Crisis was a band I got to know a bit when they played some shows with Deadly Blessing many moons ago and Karyn is back and I thought it would be cool to interview about what she is up to these days and well here it is:
What sort of kid were you and where did you grow up?
I was a loner, yet everyone wanted to tell me their secrets. I was a tomboy, loved skateboarding, making music, street hockey and soccer, track. Always making art, making things from the plants and branches in my yard. I found out my great, great grandfather way a gypsy in Transylvania and decided I'd run away to become one myself. I never felt I belonged in my family or where I was living. I always believed in my creative pursuits and dreams. I grew up just outside Chicago and spent a lot of time going to shows there. Chicago had amazing record stores and live show venues.
Was music always a big part of your life or did that come later on?
Since I was a small child I was playing piano, violin, and making my own dj tapes from radio recordings. Both my parents played instruments, so I played around on the acoustic guitar, piano, organ, and then began making my own organic industrial instruments out of scrap metal, sprigs, drill bits, etc. I also bought a hollow body guitar that I played relentlessly. I sang quite often, and I feel the violin taught me about my voice. Playing violin, you must hear the notes; you must "feel" them before you touch the fretboard because there are no frets. So you have to be in attunement with your instrument. Singing became a similar process for me; more about hearing the song in my head before I wrote it down or sang it.
Have you ever tried and pick up an instrument and if not, had you even thought about and what sort of music did you grow up on and when did the world of heavy metal enter your life?
Yes, I played guitar and bass for a while in the early 80s, and made my own music with a 4 track. I also owned a Korg poly 6 synthesizer. I grew up playing violin and piano and even played in a few orchestras. I was always writing my own music, and I realized at a young age that my music didn't sound like anyone else's. I loved listening to my mom play piano at night in the dark, only the piano light on. My dad played guitar and harmonica.Music was always important for me. I had a recurring dream that my parents were dead, and I was roaming through a desert with a guitar on my back. I came upon a group of musicians playing around a fire and they took me in. Eventually, that's what happened in real life when I joined Crisis right after my father died.
At what point in your life did the world of signing enter your life and did you sing in any bands before Crisis?
I recorded my own music in middle school and high school, borrowing instruments from my guy friends and recording on rented 4 tracks. The music was dark and inspired by Einstuerzende Neubauten and Cocteau Twins. I played in a band in high school for a few a very brief time.
How did the coming of Crisis come together and did you go through many members before getting a core line-up?
Crisis was already a band before I joined, but they didn't have a name or a singer. At the time, everyone but the bass player wanted to find a female singer. The bass player refused that idea and actually quit the band. The guys found another bass player before I was invited to audition. Crisis had several drummers.
How did you attract the attention of Metal Blade Records and were there any other labels interested in the band and looking back do you feel you were treated pretty fairly by them?
The word about Crisis spread quickly. We were very active as a live band and found ourselves receiving phone calls from several major labels. They seemed to be interested in the more melodic parts that Crisis had to offer. At this point I can't remember exactly how Metal Blade got in touch with Crisis, but I think Marco Barbieri reached out to our guitarist.
Now I am going to ask you your thoughts on your 4 releases and are all of them still available?
I have no idea if they are available. I love all these albums for different reasons, and it's bit difficult at this point in time to travel backwards in time and let you know how I felt at the time I was writing them. I’ll mention what I can remember.
8 Convulsions: being the first songs I wrote with Crisis, they came effortlessly and flowed out of me like a runway train powered by Zeus. They exploded out and wrote themselves. They were very free. Most of my parts of the songs were written instantly, in the moment of rehearsal. I'd have lyrics written, the guys would play the song, I'd be jumping around the room, the words and melodies came pouring out of me into the mike as though they knew what to do and I was just their vehicle.
Deathshead Extermination: This was an interesting and very precise album, very twisted and on fire. Perhaps the most creative of all.
The Hollowing : I was deeply depressed during this album's writing. I was trying to process my father's death (that occurred right when I joined Crisis). I spent, for other reasons, thinking about all the ways I could kill myself, knowing I'd never be able to let go of life that easily. It was a struggle to carry on versus wanting to end it all. The recording session for The Hollowing was unique for me because I had to write the lyrics in studio, whereas previously all the songs were written and rehearsed before we went into studio. During this time, I was visited by several ghosts and blinding light apparitions who helped me write the songs and give me the strength to carry on.
