Karyn Crisis a lot of people will know that name from her work in the experimental metal band Crisis which she fronted in the early 90â€™s for almost a decade before they disbanded. Now, after a long absence from music, Karyn is back with a band called Ephel Duath. If the EP, is any indication this is going to be a good collaboration that Crisis fans can get excited about. If this interview is any indication, she seems to have a lot to get off her chest. Ladies and Gentlemen, uncensored and very vocal the one and only metal goddess herself Karyn Crisis…..
1. First off Karyn this is a huge honor, what was your first musical memory that made you want to be a singer and be in a band? Also, who were your influences?
In the early 1980s I began to buy vinyl in the Chicago area, and I gravitated towards albums whose artwork I liked. I was already making my own music with instruments that were around the house and I also gathered scrap metal and drill bits and other things that made sounds. Bands I discovered at this time which had a huge impact on me were: Einstuerzende Neubauten, Cocteau Twins, Gerechtigkeits Liga, a few Japanese noise bands, and Sugarcubes, Sinead O’Connor. I’ve always liked haunting melodies and ethereal vocals, but also the heavy pulsations of certain organic industrial bands. It wasn’t until I joined Crisis in 1993 that I heard any modern metal. I remember wanting to be in a band even when I was in middle school, during which time I’d rent a 4-track from the local music shop and borrow electric guitar from my skater guy friends. I also had a Korg Poly6 synthesizer in those days. I always wanted to create music- when I was very little I wanted to be a Transylvanian gypsy and wander playing my violin. As I grew, and began seeing live shows in Chicago, I knew I wanted to play live. But I was too shy to seek a band. Looking back, I did all my preparation and “vocal training” (which was me singing to singers I liked) in my bedroom and in my imagination.
Skip ahead to 1993 in New York City, I rented a room in NYC photographer Richard Hobbs’ Water Street loft and was borrowing his kitchen knives to record as instruments into my 4track recorder. He heard my music and invited the Crisis guitar player over, who ended up inviting me to audition for Crisis.
2. Even though, you did some side work and put out some songs on social media, this is your first ep/cd in almost 8 years. Did you miss the music scene?
“Not at first, I wanted to have space and time for myself. So many people were ripping me off (singing style, recording style, hair style…) that I wanted to withdraw my presence and let them follow themselves into a circle, let them figure out what to do without me around. With me out of the current picture, I felt all those women would be left to their own sources of creativity and that would naturally give them no inspiration from me for them to rip off. And certainly that occurred: those women became stunted in their styles, or moved onto cheesier expressions. I wanted my space from that, I could feel them feeding off my energy. There were a lot of people who “needed” me, and I was tired of being the one who kept it together while others fell into chaos.
The music scene has its pros and cons, just like daily life. Just recently I’ve missed the scene, but I have to say that my fans have kept in touch with me and have been constantly giving me support during the last 5 years, so I still feel in touch with them. I’ve realized that in life, heavy music fans have offered me unconditional acceptance, which is a beautiful thing. Now that I’ve been singing again, I realize what I missed most is the great connection I feel to the power in my voice. My voice is mighty..and at the same time, i don’t feel so connected to it; i feel more like an observer of channeling that occurs. Thereâ€™s little 5 ft 1 me, who’d rather be hiding in a cave somewhere, still singing and painting and writing, but for the sake of what i learn and experience through these forms of expression. Iâ€™d naturally not like to share, i don’t have that confidence. but when my voice comes out during rehearsal, singing into a pillow in the bathroom, on stage, in studio…it roars out of me…i call it “summoning”, and it’s a great force that literally moves my body and comes out of my heart and throat and it feels amazing, and at the same time i feel it is an independent force coming through my body, and Iâ€™m deeply humbled each time.”
3. What do you think is the biggest misconception about Karyn Crisis?
I don’t know how I’m seen. In the early 90s, there was a humorous discussion with one of the Coalesce members. I was at the bar, holding a fan’s 5 year old daughter and he was drinking a beer. I said “I thought you were straight edge” and he said “I thought you were a junkie”. It was hilarious and we burst out laughing. He’d never been straight edge and I’ve never been a junkie! But somehow those rumors were out there.
