Several hours before the concert at the Color Line Arena in Hamburg, I met HOLYHELL's Maria Breon and Joe Stump, who turned out to be very nice conversational partners. During our pleasant talk 20 minutes passed without notice. |
Nat: Nice to meet you here in Hamburg. More than half of the tour is over now, I think, how did the audiences welcome you so far? Do you look forward to the end of the tour or is it plain fun playing this tour?
Maria: It's definitely great! The response from the crowd has been overwhelmingly wonderful, just a really great welcome. And it went by too fast.
Nat: Will there be more dates afterwards, festivals?
Maria: Yes, there's a lot of discussions, especially because there has been such a great reception from the different crowds, but nothing final yet.
Nat: There are a lot of statements about MANOWAR being fine guys, touring with them being great and so on. I heard that from different bands over the years. But how is it to be on tour with MANOWAR as a female? Because people not liking MANOWAR so much kind of accuse them of not treating women too nicely sometimes...
Maria: Well, we have definitely been treated very well as a band and I as a female also. With so much respect, absolutely no complaints. As a matter of fact Joe was just saying how lucky we are yesterday.
Joe: Yeah, as Joey (DeMaio) produced the whole HOLYHELL record and HOLYHELL is on SPV/Magic Circle Music we get the full treatment. More than a usual support act we get full production: we get full light, we get soundcheck, we get pyros. Although our first album is going to come out a few months afterwards, we get touring on a very high level with all of the advantages that huge bands like MANOWAR and other bands on that level have. So we were surely blessed.
Nat: You have been on tour with huge acts before.
Joe: I have, yes. I have played shows with a lot of bands, playing many different places and so on. Many times, especially if you are the support act, you really don't get much of anything, you know; sound, light, food... Here we get the full treatment just like anybody else on the bill, so we are very lucky.
Nat: Maria, you have a classical education as a singer. What way did you come to Metal?
Maria: I began studying privately from a very young age. When I became older, time for college, I went to a conservatory and studied there for several years performance and vocal technique. It was very important for me to learn how to sing 'the proper way'. Then I wanted to take that and it was always my dream to have a rockband and so here we are.
Nat: Do you still study?
Maria: I still study. I work with Francisco Palomo our pianist and keyboard player in the band. He is really, really great and he is very well studied himself. So we are able to continue our education together as far as vocalizing goes.
Nat: Joe, you are on the other side, you are a teacher at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Joe: Ah, yes, I am a professor of Metal. (smiles)
Maria: Oh, I love it!
Nat: Is that an official title?
Joe: The official title is "Assistant Professor", but I am the Metal specialist there, yes, so everything, whether it is Speed Metal or shredding or, you know, any high tech guitar - I'm the guy. I've been there for about 14 years now.
Maria: "Professor of Metal" - I love that! (laughs)
Nat: By the way - is Tom (Hess, 2nd guitar) Rob Halford's younger brother?
Joe: Hihihi... (laughing) yeah, the unknown love child... hehehehe...
Nat: When I saw the pictures on your website, I thought "hm! Reminds me of someone".
Maria: (laughs) Yes, a lot of people think that.
Joe: So, I'm sure, at some point we will be doing some shows with the PRIEST. (laughter) Nice for Rob to have a son out there, hehe.
Maria: Yeah, many people say that. There is much similarity. When we started with the band it started right away and it's so funny.
Joe: Well, everybody looks like somebody, some people will say, you know what I mean? I've heard all kind of things from Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) to Nicky Sixx (MÖTLEY CRÜE).
Nat: I'm thinking about that as well, since I saw the promo pictures, but I couldn't figure out so far, who I think about. But back to HOLYHELL. At one point in the lyrics you sing "the time is right for me now". Why do you think the time is right for HOLYHELL now?
Maria: Well, there has been so much effort put into this band. We really wanted to bring super musicians together and I think by the response we are getting and the way things are unfolding that the time is definitely right for the band. The response is very welcomed and very appcreciated.
Nat: Where do you think you are placed musically, between what other bands or genres would you place your style?
Maria: I really think HOLYHELL is kind of a band of its own. It's been a lot put into it and I don't think people can really say 'they are following this band' or 'the vocalist sounds like this person' or 'the Shreddlord [Joe's nickname] is shredding like this guy', you know? Because it is our own unique things that we bring to the forefront. This was very important for me and it was also very important for Joey. As the Shreddlord became involved it was very important for him as well.
Joe: As far as the band comparison goes you cannot necessarily compare it to other female fronted bands. Of course in the music there are elements of European Power Metal and that's been done by dozens and dozens of bands, but it's also traditional Metal elements in it and old school Metal elements. She doesn't just sing like up radical, like many other female fronted bands where the singer sings one way many times. She can sing very heavy and then she can sing upradic. It all depends on the track, here the slow and heavy stuff, then the European Power Metal style and on the record there are going to be a lot neoclassical things. So it's a big mix of a whole different schools in Heavy Metal. It's cool, because it's gonna appeal to all different types of fans. There will also be the Satanic Guitar, because fans of my old records could think 'Joe is in this new band and he is not doing any guitars', but there will be guitars. So it really appeals to a wide audience.
