Heavier Than Metal And Harder As Steel!

It was at the latest edition of the Keep It True festival, when I heard some people talk about a band from Toronto, Canada, called SKULL FIST. A week later I checked them out on the internet and I was very positively surprised indeed. I also found out, that they have a female drummer in Alison Thunderland. While listening to their EP "Heavier Than Metal", I knew that this band would be perfect to introduce to you readers by means of an interview. SKULL FIST plays metal how it's meant to be played. You see bands returning to their musical roots more and more these days, which a very good thing. This band fits the description very well and I can't tell you how important it is to maintain that wonderful heavy metal sound, created in the early 1980's. Another reason to support a band like SKULL FIST, who are hopefully heading out to a very successful career with their heavy metal sound!

When did SKULLFIST get together as a band and how did you meet up?
Alison: “When I joined the band it was just Jackie jamming in the basement by himself - haha! There’s definitely some history before I joined the band, but I’m not the right person to ask about that. After I auditioned, it was me and Jackie jamming in the basement for a while and then we found a guitarist and bassist. We’ve had to go through quite a few line-up changes, but we’re pretty damn steady now! How we found each other? Mostly just waiting, until we found people wanting to play some serious heavy metal!”

Who came up with the band name and did you have other suggestions besides SKULLFIST, before using this name?
Shred: “Jackie came up with it a few years back. I hated it at first, but one night he marked it on a shirt and I remember looking at it and thinking that it was the coolest name this side of Indiana. So from that point on the name stuck.”

Who are the most important influences of the band and maybe you can tell us a bit more about the main influences of each individual band member here as well?
Alison: “I think the band has a good mix of influences, as with most bands we all come from different places and have different influences. Jackie is an all around kind of guy, from power to death to seventies to the BEACH BOYS! Shred sticks with the good old NWOBHM stuff and Johnny’s a true blues guy. I personally am a power-metal suck: EDGUY, HELLOWEEN, BLIND GUARDIAN, RHAPSODY OF FIRE - all that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of death and black metal and of course NWOBHM! I think, there is no single influence of the band, but everyone has their own perspective of the music and bring it into our music.”

How would you describe the music of SKULLFIST yourself?
Shred: “I would have to say it’s high energy heavy metal a little different from most bands around today.”

Can you tell us a bit more about the writing process of new material? What comes first: the music or the lyrics and do you get new ideas while jamming? In general, how does a new song come about?
Alison: “Sometimes during a jam it’ll just hit you, I guess. The words tend to come later; in fact one of the new songs we’re working on really just started as a jam, was recorded for shits and has now turned into a song. You can’t force it out I think, if you try too hard to write something great, all that’s going to come out is crap. It has to come naturally and I think that’s where most of our ideas come from.”

Who writes the lyrics for SKULLFIST and what are they about?
Alison: “Jackie writes all the lyrics. I mean, he’s the one that’s gotta sing the damn things! I know I don’t / probably won’t ever contribute too much to our lyrics. I never was poet - haha. Jackie does a great job though. He writes about crazy stuff, that I could never contrive.”

Who were in the first line-up of SKULLFIST and please update us about any line-up changes that may have occurred since?
Shred: “About four years ago there was me, Jackie, and this tiny drummer dude, named Vag. Vag stuck around for a while and then we got the old drummer from 30 YEARS TOO LATE (our old band) Lexx. I left for two years after this and Alison came along and started jamming with Jackie and eventually they got John De Courcy (BLACK WIZARD) on guitar and Turbo (part timer in every band around) on bass. This lasted for a while, until they were both gone and Caleb from MIDNIGHT MALICE came into the picture with this Chris guy playing bass. They kicked Chris out, so I came back and started playing bass. We started recording the EP and then Caleb got the boot, so I started playing guitar again just in time for the record. Then we found Johnny drunk and smoking cigarettes by the freeway with two missing toes. We taught him 7-5-3-5 on the bass and he’s been rocking ever since.”

