Flavia Canel: A Freak of Nature? I Think Not!

Greetings brothers and sisters! Every single new musician and band in the heavy metal scene today (male and female) should all bow down and and give thanks to a true innovator and pioneer in the genre. Flavia Canel was one of the four legendary ladies of the band DRAIN STH, which exploded onto the scene from Sweden back in the mid-nineties and made a huge impact in the metal genre, that is still being talked about to this day.
Unfortunatley, after roughly seven years together the band decided to go their seperate ways, but they can all be very proud of the legacy and great music they left behind for their devoted fans to enjoy for a lifetime. We are very privelged to be chatting with Flavia today here at Metal Maidens.......

Hello Flavia, thank you so much for being here with us today,it is an honor to be chatting with you.
Flavia Canel: “Hello!”

I guess, the first question I have would be how did the idea come about to have an all-female Metal band back in the days, when that was a very rare thing?
Flavia: “I don’t really think, it was completley unheard of. I started out as a young RUNAWAYS fan and there were also bands like GIRLSCHOOL, ROCK GODDESS and many more around at that time. Of course we developed our own sound, since our inspiration came from many other bands such as ALICE IN CHAINS, PANTERA, BLACK SABBATH, just to mention a few. But the first song I was playing on my guitar was probably "Queens Of Noise" at thirteen years old.”

Who actually came up with the idea and how did you go about finding musicians?
Flavia: “We put out ads in the local music store and through friends. DRAIN STH was developed from a few other bands, where me and Martina was members from the beginning.”

There was a rumor going around back then, that the original band name was DRAIN but you had to add the ‘STH’. Was there any truth to that and what does ‘STH’ mean?
Flavia: “That is correct! When we were about to go to the US for our first tour, we found out there was already a band, called DRAIN, so we asked the band if they were ok with us just adding something to our name and they said ok. So we added STH, an abbreviation for Stockholm.”

Yourself along with bandmates Maria Sjoholm, Martina Axen and Anna Kjellberg are still being sited today as huge influences for female metal musicians, all of which credit DRAIN with opening doors for them and paving the way for women in the genre. How does that make you feel?
Flavia: “It feels great being able to be an inspiration to other people. We always received and still do receive a lot of fan mail. Thanks to THE RUNAWAYS, I picked up a guitar and got to see the world doing what I love most, so I can only hope that I inspire people to follow their dreams and live life.”

It is a damn shame the band was so ahead of its time, because if DRAIN STH were playing today, you ladies would be gods in the scene, don’t you think?
Flavia: “Of course! I think, we where ahead of out time like you said. Plus we had some bad luck with our record labels being bought up by others and our career was sometimes badly managed, but we toured a lot and gave our lives to music with no regrets. I had some of the best times of my life playing in DRAIN STH and that’s why I stayed in the music industry managing bands.”

The only bands from today I could actually say would be in the same class as DRAIN STH would be maybe KITTIE and SCARLET SINS. Would you agree with that and who are some of your favorite musicians playing today?
Flavia: “I’m so tired of being compared to other girl bands. Like it’s a genre of its own. Music is about enjoying the feeling and emotions, that is gives you and not about comparing who is the best or best looking. Right now I’m hooked on CREED’s new album "Full Circle" and listen to modern music like MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, BREAKING BENJAMIN and also turn up some LAMB OF GOG or PANTERA, depending on my mood.”

I am sure a lot of young women have come up to you over the years and thanked you for what you and the band did for them. Are you comfortable with the whole role model thing?
Flavia: “I’m very comfortable with it. I love it, when I can inspire someone or help them out with some tips.”

DRAIN STH was such a talented band, but (to put it bluntly) you were all very attractive women as well. Do you think that got in the way of the music and a lot of people never took the band seriously?
Flavia: “Maybe at first we had to prove ourselves, but I think people realised pretty fast that we actually could play too. When we released our first album, we decided not to add a photo for this reason. We didn’t want people to judge us for what we looked like or being a female band. When we went out on tour supporting other bands in the beginning of our career, it was great to see the reaction of the people because a lot of them had heard of us by then, but didn’t know we where an all-female band.”

