Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Karyn Crisis Interview in DECIBEL

Interview: Karyn Crisis
Posted July 7 by Jeanne F. (for full interview)

When NYC’s mystical metal and hardcore hybrid known as Crisis broke up in 2006 after 13 years together, singer Karyn Crisis firmly believed she’d never make another note of music again in her life. The letters "WTF" seemed ever so appropriate. This was a performer whose vocal calisthenics could turn the Matterhorn into kitty litter, and who would work the stage like the Terminator on judgment day. Her catharsis ripped shit to shreds. And she was cashing in her chips. WTF?

So it was with a combination of relief and giddy excitement that the Deciblog received news that the viciously charismatic Karyn Crisis was returning to music with a new project called the Karyn Crisis Band. This is even better news for any unemployed musician: Crisis and her partner, guitarist/songwriter Davide Tiso, have opened auditions to players all over the world via the band’s myspace page. The Deciblog checked in with Karyn to chat about the end of Crisis, the bullshit of the business, her musical rebirth with the Karen Crisis Band, how to properly respond to a crowd member who cries, “Show us your tits,” and her treacherous dreadlocks.

In an old interview, you said that you “seriously doubt[ed]” that you’d get into music after the demise of Crisis. What changed? How did you decide it was time to embark on a new musical project?

When I left Crisis, it was to embark on a journey within. My lyrics have always dealt with this concept; the actions it takes to carry each journey out, what the experiences are on the way to finding a catharsis, and documenting the war… In other words, facing one’s demons, pain, trying to understand them and gain some knowledge with which to carry forward and build a better “me.” This time, I wanted to find a process that would break through the vicious cycle in life of receiving wound, trying to heal wound, receiving wound again. The creative process alone wasn’t enough to bring me peace at the time. I needed to go much deeper to test my limits and capabilities as one does on a vision quest.

For the majority of the time after I left Crisis, I wanted nothing to do with music, the music business, I stopped going to shows, and I felt at the time that I never wanted to sing again. I equated that world with disappointment and pain and was no longer interested in “trying to make it in music” or pursue a life of such great sacrifice. I began to ask myself, before the hiatus, “Can I ever stop sacrificing and just me? Am I going to spend the rest of my life hoping that at some point I’ll make enough money to be able to have the life experiences I want? Will I ever have the time to do other things I want, like painting and being free from working for someone else?” I was also asking why I was dealing with certain idiots; a booking agent had ripped Crisis off for a good amount of money, we had a manager who was working instead to promote his own band and doing shit for Crisis, and I just realized I didn’t want to deal with fucking morons anymore. There was no point to be congenial and pleasant for the sake of dysfunctional relationships. And interviews… stop asking me how I feel about, in your opinion, other female-fronted bands who are more successful than Crisis and instead ask me about my lyrics, my stage performance, my voice, my vision. I had enough and decided I deserved so much more.

At the time of the hiatus I decided the time was now to make the changes I want, and I wanted my own space, I wanted to step out of the rat race, and I wanted to explore other parts of life. I wanted change, and the change had to begin with me. And after that, suddenly I felt compelled to make music, even though I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to. It felt like something I was supposed to do with urgency. Everything I do I do with my sense of integrity.

Tell us about the Karyn Crisis Band. What did the preliminary jams sessions with Davide Tiso sound like?

A common friend introduced us, after I told him I wanted to make a solo album. Meeting Davide was fate, a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience. In many ways, personal and creative, we are symbiots, we complete each other. Working with him is exciting because he’s an incredible songwriter and guitar player who’s always pushing his limits and arriving in fantastic new places. He’s a sonic painter with a dark, haunting, emotive palette. There seems to be nothing he can’t do and hearing what he creates opens new worlds for me. He is super-focused, has an incredible understanding of music, and works fast while at the same time creating profound passages. His songs are more like stories, journeys, which is what can also be said about my lyrics and vocal style. What I’m really excited about is that his sense of rhythm is just as fucked-up as mine, yet distinct, so as I work my way vocally into his songs, I’m treading uncharted territory, the unknown.

At first the plan was for him to be the guitarist and songwriter for the album, but soon enough I told him I wouldn’t want to play the songs live without him. He’s the soul behind those notes and beats, and it would be sad for someone else to be playing them. So then the plan became not for us to develop my solo album, but for us to create a new band together, the Karyn Crisis Band. He decided that not only would he join me as a partner in this creative pursuit, but he’d also join me in day-to-day life, and we married.

Your lyrics and delivery have always been straight from the gut, very passionate, and even gruesome at times. Is the KCB going to remain a vehicle for releasing that energy?

Definitely. The cadence of my lyrics morph depending on where I am at the present moment, but no matter what the subject matter, I think they are always identifiably “me.”

How is the KCB different from Crisis? I'm guessing most people will want to know if this is a sort of Crisis 2.0.

KCB is a new beginning. Comparisons to Crisis are unlikely, except for my voice, I suppose. Vocally, I’m taking up where I left off with Like Sheep Led to Slaughter, which saw me stretching my voice in new ways anyway. Sonically, musically, Davide’s style and finesse are quite different, but have a darkness, a haunting beauty that makes sense for my vocal style. Similarly, his guitar playing is a departure from his band, Ephel Duath. Yet each of us has strong, distinct, unique styles, which are our signatures, and carry over into this new music. So you can expect something difficult to describe.

You put a call out through myspace for musicians interested in auditioning for your new band. Why did you decide to open up the auditions to basically the entire world?

To find some new blood beyond the musicians we already know.

What kind of musicians are you looking for? Like, if I were to audition, what should be on my resume?

Touring experience, history in bands, some knowledge-from-experience of the way the music biz machine works, some knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses.

Do you plan to record a full-length album and tour?

Yes we are writing a full-length and we want to tour as much as possible!

If you were to name a few bands that you’d consider inspirations for the KCB sound, who would they be?

Music and vocals, for us, are definitely not inspired by other bands. In fact, when Davide and I were exchanging ideas at first through email, he’d ask for a color, a short story, some idea or concept for him to create a riff/song around. Music, for us, is meditative in the sense that we are open to the spirits, the aether, and follow those vespers, rather than try to fit into a genre by copying bands.

You’re an absolute inspiration to women in extreme music. People literally didn’t think that a woman could produce that kind of fire and rage so it was extremely satisfying when you got up there and flattened all those misconceptions. What kind of shit did you come up against when you were first starting out?

The metal and hardcore scenes were much more hardcore in those days. Fights would break out easily at shows, and crowds were tougher. Being the only woman in heavy music that male-dominated crowds were seeing/hearing onstage, inevitably I received some “Show us your tits” comments, to which I always replied much nastier, dirtier insults that turned the crowd laughing against the guy who shouted at me. There were a few guys who tried to grab my crotch or threaten me (on stages that were low to the ground, where they were able to get right up in my face), but in those few cases, I used my mic as a weapon and broke a nose, crushed a cheek, and in once case the crowd tackled a guy and ripped all but his jeans off and threw him out of the club. No matter what people thought when Crisis began a set onstage, by the end of the set they showed much respect. Whether or not they understood our strange music, they definitely could indentify with the rage, so there is where we connected.

What albums have you been listening to lately?

Ephel Duath, Colle Der Fomento, Russian Circles, Cult of Luna, Behemoth.

Has your hair ever been responsible for any injuries?

I’ve had a few people tell me that I gave them a welt on the face with my dreads, and I knocked one guy out for the rest of the set when I stage-dove onto him.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to jam with the KCB, email or through