DRIVEN STEEL: Fe-Metal For The 90's

Back To The Past (36):

We’ve always had the hots for all-female heavy metal bands. Especially when they're playing real heavy metal and nothing else but heavy metal. DRIVEN STEEL [line-up: Julia S. Roberts-guitar; Kelley Heckart-bass; Beth Mordaunt-drums] was such a band, that made a very promising start with a couple of nice demo tapes. Unfortunately, they never got any further than that, which is a crying shame. However, they slowly gained a cult status amongst the readers of Metal Maidens. Recently, Julia and Kelley got in touch with us and they were more than happy to tell the story of DRIVEN STEEL and what happened after they disbanded. Below, you can read the story of a band, that brought you ‘Fe-Metal for the 90’s': DRIVEN STEEL.

When did DRIVEN STEEL get together as a band, and how did you actually meet each other?
Kelley: “I have a hard time remembering the exact date, but I believe Julia and I met in January of 1989. What really stood out about our meeting was that Julia just blew me away with her awesome guitar playing. I had played in a couple of bands prior to DRIVEN STEEL, and I had never played with a guitarist like Julia. After I was over my shock, we jammed together and our styles clicked.”
Julia: “In 1989, I started to find musicians through the Recycler magazine in Orange County, CA. That is how I found Kelley. We got together and jammed, and started looking for a drummer and singer.”

Did you plan to form an all-female metal band in the first place, or did it just happen to be this way?
Kelley: “I don’t think an all-female band was the plan because our first drummers were male, but I think we always hoped to have an all-female band. An all-female band was cool concept, but we just wanted to play great music.”
Julia: “It was a dream of mine, but I did not mind having a guy in the band. My vision was to keep it mostly female, and if I found the right musicians, all female was ideal.”

Who came up with the name of the band and why did you call it DRIVEN STEEL?
Kelley: “Our band was almost called DESERT ROSE or something like that, which would have been tragic, because I don’t think that name fits our band at all. Julia, myself, and Pete (our first drummer) were pulling names out trying to name the band. Somehow we put DRIVEN and STEEL together, and it seemed to fit. I don’t recall one person coming up with the name. It was a group effort.”
Julia: “The first drummer we ended up jamming with and starting to write songs with was this guy named Pete, but he did not last long (about two months). We brainstormed the name DRIVEN STEEL and it stuck ever since.”

How would you describe the music of DRIVEN STEEL?
Kelley: “Progressive, melodic rock with an edge. Our sound has evolved over the years. We had a different sound, when Kim was our lead singer. I think Julia gives our songs an edgier sound.”
Julia: “I would say it is progressive melodic metal. I like making up new categories. We never strived to be radio friendly, as we usually wrote longer songs (4-5 mins), but we had a pop sensibility with a hard edge.”

Who were the biggest musical influences of the band, and maybe you can also give some more specific information about the influences of each band member individually?
Kelley: “I was influenced by bands like IRON MAIDEN, BLACK SABBATH, QUEENSRYCHE, and OZZY OSBOURNE. Julia’s major influences were Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie van Halen, which really came across in our songs. I am not sure about Beth’s musical influences.”
Julia: “Well, guitar-wise I was mainly influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen, Edward Van Halen, Randy Rhoads and Jimmy Page. In fact, I share the same birthday as Jimmy (1/9). Collectively, some of our big influences were VAN HALEN, QUEENSRYCHE, RUSH, IRON MAIDEN, LED ZEPPELIN, HEART, PAT BENATAR, and METALLICA. We used to play "Enter Sandman" also as a cover song... Too many more to mention!”

Did any of the band members play in other bands before you joined DRIVEN STEEL, and if yes, what kind of music did you play with these bands and did you record anything with these bands?
Kelley: “I was in a couple of bands before joining DRIVEN STEEL. One was pop rock and one was more of a blues band. I never recorded anything with either of those bands.”
Julia: “Kelley was in another band called DENIM AND LACE at the time I met her, and they played cover songs at local clubs for about a year or so into the start of DRIVEN STEEL. This was my first band. Beth Mordaunt was not in a band at the time she joined. Kelley and I were the only solid members and founders of DRIVEN STEEL, but Beth was a major player over the course of the band.”

