After two albums "8 Convulsions" (Too Damn Hype Records) and "Deathshead Extermination" (Metal Blade), the New York hardcore/metal quartet CRISIS, led by frontwoman Karyn, have returned to the very dark depths of mankind with their brandnew epic "The Hollowing". The album represents a new maturity and spirit of CRISIS and it's also their most experimental record yet. MM spoke to Karyn on the phone at the German office of Metal Blade Records.
Who's in CRISIS and can you tell us a little about the band's history?
"Right now, it's myself, Karyn Crisis on vocals, Afzaal Nasiruddeen on guitar, Gia Chuan Wang on bass and Jason Bittner (ex-STIGMATA and BURNING HUMAN) on drums. Jason is our new drummer. He replaced our original drummer, Fred Waring, who became a father and couldn't go on tour with us anymore. Originally, we formed CRISIS about four years ago. Afzaal and Fred knew eachother from a band they played in before CRISIS. They found Gia through a newspaper's ad. I got introduced to the band through a mutual friend. I wrote the lyrics for the song "Drilling Me", which was recorded on our very first album "8 Convulsions"."
Your debut CD came out on Too Damn Hype Records, but soon afterwards you switched labels and signed to Metal Blade, who released your last two albums. Why?
"Before our first CD came out, Metal Blade contacted us. They wanted to hear a tape, which we sent to them. After the songs came out on CD, Metal Blade offered us a deal. Because our first label only distributed the CD and didn't pay for our recordings, we took our chance with Metal Blade. It was a good thing to get our music out in the first place, but in terms of such a small label, it would be hard to get us anywhere."
How would you describe the musical style of CRISIS?
"That's a tough one. It definitely has roots in the metal and hardcore. But I think we don't particularly fit into any category, because our music is very emotional and experimental. Perhaps experimental metal would be a good term."
In what way do you think is your new album "The Hollowing" different from your previous one "Deathshead Extermination"?
"Well, "Deathshead Extermination" was very extreme and brutal combined with rage and embattlement. It was kind of our war. The new album is a more collective creativity thing going on. Emotionally, it's a darker album with some depressivity, anger and frustration. Lyrically, it deals with my past: old ghosts chasing me around. Musically, I think it's more mature and a lot more experimental."
You worked with two producers this time. Did you have a special reason for that?
"We worked with Stevie McAllister on the first two albums. He wasn't sure if he could do the next one, because he'd been on the road a lot doing the sound for other bands. When we were tryin' to figure out a solution, we were doing a concert in New Orleans with ACID BATH and their manager/producer, Keith Falgout, was there as well. He showed us his studio and we heard some of the albums he produced. We liked it, because it reminded us of our stuff. We recorded the bass and drums in NY with Stevie, before he went on the road again. Then we went to New Orleans where Keith recorded the guitar and vocal parts. Keith and Stevie joined together for the last week and a half to finish up the album. Keith and Stevie have a very similar way of producing and the combination of the two together sounds really good. We're very proud and excited with the final result."
Is there any concept behind "The Hollowing" and please explain how the songs came about.
"Yes, there's definitely a concept behind the album. The cover reflects how we felt at the moment when we wrote it (especially, when I wrote the lyrics). You see that figure on the front looking like a ghost and half a corpse? Through the course of the pictures, he puts his bones into a coffin and burries it out to sea. I lived through so much in the past, which I wanted to put away and leave it all behind me and look into the future again. The same goes for the guys, when we were writing the music for the album. At some point, we knew we always would continue with CRISIS with any drummer we wanted to."
Where did you get the idea to use four different drummers on your new CD?
"When Fred, our former drummer, left us we had to play a couple of shows in a row. So we knew this drummer Roy, who we really liked and who also played on our CD. We liked his roots, which were in the new wave and industrial section, where I listened to at one point. We had a lot of fun with him playing these shows. Unfortunately, he couldn't join CRISIS, as he was playing in another band. We didn't know what to do when we came back from these shows. Should we wait for the right drummer to come along or should we use a drum computer? We realized that we knew a couple of drummers, who were good friends of ours and wouldn't feel strange as we'd work together. We talked to them and they were all interested. When Fred played the new songs, he couldn't find the right style for the Eastern song. We knew that with four drummers, one of them would find the right tune. This way we knew that we'd get what we wanted and none of those drummers would have to leave their band. But on the other hand, this could be the perfect chance for us to find the right drummer. Something like an audition for drummers. Jason really fitted into the whole picture. He wanted to be a permanent member, so he quitted his band. he definately plays for CRISIS and he brings in his very own style. He's really a great drummer! We've already written one new song with him. Technically, he can do anything. He's a true metal head, but he listens to lots of different styles, which he can play also. He really brings lots of new energy into this band."
