For our final print issue of Metal Maidens, we were searching for a very special feature. When we got in touch with Pia Nyström and Sabrina Kihlstrand of ICE AGE, we knew that we had found, what we were looking for. We already wrote an article about one of the most important all-female heavy metal bands of the past. But we never got an opportunity to really talk to these ice queens. We’d like to thank Pia and Sabrina for all their time and effort, that they both put into this interview. People, who want to know everything about ICE AGE, now’s your chance to read their whole story. Let’s start at the very beginning....the ICE AGE!
When did ICE AGE get together, and how did you actually meet up with each other?
“Sabrina called Pia after seeing her ad in a music store. This was on January 14, 1985. It was musical love at first sound!”
Who was in this first line-up of the band?
“We enlisted Sabrina’s sister Helena Kihlstrand on bass, and snatched drummer Tina Strömberg from a local band. With this line-up, we recorded a demo under the name ROCK SOLID, and also played a couple of gigs.”
Who actually came up with the name ICE AGE, and why?
“Pia came up with the name ICE AGE, because we wanted something associated with the cold North.”
It’s clear, that ICE AGE refused to ride along a paved road. You choose to set out a musical direction, that was different from mainstream. Who led the band in this direction? Was this a collective decision?
“Sabrina and Pia wrote all the material from the get go. As we got heavier and more complex, Helena left, and Vicky Larsson was brought in. The musical change that occurred was a natural progression. A new demo was recorded in early 1987 (“General Alert”).”
Who can we see as the biggest influences of the band, and maybe you can also point at the personal influences of each individual band member as well?
“Early METALLICA and MEGADETH during this period. Before that, we can mention for example:
Sabrina: IRON MAIDEN, RAINBOW, and early KISS.
Pia: IRON MAIDEN, RUSH, QUEEN, and THE SWEET.”
In our previous ”Back to the Past” article about ICE AGE we mentioned, that Kim Fowley showed interest in the band. Did he actually get in touch with you, and what did he have in mind? Did he want to transform you into a new version of THE RUNAWAYS maybe? Fact is, he can be very manipulative into that direction!
“He contacted us and he and his associate Dave Maile came over to Sweden to convince us to sign with them. It’s true, that Kim is manipulative and wanted to change us, but we were not really sucked in by him. That unfortunately happened with Dave Maile, who also turned out to be a huge manipulator.”
Was he the manager that you sacked after a couple of weeks/months?
“That was actually Dave. Kim was supposed to be the producer. They were both out, then Dave wormed his way back in.”
What was your cooperation with former VENGEANCE manager Dido Smit like, from whom we bought the original ICE AGE demos backstage at the Dynamo festival many years ago?
“He arranged a string of gigs for us in Holland. But we never did the Dynamo festival, so why he was selling our demos is a bit of a mystery...."
Who wrote most of the songs for ICE AGE, and can you tell us what the lyrics were about?
“Pia and Sabrina wrote all the music together, including bass lines and drum parts, and Pia wrote the lyrics. The lyrics dealt mainly with topics, such as ”be strong and follow your own path”, and also more political issues to do with justice, war, terrorism and many other things.”
And how did the writing process of your songs actually come about? Did you have some kind of strategy, or was the approach different every time?
“Pia and Sabrina got together with a bag of riffs, jamming in the living room. Then went down to the rehearsal room, where Pia played guitar and Sabrina drums. The arrangement came together, including bass lines. Sabrina came up with a vocal melody, Pia put words to it and added lead guitar. This was our main recipe for an ICE AGE song. We served this up to the others, and then we all practiced together.”
You really did something different than other all-female bands like THE RUNAWAYS, GIRLSCHOOL, ROCK GODDESS or VIXEN. Perhaps MEANSTREAK (USA) came close to what you did on stage. Can you think of any other, more underground examples maybe?
“Not really, sorry! To be honest, we never saw any of these bands live, or any that were on the underground scene, so we can’t comment.”
You released a few demo tapes like ”General Alert” (’87) and ”Instant Justice” (’89). How many copies were sold from each tape, and what are your favourite songs from each demo and why?