4. Is Ephel Deathâ€™s new ep just a one off deal or are you doing more music with them?
I’m part of the band now. The EP was just the beginning. Davide has the entire forthcoming full-length album written. I absolutely love it: I am obsessed with it! The drums are also recorded, and most of the bass. Davide and I will record guitars and vocals in January at Mana Studios in Florida with Erik Rutan. We’d like to go live with the lineup on the album as well. After that, Davide and I want to take the band live, so we’re simultaneously working on building a live band.
5. Also, what does this band mean for the Karyn Crisis band and also Crisis? Are those still things you are doing as well?
We’ve written many songs for KCB, but I haven’t felt like sharing them yet. I’ve been growing in my forms of expression, and I feel like there’s still an element that I haven’t brought to the table there yet. But after Sept 1st, my focus is fully on music and getting ready for studio, so I will be working on KCB as well.
6. Crisis came along at a time that was very different than where we are at today. With all these women fronted bands today, do you think Crisis would have been a different story if it came out in 2004 as opposed to 1994?
This is hard to say! Surely the public’s and record labels’ attitudes had changed a lot by 2004 towards heavy music in general, and towards women a bit. As far as all the members in Crisis, I can speak for the whole gang and say that we weren’t the type of people to be influenced by outside forces when creating our music, so I don’t think a general time period would have influenced our song writing and performing; rather our inner time-line of development changed, but this is natural for any musician or artist who serves their work and listens within. I think Crisis was meant to be a band during those specific 13 years when it was a band. Even these days, Crisis would probably be just as controversial and strange.
7 This is what we call name association but we do it with bands and cds. I will give you a cd or band, and you tell us whatever you want. You may see a trend with this oneâ€¦ha
a. Arch Enemy
b. Crisis-The Hollowing
c. Fear of God
d. Six Feet Under-True Carnage
fight club (inside joke with Chris Barnes)
e. Fury of Five-This time itâ€™s Personal
8. When you play live with Ephel Duath, do you play Crisis songs? Also, would you be game to re-record any of the old songs and maybe put them in an Ephel Duath release in the future?
No. Crisis is a wonderful entity who lives on through the people who play its cds. But I’m not interested in re-living the past nor re-creating it. Life is ongoing and I’m excited to be a part of Ephel Duath-fucking excited! I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel that “summoning” happening within me, blasting energy out of me in connection to the music. Ephel Duath is a band whoâ€™s had a decade-plus long history-why would ED become a cover band? Makes no sense.
9. We will start this off with beside your current cd you are promoting, because that is always the answer for questions like this. What is to you the best song you ever recorded, and also the best cd you ever recorded?
Hmm this is such a difficult question to answer being many years past those studio events. Each song has its surprises and challenges in recording. When Crisis recorded “8 Convulsions”, actually as a song cassette at first, I recorded the vocals for “Drilling Me” in one take, which is unusual for a singer to be able to do it perfect in one pass, so that was exciting. When I recorded “Fires of Sorrow” in New Orleans, I had tears pouring down my face (the song was about the ghost of my father who passed just as I joined Crisis). I was having trouble writing lyrics, while in studio, for “Surviving the Siren”, and I was visited by this intense beam of light that broke through my creative block. Most interesting of all for me recently has been recording for Ephel Duath: for the ep in studio I felt the same sonic power surging through me that I did in Crisis. After taking so many years off I wondered if I’d ever feel that power moving through me again, that power of my voice surging through me. I don’t feel like it comes just from me, so I was curious if it was just related to Crisis or if it was more related to me…and I’ve found that same energetic surge when I sing for Ephel Duath, which is so damn awesome! So for recent songs that were surprising, “Raqia”, “Black Prism” and “Stardust Rain” brought my voice back to me ! Before that, I wasn’t sure I wanted to sing again.
No. Everything that happened was for a reason; all the choices made all the responses.
11.1997-2004, you go from NYC to California, Crisis go thru a name change of sorts before going back to their original name. Then we get Like Sheep led to Slaughter, did you guys know at the time going into this record that this would be the last record? Was the band getting along at the time, because during this period there were a few lineup changes and no talk at all out the Crisis camp?
