. Where did the title of the CD come from?
Chris: “The title of the CD is from our song "Fallen Angels Of Sui Caedere". ‘Sui Caedere’ is Latin for ‘to kill oneself’ or ‘suicide, if you will. The guys had already written the music and then Tom and I as in most cases, give our input about the music then add the lyrics. I guess, the unfortunate inspiration for the title and lyrics came from the fact that quite a few of my friends have committed suicide over the years and I guess it was stuck in my head. I kind of wanted to write something from both perspectives of suicide. Being the person that passes and those who are left behind, wandering ‘why did they do that’? and ‘why wasn’t I there for them’?”

I personally think this tune really shows off the diversity of the band, changing from haunting acoustic melodies to all out metal mayhem without skipping a beat, very cool stuff. Do you agree it has become a showcase for the band's talent?
Chris: “The fan support at the shows has been really positive for that song and as far as the band goes, it is one tune we never really get tired of playing.”

Chris, the video for this one is pretty powerful as well. Who are the adorable young ladies dressed as angels walking around the graveyard with you?
Chris: “Well yes, I do agree. They are adorable and had a blast doing the video. The dark haired angel is my niece Tiffany and the blonde angel is my friend Mary's daughter Lenna. When we decided to do this video, we didn’t want to just do a performance piece since this particular song meant so much to us. We really wanted it to stand out, that’s where the idea for the cemetery backdrop and the whole black and white angel idea came from. We wanted the visual to correspond with the song's lyrics. The cemetery we chose was this really old German cemetery with these really cool old statues and headstones, which is really breathtaking and the band just knew this was the perfect spot for the video. We had to get permission from the caretaker, who was this sweet older lady and she gave us the ok to film the video, as long as we didn’t break anything or kill any chickens. I guess, that was her perception of heavy metal and I can assure you no chickens were harmed during the filming of this video, but we did eat quite a few at KFC afterwards (lol).”

Tom Herttna, who shares the vocal duties with you in CELLBOUND, seems like a pretty intense individual and handles most of the growling voice for the band. What is very evident to me, is the chemistry the two of you have together. You don’t see the clash of egos like you get in a lot of bands with two vocalists. Was there a conscious effort from the band to have two singers or was it something that just kind of happened one day?
Chris: “Well, I don’t know if it was a conscious decision, but I know it was the right one. Tom and I compliment each other and actually feed of off each other and neither one of us is really comfortable in the role as just ‘backup singer’, but we also allow each other the freedom to be ourselves on stage as well as in the studio. We definitely push each other and at the same time help to inspire each other as well.”

Who actually writes most of the lyrics for CELLBOUND?
Chris: “Tom and I write the lyrics. However, some of the tunes were already written before I joined the band. The other guys in the band do give their input from time to time as well.”

Does the entire band have a say in what ultimately goes on the CD?
Chris: “Yes, we all do have a say, but at the same time you can’t have too many cooks in the kitchen, if you know what I mean? Todd is really the genius, when it comes to this, but I myself feel I am getting better at knowing what sounds best and how to sing harmonies better. All that kind of stuff.”

Can you tell us what inspired some of the other tunes on the CD?
Chris: “As I have said some of the tunes were already written before I got here, but I guess we all get inspiration from a lot of different things. I for one tend to draw from current events and things like that for my inspiration. Things that really move me emotionally.”

This band is kind of unique in that you write really great songs with catchy lyrics, that are easy to sing along to, while never losing that power metal intensity. I think, you can all be very proud of the fact you managed to accomplish this where so many bands fail.
Chris: “Thank you Nick! That means a lot to us. Yes, we are all very proud of that and while I don’t like to categorize us, I like to call us ‘hardcore harmony’, if that makes any sense? CELLBOUND definitely want to be in your face, but at the same time we do not stay away from melody either.”

Most bands these days love to rush and put out any piece of crap they can of their band playing live just to get exposure. You guys on the other hand made an excellent live video for the song "Forgotten", which I think was very well done and really showcases the band at their best, which is playing live. How did you guys accomplish that?
Chris: “We actually did that song the same afternoon of a show we were to playing that night and we had to shoot it like twenty times to get all the right camera angles and all that stuff. We really did sweat and work our asses of for that video. The guys for the band MUSHROOMHEAD worked with us on this video, as well as the “Fallen Angels…” video. Surrounding yourself with professional people, who know what they are doing is also a key to making a good video and as I said there was a lot of sweat involved as well.”

