STORM WITHIN: Breaking The Surface

Hailing from Arizona, USA, is the female-fronted band STORM WITHIN, led by front woman Debra Darlene. We already wrote highly positive about their demo release in MM#39, which marks only the beginning of this very promising powerful metal outfit. With their long awaited full-length album due out soon (spring 2006) and bursting out with many great ideas, Debra and her boys gladly agreed to talk about the past, the present and the future of STORM WITHIN....

When did STORM WITHIN get together as a band?
Debra Darlene: “The current line-up has been together since 1999.”

How did you meet up?
“Mike and Benny played together in Arizona. Mike moved to Oregon in 1999, where he met Debra and convinced her to relocate to Arizona, where they re-teamed with Benny. We met Tom through his brother Joe. Joe was once the bassist for STORM WITHIN. Tom is an excellent guitarist and was already a close friend, so he was a natural choice when we decided to add a second guitarist. Justin was in the audience, when we opened for DROWNING POOL. When he heard that we were shopping for a new bassist, he bought copies of our CD and demo, learned the songs in two days, and arranged an audition through our photographer.”

Did any of you play in other bands before STORM WITHIN, and if yes, did you also record with these bands? “Mike and Debra played in a band, called KAPTIN KRUNCH in Oregon. Mike and Benny played in the band REDSTONE in Arizona. Tom played in CROTALUS in Arizona and Justin played in A MURDER DEVINE in Arizona.”

Who came up with the band name and why?
“It was really a collaborative effort. We threw around every name under the sun, until they all began to sound stupid. But we kept coming back around to STORM WITHIN. Everyone can relate to experiencing a ‘storm within’ - whether it be love, hate, jealousy, anger, depression, anxiety, whatever. When emotions build inside and are finally strong enough to break to the surface. That is where the music and the lyrics come from.”

What would be the best description for your music?
“Power! We are not about any certain style of metal. Nothing could be more boring than all our songs sounding the same. Some of our music may be defined as power metal, some may be classified as heavy metal, some may be dubbed doom metal, classic metal, speed metal, and so on. We don’t really try to fit in any one specific genre of metal. We play what we feel and it’s usually dark and heavy, but there’s always the one constant presence of power.”

Who are your influences as a band, and maybe you can also point at the influences of each bandmember individually?
“We can’t say that as a band, we have any specific influences, because we aren’t attempting to sound like any other of these bands. As individuals, we bring a wide variety of influences to STORM WITHIN. Debra’s influences are steeped in classic metal. She is a JUDAS PRIEST fanatic, although she sounds nothing like Rob Halford, but wishes that she did! She’s also a big fan of Bon Scott and AC/DC. Back in the days, there weren’t many female metal vocalists for Debra to look up to, but she’s always been inspired by the stage performances and vocals of TINA TURNER and JANIS JOPLIN. Benny’s influences are Neil Peart (RUSH), IRON MAIDEN and DIO. Justin’s influences are DAMAGE PLAN, PANTERA, ICED EARTH, TOOL & SLIPKNOT. Mike’s influences are hard rock legends, such as LED ZEPPELIN, MONTROSE, DEEP PURPLE, JIMMY HENDRIX and BLACK SABBATH. Tom’s influences are rooted in punk with THE MISFITS, DEAD KENNEDYS and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES; also in speed metal with SLAYER and SEPULTURA. The extreme diversity of our individual influences are merged together to form the sound of STORM WITHIN.”

Your latest demo CD received an excellent review in our magazine. What’s the opinion of some of the other magazines been like?
“A lot of people want to put a label on it. You know, to file it under a category of a specific style of metal, but that’s difficult to do with all the different influences in our music. Reviewers seem to feel obligated to compare Debra’s vocals to another female in metal and seem to point to LITA FORD a lot, although Debra sounds or looks nothing like Lita. We think they may be hesitant to compare her to any male metal vocalists, but we don’t know why. Debra’s vocals are deep, rough, and powerful and are comparable to several male metal vocalists.”

Did you also get any negative reviews and how do you deal with those in general?
“Sure, we’ve received some negative reviews. But you can’t let it get to you. We usually gripe about it to each other for about a week and then let it go. If it is constructive criticism you learn from it, if they are spiteful jabs you bitch about it, then ignore it, and move on.”

Your full-length debut CD was only used to promote the band. How did the press react to it?
“Yes, “Unleashed” was our first CD. We really tried to showcase all the different styles we were writing at the time, so the songs varied in styles dramatically. There were metal anthems, classic rock songs, ballads, funk rock, groove rock, and heavy metal all on one CD. It was kind of hard for people to wrap their minds around and they weren’t able to file us in any one category.”

