Riding The Classic Metal Of The Eighties....

Looking for the most true metal band in Poland? Bet you'll end up finding CRYSTAL VIPER with frontlady Marta 'Leather Wytch' Gabriel. Their music breathes pure heavy metal and regularly the band pays tribute to their metal heroes. On their latest release "The Last Axeman", the band presents themselves with live songs, covers and some previously unreleased stuff, just to please their fans. Now that's what I call the true metal spirit! All the more reason to get in touch with Marta and her warriors and have a ‘heavy metal chat’ at a very high level. So raise your swords for the 'Leather Wytch' of CRYSTAL VIPER and read on what she had to tell us…

When was CRYSTAL VIPER founded and can you please introduce the band members to us?
Marta: “At first I’d like to say, that it’s a big honor for me to show up on the pages of Metal Maidens! What about the band... Well, the story started five years ago, after I left my previous band. Bart nad me just decided to create a heavy metal band, that I’ve always dreamed of, but it took us very long time to find the right people. I mean, musicians who would perfectly fit – mentally and technically – to CRYSTAL VIPER. In 2007, German label Karthago Records released our first full-length album, “The Curse Of Crystal Viper”. This year, we keep our next child in our hands, a MCD, called “The Last Axeman”. This summer we are recording our second full-length album “Metal Nation”, which will be a huge heavy metal surprise for all of our fans, but I won’t tell more at this moment...! Also during these five years, we recorded a few songs for tribute albums, such as “Wild Child” for "A Tribute To W.A.S.P.", “Flaming Metal Systems” for “A tribute To Manilla Road”, “Chaos Rising” (with the band ELIXIR) for “One Foot In Fire - A Tribute To Cirith Ungol”, “Atlantis” for “Unbroken Metal Tribute to Angelwitch”, "Mr. Gold" for “A Tribute to Warlock” and finally “Out There (Survivors)” (cover song MIRAGE) for the "Metal Armada Of Karthago's Dragons" compilation CD, which is just released. We also played a few shows at some big festivals, like Masters Of Rock, Noc Plna Hvezd, and Basinfire Fest in the Czech Republic. We also played in Germany at the Swordbrothers Festival and the Metal On Metal festivals...”

Who came up with the name CRYSTAL VIPER and why did you actually choose this name?
Marta: “Well, Bart and me were standing in a bus and we were just figuring out a suitable name for the band. We came up with some different ideas, when Bart suddenly said "Maybe CRYSTAL VIPER?". I loved this name immediately! That's the way we got the name - a funny story, but true!”

Did any of the other members play in other bands, before they joined CRYSTAL VIPER, and if yes, in which bands did they play? Did they also record something with these previous bands?
Marta: “Before CRYSTAL VIPER, I did vocals for one other metal band, named 448. We recorded two demos. For Andy, CRYSTAL VIPER is the first real band that he ever played in. I know, that before CRYSTAL VIPER, he played in few bands, but as far as I know, he never recorded anything with them. Rafal Gorny is our new guitarist. He played in Polish heavy metal band UNDER FORGE for thirteen years and they recorded some demos and one album, that never has been released. Our bass player, Tom, played in the Polish bands DRAGON and ADRENALINA. Golem played for few years in DARZAMAT, DRAGON and ADRENALINA and recorded a bunch of official albums with them.”

How would you describe the music of CRYSTAL VIPER yourself?
Marta: “In few words: CRYSTAL VIPER is a big, heavy metal bomb inspired by bands like RUNNING WILD, HELLOWEEN, OMEN, MANOWAR, GAMMA RAY, WARLOCK, IRON MAIDEN and early ZED YAGO with strong female vocals!”

Is it still possible for a band to be original in a time, when there is an overflow of bands and music styles? And in which aspect is CRYSTAL VIPER different?
Marta: “You know, it's hard to say, because we are not trying to be original in any way. I write music, that I want to listen to. When we create songs, we always give a hundred percent and the music comes straight from our hearts. I think, that's the way what make us different from the others. It's not a must, I live to write and play, It's one of the most important things in my life.”

Who can we see as your musical influences and maybe we can also name some influences of each band member individually here?
Marta: “Hmm... I'm deeply infuenced by classical musicians as Mozart, Tschaikowski, Liszt, as well as heavy, speed and power metal bands from the eighties. It's hard to list only a few names of of these bands, 'coz I love most of them! About the rest of my band… I only know that Andy's heros are Zakk Wylde and Randy Rhoads. He also loves BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, HELLOWEEN, METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN and more...”

How did the press react on your albums so far?
Marta: “I have to say, that the received feedback totally surprised us, as we didn't expect it. There was no bad review, not even an average one! Several titles, such as ‘album of the month’ and many highest notes - fantastic! We didn’t expect such a great reviews and opinions and we were totally shocked!”