In one of the reviews of your demo “MCMXCIV”, we read about a singer called Avalon Anders, who had just left the band. How long was she a member of the band?
Kelley: “We tried out a bunch of singers, but none of them really clicked with the band. Avalon Anders was one of our 'experiments', but it didn’t work out with her. After that we decided to continue as a three piece with Julia singing lead vocals.”
Julia: “Avalon only made a guest appearance with us once onstage at the Hofbrau in Fullerton, CA in September 1993. Avalon Anders was one of the Swedish Bikini Team, who appeared in Playboy Magazine, and she was breaking into the music business. I met her, when I was runner-up in a guitar solo competition back in June 1992, and I did a little solo project with her and some gigs in San Diego as her 'hired hand' guitarist. We recorded a cover of “Does Your Mother Know” by ABBA, but it was never released. That was the only time I did a project outside of DRIVEN STEEL.”

How many copies were sold from your three track demo “MCMXCIV”?
Kelley: “I’m sorry, I have no idea.“
Julia: “I have no idea either, but it was never picked up by a major record company, so we did not have a way to distribute it on a large scale.”

What was the reaction of the press like towards your demo?
Kelley: “We had mixed reviews. Some really loved it and some thought it was average, but no one hated it.”
Julia: “It was above average, but we never were touted as the “next big thing” or anything like that. To tell you the truth, I think being known as an all -female band made people think negatively about it before even listening to it, which really sucked, because I thought it was really good stuff.”

Did you also get any negative reviews and how did (do) you deal with those in general?
Kelley: “We never had any negative reviews, but maybe some average ones. Reviews are someone’s personal opinion, and not everyone is going to love your music so I never let it get to me.”
Julia: “Yes, of course we did. All people get negative reviews, and it is hard. Music is such a personal thing, but you just try not to let it get to you”.

How did a song come together back in those days? Maybe you can tell us a bit more about the writing/recording process. Did you first write music, or did you first write the lyrics of the songs, etc?
Kelley: “I don’t think we had a certain way to write songs. Julia wrote a lot of the songs by herself, and then we would work out the parts as a band, but Julia and I also wrote songs together. I think, I wrote more lyrics than I did music, but I wrote most of “Tainted Kiss” on my bass, and Julia added guitar. Or I would write lyrics and Julia and I would come up with the music together. Julia and I wrote “Banana Knives” together. “Banana Knives” is probably our heaviest sounding song. It is kind of a scary song vocally and lyrically. Julia and I wrote the lyrics to that from a newspaper article about the massacres in Rwanda, in which they talked about using banana knives to hack people to death. Both of us were horrified and moved by that story.”
Julia: “Our songwriting process was not a formula or anything. Most of the time, I would have a guitar riff (“One Love, Two Hearts”), or even part of a completed song, or Kelley would have some bass riffs (“Tainted Kiss”) and/or lyrics, and we would bring it to practice. Kelley and I had a magical chemistry as songwriters. Kim was definitely instrumental in the songwriting process (lyrics) between 1990-1992, when she was in the band. I always had a vision as far as where the music was going, and that used to drive people crazy, especially the drummers. I would tell them how I wanted everything and they hated me telling them what to do! It was funny sometimes. Kelley was the best at writing lyrics, but I wrote the lyrics to “Soul Satisfaction” among many others, and a lot of them were co-written.”

Who wrote the lyrics for the songs and what were they about?
Kelley: “Both Julia and I wrote lyrics. My songs were more on the darker side or were short stories about vampires, magic, or visits in the night by an incubus. I think Julia wrote more about real life, and I wrote more about fantasy or stranger themes. We also got ideas from newspaper stories like “Banana Knives”.”
Julia: “Well, as I said, it was mainly Kelley and I who wrote the lyrics, with Kelley writing probably 2/3 of the lyrics. She was always good at adding historical references and Celtic Mythology. One of our last songs written; “Banana Knives” was about the massacres in Rwanda, that were happening at that time. One of our earliest songs, which was a crowd favorite; “The Magic” was about Merlin and the ancient magic.”

Looking at the inlay of the cassette, I recognized the name of Jimmy Waldo. Is this the same Jimmy Waldo who played in ALCATRAZZ with Graham Bonnet and Yngwie Malmsteen, or was it someone who just had the same name than this ‘well-known’ keyboardplayer? And if he’s the same person, how did you get in touch with him?
Kelley: “Yes, that is the Jimmy Waldo you are thinking of. Julia met him through Steven. I can’t remember his last name, but he knew a lot of musicians.”
Julia: “Yes, it is. Jimmy actually introduced us to YNGWIE MALMSTEEN at Foundations Forum in Burbank, CA in 1994. We met him through a well-known journalist, Steven Rosen, who wrote for magazines such as Guitar Player and Guitar World.”

