Erika Tandy: Metal To The Bone!

Greetings brothers and sisters! If you were going to create the ultimate heavy metal badass, how would you begin? If I were playing the role of good old Doctor Frankenstein, here is what I would do... I would use the vocal chords of Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford, the attitude of Lemmy, the balls of Phil Anselmo, the golden locks of the mighty Zeus, the stage presence of Ozzy Osbourne and since this person is no dumbass, the brains of Einstein... This to me would create the ultimate metal badass.
But if you want to save all that time and mess, you could just use Erika Tandy (alias ‘Skullgal’) as the prototypical heavy metal badass with one of the greatest voices in the scene and 100% heavy metal attitude to back it all up.
They used to call Bob Hope (he was some old bald comedian from like the 1700s, kids) the "hardest working man in show business". Well, there is no doubt in my mind, who the hardest working woman in heavy metal is and we are all very privileged to have her speak with us today. So without further delay, I give you Erika Tandy...

Hello Erika, it is so very cool to finally get a chance to chat with you, thank you for taking time for us today.
Erika: “Hey Nick, thanks! Glad to be here. Your opening is quite the salvo... Not sure I'm worth even 1/10th of that praise, but goodness, I'll try to make this as interesting as possible (psst, readers, I'm really a huge dork. Really…)”

So Erika, you are now the vocalist for the band FURY with guitar shredder Matt Fury (Note editor: Erika left FURY right before Xmas). That seems like a match made in metal heaven. How did that all come about?
Erika: “I knew Matt from my IGNITOR days and we'd met briefly at a show. He's one of those people you never forget; his enthusiasm is infectious. Earlier this year, I was bored and wasting my life on My Space, which I do quite a bit, when procrastinating. I saw it was Matt's birthday and wished him a happy one. We chatted a bit over the next few days. The subject of jamming popped up. He sent me some music files, I put vocals to them, and then: blam! Music happened, which mutually pleased us. We decided to keep working together.”

Have you been recording any new songs or are you adding your excellent vocals to some of Matt's pre-existing music?
Erika: “Right now, we're reworking pre-existing songs. Matt has an enormous library of instrumentals just waiting to be arranged for vocals. It's awesome, because we don't have to start from scratch. I take the files into garageband, cut and paste, until I get skeletal structures, then I can work the vocals. We're fleshing tunes out into full-length songs at practice. This can be a little slow going. Tacking together parts on the computer is one thing, making them flow as a living, breathing song is another. We'll get there. It just takes time.”

Matt seems like a pretty intense person on stage as are you. I only have one question... Is the world ready for this assault?
Erika: “If they bring riot shields to the show, I think they'll be okay.”

What about a tour?
Erika: “Probably not like what you're thinking. I'm almost 37 years old. I have a house, a car, a non-musical career as a project manager. My days of "giving it all up to live the life, passed by me a long time ago. On my website (http://www.skullgal.com), I talk about how I grew up real poor. My history shapes how I run my life. It doesn't sound very badass or adventurous to say I conduct my life to balance maximum security with maximum fun. In simpler terms, that means there isn't a record deal in the world big enough to make me give up my job. Where I work is cool and flexible - I could get away with about 3-5 weeks of touring plus over-the-weekend one-offs each year. I'm happy to do that. My husband tours for real and I see how hard it is for him. Weeks upon weeks in a van, eating at truck stops and sleeping four hours a night on the van bench. Knowing my fairly non-existent immune system, I think a two week tour twice a year would be my max. Longer than that, some horrible illness or vocal strain would probably occur. There is nothing less effective than a sick singer, who can't sing. I'm hoping FURY can do what IGNITOR did not and tour for two weeks here and there.”