You already opened for bands like SACRED REICH, TESLA, GILBY CLARK, FLOTSAM & JETSAM, DROWNING POOL, etc. Can you briefly describe your live shows?
“Definitely high energy! We like to interact with the audience, bring them into our world and take them for a ride. Being on stage is what we crave, so when we get there, we give it everything we’ve got.”

What’s the biggest show you ever played?
“We played just outside the Coliseum at the Arizona State Fair, as 20,000 people were coming out of the VELVET REVOLVER concert inside, we ended up with a huge enthusiastic crowd! We are looking forward to the Milwaukee Metal Fest this year, which usually draws around 15,000 and the Locobazooka Fest, which draws around 20,000.”

Do you also play any covers live or just stick to your own penned material?
“At this time we don’t play any covers live. We have been tossing around some ideas, so don’t be surprised if you hear a cover live in the future, or on our next CD.”

What’s the metal scene like in Arizona?
“There are more than ten venues in the valley, that support heavy music, so we have the opportunity to play locally quite a bit. The hardcore and death metal scene seems to be growing in Arizona lately, and apparently about eighty percent of the bands out here seem to be heavy in one way or another, whether it’s heavy metal, heavy rock, hardcore, etc.”

Which other great metal bands come from this area, and did you actually get to meet them, whatsoever?
“Rob Halford of JUDAS PRIEST has a home in Arizona and it seems that everyone in Arizona has met him except for Debra. She’s been waiting ever since she moved here in 1997 to meet her biggest singing idol. Dave Mustaine of MEGADETH lives here, and of course ALICE COOPER. The closest we’ve gotten to him is playing at COOPER’s nightclub in Phoenix.”

Who writes the lyrics for STORM WITHIN, and what are they about?
“The lyrics are usually a collaborative effort and sometimes Debra will write them. We have a few songs that the guys have brought in, that were already complete with lyrics. Our topics cover a variety of subjects. Some are political, some are personal, some have been written for film soundtracks, some are just generally telling the world to f*ck off!”

A few of your songs were used on film soundtracks, like “Rage Of The Werewolf” and “The Damned”. Did you see these movies yourself and what do you think of them?
“Our favorite was definitely “Rage Of The Werewolf”. The first thing you see in the movie are scenes of Coney Island in slow motion with our song “Bad Winds” playing as the opening credits scroll by.”

What’s your fave STORM WITHIN song, and why?
Debra: “Listen”, because it has a real darkness to it.”
Benny: “You Don’t Know Me”, because its a new style for STORM WITHIN.”
Justin: “The Damned”, because the solo at the end is epic.”
Mike: “The Damned”, because it has a mythical story behind it.”
Tom: “Oppression”, because it’s one of the more heavier songs, that we play.”

Are you working on new material yet, and what can people expect from it?
“Yes, we have half of the new CD completed and are working on new material for the second half. You can expect a darker and thicker sound with heavier vocals.”

If you could go on tour with any band of your likes, who would you choose?
Debra: “JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, or OZZY OSBOURNE. They are the metal Gods! It would be amazing to play for the kind of audiences that those bands draw!”
Benny: “VELVET REVOLVER or MOTLEY CRUE.”
Justin: “SLIPKNOT, ICED EARTH and if Dimebag was still alive, DAMAGE PLAN.”
Mike: “DISTURBED, TOOL or MEGADETH.”
Tom: “METALLICA, GODSMACK, or MEGADETH.”

What are the future plans for STORM WITHIN on the short and long term?
“On the short term, we are doing the 2005 U.S. Metal Fest Tour, and recording a new full length CD. On the long term, our goal is to tour the metal fest circuit overseas.”

Debra, what’s it like for you to be a female front lady in a heavy metal band? Do you see many advantages and/or also disadvantages?
Debra: “Out in the scene it comes in handy, since my vocals sound so much like a guy, some people don’t know it’s a female singing on the CD. They don’t realize that I’m in the band, until I get on stage and they see me singing, so I get to overhear a lot of things that people have to say about the band without them knowing that I’m in it. One disadvantage is changing in a dirty women’s restrooms, because there is usually only one room in a bar for all the bands of the night to share. The biggest disadvantage is people thinking that I’m not approachable because my stage presence and vocals are very aggressive! It also sucks, when you get a compliment like: “You’re really good…for a girl”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? “For a girl?” Yeah, f*ck you very much!”