Are you still in touch with any of the previous members of SKULLFIST and are they still active in the music scene, as far as you know?
Alison: “Yeah, all the guys continued with music. Our first guitarist Johnny is now in a band in B.C. (Canada), called BLACK WIZARD. He’s still shredding up the guitar. One of our old bassists Turbo and guitarist Caleb are playing in a band, called MIDNIGHT MALICE, also in Toronto. We actually played a show with them not too long ago.”

How did the press react on “Heavier Than Metal” and did you also get any negative reactions towards the album?
Shred: “Man, the feedback has been awesome, but you know how it goes. There will always be those people, that will dislike it for whatever reason. As far as I’m concerned, the good outweighs the bad and I can’t wait to see the reaction on the next one.”

How do you deal with negative critics in general? Do you try to forget about it as quickly as possible or do you rather try to learn something from it?
Shred: “Well, we don’t let it get us down at all. When you do what you love, criticism really has no effect on your way of thinking.”

With which bands did you share the stage already?
Shred: “ANVIL, RAVEN, CAULDRON, STRIKER, DORO, to name a few and a whole lot more to come!”

Did you learn anything from playing with any of these bands and if yes, what did you learn from them?
Shred: “I think, the biggest thing for me was RAVEN’s energy. I mean to be givin’ it like that at fifty something is crazy! It was such an awesome show!”

What was the biggest gig, that you played so far?
Alison: “Hmmmm, that’s a toughie. I guess, for the number of fans it would have to be Summer Slaughter in Toronto in 2009. We opened up for bands like NECROPHAGIST and ENSIFERUM. I love those guys, great music! Lots of people showed and we played at two in the afternoon! I was shocked actually and I think we turned a couple heads as well. People seem to have this impression, that we’re a glam metal band and when you play for a couple thousand death metal guys, it can be pretty intimidating, but the crowd response was awesome! I had a really great time!”

Do you also play cover songs live or do you just stick to your own penned material?
Shred: “Hell yeah! We have a fistful of covers, that we pull out once in a while. Our next show we are actually going to open with a cover set. First time trying it, but it should be a blast. We got a big list of favorites, that were going to pull out.”

Do you use any show effects or props in your show?
Shred: “FFFFOOOOOOOOOOOOGGGGGG and a lot of it. Sometimes, you can’t see the dudes beside you at a fist show.”

What can people expect, when they come and see a SKULLFIST live show?
Shred: “They can expect to get assaulted with double leads screeching vocals and a pounding rhythm section.”

What’s the most difficult song in your set to play live, and why?
Shred: “I would say, it’s the solo break in “No False Metal”, when Jackie gets on my shoulders for a double guitar solo. It’s still a little shaky at times, but it’s getting easier and easier.”

Are there any memorable gigs, that you want to tell us about?
Alison: “Jeez, there’s a lot. We played this one show in a town, called Banff in Alberta, Canada and it was on a Sunday, so we weren’t expecting anything spectacular, but all of a sudden these people were crowding in and going nuts! I mean nuts, reaching over the rails, trying to jam themselves at the front. It was deafening with all the people yelling. Haha, it was great! The Summer Slaughter gig was also very memorable for me, because the guitarist from ENSIFERUM (Pete) came up to us after we played and said he liked our stuff and wanted to hang out. We totally played pool with him! Not to sound all star struck or anything, but I feel like I’m not cool enough to hang out with such talented people! Like Wayne and Garth, when they meet ALICE COOPER, I find it crazy to meet people, that have written such amazing music and just try to be normal - haha!”

Are there any interesting gigs in the band’s agenda right now?
Alison: “Totally! We’re heading to Europe a couple times in the new year and we’re all super stokked. I’m the only one, who has ever been to Europe, so I’m the only one who knows how awesome it is!! And in Canada we don’t have huge festivals, like in Europe. We have a couple, but nothing close to the scale, that there is overseas. There’s way more metalheads there.”

Are there any funny stories, that you want to share with our readers about live on the road or things that happened when you were on stage with the band?
Shred: “This one time, when we were playing a show here in Toronto with our old guitar player Caleb Beal. I remember seeing the crowd pointing and laughing at him. I wondered what the fuck was going on and I took a look over to see one of his nuts hanging out of his pants. He was the only one in the whole place, who didn’t notice. It was one of those great moments.”

