Tiina Teal is the new vocalist for the legendary thrash/hardcore band DÉTENTE. The band has been around for a few years and has seen its share of success and disappointments along the way. After an extended break, they have re-grouped and found themselves a legitimate star in the making with Tiina Teal, who has some pretty big shoes to fill. However, after listening to this dynamic young woman sing and having the chance to speak with her a bit, I for one know the band made the right decision in adding her to their storied line-up.
Greetings to you Tiina and welcome to Metal Maidens!
Tina: “I am honored to be here. Thanks again to you and Rita, so very kindly!"
Before we go any further we need to let people know that you spell your name Tiina with two I's, so that everyone doesn't think I'm a complete moron. Well, at least not for my grammar anyway, right?
Tiina: “Don’t worry, even the US Government spelled my name wrong on my passport (with only one I), thinking I was the moron, typing my own damn name incorrectly. My mother is from Finland, so she named me Tiina with two I’s, since it is the Finnish way of spelling. All of their words have double vowels, triple consonants and umlauts everywhere… I think they tried to outdo the rest of Scandinavia or something.”
You are the new singer for the legendary band DÉTENTE. Were you a fan of their music before you joined the band?
Tiina: “I was, but I am a newer fan. I did not discover DÉTENTE’s music until around three years ago. A friend had passed along the “Fear Of God” album and “Within The Veil” and told me, that the singer (Dawn) reminded him of me. I had never heard of them before and loved the album, when I heard it. Then I had to research and find out who this amazing vocalist was, so that’s when I found out about DÉTENTE and I picked up the reissue of “Recognize No Authority”. I was even more blown away and also awfully disappointed: I had been in metal bands for a long time, even all female metal bands who seemed to know of every single woman in metal history, yet I had never heard of Dawn Crosby.”
How did you hook up with the guys in DÉTENTE?
Tiina: “Again, quite a twist of fate if you believe in that. Close friends of mine are neighbours with Caleb Quinn (guitarist) and I met him at one of their parties last year. We talked and I knew who he was and that DÉTENTE was starting to record with Ann Boleyn from HELLION, so I met him more or less as just a fan, although he knew I was a metal singer during our conversation. I never thought that this would happen. Especially since three months after that party, Caleb remembered who I was and asked my friends for my information. A couple of days after that, Steve (Hochheiser) called and asked if I would be interested in ‘a project’. I was beyond shocked, but thought that he meant a project outside of DÉTENTE, which was still incredible! He sent me some songs, I wrote/recorded to two of them at home in a week and sent them back. A week later upon our first meeting, he threw me in front of the microphone (unexpectedly) in Bill Metoyer’s studio and said let’s start recording! It all has happened very fast and was pretty damn surreal at first, but I couldn’t ask for cooler or more talented people to be making music with.”
The band has had two legendary singers in the past with Ann Boleyn and Dawn Crosby. Were you a bit intimidated to try and take over for such amazing performers?
Tiina: “Oh certainly, in some ways. Not only was there this history to contend with, but I had never recorded an album before, let alone with a legendary producer and legendary band. I had not played with or performed with anyone (except for a few demo recordings) in around four years. And had been taking a break from music for a few months, because I had just experienced failure after failure for so long, that I needed some time away to see if I should continue. It was fucking challenging, stressful and intense on every level. I would literally have a week or two if I was lucky to write to the songs, record my ideas/lyrics at home after working all day and then a few hours to record them with Bill. A lot of what you hear on the album are first or second takes with the vocals. But you know, like any venture into the unknown it was also exciting, exhilarating and a good time too. It is my hope that what I have contributed to DÉTENTE, both maintains and continues the legacy of the band, Dawn and even Ann. She did a great job with the band during their reunion tour and she is a wonderful musician. It is an incredible feeling to pick up where these unique women left off.”
I was a huge fan of Dawn Crosby from her work with DÉTENTE and FEAR OF GOD and her passing was a huge loss to the metal community. I have to be honest Tiina, when I first heard you sing it kinda sent chills down my spine, because your voice reminded me of Dawn. Maybe the two of you were karmically connected somehow.