Let’s have a look at your live shows, if we may. With whom (please name the bands) did you share the stage in these days?
Kelley: “We opened up for ATOMIC PUNKS, a popular VAN HALEN cover band. I can’t remember anyone else. My memory is terrible.”
Julia: “There was a phenomenon known as 'pay to play' back in the days we played in Southern California, which meant that if we wanted to share the stage with really well-known bands, we would have to pay fees to do so, which I thought was a total crock of shit. Since we were never signed to a legitimate record deal, we did not have a lot of opportunities to play with big bands. Some bands we played with were KNIGHTSTRIKE, OFF WHITE, MISGUIDED (another girl band), and so many other local bands.”

Did you always stick to your own written material during your shows, or did you also play covers live? Which covers did you play during your shows?
Kelley: “There was a time when we did play covers so that we could make some money. We played METALLICA, JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH, JOAN JETT, VAN HALEN, and OZZY OSBOURNE. I remember, that we would always add a cover or two to our original sets. My favorite covers were “Immigrant Song” by LED ZEPPELIN, “Walk In The Shadows” by QUEENSRYCHE, and “Enter Sandman” by METALLICA.”
Julia: “We stuck a few covers in here and there. Some of the faves were “Immigrant Song” (LED ZEPPELIN), “Walk In The Shadows” (QUEENSRYCHE), “Unchained” (VAN HALEN), “Bloodstone” (JUDAS PRIEST), “Violet” (HOLE) and similar songs.”

Did you use any show effects or was it just blood, sweat and hard work during your live gigs?
Kelley: “It was blood, sweat, and hard work. And speaking of blood, I had cut my finger while I was attempting to cut a bagle before one of our gigs, and it started bleeding again in the middle of our set. I got a round of applause for that. That was only one of many kitchen related accidents for me.”
Julia: “We had a few props, like our DRIVEN STEEL backdrop, but nothing really outrageous. We dressed like typical eighties bands, spandex, sexy bustier tops, scarves on the guitars, things like that. We wanted the music to come across more than our image.”

Which songs did you play during a live set, besides the three songs which you used on this three track demo tape?
Kelley: “I just found one of our set lists from 1993. “Change”, “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love”, “One Love”, “Two Hearts”, “The Magic”, “Immigrant Song”, “Like A Dagger”, “Born To Rock”, “Disjointed”, “Wicked Ways” and “Looks That Kill”.”
Julia: “Our live set evolved over the years and changed. But some of the favorites were “The Magic,” “Call Of The Siren,” “Paralyzed,” “Disjointed,” “In Your Sleep,” “Like A Dagger,” and “Down On You” (besides the 1994 tape).”

What’s the biggest gig you ever did with DRIVEN STEEL?
Kelley: “Probably Aguanga Palooza near Temecula in California. It was a campground and it was winter. It was freezing cold, and Julia was wearing shorts. My husband warned Beth, my sister, and I not to get into the car, and turn on the heat because we would be colder, when we got out of the car. We didn’t believe him, and got in the car, cranking the heat. Well, he was right. It was worse when we got out of the car. I remember wondering how I was going to play with my frozen fingers, but I think we played our best set.”
Julia: “Well, we used to play the US Marine Base in 29 Palms. Probably the biggest place we played was the Country Club in Reseda (KISS played there), and also Gazzarris in Hollywood (VAN HALEN and THE DOORS started there).”

Was there ever a phenomenon like ‘male groupies’ around DRIVEN STEEL? I can imagine that there were guys, who wanted more than just a short chat or an autograph from some of you beautiful ladies?
Kelley: “Of course. There was one guy in particular that came to every gig.”
Julia: “Well, thank you for that compliment! We did have a groupie phenomenon, and we sometimes had men actually stripping in front of us, as we played! We had a few toe-sucking incidents too (lol).”

What was the metal scene like in Orange Country, California? Were there many clubs where you could play live?
Kelley: “The metal scene in Orange County was great until NIRVANA came out. That really hurt our band.”
Julia: “It was pretty good since KNAC was the big metal station at the time, and they sponsored a lot of metal nights at the local Red Onions. We played many clubs in Orange County, like the Marquee (that was a good club), Club Mesa, and Goodies.”

