A special interviews article with men in female-fronted Metal bands by FemMetal & Rockin’ Interviews
Few days ago, someone messaged FemMetal on Instagram and said something like: “Are you stupid? How is feminism related to women in Metal?” Of course, I answered in a very professional manner explaining the sociopolitical aspects of feminism. Joking. I insulted him and told him I’m not responsible to fill the gaps in his knowledge.
But seriously, how is supporting women in Metal related to feminism? It simply is not. However, a woman fronting a band is in a way a victory for the feminists around the world. From the Witch Hunts in Europe to literally burying women alive in ancient Arabia to figuratively burying women alive in some societies of modern Arabia, to the misogyny even in the “more advanced” west, to the blaming of rape victims, to body-shaming and hate language, women have been and still are fighting a war against a world that has been built on foundations that help serve the male component of it. And when a woman handles her microphone or guitar and rocks the stage with her growls or mezzo-soprano/soprano/contralto vocals, even if she’s unaware, she is hammering another nail in the coffin of misogyny. Because when a girl hears and sees her idol screaming and singing up, she believes that she as well can scream and stand up for herself against a bully, or a boss, or even a president. And that my friends is how “female-fronted Metal”, is related to feminism.
That’s the feminist in me speaking. The music-lover in me, however, knows that a band should not and cannot be defined by the vocalist in it. And since most bands we have covered on FemMetal have a front-woman, most of our interviewees were vocalists. So when my friend Shannon from Rockin’ Interviews came up with the idea of making an article featuring male members from female-fronted bands, that music-lover smiled and got very excited. So now, after this long introduction that I am thankful if you read and do not blame you if you skipped, here are our interviews with five Jacks and Kings in a world of Queens!
We have interviewed bassist Rob van der Loo (Epica), guitarists Patrick Kennison (Lita Ford) and Riley Nix (Vintersea), and drummers Brian King (Reality Suite) and Théo Delbrel (ODC) and asked them questions about their music, feminism (duh), and many other topics. This is how they answered!
Mirk to Rob: You have performed in Epica and Delain behind two of the greatest voices in modern Metal, Simone Simons and Charlotte Wessels. That being said, how do you feel about traditional-minded folks who still think women can’t lead?
Rob: By now I personally don’t care about it anymore. If I would be annoyed or get offended by everything people say then I’d probably already have sold my instruments many many years ago. If people want to stick to that mindset then that’s their choice. I consider it their loss.
Shannon: Your band is influential to people everywhere. How do you use that platform to spread a good message?
Rob: I don’t know if our message is necessarily good but so far many people seem to get motivated and get support from our music and that is a good thing I guess.
We just do what we do but we don’t see ourselves as preachers or so.
Brian: Although some of our songs deal with unfortunate realities – we do make an effort to present them from an area of strength. However sad a situation may be – you must use that challenge to make you stronger. There is no defeat. Everything is a learning experience. Hopefully Kimmii and I convey that in our lyrics.
Mirk: Fans express their love in many ways. Gifts, art, and messages among other things. What is one way a fan of yours or your band expressed their love that is stuck in your head?
Rob: The fans are simply amazing. I am always blown away how people try to show their appreciation. Of course I am a sucker for people how give me Hellboy related gifts since I am a huge collector.
But I guess one of the coolest things ever was a fan who works at NASA in Houston, Texas who gave us a private tour at his work when we were on tour there. That was an unforgettable experience.
Patrick: I love when fans get our artwork tattooed on them. I’ve seen lyrics that I’ve written on fans before. It’s such a tribute to the art.
Riley: Custom art-work and thoughtful gifts are awesome, especially when we are on tour together and can appreciate them. We have had a handful of fans re-create still images from our music videos, both digitally and by hand. All of those things really do mean a lot to us! But personally, what means the most to me is when we hear from people who are truly touched by our music, on a deep and personal level. There are a handful of bands that have truly changed my life. Ne Obliviscaris, Devin Townsend, Ihsahn, TesseracT; I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t been exposed to these bands. Like them, we put a lot of time, care, and consideration into our music and lyrics. When someone tells me that a certain part or section of our music made the hair stand up on the back of their neck, made their heart skip a beat, made them cry, or made them realize they aren’t alone in the world, I am grateful that we have had the same impact on anyone that those bands have had on me.
Theo: I will always remember when, at a gig, some of my female classmates printed t-shirts with « I love Theo » written on it and a picture of my face. It was heartwarming and awkward at the same time ahah.