Chris, are videos something you personally like to do or are they a necessary evil these days? Quite honestly, I have seen some videos over the years from some great bands, that looked like they were just bored to tears and going through the motions. In my opinion, that attitude really comes across to the fans….
Chris: “Yes, it is necessary these days, but speaking for this band, we just love the experience! It is hard work and can be tedious at times and you may work 12-14 hours just to get a particular shot, but you just gotta do it and make the best of it and try to have fun with it. As long as you tell yourself going into this process you have to be patient and the more footage you do, the easier it makes the editing process. The more prepared you are, the easier things seem to go as well. Besides the fact we all love what we do, so it doesn’t really seem like a chore to us.”

As I am sure you know Chris, women have exploded onto the metal scene within the last five to ten years or so. In your opinion is this a good thing or do you think some bands use it as a gimmick to hide the fact they are lacking talent?
Chris: “Actually Nick, I do think it’s a little of both and yes, some bands do tend to jump on whatever bandwagon is popular at the time, but for the most part I do believe there are really a lot of talented women in the scene. Those bands, that are trying to be the so-called ‘flavour of the month’ with some chick they just throw up on stage in tight jeans or whatever, the fans can see through the bullshit and bands like that will never last. Overall, I do think it's great to see more women out there today than ever before.”

Do you see more female fans at your live shows these days?
Chris: “Yes I do see more females at our shows, but the majority are still males, which is very cool as well. This band has a pretty good mix in gender and age also.”

As a role model for young female fans, who look up to you and want to get into metal themselves, what advice would you give them about this business?
Chris: “Shit, am I a role model? Well, I don’t know if I am or not, but I do appreciate you saying that. The only advice I would give is to keep a good head on your shoulders, keep your feet on the ground, learn everything you can about your craft and the music business and don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn from criticism, but at the same time don’t let negative comments get you down or make you stop believing in your dream.”

Do you think we will ever see the time, when women are judged as musicians alone instead of hearing dumbass comments, like ‘man, she plays pretty good for a chick’ or something to that affect?
Chris: “ I don’t think it will ever change. We are always going to have to deal with stereotypes, but personally it doesn’t bother me at all. I mean, who cares?!? I work my ass off at what I do, I love what I do and if people want to say ‘she sings pretty good for a chick’ or whatever, who cares?”

Have you had to deal with any of the gender-biased comments and attitude in the scene, that has for the most part of three decades been dominated by males?
Chris: “Quite honestly, for me I can say no. It has never been an issue. I try not to put myself in that whole ‘male/female box’ thing and pretty much try to stay out of the box, if you know what I mean? I mean, yes it does exist out there, but I’ve been very lucky that it has never been a problem for me personally.”

Being the only women in a band with five other guys, I am sure at times it can be a little awkward with touring and hotels and things like that. Do you agree that this can present a problem?
Chris: “Well Nick, that depends....... Awkward for them or for me? Actually, I think at first the guys may have been a little nervous about that kind of thing, but it passed very quickly. As for me, I grew up with three sisters and always wanted brothers and now I have five of them, so no worries here.”

Ok, Chris...time to come clean. Other than the obvious things that all guys do like burping and farting (which you know we all take great pride in), do you have any interesting stories from the road, that you can share with us?
Chris: “There was this one time we were playing at a bar and had time to kill some time, so we took a walk to a few other bars and in the process I got pretty hammered. For some reason I was asking everyone this one particular question about ‘oral or anal?’ and it got a little crazy from there and I still have no idea where that all came from. The burping and farting is a pretty common thing, but not only just from the guys. There are a few stories, that we might have to talk about at some other time though, when all the kiddies are safe in bed!!”

You are a married woman. Is your husband and family supportive of what you do?
Chris: “Yes, at this point they are, but when everyone first hears that this is what you want to do, it’s not the norm and it can come as a surprise to some of those who are really close to you. I talked to my husband and felt like I was at a crossroads in my life and I wanted to do something I loved to do and since I had pretty much always played in bands, I knew this was it for me. It is hard on the person you love, when you have to travel a lot and aren't home all the time and I completely understand that. I am so very lucky to have the support of my husband, family and some really great friends, that believe in me and what I am doing. Our road crew of Flip, Shawn and Ally are more than what you would call roadies, but they are family just as much as anyone in the band. As for our fans, I have met some amazing people, who have supported us and they may never know how much we really appreciate and love them!”

I have heard through the grapevine of the band's mascot, so to speak. Can you tell us what the hell is the Skullbong?
Chris: “Well, Skullbong is legendary in the CELLBOUND family and it is literally a skull, that is a beer bong, but it does possess some sort of mystical powers as well. I actually bought it one year for Halloween and thought what a cool thing it was and we used it on stage one night and from there, the legend of Skullbong grew to the point of wherever we are playing fans succumb to its magical powers....”

