It’s the unholy year of 2014, when five people get together and form a band in Chicago, Illinois. And I bet that you can’t name too many bands that have released a demo cassette, in a millennium where everything is downloaded from the internet and available on MP3. However, that does not apply to SATAN’S HALLOW, which is a great name for an old school heavy metal band, by the way. Just before the band was heading to Europe to play at the prestigious Keep It True festival in Germany, we send them some questions to find out what is on their mind. Their self-titled debut album was released at Keep It True by Underground Power on both CD and vinyl record. After we witnessed a great live performance there and we got an extensive interview from vocalist Mandy and drummer Patrick a few months later, it’s finally time to introduce you to SATAN’S HALLOW… Remember that name, if you like to listen to some good, old school heavy metal and who doesn’t?!
First of all, thank you very much for doing this interview. When was SATAN’S HALLOW founded and how did you meet up with each other?
Mandy: SATAN’S HALLOW was founded in the spring of 2014 by Von Jugel, the primary song writer, and a Chicago guitar player named Mike Mendoza. They met at a party and ended up founding the band as a 5-piece, based on their shared interest in classic metal. A few personnel changes took place before I met up with them in October of 2014. I had gone to a show at the Elbo Room in Chicago. BLOODFEAST was the headliner, but I was really there to see LURKING CORPSES, a killer band from Fort Wayne, IN. I had come to show with some good friends, Chris Searce, who is the singer in BEAR MACE and Chris Black, who is also a highly active musician with several respected projects. I heard Searce talking to two guys and I overheard a comment about female singers, I cut in with a snotty remark and they asked me if I wanted an audition. When all was said and done, I was fronting this five piece with classic twin leads. It was a dream project, because almost all the songs were written, I just had to learn them, show up, and kick ass.
Please introduce the band members to us, the instrument(s) they play and their background (previous bands)?
Patrick: I am the drummer for SATAN’S HALLOW. I also play bass in MOROS NYX and drums for PROFESSOR EMERITUS and TIGER FIGHT. Before all that, I played drums in ANCIENT DREAMS. Mandy Martillo is the singer and this is her first heavy metal project, but she has a history playing rock/folk/acoustic music. Von Jugel plays guitar and is the primary songwriter and visionary for SATAN’S HALLOW. The SATAN’S HALLOW songs would not have had a chance to exist without Von Jugel. Previously, he was in punk bands. Also on guitar is Steve “Lethal” Beaudette ,who also plays in LETHAL SHOCK. Jose Salazar, the bass player, also plays with me in TIGER FIGHT and PROFESSOR EMERITUS.
Mandy is the ‘metal maiden’ in the band, who is your front singer. What makes her so special?
Mandy: I've been a singer for all my life. One of my distinct memories from childhood was using the toilet in my first grade elementary school classroom and being told to “stop singing in there!” The first song that I ever sang into a microphone was “If I Only Had the Nerve”. I was eight years old and playing Cowardly Lion in a third grade production of The Wizard of Oz. I was the only girl, who didn't try out for the part of Dorothy. I started going to all ages punk shows when I was thirteen and found metal later on in my teens. SATAN’S HALLOW is my first metal project, but I have twenty years’ experience writing and playing folk, rock and blues. I've spent far more hours standing alone on stage with just an acoustic guitar than I have surrounded by amplifiers and effects. I don't know, if this makes me special, but I believe it has steeled me against stage fright. It has also brought me an intimacy with my raw skills and I let that drive me in heavy metal. When I practice alone, I don't use any amplification, because I want to be the singer who could still hold those notes if the power went out. I never wanted to do anything on the SATAN’S HALLOW record that I wouldn't be capable of doing live, so for instance, there aren't any vocal harmonies. There also isn't any pitch correct. I'm sure that some people would argue about whether that's good or bad. I just care a lot about being real and being true to my voice.
I think that one of my advantages is my age. I have more confidence and pragmatism than I used to and that comes from my experiences. I may have been a better singer at twenty-one, but I'm a better artist at forty-one. There was an intense focus that went into this album. I just don't think I could have brought that, when I was younger. Not to mention all the interpersonal bullshit that comes from musical relationships. I had already had my heart broken so many times before I joined this band, so it was easier to keep my eye on the ball when things got tough.
Who actually came up with the band name SATAN’S HALLOW?
Mandy: Von Jugel named the band SATAN’S HALLOW. He originally wanted to call it Satan’s Hollow after the 1980's arcade game, but changed the spelling to avoid any copyright infringement.
Who can we see as the biggest influence for SATAN’S HALLOW and maybe you can also point out some of the influences of each band member individually?