I’m not sure what you mean about “no talk”, because Crisis was busier than ever doing interviews, being on MTV (our videos as well as interviews) and other music video programs at the time, and touring the country and Japan during LSLTS. In terms of talking about line-up changes, we’d always given much support to new members in press..maybe at that time we were getting weary of always supporting someone who only stayed around for a short while. Any band who changes members knows the great burden of work it takes to get them up to speed on not only the songs, but on the band’s way of doing things. Younger generations aren’t used to “paying their dues”, and have a sense of entitlement that needs to be broken. They can mistakenly interpret internal support and encouragement as being instantly born into a rock star. Crisis wanted to keep busy on the road no matter what, which often meant bringing people with good hearts but weak characters into the fold. Bands are just starting to talk, in interviews, about all the sacrifice and very hard work it takes to stay on the road and stay busy as a band…but I think for a while there people mistakenly thought being in a band was easy.
12. Ephel Duath is doing a meet and greet after a gig. ( Karyn this never turns out good trust me) You meet a guy who is your biggest fan, and would love for you to sign this old Crisis cd, and he pulls out an illegal burn of it. What would you say or do?
I’ve done many meet n greets, spent a lot of time at the merchandise table. Mostly met really great people, and I’d have missed out on that had I not… except for the guy who grabbed my ass…I grabbed his balls and squeezed till I felt my fingers meet and then he ran, limping, away. Horrible ball sack, but everything turned out just fine for me.
I’ve been ripped off by so many people: lyrics, vocal style, hair style, bigger bands ripped off Crisis riffs and drum patterns, so seeing someone rip off a “non-bought” version of an album, it will happen. I’m not into waging a war on peoples’ behavior. Sure, it would be nice if all the people who claimed to support Crisis actually did come out to shows instead of just “saying ” they support the band, and if they all bought albums…but that didn’t happen, so I just keep doing what I do and let others do what they do. Focusing on the negative is just distraction from moving forward. None of us can control everything, we can just control how we react and respond and move on.
13. What advice would you give a young lady who comes to you and tells you she wants to be just like you when she grows up and front a metal band?
I’d say “Following the leader will wear you down.” On tour in the early 90s, a girl came up to me and told me that she was going to be just like me. She said she could sing like me and she was going to become famous and take over and there’d be no use for me. She ended up becoming a model instead, never singing, and is currently single. So my advice would be: be yourself, celebrate who you are instead of trying to be like someone else, because it will just ring unauthentic, and it will rob you of your own very awesome life experience. Have goals and dreams based on what makes you excited. No one will ever be able to be just like me, because I am me. And I am a force because I face my fears with humitlity and am able to connect to a great source of power outside myself. I honor that connection I have and I don’t have any need to try to be like someone else, I aim to be the best “me” I can be. I am coming from a place of pure emotion and sometimes that emotion makes me vulnerable, sometimes unstoppable, sometimes magnetic…for me it’s about taking that risk to be me, even if “me”: is weird, doesn’t fit in anywhere, causes controversy. I do it to give my heart a voice.
14. You have been on tour with a virtual whoâ€™s who in music. Of all the singers and bands you have hit the road with in your history, who was the best and who was the worst? And why were they one or the other. (And please if you name Eric Forrest led Voivod for some odd reason as the worst, take it easy on him his ex-band mates have dogged that man out enough for everyone in this lifetime.).
Eric Forrest was one of the best singers I’ve ever heard live! His voice has awesome power, and I really like his natural style. He’s also a warm person, funny, genuine, sincere. He put up with a lot of assholes giving him the middle finger from the audience and he carried on like a pro. He also almost died touring, so anyone who was something negative to say can fuck off. We’ve kept in touch over the years. All the guys in Exodus were awesome, Morbid Angel was cool, and all the local bands were great. There were plenty of people who were assholes, but the nice thing is that whoever tried to mess with me or my band was served instant karma by the universe.
(Eric Forrest getting some Karyn Crisis love on a interview…this is awesome sauce..Make new music Eric you are so missed..Eric’s stuff with Voivod the best that band has ever recorded)
15.See, I usually ask people if music did not happen for them, what would they fall back on but Crisis fans know you are an artist as well. So I decided to change the question, if you continued doing art and did not record this new ep, would you have been content?