"Horror Wrestling" was the band’s first CD. Where did the title and inspiration come for that album?
Flavia: “The title "Horror Wrestling" came from a B-movie genre, called "Mexican Horror Wrestling". We thought it was a cool name, but we skipped the "Mexican" part. The title fitted with the lyrics, since a lot of them came from Martina’s nightmares.”

Your second CD "Freaks of Nature", I think was appropriatley titled, would you agree?
Flavia: “Freaks of Nature” referred to us being the freaks, since many times people would stare at us on stage, like if we were from another planet….”

I have heard, the band referred to as ‘the grandmothers of grunge’,which I am not sure I agree with. I always thought of the band's music as straight ahead power metal with catchy tunes you could sing along with, while still keeping that heavy edge as well. What do you think?
Flavia: “We used to call our music ‘horror metal’, but it was with a little bit of humor. I don’t really care, to be honest. Everyone is entitled to label us, as they wish. So if you wanna say we’re power metal with sing along tunes, then it sounds good to me.”

No kidding, you ladies really were bad ass musicians! I still listen to those old CDs today and get frustrated thinking a lot of people never gave you a fair chance. Does that still piss you off?
Flavia: “Well, first off thanks for thinking, we were bad ass. I agree - haha! All I can say to those, who never gave us a fair chance, is you missed out on some kick ass music and it never has and never will piss me off. I played music for myself and for our fans, so who cares about closed-minded people?!?”

I know, the mainstream media sucked back then and pretty much still does, when it comes to women in metal or even metal in general. How did potential fans respond to the band when you got on stage to play?
Flavia: “I think I would explain this in one word: amazing!”

Metal has always been sort of a boy's club, even though a lot of that mentality has changed today. It must have been very frustrating dealing with all the stereotypes at times. Do you think, that led to the break up of the band or were there other factors involved?
Flavia: “No, it was actually pretty funny at times. When we opened for MOTLEY CRUE in Florida and we were about to get up on stage, the security guy said to us "No ‘girlfriends’ on stage!". Boy, did he feel stupid, when we were the band! Stereotype had nothing to do with the break up of DRAIN STH. When Maria decided to move on in life, I just felt I didn’t wanna go on with a new singer. I was happy with the success of DRAIN STH and felt it was time to move forward and not try and rebuild.”

I am sure you are very tired of this question, but as a huge fan I just have to ask. Any chance of a reunion possibly someday?
Flavia: “Although this is very unlikely to happen, I guess you can never say never.”

You did stay in touch with the other DRAIN STH members with side projects over the years, but nothing seemed to really pan out. Why do you think that is?
Flavia: “Well, after we split up, Martina and Anna continued to play. Maria followed her heart and moved to England and I also continued to play for a few years. We do keep in touch once in a while of course, but we all have our separate lives and keep pretty busy.”

Can you tell us what the rest of the band is currently up to?
Flavia: “The rest of the band is living life in their own way. I’d rather say no more than that in regards to the others. I’m still working in the music industry and currently managing a band, called SONIC SYNDICATE.”

Sadly, that chapter in your life closes, but do you regret any of it and is there something you would change, if you could go back in time and start over?
Flavia: “It’s not a sad thing that a chapter ends, because it opens up the next one. When you’re a musician, you have to ‘sacrifice’ a lot in your life, that I now am able to do. Everything has its time and I’ve always been a versatile person, who likes to do a lot of different things. I used to compete with motorbikes, when I was younger and I also had a horse and competed in show jumping. No, I would not change anything. I’m very happy, that I got the opportunity to do what I did and it was totally worth everything. Even got a husband out of it.”

You are currently the manager of the Metal Bands SONIC SYNDICATE and SKILLER, which are both from Sweden. What made you want to get into the business of managing bands?
Flavia: “Me and my husband Mike "Neg" have a management together and we compliment each other in a great way. He’s been working behind bands his whole life and I’ve been in a band my whole life. I had such a great time playing in a band and thought it was a good idea to help another band or to have the chance to live their dream and have someone help them for the love of music and not just for the money. It’s really great to be involved and also live a somewhat normal life in Sweden as well.”

Can you tell us a little about these bands and what potential fans can expect to hear from them?
Flavia: “SONIC SYNDICATE is an amazingly talented young band. They have released three albums now and we have a lot of great things lined up for them in the future. In January, they’ll enter the studio with Producer Toby Wright, who worked with some of my favourite bands, like ALICE IN CHAINS, KORN, KISS and the list goes on and on. Their new record will be released in April 2010, followed by a world tour. The SKILLER guys are a pretty new band with a self-recorded album. We’re just guiding them for now and helping them out as friends.”