Were there any negative reactions as well, and if yes how do you deal with negative criticism in general?
Marta: “No, there were none! And such strong and positive feedback gave us power and energy to work even harder on our second album!”

Can you tell us how your created the songs/ideas for the debut album “The Curse Of Crystal Viper”? Please tell us about the writing process....
Marta: “I'm the main composer in the band, so I'll try to tell you everything in details. It's not like that, that I sit down with a plan of writing a song. It can come at the most unusal and most surprisingly moments. Then I have to quickly record the melody on a digital piano or on my phone, if I'm not at home. After that I sit in front of my piano, I take the guitar and I start to arrange every instrument. When the song is ready, I send the notes and audio tracks to the other guys and later, we work on the song together during the rehearsal.”

The album was released on Karthago Records. How did you get in touch with Stefan Riermaier and why did you chose this record company?
Marta: “Well, Bart and Stefan are friends for more than ten years now. When we had good demo recording done, Bart gave a copy to Stefan and he liked it enough to offer us a record deal. And the deal was good enough to sign immediatelly...! Looks like it was good choice and we are very happy to be under Karthago's wings!”

Who writes the lyrcis for CRYSTAL VIPER and what are they about?
Marta: “Bart Gabriel, our manager and producer (who is also my husband) is responsible for the lyrics on "The Curse of Crystal Viper" and "The Last Axeman" MCD. For our second full-length album, "Metal Nation", some lyrics are written by Bart, and some of them by me. As you may know, the lyrics from our debut album were a concept story in the horror / fantasy style. Our second album will include songs and lyrics about, well... you need to check it out! It won’t be a surprise, if I would tell you everything already! But of course you can expect real metal lyrics, not any kind of political bullshit or lyrics about the gray daily reality...!”

Who was responsible for the artwork on your CD? Why did you choose for these paintings by this particular artist?>br> Marta: “When the material for our debut album was ready, we started to focus on the front cover painting. Bart has a friend, who is a very talented artist and whose brother is... also an artist! We looked at his paintings and we have chosen one for "The Curse Of Crystal Viper". The same story goes with "The Last Axeman" MCD... No, we have no particular artist. The cover artwork for our second full-lenght album "Metal Nation" was painted by Chris Moyen. As you may know, he already did artwork for bands such as BEHERIT, BLASPHEMY, DESASTER and many others. Bart works with several black & death metal bands, so they know each other through Chris. When we saw one of his artworks, he had for sale, we simply knew it would perfectly fit to our "Metal Nation"!”

Have you got any idea how many copies you sold of the debut album so far?
Marta: “As far as I know, Karthago sold a lot of copies of our album, but I don't know how many exactly. But our MCD - limited to 1000 copies - was sold out in a month after its release date. Should I also mention the thousands of illegal downloads? I guess not, haha...”

Where can people buy your CDs? Please feel free to advertise here....
Marta: “You can buy it directly from our label at http://www.karthagorecords.de and from what I know, all the Karthago titles have a quite good distribution in most of the European countries, Japan and the United States. So who knows, maybe your own CRYSTAL VIPER CD is waiting for you at your local CD shop, haha...”

What’s your favorite CRYSTAL VIPER song and why?
Marta: “Right now, I would say that my favourite song is "Zombie Lust", which you will hear on our second album. It's a very dynamic and powerful song with a great melody!”

You have used many guest appearances on your CD releases. For example, we hear Gerrit Mutz (SACRED STEEL), David DeFeis (VIRGIN STEELE), Josh Block (VIRGIN STEELE) and Piotr Luczyk (KAT) play on some songs on “The Last Axeman”. What’s it like working with these people, and was it easy to convince them to play on these songs?
Marta: “Well, Bart and all those musicians are friends for a very long time, so in each case it was Bart's idea and work to convice them to take part in our songs. Every time, it was a new experience and we could learn a lot of things from those musicians, who are older and much more experienced than we are. I'm sure I don't have to mention, that it was a big honor for us to play with such huge artists!”

You contributed on tribute albums for W.A.S.P., CIRITH UNGOL, ANGELWITCH and MANILLA ROAD, to name but a few. Are there more bands that you want to pay tribute to in the near future?
Marta: “Yes, we took part on the tribute compilations to CIRITH UNGOL, MANILLA ROAD, ANGELWITCH, W.A.S.P. and WARLOCK. I would love to record some songs from OMEN, ACID, X-WILD... You know, they are some of my personal favorites. Please know, that we are fans of all these bands, so it wasn't like, that we got an offer to do a song, to have another release on our list of recordings. We also turned down a few offers, as it wouldn't make much sense to record a cover song from a band, that we don't know and which was no influence for CRYSTAL VIPER at all, I think.”