No, I was ready to make music again, and that’s the “rule” I follow with all my projects: if I am feeling passionate about doing something, I do it. I am not able to just do “one thing”…my curiosity for learning and wanting to push my own limits take me all sorts of places, and I strive to do my best in each realm. But singing…I wasn’t ready for a long time. I didn’t “feel” it. Now that Ephel Duath has brought me to feel connected to my voice again, I am ready to go!
16. Do you consider yourself inspirational to the females of todayâ€™s heavy metal?
I think if anyone were to consider them an inspirational person it would put a lot of pressure on his or her personality, and potentially create a monster ego. I do what I do to feel authentic and true to myself, if that’s inspirational then wonderful, but if I were to “try” to be a certain way like “inspirational”, then I’d be attempting to behave according to a set of someone else’s deinifition of “inspiration” and that could get messy.
17. What was the last cd you had to go out first day of release and buy? Also, (without naming anything you are on) what is the greatest cd of all time to you?
I don’t buy records 🙁 But Davide bought me the new Cattle Decapitation which I love, and Wardruna.
Greatest cd: Einsuerzende Neubauten “Halber Mensch”.
18. Letâ€™s be honest, bands from the 70â€™s and 80â€™s are not going to be headlining arenas forever. Do you see any bands in the last decade at least in your opinion who could be the next Metallica, Slayer or even for that matter Sabbath? If so, who?
This is the wrong person to ask this question of. In the last 10 years I’ve hardly been to any shows.
19.If the opportunity presented itself which it often does, would you be down to do reality tv? American Idol with you as a contestant would be much watch tv Karyn.
No thanks. I haven’t owned a TV in 6 years or so. American Idol with you as a contestant would be must watch tv, hahaha. That kind of culture is so depressing and repulsive, but years ago I saw some episodes and confess I love the way Simon shatters peoples’ illusions.
20. Most fans when you mention Crisis; it is always the Captain Howdy cover. Which is an interesting story, you seemed to have a fan in Dee Snider, besides the cover song your music was featured in Strangeland in one scene. Meeting Dee Snider did you get star-struck or better yet do you get star-struck? If so, who else?
Really? I think it depends on where those fans live. I think most fans don’t know about that song. I don’t get star-struck. I think it’s because I have a general disdain towards what is deemed “authority” or anything that is determined “star- worthy” or “superior” by someone else. I determine what is inspirational to me. There are many people I admire and who inspired me based on their attitudes, work ethic, etc. At the time, I had a housemate who was a comedian, and he was hysterically funny. He was a metal head, and had begun using more metal references in his act. So I arrived home one day and he told me Dee Snider left a message on my answering machine and I just thought he was joking around! But in fact Dee left a long message and when I spoke to him he was super nice, told me I reminded him of him when he was younger, and wanted to use “methodology” and have crisis do a cover of “captain howdy'” for his album. In fact later the band’s lawyer showed us some internal correspondence between the label and legal teams, and the label that put out the soundtrack for Strangeland didn’t want crisis on the cd, but it was Dee who pushed to have Crisis included. Then when Strangeland had the movie premier in NYC, Dee invited Crisis to play and he personally introduced himself to the band before going on and asked if he could introduce us to the audience. A real gentleman, and very down to earth and gracious and naturally funny.
21. Do you think it is a positive or negative for females in music to be judged more from their looks and body, then their music?
Jesus fucking Christ this is so boring to me now. Let’s not discuss AGAIN the implications for “sex sells”, it’s been done to death. You’ve heard the expression “be the change you want to see in the world?” I didn’t know it when I was growing up, and at the same time I saw all sorts of inequality and judgment AROUND ME and I rejected it. So i decided at a very young age to be the alternative in life that I wanted. I did want people to see me a certain way and I didn’t want people to see me a certain way, and my lifestyle choices reflect that (not just my image…) People will always judge, and sex will always sell, and as long as you’re not trying to make me fit your ideal, I don’t care what turns you on or off. It’s simple: if you don’t like something, don’t contribute to that, be the change or the difference you’d like. Because you cannot change society, it’s too inbred.