Tiina: “Any comparison to Dawn’s voice is fantastic, are you kidding?!? Thank you so much! I am very flattered, thank you. You know, I have to tell you, that I get goose bumps sometimes when I listen to Dawn, because we really do have similarities. Not only in our voices, but in our feel as well, in our passion and emotion, that we put into the music, if that makes sense. At least, I feel and hear that Dawn’s voice alone will do that to me. As strange as it might sound, I feel a big connection to her. When this whole thing came about, I sometimes felt that she was talking to me in my head and I really related to her feelings, what she was trying to say. Even our lyrics often run on similar themes and I’ve had some people remark about that too. Again it’s weird, because she was not an influence on me at all, since I had not heard of her until a couple of years ago. A while back, I would have either a FEAR OF GOD album or "Recognize No Authority" playing in my car and people would ask ‘Is that something new you’re working on?’, thinking it was me. I thought it was a tragedy and still do. Dawn should be way more famous and spoken about in metal history than she currently is and I mean that with the utmost respect. C’mon mainstream metal people, give her some credit for almost inventing what she did and doing it over twenty years ago. And the band as well, what they do is still not typical: not typical metal, not typical thrash, not typical punk, not typical anything.”
Thank you Tiina, I appreciate your honesty and insight into this unique situation. On a much different and sadder note, what are your thoughts on the recent passing of Ronnie James Dio?
Tiina: “Obviously, it’s heartbreaking when one of the originators has passed on. Ronnie James Dio created much of what is both modern and classic metal with his writing and vocal styles. And for any genre, I find his vocal abilities are immense! What a voice, absolutely. Not only distinctive, but skilful and just a great songwriter all around. I’ve known several people, who have met him in daily life and heard that he was the most classy, down to earth person. That’s something for all of us to live up to. He had every reason, if you will, to act like a spoiled, famous rock star, but he didn’t . He was the real deal in every way. I have to also mention, if you don’t mind, the passing of Peter Steele (TYPE O NEGATIVE). For me personally, that was a harder blow. I always related to him in a way. He dared to be a little different and not fit into some ‘metal mold’. Obviously, he personified the physical stereotype in many ways, but here was a man who also had the guts to be vulnerable in his songs. And he wrote great songs. He didn’t have to show off his virtuosity every three seconds or have an eleven minute opus on every album. He cared about great songwriting, emotionality and spilling his guts. As well as injecting a dose of black humour into it all. I really appreciated the honesty he had in his music and that is going to be a big hole in my musical world.”
I agree with you Tiina, we have lost so many great and talented people over the years in metal: Randy Rhodes, Cliff Burton, Dimebag Darrel and now Dio and Peter… It just doesn't seem fair.
As for your band DÉTENTE, you have done a few live shows with them. How have their diehard fans responded to you?
Tiina: “Both long time and recent fans have been so gracious and quite terrific people all around. I definitely consider them friends and have been completely overwhelmed and honoured with their support. However, this is not to say, that there weren’t moments on tour where there was a little pressure. One huge, tattooed, tough looking dude grabbed my arm before one of our shows and said ‘Don’t disappoint me!’. Totally deadpan! I almost relieved myself right in my shoes. Then afterwards, he was like a giggly little schoolgirl, wanting an autograph and photo with me and all, so I lived to tell the tale, fortunately!”
Is the band planning to re-release older tunes with you on vocals?
Tiina: “Check out the hidden track on "Decline!”
When it comes to playing live and you singing the band's older tunes, do you try to keep the vocals as close as possible to original form or do you kind of put your own touch to them?
Tiina: “Probably a mixture of both. Dawn actually had quite a high, feminine range, that was very distinctive and certainly not the easiest to copy if one wanted to. I’ve never tried to emulate her per se, which would probably sound fake anyways, but I do try to keep the songs intact and as close to the originals as possible, just with my voice and style in the mix. They probably sound a bit more aggressive. A few have said I sound evil and pissed off. I think Dawn would be okay with that! I know that as a fan I might not mind a new singer, but if they started changing everything around and messing a bunch with them, I’d be disappointed. Especially, if I had waited twenty years to finally hear them performed live, that would be a total let down.”
How do you prepare yourself before going on stage. Any rituals you like to do to get pumped up?