The bass player for SONIC SYNDICATE is a very talented young lady, named Karin Axelsson. Do you have a certain connection with her, because of where you have been in this business and what advice have you given to her about it?
Flavia: “Karin is like one of the boys.. She’s awesome! She is girlie, but at the same time she doesn’t care, if she don’t get to shower in a couple of days. We have a lot of fun together on tour and people tend to mix us up! They think, I’m Karin and vice versa, which is kind of funny. My feelings are the same for everyone in the band, so her being a girl makes no difference at all.”

There seems to be some killer metal coming from Sweden these days, as well as a very rabid fan base. Why do you think that is?
Flavia: “I think, there’s always been a lot of heavy music coming from Sweden, but nobody knew about it. The darkness is very frustrating and young people have to get their frustrations out somehow and playing hard music is a great way! Bands like IN FLAMES, SOILWORK, DARK TRANQUILLITY, THE HAUNTED, CLAWFINGER, ENTOMBED and more have been around a long time and now a new bread of bands are coming, like SONIC SYNDICATE for example.”

Flavia, women have made great strides over the years, but do you think there will ever come a day when women will just be judged on their musical talent alone and not what they look like?
Flavia: “Probably not. Especially now, that Autotuner seems to be as common as playing a guitar on the album.”

How about metal in general? Do you think, it is heading in the right direction with the internet and the digital world, we have been thrown into?
Flavia: “It has good sides and bad sides. It’s easier to get your music out there, but harder to get paid for what you do. This is a very hard question to answer and I think we need some more years to see how everything will end up. I just hope, labels will give bands more freedom to write their own great music and not just two good singles on a album in the future. I think, it’s important we support indie labels and bands to keep real music alive.”

I don’t know about you, but I still miss vinyl, even though the sound quality left a lot to be desired at times. It was part of our metal history, I guess. Do you know what I mean?
Flavia: “Ha ha! I still got my vinyls in the basement. Don’t really know why I save them, but it’s all nostalgia, I guess. I love the sound of vinyl, but have also kept up with the times. As long as the music is good and I feel something from it, is what matters.”

I was just curious: do you still get the urge to play guitar sometimes?
Flavia: “Sure, I play all the time. I have my bass and my main guitar up on the wall and I take turns between them. Since I learned to play the bass, it’s hard to pick between them. I love playing both!”

I am sure, you don’t have a whole lot of spare time, but when you do, what are some things you like to do to unwind and get away from the music business?
Flavia: “I go horseback riding a couple of times a week. I also paint and do ceramics. I always liked to be creative with my hands. I take a lot of photos and try to travel us much as I can. Cuddle with my two cats and my husband!”

So, what is on the horizon for miss Flavia and her bands for the rest of 2009 and into the new year?
Flavia: “Lots of hard work and keeping focused and most important having fun and staying healthy. The world is too stressed and needs to remember to treat others with respect and help each other out once in a while.”

Where can fans find music from DRAIN STH, SONIC SYNDICATE and SKILLER?
Flavia: “SONIC SYNDICATE can be found in almost every store worldwide and on their official website at: http://www.sonicsyndicate.com. DRAIN STH can be found on just about all online retailers and SKILLER will have their album available in a few weeks on Itunes and other digital outlets.”

I think, I have talked your ear off long enough, but is there anything you would like to add to the interview that I may have overlooked?
Flavia: “I think you covered just about everything. Thanks to Rita for having Metal Maidens and keeping music alive. It’s great to see you still going after all these years, congrats!”

I have so much respect for you and the rest of DRAIN STH and what you have done for the music, that I love. On behalf of myself and Metal Maidens thank you for the music you have created, for the new music you are promoting and most of all, thank you for being with us today. We wish you luck in all that you do, Flavia. Take care!
Flavia: “Thank you! And right back at ya!”

Horns way up, brothers and sisters......Nick

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Nick Rohm, Metal Maidens 'zine / November 2009.

Visit DRAIN STH at My Space: www.myspace.com/drainsthmusic
or go to Flavia's My Space site at: www.myspace.com/flaviacanel