For being in the music biz 20 years now that’s all people want to ask me. Women-issue questions. I am not a woman-issue singer. Just forget I have a pussy ok? Ask me something about music or lyrics, or whatever. Because for all the people who think I’m an alien for being a woman in metal, there are thousands of others who embrace me for being the bizarre and creative singer and powerhouse of a lyricist that I am. Yes, I was a force to be reckoned with live, and so very unique, and now I’m back, and yes, people will be saying all sorts of things about my looks, but it won’t stop me. I mean, people will tell you well it brings fans to the band, but I think it sends out the wrong message. I mean, letâ€™s be honest if the females looked like Kerry King or Chuck Billy, you know they would never be mentioned for anything, probably not even a review. haha it’s true: a quick look at Blabbermouth photos and it’s mostly fat, balding me and you never see comments about these old guys trying to live a rock start nostalgia career, with all their eye bags and beer bellies and terrible fashions. But most of my inspirations are men, and men just do metal better, and I don’t worry about their looks, I connect with their music or lyrics or art.
I get what you are trying to do with this interview: get me credit where credit is overdue, and I truly appreciate that. I can tell you genuinely feel Crisis and Karyn Crisis, specifically, deserved much more acclaim and credit for doing all sorts of “new” things for metal like having a female front person who didnâ€™t’ rely on sex appeal but who was unnervingly raw and different and that the band brought emotion to metal and creativity and that yes, famous people knew about Crisis and didn’t do much to support us, and yes, people ripped us off and many people ripped off Karyn Crisis, her lyrics, her vocal style. But it’s OK! Because I am a warrior, and there has never been and will never be another like me. It doesn’t matter if no one ever comes to support me from within the music biz, because I do what I do for larger reasons than attention and commercial success. Trust that I’ve known since I was a small child that I’m on my own. I have a husband who is one of the greatest composers out there and we support each other and that is enough for me, because he really sees who I am inside and out and loves all of that. Thank you, for your support also, but Crisis days are over and while it’s sad the band didn’t get more support, there’s no changing that now. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown a lot, and I’m still taking life by the balls and rocking it.
22. It is time for you to fill in the blank. .
1. Your life story is being written, the first sentence in the book is my biggest regret in life is ___________. What would be your answer?
Who has time for regrets? Seriously. Why hold onto events from the past when the past no longer exists? And if you remain there with your thoughts and emotions, you also remain that person from the past. Certainly there are things I would’ve done differently, but those opportunities are done. They all revolve around me wishing I’d have spoken up against peoples’ bullshit rather than remaining polite. But now I prefer to stay in the moment of my passions, softly dream of possible futures, remain flexible to various outcomes, but overall stay connected to the wisdom within myself that keeps me passionately creating, learning, inventing, expressing.
23. Do you view places like Wal-Mart and Best Buys as true record stores? Also, what about iTunes?
I think these days it’s great to be able to get cds and records wherever we can, since they seem to be a dying light. It’s frustrating to hear people say they can’t find my music… so it’s awesome to have the music available and bands to get paid. While those stores aren’t “record stores” , and can’t replace the magical treasure-hunting like vibe a record store has, they are definitely places to get records!
24. You played one of the last shows in CBGBâ€™s, you recorded a cd in New Orleans, and you have toured the world and got major love from Dee Snider. So far in your career, what has been the highlight?
I’d say there are many highlights. As I look back, I realized I reached all my goals and then created new goals and reached those as well. For example: I always wanted to play CBGB, and I did. then I wanted to be on tour-I was, …then my goal was “to sell out CBGB and have a line with a barricade in front (meaning, SOLD OUT SHOW with people waiting and hoping to get in), then that happened, then to tour Europe happened, to play other larger venues, that happened, to tour Europe and Japan, that happened…etc etc…
25. Do you still enjoy playing live? Do you still get nervous before going out before a crowd?
I LOVE playing live, and the more hostile crowd the better. I am never intimidated onstage. I trust that when the music starts I will be “plugged in”. Beforehand I sometimes feel nervous if I am tired or if I need to use the bathroom and can’t get to one. haha. I think all singer can related that it’s necessary to feel “emptied out” before a set, and if feeling tired the worry is having enough energy, but whenever the music starts, feel energy surge through me and I am just the vehicle. But I don’t get nervous for crowds, and I don’t get star struck, I have a general competitive attitude towards any type of authority or situation that tries to put people on “different levels”.