Tiina: “You mean besides the drinking of young reindeer blood and bathing in herring oil? (you know, typical Finnish childhood rituals). Actually, I try to not get pumped up, I try to relax. Stretching, breathing deeply, drinking lots of water and only once in a while the herring oil.”
Yes, I hear herring oil and reindeer blood are really great for the skin (lol)
How do you warm up your voice before a show and what measures do you use to take care of it afterwards?
Tiina: “I do a 15-20 minute vocal warm up, as well as a speech therapy’ type of warm up. Which includes making these incredibly stupid looking faces and rolling your tongue around and just generally looking and sounding like someone, who has escaped from a mental hospital. So I tend to do these alone. You can damage yourself so easily with extreme vocals, even after a few minutes, if you don’t do things properly or with care. My nickname on tour became ‘the camel’, because I drink so much water. When I’m not on tour, I drink a gallon a day. On tour, probably double. I also try not to talk very much (this makes some people very happy) and try to avoid any place with cigarette smoke, which is very difficult in Europe. I’m no saint, I’ll still have a couple of beers before and/or after shows, but I have to keep it to a minimum and have to get a good night’s sleep if at all possible.”
The band's new CD is entitled "Decline". How do you think fans will react to it?
Tiina: “So far, the reactions have been terrific from both old and new fans, who have bought the CD at shows or from early reviews. Even people I know, that are not really into metal are digging it. Steve writes great, memorable songs. Songs that stick in your brain and you find yourself singing the next day. Some of the things I’ve heard so far is, that the music is true to the old-school thrash feel of “Recognize No Authority”, but more aggressive and expansive. There are a couple of songs that are a bit more experimental as well, that do not fit within any typical thrash or metal pantheon at all. The best thing I have read though, was a German magazine calling us ‘Chile Con Carne - ingeniously spicy, hot and sharp!’ I just hope we don’t give you gas afterwards."
The opening line in the song "In God We Trust" starts off with a brutal scream from you and says "Welcome to the land of rape and money. I think, that line is brilliant as well as the rest of the tune. How much say did you have in the lyric writing process for the new CD?
Tiina: “Wow, thank you so much for that! Yes, I had full reign to write all of the lyrics except for “Kill Rush”, which Steve had already written. Actually though, that opening line for “In God We Trust” was thought of by Steve, when we were finishing up recording it. It really does put the crowning touch on that song for sure. Otherwise, I did write all of the lyrics and the vocal arrangements were done by Steve and myself.”
DÉTENTE has always been a socially conscious band with intelligent lyrics. Was that one of the things that attracted you to their music?
Tiina: “Absolutely, no question about it. There is not much music I like, that doesn’t have something to say on either an emotional or social level. I have to have that. And, I have always written this way in any band I have been in. It is a large part of who I am.”
With the state of the world we live in today, there seems to be an endless subject matter to always write about. From politics to the economy to environmental issues....What subjects really boil your blood and inspire you to write?
Tiina: “To me, everything is all connected: how you feel inside is connected to the outside world, which is shaped by each one of us and our actions, which is then governed by politics and influenced by big business and religion and wars are waged because of it and…and…. Everything is interconnected and to me, there is no division between anything. Therefore, it would be difficult to run out of inspiration if you have any kind of awareness or empathy. Probably, when it really comes down to the core of what absolutely disgusts and inspires me, is lack of responsibility. No one wants to claim responsibility for the way the world is, or even for the way their own lives are. We’re all responsible for every horror in society, which can be traced down to how we judge others or ourselves, what we consume, the way we eat, what we buy, the violent thoughts we have, how we treat our neighbours or the pizza delivery guy. It’s all connected. But we’re so cowardly to even try to approach this responsibility because it is a huge, scary thing. It is way easier to just ignore it all, watch a Tom Cruise movie and pretend that we live in our own little bubble world, where it is someone else’s fault and other people are wrong and you are right and your actions are meaningless.”
Can you tell us a little about some of the other tunes on the CD and maybe which ones have special meaning to you?