I feel very fortunate, that I got to see the band play back in my hometown of Pittsburgh last fall and I was blown away by your live show, the band's professionalism and overall attitude. Do you get nervous before going on stage, because if you do, it did not show that night?
Chris: “Thank you, Nick! That show was very cool for us as well. The crowd had so much energy that night and we definitely feed off of that. Yes, I do get a little nervous before going on stage, but not to the point where I get flustered or forget shit. I guess, I would call it more like nervous excitement than anything else. As we get into our first song, it kind of tempers off.”

What are some of the things you do before a show to prepare yourself for the performance?
Chris: “I do a lot of stretching of my neck and back, because I do tend to run around on stage a lot and you have to get yourself ready for all that headbanging. While I watch the opening bands, I do tend to hum and try to warm up my vocal chords and of course drinking a few beers for medicinal purposes only is also a big help. Tom and I also have this silent in your face evil eye thing we do to get ready, which seems to get both of us pumped up as well.”

Another thing I noticed about this band before the show was that you all had this look in your eyes, I can’t say if it was hunger, desire or whatever, but each one of you had it and I thought that was just a very unique thing to see. What are your personal expectations for this band and what is it in your opinion that drives all of you?
Chris: “What drives all of us is, that we love what we do. We love playing live and being with our friends and fans every night and if the day comes, when we can just travel around in a bus playing city after city and we are able to quit our day jobs, none of us could ask for anything more than that. As far as our expectations, we all want to continue to create good and unique music and never be afraid to try different things, because we don’t ever want to do what is safe or what everyone else is doing. Know what I mean? We as a band never want to be average and we always want to challenge ourselves. My goal is to play the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany someday and be a part of the biggest heavy metal festival in the world and you, my friend, will be there to witness all the mayhem first hand.”

CELLBOUND has done some acoustic performances at places, like ‘Guitar Center’ and ’Hot Topic’, which I personally think is awesome! It once again shows off the talent and diversity of this band and it also really connects you with your fans on a more personal level, which sadly I think a lot of bands have lost these days. Do all of you enjoy playing the acoustic shows?
Chris: “Sometimes logistically, it is difficult to play as many places as we would like, but we try like hell to get to as many places as possible and when you really love what you are doing, that seems to make the whole thing a lot easier. The very first time we did an acoustic performance was for a local radio station 96.9 in Cleveland, which was a great way for us to get our music out to as many people as possible and the overall experience was so cool for all of us, that we knew we wanted to do it again. We love the intimacy of these small acoustic shows.”

Chris, of all the places CELLBOUND has played what have been some of your favourites and do you enjoy playing the smaller clubs or the much larger outdoor venues?
Chris: “Outdoor shows are really crazy and we are usually staying over night somewhere, so it gives us time to hang with our fans, enjoy the sunshine and have some fun and not have to worry about hopping in the van after our set to hurry to the next show, so that is a nice luxury at times. Naturally, the crowds can be a lot bigger as well, which makes for some really fun shows and the band feeds off of all that raw energy. The smaller clubs offer something very unique and special on their own with the fact, that you are right on top of the crowd and that offers a whole different kind of connection with the fans and the energy they give back to us. When we played at Tower City for the DISTURBED show, now that was just insane!”

So Chris, what is up with the band for 2010 and when can we expect a new CD from CELLBOUND?
Chris: “The new CD is about 80% finished with a lot of other music kind of hanging around seeing where it will all fit. We are looking at about twelve to fifteen songs and that will be trimmed down to about ten to twelve for the actual final CD. We have slowed down just a bit as far as touring, because we are working hard on finishing the CD, but we do have a few surprises in store for live shows as well.”

Where can fans find out about CELLBOUND merchandise, shows and all that kind of stuff?
Chris: “We are currently in the process of re-vamping our My Space page to include info for the fans to purchase CDs, T-shirts, etc. Our My Space page is:"

Chris, it has been an honour to get to talk with you today. You are such a talented and classy lady and I just think you are pure magic on stage. Seeing you perform live and watching you interact with the crowd made me so proud to be a metal fan! I want to thank you for doing what you do and for taking time with us at Metal Maidens. We wish you and the band all the best of luck in the new year and beyond and also best of luck with the new CD.
Chris: “Well Nick, I really want to thank you and Rita from Metal Maidens as well. I appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed. This was a lot of fun and some of your questions were very tough to answer, but I hope I did a good job. The guys in the band all say ‘hey’ and thanks as well. Good luck to you as well, my friend and we hope to see you very soon! Chris."
Horns up brothers and sisters! Nick Rohm.

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Nick Rohm, Metal Maidens 'zine / January 2010.

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