Mandy: Von Jugel is the main writer for the band. He names his influences from 80's Metal Blade bands like OMEN, FATES WARNING and LIZZY BORDEN. Female fronted bands like ACID, WARLOCK and ZNOWHITE are in there, too. Steve Lethal also shares the LIZZY BORDEN influence plus DIO-era RAINBOW, DOKKEN (‘83-‘88), KING DIAMOND (‘85-‘90), and TESTAMENT (87-91). Patrick's strongest overall musical influence is Kai Hansen. As a drummer, he gives mention to Daniel Zimmerman (ex- GAMMA RAY) Cozy Powell and Pontus from HORISONT.
As a singer in heavy metal, there is no shortage of god-like vocalists to idolize. But when it comes to influences on this particular project I am most inspired by singers who sound human, because that's what I am. I don't have much built-in vibrato, I sing more from my gut than my head. I like the stripped down approach of Brett Bateau from ZUUL, Joseph Tholl in BLACK TRIP, and Paul Di'Anno on KILLERS. Freddy Mercury was probably the ultimate human singer, in my opinion. Most recently, I've had my mind completely blown by Axel from the Swedish band HORISONT.
How would you describe your music yourself? True heavy metal is too simple, I guess?!
Mandy: Straight ahead traditional heavy metal with nothing to prove.
What’s your favorite SATAN’S HALLOW song and why? And what’s the crowd’s favorite song in your opinion?
Mandy: One of the most satisfying things about the way our record has been received is that there isn't a clear front runner among songs. “The Horror” and “Black Angel” are pretty different from “Still Alive” and “Beyond The Bells” yet all four of them get props, when people list their favorite tracks. My personal favorite is “Beyond The Bells”. It's the epic with the swooping twins that carry you away, it's a serious song and I'm a serious person. I only wrote a few lines on this one and I think that Von Jugel's lyrics and arrangement really shine here. It's also one of the more recent songs and so it was developed with our current shredder, Steve Lethal, in the band. That makes me value it a little more, like a favored child, I guess.
How does the song writing process go in general, do you start with creating the music and then work on the lyrics or vice versa, and how many times do you get together for rehearsals etcetera?
Mandy: Von Jugel is the core writer for SATAN'S HALLOW. He's one of those writers, who seems to have the whole thing composed in his head before he starts laying it down. He’s a man of vision, right down to cool stops and nuances. Patrick and Von Jugel worked closely to demo out all the songs and develop drums. Von Jugel would sing the vocals on the demos for me to learn, but would also come over and record the melodies note-for-note on my acoustic guitar. It's easier for me to match my voice to a note played on an instrument than a note that's sung to me. Working with his vision was a challenge, because it often forced me to go beyond what felt natural to me and sometimes I'd fight him on things. But in the end Von Jugel was almost always right about the best melodies. Steve had full creative license on his solos and of course, they're stellar. There were a few songs where I contributed lyrics. Von Jugel would write a first verse and a chorus and then ask me to finish it. I wrote most of the lyrics on “Black Angel“ and “Still Alive” and a couple lines in “Beyond the Bells”. I feel the most of the ownership for “Hot Passion” lyrics and vocal melody.
What’s the response of the press like regarding your debut album ”Satan’s Hallow” and are there any negative reactions as well?
Mandy: The response to the album has been better than anything I could have imagined. I cannot say what it means to me after all we've poured into it personally. I've seen one negative review, I'm sure I could find more if I looked for them, but I'm too busy daydreaming about opening KIT to so many grinning maniacs.
You have played at live shows and festivals in the US with bands like SATAN, SLOUGH FEG, HIGH SPIRITS and NIGHT DEMON and most recently you played at Keep It True in Germany, just to name but a few. Are there any upcoming shows or festivals planned for this summer and if you could pick any favorite band you’d like to tour with, who would that be?
Mandy: Correction: we've never played with SLOUGH FEG, although I wish we could! There are currently no SATAN'S HALLOW shows or tours scheduled.
Patrick: The SLOUGH FEG show was at Alehorn of Power in the Autumn of 2014, that would have been the first SATAN’S HALLOW show. It was also part of how I joined the band. The original drummer Pat Buckley had a work schedule change and could no longer commit, so I was asked to join to help out play the Alehorn gig. We also had Lidia Vomito on vocals and Eric Rot on bass at the time. It was not working out and we had to cancel the gig. The band did not continue with Lidia and Eric, but I was asked to join permanently by Von Jugel and Mendoza and that summer we searched for a singer, which turned out to be Mandy.
Any plans to do a show in Holland by any chance?