Tiina: “"Degradation Machine" was the first song that I recorded upon meeting Steve and Bill Metoyer for the first time. The song structure itself was what inspired me to choose it first. It’s so beautiful and unusual and atmospheric. And the guitar solo on that song just makes me want to go physically insane every time I hear it! I kind of did a bit of everything on that song too: death metal growls, clean singing, raspy vocals, straight up barking and screaming. There is even a three part harmony as well as background whispers and vocal sound effects. That song and "Ashes" - the very last song we did. I had written some lyrics in Spanish a few years ago and they fit wonderfully for the intro and outro for this song. The rest of the lyrics are just quite personal and emotional to me, speaking from the depths and darkness of the soul. It’s also based upon a couple of lines, that Steve gave me a while back about Dawn - addiction, escape and understanding the draw of that world, the reasons behind the chaos we experience or create.”
Have you been in any other bands before DÉTENTE and were you professionally trained as a vocalist?
Tiina: "Yes, I’ve been in a few bands and projects over the years. I actually started out as a drummer in school band, when I was a teenager and then taught myself how to play the kit in my twenties, where I was in garage bands doing punk and metal covers. I then learned guitar and played for a while, teaching myself songs and writing lots of lyrics and structures. But in Los Angeles, I pretty much moved here to try and make music and sing. Problem: I had never really sung too much before and was really shy! My first ‘real’ band was called BURN THE EMPIRE and started out as an all-female metal band, but evolved into a 3 girl/2 guy line-up and we did pretty good out here, winning L.A.’s ‘Best Anti-War Band’. After that, I did various projects and eventually decided a few years ago, that I should learn my instrument a bit since I would blow my voice out a lot when doing shows and never had any vocal instruction. I don’t really considered myself a formally trained vocalist, although I have worked with my extreme metal vocal coach (http://www.extremevocals.com) for a few years now to help me learn, grow and prevent vocal damage, among other things. This training alone has taken me way beyond anything I could have done before in many ways and has helped me gain the ability to switch between all sorts of different vocal styles in metal. Also, him and I have written and recorded a few songs in the past and plan to do more again soon. I’ll be posting some of my past and upcoming work on my personal My Space music page soon, if anyone’s interested.”
Who were some of your influences in metal growing up?
Tiina: “Unfortunately, I grew up fairly solitary without many friends or influences so didn’t know much outside of pop music or the music I played in school band. I really didn’t dig deep into metal until later on in my life. I’ve had so many musical influences from almost every different genre, though, and I still do. However, the earliest influences in metal were definitely JUDAS PRIEST, GUNS ‘N’ ROSES, IRON MADEIN, PANTERA and SLAYER. If I’m warming up at home, I’ll usually sing covers of “Dead Skin Mask”, “Breaking The Law” or “Walk” - just great, great, timeless songs. Years afterwards, I discovered STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, TOOL, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, LAMB OF GOD - Devin Townsend is probably my biggest metal vocal influence in metal overall. He is obviously a genius on so many levels, but he also uses his voice in many different, unique ways that is unusual for metal. He’s able to express emotions beyond just anger. There is total passion in what he does and not many people in modern metal really do that anymore. It was also not until later on, that I discovered the kick ass ladies in metal that I really admire too (Jarboe, Dawn Crosby, Sabina Classen, Angela Gossow, Doro Pesch), but my main influences up until then were always guys. My voice is also a bit low for a female, so it always naturally kind of fit in with a lot of male vocalists, too.”
Does your family support what you are doing?
Tiina: "Honestly, I’ve been on my own, since I was seventeen and don’t really have any family, outside of a few cousins in Finland. Which is actually both a blessing and a curse, because I didn’t have anyone judging my actions or decisions like that but at the same time, had no one to help or support with anything at all. So I haven’t had to really deal with that kind of issue at all.”
I hear, that you did a film for Dig Comics. Can you tell us a little about that?
Tiina: “Dig Comics is a short documentary, that is sort of a gateway to understanding comics as a unique and vastly under-appreciated art form here in America (in France and Japan, comic artists are treated like rock stars and everyone reads them). It is quite humorous as well as informative. It was made by my boyfriend and part of it was shot at our house, so I got to be in it - playing myself, really. Sheer luck! Actually, though, it’s a medium that I myself did not know much about beforehand and I’ve discovered so many beautiful comic books from the experience. The film has been in about fifteen festivals so far, is backed by actor Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Gallactica, Blade Runner) and just screened in Cannes at the film festival. Hopefully, it will find funding and be turned into a feature length, we’ll see. I don’t know, if I would be a part of that yet or not.”