You have an extensive resume, when it comes to adding your vocal talents to different bands. Can you tell us a little about some of them?
Erika: “My first "band" was AUTUMN TEARS, a neoclassical goth endeavor, which started in 1995, when I lived in Massachusetts. I put "band" in quotes, because we never played live. It was more a project. Doesn't make it less legit in a musical sense, but the live performance aspect was something I longed for. We were embraced by the black metal scene, as a lot of those folks enjoyed a healthy dose of the enigmatic and the ambient. I stayed with AUTUMN TEARS until 2001 and put out a total of three full-lengths. I also appeared on select songs on an EP and another full-length. You can check out AUTUMN TEARS at: http://www.darksymphonies.com/autumntears. Right around when AUTUMN TEARS started, I did some session vocals for the black metal band DECEMBER WOLVES for their first CD, "Til Ten Years". That was my first studio recording experience ever and I was scared shitless. I was a total rube back then! I moved to Texas in 2000 and didn't do anything musical until 2003. The itch to have a band started up, so I began perusing the music want ads. I had an abortive audition, which is a funny story. As many people know, I'm a staunch black/death/thrash gal with very anti-Christian leanings. I show up at this band's practice space wearing my IMMOLATION "Dawn Of Possession" t-shirt, ready to be all-metal and tough. They hand me a stack of lyrics and have me kind of make melodies up, as they play through the songs. At one point, I turn the page and the phrase "And you died for our sins, like Jesus did" jumps out at me. I'm probably remembering it wrong, but you get the point. I was hollering into the mike pretty good at that point, but when I hit that phrase I just went "Muh huh wah wooo woo woo" or something to that effect. Then it was forty-five uncomfortable minutes of me trying to figure out how to just get the fuck out of there, since I knew these dudes were not for me. I had to laugh. No Jesus lyrics for me, at least not in that sense!
Summer of 2003 landed me in IGNITOR. IGNITOR was my first real band, where I learned to put all that teenage pretending I was Rob Halford to good use. We had a great run, putting out our EP "Take To The Sky" in 2004, then the full-length "Road Of Bones" in 2007. We played Mexico and Germany and every armpit in central Texas. Good classic heavy metal - people really got into it. In Summer 2006 I joined DRIFTER, an IRON MAIDEN cover band. I wanted something fun, and fun is what I got. September 2007 saw me leave IGNITOR.
Since then I've done some session vocals for a band, called POSEIDONS ANGER and now I'm in FURY since July 2008. I have several other nascent projects twinkling about as well, so there's plenty more to come from me before the first decade of the new millennium is out.”

This may be kinda personal, but can I ask you what happened with the band IGNITOR? You guys put out two awesome CDs and shortly after the release of the second one, you parted ways. Why?
Erika: “Musical and personal differences, the same old story. I'm not here to air dirty laundry. IGNITOR imploded like many a band has. My personality is Type A to a fault. They were not. It caused friction. I weighed my options, dialed things back and gave it an entire year to get better. It didn't. I quit. The end.”

Was the band pissed at you for leaving, because let's face it, they will never replace you?
Erika: “Dude, everyone is replaceable. Everyone. Not to say that it's easy to do, especially when the band is small career-wise and doesn't warrant someone transferring locations to join. One of the reasons why I waited so long to quit was, because I knew they were going to be furious with me. Nobody wants people to be mad at them. Nobody wants to ruin someone else's fun - at least I don't. I felt really guilty for being unsatisfied and unhappy, but in the end I had to do what was right for me. Yeah, they were pissed. Annah was really mad and said some surprisingly shitty things about me in a public forum. That really ticked me off. She'd known I'd been thinking about quitting for almost a year. Of all of them, I thought she'd be least surprised and most understanding. Wrong. That type of behavior is not easy for me to forgive. We haven't spoken since about October 2007. Whatever. To quote the guys in SOILENT GREEN: "Not every story has a happy ending…".“

Do you stay in touch with any of them?
Erika: “I see Stu all the time, since DRIFTER plays with SAD WINGS, his PRIEST cover band. We're cool. Stu's a sweet person. I haven't seen Pat or Brendan since I quit. We don't move in the same circles.”