Patrick: At this time, we have no further shows planned. As much as we would like to play more in Europe and even here in the USA, it just will not be feasible. Von Jugel has moved far away, so we cannot continue. It is a tough decision considering all the work and now the success we are seeing for the album. But we do not want to continue the band, if Von Jugel will not be involved. Unfortunately, sometimes things just have to end. The good news is that Steve, Mandy, Jose and I have formed a new band and have started writing new songs.
I already mentioned the Keep It True festival in Germany. What was it like to play there and have a huge crowd of metal fans there as openers on the first day? Did you see many other bands perform too and maybe you can tell us which bands you liked most?
Mandy: It was an absolute dream to play at KIT, the stuff that you dream about as a kid and then write off when you stop believing in fairy tales. I was blown away by how many people were there for us as the opening band and how many people knew the songs, when the album was so new. It’s enough to break your heart to see people singing along with the songs you’ve worked on for so long.
In addition to the huge and enthusiastic crowd, I was very impressed by the organization, professionalism, and talent of the crew. I’m so grateful that we got to play first, because we got a sound check and the chance to get our bearings before show time. We finished our soundcheck at 11:59 and when they opened the doors I was in the green room and I could hear all the people cheer outside as they opened the doors for the festival and that’s when my heart started to really pound.
It was a little hard to check out all the bands I wanted to, because I was surrounded by so many cool people from all over the world, who kept coming up to say awesome things. It was a little overwhelming for me. I almost passed out at our signing session, but what a great problem to have! I really enjoyed ATLANTEAN KODEX, ETERNAL CHAMPION, WYTCH HAZEL (who rocked it without their bass player!), I was impressed with FIFTH ANGEL and of course my heart was melted by ASHBURY. I was sad to step inside just in time for Leather Leone’s set to end.
You played with a stand-in bass player (Jose) and a stand-in guitar player (Briant) there. What was it like to play with two stand-in band members? Weren’t you super nervous because of that and why couldn’t the original members make it to the festival?
Mandy: Jose is not a stand-in, he is a fully fledged band member. In fact, he is the fourth bassist for SATAN'S HALLOW. He joined up in the summer of 2016 after Lee Smith left the project.
Of course, everyone was concerned about going on without Von Jugel, as he's the main writer and visionary for SATAN'S HALLOW. I'm sure anyone who has ever tried to bring a band overseas understands all the challenges and sacrifices that it requires. It just wasn't in the cards for him to come, but he gave us his blessing to fulfill this dream of playing in Europe. After our KIT set we phoned him long distance from the green room to tell him all about it and how much we missed him. It was bittersweet.
But none of us had any worries about playing with Briant. We were all ecstatic that he was able to go with us. Sharing this experience with him has been extra fun, because he's been a close personal friend for many years. He's a mega shredder and hell of a showman to boot. In prep for KIT we played three local shows with him in winter/spring 2017 and practiced weekly for four months, so we were all feeling ready by the time we got to Germany.
Do you have any nice or funny stories to share with our readers from live shows, or life on the road with SATAN’S HALLOW in general? Maybe some hillarious stories from your travel/staying in Germany?
Mandy: SATAN’S HALLOW has played twelve live shows and I’m the only band member who has performed in all twelve. We haven’t really toured at all, KIT was only the second show we played outside of Chicagoland. There haven’t been that many funny stories, but I’d like to talk about the toughest one. It was a huge part of my experience. I’ve never shared this publically.
The hardest show for me personally was our big debut at Ragnarokkr in Chicago 2015. It was booked before I had even joined the band and it was my main focus for over five months. Reggie’s Rock Club had long been a favorite metal venue for me. I’d seen so many bands play on that stage. Some that I’d idolized and also many of my friends who never knew I was a metal singer. This was my chance to get up there and show people what I’ve got for the first time. It was our official debut and there were a lot of other amazing bands who had been paying dues for years who were probably more deserving of that spot on the bill. I felt so lucky to walk into this project with such an awesome thing to work towards. The digital release of our debut single, “The Horror” b/w “Satan’s Hallow” had brought a ton of attention to the band and Odin, the festival promotor had be hugely supportive of us as an opening act. There was so much build up to this moment, people had come to Chicago from all over the world for this festival and we were opening it.
But all this became completely meaningless, when my mother died a little more than a week before the show. She had been severely disabled for more than twenty years, both physically and mentally. My sister and I had cared for her since I was a teenager. I was alone with her when she died. It was the most devastating moment of my life and nothing else mattered to me. I could barely eat, much less sing. I was lucky to have the support from my friends and from my band mates who stepped up for me. None of them would have blamed me for just saying fuck it and canceling the gig. But I didn’t.
