Fire From The Canadian White North

Greetings, brothers and sisters! Today we will be chatting with Christine P. Newman, vocalist for the death metal band PYRRAH. Christine joined the band in 2006 and has knocked the male dominated genre on its ass. We caught up with Christine (alias ‘Apokaliptika’ - her My Space alter ego) on the heels of releasing PYRRAH'S debut CD, entitled "Eternal Cremation" and she was kind enough to give us a few moments of her time..........

Hey Christine, great to finally get a chance to chat with you today.
Christine: “Definitely! I’m honoured that someone actually wanted to interview me…”

I think the nickname ‘Apokalyptika’ is a very fitting for you as the frontwoman of PYRRAH, how did that come about?
Christine: “To be honest, I don’t even remember, where I got the name from. I used to go by ‘Hate-Injected Mind’ on My Space (a lyric from ARCH ENEMY’s “Taking Back My Soul”, which was probably the first song I ever really ‘practiced’ growling to). After over a year with that name, I needed a change and came up with ‘Apokalyptika’. Sounded nice and evil, so I went with it.”

Yeah, I don’t think ‘Huggyface’ or ‘Sweetums’ would have worked as well, do you?
Christine: “Wouldn’t quite have had the same effect, but I do like amusingly ironic things like that, so maybe I’ll change it (or maybe not…).”

I hear the band is looking for a new drummer… Can you tell us what happened to the original drummer?
Christine: “Finding a good reliable drummer has always been an issue for the band. Before I joined, they had a drummer and decided to get rid of him just before having me try out. From what I hear, he couldn’t remember anything, he had just written and every practice, he was playing something different. We then had a drummer, who you could barely hear since he hit the drums so softly. We finally found Dave G. in the late spring of 2007 and had a stable line-up for about a year. Things were going on in his personal life, that made it difficult to be able to commit to the band and he decided to leave. We are still on good terms with him and we regret that he had to leave. Throughout the fall we’ve been trying to find a new drummer, but so far no luck… (It’s hard to find serious musicians these days.) We’re still searching and in the meantime writing new material.”

How did the rest of the band come about?
Christine: “The band started in 2005, when Dave and George met at the end of high school. Dave had been looking to start a band and kept bugging George, until he finally convinced him to jam with him and a few friends. At first, all they played were covers, but once they started writing their own material, things became more serious. PYRRAH (at that point still without a name) had gone through several vocalists and were trying out a few people, when I answered their online ad. When I went to try out, they were sufficiently impressed and after my second audition, they asked me to join. We searched quite a while for a drummer, eventually finding Dave G. through a friend.”

Your CD is called "Eternal Cremation" and is an ear splitting opus of death metal… Congrats to you and the band for putting out such a killer debut!
Christine: “Why, thank you very much!”

The CD cover is awesome as well. Can you explain the meaning?
Christine: “The image was taken at Nuit Blanche 2007 in Toronto (which is an all-night art festival). The woman, performance artist Jesika Joy (, was walking around in a wedding dress, holding this skinned goat (yes, it's real), who was meant to be her lover. It's a performance dealing with the idea of forbidden love and how society shuns her for it. It just so happened, that we were in the studio around the same time and were trying to come up with an idea for the album cover; this was perfect.”

It is most definatley unique in comparison to a lot of the cartoon themed CD covers, you see on some death metal releases.
Christine: “I’m glad, you think so. I would have to agree, that I’ve seen maybe one too many scary, evil, satanic, I-will-rip-out-your-guts monsters. They can be nifty, but after a while, they all start to look the same.”

One of my favorite tunes on the CD is "Sleepwalkers". What is that song about?
Christine: “That was actually the first song I wrote lyrics for. Before going out to audition for the band, they had sent me some of their floor recordings and this song already had a title. Not being sure if I could change it, I decided to go with it. I started thinking about what I associated with sleep and walking. I eventually came up with the dead arisen from eternal sleep to walk again and kill the living. So I guess, it’s basically about zombies, but in a less clichè way.”

Who writes the lyrics for the band?
Christine: “I write all the lyrics, though Dave occasionally helps me come up with the initial idea.”

I'm sure, you get tired of hearing this shit, but I gotta ask.... You are only 18 years old. At what age did you start listening to metal, then decide you wanted to be a singer in a death metal band?
Christine: “I started listening to metal, when I was about 14 going on 15. I found death metal vocals fascinating, but never really had a chance to give it a try. The first time I realized, that I could actually be the singer of a death metal band was at an IN FLAMES concert in the summer of 2006. I was just screaming ‘normally’and tried doing the same thing, just lower and it worked. I joined PYRRAH, when I had just turned 16.”

I have been told several times that growling vocals are so much harder to do than clean vocals. Do you agree with this and have you ever experimented with clean vocals at all?
Christine: “If you do growling vocals properly, they shouldn’t be any harder than clean vocals. A good vocal coach is the key to make sure, you’re doing it correctly. I’ve worked with Melissa Cross (who has worked with bands such as ARCH ENEMY, LAMB OF GOD, etc.) and she’s an amazing teacher. As far as clean vocals go, I don’t think I would ever use them for work with PYRRAH. When I was younger, I was in various choirs, but other than that (and of course singing in the shower), I haven’t really done much creatively with clean vocals.”