For several years now you have also been the lead vocalist for an IRON MAIDEN tribute band, called DRIFTER. Is that as fun as it looks?
Erika: “It's absolutely the most fun thing I've ever done. No goals, no pressure, just five goofs picking on each other and playing cool tunes. We work hard to make sure the songs are as accurate as possible, but we don't have that egomania and defensiveness which sometimes happens when musicians collaborate on original material. With MAIDEN, it's either right or wrong. Disagreement about how a part goes? Put on the CD. We're all good friends. Half our practice time is spent laughing and telling potty humor stories. We laugh even when we fuck up. Pete fucks up the beginning of "Run To The Hills" all the time and I end up rolling around on the carpet in hysterics, utterly unable to sing. I love DRIFTER!”

Have you ever heard any positive feedback from the guys in IRON MAIDEN about DRIFTER?
Erika: “No. Not that we've asked for any. I'm feeling a little bitter about my vocal hero, Mr. Bruce Dickinson. Up until this May, I worshipped the guy. Emulating the man has made me the performer I am today. I think, he's fabulously talented. The “Somewhere Back in Time” tour had me really excited. I'd missed IRON MAIDEN on the “Powerslave” Tour, when I was a teenager and desperately wanted to be close to my hero. No telling, when I'd get another chance. During the show, I was singing along, having a great time, glorying in the fact, that Bruce was less than 10 feet from me. My fucking hero, man, right there - so close I can see his goddamn nose hair! There was so much emotion in me, I was almost crying in a couple spots. About midway through their set, Bruce and I made eye contact and he shot me the dirtiest, ugliest look you could imagine. I was shocked. I don't know what that was about. My singing? I'm sure, he could hear me. Maybe it annoyed him. His reaction made me feel bad and stupid and most damningly, unwanted. Unwanted as a fan. I felt like saying "Fuck you, Bruce, I'm getting the fucking life crushed out of me right now for the love of you and your band and all you can do is look at me like I'm some kind of annoying freak? Jesus fucking christ, go to hell, then". It didn’t ruin my time, but it sure acted like a bucket of cold water. Next tour they do, maybe I'll get front row tickets for a whole bunch of shows just so I can sing super loud and drive him fucking barmy. There. Sounds like a plan. Still... it's hard when your heroes disappoint you. The whole experience kind of shifted my mental paradigm about what makes a hero: heroes aren't the guys playing all the big stages and selling a million albums and being larger than life, but the ones getting in that goddamned van night after night no matter how much their backs hurt from not sleeping in a bed. The guys making jack shit for money on tour, but still walking away from their day jobs to hit the road and bring music to the fans. The guys, who make the choice of either buying a Xbox with this money or putting it into merch and choosing the merch. That's what I see as heroic now. The sacrifices people make for this music are enormous. We should thank each and every one of the metal musicians, who do these things for their passion and focus.”

Yes, I have to agree with you on Mr. Dickinson as well. He has been know for being a tremendous dickhead at times. Maybe you just had him a little nervous over the competition, haha.
Erika: “Who knows? Maybe someone pissed in his tea or he hadn't had a proper curry in a while. All I can say is my hard-on for Bruce is now decidedly limp. 'Nuff said.”

If FURY really takes off, will that force you to give up some of your hundreds of other projects?
Erika: “I've come to enjoy having multiple projects in play. After I quit IGNITOR, I took a little break from original music. I was pretty burnt. DRIFTER was really good to have in that period. It kept me in shape vocally and renewed my enjoyment of playing live. I've come to realize I want to do as much with my voice as I possibly can, so I guess the answer to your question is no. I'll only give up endeavors, if they stop being fun or I run myself into the ground from exhaustion.”