She died on a Wednesday, we cleaned out her room on Thursday. Her memorial was on Sunday. I had band practice on Monday. After four days in silence, I woke up Monday morning and I listened to an album that was brand new for me. It didn’t have any nostalgia or baggage, it was deep and honest but not punishing. This album was ASHBURY’s “Endless Skies”. It pulled me out into the light long enough to find some strength and start singing again and live up to the commitment that I had made and just like my mom would have wanted.
And when I walked out onto that stage at 5:00 pm on Friday the room was full. I was in the shittiest state of mind imaginable. I hated everything and everyone, but I saw that room from a new place, I thought of my mom and I heard my band and I just gave it all I had to give. I know there’s video of our set out there, but I can’t watch it. I don’t want to change my memory. It was a defining moment of my life, I’ll never be the same. It was the hardest show I’ve ever done, but not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
How did you get involved with Underground Power Records (Helle and Christiane), who released your debut album?
Mandy: Patrick had a relationship with Underground Power, because they released records from one of his other bands MOROS NYX (If you check out their full-length “Revolution Street”, you'll hear some guest vocals from me). So it was a natural fit for them to release the SATAN'S HALLOW full-length, they also released our debut 7” with “The Horror”. It's been great to work with them and it's been a huge advantage to have a European label, because they're closer to our fan base and they were able to coordinate KIT as our official physical album release. It was awesome to finally meet Helle and Christiane in person at the fest and to toast with them on having the vinyl sell out!
Who did the beautiful artwork of your debut CD?
Mandy: We're happy as hell to have had Eric Rot on all the artwork for SATAN'S HALLOW, including the logo. He's really talented, a great friend and actually was the band's first bass player!
I believe, that the heavy metal scene in Chicago is quite huge. Are there many clubs where you can play and where do you have your rehearsal space?
Mandy: There are tons of clubs in Chicago that all tend to have a variety of types of music, but the core venues for bands I like tend to be Reggie's Rock Club, Cobra Lounge and Live Wire. There was a magical time between like 2008 – 2013, when Red Line Tap in Rogers Park had metal on the last Saturday of every month. It was called Metal Up Your Tap. Friends in local bands (like SUPERCHRIST) would anchor touring bands like THE HOOKERS, DESCEASED, LURKING CORPSES, CHAPSTIK and ZUUL and so every time I'd go out I'd find something new and awesome. It seems like most of the records I bought in those years all came from shows at Red Line Tap. The guy ,who promoted those shows had to move away and it's just never been the same. We miss you, Trevor! There's also a healthy scene and outlet for the mid-size festival. Ragnarokkr was one that really blossomed over several years and some of the folks involved there have morphed it into Legions of Metal fest that went off for the first time this year. Metal Threat festival brought a huge draw in its inaugural run last year. It's great to live in a city where people are willing to throw down resources to bring great bands from all over the world. It's also great to know that Chicago is on target, when SABBAT comes from Japan and only plays three cities in North America. I love it here.
Do you play any covers during your shows or do you stick to your own penned material? And if yes, which covers do you play during your live shows?
Mandy: The only cover we ever played live was “Something For Nothing” by ZNOWHITE. It was fun and well received!
Which song is the most difficult one to play live and why?
Mandy: “Beyond The bells” is certainly the most difficult song for me to sing by sheer content and speed. Tons of lyrics crammed into fast verses and the melody has some nuances, that I really had to hammer into my memory.
What do you think of the metal scene today, are there any bands that you like to hear in particular?
Mandy: The newer bands that I’ve been enjoying lately are BLACK TRIP, WALPYRGUS, NIGHT VIPER, DOOL, HORISONT, CASTLE and DEAD LORD.
Patrick: I cannot stop listening to the new WALPYRGUS album. It is my favorite album of this year. Other favorites include AMBUS, HORISONT, ARMORY (Swe), DARK FOREST, WITCHCRAFT, ORDEN OGAN (though I’m not fully impressed by the new album that just came out), CASTLE and ATLANTEAN KODEX.
What’s the biggest difference in public between America and Europe in your opinion?
Mandy: My impression of Europeans is that they value art and music more than people do in America. I felt an affection and appreciation for my musicianship in Europe that is much rarer in the US. Also the fact that so many people in the crowd were smiling at us, in the US people tend to take a more tough-guy, judgmental stance, like they’re doing you a favor by watching your show. I felt much more welcomed by the KIT crowd, when you’d think it would be more intimidating because of the size. I was also pleased to see so many women at KIT, the Chicago metal shows don’t draw as many ladies.