Shannon to Rob: Epica’s sound is one which can’t be confined to one genre. Do you feel that metal bands too often confined themselves into one genre?
Rob: Personally I don’t like to think in genres at all. It puts a certain limit to your creativity.
Then again if people want to stick to a certain sound or genre then that’s their choice. I don’t judge them but it’s something that wouldn’t make me happy as a musician.
Mirk: Can you name a woman in history that you can say has inspired you with her life work or achievements?
Patrick: Besides Lita, I’d pick actress Sigourney Weaver. She clearly has loads of passion and genuine talent on the big screen.
Riley: Oh wow, it is difficult to come up with just one. Being from Oregon, we learn a lot about Sacagawea, the Native American interpreter who essentially led the first organized American exploration westward. She was an incredibly strong and intelligent person who helped transform the world I now live in. In a more modern context, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg is a truly inspiring person who has taken on extremely powerful, entrenched institutions and won for longer than I have been alive.
Mirk to Rob: A meme I saw a few days ago said: “You’re not a fan of a band unless you know their bass player’s name.” From a technical point of view, how important is a bass in a Metal song?
Rob: You can fill in or interpret the role of the bass in many ways. But the way how I see it is that the bass is the bridge between rhythm, harmony and melody. In metal for instance I kinda try to glue the drums and guitars together so the band has a solid fundamental to lean on.
Shannon: Generally in female-fronted bands, people tend to fixate on the female member(s). Do you ever feel overlooked or under appreciated being in a female-fronted metal band?
Rob: First of all I make music cause I like to make music. So I do it for myself in the first place anyway. The fact the we have many fans and that the band came so far is simply an amazing bonus for us all.
Having that said it’s the music that drives me, not ego. That people prefer to have a look at a beautiful redhead with a great voice instead of of long hair bearded dude on a bass is something that makes perfect sense to me. I can live just fine with that.
Patrick: Not even a little bit. Lita gives me lots of room to express myself from the Ozzy lead vocal in Close My Eyes to solo guitar sections. She loves showing off her band.
Brian: I am completely comfortable with where I stand in the hierarchy. I am pretty sure Joe and Antonio would say the same. We each know what we bring to the table and that the lead singer, male or female, gets the most attention. Honestly, I am proud when Kimmii receives praise because she represents the band. What I would say is, it is a bummer when people don’t listen to the music and just fixate on the visuals. There are plenty of porn sites that they are more welcome to visit….
Riley: No way! There are so many examples throughout the history of modern music in which extremely talented bands with unlimited potential have fallen apart because of ridiculous ego. I am just so grateful that there are people out there who enjoy our music, our videos, and our live performances. The fact that some of them were drawn to us because one of our members comes from a historically disenfranchised group is just a bonus. Some of our favorite people to meet see themselves in Avienne when she is on stage because of their racial or gender identity, and I think it is amazing that we can serve as an entry point to extreme metal for some of those fans. Ultimately, there are a lot of bands featuring women these days, and that isn’t enough to cultivate popularity. When we do find success, it is because of our collective hard work. That is enough for me.
Theo: Well, I’m neither feeling overlooked nor under appreciated. I’m feeling that each member of the band has room to express him/herself and gets the opportunity to shine on stage, music videos and photos we share with our fans.
Mirk: If you had the power to get rid of one problem our world faces today, what would that problem be?
Patrick: The division that politics produces. If people embraced terms like “United we Stand” & “We The People” or “One Love” we could progress as humans.
Riley: I’m a major believer in the power of education. I feel that if everyone in the world had access to as much free education as they care to experience, regardless of their geopolitical, religious, ethnic, sexual, or gender identity, a lot of our other problems would diminish and the world would naturally become an immeasurably better place. Obviously the implementation has its own problems…but we are speaking in hypotheticals here!
Theo: Delete money control on people’s minds.
Shannon to Patrick: Lita Ford is a trailblazer for women in rock. How does it feel contributing to her legacy?
Patrick: It makes me feel honored & empowered. It’s another great example of women empowering men. The love goes both ways.
Mirk to Brian: Reality Suite seems to their fans like a family. But you also have an amazing real family. Many old-fashioned parents give their children a free pass regarding bad behavior towards girls. How would you teach your children to respect girls and women from a young age?
Brian: Receiving a “free pass” regarding bad behavior towards ANYone sounds very antiquated. Children imitate what they see and I believe a child will treat a women how he sees his father treat women. I respect women, and I respect all races and creeds – just as the other guys in the band do. So I would hope that that respect and diversity would be embedded in our children.