Is it mostly working on increasing your lung capacity and if so, how are you able to do this at 18?
Christine: “It’s not really about increasing lung capacity, but more learning to better use your air, which is actually something I find quite challenging. There are various exercises I do to practice, but I’m still working on it.”

It seems to me women in metal are finally starting to get their due and the death scene has exploded with women within the last five years. What's your opinion?
Christine: “I would definitely have to agree. Though many ‘purist’ female death metal vocalists probably wouldn’t admit it, I think that this is in great part thanks to Angela Gossow (ARCH ENEMY). Though there were many talented female vocalists before her, she was the first widely recognized one. I think, its great that death metal is becoming less of a ‘boys only’ club and that women are finally getting the chance to show that we too can kick ass!”

Who are some of your favorite female vocalists and which ones inspired you to do this professionally?
Christine: “Well, the first real female vocalist in metal that I heard is Angela Gossow. She was a great inspiration for me, because that was when I realized that women could do death metal just as well or better than men. When I started looking into female-fronted death metal bands more indepth, I discovered amazing vocalists such as Zdenka Prado (ESTUARY), Dana Duffey (MYTHIC and DEMONIC CHRIST), Rita (MORTAL TORMENT) and Corinne van der Brand (ACROSTICHON), all of whom have been huge inspirations for me.”

Do you strictly listen to death metal only or do you get into all types of music?
Christine: “I generally listen to metal (death metal in particular), but I can appreciate all kinds of music.”

Has the band had a chance to play for a live audience yet and if so, what was the reaction of the crowd?
Christine: “We’ve done a few shows and I’d say they went pretty well. I love it, when people first see me and don’t expect much, but as soon as I give that first growl, I definitely get their attention!”

Are there any touring plans coming up in the new year?
Christine: “Once we find a drummer, we certainly plan to do a few shows, and if we can find the money, perhaps a mini tour.”

If you could pick your dream tour, who would PYRRAH play with on stage and why?
Christine: “Hmm… BLOODBATH (the whole band loves their music and if they were to ever tour, with or without us, it would be amazing!), ESTUARY (because Zdenka is a huge inspiration for me and because we’ve played a show with them before and they are awesome people), FUNERUS (for the same reason as ESTUARY), KATAKLYSM (one of my favourite bands) and maybe MYTHIC (just because I know it would be impossible).”

OK, switching gears a little bit...I hear you’re a big South Park fan as like myself. Who is your favorite character...without a doubt Cartman is mine?
Christine: “My all-time favourite character would have to be Squirrely - the squirrel from the "Woodland Critter Christmas" episode. The cute satanic critters have provided me with many laughs. As far as regular characters go, I’m actually a big fan of Kenny. I just love how you can never understand him, and it’s always entertaining to see the different ways he dies…"
[Hmmm, how did I know that the "Woodland Critter Christmas" episode would be your favorite, haha. For those of you not familiar with it, they are these cute little animals in the forest, who just happen to be Satan worshippers, kill everything and want to make a sacrifice for Christmas....very cool and very metal]

You are also a very talented photographer… I love "Shards Of Reality" and "Plea For Help". Can you explain what they mean to you and how long have you been doing this?
Christine: “Thank you very much! I’m actually a photography student at Ryerson University here in Toronto. I started, when I was maybe 12 or 13 and my parents gave me a digital camera for Christmas. “Shards Of Reality” is a series about going through mental illness and feeling like the whole world around you is distorted and broken. “Plea For Help” was at first just something fun I did for Halloween one year, but its concept was eventually re-thought to become part of an exhibition in Paris dealing with climate change and we are devastating the planet (this image represents oil spills).”

Can people buy any of your work?
Christine: “Of course they can! All you have to do is email me.”

On your My Space page, you refer to "Airbrush For Cancer". Can you tell us what that is about?
Christine: “"Airbrush for Cancer" was a non-profit organization, that a friend of mine started. He paints posters with an airbrush, gets metal bands to sign them and he auctions off the posters. All the money would go to cancer research (I noticed that the link on my page doesn’t work anymore and I’ve tried contacting my friend to find out of he’s still doing this, but he hasn’t gotten back to me).”

Where can we buy your CD "Eternal Cremation"?
Christine: “Good question! Obviously, you can buy it from us in person, but if that isn’t an option, we’re working on setting up a PayPal account, so that it will be easier for people to find it. We should get the link up soon. Until then, Bloodbucket Production’s Distro has a few copies.”

So, what is next for PYRRAH Christine?
Christine: “Well, hopefully we find a drummer soon, so that we once again can play shows. We’re currently writing new material, working towards being able to record a full-length album in the not too distant future.”

I have to be honest with you Christine. When I heard how young you were, I really didn't think you could compete with some of the female vets in the scene, but after I heard your voice you not only can compete but you kick some of their asses as well. It is refreshing to see and hear such youthful excitement coming from you and I think, it is a much needed shot in the arm for the death metal scene today. You and PYRRAH are taking the genre into the future, my friend and on behalf of myself and Metal Maidens we thank you for your time today and wish you and the band the best of luck in the new year!
Christine: “Thank you and to Metal Maidens as well, Christine P.”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Nick Rohm, Metal Maidens 'zine / December 2008.

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