“We released three demos. One came between the ones you mentioned, simply called ”Demo ‘88”. They probably sold a couple of thousand all put together. Our favourite songs are from the ”General Alert” demo: “General Alert”; ”Instant Justice” demo: “Fleet Street”; ”Demo 88”: “Making My Mark” (Sabrina) and “In The Name Of Science” (Pia).”
How were the reactions from the press towards these demos?
“Most of the time the press was overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps our recollection is a bit selective, because we were surely not loved by everyone.”
Did you also get any negative reactions, and how did you deal with them?
“We got pretty spoilt with good press, so we totally behaved like little bitches, if anyone dared criticize us, haha!”
What’s your fave all-time ICE AGE song, and why?
“We both agree on “Fleet Street”. It represents so many facets of our music. It has fast and slow parts, that fit together perfectly. A complex technical part in the middle, melodic and aggressive at the same time, plus it showed the band at its tightest.”
You played a few gigs with DEFENDER in Holland, if I remember right. What was that like?
“We seem to recall a club, called Donkey Shot in Heemskerk, where Sabrina beat the DEFENDER guys at ping-pong. We had a great time in Holland – wonderful people, great beer and good coffee. At one place, people were stage diving off the PA speakers, at another gig some guy got stuck with his foot on Sabrina’s guitar and broke all the strings. Vicky had a few admirers, that wanted to marry her. Some truly crazy nights!”
Was the second time you returned to Holland better or not? I believe, you were headliners in Leidschendam, but only a few people showed up there....
“The first time around was more fun. Sorry, we don’t recall that particular place, but a smaller crowd was never a problem, as long as people were having a good time.”
While we’re discussing this topic, I have a few other questions about your live shows. Which other bands shared the stage with ICE AGE?
In Sweden, we played with FROZEN EYES, CANDLEMASS and HEXENHAUS. As you mentioned DEFENDER and VENGEANCE, CHARIOT and many, many more, we can’t mention here.”
Did you play any covers during your live shows, or did you always stick to your own-penned material?
“We jammed on an AC/DC tune together with CHARIOT the first time, we played the Marquee club in London. That’s about it, as far as ICE AGE goes.”
What was the biggest show you’ve ever played with ICE AGE?
“The Open Air ’88 festival in Lamone, Switzerland. It had about five thousand people in the crowd.”
You must have had an awful lot of fun together as a band during these tours. I really hope, that you want to share some of these funny and interesting moments with our readers....
“We’ll share this one with you: Our first gig at the Marquee and some of the events during that week. Mike Shannon, owner of legendary record shop Shades in London, invited us over to open for CHARIOT on the eve before Donington festival. This was our biggest show so far, and the club was packed with crazed metal freaks, which had come to England from across the globe. All of a sudden, we felt like rock stars! That night was totally insane, sweat and beer and metal madness. On this trip we also got a chance to check out the ‘secret’ METALLICA show at the 100 Club. We were also hanging out backstage at Donington, rubbing shoulders with some of our idols at the time; METALLICA, ANTHRAX and so on. Good fun! A big thanks to Mike Shannon for giving us this wonderful experience!”
What was your opinion about Holland and the Dutch metal fans, that you’ve met?
“Holland was definitely one of our favourite places to tour. The people we met were so friendly and giving, and they made us feel welcome in their country. Another thing that’s great about touring Holland is, that it’s a small country. Any band will tell you, that less time spent on the bus is a great thing!”
If you could pick out a band of your own choice to tour with, who would that be and why?
“In the ICE AGE days, obviously MEGADETH or METALLICA. They were our main boys back then.”
What was the Göteborg metal scene like in the eighties? Were there many clubs to play live gigs?
“There were perhaps five clubs that we played, but we had other types of gigs too, like outdoor events. We also created our own scene, convincing people to give metal a chance in their club.”
Sabrina Kihlstrand left the band in the middle of your second big tour, why was that? What caused this split, that she didn’t even wanted to continue playing until the end of the tour?
“Sabrina and the manager never got along. She thought his behaviour was unprofessional. On the tour the schism got increasingly worse. This is a difficult and sensitive subject, and the whole story can’t be told in a few paragraphs, and we can’t write a novel. At least, this went down: In the bus Sabrina blamed the manager for being late again. He flipped out and more or less threw Sabrina off the bus, threatening her in violent ways. She got off and kept on walking. The rest of the band knew it was coming. Everybody went numb, it was very unreal.”