And what about the other bands from the (metal) scene? Were there many (well-known) bands coming from that area?
Kelley: “I believe, that PHANTOM BLUE was from Orange County or most of the members were from there. I am sure there were other bands that I cannot remember.“
Julia: “Well, there were a few bands that made it big out of Orange County. Have you ever heard of KORN (of course you have!)?! I think, it was a tough scene, because there was such a large supply of bands, and the club promoters were not doing their jobs. We may have done better getting out of Orange County, but the whole scene changed to grunge with the birth of NIRVANA and PEARL JAM in the early nineties. So traditional metal was on the way out.”

There must have been some interesting, funny or hilarious things happening during your live gigs. Maybe you can tell our readers some nice stories about your ‘days on stage’?
Kelley: “Well, at the Aguanga Palooza, my sister and my husband said that while we were playing, a truck almost backed into the soundboard. They helped prevent that mishap, and then a fight also broke out with a guy flying through the air, and almost landing on the soundboard. We had no idea all of this was going on.”
Julia: “Oh, it was really a trip! Most of the fun was blowing guys’ minds, when we took the stage. Most guys thought we were groupies! So they would laugh at us before the gig, saying stuff like “Hey, if you need guitar lessons, give me a call!” But afterwards, they were literally kissing our asses! I personally had guys get down on bended knee and kiss my hands, saying I was a goddess. That gave you a big head! But we definitely fumbled, and we never took ourselves that seriously! One of our drummers was not too great and started playing some beat we didn’t know, so Kelley and I just shrugged our shoulders and kept it together. One time Kim forgot the words to “Blackout” (SCORPIONS) and we ended the song early, that was funny. We’ve had everything from stumbling over cords onstage, to amps just going off at the worst times. Kelley and I had this choregraphed intro to “The Magic,” and while we were performing it, her amp just died, so I kept going (panicking), but when the full-on song kicked in, her amp miraculously turned back on - as they say, the show must go on!”

What was it like to be an all-female band on stage? Did you see it as an advantage, or as a disadvantage?
Kelley: “People were blown away after they heard us play. When we met them before the show, they would be like, “oh, a female band. How cute.” But after we played, they would be like, “you guys rock!”
Julia: “Well, it was definitely a novelty, but people didn’t really take us seriously because there were no really great female hard rock/metal bands out there. I think on the whole, it was an advantage though.”

Don’t you think you had to prove yourself twice as an all-female band, whereas every all-guy band had an easier task to show the audience that they were ‘metal enough’?
Kelley: “Definitely. People just could not believe that girls could play as hard as we did, and with such skill. Most girl bands, and guy bands play pretty basic songs. Our songs had a lot of odd time changes, and parts that were musically intricate.”
Julia: “To tell you the truth, I don’t think anyone (guy or girl) had it easy in those days, since there was a tremendous amount of bands and competition out there. But I do think us being women made it a little tougher, and we did have to prove ourselves a bit more. We had to overcome stereotypes and show that we were just as tough and musically proficient (sometimes better) as our male counterparts.”

At one time, you also had Wade Black as a drummer in the band. Why did Beth Mordaunt leave?
Kelley: “Yeah, Wade was in the band for a while. He was a great drummer, but things didn’t work out with him. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with Beth either. The music scene had changed from metal to alternative, and that put a lot of stress on DRIVEN STEEL, dividing the band, which led to our break up.”
Julia: “Yes, Wade was an excellent drummer. He was really into VAN HALEN and played like Alex. But unfortunately, he had a bit of a drug problem and also his wife was jealous and got in the way. Beth was actually fired from the band. She was not as motivated as Kelley and I were, and we really needed someone who was willing to put in 110% and she just wasn’t that into it. Beth was a good drummer and had a lot of potential, and I think the incarnation of DRIVEN STEEL with Beth, Kelley and I was the best.”

Was the lack of a good steady drummer, the fact DRIVEN STEEL never got any further at a certain point?
Kelley: “We seemed to have the same problem as Spinal Tap, when it came to drummers. They just kept disappearing. I don’t know why.”
Julia: “We definitely had a problem with drummers. I used to tell people (from a line in the movie “Spinal Tap”) that our drummers 'spontaneously combusted'. I think if we could have had a really solid drummer, who was committed to the band and achieving long-term success, it would have been much different. We tried to get Athena Lee (Tommy Lee’s sister) to join, but she was into jazz. It would have been great to get Roxy Petrucci! She’s awesome!”