With which band of your choice would you like to go on tour (Note: the sky is the limit here….)
Shred: “I would say STRIKER from Edmonton Canada, because they are my favorite new band. They are a bunch of cool guys. I think, that playing with them would make a great tour. We’ve played with them a couple of time and they’ve been awesome shows.”

What’s the metal scene like in Toronto (Canada) and are there many clubs, where you can play in your area?
Shred: “The scene here is awesome and it seems to be growing pretty good. Right now, Toronto has a lot of ass kicking bands, a bunch of cool venues and a shit load of fans, that are at every show.”

Which other (well-known) bands come from this city?
Shred: “There’s CAULDRON. They are a bunch of cool guys and they’ve been doing quite well the last couple of years. They also like to party and stuff like that. We’ve played with them a few times and its always a good time. There’s also RECKLESS, which is an awesome band and we actually play a cover of theirs, called “Heart Of Steel”. They’re not a well-known band, but they’re a kick ass band.”

Do you have any plans to play Europe as well (in the near future)?
Shred: “Hell Yeah! We`re touring in January for about ten days and playing the Metal Assault festival in Germany. Then Up the Hammers (Greece) in March and Headbangers Open Air in Germany in July. It`s going to be a kick ass year!”

Where do you rehearse and how did you find this space?
Shred: “We rent a room from an awesome band here in Toronto, called DIEMONDS. They gave us a great deal and we love it.”

How many times do you rehearse?
Shred: “Shitloads!! Usually four-five or six times a week. It depends on what else we`re working on at the time.“

Alison, we are a webzine that is completely dedicated to the female musicians in the (hard) rock and (heavy) metal scene. Do you feel, that women still need the attention, that we give them or do you think that you already get the recognition that you earn so much?
Alison: “I think, chicks get underestimated big time! I have, on numerous occasions, guys come up to me after and apologize for, not even saying, but thinking that I would suck! Haha - it’s pretty funny actually. Like they feel guilty for thinking that way. So in a way, I do think, that female musicians do get looked over a lot more quickly than a guy would. Unless you got huge tits and a nice ass, it seems that people won’t take a second look; that is until they hear you play! Women have always had a harder time being taken seriously in the scene, but we are too damn tough to give up.”

Our webzine is based in The Netherlands (or Holland, if you like). What else do you know about our country besides the fact that we have colorful tulips and beautiful windmills?
Alison: “Uhhh, you guys speak Dutch? Haha and make the best zuurkool which I have never had, but it looks awesome! I’m super stokked to be going to Europe later this year, because there is so much to learn about so many places and it’s so different than Canada. It’s going to be awesome! I’ll have to get a couple history lessons, when we get there – haha!”

What are the future plans of SKULLFIST on the long and short term please?
Alison: “Hmmm. Long term phase: You’re going to hear this a lot, but world domination, pretty much being able to tour all the time and just play music without having to be bothered by stupid things like a job. Short term? Playing lots, going to be recording in the next couple months, then heading to Europe for a couple festivals. Hopefully, all of that will help us get off the ground.”

Are you already working on new material and if yes, what will it sound like comparing to the material on “Heavier Than Metal”?
Alison: “We’ve got a couple songs up our sleeves right now. I think, they follow the same vein as “Heavier Than Metal” - same kind of feel and it sounds like heavy metal to me! But we’re also very aware of how each song sounds and how each one needs to be unique with what we are trying to convey.”

Where can people buy your EP, if they’re interested? You can advertise for free here....
Alison: “We’ve get everything posted on our My Space; http:// www.myspace.com/skullfisted. You can also order them from CD Baby, our merch store at http://www.skullfist.bigcartel.com/ or download it on Itunes. Of course we’ve always got some kicking around, when we play shows, so you can get ‘em straight from the horse’s mouth! (Jackie being the horse of course)”

Where can people find you on the internet and how important is this media for a band like SKULLFIST?
Alison: “I think in this day and age, tape trading really can only go so far. The thing with the internet is, that people have access at their finger tips, so they don’t want or need to tape trade. The internet is also a very important gateway for us to get to fans and potential fans. Everyone has a Facebook or My Space or some kind of online account and it really does lead to more exposure. We’ve got our My Space (see link) and we’re also on Facebook, I think, Jackie used to have his phone number up on the My Space and ended up having hour long conversations with people who’d call - haha. It’s true, that the internet is our most important exposure source (besides playing shows) and some people get all riled up about fans downloading the music, but damn if they like it, go right ahead! As long as someone enjoying it, then I’m cool with it.”