Is acting something you would like to do more of?
Tiina: “Oh well, who knows where life leads us… I would not really call that much acting, since I played the very difficult role of myself! But sure, I’d be open to it, although it’s probably quite limited for women with a lot of tattoos. Crack whores, biker mamas… However, I must say that it has always been my dream to play a zombie in a film. I would play the best zombie ever! If anyone is looking for a bad ass female zombie, I’m your girl!”
The band's new video for "In God We Trust" is killer. Where can fans check it out?
Tiina: “We just posted it on our website, You Tube and My Space as well.. There may be more plans in the future for other videos, but we’re starting out with this one. Here’s the YouTube link: "In God We Trust" video
Tiina, what is your take on women in the Metal scene today?
Tiina: “There are more women than ever in metal and it is such a fantastic thing to see. Even when I was a kid, I would constantly have music teachers or guy musicians tell me that I couldn’t play drums or be in band, because I was a girl. That still exists out there of course, but it has and is changing in a major way. The only unfortunate side of things, that has not changed very much, is that it seems that the beauty standards for female musicians is still the same: look like a model or be incredibly gorgeous, otherwise you’ll not get very far. The more T&A you show, the more attention you’ll get and faster. When you look around at a lot of the most famous female musicians, they are still exceedingly attractive and sexy. This is not to take away from their talent at all, because to be a woman in metal you absolutely have to have the abilities, there is no question. But the marketing machine of the old boy’s club is still in full force. And makes me wonder how much amazing talent has been passed over in favour of people who happen to be more photogenic. Also, some people seem to want to keep it a novelty, like there isn’t room for more than a few females in metal out there. I read something recently, that said there was already a Sabina Classen and Dawn Crosby, they already did it, who cares if there are more females doing harsh vocals? You don’t hear people saying ‘Oh well, there was already Chris Barnes, do we really need *insert any one of the hundreds of modern male death metal vocalists*? Each year though, with more and more females picking up instruments and going for it, fighting for it, changing the rules, this will also change the expectations of what women can and are capable of doing.”
Do you think that some bands have jumped on the ‘female bandwagon’ to make up for a lack of talent?
Tiina: “Sometimes. I think they are super easy to pick out though. The chicks are usually wearing something skimpy, striking some sexy, ‘come and get it’ pose and doing those half-naked photo shoots. Who cares, there’s something for everyone out there and if someone wants only eye candy , there’s plenty of it. If someone wants talent, there’s plenty of that too. Maybe you just have to look harder for that sometimes, though, because boobs certainly tend to get more attention first!”
I still find it pretty ironic about the stereotypes in metal, that exist even today when it comes to women. For example the line, that really gets me..... ’Man, she plays pretty good for a chick’... I mean *wtf* is that all about? If you were having open heart surgery and the surgeon was a woman would you say ‘Man, she cuts pretty good for a chick’? Do you think we will ever get past all of this shit?
Tiina: “It’s true, this certainly exists. And as a woman, you really do have to try three times as hard as a guy to get the respect, and to perfect your craft, because if you turn out to be mediocre or make some mistakes, it will be because you’re a girl. Not because you had an off night or didn’t practice enough or whatever. It’s because our societies still have certain roles and views of women and unfortunately, I think a lot of women help perpetuate that view too, as do men with their own stereotypes. People don’t bother to take the time to find out who they really are, they just accept what they were taught and raised to think about themselves, others and the world. The genders are way more alike than different but we’ve been trained to think the opposite. The whole ‘men are from Mars/women from Venus’ bullshit… My god, I hate that crap! We’ll get beyond that backwards way of thinking when we as individuals reject notions of females/males having to be or act in certain ways and just start letting each other be who we really are. Maybe some will still fit into stereotypical roles with their personalities, but hopefully there won’t be any by that time!"
Do you think metal music is exclusive to this kind of prejudice? I really don’t see the same thing in pop music or country?