After the release of your demo “MCMXCIV”, you released another three track demo, which contained “Banana Knives”, “In Your Sleep” and “Soul Satisfaction”. Who was in the band when you recorded these three songs?
Kelley: “Julia, myself and Beth. We broke up shortly after that recording.”
Julia: “Myself, Kelley Heckart and Beth Mordaunt. I ended up being the lead singer as well as the only guitarist. After our last singer left, we never found quite the right fit for our band, so I ended up doing double duty as the guitarist and the singer.”

When exactly did DRIVEN STEEL call it quits, and was there an exact reason for this decision?
Kelley: “I think it was 1996, when we broke up. It just wasn’t working out with Beth. The music scene changed to 'alternative' and Julia and I did not want to change our music just to fit in with what was popular at the time.”
Julia: “We ended the band sometime in 1995, when Kelley and I made the decision to let Beth go and take a break for a while. We were not sure if we would get it back together, but I think we were tired of auditioning drummers!”

What’s your favorite DRIVEN STEEL song and why?
Kelley: “That’s a hard question to answer. I really like “In Your Sleep”, one of the newest songs about turning the tables on domestic violence, but I think “Tainted Kiss” was always one of my favorite songs because it is so heavy, and about vampires. “The Magic” was always one of my favorite songs, and I really like “Soul Satisfaction”. I also like some of the old songs with Kim singing like “Call Of The Sirens” and “Paralysed”.”
Julia: “I can’t name a specific favorite. Some songs that are personal to me are “Soul Satisfaction” (I wrote the music and lyrics), “Have Faith” (I wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics), and I also love “In Your Sleep”, since that was my interpretation of what a woman would feel like in a domestic violence situation. I love all our songs seriously. There were some songs like “Dream Master”, that I wish we had finished.”

After DRIVEN STEEL, Kelley and her husband Michael started a new band with Julia, called CELTIC STEEL. Was this name change mainly meant because you also changed styles from heavy metal to a more medieval, folky Celtic style of music?
Kelley: “Yes, and I wanted to distance myself from DRIVEN STEEL at that time.”
Julia: “Yes, it was a total change in the music. We were going through a major change in our lives at the time, and it just felt right.”

How come you would start a band, that sounded totally different than the music of DRIVEN STEEL?
Kelley: “Julia and I have been fans of Celtic music. I think we wanted to do something different, and experiment with different instruments. I played the Irish whistle on most of the songs. It was a very positive experience for me.”
Julia: “That was mainly Kelley’s baby. She was always into Celtic Mythology, as I said before, and this was a perfect outlet for that. Influences came from JETHRO TULL and other Celtic artists such as LOREENA MCKENNITT, ENYA - stuff like that.”

Who came up with the name of CELTIC STEEL, and was it chosen because there was a certain link here to your previous band?
Kelley: “It might have been me, but I don’t remember. I think, I wanted to distance myself from DRIVEN STEEL, but DRIVEN STEEL was still very much a part of me.”
Julia: “If I remember correctly, Kelley came up with the name and yes, it was because it was with the same founders of DRIVEN STEEL, so it made sense.”

Did you also play live with CELTIC STEEL, and did you play any covers with this band during your live gigs?
Kelley: “We did one excellent show as CELTIC STEEL. We played all original songs, and the crowd loved it.”
Julia: “We only played one live gig. I believe that was in 1996 at a small coffee shop or something like that. We were planning to do covers and some of the ideas were “Rooms On Fire” (STEVIE NICKS), “Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves” (CHER), “Skating Away” (JETHRO TULL) and others.”

How many copies did you sell of the CELTIC STEEL demo and what were the reactions of the press like towards this piece of work?
Kelley: “I don’t remember how many tapes we sold, and we didn’t have any reviews. We were not together long enough. Some people really loved the music, and some people didn’t understand it.”
Julia: “I do not believe we ever officially released anything to the public. It was more of a home project, and before we decided to take it to the next level, Kelley and Mike wanted to do other things, so the band sort of broke up. I am still very close to Kelley and Mike, however, you never know what is in store for the future.”