Mirk to Brian and Theo: When I was a young boy I was inspired by Phil Collins and wanted to learn drums. I never did because I never had the time or energy or the ability to move my hands and legs at the same time. IT’S HARD. Who inspired you to learn and become a drummer?
Brian: The first drummer that I was exposed to was Peter Criss of KISS. I suppose because he was wearing cat make-up, my 5 year old self was fascinated with him and the drums. His playing on the first five KISS albums is still embedded in my DNA….his playing had a swagger to it and he used more ghost notes on the snare than most of the other drummers I was hearing as a kid. A few years later, I discovered Lars Ulrich of Metallica who influenced me to play more powerful and dynamic. The drummer that changed everything for me ultimately was Rush’s Neil Peart. He taught me to be more of a compositional drummer. But not only did her influence the complexity and composition of my early drumming – but he has also influenced my lyric writing.
Theo: I started playing drum a bit late, at 14 years old. At that time I began to listen to metal, and I became a huge fan of Slipknot, and naturally, Joey Jordison was my idol. I was really impressed by his speed and technique. My main inspirations are Mario Duplantier from Gojira, Thomas Haake from Meshuggah, Baard Kolstad from Leprous, Ray Luzier from Korn, John Bonham from Led Zeppelin and Gavin Harrison (ex porcupine tree, The Pineapple thief)…All amazing drummers.
Shannon: Have you ever been belittled by other guys for being in a female-fronted band?
Patrick: Absolutely. But I don’t have time for chest beating apes who are intimidated by strong women.
Brian: We have never been belittled by other guys for being a female fronted band. But, there was one occasion – and if you can believe, only one occasion in the 6 years since Kimmii has been with us – that a female follower went off on us because they felt that Kimmii was being exploited. Now, understand – Kimmii models occasionally. There is no reason why a kick ass, bad ass rock singer can’t also model swimwear as a side gig. Right?! But this girl went off because we posted photos of Kimmii modeling swimwear. WTF? Rock music has way too much integrity to be associated with a lead singer wearing a swimsuit on the internet. That thread ended perfectly. She unfollowed us.
Riley: I’m really fortunate to live where I live. The Pacific Northwest is a generally forward-thinking and tolerant community. Of course, every community has its own share of problems, but most of our local metal scene has only wanted to support us. The internet is a different animal, for better and for worse. We have found a huge number of massively supportive fans and beloved partners through social media, but there is an element of anonymity that makes some think they can go on the attack without repercussion. We have all faced some adversity there. I always remind myself, and everyone else in the band, that we are surrounded by a lot more positivity than negativity, and that is what we should focus our attention on. A small percentage of people will always be insecure, they will always attack that which they don’t understand, and they will always be resistant to change. We are here to move metal forward anyway!
Theo: There are always some people who are keen on saying stupid things like «your singer is a commercial product, because she’s a woman» (mostly on social medias), but we are not listening to them. As i said before, in ODC, we all agree that everyone has a role to play.
Mirk to Brian: I’ve heard a funny story concerning a guy on Instagram that we won’t name, but we’ll call PV, (ironically both letters leading the syllables in the word “pervert”). How many PVs do you come across on social media and how do you deal with them?
Brian: You would be surprised, the band social media accounts don’t receive too many pervs. I don’t know about Kimmii’s personal accounts…..but, there are a few that only engage with photos of her and not necessarily band related posts. I sometimes wonder if those followers have actually listened to our music…..but we haven’t received a dick pic since your friend. hahahahaha
Mirk to Riley: In her interview with FemMetal, Avienne said that if she was Frodo, you’d be her Samwise Gamgee, the loyal best friend of Frodo in the books and movies. How does that make you feel, Sam? I mean Riley!
Riley: I have been a major Tolkien nerd since Middle School, so I was just excited to see some quality Third Age conversation going on in a progressive metal interview! Honestly though, Aragorn and the Bagginses get all the heroic credit, but Sam is the (half-) man! He’s dependable, capable, hardworking, dedicated to decency, and aggressively beautiful. I will take that comparison all day!
Mirk to Theo: Your band recently released a new song ‘Follower’ with a music video. How did you feel about the reception you received from the fans over the new song?
Theo: The fan’s reactions are really good so far. I think we’ve made a big step forward since the release of our last music video «Houston, we have a situation» and the fans are very supportive, we are so thankful to them!
Thank you all for reading!