Karyn Crisis Interview
By: Benjie Stewart
Transformations are key in exploring other realms, and in understanding dimensions within our Self. Karyn Crisis has gone through some transformations over the years, and when Metal Mayhem Underground caught up with her, this what she had to say.
Metal Mayhem Underground: “So what has been going on with you? Is Crisis back together?"
Karyn: "I have been quite busy with many creative projects since I left Crisis: I started my leather business and then closed it down. I began painting in oils, selling my work and exhibiting in galleries. I also began studying many occult practices and Ancient Ways, began training as a Spiritualist Medium, and have become a teacher for beginning Mediums and Advanced Student Mediums (channelers). I've also spent a lot of time just listening to the sounds of the world around me, the undercurrent, and to my heart. Just listening for what my new music should sound like and what it should say. I've found those answers, so I recently decided to make a solo album with Davide Tiso of Ephel Duath, which has become something bigger: it grew from Davide and I working on songs between us, to a band project which is now called Gospel Of The Witches. We recently recorded a full length album with Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me) at The Basement Recording NC in North Carolina and we were able to do that through my crowd funding campaign. We are currently working on the artwork and hand-making all the crowd funding rewards. The other musicians on the album are: Ross Dolan of Immolation, who backs me up on almost all the songs; Charlie Schmid of Vaura on drums, Mike Hill of Tombs offers guest vocals on 2 songs, and Davide Tiso plays all guitars and bass. This is not a one-time album, this is my home now. You can keep an eye on details here:
MMU: "How has the scene changed for you? You were around in the 90's, how is it all different today?"
Karyn: "I haven't really re-entered the scene yet, but from the 13 years I was deeply involved in touring, many things changed. In the early days of my previous band (who is not back together) in 1993, bands were not using the internet to promote themselves, and managers were not really interested in heavy bands. Bands really had to go out into clubs and earn our fans. While there were some scenes which were particularly strong on the east coast, you still as a band had to create opportunities or even create a space in-between scenes. When Crisis began playing out in 1993, we couldn't really find any bands who wanted to play with us, so we looked outside of NYC to blaze a trail. I was also the only woman in a heavy band that I met for years with the exemption of an awesome band "13," which had 3 women. Even the crowds were mostly men, just a few girlfriends. But over time that changed- more women opened to metal, and metal opened to women. The scene also changed and became much bigger, more affluent, and bands began to have management and bigger booking agents; things became less DIY. Also, musical genres began to blend. I can remember when hardcore and metal were very separate in NYC, but then I remember Six Feet Under changing that- bands and scenes started admitting they liked each other, and musical styles became more hybrids. I feel lucky to have "grown up" musically on the east coast, because music there was always hybrid-style, and so very creative, but then it became even more so. But in the early days things were tough, and you had to be prepared to throw down to protect yourself and your band. Things are much different now, and I think music is much more cross-pollinated which is great. "
MMU: "Tell us a little more about the solo album?"
Karyn: "My new band Gospel Of The Witches was supposed to be my solo album. Davide and I have been working on it for five years, trying to listen for the right sounds. We'd been writing and recording songs with that intention. When we finally arrived at what I felt was the atmosphere I'd been seeking with Davide's guitars and some electronics, I began to write the vocals to these 14 songs which had no drums. Previously I'd always reacted rhythmically to drums and atmospherically to guitars. So I began writing extra vocal layers to act as percussion. However, as this developed, Davide played a video for me by Immolation for the track "A Glorious Epoch" and after I watched it I felt Ross's voice just had to be on these songs, acting as the low-end anchor. So then things developed from there into a bigger expression than just a solo album, into a band project, and from just being my vocals to wanting a "death choir" effect in the songs with many layers of vocals. This is my first time working with another vocalist so fully."
MMU: "You are one of the founding females that brought that angry style to the vocals, what is your take on all the females doing that today?"
Karyn: "I've always been outspoken about feeling "the more the merrier" in terms of women in the scene. And it's great to see that women are a natural part of all genres now. But when I joined Crisis and began touring, I never thought of myself as "the only woman here." I was, in my mind, just me: a musician. It was other people constantly commenting on me being a woman that made me realize "oh, I guess I'm different," and I have always found that to be so limiting and annoying. My music is about creative expression; it's not about being a woman, and I think that if anyone looks at any female musician only as being a "woman," then as a listener you miss out on what they are bringing to the table purely creatively. Is it necessary for people to constantly remind me that I am a woman? I'm aware of who I am, but I've never identified myself as simply a "woman" unless I'm in a society who brings that to my attention. So in that perspective, regarding women in the scene, I think it's normal and natural to see women on drums, guitars, fronting bands, and it's how it should be. It's always been that way in other genres of music like noise, pop, etc."
MMU: "What is Karyn Crisis listening to right now?"
Karyn: "Currently I've been listening to my own upcoming album Gospel Of The Witches because we just finished mixing and mastering, and it's being released soon. I'm also anticipating the new YOB, listening to the new Tombs, Behemoth, Wardruna, Immolation, Triptykon, and I also listen to things like Tibetan singing bowls and chanting."
MMU: "Do you like to read? What are you reading?"
Karyn: "Il Triangolo Stregato: Il Mistero del Noce Benevento", by Carlo Napolitano, and "The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic" by Israel Regardie, and a handful of research papers."
MMU: "Will you ever re-master the Crisis albums with bonus tracks?"
Karyn: "It's not something that is currently in the works."
MMU: "Do you have a favorite Crisis album?"
Karyn: "It's difficult for me to choose one over the other, because each one had such a distinct set of circumstances and life experiences that went into its creation. 8 Convulsions was me just being free, reacting to music without having any precedent. I wasn't knowledgeable about metal at that period in my life, and I was just letting my voice do what its nature wanted to do. With Deathshead Extermination, I found myself really listening to rhythms and the in-between spaces of music. Still, my vocals and lyrics had their own will and I just had to allow them to flow out, which was more challenging. I remember I was reading Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" during this recording session, and it opened my perspective somehow on what I was doing as a singer and a larger perspective on life in general. It made me question language: in the book he talks about Angels/Aliens/the Devil all being perhaps the same thing, with only language and perception offering different conclusions. I applied that to my personal pain and suffering as well: strength or weakness, friend or foe…asking myself how I could move more deeply into my suffering and transform it into something empowering. The Hollowing was difficult to write because I was very depressed at the time, and I also had to write while in studio, which is not something I'd done before. The sessions however, were "haunted": during the times when I felt the most "stuck" and in the most despair, I was visited by blinding white light apparitions who calmed me down and helped me complete the lyrics and vocals. Like Sheep Led To Slaughter felt like a triumph of sorts. Its creation came after the band had drummer troubles and even some self-rejection… so this album was us coming back to appreciating our strange style that was meant to be ours."
MMU: "What is the craziest shit you have seen while on tour?"
Karyn: "I think it was on a late-night tour drive, empty on gas in Alabama. We arrived at the only gas station we'd seen for miles. It looked like a scene out of Deliverance, and in fact the dudes inside refused to sell us gas or anything from the shop because either our races or our appearances. Regardless, it was chilling."
MMU: "Thank you for the interview, any final words?"
Karyn: "Thank you for the support! I'm thankful to all the fans who supported the forthcoming Gospel Of The Witches album recording, and I'm excited to get it out into the music world and get on the road!" ∆