Debbie Gunn (ZNOWHITE/SENTINEL BEAST) replaced Sabrina. How did you get in touch with her?
“Probably through her record company. Better ask Debbie herself.”
You also added a second guitar player to your line-up with Isabella Fronzoni, who came from Milan in Italy. How did you get in touch with her, and did she play with other bands before ICE AGE?
“She answered an ad in one of the music magazines. Better ask Isabella about former bands. But that hitchhiking story, that was featured in Metal Forces is the figment of the manager’s imagination.”
Wasn’t there a huge gap between the European mentality and the American way of thinking, plus some language problems between you and the new Italian lady, who only had one thing in common: heavy metal?
“European and American mentality is the same to me as far as music goes. I felt a link to Debbie right away. She is very professional and talented. Isabella and me took a bit longer, but I ended up respecting her. The mix of people wasn’t bad, but the situation and circumstances were crappy.”
Pia, wasn’t it extremely difficult to share the leads with Isabella, or did she only play rhythm parts? And how did you figure out who would play the lead guitar in which song?
“Sharing leads was never an option.”
What did Sabrina do after she walked out on ICE AGE? Did she stay active on the music scene, or not?
“Sabrina built a small home studio and helped friends to recordings. That small studio became the beginning of the next chapter of the story, when ICE AGE had broken up.”
You recorded a video clip for ”Instant Justice”. That must have been a nice experience. What can you remember about the time you recorded this clip, and maybe you can briefly explain what people we can see in this video clip?
“That was pretty awful! We knew it would be cheesy from the beginning. No budget. Not exactly a great artistic achievement. No script, no plan. But it was shot and it was shown on MTV and Super Channel. Terrible, of course, but it was more than nothing, I guess. Some of the people were invited from our fan club, and at least fifty showed up. Thank you, all who travelled to get there!”
In 1989, you were forced to cancel your tour, because Tina had broken her jaw. What happened to her exactly, because there were some rumours going on that this happened during a fight!
“The truth? The manager, Tina’s boyfriend, used to be a boxer. To my knowledge, though, there wasn’t really any tour to cancel.”
In one of the reviews of the shows, that you did with Debbie Gunn (Opera on the Green, in London), they compared the band to KILLING JOKE and FUZZBOX instead of MEGADETH and METALLICA. Any comments here?
“That’s hard to tell, because I’ve never heard a song from those bands. Perhaps Debbie had a look that was different, not so metal. I hope those bands are not crap!”
Isabella and Vicky Larsson then decided to leave the band. Any special reason for this split?
“Please ask them. There wasn’t really a band anymore.”
They were being replaced by Tammy Chavarini on bass and Lisa Decavolo on guitar (both from New Jersey). How come?
“Again there wasn’t really a band to join. But they came over here, cool girls! Tammy and Lisa took the trip over to Sweden, only to find ICE AGE pretty much dead. So sorry for their wasted time!”
Was the unstable line-up, the main reason why an ICE AGE album never saw the light of day, whereas you had enough material to put out?
“The line-up was stable, until we got involved with the management. Many smaller and a couple of bigger labels were interested in ICE AGE. We could have easily released an album or more, if the band had stayed together.”
We heard, that you were in contact with record companies, like CBS and AVM.
“We have heard rumours that certain labels didn’t want to deal with the management, and then of course the band broke up. But that was not the end of the story. All of a sudden an ICE AGE album was going to be released on FM Revolver! What? Pia, Sabrina and Vicky were shocked at this news. Pia called the record company and got sent copies of the recording contract. Our signatures were forged, and Pia and Sabrina were stripped of their song writing credits! The record was stopped immediately. FM Revolver had not part of the scam, but we had a pretty good idea who did. So Pia, Sabrina and Vicky went to the police and reported the crime, suggesting the manager was the culprit. The law was not able to locate the manager, and the case was ultimately dropped. We are not making up stories, this actually happened!”
Then the band was slowly divided into two camps. A pro-American camp, that wanted to settle in New York, and a pro- European camp, that stayed true to their European fans that didn’t want to move to the US.. Am I right here?