Why is it so important to you to pay tribute to your heroes?
Marta: “You know, I'm happy we could record these songs, as all of these bands influenced CRYSTAL VIPER in some way or the other, so hese recordings are meant as some kind of ‘thank you’ to them! Nothing more and nothing less! Please know, that we never got any money from doing these songs. It was indeed our own tribute to them!”

The song “The Chaos Rising” (CIRITH UNGOL) was performed with two members of the NWOBHM band ELIXIR. How did this cooperation come about and why did you chose to cover this song in particular? Did you both chose for this song or were there other options in sight, too?
Marta: “Well, it's a long story. We planned to record two songs with Paul and Phil of ELIXIR and one of them was "Chaos Rising". The guys came to Poland for few days and we recorded two songs together. Sadly, one of them just got lost in the studio by accident. And why did we choose this song? I think, it's the best song by CIRITH UNGOL and it fits perfectly to CRYSTAL VIPER!”

On the ANGEL WITCH tribute CD you contributed the song “Atlantis”. Did you ever get any response of the band(s) about how they liked your version of the song(s)?
Marta: “Yes, we heard a lot of good words from one of the musicians of CIRITH UNGOL. You know, it was great to hear, that he liked our version! I don't know what the guys of ANGELWITCH think about our version of "Atlantis", but from what I know, the guys from their official fanclub like it very much!”

How important is the internet for a band like CRYSTAL VIPER and where can people find you on the net?
Marta: “From one side, internet is the biggest possible tool of promotion. In one minute, you can have all the information about the band you need, the latest news, photos and everything. So I would say internet is very important for every band on earth. From the other side, people keep on downloading bands' music for free, what is quite a pity, as it will quickly ruin music the business... Well, we're at the same place online for a few years now, so feel free to check out: http://www.crystalviper.com.”

Do you do all the internet stuff yourself as well, or do you outsource this job?
Marta: “One of the guys from Bart's agency is responsible for this.”

Do you go to concerts often, and if yes, what was the last concert you and Bart visited? And maybe you can also tell us about the best concert you’ve ever seen so far?
Marta: “Unfortunately, we don't have much time to visit any live shows actually. To be honest, there aren't many good shows we would like to visit here in Poland. We often travel to the Czech Republic and last month we visited the Masters Of Rock festival with bands such as AMON AMARTH and ANNIHILATOR playing. The best show I have seen? I would say without any doubts, three years ago – HAMMERFALL- at the winter edition of the Masters Of Rock festival.”

Do you have other hobbies or interests besides playing/singing in a metal band?
Marta: “Well, yes. I study cosmetology, but music is always number one in my life. I can't imagine to do something else than playing and writing songs!”

What can people expect from the live shows of CRYSTAL VIPER?
Marta: “An explosion of energy, headbangin' rhythm and a great show! I use a lot of accesories and requisites during the show and sometimes we have actors on stage. But it depends on the setlist or the place that we play at. Sometimes the stage in the club is too small to bring down actors or to use our whole stage decoration. But each time we give 100% of ourselves. This is true metal!!!”

Do you play any cover songs on stage, and if yes, which covers do you like to play live?
Marta: Last year, we played "Flaming Metal Systems" by MANILLA ROAD several times. Right now, we are planning to play "Agents Of Steel" by AGENT STEEL in our show, as we will record this song on our second album. We are planning something special as well, but it's too early to tell…”

With which bands did you share the stage already?

What was it like to support great names like ANVIL, BLITZKRIEG and DORO? Did you also learn anything from these people, who have been part of the metal scene for so many years?
Marta: “Each time, it was a great honor for us to share the stage with these artists. In some cases, it was extremely nice, like for example DORO, who especially came to see us before to show to say ‘hello’. Also, in some other cases, we didn't even meet the guys from the other bands. No, I wouldn't say we learned anything from them, as we are all long time metal fans and we never tried to copy someone, if that’s what you mean.”

Are there any funny stories to tell our readers about things that happened on stage or during touring?
Marta: “Yes, I remember one. At one of the festivals, while Golem was in the middle of his drum solo, one of the cymbals fell down on his knees, and he had to finish it like that! I also remember one situation from our rehearsal room, when our guitarist wanted to make a call, but we don’t have a range there. He was trying and trying, and said “hey, here’s no range!”. We told him he should open a window, because glass would stop the signal. He looked at us very seriously, then walked to the window and opened it. We are laughing every time, when someone wants to make a call from that place, haha!”