How important is the internet for you and where can we find your website? I guess you are on Facebook as well? Who is in charge of that page?
Mandy: The web is hugely important for us. We don’t have a specific SATAN’S HALLOW website, but you can find us on Bandcamp and Facebook.
Do you have any goals for SATAN’S HALLOW?
Mandy: There currently aren’t any new plans for SATAN’S HALLOW. Von Jugel is living out of state now, so that’s bringing us to a resting point for the time being. Some of us in the project are collaborating on a different project we’re calling MIDNIGHT DICE. Our goals are to just play music, write some new songs and have a great time for right now.
Mandy, our magazine is dedicated to all the female musicians in the (hard) rock and (heavy) metal. Do you feel you still need this kind of recognition or is there no competition between female and male musicians in the music industry anymore?
Mandy: I greatly appreciate and respect the efforts to focus on and support women in metal, in music, and in any art or profession. My mother was a Ms. Magazine subscriber in the 80’s. It’s difficult to be a woman in metal, but I can’t say it’s about competition because men and women aren’t even playing the same game, especially as vocalists.
The female voice in metal has qualities that a lot of people just don’t like, similar to the saxophone. Some people just simply cannot stand the sound of a saxophone in a metal band. Even if it’s being played by a tremendously talented person, it’s still “saxophone metal” and some people will never ever like it or even try it. A lot of people feel the same for “female-fronted metal”. That’s the start of what I’m up against as a woman, I need all the support I can get!
One day our bassplayer, Jose Saladbar, mentioned to me how much it must suck to be a woman and have everyone categorize your music as “female-fronted metal” or as a “female vocalist”, just like he wouldn’t want to put the word “Mexican” in front of all his music. No one says, “That guy is a great Mexican bass player.” They just say he’s a great bass player. I don’t aspire to be a good female singer, I aspire to be a good singer, period. No one wants a qualifier on their performance, but I’m stuck with one. And as long as women are placed in a separate category for judgement, we might as well have that category for support! So thanks for asking these questions! And thanks for supporting women!
Do you also play any instrument(s) yourself?
Mandy: Yes, I play guitar (mostly acoustic) and I mess around with bass sometimes and a little bit of mandolin occasionally.
Patrick, what’s the status of MOROS NYX and isn’t it difficult to combine the two bands together?
Patrick: After the last MOROS NYX live show July 2016 at Metal Threat Festival, Lee (ex-SATAN’S HALLOW) quit the band and that set us back a bit. But luckily Steve for SATAN’S HALLOW has joined on. We are still working to get that moving but the last year and a half more of the focus was on recording the SATAN’S HALLOW album and then getting ready to play Keep It True. MOROS NYX is a band where I contribute more creatively to songwriting and lyrics and the music style is closer to my favorite bands, like HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY. We are currently focused on writing material for our next album. It is a lot of work being in a band, but I’m used to being in multiple projects. I just love playing music and writing songs, so you will see I am also playing in PROFESSOR EMERITUS and TIGER FIGHT.
We think, that the metal scene has been gaining a lot of popularity these past few years. On the other hand, we also believe the music scene has changed quite a lot. It seems to be all about the money nowadays and not if you have any talent or not. What's your opinion about that?
Mandy: I agree with much that there has been a revival in traditional metal for several years and as a fan I’m delighted! But I think you’re right about the money in some ways. Traditional metal has the potential for commercialism, because it is accessible to a wider variety of people than say death metal, or (please spare my ears) nu metal. It stirs nostalgia in the hearts of people, who are now old enough to buy records with a salary and not with their allowance from their parents.
However, my experience of this has come almost entirely from live shows. I love the mid-sized festivals with bigger names from the past headlining, but the but the brightest light for me has been the smaller local acts or regional acts who come through once a year or so. The players in those bands are the ones who make a scene happen and they are not getting rich off of this. A lot of them are working some regular jobs on loading docks or call centers and they’re happy to get home with a few bucks left over from the tour. The majority of the records I’ve bought in the last ten years have been from those bands. I want to thank them for kicking ass and for dealing with all the crap you go through just to get people together and make some noise.
Do you have any hobbies or interests besides playing heavy metal?
Mandy: Yes! I also draw, paint, and do needlecraft. I love to ride bicycles and I’m an active advocate for better bicycling infrastructure in Chicago. I write short stories and songs. I’m working on a solo folk EP right now.
In closing, the famous final words of this interview are for SATAN’S HALLOW.....
Mandy: Thank you so much to Metal Maidens and to all the people who support our music. Do what you want to!
Go to the Facebook page of SATAN'S HALLOW at: www.facebook.com/steelinferno666/