Like Sheep Led To Slaughter: I think as a band we had a renewed appreciation for our own unique writing style at this point and were able to edit ourselves a bit, write more quickly, and in some ways, more catchy songs. We'd done a lot of songwriting experimenting before this album. It felt in many ways like a triumph.
How many of your releases were on Metal Blade by the way?
Two. Deathshead Extermination and The Hollowing.
Out of the 4 releases, do you have a favorite and a least favorite?
No, I love them all for what they are. Absolutely unique expressions of darkness and light.
You were also on The End Records. How was it working with them?
Wonderful. The End was a very supportive and collaborative label.
Why did the band end up breaking up and was it a nasty break-up at the time and do you still talk to any former members at all?
What happened within the band stays within the band. That's nobody else's business.
Did you ever get to do any types of tours and if so who did you play with and did you ever get to play overseas?
Yes, Crisis did a lot of touring, for 13 years. Overseas, and Japan as well.
Do you think you’re a good singer and in your eyes and ears, what makes a good singer?
My singing is about power, empowerment, and catharsis. It's also more about the "feeling" of singing for me, if the notes "feel" right. Anything I can hear in my mind I know I can sing, and I build my style in my mind, or rather I hear it there and then have to try to reach the notes. The energy that is channeled through me when I sing feels incredible. To me, it's useless trying to define what is good. Who decides that?
You also preformed barefoot. Why was this or was it just that you didn’t like wearing shoes a lot?
Performing barefoot helps me feel grounded. I am out of my body often during live performances, and wearing shoes makes me feel out of balance. There is so much energy coming through me when I sing, I can't sit still. The bare feet help me feel connected literally to the stage. Piggy from Voivod used to tease me, when we toured together, about singing barefoot. Then he tried it onstage and never stopped!
(funny question) I imagine your feet got pretty dirty as from what I remember you ran all over the place, what was the dirtiest that you can remember the bottoms ever got and that never bothered you at all?
I began to wear duct tape on the bottoms of my feet to help with that because yes, many stages were very grimy. I got cut quite a few times as well.
What did you do with yourself since the band broke up? Did you stay involved in the music scene?
I have been very busy. I began to paint in oil again, and had several gallery showings and even lived off my art for a while. I started my leather business up again and then closed it down. I began practicing Etruscan Shamanism, Ceremonial Magick, joined with a group of longstanding Druids in SF, gave Reiki healings to people with all sorts of diseases and other conditions, for the past 3 years I've been giving platform Mediumistic readings at a Spiritualism center, and I also began teaching classes and workshops on channeling, psychic and Mediumistic readings, and the history of Spiritualism. These years have been lightly peppered with music, most proudly I've recorded with Ephel Duath "On Death and Cosmos" ep and the "Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness" full length album.Davide Tiso of Ephel Duath and I have also been developing my solo album for years, and are now about to head into studio with some very special guest musicians for the first Gospel Of The Witches album.
Now we are in 2014, what is this new release that will be out by the time this is published? What sort of music is it and where can people purchase it?
Gospel Of The Witches is my new band. Don't expect this to sound like Crisis. The atmospheres and song structures are so very different. They are heavy, dark, ethereal at times, and haunting. These songs will pull you in and you won't want to let go. Davide Tiso of Ephel Duath is playing guitar, has written all the compositions, and will also play bass in studio. Ross Dolan of Immolation is backing me on vocals on almost all of the 13 songs. I'm so excited for this because I've never worked with a vocalist before, and it's going to add such an incredible vocal depth to these songs that are already intensely emotional. Mike Hill from Tombs is also contributing vocals to two songs, and Danny Walker of Intronaut is on drums.We'll be recording with Jamie King June 1st. The album will be available through me until I find a label. Currently you can pledge on Indiegogo, and in 8 days when that ends, you will be able to pre-order the cd through my easy shop.
Do you plan on playing live at all?
I really hope to take this live.
Any last words to wrap this up?
Thank you for your interest.
Interview by Chris Forbes
Answers by Karen Crisis