Veronica Freeman is no stranger to Metal Maidens. Her band MALADY received a good rating in our magazine a few years back. Although this was only the beginning for this hard rocking lady, her new band BENEDICTUM is a big promise already. A lot of positive reviews have been written about their CD “Uncreation”, which has recently hit the streets. Their story is a good example of how things can turn out, when you are noticed by a famous musician, that also happens to be a good friend. DIO guitarist Craig Goldy was very impressed by the band BOUND (a.k.a. BENEDICTUM today) and he made sure that DOKKEN bass player Jeff Pilson produced the debut album of this talented new band. What more can you ask for? What else happened before the first album is a fact and what will happen next, will be explained by Veronica Freeman in this next interview Read this interview very carefully, because it’s the story of success for this band from San Diego, USA. The story of....BENEDICTUM.
When did BENEDICTUM get together as a band and how did you meet up?
Veronica Freeman: “Pete Wells, our guitar player, and I were both in a band called MALADY for several years. When MALADY disbanded, we decided to stick together and started looking for new members. We had both known Blackie Sanchez for a long time and jammed with him before. We would always walk away from that thinking: "Damn, wouldn't it be great, if we could form something together?" So there was no question, who we wanted to be the drummer and luckily Blackie was available. We also really wanted a keyboard player, who could add some cool textures and we got Chris Morgan who I knew from a DIO tribute band we were both in. Last but not least, there was Mike Morris on bass, who quit earlier in the year; our new guy is Jesse Wright, who is fitting in great.”
Who decided to call the band BENEDICTUM and why did you choose this name?
Veronica: “Actually, our new manager Chris first suggested it. We had just finished up our first three songs with Jeff Pilson, including 'Benedictum', and he thought there was something really epic and powerful about that word and that BENEDICTUM represented our music a lot better than BOUND. We weren't too keen on it at first and played around with a few other names, but then Locomotive came into the picture and they too liked BENEDICTUM, so it stuck.”
Can you please introduce the band members to us?
Veronica: “Pete is a total character and he always cracks me up. People, including his own family, just trip on him and the fact that a black dude would be the guitar player in a heavy metal band. - Blackie is a pretty intense dude - and not only behind the drums. He keeps our collective feet to the fire and makes sure we don't slack off too much. Chris is our honorary 'Japanese' member. He was born in Okinawa. I just love listening to him play. He is always so easy going and cool. Jesse is not only the newest addition to the family, but also the youngest member at twenty-three years old. He fits right in with all the madness.”
We all know that you previously sang with MALADY together with guitarist Pete Wells, but did the others play in other bands as well before they joined BENEDICTUM?
Veronica: “Jesse came over from CAGE, another San Diego power metal band, but he never recorded with them. Blackie's been in a bunch of bands in San Diego and L.A., where he is from originally, including RDK G-13 and MAGNI with our keyboard player, Chris. The three of us also played in a DIO tribute band called EVILUTION. Chris' former bands also include locals NINTH LEVEL and LIVING RELIC, but none of them have anything available officially.”
How would you describe the music of BENEDICTUM?
Veronica: “The closest description I can probably give you would be power metal, American style. Obviously, the stuff Ronnie James Dio did with RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH, and DIO has been an influence, especially on myself. I've seen a few people compare “Uncreation” to bands like SAVATAGE or METAL CHURCH and I can definitely see, where they are coming from. But our songs really run the gamut from epic to semi-progressive, straight up in-your-face metal, with hints of thrash even, to melodic metal. I think we have something to offer for anyone with an appreciation for classic heavy metal without sounding dated in any way.”
Ronnie James Dio is obviously a big influence to the band and your singing in particular. Can you name more influences and maybe you can also point at some influences for each band member individually?
Veronica: “Pete is very much into guitar greats like Randy Rhoads, George Lynch, and Warren DeMartini. Blackie's drum heroes run the gamut from John Bonham of LED ZEPPELIN to jazz greats like BUDDY RICH. Chris' influences, even though he is a keyboard player, include thrash heavies like TESTAMENT, MEGADETH and AT THE GATES as well as DIO and SAVATAGE. Jesse grew up on OZZY OSBOURNE, TESTAMENT, and PANTERA and digs Dimebag Darrell, Alex Skolnick, Zakk Wylde and Jason Newsted, among others. I think some of the above definitely comes through in our music and when you combine it with my admiration for (almost) all things DIO, you get BENEDICTUM.”
BENEDICTUM started off under the name BOUND. Why did you actually change band names and who was in the line up of BOUND?
Veronica: “BOUND was really the same band as BENEDICTUM is now, except for the bass player. Mike Morris left us earlier in the year and now we have Jesse Wright.”
I read, that Craig Goldy (DIO) was very impressed by the sound of the band. Did he come to see one of your shows, or how did you get in touch with him?