With which band would you like to go on tour, if you could pick any band of your choice?
Marta: “Ohh, there are so many! I would love to hit the road with bands, such as MANOWAR, JUDAS PRIEST, HEAVEN AND HELL, IRON MAIDEN and DEEP PURPLE. That’s my dream team!”

What was your most important gig you have played so far?
Marta: “To be honest, I think, that the most important gig for me was the very first one a long time ago. That was a kind of crucial day in my life, when I realized that I was born to be on stage!”

You are playing at the “Up The Hammers” festival in Greece next year (March 2009). How did that come about and have you planned anything special for this event?
Marta: “There is no special story behind this at all. We were simply invited to play there, like all of the other festivals. But I need to say, that I will be more than happy to play in Greece: I know that there are many great heavy metal fans out there and many CRYSTAL VIPER fans! Special plans? Too early to think about it, I guess, but I'm sure it will be a great night full of real heavy metal!”

What's the metal scene like in Poland nowadays? Are there any good clubs, where you can play live?
Marta: “I really have to disappoint you here. The Polish metal scene is not so good, as it could be. We have some really great bands over here - mainly in the extreme metal scene - but sadly enough, the bands behave like it would be a competition. They talk shit behind others' back, they don't want to play shows together and so on. This, and the fact, that we don't have too many independent labels and distributors, as well as not many places to play live, makes the situation quite bad... But I think everything is slowly changing, so let's keep our fingers crossed. By the way, CRYSTAL VIPER is the only one Polish classic heavy metal act with a female vocalist and the only one classic metal band from here with a regular album deal. Surprised...?”

Talking about the metal scene in Poland. Which band would you consider the ultimate Polish heavy metal cult band, besides CRYSTAL VIPER of course?
Marta: “I wouldn't say CRYSTAL VIPER is a cult band just yet! We are still at the beginning of our career. Ultimate Polish heavy metal cult bands...? I would probably mention KAT, STOS, OPEN FIRE, VOO DOO and TSA.”

What are the future plans for CRYSTAL VIPER (on the long and short term, please)?
Marta: “First of all, in the forthcoming weeks we will enter the studio to record our second full-length album. In September, we will play at the Hard Rocker Festival with my personal metal gods, OMEN! Except that, I'm writing songs for a third album, so you can see we never rest! There's always something to do. Next year we're going to Greece, what you already know. There are also many other plans, but it's too early to talk about them now.”

Do you think, that women in rock and metal still need some kind of recognition, ‘zines like Metal Maidens give to them?
Marta: “You guys do a great job! Well, some people like to say, that metal is a place for males only. I don’t agree with that and I know you agree with me as well, right? The rock and metal scene without girls would simply be gray and boring. I just can't imagine that. So yes, with no doubt we need ‘zines like Metal Maidens! Keep on rockin', guys!”

Our online magazine is based in Holland, or the Netherlands, if you like. What else do you know about our country, besides the fact that we have colourful tulips and beautiful windmills?
Marta: “Yes, for sure you are famous for your tulips and windmills, but also you have a great heavy metal scene! I absolutely love Dutch bands, such as ANGUS, EMERALD and VORTEX and I know the world famous Heavy Metal Maniacs fanclub! Hopefully, one day we will burn the stage of their festival, haha!”

Are there any important gigs on the agenda for CRYSTAL VIPER?
Marta: “I would say, that every single show is very important for CRYSTAL VIPER. There are no better or worse shows. Every time we give all that we have got and that's our philosophy! So, see you in the front row!”

Do you have any goals set for CRYSTAL VIPER?
Marta: “Sure! We want to record more great albums, write songs which will be better than others and to play shows for millions of people at huge scenes! But I think every band and every musician has those goals. Only time will tell, how far we will be able to reach those goals, right?”

What’s the best thing about being in a band? And maybe there’s a worst experience too, that you can mention here?
Marta: “The best thing is, that I can live my life the way I have always dreamed of! I was born to write music and to be on stage, and I'm doing that right now!”

Do you have any personal messages for our readers?
Marta: “Of course! Hail to all the fans of rock and metal music, especially female-fronted! Remember, that you are the reason that we - musicians- are writing and playing for!” Is there something you would like to add to this interview. Maybe there is something we forgot to mention here, that is essential for the story of CRYSTAL VIPER, so far? Maybe a last newsflash?
Marta: “Add anything else? I answered almost fifty questions! I guess, it was the longest interview in my life, haha...”

The last words in this interview are for Marta ‘Leather Wych’ Gabriel and CRYSTAL VIPER....
Marta: “Thank you for your support! I really hope one day we will be able to play for all our great fans and friends out there in Holland! Keep on rockin' and stay wild!”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, Metal Maidens 'zine / July 2008.

Visit their website at: www.crystalviper.com
or My Space: www.myspace.com/crystalviperofficial