Your husband plays in a band called AVERSE SEFIRA. How do the both of you make any time for each other with such busy schedules?
Erika: “It's all about making the most of the time we have. We're really very normal people in the end. We carve out time, as gay and corporate as that sounds. We take walks. Play video games - he plays, I scream helpful things like "There's a monster in the corner ‘Get it - get it - get it - get it’!” We watch TV with the cat. This weekend we cleaned out his closet and put away about fifty concert shirts that he never wears, but doesn't want to throw away. Mundane but fun. We go to shows and travel when possible and we cherish our time apart, too. Before he started touring, I would worry about how it would be to hold down the fort while he was gone for weeks on end. I figured it would suck, but quickly realized I love it. Unlimited ‘me time’. Fuck yeah. Nobody's dishes other than my own in the sink. Nobody's toothpaste on the bathroom mirror but mine. Nobody to interrupt my train of thought while writing lyrics with cries of: "Goddammit, have you seen the TV remote"?”

Have you ever thought about joining the hubby on stage?
Erika: “Fuck no. I've seen enough husband-wife musical endeavors go south in a hail of bullets to know better to ever engage in a musical endeavor with my partner. We help each other with show and tour prep, selling merch at gigs, etc., but musically we stay totally separate. Our outlooks and styles are fairly different, anyway. Makes for greater household harmony.”

You are in every sense of the word a "Metal Warrior." Where does that fire come from and do you think it was always there in one way or another?
Erika: “You're really too kind, Nick. I think we're all metal warriors, if we make it past age 30 and we're still into metal. For me, the fire comes from a childhood of poverty and struggle. I was the misfit kid, tormented by my peers. I wanted to fit in, but the last thing I wanted to be was like the kids who tormented me. I was seeking something that could fill my soul with power and mystery, since my daily life was filled with so much pain. Heavy metal was the source of that salvation. I was already considered a freak by my parents and peers, why not REALLY make myself into a freak? Break out the spandex, the boots, the studded wristbands and the big hair. You want a freak? I'll be a first class fucking ULTRA freak, but my freakness will be rooted in being what makes me feel like me: strong and unique and special, not a featureless member of the vast bleating sheep herd of humanity. I've always been metal. Always will be. I'll die metal. I think, the only thing that could make me un-metal would be a personality-changing closed-head injury, ha."

Absolutely. I have always said what separates metal and its fans from the rest of the mindless drones in society is our refusal to be conformists.
Erika: "True, but even we non-conformists conform - just to each other. Case in point, my SUV is starting to die and instead of considering another truck or SUV, I find myself wanting to be like my touring friends and buy a white van. I want to be part of the white van crew, too! We are our own culture; our own community. We need to belong somewhere."

Did you know at a young age that your voice was something special and you might want to sing professionally?
Erika: "Teachers at school told me I was a good singer, but until I joined AUTUMN TEARS, I never thought my voice was anything special. I just sang, because it was fun and easy. As a teen, my big dream was to be a shredding guitar player like Rudy Schenker or Matthias Jabs of the SCORPIONS. LITA FORD always disappointed me with her playing. My goal was to look like Lita, but shred like Rudy. There was a problem though... I sucked at guitar. Luckily, I didn't force the issue and insist on inflicting my painful playing on others - when I figured out my talents lay elsewhere, the old six string got sold at a flea market.”

You have a very impressive vocal range. I have always wondered, is it harder belting out a classic IGNITOR song like "Demonslayer" or using the growling technique of death metal?
Erika: “Death metal, waaaay harder. Painful. I still haven't figured out how to do it properly. The dominant vocal style I'm doing for FURY isn't death metal, but it's not classic metal like my IGNITOR-voice, either. It's a little bit like Phil Anselmo (PANTERA) on the "Cowboys From Hell" album with some more gruff, barky parts thrown in for power. FURY will feature some IGNITOR-eqsue moments, but what I learned in IGNITOR and DRIFTER is that staying in the low to midrange register feels best for me. I can't tell you how many times I utterly excoriated my throat blazing away in the high registers at IGNITOR shows. The crowds would love it, when I'd hit those nuclear high notes, but Christ, I'd finish the set croaking like a toad. I'm working on techniques from Melissa Cross' "Zen Of Screaming" DVD in an effort to not kill myself this time around. It will be interesting to see how it works out.”