Veronica: “Craig is originally from San Diego as are we. He and I have been friends for years and kept in touch; we even discussed doing a project together, which ultimately never happened. On one of his visits home to San Diego, he stopped by and I played him some of our demo recordings. He really liked what he heard but thought we needed better production and a bit of help with the arrangements so he suggested we work with Jeff Pilson, who's been doing a lot of production work in recent years.”
And did he (Craig Goldy) bring you in contact with Jeff Pilson (DOKKEN), who became the producer of your debut album “Uncreation”?
Veronica: “Yes, Craig put us in touch with Jeff. Luckily, Jeff saw enough potential to take us on and we went up to his studio in L.A. and knocked out three songs. Jeff is incredibly talented in so many areas and it was great working with him; there was no question that we wanted to keep working with him after the first batch of songs. So when the deal with Locomotive came through we picked up where we left off and did the rest of the songs for the album with Jeff, who also ended up playing bass, some keyboards, and cello on “Misogyny”.“
Let’s have a closer look at your live shows, if we may. With whom did you share the stage already?
Veronica: “To be honest with the current line up, we have our first show on December 21, 2005 at a club, called Brick By Brick in San Diego. We will be opening up for LYNCH MOB and are very excited about that.”
Do you also play cover songs during your live shows or do you stick to your own-penned material only?
Veronica: “This time out we will do all originals. Our set is too short for covers, but on a longer set we will probably do “The Mob Rules”. It all depends....”
Do you use any show elements and what can people expect when they come to a BENEDICTUM live show?
Veronica: “What you can expect is balls out, no frills metal. It would be nice to eventually put on a show with a few production elements, but that's really not in our budget at this point. Hmmm, that reminds me, I need to get a new outfit - ha ha. Send money….”
What has been your biggest show so far?
Veronica: “If you mean BENEDICTUM - our first show is coming up this Wednesday, December 21, when we open up for George Lynch at Brick By Brick. So that's our biggest show so far by default.”
Did you play outside the USA yet, and if yes, where?
Veronica: “No, we have not. We were supposed to go and play for the troops in Korea last year with SKID ROW and QUIET RIOT, but it ended up not happening. Hopefully, we'll get to do a few European festivals next summer. We hear great things about those fests, so it would be a blast to be part of all that. But being that, we are still a baby band without much of a track record a lot of it depends on the response to “Uncreation” and how sales go.”
Are there any big shows on the agenda, and do you have a tour planned for after the release of your CD?
Veronica: “We'll be doing local shows around Southern California for the time being, but we have been submitted for a US tour with another, bigger act, that we are waiting to hear back on. It's extremely difficult to get on a good tour in the US when you're playing the type of music we do, because power metal isn't exactly the flavour of the week. We definitely see Europe as our primary market and hopefully we can get over to you guys in the near future.”
What’s the metal scene like in San Diego? Are there many clubs, where you can play? And what do you think of the metal scene in the USA in general?
Veronica: “San Diego is not a huge city by US standards and there really isn't a metal scene to speak - just a few bands here and there. There are a handful of clubs like Brick By Brick, that book metal bands and we have a local metal radio show hosted by Norm Leggio, the ex-PSYCHOTIC WALTZ drummer, who also owns Blue Meanies out in El Cajon, a cool indie store that carries a lot of metal. As for the state of the metal scene in the US. It's picked up again and Headbanger's Ball is back on the air, but it's mainly extreme metal, hardcore, and mainstream bands like DISTURBED that get all the attention. On the positive side, a couple of festivals, like ProgPower in Atlanta and the BWBK (sponsored Six-Pack in Cleveland) have popped up in recent years, where people can see more traditional metal acts, but those events can't compare to the European festivals like Bang Your Head and Wacken in Germany or Sweden Rock.”
We know that bands like WARRIOR, ROUGH CUTT and the magnificent PSYCHOTIC WALTZ also come from the San Diego area. Are there more talented bands around today, that we have to watch closely?
Veronica: “To tell you the truth, I'm not really keeping tabs on what's going on around San Diego in terms of other bands. The biggest SD metal band right now is AS I LAY DYING, a metalcore act, who seem to be doing really well. Before them it was P.O.D. A band you might be familiar with is CAGE, who have released a few albums and played in Europe. As I mentioned earlier, our new bass player, Jesse Wright, was with them for a bit, before he joined BENEDICTUM.”
Will you also be coming over to Europe or aren’t there any plans to go oversees yet?
Veronica: “As I mentioned earlier, we'd love to come to Europe, but nothing is booked as of now. It might still be a bit early for us at this point because the record isn't even out yet and the press is only just beginning to take notice of us. If 'Uncreation' manages to create a big stir I think promoters will be more inclined to book us, be it for festivals or as part of a tour.”
Are you satisfied with the final result of “Uncreation” and what would you change, if you still had the chance for it?