26. What is the goal of Ephel Duath?
Davide is the driving force behind ED. While I encouraged him to begin the band again after moving to the US, he is the creator of the songs, the atmosphere, and decides what he wants to do with his music. And he’s a genuine person in that way: he honors his creative process. He NEEDS, in his blood, to keep writing and recording. He is happy doing it alone, but he is also so grateful when others want to be a part.
27. Do you think the Karyn Crisis of 2012 could do 8 Convulsions? Also do you think the Karyn Crisis of 1993 could do Ephel Duath?
28. What is the most embarrassing cd that you are a fan of and listen to, but would never admit to anyone before or after this interview you are a fan of?
Perhaps the most embarrassing thing is that I don’t listen to much music at all! For example, Davide is a sincere metal fan: he listens to so much music, knows so many bands, types of instruments, sounds, has favorite bands, goes to shows avidly, and I don’t do any of those things. It’s not because I don’t like music, I just come at it from a different place. People always want to know what I’m listening to, and I usually have to be honest and say “nothing”! I appreciate all sorts of music, but for some reason I listen to almost no music every week. I’m listening to new Cattle Decapitation, before that Gojira, before that Wardruna…
29.Karyn Crisis is the new President of the United States it was a landslide victory. So, how would you solve the recession problem?
Jesses, well, for starters I’d like to change society on the whole to a system of responsibility: you commit a crime, you are not just punished, but rather you are made to realize the chain reaction of your action and have to make efforts to correct that action. That makes you understand the larger picture. If you are a junkie but decide to breed (which I see i SF all the time), then you take responsibility for getting yourself clean and taking care of the life you created. You are homeless, then get your shit together and stop asking everyone to take care of you, especially in California where the Gov’t enables them by giving them free pills that they trade with each other and other freebies that create this “entitled” mentality where then these same homeless junkies demand money and will actually stab people to get it. You will recycle, you compost, and you take responsibility for your waste and what you consume. Society is too much “throw away” culture, and I think making everyone take responsibility for their own actions changes perspective really quickly…action, response, action. Once that mindset is changed only then can values change and values about the economy. The government is a distraction. There is no democrat or republican and Obama is a sham. Heâ€™s a used car salesman- great speaker but if you look at what he’s really done he’s not come through on his own claims. Thereâ€™s not much anyone can do to change world governments at all, but we can change life closer to our doorstep. This opinion is based on all the fucked up shit I see happening here in California. San Francisco, for example, is a real garbage dump of humanity and a real example of how dangerous enablement can be. While I also know homeless people who’ve decided to live that way and take responsibility for their own actions, I see that most people here in this city, whether young and wealthy or junkie and homeless, have a sense of entitlement based on nothing, based on the mentality of laziness. If you make a choice, stand behind it.
30. What is your worst bad habit?
I have a hard time relaxing. I am so excited to learn and research and experience that I donâ€™t have an “off” button.
31. I will say thank you a million times, and that I love you so much and your music and career has been amazing, thank you for a second interview. This is your time, Karyn. Promote, plug and push…thank you so much.
Well it’s my turn to thank you for your sincere and intense support! And I’m happy to say that I’ve indeed had an amazing career, but it’s also beginning again now! So I look forward to meeting you again on the road in the future. We’re working on the new full length Ephel Duath album now. Davide and I are building a touring band now, and we can’t wait to get on the road. In January we’ll be at Erik Rutan’s Mana Recording Studio in Florida, so keep an eye on lots of studio updates from there. We’re so excited to record the new album and then plan to get out on tour.
This is what I call an interview, Karyn did not hold back. I knew from my experience of doing a live interview with her in 1999 for an old site, that she would be nothing short of fun and wanting to talk. That is the fun thing about Karyn, give her a chance to be herself and talk, and she will entertain the hell out of you. Check out Ephel Duathâ€™s new ep.