Nat: You already played 'The Phantom Of The Opera' live. Does this kind of classical but rocking music match your style on the whole?
Maria: It really encompasses something that I really like, because - of course I studied 'The Phantom Of The Opera' and a lot of the modern opera pieces. So for me to bring this to heavy music - what, you know, other bands have done before - is very cool, because you're bringing two worlds together and it's a very powerful result. As far as being something that we always do, I think it's part of the integrity of the band, but not something that will define us.
Joe: You will see on the record - maybe not that much on the EP, but on the upcoming record - especially Francisco is a classically trained pianist, his father is a classical violine virtuoso, so all the tunes that will come out are composed by myself and him and his style is especially epic and classically pinched, so it's definitely got some of that bottom. We have some very heavy shit on the record as well, it's a nice mix.
Nat: I'd like to come to the person of Joey DeMaio and his role. Did he put the band together or how did HOLYHELL get together? I think you are of different origins?
Maria: Basically, it started several years ago, when Joey and I met in a studio in the north-eastern part of the United States. He was working on the "Hell On Stage" livealbum. Through a mutual friend engineer I came to present a demo to him and that's basically where it started. From there it was really important for me to find someone to learn from in rock business, and Joey's in his own class about touring and so on, you know. That's where the band thing really started for me. I wanted to put a rockband toghether with this kind of singing. Then over the course of the years it was finding songs and musicians. Once we really found the power players like the Shreddlord himself, he was a very important part of the team. As soon as the things started to get together, so did the songs and so on. So Joey's role is an array of things: development, production, writing and all around learning from touring to designing a concept, all these things. It's... a lot and enough, just take that, haha, you can imagine!
Nat: He probably knows very well how this business works.
Maria: Very well. And we all are very thankful for the education we do definitely receive from him and all the MANOWAR guys, you know, it's not just Joey. I learn a lot from Eric and we all learn a lot.
Nat: Except for Joe, maybe.
Maria: Haha, yeah, he's been around - I'm just a little baby compared to his experience!
Joe: You know, these guys have been around since the conception of Metal. Looking at that, Joey's one of the forefathers of Power Metal. From somebody like that who is a hell into the business, somebody who's a true legend, you can always skin up, you're never too old to learn some tricks. This guy has a very definite vision for the band, him and Maria especially. When they started to put things together, the imagery and the look of the band, there's a lot of inspiration from there.
Nat: By the way of the image of the band. Do you know the Italian band THE DOGMA? They released their debut "Black Roses" last year and your imagery kind of reminded me of them. The sound is not too similar, but anyway, I thought you might now them.
Maria: Hm. No, never heard of this band. A female fronted band?
Nat: No, a male singer. OK, especially you, Joe, are busy with teaching, and Maria, you probably also have another job or do you do this for living?
Maria: I am very focussed on the band, 100 percent. A lot of it has just been developing the boys and keeping in shape and learning about the business and these things. It's definitely been full time around.
Nat: Do you get together for rehearsals?
Joe: Yeah, before the tour there will be rehearsals, we fly in and the band overhears many hours per day for a period of time and then when we arrived in Germany there were rehearsals for days after that. So yeah, of course, it's not like "Let's all meet in Germany, enter the stage and fire up, turn the lights on!", hahaha!
Nat: Of course, but the songs are not written and arranged at rehearsals with the band.
Joe: Ah, well... [get's interrupted by the promoter coming in and setting us a limit of another 2 minutes] ...a lot of this stuff, the upcoming record, has been put together like Francisco has his tracks and I have the tracks that I wrote and either of us will do demos in a studio. Joey has also a hand in a couple of things to the tracks and saying like 'how about you change the form a little, the arrangement a little' and so he has his hand in that as well, but of course the material of the upcoming record has been developed by the band.
Nat: Maria, are you involved in writing the lyrics for example?
Maria: Well, I am involved in the conceptual, ehm...
Nat: So there is a concept on the album?
Maria: Well, I would say it's really a concept for the band, you know. I have personally always been interested in the dark and light side. Sometimes it can be a seemingly deep subject, but yet so simple. That was the whole concept of the bandname HOLYHELL, this angels and demons, darkness and light. So a lot of that I do have very strong hand in with Joey. But as far as the lyric writing goes I am still learning and it's very important for me to have quality songs to sing, so I like the idea of people, who are educated professionals doing this, because when someone new comes in and tries to do things, it sometimes brings the level of something down. I believe in bringing it up and letting great things happen.
Nat: Okay, to come to the end, because they are already pushing us...
Maria: Yeeeaaaaahhhh, do they...? [sorry]
Nat: ...what else is important for our readers to know about HOLYHELL?
Joe: Eh, well, the single is out and it is a nice introduction to the band, it's certainly a quality product. It does represent a portion of what the band is capable of. The record will be that much stronger, will have that much larger impact. And when it comes to seeing the band live - we certainly deliver! So you cannot go wrong; record, live...
Maria: Haha, I like that, I second that!
Nat: I look forward to tonight...
Maria: It was a pleasure talking to you, thank you so much!
Nat: ...and wish you much fun tonight and thank you.
Joe: You have fun in the audience tonight! Thanks.