Does your family support what you do?
Erika: “No. My dad was ambivalent to me as a life form for the most part. My mother was terrified of what she thought the rock n' roll/metal lifestyle pointed to: drugs, alcohol, rampant sex, rebellion, rejection of religion. She was a fearful and pitiable person. I would send her CDs from AUTUMN TEARS (which wasn't even metal) and she would not listen to them. She threw them away. That hurt me deeply. My refusal to turn my back on metal was a wedge between us right until the end. To me, being metal meant strength and independence, two things which my mother did not understand. And that's enough about that sad chapter of my life.”

Does anyone in your family have a musical background?
Erika: “My family enjoyed music, but neither of my parents played an instrument. My dad liked rock and some metal, so I have to thank him for his contribution. He wanted me to be a boy, and while that sucked for the most part, his willingness to accommodate my desire to see heavy bands was valuable. That was about the only cool thing he did for me. He'd drag me to shows of for example ZZ TOP and GEORGE THOROGOOD. I didn't want to go with my uncool dad to see uncool bands, but I ended up having a great time. I've not seen a laser show yet that tops the one ZZ TOP had. It was awesome!”

Between touring with bands and your job, you have been fortunate to travel quite a bit. What are some of your favorite places?
Erika: “I've gone all over for my job, but I've only played in two foreign lands: Germany and Mexico. Both were excellent. I would love to get back there. Japan and Brazil would be fabulous places to play. I will say my favorite place in the whole world was Singapore. Goddamn, what a beautiful place. And the food... I got all fat! Those folks know how to shop and eat.”

How do the European crowds differ from the ones in the U.S?
Erika: “They're in it for the music. It's not something trendy for them. Euro metalheads live a metal lifestyle and make it a priority for themselves. Here in the States, music is something to be consumed. Plenty of people really get it here, they live for it, but we have so more hipsters and trendoids here than in Europe. These are the people I see in the crowd and think, "You should not be here with your pork-pie hat and your white belt and hipster glasses. I will hurt you, if you come near me". I really don't believe, that guy feels the same way I feel when exposed to something intense like WATAIN or GOATWHORE. Does he get it? Does he get the rush, the almost religious experience of being mashed in the pit as the double bass is hammering and the vocalist is screaming about the fires of hell erupting from his chest? I just don't think so. And thus, if that person is dumb enough to mix it up with me and the rest of the die hards in the front, he will receive my elbow to his face and torso as many times as I can possibly manage during the melee. Get your fucking pork-pie hat away from me, you hipster dick!”
[Ok, I for one would pay good money to see Mr. pork-pie hat wearing asshole getting thumped in the pit by you, haha].