“The American girls wanted to move the operation to the US, and Tina wanted to stay in Sweden, but this wasn’t the same band anymore. Pia was working on music with Sabrina in her home studio, but was officially still in the band - or perhaps not. The whole situation was a huge mess. Pia went to New Jersey to check things out, after the Americans had relocated there, but decided to stay in Sweden and continue working with Sabrina.”
We see, that Isabella Fronzoni joined the British band ORIGINAL SIN, and even became part of ROCK GODDESS for a very short while. Did you never think about getting her back (or any of the other former band members) and try one more time?
“The only ex-members I wanted to work with again were Sabrina and Vicky, which I also did. But ICE AGE was done and it was time to move on.”
Pia and Vicky teamed up with Sabrina again and formed IDIOTS RULE. Wasn’t it a lot easier to use the name ICE AGE?
“We felt the band ICE AGE was a closed chapter, and we all wanted a fresh start.”
You had a male drummer, what was his name?
“His name was Anders Ström.”
How would you describe the music of IDIOTS RULE?
“More simplistic and more groove, but keeping the intricate harmonies. A bit more naked perhaps. Probably more personal lyrics, due to all the shit that went down.”
You also landed on a compilation album with IDIOTS RULE. Which album was that, and how did this actually happen? What song did you play?
“We played on three compilations in fact, but you’re probably talking about the METALLICA tribute, “Metal Militia”. We featured “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. Pia knew Rolf at the label, he asked and we said yes, no big deal.”
Why did IDIOTS RULE split up in the end?
“The band pretty much ran out of gas. It was nothing dramatic.”
You also played a few live shows with this band. Any interesting gigs worth mentioning?
“We played mostly clubs in the Göteborg area, a couple of outdoor gigs and one show in Denmark. We didn’t play together with any well-known bands.”
Did you also play any ICE AGE stuff during with IDIOTS RULE?
“No, but in the rehearsal room we sometimes did.”
Then there’s a long time of silence, at least for us. Maybe you can give us an update of what you did in the time after the split of IDIOTS RULE?
“Pia and Sabrina haven’t played together since IDIOTS RULE. Sabrina has done some session work and also guested on a couple of projects (check out the CD “Soulburner” by GARDENIAN). Pia has done some keyboard music, and contributed lyrics to a couple of Sabrina’s projects.”
About a year ago, you got in touch with a magazine from The Netherlands, that is totally dedicated to the female musicians in the rock and metal scene. What did you think when you saw our article, and do you think that women still need this kind of attention that we give them with our magazine, or do you believe that throughout the years female musicians already got the recognition, they earn so much?
“We were pleasantly surprised to find the article. What really impressed us was the sheer bulk of information; every girl who ever tuned a guitar was in your files. Women in metal may still need a little extra attention. After all, it is a very male-dominated business.”
Was the fact, that ICE AGE was an all-female group an advantage or a disadvantage in your opinion, and why?
“It’s possible that we got more attention from the media, but we also had to prove ourselves to others. Did you know there were rumours, that we didn’t play our instruments on the recordings? Would anybody spread such crap about a male band?”
Have you ever thought about letting in male musicians, or was ICE AGE simply meant to be an all-female band?
“ICE AGE was all about girls, but with IDIOTS RULE, we let in some boys.”
When we did an interview with Debbie Gunn about ZNOWHITE and SENTINEL BEAST, we couldn’t deny the fact, that she once was a member of ICE AGE of course. She did some remarkable quotes. Maybe you can give some reactions on some of them: ”The management caused the split of the band. They’ve spend all the money of the band” or ”The management flipped. They even tried to kill us in the flat. We managed to get out with the help from a hippy from Peru.”
“We have no reason to doubt what happened in that flat – and we actually saw the hippy guy, after he gave them a ride to Pia´s parents house.”
Any idea what S.I.S. stand for? I will help you, it has got something to do with the history of ICE AGE and a support slot for ZNOWHITE and BIOHAZARD in Brooklyn.
“S.I.S. meant ‘Stranded In Sweden’. Pia went over to New York and did one show with Debbie, Lisa and Tammy at L´Amours.”