Tiina: “The other genre that probably has the most chauvinism is rap.. I mean, remember QUEEN LATIFAH and her song from the 90’s, “U.N.I.T.Y” (Who You Callin’ A Bitch?). I f* cking loved that song! But it totally addressed that rampant view of women in rap…. Probably a lot like metal: you know, the only place for women in both music genres for a long time was the T&A they provided in the videos. Obviously, any genre that deals with more of the ‘harder/aggressive’ elements will probably have more of that barrier for women to deal with, because it tends to be male dominated. But I think it’s everywhere. The more biographies I read about women musicians, the more I realize that it’s just a gender thing and not a genre thing… Everyone from ETTA JAMES to PATTI SMITH to LITA FORD have told stories about the barriers they have had to break through in order to survive in music just because they were female. All around, I have found metal to be the most welcoming community. Even over punk, which seemed to get so trendy and judgemental over the years. All that us metal people ask is for you to be authentic and speak from your heart - no matter what clothes you’re wearing, how big/tall/small you are, what background you come from, how much money you have, where you live, .we just want truth and passion.”
...And maybe a lot of loud guitars.
As a strong and talented woman in metal, do you see yourself as a role model for young people and if so, what advice would you give to them?
Tiina: “I know that I usually cringe, whenever I hear people call themselves role models, so I don’t know about that. Actions speak louder than any words or advice. I hear so many people ramble on and on about what their beliefs are, what the truth is, how great they are (hey, I live in Los Angeles, you know!) or repeating quotes from other famous figures to make themselves seem cool and smart, but at the end of the day, they are just as full of shit as you or me. Experience life, find out who you are, gain knowledge and try not to preach to other people. Oh wait, did I just preach? See, full of shit! And be nice to animals.”
Unfortunately, at every live show that I have seen where a female is performing on stage, there is always at least one drunken neanderthal male shouting obsenities to that female performer. How would you personally handle something like that?
Tiina: ‘You know, I have not really experienced that at all, fortunately. If that did happen though, I’m sure an ‘accidental’ swing of my boot heel could probably fix the situation. Actually, humor is always the best to deal with things like that. I also think that these situations are probably happening less and less as the years go by. There are more women in metal than ever and the younger generations are growing up with things being that way so there is less of that kind of ‘acting out’, because people are going to look at him like the idiot dickhead he is.”
Honestly, guys like that usually end up getting their asses kicked by loyal fans of the band, that appreciate the hard work that goes into a live show, but sometimes even I get embarrassed by the actions of certain members of the male gender.
Tiina: “Ha! Well, let’s face it: there will probably always be guys that are intimidated by a lady kicking ass onstage, so therefore they have to show their insecurities by saying dumb things. At one of our recent shows, a guy who actually was being very polite and complimentary to me after the performance, then started mentioning things about my ass and I had to just start shaking my finger at him and telling him to watch it and Dennis almost kicked his butt. The guy was pretty wasted though, so I gave him a pass on that one."
You better believe, I would have been right there with Dennis, helping Mr. Testosterone's drunken ass out to the street (lol). You do not mess with a metal sister..... Ever!
When you are not playing music, what other kinds of thing do you enjoy doing?
Tiina: “I’m a big geek. I love video games, horror movies, art films and just drinking beer and hanging out with my dogs and cats. I’m also part of an artists’ collective in L.A., The Omnific Society. We hold once a year gallery showings of our work, so I’ll also spend time creating something for those events too.”
Where can fans buy DÉTENTE merchandise or find out where you will be playing live?
Tiina: “You can buy merch via our website: www.detenterna.com Our live dates are there too, but we’re also on MySpace www.myspace.com/detenterna, Twitter www.twitter.com/detenterna and Facebook www.facebook.com/detenterna as well.”
Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
Tiina: “DETHKLOK rules!”
Tiina, on behalf of myself and Metal Maidens, I want to thank you for spending time with us today. I am so psyched about the new CD and about seeing you play live in my town sometime very soon, I hope. I know you are going to be very successful with this band and the fans are going to love you. We wish you the best of luck.
Tiina: “You are so kind, thank you so very much once again. It has totally been my pleasure and I am grateful to be a part of DÉTENTE and a part of our metal family, that keeps growing every day.”
Visit their homepage at: www.detenterna.com
or My Space at: www.myspace.com/detenterna