I have heard that in some of your travels, you have had some very interesting things happen to you, such as seeing ghosts and swimming with sharks. Is that true?
Erika: “Yes, absolutely. The shark couldn't have got me though - there was a shark net in between me and it. So that's one of those stories that kind of falls apart, when I get into the details, hahah. The ghost stuff is very true. I have not actually seen ghosts, but I have felt and experienced them since I was a child. Several notable experiences happened, while I was in Cork, Ireland back in 2003. First one was at the Ambassador Hotel, which used to be an old hospital. Lovely old building. As I was going to sleep, I heard the sound of someone rattling the doorknob, then thumping the armoire, then shuffling around in my room. Went through about 4 cycles. I sat up and yelled, "Okay already I hear you now I gotta get up at 6am to go to work, so can we just both rest in peace now"? That stopped it. Three weeks later I was back, at the Blarney Woolen Mills, which is a hotel made out of the mill, that is right across from Blarney Castle. At about 5am, I felt like someone was leaning over me, gently brushing my hair off my brow. At one point I tried to slap the person's hand away and it was then I felt a body lie down on top of me and press me into the bed. I froze and came fully awake. The presence faded away. It wasn't scary, but I wasn't a fan, either. Had another talk in the dark to my visitor and asked to be left alone, please. Nothing further happened. Without a doubt the scariest thing that ever happened to me was the Japan earthquake I experienced in 2005. I'd gotten out of the shower and was typing an email to the IGNITOR crew, not dressed, towel on my head. Skin still wet. Suddenly, the building starts rocking and groaning and shaking."Holyshitearthquake!" I thought. First thing this dumbass does is run to the window, so she can "see" what the earthquake looks like. Outside, 22 floors down cars are just driving by like it's nothing. Some little braincell screams "No, no, stay away from glass go stand in the doorway of the bathroom!" I grab my clothes and stand in the doorway, watching the water slosh out of the toilet, while trying to put my pants on inside-out. My skin's damp, so my pants are getting all stuck and I'm losing my balance, because the building's swaying about a foot in each direction, but I'll tell you - there was no way I was dying naked. Those pants were on in about five seconds. I have to laugh at myself - it really must have been hilarious to watch. Needless to say, I survived. The Japanese were completely unbothered. But I'm not a fan. Earthquakes? I'll pass, thanks. Give me a tornado any day.”

That's pretty crazy stuff! My luck I would have been on the commode, when the whole thing went down.
Erika: “Dude, the water was really sloshing out of the toilet! You would have died with a clean butt, at least!”

Any plans to wrestle an alligator or base jump into a live volcano in the near future, haha?
Erika: “I would totally wrestle an alligator! Do you have one handy? I'll jump on that fucker like Steve Irwin (another hero of mine). Knowing my luck, it will throw me off and crush my head in its jaws and that will be the end of your metal badass here. But honestly, I really would do that. I held a three foot crocodile in Singapore, but its mouth was taped shut, so that was boring. I would really like to do some serious mountain climbing (I've done a 12,000 foot climb, would like to do a Fourteener or two), be in a shark cage with a great white swimming outside, swim with whale sharks, and drive a super high powered sportscar like a Ferrari or a Lambo. I love adventure and thrills, but within limits, of course. My ass will never jump out of a plane or off a bridge. No way! I watch that shit on TV and my stomach clenches up. If it's in the water or on the ground, I'm all about it!”

I was actually kidding about the alligator, Erika. I should have remembered, who I was speaking to...
Erika: “Now, if you'd said handle a giant bird eating spiders, you would have gotten a very different answer!”

I read a quote from you one time that said you are "Metal to the bone, with the X-rays to prove it". Can you elaborate on that for us?
Erika: “In September 2006, the graceful person answering these delightful interview questions got up at 7am to go for a jog. I was tired and distracted. At 7:20am, this fleet-footed gazelle caught her toe on a heaved piece on concrete and slammed herself, like the hippo she is, to the ground. I fell strangely, because I was afraid to throw my hands out to break my fall, as that's the perfect way to break your elbow. I broke off the back of my hip socket instead. The best part was I didn't even realize how bad I'd been hurt. Yes, I'd heard all the ligaments in my hip tear as I went down - sounded like five pairs of jeans being ripped at once. Brrrrrrripp! My main concern was getting up before someone saw me. I pretty much hit the ground, bounced twice, then rolled to my feet. Everything seemed like it was working. I walked a mile home, thinking "I just fell, I'm fine, no biggie". When my leg started dislocating, I began to feel there was a problem. You think? It took several doctors to diagnose the fracture; by the time they finally could get their heads around what I'd done to myself, I'd been walking on it for a week. Cue emergency surgery - two screws and a plate put this clumsy metalhead back together again. The Xrays are on my myspace profile. I couldn't walk for three months. No fun. But I'm fully recovered. I'll never be quite the same as before, but I can do everything I need to do. Sometimes I feel like I should start a "metal to the bone" club... A lot of us have busted ourselves up pretty bad and sport some steel, but I couldn't be president. That spot would be reserved for Ben from SOILENT GREEN/GOATWHORE. That dude has more steel in him than a modern day car. He’s the ultimate metal badass, in my book.”