Do you update your internet Pages (My Space, Facebook, etc.) yourself or do you have a webmaster for it?
Alison: “We do all of that ourselves. We don’t have a manager or promoter or webmaster. We do it ourselves, Jackie is the sole guy for booking shows and updating information and everything in between. He’s a multi tasking machine!”

Do you have any hobbies or special interest besides playing heavy metal music in a band?
Alison: “This is probably going to bore a lot of your readers, so as a forewarning you don’t have to read this! I’m a huge nerd, I can go through Lord of the Rings line by line and act it out for you, if you want - haha! I love fantasy stuff, reading those kinds of novels (or any book in general)…. Any of you guys ever heard of Drizzt Do’Urden? I’m also a huge animal freak. I always had them and always will. I work as a veterinary assistant, so lucky for me I get to be around them all the time. I am also really into Archaeology. I’m actually in school for it right now too and get to look at all kinds of fossils. Yeah I know, it’s weird I like looking at dead humans… really dead - haha!”

What’s the funniest question you were ever asked in an interview?
Alison; “Probably your Holland question!! Haven’t had too many interviews, so you guys top the list for now.”

Alison, I can imagine that you are one of the most desirable female drummers in the heavy metal scene nowadays. Did you ever had the experience, that male fans wanted more from you after a show than just a smile, an autograph or a drum stick or don’t you get much marriage proposals?
Alison: “Wow, thanks for the compliment! Though I haven’t had any marriage proposals, I’ve definitely had my share of pick up lines. I’ve even had a guy ask me to dance with him while a death metal band was playing, I’m not quite sure what he was thinking…. I think he had too much to drink!! Luckily, I’m surrounded by a bunch of guys in the band, so I’ve got bodyguards, if necessary!”

Another question for Alison: why did you pick up the drums, instead of the guitar or bass? Any particular reason for that? And are you self-taught or did you get lessons? And can you tell us something about the gear that you are using?
Alison: “It was kind of a wired thing and I’m not sure how it got into my head. My family has always been into music, my parents were (and still are) always blasting music and watching those good old movies, like the Blues Brothers and Eddie and the Cruisers. One day, I just asked if I could play drums. I don’t think they thought I was serious, so it took some convincing, but finally I got my first kit, I was thirteen. It was great! I think it cost $200. I took lessons for about three and a half years. My teacher was amazing. He taught me more than I could have ever learnt on my own. Right now I’m playing a Pearl Vision Series kit; best bang for your buck as they play so well. I’ve got two Sabian AAX 16” and 18” Crashes and a 22” ride. I also have Sabian hi-hats. All the hardware is Pearl, as you can tell I’m a huge fan! I also just got myself a new an Iron Cobra double pedal, which replaced the Pearl pedal I had for years!”

The music scene is dominated with sex, drugs and rock and roll. In which way does this ‘unwritten law’ apply to SKULLFIST as well?
Alison: “We do love our brew! I’ve been trying to cut back on the drinking and I never drink before we play. None of us touch drugs, it’s just not something we’re into, I guess. As for sex? I think, we’re all good in that department!!”

Do you want to add anything to this interview? Maybe we have forgotten something that is essential for the story of SKULLFIST so far?
Alison: “I think you guys got us covered. We’ll have to stop on by and come party with you guys in Holland!”

Do you have any special messages for our readers?
Shred: “James Ready is a special key to a happy time.”

The last words in this interview are for SKULLFIST....
Alison: “Go watch Wayne’s World!”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, Metal Maidens 'zine / November 2010.

Visit SKULL FIST on My Space at: www.myspace.com/skullfisted
or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Skull-Fist/106926578594