What’s your favorite CELTIC STEEL song, and why?
Kelley: “Probably “Soul Mate” and “Winter’s Kiss”. “Soul Mate” really means a lot to me personally, because I wrote the lyrics with my husband in mind. “Winter’s Kiss” has such a haunting, soul-stirring melody, and I love songs like that. The lyrics of “Winter’s Kiss” also call attention to the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, and of the time of year when the veil is thin between this world and the land of the dead. I am heavily into mythology with my song writing, and with my novel writing.”
Julia: “I have many favorites, but I really love my solo guitar song “Falling Free”, that was all acoustic guitar and Kelley did a beautiful flute solo in the middle of it. I also love “Soul Mate,” “Eye In A Lantern,” “Dance Of The Gypsy,” and “Avalon”.“

Have you ever thought about releasing an album with this band, and why did it never get that far?
Kelley: “When I look back on it, I wish we could have gone farther with CELTIC STEEL. The main reason it did not get very far was that I was not ready to jump into another big musical project at that time. Then when I was ready, Julia moved away.”
Julia: “Yes, we thought about it. But I think Kelley and I were pretty sick of the business at that time, and it was mainly decided by Kelley, that we would not take it to the higher level and look for a record deal.”

When did CELTIC STEEL decided to call it quits, and what was the reason for this decision?
Kelley: “I just wasn’t ready to jump into playing gigs all the time. The timing was off for me. My husband and I are writing songs together again, so maybe we can make something happen soon.”
Julia: “As I said above, it was mainly a decision by Kelley and her husband to take a break from the business, and so I moved on to other things, as did they. There was never any hard feelings, as Kelley stuck with me from the very beginning and we went through a lot together.”

After you both quit music, Kelley started with another passion, which is writing stories. Please tell us more about it....
Kelley: “I found refuge in writing short stories, after I stopped playing music. I guess most of my songs were short stories anyway, so it really wasn’t a huge jump for me. I took a Creative Writing class, and joined a writer’s group to hone my craft. My teacher encouraged me to turn my short story into a novel, and “Of Water And Dragons” was born, a mix of history, fantasy, and romance set in ancient Britain, which is available worldwide on:”

And what about you, Julia?
Julia: “We moved back to Cleveland, Ohio in 1998. Cleveland is where I grew up, and after my father died in 2001, I decided to be closer to my mom and nephew here in Cleveland. I lived and breathed music for so long (playing and writing hours a day, every day for fifteen years!), that I wanted to get in touch with other parts of myself. I took up some martial arts, judo and jujitsu, and I’ve fallen into a real estate career. I plan to get a master’s degree in Architecture.”

Do you both have other hobbies besides music?
Kelley: “I am also an artist. I take ordinary driftwood, and make crosses, which I decorate with crystals, stones, feathers and whatever I find. On some, I burn in Rune and Goddess symbols.”
Julia: “I love the outdoors and regular hike and backpack. I went to New Zealand in 1999, which was one of my lifelong dreams and hiked the Milford Track, which is a 33 mile hike in Fiordland on the South Island. Just beautiful! I love architecture, real estate, biking, swimming, travelling, and gardening also.”

To what music do you listen nowadays?
Kelley: “I absolutely love the band EVANESCENCE, and I play their CD over and over. Their sound is eerily familiar to DRIVEN STEEL, when Kim LaChance was the lead vocalist. It helps me to write my novels when I listen to soul-stirring music like that. I also listen to Celtic artists and LOREENA MCKENNITT.”
Julia: “I like AUDIOSLAVE, FILTER, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, LISA MARIE PRESLEY, TRAPT, PUDDLE OF MUDD, GODSMACK, FOO FIGHTERS and SANTANA, to name a few. I try to keep up with what’s going on today, because it keeps you fresh. If Lisa Marie is ever looking for a guitarist, I’d love to get a call.”

Kelley, did your illness (reactive arthritis) change your view on life itself? I imagine that you decided to enjoy life much more than you did before, and only focus yourself on things that are important to you.
Kelley: “Yes. I am much more relaxed now, and I did something that I never would have done before—I quit my high paying job in California and moved to Arizona. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.”

Do you think this is also one of the reasons why you have a fascination for the supernatural, or was this interest already there before your illness?
Kelley: “Since I was a child, I have been interested in the supernatural. As a kid, I was infatuated with vampires, werewolves and fairies. My song writing and stories reflect my interest in the supernatural and Celtic lore.”