I know my old body has taken it's share of abuse over the years and I cannot imagine running around on stage night after night performing at such a high level, like you do. Are you into working out to keep up with the demands on stage?
Erika: “Take the singing out of the equation and doing a show every night would be no big deal. I work out a lot and have a high level of fitness. Riding a bike 20 miles or swimming for an hour is way harder (and a lot more boring) than jumping around onstage. It's keeping my voice patent that would be the challenge. I tend to talk a lot and can't keep quiet, when I should rest my voice. Quack, quack - that's me in a nutshell.”

So, is it safe to say the stereotypical rock and roll life style, that has led to so many musician's demise, is not something you subscribe to?
Erika: “I grew up surrounded by chaos and alcoholism. I had plenty of that as a child; don't need it as an adult. I've been drunk twice in my life, stoned once. Drinking makes me feel like garbage, pot makes me paranoid. I'm happy to just be me. I don't need chemicals to let loose. And... I get to remember everything I experience and have pocket money for merch. You'd be surprised how many of us extreme metal people only go for partying. You just don’t notice us, because you're distracted by our fucked up bandmates puking in the gutter.”

You are also a person, who wears many different hats... You're a singer, lyricist, novel writer, painter, workout fanatic, clothes designer and you also work a full time day job... Did I miss anything like “Winning the Nobel Peace Prize" or "Conducting experiments on alternative fuels"?
Erika: “That's actually a little exaggerated. I don't paint any more, unless it's a room in my house. I'm really rusty with art. I'd rather go for a walk, take some inspiration from the world around me and maybe get some lyrics out of it. The majority of my waking life is spent with my ass in a chair, staring at a computer screen and wishing death on my co-workers. Like what I'm doing now, except I'm not wishing death on anyone. I am studying to become a certified project manager, but that's not very metal. If I could make the day be 36 hours long, I think I'd flip houses. That looks fun. And crazy-making!”

Well, I was going to ask the question of what you like to do in your down time, but I guess that would be pretty dumb seeing as you have none?
Erika: “I'd say sleep, but I have chronic insomnia, so I don't even get to do that! I like to read and do home improvements. Just stand outside and look at things, find beauty to appreciate. I talk to animals and butterflies, when I see them. Even if they are dead... "Oh, little possum, I'm sorry you got run over". Yes, I know, I'm insane.”

What kind of clothing do you design?
Erika: “I do leatherworking. I can't sew for shit, unless it's a button off a pair of pants. That I can handle. I've made gauntlets and a suit of armor. Sometimes I take existing leather clothes and enhance them with straps, buckles and studs. It’s not that hard, but it does take time, so I only make pieces when I have a direct need.”

What was your novel about?
Erika: “Ah, my often discussed and probably never to be finished novel... People have got to be sick of hearing about it. It's medical-based sci-fi. I wrote the whole thing back in the mid-nineties. It topped out at 1100 pages. Completely unpublishable. In late 2007, I decided to break it into three books and got off to a roaring start - 65,000 words of the first book, or 1/3 done. And then... February 2008: brick wall. Stuff got in the way. I think, I write when I'm trying to bury personal issues. I had tons of personal misery back in the nineties. This time, I started writing and then real quick diverted energy into working out internal stuff. Once that happens - poof! My story stops dead. Maybe fiction writing is more therapy for me than anything.”

Well, if you get inspired to finish it, I am sure the fans of Metal Maidens would love to read it, I know I would.
Erika: “Thanks. When I work out my personal problems, maybe I’ll get back on the writing bandwagon! Until then, read my lyrics for insight into my inner misery, hahaha!”

