Monday, September 10, 2018

interview: Dracena (part 3)

This is an interview with Dracena, extreme metal from Sweden that began in 1994. The interview has been done in segments. The person answering the interview is Mia, who is the creative force behind Dracena. The objective is to do an extensive interview that covers the past and present of Dracena, whose most recent work is called Cursed to the Night (2017).
The previous parts of the interview are found below, and after that, is the new segment. This is not the last part of the interview. There will be more!
Previously we discussed the 2017 album Cursed to the Night, and looked back at the 1980s and also we began looking into the 1990s, leading into the Demo ’97 recording.
Before we continue to 1997 and after, can you help us understand how the idea of an all-female line-up came up?
The idea to seriously form a female metal band took shape during a party. Almost all our friends played in bands from the Gothenburg scene and during this evening, while we listened to their albums, me and some friends thought it would be a cool thing to start a band of our own with only girls. It was quite easy to start up since I already played with some other female friends and we also rented a rehearsal room. We shared the room with a few other bands, for example Sacramentum and Swordmaster and therefore we had a complete back-line available to use with drum set and amplifier.
So, we just went to the rehearsal room, everybody chose what instrument they were interested to handle and we started to play covers and write our own material. At this time we had no band name and we never decided to play any specific kind of genre, but because we all listened to heavy, black, thrash and death metal we ended up playing a more extreme kind of metal.
All members during the years have been close friends and the band was basically an extra activity for us to hang out and have fun and play and create the metal we loved to listen too. Dracena would probably have continued to be all female if we had had the chance to find a good enough female drummer which fit with the band and style.
Of course, nowadays Dracena is not an all-female entity. Now that you are older, and that you have lots of experience with the complete process of music, from writing to recording, from money matters and the music business, how has your thinking changed/ matured about Dracena about whether you work with men or women?
Most of the music industry (not only in metal) is dominated by men, labels, music stores, management, studios etc., which makes it difficult to not work with men. If there was a 50/50 choice for me to work with a man or a woman I would go for the most competent person in every case. In my opinion, gender has no important role in music, it’s all about talent, dedication and being able to cooperate with other egos. Playing the extreme genres of metal is a level you’ll never reach without sacrificing a lot of social and family time. As any art form, it demands a certain dedication and hours of practise and rehearsing, to be able to play with speed, technique and tightness/rhythm.
I would love to have an all-female band, but I think it would be difficult to form such a line-up, even today there’s still so many more guys than girls playing metal that it would be easier to find a male musician who would suit the demands.
In your own experience, what has happened that Dracena had ended up as a solo project with friends helping out with drumming and solos?
After the permanent line-up broke up in 2002 I haven’t felt that I needed a full band to be able to write and record. The possibility to afford to buy and build a studio and record at home made it easier to become a one-person band. I can record all instruments myself and rehearse them one at a time at home with head phones and re-write and develop the songs anytime I feel like it. When I engage other musicians I can share the songs online and we can work from our own homes as well as sit in a rehearsal room. On the other hand, when, sometimes, the progress of the material slows down and the ideas dry out it is nice to have other persons helping out with the writing and adding their touch to the songs as well. I do not dictate the way my studio musicians should play their drums or guitar solos, just indicate a direction and let them work their magic, which has worked out excellent this far.
Have you ever wondered about what has motivated you to continue while other people stopped?
Metal is my life and to be able to create my own music and lyrics and albums is just awesome! It’s much like writing a book or painting a picture and when it’s finished it doesn’t matter if anyone likes it or not, it’s something I have created and given my soul to.
Luckily, I have fans who appreciates my work and gives me great feedback which keeps me on track when things get heavy.
I think it’s sad when great musicians/bands can’t make a living on their art. Even when they are on big tours and signed to large labels they don’t seem to make the money they deserve. Being forced to have a job on the side is killing creativity, and a society without art and music is a dead place to live in. Buying music and merch through legal channels ensures your favourite bands to survive.
Going back to the times of the demo, can you tell us more about the 1997 demo?
In 1997 we’ve had the longest lasting line-up so far and with great anticipation we booked a studio to record three of our original songs and the Venom cover.
The track list and line-up is:
2.Dark River of My Soul
4.In league with Satan
MiA - guitar & vocals
Emma - guitar
Camilla - bass
Karin - drums
We chose to record a cover because when Dracena played live we always had a Venom cover on the set list, usually “Countess Bathory” but we thought ”In league with Satan” fit better on this demo. The title wasn’t very original, Demo ’97 and the only official release has been a limited edition cassette tape of 100 copies. The demo sold out quickly and we started to get reviews and interviews in zines like Slayer Mag and Swedish Close Up and soon earned a reputation in the underground scene.
What happened with the line-up of the demo after the demo was recorded?
Camilla and Karin (Deathwitch) decided to leave the band sometime after the first demo was recorded, as I recall they moved away from Gothenburg. We already knew Asa and she started to handle the bass almost immediately but we had trouble finding a female drummer who played our kind of metal. For a year or so we had Terror (Sacramentum/Runemagick/Necrocurse) as a session drummer during rehearsals and gigs and he also plays on the Demonic Women demo from 1999.
Who was the line-up for 1999’s Demonic Women. By the way, this demo shows a tighter, much more black metal sound. It has good melodies. Do you remember who is playing some keyboards on this demo? Where was this demo recorded? In your opinion, how had your vocal style changed from the first demo to the second one? What about your guitar playing from the first to the second demo?
We still didn’t have a permanent drummer in 1999 so the line-up was me (vocals/guitar), Emma (guitar) and Asa (bass) and we had help from Terror to play the drums on the Demonic Women demo. Terror also played the few keyboard melodies.
This demo was recorded at Andy La Rocque’s studio Los Angered as we wanted a professional studio where we could get a good metal sound and we knew that Andy would be great working with as well. We had a great time recording this and it was a really cool experience!
Musically we had developed a lot since our first demo and also starting to shape the Dracena-sound. The material was better, we all have influences from different genres and our favourite bands spans from Black Sabbath and WASP to Bathory and Morbid Angel, which makes a very interesting mix for Dracena’s material, a mix I have tried to keep when I write new material. In preparation for the studio, since we had only 2 days for recording and mixing, we rehearsed several times a week which of course made us better musicians as well as developed and sharpened my vocals.
Then in 2001, there was Labyrinth of Darkness. How you feel about this demo now?
In 2001 we finally had a permanent drummer, Daniel ”Mojjo” Moilanen (Heavydeath, Runemagick, Katatonia) and we went to the studio for a third demo.
This is a demo with potential, but I am not completely satisfied with this release. The material went a little bit away from the thrash direction which I wanted to go towards.
The recording was in a home studio and the production sound is a bit blurry and muffled and I would have loved to make a re-mix, but sadly I never received the original files of the recording. We had a lot of technical problems during the recording and the vocals was recorded in a friend’s bedroom behind a mattress with no effects in the feed back to my head phones, which made me sing a bit darker and growlier than usual. Anyway, the songs are still good and a lot more melodic than previous demos.

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