How do you see the musical development of CRISIS? You already mentioned you've written some new songs.
"It's hard to say into which direction we'll be heading, but we might add another guitarist and bassplayer in the future. The new songs sound a little bit slower than the old ones, but we might also go back to a more aggressive style of playing. With us, it's very hard to say. We'll just go on our own journey!"
This image or painting on the CD is this your own work?
"Yes, it is. Actually, it's not a painting but a photo of a 3-D set, which I created. I made the little guy out of clay. I also designed the buildings and the sky. People, who are interested can get the photos through the internet. The address is on the CD [www.digistar.mb.ca/homepg/ecrookes/crisis.html]"
Did you have some kind of background in art?
"Actually, my mother was an art teacher in gradeschool. She always made sure we went to art museums and see lots of stuff. I always loved drawing and making little sculptures. I took a photography class in high school. My teacher saw I liked it and gave me equipment to use the darkroom all the time. I did lots of projects, made lots of pictures from people and manipulated them. So when I met the band, they said I could continue the artwork if I wanted. I'm really a big fan of comic books and therefore I think my roots are in painting. There are some painters with really huge and dark paintings, like outdoor destruction scenes. I found these comic books with all kinds of different stories, art and characters. I learned quite a lot from it."
Where do you get your inspiration for writing lyrics other than from your past?
"I was reading SF books at the time I wrote the song "In The Shadow Of The Sun". One of those books inspired me about the horizon closing down and I wondered what would happen if the sun blocked down. Would we all come together or would we all destroy eachother? I figured the last thing. "The Fires of Sorrow" is about my father's death and how guilty I felt after he died. His ghost kept following me and I kept seeing his face amongst other faces. "Surviving The Sirens" is probably the most personal track on the CD. It's about the siren calling out to the shipper to follow her (or her voice) into the sea. "Kingdom's End" is about the year, I was suffering from serious asth-ma problems and I was facing my own death. I was too poor to take good care of it and every night I had these attacks, they were so bad that I couldn't get up to go to hospital. I thought I'd probably die, so I wrote the song dealing about the strange relationship I had with death and my continuous battle between alive and death. Once I got healthy, all of this went away."
I heard you're writing a book. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
"It's more a visual book - like a comic - in the style of the cover of our debut album "8 Convulsions". The story is mostly represented in pictures and the words are just like my lyrics. It's finally finished and I'm trying to get it published now. It was supposed to be ready like a year ago, but it was a lot of work to make it look like the way I wanted to."
What do you think of the fact these days more and more women find their way into this extreme kind of music?
"I'm glad that it's finally happening. I am not trying to get away from the world. I am trying to become one and I try to get the same respect as a guy would get in a band without people see-ing me as the woman in the band, because that's a fact I can't change. I don't use my sexuality and play games with the fact I am a woman. But I think it's really a good thing that more and more women are getting around this kind of music. I hope that continues and improves itself."
How did you get in touch with music and what made you decide to play in a 'heavy' band?
"I grew up playing violin and piano, although I liked the classical music I couldn't really express my emotions in it. I loved it for the technique and the sound. All I had was art to express my anger. I was always looking for something more heavier for some reason. I heard radio rock, which didn't really satisfy me. It wasn't 'till I met the guys of CRISIS before I heard the music I wanted to hear. When we met was quite a coincidence. They had been looking for a female singer and they asked me to come to the rehearsals the next day. It worked out really well. We've been working real hard since then."
How did you develop such a vocal style?
"I'm not quite sure where it came from. I like beautiful things, but I also like things which are evil and dark because a part of me was always drawn to that side. I always felt very ugly about myself. I had this battle going on between the light and the darkness. When I started singing, I was experimenting with my voice, making different sounds. I discovered the rawness and the power which was behind the screaming. The problem is that I didn't want to give up the heavier side for the more melodic singing, because I liked them both and being a part of me."
Who are your favorite singers/main influences?
"I really like the singer of ACID BATH from New Orleans. Dex uses a lot of melody in his voice and once in a while he screams. He's really an awesome singer. And Sammy, who does the backing vocals on the album. He has an amazing combination going on. But Dex, he's really my fave singer."
Do you have anything to add to this interview or is there something you'd like to say to the readers of MM?
"Thanks for listening to me and the attention you gave us. Be true to yourself and be your own individual. Thank you very much! We hope to see you on tour!"
Interview by: Renzo van Soelen/courtesy of Metal Maidens, Dec. 1997.
8 CONVULSIONS ('94 Too Damn Hype Records)
DEATHSHEAD EXTERMINATION ('96 Metal Blade)
THE HOLLOWING ('97 Metal Blade)