Do you also play any instruments yourself? I saw a few pics in your press kit, where you’re holding a guitar!?
Debra: “Yes, I play rhythm guitar and piano. I have written the guitar riffs for some of our songs, and played guitar on some of our recordings. I used to play rhythm guitar on about half our songs live, before we had a second guitarist, I loved it, but found that it tied me to the mic stand for half the show and I wanted to have more freedom to move, be able to concentrate more on my vocals, and interact more with the audience. I can tell you, that I used to get a lot more respect as a musician, when I played guitar live. Sometimes vocalists don’t get much respect as a ‘musician’, especially if the vocalist is a female one. I seem to be judged more on my physical appearance than my musical abilities, which is total crap, hopefully someday we can get past that kind of prejudice.”

We are a Dutch magazine, focussed on the female rock and metal musicians. Do you think you still need this kind of attention or do you already get the recognition that you earn so well?
Debra: “I don’t know how it is overseas, but in the United States, females in the metal genre definately need this kind of attention. All we are bombarded with in the media is the pop diva syndrome! There are too many BRITNEY SPEARS, J-LO’s, and ASHLEE SIMPSON’s out there. When I was a teenage girl, there were almost no females in the metal genre. I would like for teenage girls in the year 2005 to know, that they can be anything they want to be! They don’t have to follow the popular trends or be a boy toy, they can be powerful in their own right!”

Like we mentioned already, we are a magazine based in the Netherlands. What else do you know about our beautiful country, besides the fact that we have lots of windmills and tulips over here?
“We do know that the Netherlands have a lot of true fans of metal music and we would love to come to the Netherlands to perform.”

How important is the internet for a band like STORM WITHIN, and where can we find the bands website?
“The internet is a tool we use everyday. It is amazing how many people overseas are finding us, hearing our music, and buying our merchandise. We can be found at: www.stormwithin.com.”

Can people also buy the demos there, and do you have other merchandise for sale?
“Right now we are giving the demos as a gift to anyone, who buys a t-shirt from our website.”

Have you found a proper management in the meantime?
“Yes, we are currently managed by Jack Squall Productions, out of Phoenix, Arizona. They will be shopping our new CD this fall, too.”

Do you have any hobbies or interests besides music and playing in a band?
Debra: “Cooking (I think, that’s why they let me in the band! They never go hungry! (lol)”
Justin: “Beautiful women and giving Tom & Benny a hard time, when we are on the road.”
Mike: “Cage fighting, boxing, and chess.”
Tom: “My artwork, and prank phone calls.”
Benny: “Cars, and beating the rest of the bands asses at dominos!”
Debra: “Oh yeah, Benny? But who beats your ass at football? (hehehehe!)”

Your press kit contained a quote of one of the coolest guitar legends ever: TED NUGENT. Did you send him the demo as well?
“We met Ted and he was insane! Ted and Mike hit it off right away, because Mike is crazy as well. We call him ‘Pshyco Mike-O’! Ted really dug our energy and attitude and gave us his approval to cover one of his songs on our first CD. (“Just What The Doctor Ordered”)”

Maybe you can tell us a bit more about the auditions you did for the ‘Ozzfest Band Competition’? Which other bands played there, and did you get to meet anyone of the Osbourne family at all?
“It was crazy hot in California at the time and they wanted everyone to wear their stage clothes, so there we are with five hundred bands in black and leather sweating like crazy. Bands were getting cut at every stage of the auditions, we made it past the personal interviews, the group interviews, the demo reviews, the casting auditions, all the way to the end, but didn’t get the final call back. You can see Debra on some of the ‘Battle For Ozzfest’ episodes though. We didn’t get to talk to Ozzy, but we stood about seven feet away from Ozzy, Sharon, Jack, & Kelly… They all look better in real life than on TV.”

Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview? Maybe we have forgotten something that is essential for the story of STORM WITHIN?
“In addition to our U.S. Metal Fest Tour, we have been chosen for some industry showcases, which will give us the opportunity to travel to more states, and spread the sounds of STORM WITHIN. We will be performing at the ConneXion International Music Festival June 9th – June 12th, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Millennium Music Conference June 24th, 2005 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Indie Expo August 19th – 21st, 2005 in Beaumont, Texas.”

Do you have any personal messages for the readers of Metal Maidens?
“We’d just like to thank all the readers for being loyal to the magazine! It is great to know that there are so many people out there that really appreciate, what women have to offer to the world of metal music! Also, a big thanks to Toine and Rita van Poorten and Metal Maidens magazine! You rock!”

The last words are for you....
“Keep checking the STORM WITHIN website [http://www.stormwithin.com/]. We may be coming your way soon! Send us an email at: stormwithin@yahoo.com or join our friends list on My Space at: http://www.myspace.com/stormwithin. We want to keep in touch with all of you!”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, 2005.

This interview was published in Metal Maidens #40/Summer 2005.