What’s the best memory about being in ICE AGE?
“The feeling of being a part of an extremely close unit - that strength we had, before the manager started tearing us apart.”
What’s the worst memory you have about ICE AGE?
“Getting involved with the manager, and seeing everything we had built up crumble and fall.” Will there ever be an ICE AGE reunion?
“A reunion with the original line-up is most unlikely, but Sabrina and Pia are talking about maybe starting a new musical collaboration.”
Did you know there’s a progressive metal band in the US, calling themselves ICE AGE?
“Yes, I saw it on the internet.”
What can we expect from you ladies in the future? Any plans?
“We are hoping to remaster our old demos. We’re also compiling material for a future website, however this is a slow process.”
We heard about some songs, that have never been recorded on any ICE AGE demo before, like for example ”Payday”. Do you have more unreleased material that have never seen the light of day? It’s such a shame that nobody won’t be able to check out these great songs!
“We have plenty of unreleased songs, from both ICE AGE and IDIOTS RULE. We agree that it’s a shame to let these songs be forgotten forever, and we are discussing possible solutions.”
Pia, you did a guest appearance in Kerrang, where you had to review nine songs, together with Alexa, and Toby Jepson of Little Angels. What was that experience like for you?
“It was fun to see the Kerrang! office, and I remember thinking that Toby seemed like a nice person.”
Do you have any other hobbies or interests beside music?
Sabrina: “Sports (indoor hockey), books and travelling for instance.”
Pia: “Mountain biking, photography, films and much more.”
What kind of music do you listen to nowadays, and maybe you can name us your favourite bands?
Sabrina: “I have a varied taste in music, but I can mention DALBELLO, AHA and MELISSA ETHERIDGE.”
Pia: “Anything of Mike Patton (MR BUNGLE, TOMAHAWK, FANTOMAS), AHA, early TORI AMOS and I can still rock out to old RUSH.”
What do you think of the metal scene today, and do you know of any all-female bands or female-fronted bands, that we should check out?
“There seems to be a few interesting bands coming out still, but we don’t really keep a close look. As far as female musicians go, check out our friend LORI LINSTRUTH - an excellent guitarist. She actually plays the lead on the song ”Payday”, you mentioned.”
We know that the Göteborg sound is very popular right now, but what do you think of all these Swedish bands, that are so popular right now?
“Sorry to be boring, but we don’t really have enough knowledge to give a proper answer.”
Is there anything you would like to add to this interview, maybe there is something we forgot to mention that is essential for the whole story of ICE AGE?
“Nothing comes to mind right now, after answering almost seventy questions, haha!”
Do you have any personal messages for the readers of Metal Maidens, or your Dutch fans in general?
“If anybody still remembers us: Cheers to you all, we had some great times in Holland!”
The last words are for you....
“Thank you so much, Toine and Rita, for giving us this opportunity to tell part of our story! If the story ends here remains to be seen...."
former members ICE AGE:
Sabrina Kihlstrand (1985-1989) - vocals, guitar; [links GARDENIAN, IDIOTS RULE]
Pia Nyström (1985-1990) – guitars; [links IDIOTS RULE]
Helena Kihlstrand (1985-1986) – bass;
Tina Strömberg (1985-1990) – drums;
Victoria Larsson (1986-1990) – bass; [links IDIOTS RULE]
Debbie Gunn (1989-1990) – vocals; [links SENTINAL BEAST, ZNOWHITE, BRUTAL GROOVE]
Isabella Fronzoni (1989-1990) – guitars; [links ORIGINAL SIN, ROCK GODDESS]
Demos ICE AGE:
(under ROCK SOLID w/Helena Kihlstrand on bass) (1986): Abduction At Night; Into The Danger Zone
GENERAL ALERT (1987): General Alert; Mental Disorder; A Case Of Cerebral Death
DEMO ’88 (1988): Making My Mark; In The Name Of Science; The Betrayal
INSTANT JUSTICE (1989): Fleet Street; The Final Dicision; Instant Justice
Demos IDIOTS RULE:
(1992): I Know It All; Sucked Dry
(1993): Away; Drown
(1994): I Don’t Wanna Remember; Not Today; Ignore It