Greetings to you, MilitiA! We’re so glad to have the opportunity to chat with you today.
MilitiA: “Nice to finally chat with you as well!”
If feel like I need to take a giant breath before we get stared here and I am going to be challenged to keep this interview to under three hundred questions as you are a very busy and multi-talented woman, but we only have so much space to work with here, so I will do my best (lol)
MilitiA: “Go for it! I have faith in you.”
First of all, MilitiA has to be the greatest metal name, that I have ever heard. Where did you come up with that and what is your actual name (or will you have to kill me in order to tell me)?
MilitiA: “Thank you! "MilitiA" is not the name on my birth certificate. However, let's just say, I ‘earned’ the name... and leave it at that.”
You are the vocalist for the all-female JUDAS PRIEST tribute band, called JUDAS PRIESTESS, you are also the vocalist for the band SWEAR ON YOUR LIFE, you have been involved with several other music projects over the years and have also appeared on television...... Well, I guess we will start with JUDAS PRIESTESS, OK? How and why did you decide to form an all-female JUDAS PRIEST tribute band?
MilitiA: “I can't take credit for starting the band. D Mercedes (first guitar) and Gyda Gash (bass) were the witches, that initially concocted the magic. I heard about it through a friend of mine. He saw an ad on Craigslist, where they were looking for a singer. At first, I was like: “Aww…what if they suck?? I don't know...” Then he said: "Well, if you don't try, and they are good, you'll be hating the girl that does." He was right. I didn't want some other chick to luck out, if they really kicked ass. Besides, it was no skin off my teeth to try out. I was already a big PRIEST fan, knew a ton of the songs and had sang some in the past... I knew that I could sing the hell out of them. And I always loved chick bands and enjoyed being in them because they've got powerful energy. So, when I finally went in to tryout, as soon as I walked into the room, I just knew these were my girls. And when we kicked off the songs with "Hell Bent For Leather", I knew we had something truly killer.”
Was JUDAS PRIEST one of the metal bands, that influenced you to want to get into heavy music?
MilitiA: “Not initially. Growing up, I wasn't really exposed to metal. I was too busy playing Mozart and Chopin on piano. Then my dad introduced me to tons of psychedelic and classic rock: JANIS JOPLIN, JIMI HENDRIX and Jim Morrison (THE DOORS), ELO, LED ZEPPELIN, TRAFFIC, CREAM - my favorite frontman Freddie Mercury and QUEEN - with dashes of doo-wop, girl groups and funk. But even then, I always liked the loudest, heaviest and fastest shit I could find. In my early teens, I started hanging out with a guy in my neighborhood, who was teaching himself to play guitar. He played METALLICA songs to me over the phone and I was in total fucking awe. When I heard “Battery” for the first time, I think I wet myself. It was kind of classical sounding and then explosive and loud and fast and a whole range of shit that just completely warped my brain. I loved how intense and beautiful it was all at once and I wanted more of it. At the time, I never imagined myself performing heavy metal music. Rock music in general just seemed like some far off, glamorous party that I wasn't invited to. I didn't know anyone, that was in a band and I wasn't aware of how bands even started or any of that. I was too busy playing dead European composers' music. And to get even more real with you, because of my race(s), I was flat out told by plenty of friends, family and acquaintances that rock and heavy metal music wasn't for me, that it was for white people. So it always had a forbidden fruit aura about it for me. You know the old saying: you want what you can't have, right? Anyways, I'm not exactly sure how I first heard about JUDAS PRIEST, but I remember hearing the band name and thinking “Damn, that's the coolest fucking name in existence...and it still is”. I got my first PRIEST album “British Steel” in college. I believe, it was one of those Columbia House things were you got like ten CDs for a penny kinda deal. I became completely addicted to "Rapid Fire" and "Steeler" and obsessed with the power and rebellion of "Breaking The Law." The cool part of all this is that now my copy of “British Steel” is autographed.”
I have seen some of the bands live videos and I must tell you my friend you definitely do Mr. Rob Halford justice with your vocals. You really have an amazing range.
MilitiA: “Thank you. He and I pretty much have the same range. However, he is way more impressive, because what guy hits notes like that?? It's insane. I knew I had big shoes to fill coming into it and to have the discipline to keep it going. Being a female isn't an excuse or a crutch for me, I don't let myself rely on the novelty factor. And I don't try to impersonate him. I just channel his spirit and the energy of the music and deliver it in a very powerful and feminine way. It's exhilarating.”
I love your version of the PRIEST classic "Victim Of Changes" (which by the way is one of my all-time fave PRIEST tunes ). What are some of your favorite PRIEST songs to play live?
MilitiA: “Rapid Fire”- it's a real kick in the head from the get go. We usually open with it. And the lyrics are so theatrical, like Shakespeare. Delicious! I also love “Steeler”- the bridge of that song is so tough! Also, I really get off on doing “Painkiller” and “Riding On The Wind”, because I love to soar in my upper register. Both songs are very dramatic and showy. That's where I live.”