Did you do most of the lyric writing in your previous bands?
Erika: “In AUTUMN TEARS, no. I had very little control of anything, that went on in that band other than my vocal melodies. That was okay - it was Ted Tringo's brainchild. A very personal thing for him. I couldn't have written lyrics to fit if I'd wanted, because I wasn't in the same head space. For IGNITOR, I wrote everything on “Road Of Bones” and all but “Take To The Sky” on the first EP. With FURY, the lyrics will be all mine.”

What is your take on the current metal scene and the role that women have taken?
Erika: “Honestly, I hate this question. The scene's the scene. It ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. It will never die, no matter what people say. For me, metal is my lifeblood, a constant. The scene for me is in my head. I'm not reliant on what the exterior scene is doing. And women in metal? There are more females in bands than ten years ago. I think, it's more commonplace now to see a girl onstage with a heavy band. It's no longer novel. Is it good for the music? Not when the woman brings softness and melody or sexy looks to something, which should otherwise be tough and loud and brutal. Nothing pisses me off more than when a band gets up on stage with the female member and everyone's going "Raaaaar!" then they go into a quiet part and she steps up to the mike and sings all pretty (and usually badly). Come on! Fucking cut it out. I don't know why bands think, they have to put in pretty parts into otherwise awesomely brutal songs - in so many cases it just does not make sense and ruins the intensity. So I'm in full support of women in metal, as long as they're doing metal. Ditch the skirt and put on some fucking spikes and don't worry, if your hair gets messed up. Be brutal. Sweat.”

I know, you have a legion of women fans, who look up to and admire you. Do you think of yourself as a role model and if so, what advice can you give to the young women out there who want to follow in your footsteps?
Erika: “Start earlier than I did! Getting into a band after age 30 is too late. Take care of yourself - don't drink too much, don't smoke and stay away from drugs. Exercise. Have more skills than just music - be good with money, organizing or leading people, business stuff. When you're not touring, you can fall back on those skills and make a decent buck. Be confident and expect to be challenged. Challenge back. Don't be afraid to be disliked. Know that you're worthy of other people's interest, then work to make yourself as interesting as possible. Be good to your friends. Be professional. And most of all, be true to yourself!” What are some of the things you love about Metal and some of the things that you can do without? Erika: I love everything about metal - the energy, the wonderful people, who make and enjoy it, the freedom of spirit it encourages in all of us. The only things I don't like are the people who say they're into metal, but they don't truly get it. They think, it's ‘cool’ and they like it for about two years. Then they cut their hair, cover up their bad, poorly-planned tattoos, go work as a general manager and have too many kids."

Where can fans buy your music and is there a release date for the new FURY stuff?
Erika: “You can get the IGNITOR CD "Road Of Bones" and all the AUTUMN TEARS stuff at many places online. POSEIDONS ANGER can be ordered direct from the artist. Just google. Release date for FURY? No idea. I was hoping for now, but that's my Type A personality coming out. Timeline on that is looking a lot slower, than I expected. We have four songs done, but they need to be recorded... and we just lost our drummer. So I wait. And you all do too, and for that, I'm sorry.”

I gotta ask you, where did the nickname "Skullgal" come from?
Erika: “It's a silly nickname that started in '99. I collect animal skulls. At various flea markets, where I would shop for skulls, some of the sellers called me ‘the skull girl’. I was visiting Texas a lot at that time, so I shortened up and Texas-ed ‘the skull girl’ into ‘Skullgal’. Almost ten years later, I'm still using it. Funny how stuff sticks.”

Well, I think I have kept you long enough, is there anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Erika: “If anybody knows how to make the day 36 hours long, please let me in on the secret!”

Erika, on behalf of Metal Maidens and myself, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your insanely busy life to talk with us today. You are truly heavy metal, my friend and it was an honor to spend some time with you today. I wish you all the best with your new band FURY and I hope like hell to see you playing live sometime soon.
Erika: “Thanks a million, Nick! And thanks to everyone, who reads this. I know, I yapped a lot. See you in the pit!”

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

Visit their website at: www.skullgal.com/
or My Space: www.myspace.com/skullgal