Veronica: “Yeah, I'm happy with “Uncreation”. We were kind of pressed for time at the very end but everything considered I think “Uncreation” came out pretty damn good. One thing that was going to be different is the bonus track. We did not plan on having both “Heaven And Hell” and “The Mob Rules” - two BLACK SABBATH songs - on the same album, but “Rainbow In The Dark”, which was supposed to be the bonus track originally, didn't turned out quite the way we had hoped, so we scrapped it.”
What’s your favorite BENEDICTUM song and why?
Veronica: “For me it is "Two Steps To The Sun", because I was so sad and depressed when I wrote it. It was a cathartic experience, like therapy for me to pen those lyrics. Every time I hear it, I think of what was going on in my life at the time and am grateful to be here to write about it.”
What’s the most difficult song to play live?
Veronica: “I guess we'll find out on December 21, won’t we?“
Veronica, being a female vocalist, do you still have to prove yourself twice as hard, because you’re a woman? Or do you believe, the ladies in the metal scene already get the attention and recognition, that they earn so well?
Veronica: “Things are definitely looking up! However I know, that there are some people male and female for that matter that just have a wall up when it comes to a female vocalist. I sometimes feel that I am not allowed the same margin for error as a male vocalist might have. But that is something I deal with. I guess, it's all in the attitude. I want to have a great time.. Life is too short not to, so I can't freak out, if not everyone likes me. It sure has taken me a long time to get to that point mentally though but there it is.”
What are the future plans for BENEDICTUM?
Veronica: “In a nutshell - to establish the band. We want to tour as much as possible and keep doing albums.”
Do you have any hobbies or interests, other than playing in a heavy metal band?
Veronica: “Oh yes, I am a Master Practicioner of NLP, which is a form of Pshycology, that not too many people know of. Basically, it is a vehicle to help me realize more of my potential. I think, I need it more than anyone ha ha. I also have an avid love for horses, food, my cat and all the many things that make my life full and joyful.”
We are an online magazine, totally dedicated to the female musicians in the (hard) rock and (heavy) metal scene [Check our website at http://www.metalmaidens.com]. We are based in The Netherlands. What else do you know about our beautiful country, besides the fact that we have beautiful tulips and windmills?
Veronica: “Other than you Dutch seem to have a better grasp on how to build levees and dykes that hold up, than we did in New Orleans? ;-) - Let me think... Holland is one of the most liberal/progressive countries in the world; you can buy and smoke weed legally without going to jail; then there is the world famous Red Light District in Amsterdam with naked women advertising themselves in windows; you make damn good cheese, too (Gouda rocks, but it's bad for my figure!); you passed a law that allows for doctor assisted suicide / euthanasia; (Adrian) VANDENBERG is from there and so are the VAN HALEN brothers. Sounds like a pretty damn cool place to me!”
Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview? Maybe there is something we forgot to mention here that is essential for you and the band?
Veronica: “I think you've covered it really well with your questions. All we want is for people to give us a chance and if you dig what you hear - BUY the album!”
I was looking on the internet for more information about the band, but I couldn’t find an official website for the band. Where can people find more information about BENEDICTUM?
Veronica: “Actually, we do have an official website at http://www.benedictum.net, which isn't totally where it needs to be right now. But we are working on it as we speak and it should be rolling in time for the release of “Uncreation”. If nothing else you can, always visit us on http://www.myspace.com/benedictum for now, where you can listen to three songs from “Uncreation”.
“Uncreation” is one of the many releases that hit the streets every week. Why should people buy “Uncreation” instead of all those others?
Veronica: “You should buy “Uncreation”, because it is a quality product and also something we believe stands out from most of what's out there right now - both musically and vocally. We are not re-inventing the steel, but if you dig powerful, take-no-prisoners heavy metal, we just may have enough to kick your ass!”
Are you still in touch with the former members of MALADY, and are they still active in the music scene?
Veronica: “Oh yes, Tom Hogue was the drummer and now owns Web Hombres and will be designing the BENEDICTUM website.”
What would be your profession, if you wouldn’t be a musicican?
Veronica: “NLP therapist, run another Hardware store, etc.etc. The list goes on and on. There are so many things I want to try in life, while still have breathe in this body. Oh yeah, I would also love to design clothes for women of all body types to make us all look great!”
Do you play any instruments, besides your singing?
Veronica: “Unfortunately not. When I was younger, I wanted to play the bass and also classical guitar and took some lessons, but I move around too much for that.”
Do you have a personal message for our readers?
Veronica: “Happy New Year to you all!! Don't drink and drive, wear a condom, and above all "Bang that head, that doesn't bang!"
The last words are for Veronica and BENEDICTUM....
Veroncia: “Thanks Toine and Rita for your interest and the interview. It's really encouraging for us as a band to get all this positive feedback for “Uncreation”. We are looking forward to rocking out live with all you guys in 2006! I remember when you reviewed MALADY years ago and I never thought I would have the privilege of doing this with you now. It is an honor and I thank you and BENEDICTUM thanks you for your interest.”