I recently heard the band parted ways with guitarist Grace Wendroff. Can you comment as to what led to her departure?
MilitiA: “It just didn't work out. However, our new guitarist Josette is the freggin’ bomb: a killer guitar player, which is just what the doctor ordered. We are finally able to do the dueling guitar leads, that are intrinsic to JUDAS PRIEST. It's thrilling!”
Can you tell us about the rest of the ladies in the band?
MilitiA: “What do you wanna know?? D Mercedes is a Cancer/Leo cusp, Gyda Gash is a Gemini, Josette is a Pisces, Jojo Tubeato is a Leo and I'm a Libra/Scorpio cusp... We're like a heavy metal version of “The Craft”.”
Have you had the chance to do much touring outside of the New York area and are there any plans to do a more extensive tour?
MilitiA: “Absolutely. The bulk of our performances are outside of New York City. NYC has never been a heavy metal town. You gotta go where the rock is. Jersey, the South, biker rallies, etc... We are currently in talks about touring overseas. Fingers crossed.”
Have you ever had the opportunity to meet Rob Halford or any of the other members of PRIEST and if so, what did they think of your band?
MilitiA: “I met JUDAS PRIEST after one of their shows in Connecticut several years ago. Then I met Rob at the FIGHT New York City movie premiere. When JUDAS PRIESTESS first formed, we were invited to the set of VH1's That Metal Show, when Rob was a guest. On his way to the stage, he surprised us with hugs! After the show we spoke at length about JUDAS PRIESTESS. He gave us lots of encouragement, asked us to keep him up to date and send him videos of our performances, which I do. KK Downing was also a big supporter of us. He features us on his website The Steel Mill and called us ‘Metal's top female tribute’. Recently, Al Atkins - JUDAS PRIEST founder and co-author of “Victim Of Changes” - recently messaged us and said "You women rock...a fantastic version of Victim Of Changes". Not bad, eh?”
What are your thoughts on JUDAS PRIEST doing a farewell tour? Personally, I am very sad about that…
MilitiA: “I freaked at first, all of the fans did! But it's not as bad as it sounds. It just means, that they won't be doing world tours anymore. They will still be performing. It sucks, but many of the heavy metal greats are retiring... Next to disease, aging is the second shittiest part of life. I just wish there were equally amazing metal bands to take the crown, when they do.”
Are your plans to continue doing JUDAS PRIESTESS as long as it is fun and the fans keep coming to the shows?
MilitiA: “Sure. As long as people demand it, we'll make it happen. Just to be clear, this is in no way a vanity project. It takes a lot of work to do this and do it well. We do it, because we love the music, style, guts and glory of JUDAS PRIEST.”
Please introduce our readers to the rest of the band, if you will?
MilitiA: “SWEAR ON YOUR LIFE is me and bassist Shane Boulos. We bring in drummers and guitarists for shows and recordings.”
The band currently has a five song CD out, called "Burn My Crosses". How would you describe the bands sound to potential fans?
MilitiA: “Imagine TINA TURNER fronting FAITH NO MORE. But more maniacal.”
As the singer, do you write all the lyrics for the band?
MilitiA: “Sure do. Lyrics, melody and much of the music. One of songs, that I'm most proud of is "The Guilty One”. Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/soylnyc.”
Does the band have any plans on doing a tour supporting the CD?
MilitiA: “We did a small one to support BMC and we've played many shows in the NY, NJ and PA area. However, there is a new CD waiting in the wings. It's called "The Villainess". It's very dark, moody and a little witchy. I hope to tour it one day.”
What singers do you draw inspiration from and at what age did you decide this was something you wanted to do as a profession?
MilitiA: “My mother told me that as an infant she put me in front of the television, while making dinner and a Gene Kelly musical was on. I was transfixed. She couldn't pull me away, I threw a fit. We ate dinner in front of the television that night. I sang, before I spoke. What can I say? I'm an addict. I'm a vocal junkie. Nothing excites me more. I love singing. It's the reason I get up in the morning. Always has been. Always will. My vocal muses are Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford (of course), Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Bon Scott, John Fogerty, Little Richard, Layne Staley, Chris Cornell, PJ Harvey, Prince, Donita Sparks, Robert Plant, Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland, Steven Tyler, Steve Perry, Trent Reznor, David Coverdale, Joe Cocker - you know, the loudmouths.”
Ok, we must touch on some of your other interests as well in this interview. You have done some television work in the past. Can you tell us about that and if you have any plans to work in television again?
MilitiA: “I often host shows on television and online. Mostly music, sometimes beauty related and sometimes even anime or comic related programming. I've even had bit parts in popular television shows, movies and even leads in indie movies. I am most recognized for hosting shows and guesting on Fuse/Much Music USA, MTV2 and VH1. I recently shot a pilot for a new music show, that is currently being shopped around.”
You have also worked with a lot of other musicians and been involved with numerous projects. Can you elaborate on this?