How’s your health right now?
Kelley: “I have to take medication to manage my illness, but I am doing much better. Exercise and a healthy diet are very important, and I don’t drink alcohol like I used to. In some ways, my illness probably saved my life. I think in some ways, I am much healthier now.”

Is there a chance that there will be a DRIVEN STEEL or CELTIC STEEL reunion one day?
Kelley: “You never know. Stranger things have happened. Julia and I have discussed possibly working together again. The weird thing with Julia and I is that we are totally different people, but musically we click. We are musical soul mates.”
Julia: “There is always a chance. I actually want to do a solo album someday in the future.”

Are you still active in the music scene and what do you think about the music scene of today?
Kelley: “I am not playing in a band at the moment, but I keep up with music news. It disappoints me that women still aren’t taken very seriously in the rock world.”
Julia: “Well, Cleveland is not the greatest music scene. I am not particularly active in the local scene here, but I jam with people sometimes.”

We reviewed your demo in one of our early print issues of Metal Maidens and printed your promo pic on the rear of our magazine. About ten years later, Kelley got in touch with us. What do you think about the fact, that there are people in Holland, who are still very interested in writing a whole story about DRIVEN STEEL by means of this interview?
Kelley: “I think it’s great, and if it encourages more females to play metal, than I’m all for it. Chicks rule!”
Julia: “I think it’s absolutely incredible and I feel honored, that the good people of Holland care about DRIVEN STEEL still! Rock On Holland! I would love to see Holland someday.”

Do you think that women still need the extra attention that we give them with our online-zine or do you think they already get the recognition that they earn so much?
Kelley: “I think they need the extra attention.”
Julia: “I think it’s great, that you give extra attention to the ladies. We are sorely lacking attention, especially in the metal and hard rock industry. Check out the latest guitar magazines for proof of that! It sucks hard!”

What else do you know about Holland, besides the link with Metal Maidens, and the fact that we have lovely tulips and windmills here?
Kelley: “That it’s near Germany, and I think marijuana is legal there. Am I right?”
Julia: “I know that is the birthplace for my #1 guitar influence, Eddie Van Halen. I wonder what the hell happened to VAN HALEN? We miss him and their music (except with Gary Cherone). There are not too many albums better than “Fair Warning” out there.”

Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview, something we forgot to mention here that is essential to the story of DRIVEN STEEL?
Kelley: “I just want to add that Julia, Kim and Beth are like my sisters, and I only wish the best for them. I wouldn’t change anything that happened. We rocked for many years, and hopefully we can open the door for other women in the rock world. Come on, girls, you can do it!”
Julia: “The band DRIVEN STEEL lasted from 1989-1995, six years. I believe over the years, we have had over seven drummers in the band, with Beth lasting the longest during the last three years of the band’s tenure. Steve Felix [who was in the BUSBOYS, that appeared in some of the early Eddie Murphy movies (“48 Hours”)], was a drummer in our band for a brief stint in 1992. Felix was really 'in the pocket' as far as drumming goes. DRIVEN STEEL ended up being a killer three-piece female band in the end, which I do not think has ever been done. Something you may not know, it was not my first choice to be the lead singer, as I wanted to be known for my guitar playing and just concentrate on that! I just did that to keep the band going and because people wanted me to sing lead.”

Do you have any (personal messages) for the readers of Metal Maidens?
Kelley: “Don’t give up hope for women in metal. Make some noise! The disbelievers can’t ignore us forever.”
Julia: “Readers of Metal Maidens: Any support you have given DRIVEN STEEL and myself over the years is very much appreciated, and without fans like you, our music would have meant nothing. We wrote our music to touch the world, and you are proof that we did just that. Keep on believing and know that you can achieve anything, if you put your mind to it. Women: keep believing in yourself, seek your own identity and demand respect!”

The last words are for you....
Kelley: “If anyone is interested in checking out my books or my crosses, please visit my web site at: I also want to thank Rita and Toine for their continued support of women rockers. You guys rock!”
Julia: “I am very grateful to all the members, especially Kelley Heckart, who were in DRIVEN STEEL, as many of my dreams were realized during those six wonderful years. Some of my musical visions were able to get out into the world and I am so happy that people appreciated and loved our music. I may have taken a break from the music world, but someday, you will hear more original music from me - and maybe all of us again. Thank God for the internet! Rock on, everybody!”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, January 2006 / Metal Maidens.

[Note: Some questions have been removed from this interview.... Sorry for that!]