MilitiA: “I've had stints with labels, performed in some twisted projects that one day I should write about. Produced, hosted and music directed live music events. I've had quite a career as a backup singer and collaborator. I've sung with big names: Cyndi Lauper, Taylor Dayne, Sandra Bernhard, Nancy Sinatra, Ana Gasteyer (SNL), etc. I was Dee Snider's leading vocalist in his heavy metal orchestra "Van Helsing's Curse", recorded and toured. I've toured extensively doing musicals, originated roles, been Off-Broadway several times, directed choirs, shadowed mediocre singers to make the sound good. Basically, if it's anything doing with singing, I'm on it. It kind of seems chaotic and random, but that's the life of an artist.”
I have heard a bit about "Chix Six". What exactly if that?
MilitiA: “Speaking frankly, Chix 6 used to be a really fun musical, that I was in for many years. I originated the role of Vita. I sang on every track on the original cast recording and you can still hear my voice in all of the current promos. Unfortunately, my character was cut from the show in Summer 2010, because ‘they didn't need two black characters in the show’, so they decided to keep the sassy, heavy set ‘momma’ character. The theater world is built on stereotypes, you know? That's why I got out of theatre. Unless I want to play a hooker with aids or a lion, there are very few roles for me.”
MilitiA, as a woman in the metal scene yourself, what is your opinion of females in the genre today?
MilitiA: “ I'm always thrilled to discover and meet other gals in metal! There should be more of us! However, when I see shit like Revolver magazine, which is really like Teen Beat for metalheads, and how they exploit our girls by doing that ‘Hottest Chicks in Metal’ thing, it cheapens their presence. Now the message is out there, that to be a female in metal, you have to look like this...(unfolding a pullout poster of Amy Lee's milky bosom...) I mean, yeah, she's cute, but damn I don't see any scantily clad pics of MUSHROOMHEAD or DIMMU BORGIR and from what I hear, their bosoms are just as milky.”
You are also an African American woman, which is sort of a rarity in heavy metal. When I see you perform on stage I see a very strong, talented and beautiful heavy metal woman, who makes me proud to be a fan of this great music.... Do you think the true metal fans see just that as well or are we always going to have to deal with the ignorant stereotypes associated with gender and race?
MilitiA: “There's always going to be that race thing and female thing - as long as people have eyes. I'm actually of mixed heritage. My father is white, German, Italian and Israeli. My mom is black, Cherokee and Blackfoot Native American. But most people think I'm Hispanic. Whatever, I'm just here for the music, folks and to have a good time. Hard rock and heavy metal excite me. I can't change what gets me off. So to any haters in the scene - tough shit, you're stuck with me.”
Do you see yourself as a role model for young women out there today, who may be thinking of starting their own metal band and if so what advice would you give to them?
MilitiA: “Absolutely! I hope to be an example to people of all ages, not just kids. It's never to late, or too early, to live your dreams. Carpe Diem.”
I don't imagine you have any free time at all (haha), but when you do, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing?
MilitiA: “The bulk of my life is spent either performing or gearing up to perform. During those aside moments, I play piano and I've started tinkering with other instruments again. I enjoy anything that beautifies, like makeup, hair stuff, etc... I'm currently making youtube makeup tutorials for Manic Panic. I like to watch movies, especially horror movies, indies and documentaries and bizarre or intense foreign flicks. I like to read. I collect Edgar Allan Poe books, especially the short stories. I also collect sacred heart milagros, religious and occult charms, candles and shrine pieces. I'm also becoming pretty crafty these days. I've taken to soapmaking. I like to make little soaps in the shape of skulls and caskets. I’m a goth at heart, I guess.”
If I were to check out your car, what CD's would you have in it at the moment?
MilitiA: “Well, I no longer do the CD in the car thing. I listen to Sirius XM, while I drive, but my iPod faves right now are GOJIRA, TYPE O NEGATIVE, WILSON PICKETT, MASTADON, IRON MAIDEN, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, THE CRAMPS, THE SIXTEEN, SOUNDGARDEN and as always, ALICE IN CHAINS.”
What does the near future hold for you and your bands?
MilitiA: “Lots more rocking. Till the end of time.”
Where can fans find out more about you, JUDAS PRIESTESS and SWEAR On YOUR LIFE?
MilitiA: “http://www.militiaismyname.com; http://www.judaspriestessband.com; http://www.swearonyourlife.com. All bands are also on Facebook, Reverb Nation andthat ghost town, My Space.”
MilitiA, on behalf of myself and Metal Maidens we want to thank you for taking time with us today to answer these questions. You are an incredibly gifted and talented woman and we wish you and your bands the best of luck in all, that you do. Also, don't forget when JUDAS PRIESTESS comes to Pittsburgh for a show, I will have the beer on ice for you, OK?
Militia: “Jack Daniels for me, brother. YES! Many thanks!!”
Horns up brothers and sisters,
Visit the offical JUDAS PRIESTESS site at: judaspriestessband.com/
or go to their My Space site at: www.myspace.com/judaspriestessband
Visit MilitiA's official website at: militiaismyname.com
or go to the official SWEAR ON YOU LIFE site at: www.swearonyourlife.com/